ATHENS.- Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papadoniou denied that he told a Financial Times reporter that foreign battle ships will patrol off shore, in the Aegean Sea. Financial Times had reported Friday that Greece is planning the biggest sporting security operation in history for the Athens Olympics, with almost 100,000 troops and police on alert and ships from the US 6th Fleet patrolling offshore, the country’s defence minister has said.
“In an emerging picture of the full extent of the military might needed to protect the games, Yannos Papantoniou, defence minister, maintains even more resources will be required, with logistical details still to be finalised.
As the smallest country to host a summer games since Finland in 1952, Greece has continued to seek international help to provide protection for tens of thousands of athletes, Olympic officials and high-profile visitors to the games in August.
The government wants Nato to ring-fence the country’s borders while the games are under way. The alliance has already agreed to provide Awacs surveillance aircraft to monitor Greek airspace.
“The precise co-operation with Nato hasn’t been formalised yet, but there’s an understanding that the alliance would be on standby for any kind of emergency,” Mr Papantoniou said in an interview with the Financial Times.
He said current plans provided for a Nato rapid reaction force to remain on standby outside Greece during the summer, while the Italian and Turkish navies would patrol in the Ionian and Aegean. Ships from the US 6th Fleet would cruise within easy reach of Athens.
But amid growing popular concern that Greece might come under pressure to transfer responsibility for security to US experts, the government decided to postpone a final agreement with Nato until after the March 7 general election”.