Athens hails war’s end

Greece yesterday hailed the impending end of the war in Iraq, saying this would benefit the country’s people. It stressed that the UN had to play a leading role in Iraq’s reconstruction. «The prime minister stressed that the war is coming to its end. It is not certain when one will be able to say that the war is over, but the developments of these days are positive in that they limit the numbers of civilian and military casualties and lifts the economic uncertainty,» government spokesman Christos Protopappas quoted PM Costas Simitis as telling his Cabinet. «The central question that arises now is what role the United Nations will play. The EU summit has said that the UN’s role has to be central,» Simitis was quoted as saying. «But British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush, in their last meeting (on Tuesday) said that the UN has to play a vital role in Iraq… These terms remain vague. Because a ‘vital’ role does not mean limiting oneself only to humanitarian aid. And a ‘central’ role means to deal with the political and economic issues and especially the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq. The issue, therefore, remains open and there is a tug of war over it,» Simitis said. US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, discussed the Middle East in a telephone call yesterday. Powell said that as the Iraq war is ending, Washington is aiming to push a solution to the Middle East problem. In the call, which was made at his initiative, Powell said that the United States will place great emphasis on this and wants an immediate resumption of the Middle East peace process, noting the need for close cooperation between the EU and USA in the context of the Quartet, which also includes Russia and the United Nations. Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis is to represent the Greek EU presidency at a discussion organized by the UN Security Council today on the issue of regional organizations’ role in securing peace and security. «He will stress the role the UN has to play in international development and the balance of the international system and will note also the role of the EU in this, especially in light of developments in Iraq,» ministry spokesman Panayiotis Beglitis said. Protopappas said Greek forces could help with infrastructure and health services in Iraq if this were under UN auspices.