Originally created 05/15/04

Olympic security to top agenda at Bush meeting with Greek premier



ATHENS, Greece -- Olympic security will be the main item on the agenda when President Bush and Greek Premier Costas Caramanlis meet at the White House next week.

"I think the Olympics is a big issue," Thomas Miller, the U.S. ambassador to Greece, said Friday.

The United States is among a seven-nation security advisory group assisting Greek authorities. Greece also has asked NATO to help safeguard the Olympics, mainly with aerial surveillance, sea patrols and protection against a chemical, biological or nuclear attack.

"We all understand it is a difficult environment," Miller said. "It's a big challenge, but cooperation is excellent."

Caramanlis, who leaves for the United States on Monday, is to meet with Bush on May 20 as well as Vice President Dick Cheney. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, also are expected to attend.

On Wednesday, Athens security chiefs, began a four-day simulated Olympic security exercise, Olympic Guardian II, involving about 300 people, including senior American officials.

Greece this month increased its Olympic security budget to $1.2 billion and boosted personnel to 70,000 police and soldiers in Athens and Olympic-related areas during the Aug. 13-29 games.

But a triple bomb attack at an Athens suburban police station last week, which caused minor damage and no injuries, rekindled worldwide anxiety about security.

"I think there is concern in the United States over this ... and I think the Greek government takes it seriously," Miller said.

The attack occurred as the 100-day countdown to the games' opening ceremony began.

A Greek group, Revolutionary Struggle, claimed responsibility for the bombings and warned that some Olympic visitors - from heads of state to wealthy Western tourists - would be "undesirable."

"The group did come out and they had some language ... talking about the Olympics," Miller said. "So I don't think anyone is ignoring this, and there is an effort to find out who these folks are and try to make sure that it doesn't happen again."