NEWS

Blix briefs the Greeks

Cyprus said yesterday that it has agreed to a UN request to host interviews between arms inspectors and Iraqi scientists, which could be held soon. Chief arms inspector Hans Blix, on a visit to Athens, said that it was «likely» such talks would be held on the island, which has offered facilities and security. «We have not asked anybody yet. But it may well happen very soon,» Blix said before meeting with Foreign Minister George Papandreou at the Pentelikon Hotel in Kifissia, northern Athens. Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, arrived from Baghdad yesterday to brief the Greek government, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, on developments in Iraq. They are to return to Baghdad today. Greece wants the 15 EU countries to forge a common position on Iraq in a bid to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. Papandreou is planning to contact many of his counterparts in the next few days. EU foreign ministers are to discuss Iraq at a meeting in Brussels on January 27, the deadline set by the UN Security Council for a report by the arms inspectors. Most EU nations want a new UN resolution before any military action, Papandreou said earlier yesterday. «The broader desire of the members of the EU – almost all of whom I have talked to – is that a new UN decision is necessary if we talk about an intensification of any measures against Iraq,» he said. Blix said Iraq had refused to allow U2 spy aircraft over its territory to aid in their search for weapons of mass destruction. «We’ve not had Iraqi agreement on flying the U2 planes that we wanted. They put up a number of conditions that were not acceptable to us,» Blix told reporters. He said that although Iraq had pledged better cooperation, not all issues had been solved. «We did (solve) a number of those (issues). Not every one,» he said. «We said to the Iraqis… there are still many things to be done.» In Nicosia, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said the government had agreed to provide facilities for interviews with Iraqi scientists who could inform the UN inspectors of any weapons of mass destruction in their country. «Yes. We were officially contacted by the UN last week on such a possibility,» Cassoulides said. Cyprus would host interviews on condition they were for limited periods, Cassoulides said, adding that Cyprus cannot offer anyone political asylum. (Reuters, AP, Kathimerini)