Protests await Powell

Details about a likely visit by US Secretary of State Colin Powell were still fuzzy yesterday, but vocal anti-American left-wing groups, apparently convinced that initial information placing Powell’s visit next Wednesday, October 22, is correct, have already called for a demonstration that afternoon. Both Foreign Minister George Papandreou and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher avoided confirming the date of Powell’s visit. The latter has refused to confirm the visit altogether. «I have repeatedly invited the US Secretary of State to visit our country. He wants to respond to the invitation. I think that, as long as his schedule allows him to, he will come. He has initially said ‘yes’,» Papandreou said yesterday. Powell apparently has expressed his willingness for a «working» – that is, unofficial – visit between trips to Singapore and Madrid next week. The visit will coincide with one by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who will arrive in Athens on Tuesday. NATO’s outgoing secretary-general, Lord Robertson, will also be in Athens next Wednesday and Thursday. The confusion over Powell’s visit apparently arose after a premature announcement on the part of the Greek government, something which the State Department did not wish to happen as it prefers, for procedural and security reasons, to announce the secretary’s travel schedule itself. Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis yesterday said that «we continue our preparations for Mr Powell’s visit» and estimated that it will take place next Wednesday. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas said that Powell will meet President Costis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Papandreou. The simultaneous presence of Powell, Robertson and Gul has raised speculation about the content of the visits. Left Coalition Synaspismos leader Nikos Constantopoulos yesterday wrote Papandreou asking him to brief political party leaders and the Parliament about the content of the talks. «Recent statements (about Greek-Turkish relations) give the impression of contradictory policies within the government,» he said in his letter. The Stop the War Coalition, the Genoa 2001 anti-globalization group and unionists have called for a demonstration at Klafthmonos Square in central Athens at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. «I believe this visit is provocative… We are literally talking about a murderer whose hands are dripping with blood,» said Genoa 2001 spokesman Yiannis Sifakakis.