NEWS

Greece will not be neutral on Libya, PM says

Prime Minister George Papandreou told Parliament on Tuesday that the country could not stay neutral during the international intervention in Libya, arguing Greece had to uphold UN decisions and help spread democracy in the region. The country is contributing a frigate, a search-and-rescue helicopter and will send an airborne radar to help enforce the no-fly zone over Libya. It is also providing extensive support and facilities to other nations taking part in the operations.

?As a country, we have an interest in contributing to the strengthening of our international credibility without appearing to have double standards,? Papandreou said. He noted that when Greece demanded compliance with UN Security Council resolutions on Cyprus and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia it could not ignore the decision on Libya. He added that the military operations must be accompanied by a political approach aimed at achieving national consensus and guarding legitimacy.

?As friends of the Libyan people we have to think of the day after,? Papandreou argued. ?They must know that they have a friend with principles, without selfish interests, who is ready to help rebuild their country. Greece is not going to remain neutral in these developments. Greece?s absence would not help our national interests. We will be present with the force of our principles, with respect for our obligations and with the need for the region?s democratic rebirth.?

Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos said that Greece would be playing a support role and would not be directly involved in military operations.

Greece has provided facilities at Souda Bay on Crete, and at Araxos and Andravida in the Peloponnese to its NATO partners and other countries. Six Norwegian F-16 fighters and a C-130 military transport aircraft have been at Souda Bay since Monday. They were joined yesterday by two Mirage 2000s and two C-17 transport aircraft from Qatar, with another four Mirages from the same country due to arrive today. France has asked for permission to station three Mirage 2000s at the base.

Papandreou said that Greece?s involvement in the Libyan intervention would serve national interests. ?If any friends -- or others -- had forgotten our country?s important geostrategic role, today they discover it and appreciate it. This fact should be kept in mind and should weigh on EU decisions regarding Greece. Greece is and will be a true pole of principles, stability and prosperity in the region,? he said.

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