Greece to press on Iraq

Greece, as president of the EU, will continue to press for a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday. But, in a meeting with President Costis Stephanopoulos, sources said that Simitis expressed the belief that the issue will continue to create tension between the European Union and the United States, within the European Union and also within EU countries themselves. Sources said Simitis believes it is most likely that the United States will stick to its initial plans and prepare for a military strike against Iraq. But he believes that the latest developments, including the conclusions of the extraordinary EU summit on Monday, have created a window of opportunity for peace. Athens also considers it a positive development that US Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday, described the EU summit as a success. Papandreou asked Powell to examine the possibility of asking Iraq to comply with the arms inspectors within a short time frame, setting clear conditions that must be met to secure its total disarmament, sources said. They noted that Powell did not reject this possibility. Before their meeting got under way behind closed doors, Stephanopoulos and Simitis chatted briefly before television crews. «You must be satisfied by the outcome of the summit,» the president said, adding that Simitis had been proved right to summon the meeting. Simitis said the meeting was a success and expressed hope that the EU will continue to work toward a common position on the issue. «There will be tension because the Iraq issue will continue to be a touchstone,» Simitis said. After the meeting, the prime minister told reporters, «The Greek government and the (EU) presidency will continue to make every effort toward the peaceful solution of the dispute.» Papandreou and European Affairs Minister Tassos Yiannitsis met with Simitis to prepare for today’s visit to Athens by Valery Giscard d’ Estaing, president of the convention on the future of Europe. «At this moment, there is a strong feeling that an opportunity is appearing, and that is precisely why Saddam Hussein has to cooperate fully,» Papandreou told reporters.