No Powell visit on Wednesday

The visit Greece prematurely announced last week – to Washington’s annoyance – by US Secretary of State Colin Powell to Athens will not take place, Greek and American officials said yesterday. Last week, government officials said Powell was due to stop in Athens on Wednesday, on his way to Madrid for an international conference on the reconstruction of Iraq. Washington had studiously avoided confirming this. Nevertheless, the visit was taken for granted, with the government going to the extent of denying rumors that Powell was due to hold joint talks with Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his visiting Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, who will be in Athens on Tuesday and Wednesday. Yesterday, government spokesman Christos Protopappas played down the cancelation – which will allow Powell to travel to Nairobi to attend peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebel movements in the African country’s south. «Of course, we had already made clear… that [Powell] has a very heavy schedule and might not finally be able – as he and we had wished – to carry out his visit to Greece, which was neither official nor scheduled,» Protopappas said. Last week’s announcement of the impending visit spurred left-wing and peace groups to schedule a central Athens demonstration to protest at the coming of a man posters plastered all over the city center denounced as a «US murderer.» It is unclear whether the protest, set for Syntagma Square on Wednesday afternoon, will now go ahead. Sources in the USA indicated that Greece’s unilateral heralding of the visit had displeased Washington, which prefers to make its own announcements regarding Powell’s program.