Athens sympathizes

Just a day after it was congratulating London and offering advice on hosting the 2012 Olympics, Greece was yesterday offering condolences and help in security matters to the British government after a terrorist attack on the city left at least 37 people dead. «This act of blind violence underlines the fact that the threat of international terrorism is still real. Faced with this common threat, our commitment to confronting it effectively remains strong,» said Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in a letter of condolence to his British counterpart Tony Blair after three bomb blasts on underground trains and one on a public bus in the center of London rocked the city less than 24 hours after it had been awarded the 2012 Games. Security at the British Embassy in Greece, Athens International Airport, the metro and other potential terrorist targets was immediately boosted. Authorities in Cyprus, where Britain has two military bases, also stepped up their police presence. However, Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said that Greece was an «extremely safe country» and offered Britain the services of skilled Greek officers who were highly trained in anti-terrorism matters in the buildup to last summer’s Olympics in Athens. Greece had received substantial help from Britain in security matters as it prepared for the pressures of holding the world’s biggest sporting event last year, spending 1.2 billion euros in the process. Voulgarakis said he had informed British Ambassador to Greece Simon Gass that the government was ready to reciprocate by sending officers to London «if it is deemed useful.» Meanwhile, Gass thanked Greece for its support. «I am thankful for the expressions of condolence that have inundated the embassy from the Greek government, political parties and normal citizens,» he said, «I believe that the democratic way of life, which is valued so highly in Greece as it is in Britain, is made stronger by the desire of terrorists to spread death and destruction.» Security sources, involved in the operation during the Athens Olympics, told Kathimerini that the attack on London was «unique» because the city was prepared for a hit yet there was little chance of it being avoided. Voulgarakis, meanwhile, said that he would be traveling to London next week to meet with his British counterpart.

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