Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepgaelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Rob Watson reports from Athens
"Greek newspapers condemned the violence"
 real 28k

The BBC's Paul Wood:
"Anarchists attacked banks"
 real 28k

Saturday, 20 November, 1999, 18:31 GMT
Clinton: US failed Greek democracy
Mr Clinton and Mr Simitis played down the riots

United States President Bill Clinton has admitted the US was wrong to back the military junta which took control in Greece in 1967.

His comments came as he ended a brief visit to the country, which was marked by violent anti-US protests.

Mr Clinton also lent his support to Greece's view that its dispute with Turkey over the Aegean Sea should be taken to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Reasons for anti-US sentiment
Opposition to Nato's bombing of Yugoslavia
Perception that US favours Turkey in disputes with Greece
US failure to stop Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974
Resentment of US backing for 1967-1974 military dictatorship
General left-wing, anti-capitalist feeling
In an address on Saturday, Mr Clinton said it was time for the US to admit it erred 30 years ago by allowing Cold War strategy to outweigh concern for Greece's democratic government.

"When the junta took over in 1967, the United States allowed its interests in prosecuting the Cold War to prevail over its interest, I should say its obligation, to support democracy, which was, after all, the cause for which we fought the Cold War," he added.

"It is important that we acknowledge that," he told a gathering of business leaders in Athens who responded with applause.

The president's remarks were aimed at defusing anti-American sentiments that spilled into the streets of the Greek capital on Friday, when demonstrators set businesses ablaze to express their contempt for Mr Clinton's visit.

The protesters were voicing their anger at the Nato strikes in Kosovo and American support for the rightist military regime that ruled from 1967 to 1974.

Mr Clinton takes in the Parthenon with daughter Chelsea
During a joint appearance with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Mr Clinton said he regretted the losses from the rioting.

He said those who opposed his visit had a right to protest, but had a responsibility to keep their protests peaceful

Aegean row

Mr Clinton also urged Greece and Turkey to take their differences over the Aegean Sea to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Turkey has rejected calls for international arbitration in sovereignty disputes over various islands in the Aegean Sea and instead wants direct talks with Greece.

A bus ticket booth burns during Friday's demonstrations
But Mr Clinton sided with the Greek view, saying: "It seems to me the only way that either side can have a resolution of this without appearing to cave in [is to] let a neutral party, respected, decide it."

He also said he wanted a true effort to be made to settle the 25-year dispute over the divided island of Cyprus.


Both Greece and the US played down the significance of Friday's violence when rioters rampaged through Athens, torching businesses and portraying Clinton as the 'Butcher of the Balkans' for his role in leading the Nato air war against Yugoslavia.

Riot police used teargas against demonstrators outside the parliament in Athens after a small group threatened to storm the building.

Hostile neighbours
Ottoman (Turkish) rule over Greece until 1832
Territorial disputes over Aegean islands
Greek coup in Cyprus in 1974
Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974
Continuing division of Cyprus
As the crowd fled through surrounding streets, fires were started in rubbish bins and shop windows were smashed.

Police said 86 shops and 13 banks were scorched or heavily damaged, dozens of cars smashed, at least 16 people injured and 41 arrested.

Athens was quiet on Saturday, but about 1,000 protesters shouted slogans such as "American killers go home" in front of the US consulate in the port city of Thessaloniki.

However, Mr Clinton rejected criticism of Nato's air war to drive Yugoslav forces out of predominantly ethnic Albanian Kosovo.

"I do not believe we could have allowed an entire people to be exiled from their homes or extinguished from the earth simply because of their ethnic heritage or how they worship God," he said.

During a tour of the Acropolis on Saturday, Mr Clinton assured Greece's minister of culture, Elisavet Papazoi, that he would urge Britain to return the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon which are the subject of an ongoing dispute.

The president left Greece for a meeting in Florence with centre-left politicians from around the world, including Germany, the UK and France.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

See also:
20 Nov 99 |  Europe
In pictures: Clinton's violent welcome
07 Sep 99 |  Europe
Greece and Turkey: A new era?
20 Nov 99 |  Europe
Clinton backs Elgin marbles claim
16 Nov 99 |  Europe
Clinton stresses dialogue and human rights
08 Nov 99 |  Europe
US targets attacked in Greece
29 Sep 99 |  Europe
Clinton calls for Cyprus deal
06 Sep 99 |  Europe
Greece warms to Turkey

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Links to other Europe stories are at the foot of the page.