- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 28, 2004


Secretary of State Colin L. Powell canceled his trip to Greece at the last minute partly because of concern that his presence — expected to be met with anti-war protests — might have disrupted the closing ceremony at the Olympics, State Department officials said yesterday.

Mr. Powell’s decision, announced just hours before he was to depart, came after anti-American protests in Athens on Friday that featured “Powell Go Home” placards.

The secretary was not concerned about his own security but felt Greek organizers were entitled to carry out the closing ceremony tonight without the potential for distraction that his presence might have caused, said two State Department officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Many Greeks had wondered why Mr. Powell planned to visit this weekend, knowing his presence would likely provoke protests. Until Mr. Powell announced his visit, there had been none of the anti-American demonstrations that were feared in the run-up to the games.

He discussed the situation on Friday with Greek Foreign Minister Petros Moliviatis. Mr. Powell said he hopes to travel to Athens in October.

The officials said a contributing factor was the U.N. Security Council’s debate this week over the performance of the Sudanese government in carrying out a council resolution last month on Darfur.

The council set tomorrow as the deadline for Sudan to demonstrate it is acting to improve security and humanitarian access in Darfur and to curb Arab militias in the western Sudanese region.

Some council members, notably China and Pakistan, have been reluctant to take strong steps against Sudan. It is not clear what the United States will recommend during the upcoming deliberations.

In Athens, the Greek foreign ministry said Mr. Powell decided against the trip because of “urgent responsibilities.”

The State Department said initially that the situations in Iraq and Sudan led to the cancellation. Later, however, officials said Sudan was the primary foreign concern this weekend for Mr. Powell.

Greek activists hoisted a massive banner yesterday saying “Powell Killer Go Home” on the Acropolis hillside towering over Athens to protest his planned 24-hour visit.

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