Greeks insist on Olympics arms ban for athletes after secret deal leaked

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The Independent Online

The US is preparing to send 400 special forces troops to Greece to help bolster security at the Olympic Games, it was confirmed yesterday. But Greek officials have insisted that only its troops would be allowed to carry arms to protectathletes.

The US is preparing to send 400 special forces troops to Greece to help bolster security at the Olympic Games, it was confirmed yesterday. But Greek officials have insisted that only its troops would be allowed to carry arms to protectathletes.

The US troops, along with FBI agents and support staff, will be part of the largest security operation ever put in place for the Olympics. A total of £650m is being spent on security ­ four times as much than at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Details of how the troops will be deployed are still being discussed by the Greek government, the Pentagon and Nato, under whose command they will fall under. It is not clear whether they will be sent to Athens, the site of the games, or the island of Crete, where the US team will train.

Greece reacted angrily yesterday to a report that it had secretly agreed to allow British, American and Israeli security personnel to carry weapons while guarding their countries' athletes at the games.

The Greek Public Order Minister, George Voulgarakis, said that while guards accompanying national leaders would carry weapons, no such arrangement had been reached for those protecting athletes. The Greek constitution bans foreigners from carrying arms.

"The leaders of countries have specific protocols, that are separate and unrelated with the Olympics. These are bilateral agreements signed many years ago," Mr Voulgarakis said in a statement. "Leaders, presidents, kings, etc, are one thing and athletes are another. Greece is exclusively responsible for the protection and guarding of the athletes."

The minister spoke out following a report in yesterday's New York Times which said a special deal had been made to allow US, British and Israeli security personnel to carry weapons. One US official told the newspaper: "I am certain we are going to be able to carry our guns. I'm not sure what we're going to own up to. We must do this in a way that gives the Greeks their national pride."

The only nation known to have armed its security forces at the Olympics is Israel, whose agents have been carrying arms largely without approval from host countries since a Palestinian group killed Israeli athletes and officials at the 1972 games in Munich.

The Foreign Office said that security arrangements for British athletes were being handled by the Metropolitan Police. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "We are not prepared to discuss specific security arrangements."

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