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Airlines Find Athens Up to Standard

June 29, 1985|KENNETH FREED | Times Staff Writer

MONTREAL — An organization of the world's airlines said Friday that lax security at Athens airport contributed to the June 14 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 after takeoff for Rome but that the Greek airport now follows acceptable safety standards.

David Kyd, spokesman for the International Air Transport Assn., told reporters after an emergency meeting of the group's security advisory committee that "as of today . . . sufficient progress had been made (at Athens airport) that it was judged that airport security was up to acceptable standards."

The finding was made, Kyd said, after five experts spent three days this week in Greece reviewing how the hijackers had gotten weapons aboard the TWA flight two weeks ago.

He would not be specific, but did say that, apart from problems with the airport's layout and the perimeter fence, "the key question (in Athens) is the motivation and attention of the people operating the (security) equipment."

Dangerous Places

Kyd said an IATA survey of 40 key airports around the world over the last six years had pinpointed security problems at Athens and "five or six" other cities.

He would not name the potentially dangerous facilities other than saying that "two are in the Far East and three are in the Middle East or Africa."

"To be more specific," Kyd asserted, "would give terrorists information they would like to know."

The Greek government, as well as the officials of the other countries, were advised in 1980 that they were below recommended security standards, Kyd said, adding that while some improvements were made, not enough has been done to protect airlines and passengers.

The Friday meeting at IATA headquarters here was called after six incidents of violence involving planes and airports over the last three weeks, starting with the hijacking and ultimate destruction of a Jordanian airliner in Beirut and ending with the crash of an Air-India Boeing 747 last Sunday in which 329 people died. A bomb is suspected of blowing the plane out of the sky over the Atlantic Ocean, southwest of Ireland.

The security advisory committee consists of experts from 18 international airlines, who were joined Friday by representatives from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the Canadian airline control agency and specialists from the International Civil Aviation Organization, an arm of the United Nations.

Must Press Governments

Kyd said the committee dealt with "new measures to thwart terrorist activity (and) emphasized the need for member airlines to make every endeavor to secure their governments' ratification or implementation" of existing treaties and agreements designed to prevent terrorism and punish terrorists.

The only specific recommendations made public said "greater emphasis should be given by airlines and airport authorities to securing aircraft on airport ramps against unlawful interference on the ground and to countering sabotage."

Kyd stressed that IATA is a voluntary association and has no way to enforce its recommendations or to penalize countries or carriers who do not conform to its standards.

He said it is up to the members to persuade their governments "to recognize the need to implement the necessary recommendations."

The Greek government, for instance, had disputed IATA's assessment of lax security until the TWA hijacking, after which it accepted the need to follow the recommended measures, he added.

In discussing other danger points, Kyd made it clear that Beirut, the scene of many hijackings and other violent incidents, is one of the five or six problem airports, but he said "there are special problems" in Beirut because no responsible group is in charge there.

U.S. Approach Considered

When asked about new security measures announced Wednesday by the United States--including increased use of armed guards on planes--Kyd said such a proposal was discussed Friday, but "there was no uniformity of views." Many safety experts say such a measure is risky and endangers the lives of passengers.

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