FM: Saddam must cooperate

Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday called on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to fully comply with a United Nations resolution requiring Iraq to abandon weapons of mass destruction. «We believe that there can be a peaceful solution,» Papandreou said yesterday from Damascus, his first stop in a tour of Middle East countries. «For this chance (to avoid war) to become a reality, it means the full cooperation of Iraq with the United Nations,» Papandreou added. Papandreou undertook the Middle East tour, as the representative of the country holding the European Union’s rotating presidency, in order to convince Saddam’s Arab neighbors to put pressure on him to comply fully with UN demands to reveal the full extent of his armaments program and prove that he has destroyed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Yesterday, Papandreou met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and held talks with Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa. Last night he arrived at Amman, Jordan, where he will meet today with King Abdullah, Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb and Foreign Minister Marwan Moasher. Despite Greece’s willingness to intervene diplomatically and its plan to call an emergency EU summit in February to discuss the issue, the EU finds itself in a very weak position to influence events. Opposition to war by France and Germany and a letter signed by five current EU members and three prospective ones calling for closer cooperation with the United States, have left the EU’s common foreign policy in disarray. Papandreou may shorten his Middle East tour, skipping visits to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to attend a UN Security Council session on Thursday. There, US Secretary of State Colin Powell will supposedly provide evidence of Saddam’s continuing weapons programs.