Peace praised at military parade

Greece yesterday celebrated the 182nd anniversary of the uprising against Ottoman rule in a decidedly anti-war mood. While celebrations of the anniversary, including a military parade, went smoothly in Athens, with only a small, peaceful rally following the parade, festivities were disrupted in Thessaloniki, where officials attending a celebration at the University of Thessaloniki became the target of egg- and yogurt-throwing protesters. Most government and right-wing opposition politicians made careful statements in support of peace, mindful of Greece’s effort to avoid antagonizing the USA. The parliament speaker and leaders of left-wing parties were less restrained in their condemnation of the US-led war against Iraq. A parliamentary debate on the war and its consequences for Greece will take place tomorrow. «This war, although not directly involving us, concerns and affects us,» said President Costis Stephanopoulos, who added that Greece’s reaction to the war is determined by its interests. «The measure of our words and deeds is the country’s interest and our commitment to international principles… I wish for the war to end the soonest possible, with a minimum of casualties. The Greek people, acting responsibly and cognizant of international realities, will continue to uphold the principles of international legality,» he said. Prime Minister Costas Simitis preferred to focus on the readiness of Greek forces and agreed with the president that the war is a crisis which Greece faces «with calm and prudence, with the national interest as its guide.» Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis castigated the «Ibero-Atlantic coalition» for «destroying international legality» with its operation in Iraq, and added that «the peoples’ struggle for peace will force those who have cast the United Nations aside and undermined Europe to pull back and respect the principles of international law.» New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis deplored the loss of life and Europe’s weakness in reacting to the war, but, like Stephanopoulos and Simitis, emphasized the protection of Greek interests. Communist Party General Secretary Aleka Papariga attacked the «hypocrisy» of the government and New Democracy, remarking that Greece actively participated in the war by allowing the use of its air space and NATO facilities around the country and having a Greek frigate patrol waters in the Gulf. The government has said that Greece is abiding by obligations arising from international treaties and that the presence of a Greek frigate in the Gulf is related to counter-terrorism operations, in cooperation with French and Canadian units. Yesterday, it was revealed that the frigate’s crew would be inoculated for anthrax. Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis said yesterday that none of the 14 Greek commercial ships in the Gulf area faced any danger. Foreign Ministry officials denied on Monday that last week’s expulsion of a senior Iraqi diplomat, Arrak Abdullah, was connected to the United States’ demand to 60 countries to expel Iraqi diplomats. Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos strongly disputed this, demanding to know «whom the Greek government is answerable to and why.» On Monday, many schoolchildren paraded in Athens to commemorate the Greek uprising wearing «Stop the War» badges.

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