UN postwar role vital

Prime Minister Costas Simitis met with senior aides yesterday to discuss developments in Iraq. The first humanitarian aid from Greece is to leave for Iraq via Jordan on a C-130 military transport plane today. Foreign Minister George Papandreou briefed Simitis on his meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Brussels, where he pushed the EU position that the United Nations must play a leading role in postwar Iraq. Powell made clear that the US-led coalition fighting in Iraq would be in charge. «We have not said that there was agreement on the role of the UN,» Papandreou told reporters yesterday. «But we cannot rule this out. We cannot rule out that there will be consensus, that the UN role will be upgraded, as the Europeans want. But we must await developments,» he added. «There is a war on and the UN can’t get involved in a war.» The meeting with Simitis also dealt with Cyprus and plans for the EU accession treaty that Cyprus and nine other countries will sign in Athens on April 16. Papandreou also met with representatives of the government, local authorities and non-governmental organizations yesterday to discuss humanitarian aid for Iraq. A C-130 with 12.5 tons of medicines, food, clothes and water gathered by the Church of Greece is to leave for Amman today. Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, who was in the United States this week, discussed Iraq and Cyprus with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan late Thursday. He met with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice earlier in the week. «The central difference between the Europeans and the Americans in the last few months has been the role of the United Nations on issues concerning security, defense, stability and peace. This role has been questioned,» Papantoniou said after his talks with Annan. «So if Europe and America agree on restoring the role of the UN in the shaping of postwar Iraq, then this agreement will open the way for reconciliation, for the restoration of policy between the EU and the United States,» he said. Meanwhile, a Belgian diplomatic source told Reuters yesterday that Greece and Italy might be joining Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg to discuss European defense integration when their leaders meet on April 29 in Brussels.