May 15, 2009
ATHENS (AFP)–Some of the world’s top business and political leaders started annual secret talks with the Bilderberg group Thursday in a suburb of Athens, under tight security control.
The surroundings of the Astir Palace, a luxury hotel in the suburban resort of Vouliagmeni, where the group is holding its annual meeting, were protected by dozens of policemen, who were keeping the press and public at bay, an AFP journalist said.
A Greek navy launch and boats carrying elite divers could be seen a few meters off the coast of the peninsula where the hotel stands. Greek newspapers said the group had also asked for the protection of two F-16 warplanes and a police helicopter.
Reports say U.S. State Department number two James Steinberg, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, World Bank President Robert Zoellick, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso, Queen Sofia of Spain and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands are among those attending the Bilderberg meeting.
The group, which has been holding annual off-the record talks open to guests only since 1954, feeds conspiracy theories and speculation about its intentions, with critics accusing it of plotting world domination.
Several sources say Polish political adviser Joseph Retinger, former Belgian prime minister Paul van Zeeland and former Unilever chief executive Paul Rijkens organized the first meeting at the Hotel Bilderberg in the Netherlands to unite European and U.S. elites amid growing transatlantic tensions a half-century ago.
Its success spawned similar talks at posh hotels and palaces in Europe, the U.S. and Canada each year since.
Thanks to AFP reporters for covering this issue. Copyright remains with AFP