NEWS

NATO helps tighten 2004 security net

As NATO warships began to patrol off Greece’s waters yesterday, the government’s top body overseeing security met to fine-tune the measures being implemented to ensure that the Athens Olympics will be safe. Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, who chaired the committee, expressed confidence that preparations were adequate. «Regarding security, we have done everything possible to ensure safe and very good Games for Greece,» he said after the meeting. NATO warships yesterday began patrolling international waters off Greece as part of the alliance’s role in helping protect the Olympics. «The ships today started monitoring vessels sailing from international waters toward Greek waters,» a NATO official told Reuters. Mega Channel television reported that the first AWACS early-warning plane was stationed at the western airport of Aktion, part of the unprecedented umbrella that is being set up to protect the Games from the air. Greek troops are manning air defense missile batteries around Athens and a NATO unit specialized in dealing with weapons of mass destruction has camped at Halkida, a city just north of Athens. The French Olympics Committee’s president, Henri Serandour, told The Associated Press that 12 French police officers will accompany French athletes to the Olympics but would adopt a low-key approach. «France has never asked for armed guards,» Serandour said. «The police officers will be there for prevention and will be unarmed. The security will be present yet discreet.» Greece is sensitive about appearing to allow foreign forces to carry arms here. Evangelos Antonaros, a government spokesman, asked whether there would be armed Americans here, repeated yesterday that «there will be no armed personnel from other countries in Greece.» The cruise ship World Renaissance docked in Piraeus yesterday, the first of eight Olympic floating hotels to arrive. Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis inspected the port and said security officials were able to monitor every movement in the port and underwater.