Originally created 04/01/04

Olympic security preparations advancing 'smoothly'

ATHENS, Greece -- Greek authorities met Wednesday with NATO envoys about plans to safeguard the Olympics, and the nation's top police official said security preparations are moving ahead without problems.

"The planning of security for the Olympic Games is going smoothly," said Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis after leading an Olympic security meeting that included organizing committee officials.

But the meeting focused on difficulties of coordination between security and support agencies during multinational exercises in March, said military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We discussed some pending issues that were detected in the planning of the security measures," Voulgarakis said. He did not elaborate.

The March 10-23 "Shield of Hercules 2004" exercise tested Athens' response to a wide range of threats, including a chemical attack with mass casualties, bombings, hijackings and communication failures.

About 400 U.S. commandos joined 1,500 Greek personnel in the exercise, along with experts from Israel, Britain, Germany and Canada. Observers from Russia and China also attended.

On Wednesday, NATO officials met with top-ranking Greek defense officials to plan the alliance's role in safeguarding the Aug. 13-29 games.

Greece has asked for NATO's help with Olympic security, including aerial surveillance, sea patrols and protection against chemical, biological or nuclear attacks.

According to the Defense Ministry, the two sides will work out details for the deployment of AWACS aircraft, warships from NATO's standing Mediterranean fleet and NATO's multinational chemical and biological battalion.

"This cooperation will be nonstop until the end of the Olympic Games," a Defense Ministry statement said.

Plans to safeguard the games are the most expensive in Olympic history, costing more than $800 million - three times higher than Sydney's security budget four years ago.

Greek Premier Costas Caramanlis is scheduled to meet President Bush in Washington on May 20 to discuss Olympic security.


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