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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-01-12

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Charles Ries: "Greek-American relations will not be affected"
  • [02] Meetings with Bakoyannis, Polydoras
  • [03] Papandreou: Abhorrence over the attack
  • [04] Bakoyannis talks with Nimetz
  • [05] The foreign news agencies on the attack

  • [01] Charles Ries: "Greek-American relations will not be affected"

    The Greek government and opposition parties on Friday condemned an early morning projectile attack against the US embassy in Athens, which caused minor damage but no injuries, while prime minister Costas Karamanlis conferred with foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis and public order minister Vyron Polydoras after their visits to the Embassy.

    Bakoyannis rushed to the Embassy where she spoke with US ambassador Charles Ries, while Public Order minister Vyron Polydoras condemned "this act of violence with a strong sense of abhorrence", and Ries himself stressed that Greek-US relations would not be affected.

    "Counter-terrorism experts are at the scene. Any other statements at this time would be premature," Bakoyannis told reporters, with Ries appearing at her side.

    She also said that she went to the embassy to express the prime minister's and the government's support to Ries.

    "Phenomena such as these have cost so much to our country in the past, both socially and economically as well as politically. The Greek government is determined to make every effort so as not to allow such phenomena again," Bakoyannis said.

    Questioned on the type of attack, the foreign minister said that "I have nothing more to say. The Public Order ministry is examining every prospect, with the cooperation of the American intelligence services, and we expect an announcement by them".

    Meanwhile, an announcement by the Public Order Ministry, whose minister Vyron Polydoras also rushed to the embassy and conferred with the US ambassador, said that the attack occurred at 5:58 a.m., originating from the environs of the Embassy, and was carried out by a "self-propelled explosive projectile".

    The ministry said that the projectile caused minor material damage to the building's glass front and roof, adding that no injuries resulted from the attack.

    The announcement further said that the relevant services mobilised immediately and the area surrounding the area was cordoned off, adding that "scrutinizing search" was being carried out in the surrounding area.

    The Special Violent Crimes Directorate (DAEEB) was conducting a preliminary investigation, in cooperation with the Criminal Investigations Directorate (DEE) and the Attica Security Police's State Security sub-directorate, the announcement said, adding that the Greek authorities were working in close cooperation with the US embassy authorities.

    Any new developments would be released in an announcement, the ministry said.

    A strong blast was reported shortly before 6 a.m. (4 a.m. GMT) at the US embassy in Athens, with Greek authorities now investigating inside the compound, according to the US ambassador.

    "This attack came from the outside. There is no justification for such an act of violence," US envoy Charles Ries told reporters outside the embassy nearly two hours after the attack.

    Earlier, the US State Department confirmed that no injuries resulted from the incident.

    Initial reports noted that the embassy's facade was hit by some type of projectile from outside, possibly a rocket. What appeared to be a hole was visible very near the embassy's emblem, on the front side of the compound building along Vassilissis Sofias Boulevard.

    Ries added that he has not as yet visited the exact site where the projectile hit, which he called a "crime scene", in answer to a question on what, if any, findings were discovered, i.e. remnants of a rocket or RPG. He also declined to call the episode an "act of terror" for the moment, noting instead that it was a "very serious" incident.

    Greek police cordoned-off the premises around the embassy, which takes up an entire city block, and is one of the most heavily guarded and CCTV-monitored sites in the Greek capital.

    Traffic was interrupted around the embassy, and US officials have promised to open the embassy "as soon as possible".

    In other statements, Ries said he spoke with Foreign Minister Bakoyannis by phone immediately after the incident, with the latter expressing the Greek government‚s assurance of cooperation to find the perpetrators of the attack. Additionally, Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras arrived at the embassy shortly before Ries‚ statements.

    The embassy became a target in February 1996 when an urban terrorist cell launched a 3.5-inch anti-tank rocket that hit the outer wall of a parking lot behind the embassy.

    Public Order minister

    Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras, who appeared with the US ambassador before reporters after their meeting, said he went to the Embassy to express support to both the embassy and the ambassador.

    He said the attack was an "act of violence that provokes the Greek public opinion and attempts to disrupt the country's international relations".

    The Greek police has undertaken the operational responsibility of the investigation, adding that "we must be sovereign and scrutinizing in the investigation".

    "Operationally, it was an act of symbolism," Polydoras said, adding that the government "condemns it with a strong sense of abhorrence".

    Polydoras further confirmed earlier reports that two phone calls had been placed by unidentified callers, one to the security company that guards the embassy and another "elsewhere", claiming to assume responibility of the attack on behalf of the organisation "Revolutionary Struggle", adding that all possibilities were being investigated.

