The Nando Times - Clinton delays trip to Greece amid US animosity

By PATRICK QUINN - AP

ATHENS, Greece (November 10, 1999 10:07 a.m. EST) - In light of a wave of anti-American demonstrations, President Clinton has postponed a visit to Greece, the government said Wednesday.

The government said Clinton would come to Greece from Nov. 19-20, shortening his stop to less than 24 hours in an embarrassing blow to Greece. He was originally to kick off a European trip Saturday with a three-day visit to Greece.

The new schedule will wedge Clinton's trip between visits to Turkey and Italy.

"After consultations between the two countries and in the interest of Greek-American relations, the Greek government proposed to the White House that his visit be held from Nov. 19-20," the government said in an announcement.

The trip agenda was reportedly reconsidered due to plans for heavy anti-American protests. Safety concerns were raised after the government of Premier Costas Simitis said it would not block protesters from assembling outside the U.S. Embassy or the nearby concert hall where Clinton was scheduled to make an address.

The scaled down visit to Greece could be a major humiliation for Greece's Socialist government, which faces elections next year. Clinton plans to spend five days in Greece's regional rival Turkey for political talks and a summit of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Although a NATO ally, anti-American sentiment is strong in Greece. Many Greeks believe the United States favors Turkey in territorial disputes and war-divided Cyprus.

The NATO attacks on Yugoslavia significantly elevated Greek anger toward the United States. Most Greeks strongly opposed the bombings, fearing national borders in the Balkans could be at risk in future conflicts. Greeks also identify with fellow Christian Orthodox Serbs.

The delay in Clinton's visit would push it past the buildup for the Nov. 17 anniversary of a 1973 crackdown on pro-democracy students by the then ruling military regime. The date is traditionally used to denounce the United States, which many Greeks believe lent support to the seven-year junta that collapsed in 1974.

Several foreign businesses have been attacked by shadowy terrorist groups in opposition to the Clinton visit.

On Wednesday, a firebomb exploded in a Suzuki car dealership in Athens, destroying two cars and damaging another but causing no injuries, police said.

The device, consisting of four propane gas canisters, had been placed under one car in the dealership's parking lot, authorities added.

A little-known group calling itself Anti-State Action claimed responsibility for the early morning attack in an anonymous telephone call to a newspaper. It did not say why it targeted the Japanese manufactured cars.

The group first appeared last week, when it planted a firebomb at a dealership selling French Renault and German Opel vehicles to protest Clinton's planned visit to Athens.

"Welcome, Clinton," an anonymous caller claiming to represent the group had told local media after that attack, which destroyed seven cars.

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