NEWS

Moderation on Iraq winning points with US

The government’s decision to follow a median path over the war in Iraq, expressing regret over the failure of diplomacy but also providing assistance to the United States, far from making the country irrelevant, as many analysts and politicians feared, is actually bearing a dividend. After European leaders, French President Jacques Chirac chief among them, congratulated Simitis on persuading his European Union colleagues to accept a limited but unanimous statement on Iraq at last week’s European summit, US officials yesterday provided visiting Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and his delegation with signs of appreciation for Greece’s conduct during the war, in contrast with Wahington’s disappointment and irritation with Turkey, whose decision not to allow US troops through its territory has led to a costly and time-consuming change of plans. Papantoniou arrived in New York yesterday. His weeklong US visit includes meetings today with his counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, a visit to a Texas factory for the official delivery of the first of several F-16 fighters, and more meetings with senators, businessmen and Greek Americans. Far from gloating over Turkey’s diminished standing with the United States, Papantoniou yesterday warned against isolating that country. «There is a danger of Turkey’s international isolation and Greece considers that we must ward off this danger because Turkey must remain integrated in the global and European system if we want to see a sincere and lasting improvement in Greco-Turkish relations. This will be a major issue I will raise in my discussions in Washington,» Papantoniou said. As further proof that government officials tend to be far more critical of the war in gatherings of the ruling Socialists, Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday denounced the motives of the nations leading the war against Iraq as aiming to undermine Europe. «Some – those conducting the war among them – do not want a strong Europe. We will not play this game,» he told an audience of small businessmen at a party-sponsored event. Simitis also told the gathering that the Greek economy was strong enough to withstand the negative effects of war without resorting to special measures. Yesterday, Greece confirmed it had refused a request by the USA to patrol the waters around the NATO naval base at Souda Bay in Crete. A bilateral agreement requires Greek ships to do the patrolling. Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa yesterday discussed in Athens possible peace overtures to end the war. Moussa warned against any «spread of the conflict (that) would affect security in the Mediterranean.» Papandreou conceded that it was too early for a diplomatic venture to succeed. Anti-war demonstrations will resume in Greece tomorrow. In Cyprus, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the US Embassy yesterday. There were no injuries.