Athens Chief Warned of Threat


Friday, February 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The head of the organizing committee for the 2004 Athens Olympics was urged Friday to protect herself against possible terrorism.

``Everybody who is conspicuous in this country might become the target of a terrorist attack,'' said Stratis Stratigis, a former chairman of Athens organizers. ``Of course, she might be a target, and she better guard herself.''

Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the organizing committee president, is the wife of multimillionaire Greek industrialist Theodoros Angelopoulos, whose uncle was shot and killed by November 17 in 1986.

The group is Europe's most elusive terrorist organization and has killed 22 people since it first appeared in 1975 with the assassination of the CIA station chief in Athens. No group members have been arrested, and there are no known suspects. The group has never been known to call any of its victims.

Stratigis said he received numerous threats during his term from April 1998 to June 1999, but thought most of them were ``bad jokes.''

``The threats were not specific, they were anonymous telephone calls ... about a dozen, perhaps more at various instances.''

Stratigis said he did not feel the need for bodyguards at the time.

``If I get a guard I will look even more conspicuous,'' he said.

The Athens organizers would not comment on Stratigis' statements, which were also broadcast earlier on an Australian TV program.

On Tuesday, former U.S. State Department official Waynne Merry warned the 2004 Games could be a ``bloody disaster,'' contending the Greek government lacks the political will to crack down on terrorism.

Merry, who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Athens, said in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times that the governing Socialist party had ``active terrorist links'' in the past.

Government spokesman Tilemahos Hitiris described the comments as ``despicable'' and insisted the Athens Games will be safe.

``Greece is taking all measures for security at the Olympic Games,'' Hitiris said.

Athens organizers and police have said they will sign an agreement for the largest security operation in the country's history, and authorities have proposed aggressive anti-terrorism controls in Greece. The government recently allocated $600 million for Olympic security.

CIA Director George Tenet said Wednesday that U.S. officials have urged the Greek government to ``take this terrorist threat far more seriously than it's been taken in the past, that the Olympics are a major vulnerability.''

``There is a lot of work that needs to be done, a lot of work,'' Tenet told U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.

In another matter, organizers received the final go-ahead from the country's highest administrative court for construction of the Olympic Village.

The village is to house 17,300 athletes and officials and is to be built north of Athens for about $320.5 million. It will be near the epicenter of a 1999 earthquake that killed 143 people.

Construction is expected to begin within the first six months of 2001 and is to be completed by February 2004.