No Greeks for Iraq

NATO leaders meeting in Istanbul yesterday promised to help train the armed forces of the new Iraqi government. Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis did not make clear whether Athens was thinking of sending troops to Iraq to instruct Iraqis or whether it would host Iraqis in Greece. There are no Greek troops in Iraq. «I am not ready to answer that question,» Karamanlis told a news conference yesterday. «In any case, we have the choice of applying this decision within Greek borders.» Karamanlis made clear, however, that Greece would not be contributing more troops to Afghanistan, where it already has a small contingent. «There is a trend for a reinforcement of (NATO’s) presence in Afghanistan. But I want to say that Greece, at least at this time, will not take part. I think that our presence there is already more than sufficient, especially as we are talking about a country (Greece) which is using all its resources to provide the greatest possible security net for the Olympic Games,» Karamanlis said. But, with regard to more humanitarian help, he added, «If the alliance decides, and we too see that we should do this, there may be some form of participation.» The issue of Iraq may have dominated the meeting, but there were several other issues of concern to Greece in Istanbul yesterday. Karamanlis stressed that Greece’s position with regard to its right to expand its territorial waters to 12 miles (from the current 6) was unchanged. «We still have that right. This is not being discussed. Nothing has changed,» he said. He also backed Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos who was quoted as saying in an interview with the Turkish daily Hurriyet on Sunday that Greece could reduce its air space from the current 10 miles. «The defense minister has already issued his denial, saying that his statements were distorted. So there is no reason for us to persist with this,» Karamanlis said. Regarding Greek-Turkish relations, he said: «There is the process of exploratory talks. Nothing new has arisen. What exists is a new improved atmosphere and that is positive. But that is a long way from the point where we can draw conclusions.» Karamanlis noted that he had not held a formal meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as his visit to Istanbul was within the framework of the NATO summit.