- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2004

Greece is working closely with the United States and other allies to do “all that is humanly possible” to ensure a safe environment for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, according to George Floridis, Greece’s new minister for public order.

At a press conference in Washington, Mr. Floridis said his latest talks with U.S. security officials had been an “unequivocal success.”

Flanked by Greece’s intelligence chief, Lucas Apostolides, and Fotios Nasiakos, the head of Greece’s national police, Mr. Floridis last week exuded an upbeat mood in sharp contrast to the atmosphere surrounding past U.S.-Greek talks on security matters.

When Mr. Floridis’ predecessor, Michalis Chrysochoides, visited Washington in 2000, he received a stern lecture from American officials who said Greece wasn’t doing enough to cope with its homegrown terrorists, the Marxist-oriented November 17 organization.

In September of that year, the public order minister signed a bilateral agreement with the United States for cooperation in combating organized crime and terrorism.

Late last year, Greece broke up the terrorist group with a series of arrests that completely dismantled the nearly 30-year-old organization. Last month, a court in Athens convicted 15 members of November 17 and gave its leaders multiple life sentences.

Last week’s talks focused on security preparations for the Olympic Games in Athens, which will run from Aug. 13 to 29. There were also discussions on cooperation to combat terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking.

The Greek team briefed U.S. officials on security cooperation in southeastern Europe, where Greece plays a leading role in helping the Balkan nations combat organized crime.

Mr. Floridis met with Attorney General John Ashcroft, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, CIA chief George J. Tenet and other administration officials.

“In the post-September 11 world, the Greek government has accorded Olympic security the highest priority by committing unprecedented resources,” a Greek Embassy statement on the visit said.

Greece has budgeted $850 million for Olympic security infrastructure and equipment and assigned some 50,000 security personnel to the Games — three times as many as were used in Sydney, Australia, or Salt Lake City.

Greece is also being advised by a group of top security experts from the United States, Israel, Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Australia, and is sharing intelligence with many countries and international organizations.

Two major security exercises are planned for February and March, with U.S. participation.

“But in the final analysis, the responsibility for making the Olympics a success is Greece’s alone,” Mr. Floridis declared.

“Greece has the will and the resources to make the 2004 Olympics in Athens the safest possible, and is confident that athletes and spectators will enjoy a unique Games,” the public order minister said.

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