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US Nominee for Ambassador to Greece Says Olympic Security to be Priority - 2004-06-16

President Bush's nominee to become the next U.S. ambassador to Greece says, if confirmed by the Senate, his top priority will be security at the upcoming Olympic games in Athens.

Charles Ries, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, is President Bush's choice to succeed Tom Miller as the next U.S. Ambassador to Greece.

He appeared before a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee Wednesday.

Subcommittee Chairman, Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia, praised Mr. Ries' qualifications for the job, noting that he has also served as a senior official at the U.S. mission to the European Union and at the U.S. Embassy in London.

Senator Allen noted that after Mr. Ries' expected Senate confirmation in the coming weeks, the diplomat would have a busy agenda with the Olympics getting underway in two months.

"The Olympic games also provide, as we well know, a tempting target to terrorist groups seeking to disrupt that wonderful spirit of international competition," the senator said. "It will clearly be very important that the lines of communication between our governments and our law enforcement people, our intelligence people, as well as, obviously, our counterparts in the Greek government to ensure that these games are competed and completed without incident."

Mr. Ries assured Senator Allen he is up to the task.

"The top priority for the United States in its bilateral relationship with Greece is to continue our close cooperation in the war on terrorism," said Mr. Ries. "If confirmed, I will strive to build upon Tom Miller's ongoing efforts to strengthen Greek capabilities to prevent international terrorist incidents at the upcoming Olympic games."

Mr. Ries also pledged to work with the Greek government on European Union issues, including promoting stability in the Balkans and supporting Turkey's E.U. membership aspirations.

He also expressed hope that Greece, as the ancestral home of democracy, would contribute to U.S. efforts to promote democratic reform in the Middle East.