    US ambassador

    US ambassador to Greece Charles Ries told reporters that Greek-US relations would not be affected, and noted the Embassy's close cooperation with the Greek authorities in seeking the perpetrators, stressing that the Greek government was handling the investigation, in cooperation with the Embassy.

    Replying to press questions, Ries said that the incident will not affect the relations between the two countries.

    "Greek-American relations are excellent, and will remain so," the ambassador said.

    Earlier, Ries had said that "this attack came from the outside. There can be no justification for such a senseless act of violence," speaking to reporters outside the embassy nearly two hours after the attack, adding that he had not yet visited the spot where the projectile hit, which he called a "crime scene", in answer to a question on what, if any, findings were discovered, i.e. remnants of a rocket or RPG. He also declined to call the episode an "act of terror" for the moment, noting instead that it was a "very serious" incident.

    State Department comment

    "At approximately 11 pm eastern time, 6 am local time (0400 GMT) there was an explosion at the US embassy in Athens," State Deparment spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in Washington. "There are no injuries or casualties of any kind. Police have responded. As a result, the embassy will be closed today, Friday the 12th of January."

    Opposition parties

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou telephoned Ambassador Ries, who briefed him on the incident, and to whom he expressed his condemnation of and abhorrence over the action.

    According to a PASOK announcement, the ambassador briefed Papandreou on the incident, and the PASOK leader stressed to Ries that the preceding PASOK governments had worked insistently and methodically, striking a strong blow to terrorism, "and we had the hope that we would not see such phenomena again".

    Papandreou further expressed hope that the incident would not create problems in the good bilateral relations between the two countries.

    Meanwhile, PASOK press spokesman Petros Efthymiou said in a statement: "PASOK condemns in the most unequivocal manner the terrorist attack against the American Embassy. Terrorism in all its forms is abhorrent. In this specific incident, the attack on a diplomatic representation is targeted against the ineterests of the Greek people, and the country's reputation and interests. PASK worked methodically and struck a strong blow to terrorism, disbanding 'November 17' (terrorist group). The government is obliged to work in the same direction."

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Friday said that the early morning projectile attack on the US embassy in Athens "regardless of where it originated from, gives the US the ability to exploit it in the framework of its general attack against the peoples".

    According to a KKE Central Committee press office announcement: "This specific action takes place during a period when the US are bombing Somalia and are increasing their occupation trrops in Iraq, which hs provoked international reactions, as well as reactions iside the US. It takes place a a time whenn the general imperialistic plan of the 'democratisation of the Middle East' is being advanced".

    The KKE said that the claims that the damaged caused to Greece's international image were "misorienting", stressing that the hit could not become an alibi for the intensification of state suppression and the action of the various services.

    Vigilance and preparedness were required, as well as action for the development of the anti-imperialism movement, which was a prerequisite for the marginalisation and isolation of every provocation, from wherever it originated, the KKE announcement concluded.

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Progress (SYN) secretary Nikos Hountis, in an announcement, said his party condemned the rocket attack against the US Embassy, warning that "such acts of violence mustnot be exploited to cultivate a climate of terror-hysteria and reinforce rationales of measurs for the suppression and restriction of individual and democratic freedoms".

    "The response to the US' aggressive foreign policy is mass, peaceful demonstrations in our country and internationally," he urged.

    [02] Meetings with Bakoyannis, Polydoras

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed by public order minister Vyron Polydoras on Friday and conferred with foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on the early-morning projectile attack against the US embassy in Athens, which caused minor damage but no injuries.

    Polydoras told reporters after the meeting that the premier had ordered intensification of the investigation, at all levels and in all areas, adding that the counter-terrorism service will be called and have "increased action", as well as collaboration with a "task force" to be supervised and coordinated by Greek Police (ELAS) deputy chief Stelios Syros.

    Polydoras opined that the attack was a "domestic act of terrorists", as surmised from the "seeming or substantive assumption of responsibility" by the Revolutionary Struggle group.

    "We are remaining calm, and methodically and scientifically examining the new phenomenon," Polydoras said, and condemned with abhorrense the "effort to revive terrorism" in the country.

    "Terrorism will not come to pass. We are cooperating and working to disband, operationally and chiefly morally, all who act in this manner. The institutional structure of the State is stong and capable," the minister said.

    He further expressed the assessment that no problem would arise in Greek-US relations.

    Replying to questions, Polydoras said that there were many finds, which would be scrutinized, but refrained from giving any details on those finds.

    Asked whether the perpetrators were an old or new generation of terrorists, Polydoras did not rule out any possibility.

    Speaking to reporters after her own meeting with Karamanlis, Bakoyannis also assessed that no problem would arise in Greek-US relations from the attack, adding that those relations were excellent and would remain so, echoing the words of US ambassador to Greece Charles Ries to reporters shortly after the incident.

