NEWS

Papandreou to visit Pakistan, Iran next week

Foreign Minister George Papandreou will visit Pakistan and hold talks with President Pervez Musharaf next week, on a tour that will include a visit to Tehran as part of an effort to bring Iran closer to the international coalition against terrorism. Papandreou, who has already visited Syria and is currently attending the Mediterranean Forum in Morocco, will visit Islamabad on Thursday, November 1. He will be in Tehran on November 2 and 3. The message that Mr. Papandreou is conveying is that of the political will of all the European Union member-states for a strengthening of relations with Iran and Pakistan, Foreign Ministry spokesman Panayiotis Beglitis said yesterday. He added that Iran’s role in the region is growing in importance because of the war against the Taleban in Afghanistan. But apart from discussing the problem of terrorism and the ways to deal with it, Papandreou will discuss bilateral ties with Iranian officials, trade and political relations, Beglitis said. He is to meet with President Mohammed Khatami and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi. Papandreou yesterday held his first meeting with the new members of his team at the Foreign Ministry, following Tuesday’s Cabinet reshuffle. He is joined by former Labor Minister Tassos Yiannitsis who is the new alternate minister and who is in charge of European affairs, and deputy ministers Yiannis Zafeiropoulos and Yiannis Magriotis. Papandreou left for Morocco immediately afterward. Greece is currently president of the Mediterranean Forum, an initiative of 11 Mediterranean countries, whose foreign ministers will discuss the problem of international terrorism. On Monday, Papandreou and Yiannitsis will attend a EU general affairs council meeting in Luxembourg which will focus on the union’s policy in combating international terrorism as well as Balkan developments, including those in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Beglitis said that Monday’s meeting will deal in detail on the future of the Stability Pact, which is aimed at helping reconstruct the Balkans. It is true that so far developments are not in keeping with the initial expectations when the decisions for the Stability Pact were taken on Greece’s initiative in cooperation with Germany, Beglitis said. In Bucharest yesterday, international donors unveiled a package of 27 Balkan rebuilding projects worth 2.4 billion euros ($2.2 billion) but stressed that the region had to attract more private investment.