Army steps into 2004

The government is looking seriously into using the military to deal with the threat of terrorism during the Athens 2004 Olympics. The devastating terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 have created a totally new security environment and raised the fear of terrorists using chemical and biological weapons when they can lay their hands on them. The Public Order Ministry has set up security committees which include specialists from the armed forces, the National Intelligence Service (EYP), the police, the coast guard and the fire brigade. Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis told Kathimerini that his ministry will be in charge of security at the Olympics but that soldiers will be trained to operate as police officers during the Games. Other sources say that aside from 60,000 professional and volunteer police officers, special units of the armed forces who are trained in unconventional warfare will be used. They say also that these army commando units will have an increased role to play in the Olympics and will deal with new kinds of threats that terrorism can present. They will be trained according to the standards of the American, British and Israeli security forces and will be used as frogmen and well as use helicopters to provide air cover to Olympic events and likely targets. The operation against terrorism will take a long time and there is no guarantee that an attack such as the one on New York will not be repeated in any part of the world, Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos told a Foreign Press Association news conference yesterday. We need a modern, unified security and defense policy to deal with asymmetric threats. We must take serious security measures and not half-measures, because we have the 2004 Games, he said. The use of the military in a civilian role, however, is likely to be a sensitive one in a country which suffered a military dictatorship between 1967 and 1974. Tsochadzopoulos himself expressed the fear that we might face the dilemma of contributing to the fight against terrorism and respect for citizens’ rights. Prime Minister Costas Simitis and ministers and officials involved in Olympic preparations discussed security yesterday and also ways to speed up projects, following a warning by the International Olympic Committee coordinators of the Games. Telemachos Hytiris, a government spokesman, said that the IOC had commented on certain projects, not all of them. Today’s meeting focused on the projects showing some difficulties, he said. SOCCER death

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