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03 January, 2000
The British Foreign Office publicised its confidential archives covering the 1969 period following the lifting of a 30-year period of secrecy, with several references to the junta then ruling Greece.
The archives outline the British government's stance towards the dictatorial regime in Greece, evaluations by British diplomats regarding Greek politicians Constantine Karamanlis and Andreas Papandreou, political exiles, the colonels' idea of transferring the Ecumenical Patriarchate from Istanbul to a site in Greece, or even Geneva, the assassination attempt against junta strongman George Papadopoulos and Athens' difficult position at the Council of Europe (CoE) as a result of the dictatorship. According to confidential correspondence between the British embassy in Athens and the Foreign Office, the British Labor government of Harold Wilson wished to handle its relations with the colonels carefully and discreetly, taking always into consideration London's commercial interests in Greece.
Officially, the British government sought the restoration of democracy in Greece but, also heeding proposals by the British Ambassador in Athens, Michael Stewart, avoided actions or statements which would displease the dictatorial regime with harmful consequences for Britain's commercial interests.
One of Britain's important interests at the time was the sale of an atomic reactor to Greece, aspects of which the British envoy constantly reiterated and underlined in his reports to the Foreign Office. The ambassador proposed to the Foreign Office the avoidance of official British contacts with Andreas Papandreou, primarily, and with Constantine Karamanlis.
In his relevant proposals to the Foreign Office, the British ambassador evaluated that "Andreas Papandreou has no future in Greek politics, he had lost his credibility and had poor support in Greece and in the Centre Union party."
In a letter he addressed to British PM Wilson from Stockholm on March 23, 1969, Andreas Papandreou requested a meeting with him since he would be making a stopover in London en route to the United States.
"It has been my conviction for some time that England can play a very crucial role in helping to resolve the intolerable situation in Greece. Your country knows Greece well and Washington listens attentively to your advice.
"I would greatly appreciate if I had the opportunity of speaking with you or with someone assigned by you to enable me to express my views at the government level," Papandreou said, among others, in his letter to Wilson.
Both the Foreign Office and the British embassy in Athens proposed to Downing Street that Papandreou not be accepted by British officials at the Foreign Ministry's premises. Deputy Minister Whitlock, who was responsible for Greek issues, ultimately met the Greek exile cursorily for a drink at the Travelers' Club, according to a confidential cable, dated June 17, 1969. Contact between the British ambassador in Paris and Karamanlis, meanwhile, as initially desired by the Foreign Office, also did not take place due to the negative proposal by the British embassy in Athens, with the argument that the colonels might find out about it and be displeased.
Source: Athens News Agency