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Olympic Games: Organising Committee President criticises travel warnings from Australia; Foreign Minister defends travel warnings.

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Tuesday 25 May 2004

Olympic Games: Organising Committee President criticises travel warnings from Australia; Foreign Minister defends travel warnings


TONY EASTLEY: With 81 days until the Athens Games, the head of the Greek Olympics has launched a scathing attack on Australia for issuing travel warnings. The warnings have been in place for several weeks and followed three bombs being detonated outside a central Athens police station in early May. 


But overnight, the President of the Athens Organising Committee, Gianna Angelopoulos told representatives of the 202 countries competing in August that Australia's decision was uninformed and was bad security procedure. 


GIANNA ANGELOPOULOS: One of our Olympic Advisory group partners, Australia, chose the middle of an overwhelmingly successful IOC coordination commission meeting to release a warning regarding travel to Greece. And I worry that harm is being done to the Olympic Games. 


I'm concerned that we sent an inconsistent message to those who wish us ill. Telling them incorrectly that there are holes in Athens security procedures, and that our preparations can be circumvented when all of our preparations are designed to achieve the opposite, is bad security strategy. 


TONY EASTLEY: An unhappy President of the Athens Organising Committee, Gianna Angelopoulos, speaking there.


TONY EASTLEY: The Minister for Foreign Affairs is standing by the travel advisory which warns Australians about the recent series of firebomb attacks in Greece. 


The Minister joins me on the line now. 


Mr Downer, thanks for joining us on AM . What do you know that the rest of the world doesn't know about security in Athens? 


ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, I think the world does know - there have been three bombs that have gone off in Athens fairly recently and we've upgraded our travel advice from telling the people to (inaudible) to their circumstances to the point (inaudible) of caution. 


TONY EASTLEY: But other countries aren't issuing the same type of travel adviSORY that Australia has issued? 


ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, very few countries (inaudible) travel advisory system but a (inaudible) country like, for example, Canada, actually does have a travel advisory which I understand is very similar, so look, what other countries do isn't (inaudible) …to exercise caution in a country (inaudible) admittedly small (inaudible)… 


TONY EASTLEY: We're having trouble with your line. You're cutting in and out. I hope you can hear me okay. The Greek Organising Committee is saying that you are encouraging terrorists by saying that the security isn't up to scratch.  


ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, the travel advisory (inaudible)… up to scratch, and for them to be suggesting that is just wrong. Look, let's stick to the facts. We upgraded our travel advisory to tell Australians to exercise caution. That's just common sense as we see it. Others may think they shouldn't exercise caution. Our advice to Australians to do that, is not criticising the Greek (inaudible)… 


TONY EASTLEY: Alright, we'll have to leave it there. The Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer on a very scratchy line.