NEWS

More troops in Balkans?

Greek troops might contribute to the US-led international campaign against terrorism, most probably by relieving US troops in the Balkans as they leave for the theater of operations, according to statements made yesterday by Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos. No one should prejudge what our contribution will be, Tsochadzopoulos said. Greek troops could be involved in relieving US troops in Bosnia and Kosovo if they leave for the Middle East and Central Asia, he said after his first meeting with US Ambassador Thomas Miller. Tsochadzopoulos noted that Greece is taking an active part in the efforts to promote common security against terrorism. Our participation will be within the framework of international organizations – NATO, the EU, the United Nations, and so on – of which we are members. But there is also the possibility of us taking decisions on a bilateral level. He said that so far Greece’s contribution concerned the provision of facilities, use of the naval base at Souda Bay on Crete, participation in NATO’s standing naval force in the Mediterranean (STANAVFORMED), which has been sent to the Eastern Mediterranean, and sending Greek crew members to the United States along with AWACS planes belonging to NATO that are normally based in Greece. NATO had discussed the possibility of US troops in Bosnia and Kosovo being relieved by other nations, he added. In this case it is considered certain that Greece will fill in for some of these troops. Miller did not rule out the possibility of troops being moved. He expressed satisfaction at the additional security measures that Athens has taken and said that the Greek government had done a good job so far. Miller commented positively on the postponement of Greece’s Toxotis sea and air exercise that was to begin next Wednesday and join up with Cyprus’s Nikiforos exercise. Tsochadzopoulos said Athens and Nicosia had together decided to postpone Toxotis because of the heavy military traffic in the southeastern Mediterranean. Miller is to meet with Foreign Minister George Papandreou today. Papandreou, who will also be meeting with the opposition New Democracy party’s shadow foreign affairs and defense minister, Dora Bakoyiannis, yesterday paid a private visit to Istanbul. I came to ask Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios for his advice on how to deal with the current crisis, Papandreou told a joint news conference. The two discussed calling a conference of the representatives of all religions to discuss terrorism. It is especially important today to strip any excuse of religious morality from the terrorists, Papandreou said. In an interview with Ta Nea yesterday, Papandreou noted that terrorism could affect any country, Greece included. He stressed that Greece should play a leading role in the war on terrorism. These days, weeks, months that we are living through are going to be crucial. Therefore we have to try play as big a role as possible, he said. Police guards at the old Athens airport at Hellenikon yesterday arrested two camera crew members and a journalist working for Alpha TV who had just cut through the airport perimeter fence and were filming. Paraschos Frangoulis, Constandinos Milovas and Georgios Paganias are believed to have been taking footage for a program on airport security.