April 24, 2006

Greek leftists protest against Rice visit

By Dina Kyriakidou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Hundreds of Greek leftists marched
through central Athens on Monday chanting slogans against a
visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a
foretaste of planned mass action.

The Greek Communist Party (KKE) managed to hoist a giant
poster reading "Condoleezza Rice Go Home" from the central
Athens Music Hall, right next to the American embassy and in
one of the most heavily guarded areas of the Greek capital.

About three hundred protesters marched toward the embassy
shouting anti-American slogans but were blocked by police with
riot gear from reaching the building. Eight people were held
for questioning, police said.

"Rice is not welcome. Her visit is against people's
interests. It just heralds evils," the KKE said in a statement.

Rice is due to meet Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis
and her Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyanni on Tuesday as part of
a five-day trip to Europe that also includes Turkey and

Greek leftists and peace activists usually protest against
visits by senior U.S. officials. Former Secretary of State
Colin Powell canceled a visit to the Athens 2004 Olympics for
fear of violent protests.

Although NATO allies for decades, many Greeks are still
angry at Washington for backing the far-right military junta
that ruled Greece between 1967 and 1974.

Earlier on Monday, an anarchist group claimed
responsibility for fire bomb attacks in Athens, saying they
were aimed against Rice's visit.

The anarchist "Anti-State Struggle" group claimed it was
behind a bomb blast outside a French carmaker Renault showroom
on Monday and a failed attack against a McDonald's fast food
outlet at the weekend. The fire bombs damaged cars but caused
no injuries.

KKE has planned a mass rally in central Athens at 0700 GMT
on Tuesday, followed by a march to the U.S. embassy to protest
against Rice and threatened sanctions against Iran for its
nuclear programme.

Iran is embroiled in a dispute with the West over its
nuclear programme, which the United States says is designed to
build bombs. Tehran says it only wants to generate electricity.
Washington has not ruled out military action against Iran.

Anti-war groups, opposed to U.S. troops in Iraq and
Afghanistan, also said they planned protests.

Police said they were determined not to allow protesters to
come near the embassy.

The Stop the War and Greek Social Forum groups, which said
they would hold protests in central Athens, said the visit
offended the peace-loving feelings of Greek people.

"We will not let this war hawk visit Greece. We will fight
to cancel the visit," Stop the War said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou)