UN arms inspectors will help determine how the Baghdad crisis develops

The prospect of a war against Iraq inevitably weighs on the Greek presidency of the European Union. How much does the developing crisis advance the other objectives you have set for this six-month period? Each presidency has the institutional and political responsibility of dealing with European and international problems in the context of the 15 member states. International developments don’t postpone the work of an EU presidency. On the contrary, they require greater activation of community institutions and procedures. 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 of the presidency. What are they? Immigration and illegal immigration and dealing with an expected influx of refugees resulting from the military operation. And institutional reforms, so that the EU can boost its role and independent presence in the international system. This issue will become more serious if the EU does not make a collective contribution to a peaceful solution of the Iraq situation. Compared with that of Germany, for instance, the Greek approach is rather unclear. Is the fact that Athens is currently president being used as a pretext for not having a clearly defined position? This country has formulated and supported a perfectly clear position on the Iraq crisis, not only now but in the recent past within the EU. As a matter of principle, we do not believe that resorting to force is the most effective means of resolving international and regional problems. We support implementation of the UN Security Council’s resolutions by Saddam Hussein’s regime – such as Resolution 1441, which was passed unanimously. The procedure of the UN inspections is a political means to a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Disarmament by means of inspection may prove an effective policy for the Security Council and prevent military conflict. This process and the work of the inspectors must have the support of everyone, because it is the only prospect for a peaceful outcome to the crisis and avoiding the tremendous consequences of conflict. Tomorrow you chair a European Council of Ministers discussion of the Iraqi question. The Greek presidency will raise the question of Iraq so as to formulate a common stance. The presidency has to make a synthesis of views and find the common elements. We have already organized a discussion with the member states which are also UN Security Council members. I am in constant communication with my counterparts in the EU, Arab countries, Turkey, Iran, the US and Russia and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Recently I discussed the latest developments with chief inspectors Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei, and we are waiting for the inspectors’ report to evaluate the situation and look at our next moves. What if you can’t come up with a common stance? Then, 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. Our efforts will continue. But tomorrow at the Council of Ministers the EU has a responsibility not to disappoint its citizens.

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