US flag burnt in mass protests as Clinton arrives

THE CENTRE of Athens erupted in violence last night as US President Bill Clinton arrived in Greece for a 24-hour state visit. Ten-thousand people chanting anti-American slogans and burning American flags converged on the city centre provoking clashes with riot police as the president flew in from Turkey.

As Mr Clinton, his wife Hillary and their daughter Chelsea walked away from their plane, hundreds of police in riot gear and gas masks fired several rounds of teargas at the protesters.

"I have come here as a `philhellene' - a friend of Greece, and I look forward to experiencing that wonderful quality of Greek hospitality known to all the world," Mr Clinton declared shortly after his arrival.

But his presence provoked running street battles as the demonstrators, many of them venting their anger at the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia, set up barricades and lit fires in parts of central Syndagma Square. Many shops and at least four banks were on fire.

The tone of the chants and slogans was anything but hospitable. "Let's all join together to give the murderer the reception he deserves, all together for the big march to the embassy," a voice blared from a loudspeaker in Syndagma.

Two giant banners scrawled with the words "Killer Clinton" had been erected on a mountainside overlooking central Athens. An American flag defaced with a large swastika was draped across a building across from Mr Clinton's hotel.

The President arrived in Greece amid heightened fears that he could be the target of extreme left wing Greek terrorists. Some 3,000 FBI agents and counter terrorism experts were rumoured to be in Athens. Most of the concern was focused on the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary organisation "November 17". In the past 25 years, the underground group has assassinated four US diplomats and tried to kill hundreds more.

Greek police refused permission yesterday for a march on the American embassy but left wing groups and the Communist party urged demonstrators to defy the ruling and proceed to that area anyway.

Earlier, Mr Clinton said he was not worried about the demonstrations. "I'm delighted to be going and I'm not concerned about the protests. Greece is the world's oldest democracy. If people want to protest they should have a chance to do it."

Athens announced last week that the Clinton visit, originally scheduled to run from 13 to 15 November, was being postponed and cut from three days because of fears for his safety in the run up to 17 November, the anniversary of a 1973 crackdown on a student uprising against the military dictatorship of the day. Many Greeks still blame the US for its support of the colonels and 17 November is traditionally a day of anti- US rallies.

Security was stepped up after four gas-canister bombs exploded outside a local car dealer as protests grew against the visit and American targets were attacked in three other incidents. Protests in recent days have seen Mr Clinton compared to Adolf Hitler and tried in a mock court on Athens main square as "the butcher of the Balkans".

The trip to Greece had been scheduled to kick off a 10 day Clinton tour aimed at advancing reconciliation between Greece and Turkey.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Upper KS2 Teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Upper Key Stage 2 teacher ...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + ?110 - 130: Randstad Education Reading: English Teacher ...

KS2 Teacher with SEN responsibilities

£115 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: KS2 teacher with SEN responsibi...

Administrative Assistant

£60 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Administrative Assitant Hertford...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments