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NATO Expands Anti-Terrorism Patrols in Mediterranean - 2004-03-16


NATO has ordered the expansion of its anti-terrorism naval patrols in the Mediterranean Sea and is reviewing a Greek request for assistance at this summer's Olympics in Athens.

A NATO spokesman announced Tuesday in Brussels that the anti-terror Operation Active Endeavor will now work to ensure security throughout the Mediterranean basin.

The operation was initially launched in the eastern Mediterranean after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. It was expanded to the Western end of the sea last March in an effort to make it more difficult for terrorists to operate in the Mediterranean.

Officials say the expansion is not directly linked to last week's Madrid train bombings, and that expansion plans have been underway for a while. But they say the Madrid developments have renewed NATO's resolve to tackle terrorism.

Since the launch of the NATO operation, NATO warships have hailed 41,000 vessels and have boarded 47. They also have escorted over 400 ships through the Straits of Gibraltar, which is seen as a potential site for a terrorist attack.

With regard to the Olympics, the Associated Press reports NATO's commander for southeast Europe, U.S. Admiral Gregory Johnson, says the defense alliance stands ready to provide at least the anti-aircraft surveillance requested by Greek officials last week.

Greek officials requested NATO's help one day after the Madrid bombings. In addition to the AWAC surveillance, they want offshore support, and protection from chemical, radiological, and biological attack.

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