- The Washington Times - Friday, April 15, 2005

Greece’s top security official, on a three-day visit to Washington this week, offered to make Athens a major outpost of international cooperation in the war on terror and other transnational threats, drawing on its experience acquired in preparing for the Summer Olympics last year.

In an interview with The Washington Times, Minister of Public Order George Voulgarakis proposed building a center in the Greek capital that would institutionalize the lessons of international cooperation learned in protecting a major event from a terrorist attack.

?Organizing Olympic Games in a secure environment was a great challenge for our country,? the minister said.

?No other country was faced with security planning for such huge events? in the wake of the September 11 attacks, he said.

The result was an incident-free Olympics.

?This planning gave us a network of cooperation with many countries which had expertise, and today we have a new security model that could be used to counter new challenges,? he said.

The proposed Athens facility would be called the Balkan and Mediterranean Center for Security Research and Training.

It would train members of the security services of other nations in the region and would organize strategic and tactical exercises with the help of the United States and European countries.

In Washington, Mr. Voulgarakis met with a wide range of U.S. officials with security responsibilities, including White House homeland security adviser Frances Townsend, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and former Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, CIA Director Porter J. Goss and former CIA Director George J. Tenet.

Mr. Voulgarakis also spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

?Today, Greece is in its best period of modern history. We have a strong democracy, a high level of growth, social cohesion. Our country is a member of the European Union, NATO and all the other important international organizations.

?For this reason, I believe that Greece can play a crucial role, in the Balkans, in southeastern Europe and in the Mediterranean,? he said.

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