17 January, 2007
U.S. Ambassador to Athens Charles Ries, speaking in an exclusive interview with the NET television network on Tues-day, said he is absolutely satisfied with cooperation with the Greek authorities to resolve the terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy last Friday and stressed that he feels absolutely safe in Greece in representing his country and will continue to travel and do his work as best as he can.
He also referred to investigations to detect the perpetrators, that are taking place under the supervision of the Greek authorities.
"We must always be prepared and in a state of vigilance for the possibility of terrorism. Unfortunately, in our era it is a reality in the lives of all. The American embassies in particular are targets all over the world. We are in a state of continuous and increased alert," he said.
Ries said that being a diplomat and not an investigator, he cannot assess whether the perpetrators are usual suspects from the past, stressing that he feels that nothing must be ruled out.
"We are cooperating very closely with the public order minister, Mr. (Vyron) Polydoras and all his associates to find what evidence we can. The embassy staff cooperated with the public order ministry and the Greek Police throughout the weekend. They have taken testimonies from citizens and they have collected evidence. Yes, we have a tape that has been taken from cameras around our embassy and we have delivered it to the Greek police," he said.
Asked whether it is material that can be utilized and whether there is a clear picture, Ries said "it shows the rocket that is being ignited opposite the road to the embassy. It was dark and it is not as clear as we would like. We are bringing some experts to see what they can do in relation to the picture and find ways of improving it. I hope the tape will be improved, but there are limits to how good it can become under these circumstances."
In reply to whether the tape provides evidence on the suspects, the U.S. ambassador said "there is an investigation that is under way under the supervision of the Greek authorities. I do not wish to go into elements of the investigation with details. I will repeat that both authorities will not leave any opportunity unused in our effort to find and convict those who are responsible for this terrorist act. This attack is directed in reality both against Greece and the U.S. embassy. It is the country that has been dealt a blow by this attack. I know that the government, the Greek police and all who are involved will not leave any opportunity unused in the effort to achieve an absolute in-depth investigation to enable us to find what we can."
Urged to disclose whether he had any information that such an event could take place, Ries said "I think that we must always be prepared and be in a state of vigilance for the possibility of terrorism."
Commenting on the level of cooperation between Greek and American security services, Ries said "excellent. We brought some experts over the weekend to help out. The Greek government is supervising the investigations in all sectors. We are cooperating fully and we are giving every piece of information that can contribute to the investigations to the government, the police and the ministry. In such cases, the way leading to the success of investigations is very often unpredictable."
Asked whether the FBI is involved in the investigations, the ambassador said "the FBI has been involved, but its involvement has nothing to do with the dimensions that have been given. Some of its good members have come."
Questioned whether he is satisfied with the work of the Greek counter-terrorism service and of the other Greek authorities, he said "as I said from the beginning on Friday, I am very satisfied. Absolutely satisfied with the cooperation and the enthusiasm with which the Greek authorities are approaching the problem."
On the question of whether he does not rule out the possibility of an international connection, Ries said "there is an assumption of responsibility by a local group and I think that we must take it into serious consideration. I am not saying that there is clear evidence of an international connection, but I am saying that every good investigation for me must examine evidence from all sources and we must not start with prejudices."
Lastly, Ries was asked whether he loves the country and travels frequently with his wife, if he will continue to travel and if he feels safe and said "absolutely. I feel safe. My job here is to represent the United States in Greece. I have taken it seriously and I will continue to travel and do my job as best as I can."
Foreign minister to meet U.S. envoy on Wednesday
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will receive U.S. Ambassador to Athens Charles Ries on Wednesday morning on the latter's request, the foreign ministry announced on Tuesday.
The meeting will focus on developments and prospects in the Balkan region and issues of bilateral political and economic interest, the announcement added.
Source: Athens News Agency