Greece hands NATO military wish list to guard Olympics

Friday, April 2, 2004

ATHENS Greece has released its list of requests for NATO military assets in an effort to bolster security at the Olympic Games.

The list was disclosed by Greek military sources in wake of the first meeting between the Hellenic military's General Staff and NATO. NATO has agreed in principle to assist Greek efforts to secure the games, but officials said the alliance will be dependent on NATO members in Europe to supply the assets.

The Greek military request from NATO focuses on the deployment of airborne early-warning and alert aircraft to protect Greece's air space. The biggest threat envisioned by Athens is an Al Qaida suicide air strike similar to that sustained by the United States in September 2001.

[On Thursday, Turkey and European Union states, including Greece, arrested 53 suspected Turkish insurgents in what was regarded as the largest such effort on the continent, Middle East Newsline reported. The suspects were identified as operatives for the Marxist-aligned Turkish Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, known by its Turkish acronym DHKP-C, and responsible for several bombings in Turkey.]

NATO has also been asked to supply a range of naval vessels to patrol the area just outside Greece's territorial water. Athens has asked NATO's Standing Naval Force Mediterranean to assume responsibility for the mission.

In addition, Greece has also requested a NATO unit to protect against an unconventional weapons attack during the Olympic Games. The sources said the General Staff has selected NATO's multinational biological, chemical and nuclear defense unit, based in the Czech Republic. They said Athens wants this unit to be on alert for any WMD emergency during the games.

Athens also wants the use of NATO's command, control, communications and intelligence network during the Olympics. The sources said NATO would deploy its C3I command to bolster the Hellenic military's capability to gather and process information.

The sources said the General Staff has stressed that all NATO contributions or forces must come under Greek command. They said the Greek request calls for NATO to remain deployed around Greece until the end of the Olympic Games.

Deputy Defense Minister Yannis Lambropoulos said the NATO assistance would not increase the cost of the government's security budget for the Olympics, now set at $700 million. Lambropoulos was responding to a parliamentary inquiry by the opposition on Thursday.

"We have only asked for assistance from NATO that will operate outside the boundaries of Greek airspace and territorial waters, and the cost of this assistance will be shouldered only by NATO itself," Lambropoulos said.

At the same time, the Defense Ministry hosted a ministerial meeting to discuss Olympic Games security. Officials said the discussion focused on the need to increase troops, reinforce port security and deploy the navy and coast guard during the games.

"It was a coordination meeting in order to define the measures with which the Defense Ministry will address the demands of those authorities charged with Olympic Games security," Greek Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos said.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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