FM heads for Middle East

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis is to conduct a tour of the Middle East next week, including visits to Lebanon and Israel, as Greece prepares to take over the presidency of the United Nations Security Council next month, sources told Kathimerini yesterday. Bakoyannis will begin her trip abroad by visiting Cyprus on Tuesday, where she will hold talks with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos. She will then have talks with government representatives in Israel, Lebanon and Jordan. Sources said it is likely that the foreign minister will also visit the Palestinian territories. Greece is due to take over the monthlong presidency of the UN Security Council on September 1. Relations between Lebanon and Israel dominate the agenda since the recent conflict in the region. The UN yesterday urged European countries to commit troops to the peacekeeping force that is being put together. Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown thanked Asian countries for their firm commitment but added the force, to be deployed in southern Lebanon, had to be «multinational.» The UN wants to eventually send 15,000 troops to the region but said that 3,500 peacekeepers have to be in southern Lebanon within 10 days. Some 50 countries are likely to contribute troops. Greece has said it is considering committing troops to the UN force and confirmed in New York this week that it was willing to allow a navy frigate to be part of the support structure for the peacekeepers. Sources said that the Foreign Ministry wants at least the navy to be involved in the operation even though the Economy and Finance Ministry is concerned about the cost. Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis revealed yesterday that Greece had so far sent 97 tons of humanitarian aid to Lebanon since the conflict began last month. He said the aid, which included medicines, was worth some 2.5 million euros. Stylianidis said that Greece also wants to have an active participation in the rebuilding of Lebanon.

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