NEWS

NATO force for Athens in Germany

As the security net for the Athens Olympics begins to close and there also appears to be have been no credible terrorist threat made to the Games, the fever over security issues is expected to ease. Also, the picture of how security will be handled is gradually emerging. Indicative of the level of the threat is a fact sheet released by the US State Department yesterday in which it warned US citizens «to use caution and to be alert to their surroundings at all times» while attending the Olympics. It added that «While there have been no specific, credible terrorist threats to the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics or the 2004 Paralympics, in the post-September 11 world, the threat from international terrorist groups at major public events, to include the periods immediately before and after these events, is always a top concern.» Yesterday, following a Greek request, NATO set into motion the second phase of the effort to protect the Olympics, activating specialist anti-terrorism forces. This concerns a force of about 200 officers, mainly Americans, who are based in Germany and are experts in counterterrorism. This is not a standing allied force but is being forced on an ad hoc basis for the Olympics by members of the special forces who are already in Germany as part of the allied military presence in that country, Kathimerini’s Brussels correspondent Constantine Kallergis reported. This request, which was submitted on June 4, was not accepted easily. As sources in the alliance’s bureaucracy said, there was strong reaction – mainly from France, Belgium and Spain. This was not out of any anti-Greek ire but (especially in the case of France) because they did not want to see the alliance place such missions under its institutional umbrella. Their objections were overcome with a solution that satisfies Greece fully. The 200 troops will remain at their base in Mannheim, Germany, until they are summoned officially by Greece through the alliance’s organs. As diplomatic sources in Brussels said, these troops will be able to get to Athens or anywhere else within a few hours. Their rules of engagement will be decided next week. Recent reports said the troops would be based near Athens.