Clinton's Rain Check May Be a Greek Tragedy

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That'll teach those Greek leftists to mess with Bill Clinton.... The President Wednesday postponed a three-day visit to Greece, scheduled to begin next week, on the grounds of security fears — and in the process sent a nasty message about the hosts of the 2004 Olympic Games. Clinton will touch down in Greece but spend less than 24 hours there before moving on to Turkey, Italy and Bulgaria. The decision came after the Greek government indicated it would not stop anti-Clinton protesters from gathering outside the U.S. embassy and a nearby concert hall where the President was scheduled to speak. Two anti-American demonstrations turned violent last weekend, and there have been sporadic small-scale firebomb attacks in recent weeks to protest the visit.

Although Greece remains a NATO member, deep-rooted anti-American sentiments among some of the population — fueled by charges that the U.S. backed the military dictatorship that ruled the country for seven years from 1967, and by the perception that Washington favors Turkey over Greece in their long-running territorial dispute over Cyprus — reached a fever pitch during NATO's bombing of Serbia, which was opposed by most Greeks. The two countries are tied by a variety and ethnic and religious traditions, and Greece was alarmed at the prospect of an expanded Albania. But President Clinton's decision to stay away creates an embarrassing situation for the Socialist government of Premier Costas Simitis. Besides the fact that Clinton will still spend a full four days with Athens's traditional enemies in Turkey, his no-show underlines fears that had been raised concerning security arrangements for the Athens Olympiad in 2004, and that may send a negative message to prospective tourists. Not that the leftist demonstrators will mind — after all, they were out demonstrating to stop Athens from hosting the games in the first place.