Simitis: ‘No tolerance’ for terror

Prime Minister Costas Simitis declared yesterday that there could be no compromise and no tolerance of international terrorism and stressed that Greece was standing firmly with its allies. In his strongest statements since last week’s terrorist attacks in the United States, Simitis made clear that Greece would not stand aside in the battle against terrorism and would provide full moral, political and practical support to the United States. Greece has said it will stand by its major ally, along with its partners in NATO and the European Union, but some officials have expressed reservations over the form of retaliation that the United States might choose to avenge the terrorist attacks. We do not have any understanding or tolerance for the terrorists, Simitis said at a joint news conference with President Olafur Grimsson of Iceland. There is one answer and it is absolute: No compromise, no deals with them. That would be as if we were adulterating our faith in the value of human existence, our faith in democracy and democratic society, Simitis said. Greece will take part in all the initiatives that will be decided upon. It will take part within the framework that will be determined by the decisions we will take. This goes without saying. We are a member of the alliance and we must, as long as we believe in these values, contribute toward defending these values, Simitis said. The crime that was committed cannot go unanswered. And every retaliation leads to more tension. Foreign Minister George Papandreou continued to brief political leaders yesterday, meeting with the leader of the main opposition New Democracy party, Costas Karamanlis. Later, Papandreou also briefed Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He said that he was preparing to present Parliament with legislation for the creation of a foreign policy council comprising all political parties. Papandreou, however, told Karamanlis that the government would not heed his call for a meeting of all the political party leaders to discuss the situation. Papandreou stressed the need for public debate on the terrorist attacks and their aftermath to keep in mind Greece’s international image. It is especially important to safeguard our country’s image internationally, its international repute and its seriousness, avoiding public statements and formulating a joint position in dealing with terrorism, he said. He is to hold separate meetings with the ambassadors of Israel and Arab countries today. Today the Government Council on Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA) is to meet under Simitis’s chairmanship to discuss the measures that will be taken in Greece to combat terrorism. Simitis met last night with National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and discussed next year’s budget proposal. Papantoniou left open the possibility of revising the budget proposal by the time it is presented formally in early November, taking in the changes of the fluid international situation. Government sources say that Greece and other European countries do not yet have a clear picture of what the United States is planning. Simitis’s comments were made after weighing the political and economic consequences of any differing of position from the United States. Concerns over a domestic terrorist group and Athens’s hosting of the 2004 Olympics have heightened Greece’s sensitivity on the issue. Europe clamps down The interior and justice ministers of the 15 European Union countries who meet in Brussels today are expected to commit their countries to taking swift action in extraditing suspects in terrorist acts automatically, including their own citizens. The European Commission presented two proposals in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States. These are aimed at helping in the common fight against terrorism and will be discussed by the ministers today and by the EU heads of state and government tomorrow. Once the measures are in place, extradition of suspects will be effected within three months of the official request, during which time the accused may exhaust all avenues of appeal. Sanctions include a minimum of two years’ imprisonment for abduction or robbery and 20 years for murder, together with withdrawal of the civil rights of the accused. Organizations involved in terrorist activity will be banned. Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos and Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis will represent Greece today. Stathopoulos met last night with Prime Minister Costas Simitis to discuss today’s meeting. One of the issues expected to be discussed today is the return of intensive checks at borders and airports, with travelers having to show their passports again.

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