NEWS

Big task in Brussels

Foreign Minister George Papandreou will today chair a meeting of his EU counterparts in Brussels aimed at forging a common stand on Iraq, at a time when relations between the United States and the European Union have been strained by differences and angry comments over the issue and on the same day that arms inspectors will present their report on Iraq to the United Nations. In an interview with Kathimerini yesterday, Papandreou stressed that Greece, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, remained strongly opposed to war but also determined to see Saddam Hussein submit to UN Security Council resolutions. Papandreou, who met with US Secretary of State Colin Powell at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Saturday, said it was important to improve communications between the two sides. «We would like a more systematic dialogue on these issues,» he said. «If we embark on a new, populist approach in our relations, then I believe we will create a dangerous situation.» Explaining his plan to visit the Middle East soon, Papandreou told a news conference that cooperating with Arab countries could help defuse the crisis. Papandreou told Kathimerini that war in Iraq would give fresh urgency to issues that are already priorities of Greece during its leadership of the EU. «The Greek presidency will make every effort to find a political solution to the Iraqi crisis, on the basis of the UN Security Council’s resolutions. If, despite our efforts, there is an armed response, this would bring up a series of issues which are already priorities,» he said. He named these as immigration and illegal immigration and dealing with an expected influx of refugees resulting from the military operation. To these he added «institutional reforms» so that «the EU can boost its role and independent presence in the international system.» This issue, he said, will acquire greater weight if the EU fails to contribute to a peaceful outcome in Iraq. «As a matter of principle, we do not believe that resorting to force is the most effective means of resolving international and regional problems,» Papandreou said. «As holders of the presidency, we are prepared to take whatever initiative is necessary to support the UN Security Council resolutions and support the task and the mandate of the inspectors in Iraq so they can give us a clear picture based on reliable evidence. Tomorrow is not the end of the process.»