NEWS

Arabs back Athens 2004

Greece’s top Olympic security body will meet today to discuss the network of security measures that has been placed around Athens, other cities hosting Olympic events and the rest of the country. The Olympic Security Coordinating Council will discuss preparations, evaluate measures that have been implemented and plan further actions. The council, chaired by Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, brings together several ministers, Athens 2004 organizers, the director of national intelligence and the heads of the police, coast guard and other security agencies. Voulgarakis met yesterday with the ambassadors of Arab League countries who assured him that only enemies of Arab countries would attack the Olympics. Afterward, Lebanese Ambassador William Habib stressed that Greece had good ties with the Arab world. «We feel as Arab countries that we are involved in the success of the Games,» Habib told reporters. Referring to the possibility of an attack, he said, «If there is any such thing, then enemies of the Arab countries and of Greece will be behind it.» He did not elaborate. «I don’t think that something will happen. Greece is a very close country to the Arab countries,» he added. Habib said Arab countries wanted to see a successful Olympiad in Greece. «This success concerns us because we have to give back to Greece for all its continuing support of all Arab issues and especially Palestine,» he said. Voulgarakis hosted a working lunch for the ambassadors of Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Palestine. «We are united by culture, geography and the way we see life,» Voulgarakis said. He passed on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s thanks to the ambassadors for their countries’ support. Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse reported from Paris that security experts fear an attack on athletes is more likely as they head for Athens rather than when they are in the Greek capital. «The Athens Olympics will probably be the safest Games in Olympic history. The biggest danger comes from transit airports,» a security source told AFP. Extra security is said to have been mounted at Rome and Larnaca airports, the report said. In Athens, police officials denied that a small improvised bomb that damaged the toilet of the company operating the Attiki Odos highway on Wednesday was tied to a report in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera which claimed anarchists from Greece, Spain, Germany and Italy had decided to disrupt the Olympics.