    Bakoyannis noted that the US was aware of the immense efforts of the Greek government, adding that there was also cooperation with the US authorities on the issue.

    The foreign minister stressed the government's determination to wipe out any remaining vestiges of terrorists, adding that such actions harmed democracy, the interests of the Greek people, social cohesion, and the country's reputation.

    The Greek people, she continued, "have expressed their absolute determination of confrontation of the phenomenon".

    Bakoyannis added that there had also been contact with Washington over the incident, noting that she was scheduled to meet next week with her US counterpart, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

    [03] Papandreou: Abhorrence over the attack

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Friday telephoned Ambassador Ries, who briefed him on the early morning projectile attack against the US Embassy in Athens, which caused minor material damage and no injuries.

    Papandreou expressed to Ambassador Ries his condemnation of and abhorrence over the action.

    According to a PASOK announcement, the ambassador briefed Papandreou on the incident, and the PASOK leader stressed to Ries that the preceding PASOK governments had worked insistently and methodically, striking a strong blow to terrorism, "and we had the hope that we would not see such phenomena again".

    Papandreou further expressed hope that the incident would not create problems in the good bilateral relations between the two countries.

    Meanwhile, PASOK press spokesman Petros Efthymiou said in a statement: "PASOK condemns in the most unequivocal manner the terrorist attack against the American Embassy. Terrorism in all its forms is abhorrent. In this specific incident, the attack on a diplomatic representation is targeted against the ineterests of the Greek people, and the country's reputation and interests. PASK worked methodically and struck a strong blow to terrorism, disbanding 'November 17' (terrorist group). The government is obliged to work in the same direction."

    [04] Bakoyannis talks with Nimetz

    United Nations special mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz arrives on Friday in Athens, where he is slated to meet at 3:30 p.m. with foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis.

    According to foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, Nimetz will be briefed by Bakoyannis in detail on Greece's positions regarding the issue. Greece has made the necessary constructive steps for lifting the outstanding issue of the FYROM name, Koumoutsakos said, adding: We have accepted, as a basis for negotiation, the proposal by the UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz of early 2005. We consider that the responsibility lies with the other side which, even now, can follow the example of Bulgaria and Romania and other peoples of the Balkans, who are proceeding with their gaze turned to the common European future and are not taking steps backward, persisting in a falsification of the past.

    Asked whether Nimetz would submit a proposal, Koumoutsakos replied in the negative, saying that "there has been no such briefing".

    Referring to the FYROM government's recent decision to rename the Petrovec airport in Skopje to "Alexander the Great Airport", the spokesman described the move as "totally unfounded, with respect to its historical aspect, and clearly counter-productive with respect to its political aspect".

    Koumoutsakos stressed the "multiple positive effects" that the finding of a mutually acceptable solution would have, first of all on bilateral relations, which he said would have a spectacular improvement at political and economic level, secondly on regional cooperation and stability, and thirdly on the course of the neighbouring country's Euro-Atlantic aspirations "on the basis of relations of good neighbourhood and trust, which comprise EU principles and an obligation of the candidate country".

    Asked whether the Greek side would propose a name to Nimetz, the spokesman referred to a previous statement that "the Greek side has shown its constructive stance in early 2005".

    To a question on whether Greece reserved its right of veto on FYROM's accession to international organisations, Koumoutsakos replied that "the Greek policy on this matter is absolutely founded on that which is provided under Article 11 of the Interim Agreement".

    [05] The foreign news agencies on the attack

    The attack on the US embassy comprised one of the main news items in most of the foreign news agencies, which informed the public opinion with constant reports from Athens.

    "The US embassy in Athens became the target of a rocket attack at dawn Friday, an attack that US ambassador in Athens Charles Ries described as "very serious", the French news agency AFP reported, noting that "the responsibility was assumed by an extreme-left organisation".

    Reuters news agency noted that unknown "attackers fired a rocket at the US Embassy in Athens, but no one was hurt".

    Reuters said that it was the most serious attack against the US diplomatic mission since February 1996, when "unidentified assailants fired a rocket at the U.S. embassy compound in Athens, causing minor damage to three diplomatic vehicles and some surrounding buildings".

    AFP also reported public order minister Vyron Polydoras' statements on the assumption of the responsibility by an unidentified caller "in the name of the Revolutionary Struggle" group, but added that the minister had stressed that the police were examining the authenticity of the claim.

    "The rocket was fired from a land plot near the embassy and exploded on the third floor of the building, causing damge to a toilet," AFP quoted a Greek Police official as telling the agency.

    The German news agency DPA said that "tens of police cars immediately closed off the area surrounding the US embassy immediately after the attack, resulting in traffic chaos".


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