No New Airport Security Steps, Greeks Assert

United Press International

No additional security measures have been taken at Athens airport despite the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 and an American warning against traveling through the facility, officials said Friday.

"Security here is equal to that of any West European airport," airport commander Giorgos Papadimitropoulos told foreign correspondents after leading them on a tour of security facilities at Hellenikon Airport.

The tour was set up by the president of the Greek Chamber of Hotels and by leading cruise ship owners, who stand to lose millions in tourist dollars this season if Americans follow warnings by President Reagan and the State Department against using the airport.

The airport official said he believed that the 9-millimeter pistol and two hand grenades used in the hijacking "had been placed aboard the aircraft in Cairo," where the flight originated. He said he had warned airport staff to be more alert for would-be hijackers.

Pilots' Group Skeptical

In London, however, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Assns. expressed serious concern about "security deficiencies" at Athens airport and urged an investigation.

The pilots' position was stated in a telegram sent to Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and distributed to news organizations.

An accomplice in last Friday's hijacking of the TWA Boeing 727, Ali Atweh, told Greek police that the weapons used in the hijacking escaped detection by airport electronics equipment because they were wrapped in fiberglass. Atweh was swapped to the hijackers for several Greek hostages.

Greek officials dismissed his claim, saying they have proved that no weapons, even if wrapped in fiberglass, could pass through airport security.

An airline official at the airport, who refused to be further identified, said "a corrupt employee could have passed the weapons used by the hijackers through lax security controls and onto a secret hiding place aboard the aircraft."

Reporters said they noticed that the long fence surrounding the airport does not appear to be well-maintained.

Nearly 500,000 Americans had been expected to spend all or part of their vacation in Greece this year, contributing as much as 20% of the country's $1.5-billion annual tourism revenue.

Major hotels in Athens have reported a sharp increase in cancellations by U.S. tour groups after the State Department's advisory.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World