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Friday, 9 June, 2000, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
Analysis: Greek terror failings under fire
Greek police examine scene of Brig Saunders' murder
Greek police examine the crime scene
By Paul Wood in Athens

The murder of the British military attache in Athens has placed new pressure on the Greek authorities to crush the terrorist group behind a 25 year campaign of violence without suffering a single arrest.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou promised a "most merciless" response to the attack by the November 17 group on Brigadier Stephen Saunders.

I believe people in government know certain members of November 17

Ex-CIA chief James Woolsey
Prime Minister Costas Simitis said his government would not allow anyone to "reverse the progress, or blacken the image of a modern, peaceful and democratic Greece".

"Together with the entire Greek people, I express my aversion at this barbaric murder.

"This terrorist act is contrary to the basic rules of social coexistence and respect for human life," he said.

'Blind official eye'

Forrmer Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey has suggested that current or former members of Greek governments may know who November 17 is - and may be protecting the group.

Ex-CIA chief James Woolsey
Woolsey: "Nothing has been done"
"I believe there are some people in the Greek government who know certain members of November 17.

"Nothing has been done, this is an extremely important affair for the US, and it constitutes a continuous irritation and affects our relationships with Greece," he said in an interview published by a Greek magazine.

That drew a furious response from the government.

Chief government spokesman Dimitras Reppas said Athens would seek to legally compel Mr Woolsey to go to Greece to give evidence of his claims of links between terrorists and members of the government.

Greek 'incompetence'

November 17 has killed at least 22 people, starting in 1975 with the murder of the CIA station chief in Greece.

The US has offered a $2m reward for anyone providing information leading to the arrest of the group's leaders.

Finance Minister Yiannis Paleokrassas car burns after 17 November attack
Rocket attack on GreekfFinance minister in 1992
Last month, the US State Department issued a report saying that in 1999 Greece was second only to Colombia in the number of attacks against American targets.

Privately, American officials are scathing about Greek "incompetence" in dealing with terrorism, saying that promises of strong action following attacks on US citizens are inadequate

Olympic fears

Concern about Greece's anti-terrorism record led the International Olympic Committee to warn that poor security could jeopardise Athens chances of hosting the 2004 Olympics.

Western officials in Athens say that the authorities will be anxious to use the investigation in the murder of Brigadier Saunders to allay these fears and demonstrate that Greece is a safe venue for the games.

The culture minister, in charge of preparations for the games, Theodore Pangalos, said that security was now the government's top priority.

He hoped that by 2004 Greece would have made progress in its struggle against terrorism.

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