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May 16, 2006

Protest against the American use of Souda Bay to attack Iran

Demoposter So on Sunday we went to a political rally and protest being held outside the Hania market, to protest against the proposed use of the Souda Bay base by American troops to launch attacks on Iran.

Despite opposition from 90% of Greeks according to a recent telephone poll, the Greek defence minister, Evangelos Meimarakis, has already publicly said that the Americans would be free to use Souda Bay, which is a couple of km outside of Hania, to launch the attacks. In truth, the existing agreement between Greece and the USA pretty much means the Americans can do just about what they want from the base except attack targets within Greece, so the public statement was unnecessary.

It is funny, reading the British press and news as I do, the whole Iran issue just seems like something rumbling along in the background. Here in Greece however, the media seem to think that American military strikes are a matter of weeks away. In fact, according to some reports in the Athens News and on TV, covert American military action has already started.

This is part of a backdrop of sensitivity about Greece's relationship with the USA - being fuelled by the Vodafone spying scandal. Around 100 mobile phones, including those belonging to senior members of the government, were found to be being tapped via software installed on Vodafone's network. It started when PASOK was in power, and continued when the more conservative ND party formed the current administration. Conveniently this means both parties have been able to blame the other, and throw lots of mud around, without actually having to reveal who was listening in to the phone taps.

Now, it seems fairly self-evident that there is only one major superpower with the technical and financial means, and the motive, to bug the mobile phone network of a sovereign EU state - it is just that nobody in Greece will dare come out and say it. And anyone who does, like the former head of Greece's secret services, Pavlos Apostolidis, has yet to be called before the prosecutor investigating the case. Meanwhile the political cartoonists have been having a field day.


The demonstration in Hania was a small, noisy, and virulently anti-American affair. A crowd had gathered outside the market, and were being addressed over loudhailer. All the protests we have seen on TV from Athens seem to end with tear-gas and petrol bombs, but this was a much more low-key affair, in fact we didn't really notice any police presence at all.

We joked later that it also seemed to be further proof that there is no event too small in Hania for us to turn up and me take photographs - expect the report on the crisp-packet opening soon.



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