Minister promises biochemical unit

The Greek military plans to form a 200-strong unit to meet nuclear, biological or chemical threats during the Olympics, the defense minister said yesterday. «They will contribute to the security of the Olympic Games,» said Yiannos Papantoniou, who also denied reports that the United States, Israel or other nations could offer direct military support during the August 13-29 Games. Olympic organizers and Greek officials have come under sustained international pressure to expand counterterrorism measures, which already have a record 655-million-euro (US$755 million) security budget. A recent US State Department report said Greek authorities were not fully prepared for biochemical threats. Last week, FBI Director Robert Mueller visited Athens and urged officials to consider all possible terrorist scenarios. «We are ready to face any threat as a military, especially during the Olympic Games,» Papantoniou told reporters. He said there is «no official proposal» for any outside military support during the Games. Media reports have suggested Israel had offered patrol vessels and the US Navy would redeploy warships to the eastern Mediterranean. There are fears terrorists could try to enter Greece through immigrant-smuggling routes that often use small crafts to reach Greek islands. A seven-nation advisory group, including the USA, Israel and Britain, are helping draft the security blueprint for the Games. But Papantoniou said that Greek forces could handle both Olympic security and border surveillance. (AP)