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FBI Director Inspects Security Preparations for Athens Olympics - 2003-11-07

The director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is in Athens to inspect security preparations for next year's Olympic Games.

FBI chief Robert Mueller had a chance to see the Olympic security preparations for himself on Friday, and he met with senior Greek security officials. Mr. Mueller also attended a closed ceremony to honor the Greek police officers who broke up the country's main November 17 terrorist group last year.

Still, Mr. Mueller's arrival was marked Thursday night by a series of bombings around Athens by anarchists. The small explosions damaged the front doors of three banks, and the group that claimed responsibility for planting the bombs called them "a welcome to the FBI director."

Mr. Mueller made no public statement on Friday, but the FBI is reported to have concerns about Greece's ability to protect visiting delegations, as well as hundreds of thousands of spectators, from potential attacks during the Olympic Games next August.

News reports indicate there are particular concerns about Greece's ability to protect against terrorists using chemical or biological weapons, or from lone killers armed with sniper rifles hiding in the hills above sporting venues. While international terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida are regarded as the most significant threat, domestic groups also thrive on anti-American feeling, that remains widespread in Greece.

Greek authorities are determined to make the Games safe, and recently announced the details of a $775 million plan to ensure every aspect of safety of the Games. Under the plan, more than 40,000 security personnel will be deployed, twice the number at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Herman Frazier, who is leading a U.S. Olympic Committee tour, also currently in Athens, has praised "tremendous strides" made by the Greek organizers in recent months. That view was echoed by the U.S. State Department, which issued a statement Thursday backing Greek security plans.

Part of that confidence is based on Greece's formation of a seven-nation Security Board, which includes U.S. representatives, to advise the hosts on countering potential threats.

Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis noted ahead of Mr. Mueller's visit that it was not realistic to expect Greece to run the security operation on its own in what he called a globalized world.

Still, Greece has insisted that any extra security guards sent to protect individual delegations must not be armed. The United States plans to send 100 such guards for its 800-member team, and has just accepted the no-weapons condition.