NEWS

Tough summit forecast

Greece, the EU’s current president, was working intensively over the weekend to prepare for an emergency summit in Brussels on Monday. But officials admitted that the meeting may be stormy, given the serious differences among EU members over the issue of Iraq and the United States’ haste to disarm it. «The presidency has made it its priority to try to achieve a common position by the 15 (EU member states) on Iraq,» Prime Minister Costas Simitis wrote to his 14 counterparts in a letter on Thursday which was made public yesterday. «But it is clear today that the present crisis will soon enter a new – perhaps decisive – phase. For this reason, I consider it important for us to meet to discuss the latest developments,» he said. Among the issues discussed will be the report presented to the UN Security Council yesterday by chief arms inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei. Foreign Minister George Papandreou was in New York for the meeting yesterday. Simitis also made it clear that the heads of state of the 10 countries that will become EU members next year, and three other candidates, will not be at the summit, which begins at 6 p.m. on Monday. He and Papandreou will brief them the following morning. British Prime Minister Tony Blair had asked Simitis to invite the 13 other leaders. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas angrily dismissed reports stemming from British diplomatic sources that Germany and France had vetoed the attendance of these more pro-American countries. «We have read false reports that invitations were allegedly sent and then revoked. This never happened,» he said. A Polish diplomatic source said that Prime Minister Leszek Miller is set to skip the meeting, in anger at not being invited to the summit. In Brussels, political directors of the 15 EU members are to prepare tomorrow for the summit and foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday. «I know it is not going to be an easy task,» a senior presidency official told reporters. «But the presidency cannot be an innocent bystander,» he said, Agence France-Presse reported. «I’m not sure if there’ll be a statement, and still less if there’ll be a common position,» he said.