Al Qaida targeting western teams at 2004 Olympics

Thursday, January 15, 2004

ATHENS The United States wants Greece to increase security measures at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens in the wake of intelligence evidence that western teams are targets of terror plots.

The Bush administration has urged Athens to accelerate security preparations for the Olympics during the national election campaign in Greece.

On Wednesday, Greek Public Order Minister George Floridis began three days of meetings on security cooperation with CIA director George Tenet, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

The officials said the administration has expressed concern that the campaign will distract from the effort to improve security around Olympic facilities.

Greek officials said that Al Qaida and related groups might be targeting Western teams, according to intelligence reports.

Floridis has stressed that the Olympic Games will be completely secure and will not be affected by the Greek elections. Parliamentary elections have been scheduled for March 7.

During the campaign, Greece plans to hold a full-scale Olympic security exercise. The exercise, entitled Blue Odyssey 2004, has been scheduled for Feb. 6-8 and will include Greek police, army, navy, air force and coast guard. This is the sixth such exercise to prepare for the Olympics.

Officials said the exercise, planned by the Olympic Games' security directorate, will include such scenarios as an insurgency attack, hostage-taking at sea, and the threat of a nonconventional weapons strike.

The exercise will take place off the port of Piraeus, the largest port in Greece.

Observers from the seven-member security advisory group will attend the exercise. They include Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Spain and the United States.

Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou stressed that the exercise will take place despite the election campaign. He said there were no legal barriers for the Greek military to participate in Olympic security. So far, Greece has rejected a U.S. demand for the right of an American security team to carry weapons within the Olympic Village, officials said. But they said the issue would be resolved over the next few months.

"Olympic preparations will not be affected by the pre-election period," Denis Oswald, chairman of the International Olympic Committee's coordinating commission for the 2004 Games, said. "The new people that are likely to assume government positions after the elections are experienced and briefed over Olympic issues."

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