NEWS

Greece stands behind US on strikes

The Greek government yesterday expressed its solidarity with the United States of America’s military action against Afghanistan and tightened security measures in Athens. The United States response was inevitable. Those who killed thousands of innocent people must be brought to account for their actions, Simitis told reporters outside his home late yesterday. Simitis was at his weekend retreat in Aghioi Theodoroi, west of Athens, when he received a phone call from US Vice-President Dick Cheney informing him of the administration’s decision to launch attacks against selected targets in Afghanistan, including installations of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization headed by Osama bin Laden. Cheney’s call reached Simitis at 7.10 p.m. local time, about half an hour before the attacks were launched. Simitis told Cheney he hoped that the attacks would focus on specific targets and that civilian losses would be kept to a minimum. (Cheney) assured me of that and about the fact that the US will also provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people, Simitis said. According to government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, who spoke to reporters earlier, Simitis emphasized our solidarity with the action… and stressed the need for further action to eradicate the scourge of terrorism from the planet. As a country, we are present [in the fight against terrorism]. We are ready to contribute to the common goal, Reppas said. Simitis said that there was no cause for particular concern and, certainly, no cause for fear, among Greek citizens. Simitis has convened the Government Council for Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA) for today. KYSEA will meet at 1 p.m. to consider what additional security measures are needed. The government has already stepped up surveillance outside foreign embassies, US and British companies, military installations and other potential terrorist targets. The transport ministry has also forbidden flights by light aircraft. Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, on a visit to Epirus, in northwestern Greece, returned to Athens late last night, to attend today’s KYSEA meeting. But Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who was in Denmark yesterday, will not return immediately to Greece. He will travel instead to Luxembourg to confer with his colleagues from the other European Union states. Papandreou said that the US action in Afghanistan was expected and is backed by the EU and the United Nations. The attack, he said, was not aimed at the Afghan people, who are the oppressed victims of the ruling Taleban, nor at Islam. Earlier, Tsochadzopoulos had also supported the US action, saying that it was a legal way of responding (to) the slaughter of innocent victims in the United States. Conservative opposition New Democracy also expressed solidarity with the US action. The struggle to eliminate terrorism will be effective if it combines determination with prudence and… if it ensures, as far as possible, the lives of innocent civilians, spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said. In contrast, the Left Coalition said that it joins the peace-loving forces of the world to protest and condemn the war. The Coalition, along with other leftist groups, will march in the center of Athens today. THURSDAY