Greece has quietly expelled several Libyans who were suspected of recruiting other Arabs for terrorist activities, according to a senior government official here.
The expulsions were apparently carried out in line with a stricter Greek policy against Arab terrorism, western diplomats said.
The Greek official said the Libyans who were expelled were not diplomats, but he provided few other details. Greece has been the only European Community nation not to implement last month's community decision to reduce the size of Libyan diplomatic missions.
The official, who was interviewed last week on the condition that he remain unidentified, said Greece still had no plans to carry out the community's sanctions because it had not seen proof of Libyan involvement in actual terrorist acts.
The official said the expulsions took place in the past month and involved "under 10" Libyans.
"We had been following them for a long time," the official said, adding: "We wanted to give a signal" to the Libyans.
Western diplomats in Athens said the Greek government had recently stepped up surveillance of Libyans and other Arabs and increased security around American and other western installations.
"On the ground, they have shown themselves aware of the Libyan problem and willing to do something," one diplomat said.
The diplomat linked the actions at least in part to the realization by government that "they are not going to get tourism and business" unless Greece is perceived as secure. The Greek government responded to U.S. criticism last year by improving security at Athens airport.
The diplomats said they had not received confirmation of the expulsions, but one diplomat said he had recently seen four men, who police told him were Libyan, escorted to a plane at Athens airport. The diplomat also said that a school run by Libyans in his neighborhood was recently closed, apparently because some of the personnel had left.
The diplomats said that while there was evidence of a tougher Greek attitude toward Arab terrorism, Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou still believed Greece had a special role to play as a "bridge" between the Arab world and Europe, and as such would not join a western campaign against Libya.
The Papandreou government, which has maintained close ties with Libya, attempted to arrange a dialogue between the European Community and Tripoli last month when the community imposed diplomatic sanctions against Libya.
Greece agreed with the community's decision on Libya when it was made but later said it would impose the measures only after seeing convincing proof of Libyan involvement in terrorism. Other community member nations have expelled Libyan diplomats and nationals in the past month on the basis of U.S. or local intelligence.
The senior Greek official said there were four Libyan diplomats with full accreditation at the Libyan embassy in Athens. Thirty-six other Libyans were attached to the embassy but without diplomatic immunity, he said. Two other Libyans attached to the embassy recently left the country.
Papandreou, outlining his views on terrorism, said in a speech last week that "there are Arab countries and organizations who sometimes use our territory to settle their disputes."
Greece would "confront terrorism decisively and effectively," Papandreou said, but does not "wish to make the confrontation of terrorism a problem of conflict among peoples and countries."
"No one is blameless," he said, adding that Greece has "traditional ties with the entire Arab world" and "cannot overlook basic national interests."
Diplomats said these ties would be underlined by the visit of President Hafez Assad of Syria to Greece at the end of this month. The visit is the first by Assad to a noncommunist European country since 1978.