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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before