Powell, troika to talk

Foreign Minister George Papandreou is to meet with US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Brussels tomorrow as the American official tries to mend fences with the EU and to bring it and NATO behind Washington in its war against Iraq. Greece holds the EU’s rotating presidency and Papandreou will be meeting with Powell as part of the «troika» which includes the EU’s top defense and foreign policy officials, Javier Solana and Chris Patten. «I hope our meeting with Colin Powell in Brussels (tomorrow) will be a sign of the real desire of the United States for a political dialogue of equals with the EU,» Papandreou told a meeting of deputies of the European Socialist Party. «We’re not talking about simply correcting our transatlantic relationship, it needs to be completely reshaped.» Yesterday, Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou met with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in Washington. «Regarding the war in Iraq, I noted, first, the hope of the Greek government and the EU in general for hostilities to end as soon as possible… and, second, I told Mr Rumsfeld of the EU’s position on the UN’s role in shaping developments in Iraq after the hostilities,» Papantoniou said. He did not give Rumsfeld’s reply. The uncertainty over the duration of war in Iraq will adversely affect the Greek economy, Bank of Greece Governor Nicholas Garganas told a parliamentary committee yesterday. Garganas said that economic growth in 2003 will be less than 3.7 percent and inflation will average 3.9 percent. The government’s estimates are 3.8 percent and 3 percent, respectively. Garganas also forecast that exports will fall even more steeply than they did in 2002, when they declined 12 percent. Athens is to be disrupted by another anti-war protest tomorrow. This is expected to be one of the largest rallies since the war began as the civil servants’ federation (ADEDY) has called a 24-hour strike for tomorrow and the largest labor umbrella, GSEE, has called a four-hour work stoppage from 11 a.m. Teachers will be on a 24-hour strike so that they and their pupils can take part in the protest. (Private schools, however, have said they will continue functioning.) Civil aviation employees will stop work from noon to 4 p.m. The rally will begin at Syntagma Square at 11 a.m., followed by a march to the US Embassy. Meanwhile, in an interview with Kathimerini, Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, said, «I don’t think there is a place in Iraq for a puppet imposed by foreign forces.»