- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2002

NICOSIA, Cyprus Authorities in Greece, stung by U.S. criticism of lax security and money laundering, are reported to be making progress in infiltrating a major terrorist group.

Officials in Athens say they have determined that links exist between the notorious and elusive "November 17" terrorist organization and Italy's Red Brigades, as well as a fringe Greek group called "Carlos the Jackal."

Sources in Athens say Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis is likely to make a "major revelation" soon, although its substance could not be determined.

Greece has been under considerable U.S. pressure to show results of its investigation into the activities of "November 17," blamed for a series of terrorist attacks since 1975 that have killed five U.S. Embassy employees in Athens and injured 20.

A recent State Department document listed Greece as a major gateway for narcotics to Europe and a money-laundering center. "Although Greece is not a major transit country for drugs traveling to the United States, it does serve as a major transit point for drugs flowing to Europe," the report said.

It also noted that "Greece also has the second-highest annual rate of deaths from drug overdose in Europe."

The Greek government retorted that there has been no terrorist activity recently and that its agents have made considerable progress in infiltrating various fringe groups.

"Existing evidence is being systematically processed, analyzed and linked to new evidence," Mr. Chrysochoidis said. "We are also making sure that there are no political obstacles to the investigation."

In the past, there have been charges of influential officials blocking investigation into terrorist activities. The Public Order Ministry said that more recently "judicial authorities have increasingly cooperated with security services."

Mr. Chrysochoidis conceded that penetrating "November 17" has been a very difficult task. He described the group as shrouded "in utmost secrecy, organized in small, tight cells, fanatically committed to old-fashioned communism."

However, the security services were reported to be "paying particular attention," to infiltration of "Carlos the Jackal," which is vaguely connected with "November 17" and includes a number of foreign nationals.

According to Mr. Chrysochoidis, "organized crime has gone beyond state borders through trade, technology and banking service."

Authorities claim that the tone of statements issued periodically by "November 17" is very much like that of Italy's Red Brigades, blamed for the assassination last month of Marco Biagi, a labor-reform consultant to the Italian government.

Both "November 17" and the Red Brigades talk of "monopolistic bourgeoisie," and stigmatize what they call a "mafia-type relationship between the state and economic oligarchy," Greek officials said. Recently they have been threatening to pass "from the stage of class struggle to class war."

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