PM gears up for his meeting with Bush

With the prospect of Greece being asked to take on a more prominent role in the Middle East peace process, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with close aides yesterday in preparation for his meeting with President George W. Bush in Washington tomorrow. Karamanlis, who is due to depart for the US today, met with Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos and Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis as part of his briefing ahead of the White House visit. The latter’s input will have been vital, as he met US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington two months ago. Rice had been complementary about the relationship between the US and Greece on Balkan matters. «We do not have better friends than those in Greece with whom to meet challenges (in the Balkans) and other challenges,» she said. Balkan issues are likely to figure high on the agenda during tomorrow’s meeting, particularly in reference to Greece’s role in helping negotiate the future of the UN-run province of Kosovo, ahead of talks this summer designed to assess whether it should become independent or remain part of Serbia-Montenegro. It is also expected that the usual matters – the reunification of Cyprus, the prospect of Turkey joining the EU and the search for a commonly accepted name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – will figure prominently in discussions between the two leaders. However, sources indicate that Bush is likely to ask for Greece to become more involved in the Middle East peace process. In March, Rice said that Greece had a «vital role» to play in «helping the Palestinian people develop institutions.»