Greece to hire 10,000 soldiers
to secure the Olympic Games

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

ATHENS Greece has responded to heavy U.S. pressure by announcing aggressive security measures in advance of the Olympic Games in August 2004.

Officials said more than 10,000 soldiers will be recruited to secure the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. They said many of them will be inside the stadiums to respond to any attack.

Officials said the government of Prime Minister Costas Simitis has been under heavy pressure from Washington to raise Greece's security profile.

The new Greek security measures were announced in wake of the Al Qaida suicide attacks in November in the Turkish city of Istanbul. Officials said they have been concerned that Al Qaida agents plan to infiltrate Greece to carry out strikes, Middle East Newsline reported.

The U.S. demands have included a large Greek police presence in and around Athens, a U.S. security force in and around the Olympic Village and a U.S. command and control center in the village. Washington also wants a U.S. aircraft carrier stationed outside the port of Piraeus in Athens.

"The Olympic Games are a challenge for all of Greece," Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos said. "The challenge will mainly be played out in Athens. There, we will give the responses to the questions and insinuations put forward at times against our country and its ability to organize such an important and worldwide event, such as the Olympic Games."

Greece has agreed to construct a security fence around the Olympic Village in northwest Athens. Officials said the double chain-link fence will contain electronic surveillance cameras, sensors and observation posts. They said this will be similar to the NATO barriers being established across Europe.

One fence will surround the perimeter of the Olympic Village. The second fence will encompass housing and other vital facilities. Police and army units will patrol in the buffer areas between the fences.

Many of the measures mark revisions of previous security arrangements drafted by Greece.

Several of the countries on the seven-member Olympic security panel have praised the latest Greek measures. Israel's ambassador to Athens, Ram Aviram, said his government was pleased with the security arrangements.

"We feel that there is an intense effort to make sure this is a unique event," Aviram said. "We're satisfied with the way things are going at the moment."

Aviram did not rule out the prospect that Israel would request the deployment of its security personnel to protect the Israeli Olympic team.

The United States has already requested that its security detail be allowed to carry weapons.

"When the time comes we will make a decision," Aviram said.

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