Greece Feels Heat to Tackle Terrorism European Union, U.S. Put on Pressure

The Florida Times Union, July 7, 1999 | Go to article overview

Greece Feels Heat to Tackle Terrorism European Union, U.S. Put on Pressure


ATHENS, Greece -- Hundreds of arson strikes and bomb attacks in the last two years have left Greece increasingly at odds with the United States -- a principal target for Greek terrorists.

The attacks by terrorists and anarchists have also left Greece out of step with its European Union partners, who have crushed or hobbled their own urban terrorists.

But after decades of inaction, Greek leaders may finally be heeding the calls to work harder to try to squash Europe's most elusive terrorist cell, November 17, and other smaller terrorist groups.

Yesterday, self-proclaimed anarchist Nikos Maziotis went on trial for a 1997 bomb at the Greek Interior Ministry. His prosecution could help ease U.S.-led demands that Greece take stronger measures against terrorism. Yet it could also become a rallying point for more attacks -- especially during planned visits this month by American law enforcement and counter-terrorism officials.

Four Americans and one Greek employee at the U.S. Embassy have been killed by November 17. More than a dozen U.S.-linked sites, including Citibank and car dealerships, have been attacked this year. And the price tag for security for U.S. diplomats in Greece is the highest in the world, though the exact cost is kept secret.

The pressure on Greece -- now listed by Washington as the reigning hub of leftist and anti-foreigner terrorism in Europe -- appears part of a general U.S. security alarm following the twin bombings at embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998.

The CIA and other U.S. investigators have been working alongside Greek authorities since 1975, when November 17 gunned down its first victim: CIA station chief Richard Welch. Yet, U.S. officials complain they are granted limited powers and claim Greece lacks the political will or police expertise to mount a terrorist crackdown.

Although they lack such tools as a national DNA registry and a special anti-terrorist forensics team, Greek authorities vigorously deny any weakness in battling terrorism.

"There is a real battle of perception going on," said John Stilides, executive director of the Western Policy Center, a Washington-based group promoting U.S.-Greek dialogue. "The Americans see a major problem. The Greeks don't see this with the same urgency."

But the list of attacks -- and the dearth of arrests -- point to a very lopsided score. …

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