NEWS

Greece braces for war on terror

As the United States geared up for its international crusade against terrorism, Greek officials stressed that Athens was solidly behind Washington and a poll showed that the public was overwhelmingly in favor of Greece’s meeting its defense obligations to its main ally. But there were reservations about what form the retaliation against the terrorists would take. A poll published by the newspaper Eleftherotypia found that 69.2 percent of those polled were in favor of Greece meeting its obligations to the United States while keeping out of a military confrontation and 9.5 percent in favor of Greece taking part in all acts involved in the campaign. Another 18.2 percent said they wanted nothing to do with America’s retaliation. In response to the question as to how the terrorist attacks were seen, 50.8 percent said that they cost lives and could bring about worse developments, 17.8 percent saw them as the criminal acts by fanatics and 29.4 percent saw them as a reaction against American policies. The Opinion company poll was among 800 people in the Athens area and was conducted on September 14. Thomas Miller, the new US ambassador to Greece, said in an interview with To Vima that the November 17 terrorist organization should worry about the war on terrorism declared by the United States. This is a war, he said, that Greece and the United States would wage together. Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, told Ethnos that a US attack on Afghanistan should be preceded by convincing proof of that country’s involvement in terrorism. It would be a mistake if the argument is not convincing, he said. Because the climate of solidarity and support that has been formed can be easily broken. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos stressed Greece’s solidarity with the United States. We are protecting our national interests by following a united European position with regard to great problems in international politics, he said yesterday. We have to protect vital national interests and the only way is this, our participation in a joint European position. Opposition leader Costas Karamanlis, the leader of the conservative New Democracy party, stressed that America’s grief is our grief as well. He added: All Greeks are joining forces in condemning (terrorism) and the message has to be crystal clear: Terrorism cannot and will not have a place in the modern world. Former conservative PM Constantine Mitsotakis declared, We are all Americans and stressed that Greece owed its freedom to the United States. He also condemned what he described as foolish anti-Americanism being expressed by some guests on television shows. It is very foolish and damaging, he said. The US Embassy announced that the arrest of three men in New Jersey on September 13 was totally unrelated to the terrorist attacks. One man was carrying the passport of a Greek, Nikos Makrakis, which the man had reported stolen in July. Papandreou meets with Peres, Arafat Foreign Minister George Papandreou met yesterday with his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, for talks on the Middle East and last week’s terrorist attacks on the United States. The separate meetings came at a tense time, on the day when a scheduled meeting between Peres and Arafat was called off by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In comments after meeting with Arafat in the morning, Papandreou said that the tragedy in America provided an opportunity for the conflicting sides in the Middle East to seek peaceful solutions to their problems. The Greek foreign minister, who said that he was in the Middle East as a representative of the European Union as well, stated that the EU wanted the violence to stop as soon as possible and the two sides to meet to resume the peace process. We want to go beyond violence and work together in this region for a permanent solution, he said. Arafat said that he was ready to resume talks with Peres. I am ready to meet him at any time, anywhere. In Athens? OK. Any place, he said after his meeting with Papandreou. Arafat called the terrorist strike in the United States a crime against humanity and stressed that he and the Palestinian Authority were against any terrorist violence. After his meeting with Peres, Papandreou said that the two had discussed ways to fight terrorism. We agreed, he said, that the problem is very complicated. It is connected to the inequalities and problems existing in many parts of the planet, and that military solutions alone – although these appear necessary now – are not capable of dealing with the roots of the problem. Papandreou discussed the Middle East on the telephone with US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Saturday night. He also conveyed the grief of the Greek government over the attacks on the United States. He said that he would brief the United States and EU on the talks he had yesterday. Papandreou was in Jerusalem with President Costis Stephanopoulos and Archbishop Christodoulos for the enthronement of Patriarch Irenaios on Saturday. -Drivers of blue buses in Athens stage two work-stoppages, from 5 a.m to 7 a.m, and from 10 p.m to 12 a.m., demanding the hiring of more staff and technicians.