Greece steps up Lebanon efforts

Seeking an active role in stopping the violence between Israel and Lebanon, Athens will join an international meeting of world powers in Rome today that could impact the future of the Middle East. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis revealed after a Cabinet meeting that both Greece and Cyprus have asked to take part in the Rome meeting, which will be attended by many of the world’s top diplomats, including US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. «The first aim of our country is to continue the policy that we were among the first to begin, the policy of humanitarian aid,» Bakoyannis said. «Our aim is that tomorrow [today] there will at least be a decision which will help humanitarian aid reach Lebanon so it can go to civilians and refugees,» she added. Greece began sending medicine and supplies to Lebanon last week and Bakoyannis called for more coordination between European Union countries over the aid that is sent to the area. «We have to understand that there are many countries that want to have the biggest possible impact in the shortest possible time,» Bakoyannis said. «It is essential that we do not all send the same medicine and items.» The minister also hinted at Greece’s willingness to play a wider role in the Middle East by failing to rule out the possibility that Greek soldiers could join an international peacekeeping force that may be installed in southern Lebanon in the future. «It is still premature to talk about this,» she said. «It will depend on what type of peacekeeping mission it is, with what aims and who will be in charge.» Bakoyannis said that there had not been a «strong indication» about a peacekeeping force but discussions were continuing.