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10,000-man Olympic security unit begins exercise

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

ATHENS Greece has launched an exercise under the direction of seven nations including the United States to help secure the Olympic Games this summer.

The exercise marked the launch of Greece's new 10,000-member military and security unit, organized to ensure protection for the games in August 2004. Officials said the Olympic force is composed of army, air force and navy personnel and will protect participants in the games as well as the Olympic village and a new airport.

The security drill, which began on Friday, was coordinated by a seven-member Olympic security panel that includes Britain, France, Israel and the United States. The CIA and FBI have been the most influential advisers in the realm of Olympic security and intend to process information on potential threats to the games.

The Defense Ministry said all arms of Greece's military will be deployed or placed on alert during the Aug. 13-29 games in a security effort that is expected to cost more than $750 million, Middle East Newsline reported. The ministry said Greek fighter-jets will conduct surveillance missions while air defense batteries will be on alert around Athens for the prospect of any missile or suicide attack.

"Intelligence confirms Greece is not a terrorist target," Greek Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis said.

More than 600 military physicians and support personnel will be on alert to respond to any emergency, the ministry said. In addition, Greece will deploy a 200-member unit formed to respond to any threat from biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

Greece will deploy the Hellenic Navy to patrol sea lanes and protect harbors throughout the country. The navy will be on alert for the prospect that Al Qaida attackers would arrive in Greece under the guise of migrant laborers.

Officials said Greece's 41,000-member security and emergency services will also be summoned for duty during the games. They said NATO allies could contribute military assets, such as airborne early-warning and control aircraft.

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