NEWS

All of NATO’s Med forces for ’04

PIRAEUS (AP) – NATO’s entire Mediterranean naval fleet will be assigned to protect the Olympics as part of the alliance’s unprecedented role in bolstering security for the Games, the flotilla’s commander said on Friday. Rear Adm. Hans Jochen Witthauer of Germany said all vessels under his command will work alongside Greek maritime forces to monitor the seas during the Aug. 13-29 Games. «The entire force is ready and will participate during the Olympic Games,» Witthauer said following meetings with Greek naval officers to discuss «issues of command and control.» The Standing Naval Force Mediterranean, (STANAVFORMED) based in Naples, Italy, includes more than a dozen frigates, destroyers and other vessels. NATO also plans to conduct surveillance flights over Greece. But Witthauer noted that full monitoring of Greece’s vast coastline and hundreds of islands «will be a challenge.» «Every little fishing boat can easily pick somebody up and can more easily sneak up on a boat,» he said. NATO will operate outside Greek territorial waters. He refused to give greater details of NATO’s naval duties during the Olympics. But the force has been involved in anti-terrorism patrols throughout the eastern Mediterranean since the Sept. 11 2001 attacks in the United States. «You don’t need a crystal ball in the Mediterranean to realize that the (anti-terrorism) Operation Active Endeavor and the support of the Olympic Games are interlinked,» he told a news conference aboard the flagship of the force, the German frigate Schleswig-Holstein. [Greek navy spokesman Alexandros Diakopoulos told Agence France-Presse that Greek Commodore Yiannis Karaiskos, who was due to take command of STANAVFORMED in September, would do so on Aug. 5, ahead of the Olympics.]