NEWS

Greek apology for racist chants

In what has turned into an embarrassing diplomatic development for Greece, the country’s ambassador in Tirana yesterday apologized to Albania after members of the coast guard special operations unit were filmed chanting racist slogans during the March 25 Independence Day march in Athens. As the investigation into the incident gathers pace, Greece’s Ambassador Nikolaos Pazios expressed his disappointment at the incident and assured Albania’s Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta that those responsible would be found and dealt with suitably. Meta said the actions of the coast guard officers were «scandalous» but praised the Greek government’s determination to deal with the incident and said relations between the two countries would not be harmed. Several students gathered to protest the chants in the Albanian city of Shkoder, where they burned Greek flags. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has also complained about the incident, which has been condemned by all the Greek parties apart from the nationalist Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). Speaking on Sunday, President Karolos Papoulias said, «Patriotism is not rhetoric, nor slogans.» The head of the coast guard squadron has been suspended in connection with last week’s incident and an internal investigation has been launched. All 36 frogmen who took part in the march will be called to answer questions as part of the probe, which could widen to include their superiors. Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis has asked inspectors to ascertain whether members of the coast guard special forces have links to extreme right-wing groups such as Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn).