Greece's Passports to Use Biometric Authentication

ATHENS, Greece_Greece will overhaul its passport system next year and issue travel documents equipped to carry biometric data, the government said Wednesday.

Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said all Greek passport holders - as part of European Union-wide measures - would have to replace their documents by the end of 2006 and obtain new passports with increased security features.

Greece is currently not on the United States' visa waiver program.

"The new passports will have greater security on different levels, including watermarks and imprints that can be read using special machinery," Voulgarakis said.

He said all passports will have a digital photo of the holder and will also contain chips that could be used to record biometric data.

Police will replace local government as the authority which issues passports and the scheme will officially start on Jan. 9, when Greek President Karolos Papoulias will pick up his new passport.

<<Associated Press WorldStream -- 12/22/05>>