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Greece to Lightly Arm and Clothe Fledgling Palestinian Police Force

Following through on a request from Yasser Arafat, the Greek government has agreed to supply light arms and uniforms to the newly created Palestinian police force for the Gaza Strip and West Bank town of Jericho.

But the government did not include heavy military equipment in its aid package.

Greece will give the Palestine Liberation Organization police uniforms and helmets, light vehicles and radar, and a still undetermined number of rifles and handguns.

While agreeing to supply light arms, the Athens government has flatly rejected the idea of supplying other equipment to the Palestinians.

During a visit to Greece in November, PLO Chairman Arafat had asked for armored vehicles, patrol boats, minesweepers and helicopters.

His request was forwarded to the Greek Foreign Ministry, which passed it on with a favorable recommendation to the Ministry of National Defense.

The Defense Ministry sent the request on to the army and navy chiefs of staff, who rejected it during a closed meeting last Dec. 4.

In declining the request, the military said that providing the assistance would decrease Greece’s military arsenal at a time of instability in the region.

The military noted that during the 1980s, Greece had given military equipment to Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein and to the Nicaraguan Sandinistas led by Daniel Ortega. Both times, the military officials said, “the equipment was used in the wrong way with no benefit to Greece.”

Those favoring the PLO request pointed to the fact that the PLO has been recognized by the United States and Israel.

They added that fulfilling the request would help Greece have influence over the Palestinians without jeopardizing the good relations that have been established with Israel in recent years.

Earlier this year, Greece attempted to offer the Palestinians old military hardware, some of which dated back to World War II. The Palestinian leadership rejected it.

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