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Leaders, dignitaries can use own guards

7/21/2004

ATHENS, Greece -- Olympic athletes will be under the
exclusive protection of Greek forces, but foreign leaders and other
dignitaries can use their own armed guards, Greece's top law
enforcement official said Wednesday.

Nations fearing terror attacks at the Aug. 13-29 games have
pressed Greece to allow special security details. The United States
plans to send nearly 200 personnel to Greece, including State
Department Diplomatic Security and FBI agents. Special U.S.
anti-terrorist teams also will be there under the command of NATO,
which is planning aerial patrols and other support.

Greek police sources told The Associated Press earlier this
month that armed U.S. agents would watch over athletes during a
pre-Olympic training camp on the island of Crete.

Also, a Greek official said Wednesday the games' security
budget, already the highest in Olympic history, was now about $1.5
billion -- a 25 percent increase from previous estimates. Deputy
Finance Minister Petros Doukas attributed the rise to more security
demands by foreign governments, although he did not give specifics.

Much of that cost has been for surveillance equipment, new
weaponry -- including coastal patrol boats -- and a $312 million
contract with a U.S.-led consortium for a security network.

A spokeswoman at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, said
Greece made another request for alliance assistance regarding
"counterterrorism aspects." That request will be considered
during the next few days, she said on customary condition of
anonymity.

NATO approved Greece's first request concerning the use of AWACS
surveillance planes, patrols in international waters, and elements
of the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons unit.

The spokeswoman emphasized that whatever NATO does to help, the
Greeks are ultimately responsible for security.

A spokesman at the U.S. mission to NATO also said Greeks "have
the lead on security" and referred questions about specific U.S.
contributions to the Pentagon.

U.S. officials in Athens declined to comment on any plans for
armed American agents outside NATO control.

Wednesday's statement by Public Order Minister Giorgos
Voulgarakis was an apparent attempt to clarify the limits on
outside armed security contingents planned by the United States and
possibly other nations during the Summer Olympics.

But many details of the plan remained unclear, including whether
countries can assign armed protection to athletes and officials
outside competition venues.

"The visit from leaders of various countries are managed by a
special security protocol," Voulgarakis said, noting the "rule of
reciprocity" that allows Greek forces to accompany leaders and
other on foreign soil.

But he added that Greek security is "exclusively responsible
for the security of the sports delegations."

"Greek authorities ... have done everything humanly possible to
have the Olympic Games in a safe and peaceful environment."

In Israel, a security adviser to the Israeli Olympic team said
it was "correct and logical" for Greek officials to permit
foreign guards and intelligence agents.

"I think every team since Munich [in 1972] was protected by the
Shin Bet [security services] and there is nothing better than
this," Assaf Hafetz, a former police commissioner, told Israel
Radio.

Palestinian militants infiltrated the Munich Olympics and killed
11 members of the Israeli team.

Hafetz said he knew of no direct threats aimed at the Athens
Olympics, but militant groups like Hezbollah and al-Qaida "have
the willingness and the ability to attack at the games ... So you
can't take just a defensive position, you must act on the
offensive."

The issue of whether to permit foreign armed security agents
with the Olympic teams remains highly sensitive.

Greek officials feel armed foreign guards would undermine their
authority. They also worry foreign guards might overreact to such
common occurrences as street protests, small firebombs planted by
anarchists or motor scooters being used on sidewalks to avoid
traffic.

The Athens Olympics -- the first summer games since the Sept. 11
attacks -- are viewed as a model for international anti-terrorist
cooperation.

In addition to NATO, Greece has worked with a seven-nation
security advisory group led by the United States and Britain.

The U.S. Olympic team has about 200 athletes in addition to
trainers and others.

A senior Greek security official, speaking on condition of
anonymity, told AP last month that at least 45 U.S. agents will
accompany the American athletes and support staff to Crete
beginning early next month, and "about 24 of them will have a
permit by Greek authorities to carry weapons."

The security force also will have dogs trained to detect
explosives, said the source, who is familiar with the training
camp. The official said FBI agents visited Crete recently to work
out details of the security plan.