Greece Joins Coalition Fighting Terror

By Constantine, Gus | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 2, 2001 | Go to article overview

Greece Joins Coalition Fighting Terror


Constantine, Gus, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Gus Constantine

ATHENS - Linked to the West through NATO, the European Union and multiple historical affinities, Greece has responded wholeheartedly to Washington's call for help in the campaign against terrorism.

Through words and actions it has joined the war to rid the world of international terrorism, which on September 11 demolished the twin towers of the World Trade Center, tore a hole in the Pentagon and snuffed out more than 4,000 lives.

"We are doing everything humanly possible to find and bring to justice those who commit such atrocious acts," Minister of Public Order Michael Chrisochoides said in a recent interview.

However, while the Greek government appears to be completely committed to the battle against extremism, the same enthusiasm to join America's effort does not appear to animate the Greek public.

Officials here attribute what some regard as anti-Americanism to a vocal minority whose voice carries out of proportion to its numbers.

Immediately after the terrorist attacks, the Greek government authorized use of its air space and an air base on the island of Crete for the refueling of U.S. aircraft. It also provided to the United States facilities at the Souda Bay naval base on Crete.

In addition, Greece is cooperating in intelligence-sharing and in the investigation of suspect bank accounts that may be linked to terrorist activities worldwide.

It also plans to send two C-130 planes carrying food and other supplies for Afghan refugees, and a surface vessel to the Arabian Sea to be deployed as needed.

Mr. Chrisochoides last year led a delegation to the United States to sign a security-cooperation accord on terrorism and organized crime. He has also instituted a series of security measures to make the 2004 Olympics in Athens safe for athletes and visitors.

He has also augmented the Greek police force to deal with its own fight against a local terrorist group - November 17 - which for the past two decades has struck against a Western or domestic target once every few years, then slipped back into hiding.

Stephanos Manikas, Greece's state secretary, also expressed strong support for the war on terrorism.

"With the Olympics drawing closer, this planned event, which we have tried so hard to bring to the land of its birth, makes us automatic partners in the fight for an environment free of terrorists," Mr. Manikas said in an interview at his office in the Parliament building across from Syntagma, or Constitution Square.

According to a spokesman at the Greek Embassy in Washington, the security plan for the Olympics will cost over $600 million.

Even Theodore Pangalos, the firebrand in the 1970s battle to rid Greece of the colonels who staged a U.S.-backed military coup against a democratic government in Athens, sounded like a hawk when an interview on terrorism turned to the events of September 11.

"Obviously, those who committed this attack that took about 4,000 lives at New York's World Trade Center must be completely destroyed." he said.

"Liberty and democracy cannot survive if the political system comes under attack from such extremism."

The interviews were conducted as part of an invitation to Greece by the local journalists federation to their counterparts of Greek ancestry worldwide.

The bitter criticism of American foreign policy by a minority reflects generalized grievances that span the whole post-World War II era. Members of this minority have taken to the streets to express disapproval of what they perceive as the arrogance of American power.

They call the U.S. response to the September 11 attacks excessive, and suspect sinister motives behind the U.S.-led attacks in Afghanistan, such as a plot to establish a foothold in oil-rich Central Asia or to sweep away all opposition to American predominance in the world.

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