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U.S. Freezes Arms Sales to Greece

February 27, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Clinton administration temporarily froze weapons sales to NATO ally Greece earlier this month because of suspicions it had provided Russia with secret NATO aircraft jamming codes, a Pentagon official said Friday.

The suspension of arms sales is likely to be lifted, however, because an investigation led by Army Maj. Gen. Henry A. Kievenaar Jr. concluded that the suspected transaction did not happen, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said.

``We did receive some information which we investigated and found there was not a problem,″ Bacon said. He said Kievenaar returned Thursday from Athens and was briefing members of Congress on his findings.

The Washington Post, which reported the arms cutoff to Greece in its Saturday editions, said some members of Congress were not satisfied and wanted more details. A classified intelligence briefing by Kievenaar was planned for next Monday and Tuesday.

Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to Greece, met six times with Greek Defense Minister Akis Tzohatzopoulos to stress the seriousness of U.S. concern and press him to cooperate with the investigation, the Post reported.

Tzohatzopoulos did so, the newspaper said, ``throwing open the file cabinets″ and giving Kievenaar’s team access to any documents they wanted to see and whomever they wanted to interview.

Bacon said the Pentagon initially suspected that Greece had provided Russia with NATO codes that would enable Russia to defeat strikes by NATO aircraft. In exchange, according to the original suspicion, Russia was to have supplied Greece with a radio jamming system known as the SPN-2, designed to interfere with the ability of NATO aircraft to deliver bombs or missiles accurately to their target.

The Greeks allegedly wanted the system to use against the U.S.-supplied combat jets of its arch rival, Turkey, which also is a member of the NATO alliance.

``That never happened,″ Bacon said, citing the conclusions of Kievenaar’s investigation.

In response to the allegation, the administration earlier this month stopped issuing new licenses for the export of military or dual-use equipment to Greece. Bacon said it was likely, in light of Kievenaar’s findings, that the ban would be lifted.

Greece and Turkey have long been at odds over Cyprus and almost went to war in 1996 in a territorial dispute over two uninhabited islets in the eastern Mediterranean.

Recent Turkish threats to attack Russian-supplied surface-to-air missiles ordered by the Greek Cypriot government has lent credibility to beliefs that Greece wants to augment its defenses against Turkish air power.

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