Greek officials see off Arafat

Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and his predecessor, PASOK chief George Papandreou, yesterday joined dozens of statesmen from all the over the world at the funeral of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Cairo. Speaking after the funeral, Molyviatis described as a «great loss» the death of the man who spearheaded the Palestinian national struggle for nearly four decades. Molyviatis went on to express his conviction that the right balance would be struck so that enduring problems could be surpassed and peace attained. PASOK chief George Papandreou reminisced about his friendship with Arafat, which blossomed during his term as foreign minister for PASOK, and about the even stronger bond formed between his father Andreas Papandreou and the Palestinian leader. Papandreou also recalled the gratitude Arafat had expressed toward the Greek government for sending ships to pick up Palestinians from Beirut. After yesterday’s service, Papandreou paid tribute to Arafat as: «a great leader… (who) symbolized the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom… but also the struggles of so many other peoples who struggled or are still struggling for their freedom, their independence…» He also distinguished the Palestinian leader as «a very great friend of Greece… who stood by Greece in the most difficult times for the Palestinian people.» «I hope Arafat’s symbolism will inspire peace and that eventually an independent Palestinian state will be formed,» Papandreou added. While in Cairo, Papandreou also met with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to whom he expressed Greece’s concern at the increase in air space violations by Turkish jets in the Aegean and the need to move forward with the Cyprus problem. Molyviatis also discussed bilateral ties with Gul. Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos, Cypriot Foreign Minister Giorgos Iacovou and Alexandria’s Orthodox Patriarch Theodoros II were also present at Arafat’s funeral. In Istanbul, meanwhile, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios paid his respects to Arafat, who «worked tirelessly for the progress of the Palestinians and peace in the Middle East.» In Thessaloniki, dozens of members of the Palestinian community staged a symbolic funeral for Arafat, carrying a coffin draped with the Palestinian flag through the city center. A total of 400 Palestinian nationals live in the northern port city.