EU must provide clear message on Lebanon, FM says

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis yesterday called on the European Union to issue a «clearer and more direct» message regarding its stance on the escalating crisis in Lebanon as foreign governments scrambled to rescue their citizens from the strife-torn country. «Greece is one of the countries which would prefer (the EU to express) a clearer stance,» Bakoyannis told reporters after a meeting with the Inner Cabinet. She stressed that Greece had already used its position as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to push for a solution to the crisis. «Many more efforts need to be made… Greece cannot impose a solution,» Bakoyannis said. «Greece can participate and actively contribute and that is what it is doing,» she said. Efforts are under way to rescue Greek citizens who are trapped in Lebanon and Greek vessels are helping to evacuate Greeks and foreign nationals from the country’s ports, the minister said. A navy frigate, the Psara, yesterday sailed into the port of Beirut to collect about 100 Greeks. Meanwhile, a Greek cruise ship carrying 700 Europeans, mostly French citizens, arrived at the Cypriot port of Larnaca. The Ierapetra, which has been chartered by the French government, is to return to Lebanon for a second collection. Earlier yesterday, Bakoyannis spoke with her French counterpart Philippe Douste-Blazy after the Ierapetra failed to collect around 85 Greeks who had been due to board it. The Ierapetra departed when French authorities were warned of an imminent worsening of the situation, Douste-Blazy reportedly told Bakoyannis. He said that all efforts would be made to collect the Greeks «with the very next mission.» Greek opposition parties yesterday criticized the government for failing to strike a firmer stance on the Lebanon crisis. «(Costas) Karamanlis is the only prime minister in the EU who has not said one word over the past two weeks that the crisis has been under way,» PASOK MP Christos Papoutsis said. «It is as if Greece does not exist,» another PASOK deputy, Yiannis Loverdos, said in reference to Greece’s seat on the UN Security Council. «The government’s stance is one of tolerance and is therefore facilitating Israeli aggression,» the Communist party (KKE) said in a statement.