Originally created 05/25/04

Greece to get American radiation detectors for Olympics



ATHENS, Greece -- The United States will provide Greece with radiation detection equipment to boost defenses against potential terrorist threats to the Olympics such as a dirty bomb, authorities said Monday.

The devices will be presented Tuesday by U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and installed at airports and ports, U.S. and Greek officials said. Abraham also plans to tour Athens' international airport, where similar U.S. equipment is already being used.

Plans to safeguard the event are the most expensive in Olympic history, costing more than $1.2 billion - four times higher than Sydney, Australia's security budget four years ago.

The lone U.S. military base in Greece - Souda Bay on the island of Crete - also has stockpiles of emergency medical equipment in case of biochemical or radiation attacks.

Greece is receiving assistance and advice from a seven-member advisory group of nations, including the United States, Britain and Israel.

Measures planned in Athens include the deployment of more than 70,000 police and soldiers, more than 1,400 security cameras and aerial surveillance by helicopters, a blimp and AWACS aircraft. A no-fly zone will be imposed around Olympic venues and other sites.

During the Olympics, thousands of dignitaries and others will stay aboard cruise ships in the busy port of Piraeus south of Athens.

But the chief organizer for the games warned Monday that comments about security shortfalls could encourage terrorists to strike.

"I am concerned that we send a consistent message to those who wish us ill," said Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki.

"Telling them incorrectly that there are holes in Athens security procedures and our preparations can be circumvented - when all of our preparations are designed to achieve the opposite - is bad security strategy," she said.

Concerns have been widespread about the first summer Olympics since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.

U.S. officials said Greece is among the first of several countries to receive the equipment, which will be incorporated into the security planning for the Aug. 13-29 Olympics.

In August, the U.S. and Dutch governments announced the installation of radiation detection devices at Rotterdam, one of the world's largest ports, to hunt for clandestine shipments of nuclear and other radioactive material.

Abraham said terror groups are suspected of scouring the world for stolen or discarded nuclear items that could be used to make crude atomic weapons or dirty bombs.

In March, a two-week multinational security exercise tested efforts to safeguard the games from a host of possible threats ranging from hijackings to a dirty bomb - a conventional explosive used to distribute radioactive material.