NEWS

Simitis works phones on Iraq

Prime Minister Costas Simitis discussed Iraq yesterday with his British and Italian counterparts, Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi – who are to visit the United States for talks with President George W. Bush in the next few days – as part of the effort the Greek presidency of the EU is making to forge a common position among the Union’s members in the face of possible war. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas said these were «important telephone contacts» and that Simitis, Blair and Berlusconi had exchanged opinions in light of the UN Security Council meeting next Wednesday. «These contacts by the prime minister concern the effort the Greek EU presidency is making to forge a joint position and joint initiatives aimed at the political solution of the Iraq problem, without having to resort to military operations,» Protopappas said. Britain and Italy are among the United States’ strongest supporters for action against Iraq – hence their leaders’ upcoming visit to Washington. The spokesman did not say what Blair and Berlusconi had told Simitis in their conversations. But he said no contact between Bush and Simitis had been scheduled. Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who is planning to visit Arab countries next week in a bid to help solve the Iraqi crisis by diplomatic means, expressed satisfaction yesterday that the United States had promised to present evidence to back its claims that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. «We are very satisfied such information is to be provided,» Papandreou said. «There is hope for a peaceful solution,» he added. American sources in Athens said war in Iraq was not inevitable.