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Us failed greek democracy { November 20 1999 }

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Saturday, 20 November, 1999, 18:31 GMT
Clinton: US failed Greek democracy

United States President Bill Clinton has admitted the US was wrong to back the military junta which took control in Greece in 1967.

His comments came as he ended a brief visit to the country, which was marked by violent anti-US protests.

Mr Clinton also lent his support to Greece's view that its dispute with Turkey over the Aegean Sea should be taken to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

In an address on Saturday, Mr Clinton said it was time for the US to admit it erred 30 years ago by allowing Cold War strategy to outweigh concern for Greece's democratic government.

"When the junta took over in 1967, the United States allowed its interests in prosecuting the Cold War to prevail over its interest, I should say its obligation, to support democracy, which was, after all, the cause for which we fought the Cold War," he added.

"It is important that we acknowledge that," he told a gathering of business leaders in Athens who responded with applause.

The president's remarks were aimed at defusing anti-American sentiments that spilled into the streets of the Greek capital on Friday, when demonstrators set businesses ablaze to express their contempt for Mr Clinton's visit.

The protesters were voicing their anger at the Nato strikes in Kosovo and American support for the rightist military regime that ruled from 1967 to 1974.

During a joint appearance with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Mr Clinton said he regretted the losses from the rioting.

He said those who opposed his visit had a right to protest, but had a responsibility to keep their protests peaceful

Aegean row

Mr Clinton also urged Greece and Turkey to take their differences over the Aegean Sea to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Turkey has rejected calls for international arbitration in sovereignty disputes over various islands in the Aegean Sea and instead wants direct talks with Greece.

But Mr Clinton sided with the Greek view, saying: "It seems to me the only way that either side can have a resolution of this without appearing to cave in [is to] let a neutral party, respected, decide it."

He also said he wanted a true effort to be made to settle the 25-year dispute over the divided island of Cyprus.


Both Greece and the US played down the significance of Friday's violence when rioters rampaged through Athens, torching businesses and portraying Clinton as the 'Butcher of the Balkans' for his role in leading the Nato air war against Yugoslavia.

Riot police used teargas against demonstrators outside the parliament in Athens after a small group threatened to storm the building.

As the crowd fled through surrounding streets, fires were started in rubbish bins and shop windows were smashed.

Police said 86 shops and 13 banks were scorched or heavily damaged, dozens of cars smashed, at least 16 people injured and 41 arrested.

Athens was quiet on Saturday, but about 1,000 protesters shouted slogans such as "American killers go home" in front of the US consulate in the port city of Thessaloniki.

However, Mr Clinton rejected criticism of Nato's air war to drive Yugoslav forces out of predominantly ethnic Albanian Kosovo.

"I do not believe we could have allowed an entire people to be exiled from their homes or extinguished from the earth simply because of their ethnic heritage or how they worship God," he said.

During a tour of the Acropolis on Saturday, Mr Clinton assured Greece's minister of culture, Elisavet Papazoi, that he would urge Britain to return the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon which are the subject of an ongoing dispute.

The president left Greece for a meeting in Florence with centre-left politicians from around the world, including Germany, the UK and France.

Reasons for anti-US sentiment
Opposition to Nato's bombing of Yugoslavia
Perception that US favours Turkey in disputes with Greece
US failure to stop Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974
Resentment of US backing for 1967-1974 military dictatorship
General left-wing, anti-capitalist feeling

Greek coup misguided { November 21 1999 }
Greeks protest clinton { November 20 1999 }
Us failed greek democracy { November 20 1999 }
Violence greets clinton visit { November 20 1999 }
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