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Greece, US Hold Live-Fire Drill        02/19 06:09

   LITOCHORO, Greece (AP) -- At the foot of Mount Olympus, army aviation forces 
from Greece and the United States are taking part in a live-fire exercise with 
attack helicopters, marking deepening defense ties between the two countries. 

   Greece is ramping up military cooperation --- and procurements --- from 
allies France and the U.S., wary of worsening relations with neighbor Turkey 
over disputed sea and air space boundaries and drilling rights in the East 

   Wednesday's training exercise, watched by the Greek army chief and the U.S. 
ambassador to Greece, was held three weeks after the two countries finalized a 
landmark defense agreement giving American forces expanded access to Greek 
military bases. 

   After a financial crisis that lasted nearly a decade, the Greek military is 
upgrading its F-16 fighter fleet and modernising its navy, while seeking 
stronger military ties with traditional allies as well as Turkey's regional 
rivals, including Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. 

   "Greece is already involved in enhancing and upgrading its defence 
capability with critical procurement decisions," Panagiotis Tsakonas, a 
professor of international relations and security studies at the University of 
Athens, told The Associated Press. 

   "The rule is to make the best use of limited resources --- to get the most 
bang for our buck, and that is something that we are continuing to do," he said.

   The revised Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement between Greece and the U.S. 
was signed in October by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit to 
Athens and ratified last month. It provides for increased joint U.S.-Greece and 
NATO activities at Greek military bases and facilities in Larissa, 
Stefanovikio, and Alexandroupolis, in central and northern Greece, as well as 
infrastructure and other improvements at the Souda Bay U.S. naval base on the 
island of Crete.

   "The U.S.-Greece relationship is stronger than it has ever been," U.S. 
Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said. "Our defense ties and our defense cooperation 
is an essential component of that."


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