NEWS

Athens puts Games security ahead of NATO

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met yesterday with senior ministers to prepare for the NATO summit that he will attend in Istanbul on Monday and Tuesday. The focus of their talks was Athens’s argument that, because of the great security demands posed by the Olympics, Greece will not be able to meet any request by the alliance to strengthen the Greek military presence in Afghanistan or contribute troops to Iraq. Karamanlis’s meeting with Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos was held on a day when senior US anti-terrorism officials were in Athens to discuss Olympic security with Greek officials. Frances Townsend, homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, Cofer Black, the US State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, Francis Taylor, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, and John Lewis, the FBI’s anti-terrorism chief, met with Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, intelligence service director Pavlos Apostolidis, police chief Fotis Nasiakos and other senior officials. «During the meeting, issues of bilateral interest and issues related to Olympic security were discussed,» the Public Order Ministry said in a statement. The US officials’ visit was part of a two-day seminar involving Greek and foreign security officials. Greece expects to pay a billion euros on security for the Games and is cooperating with several other countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Italy and Spain. Molyviatis and Spiliotopoulos did not say much after their meeting with Karamanlis. But sources say there might be a slight increase in the number of Greeks in Afghanistan to provide humanitarian aid. As for Iraq, Greece does not want to send any troops there but it is quite likely it will undertake to train some members of the Iraqi armed forces, within the framework of NATO’s restructuring of the Iraqi military. Other issues discussed in preparation for the NATO summit included the Balkans. There is a possibility that Serbia and Montenegro might be invited to take part in NATO’s Partnership for Peace. A precondition for this would be the surrender of Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic, both of whom are wanted by the international tribunal at The Hague for alleged war crimes during the war in Bosnia. Greece is in favor of NATO’s pulling Serbia closer, along with other countries on Greece’s northern borders. NATO’s defense ministers will discuss the transformation of the alliance’s armed forces so as to meet new needs, especially with regard to airborne units. Greece does not want to commit itself to such a change, nor to the percentage of forces it can make available to the alliance for its needs. Olympic security is not expected to be discussed at Istanbul.