Athens, Greece (CNSNews.com) - The Greek government says it is taking serious initiatives for cooperation with the European Union and the United States in the fight against terrorism.
After coming under heavy criticism worldwide for its lack of action against terrorism, and in particular against the elusive November 17 terrorist group, Greece took the move towards further cooperation to prevent it becoming further isolated.
The socialist government said in a statement that "no-one will be allowed to overturn the stability and progress that is being achieved in the country or to tarnish the image of a contemporary, peaceful and democratic Greece."
It acknowledged some ineffectiveness in police counter-terrorism efforts, but asserted that the situation in Greece was much better than that prevailing in other EU countries.
November 17's assassination on June 8 of the British military attach\'e9 in Athens, Brig. Stephen Saunders, prompted accusations from mainly U.S. and British media that it had not done enough to halt the bloodshed. Criticism also came from former CIA Director James Woolsey, and a former staff member of the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Wayne Merry.
Many reports referred to the fact that not one member of the group had been caught since it began its terror campaign in 1975. Since then it has claimed credit for 22 deaths, including four Americans.
Questions were also raised about Greece's ability to handle security at the 2004 Olympic games.
Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis announced last week that the police department would allocate 50,000 police officers to security duty during the Games, at a cost of $416 million.
"It will be impossible for a terrorist attack to occur during the Games, or even for a wallet to be stolen," Chrysohoidis told the Athens daily newspaper Nea this week.
President Clinton continues to believe Prime Minister Costas Simitis' administration should be supported in its fight against terrorism.
"I have offered full support to the government of Simitis to find the terrorists and bring them to trial. This has to be done," Clinton said in a recent interview with Athens daily newspaper Vima. "Too many innocent people have died and terrorism has gone on for far too long in Greece."
Clinton noted that five U.S. embassy staffers had been killed and 30 wounded in terrorist attacks in the past 25 years.
Greece could defeat terrorism if it showed courage and decisiveness, he added.
"Many U.S. firms in Athens have been targeted in bomb attacks. The families of our murdered colleagues have a right to demand justice. I am convinced that the families of the Greek victims and the Greek people as well want justice."
U.S. Ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns, in a visit this week to the northern Greek city of Kastoria, said terrorism was a serious problem that could be eradicated through the cooperation of Greek and American authorities.
The British Ambassador to Greece, David Madden, said the UK government was giving the Greeks its full support in its efforts to investigate Saunders' murder and "tackle the problem of terrorism."
New measures planned
The Greek government has doubled an existing reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of November 17 members, saying informants' anonymity will be kept from all authorities and third parties.
The Public Order Ministry announced last week that among the measures to be taken will be the radical restructuring of Greek counter-terrorism and other forces, which may be given broader search and arrest powers.
Greek press reports said the government was also studying the possibility of pardoning individuals implicated in terrorism who come forward with information leading to the arrest and prosecution of other terrorists.
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said Greece and Britain had called for a broad European approach to counter-terrorism and underlined Athens' willingness to cooperate with other EU member-states.
A U.S.-Greece police cooperation memorandum is also ready to be signed once certain "practical details" are ironed out.\plain\lang1033\f2\fs23