Papandreou meets with Powell today

Foreign Minister George Papandreou successively visited Russia and Germany yesterday, reaffirming the Greek government’s willingness to combat terrorism and intervene in regional crises, in concert with its European Union partners and other European states. Papandreou’s next scheduled visit is to the United States, his first there following the September 11 terrorist attacks. He will meet with US Secretary of State Colin Powell late tonight. In Moscow, Papandreou and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov reaffirmed the two countries’ willingness to cooperate in the fight against international terrorism, which, they said, was not a conflict with Islamic countries or beliefs. Greece and Russia also agreed on the need for their respective police and intelligence agencies to cooperate more closely and exchange information about possible terrorist activity in the Balkans. It has long been known that Arab Afghans, as the Arab veterans who fought at the side of the Afghan resistance against Soviet invaders in the 1980s were called, and who constitute the core of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization, have been active in the Balkans, most notably in Bosnia during its struggle for independence, but also in Kosovo. Papandreou and Ivanov also confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Greece in December. Other, strictly bilateral, issues discussed include cooperation in the merchant marine and energy sectors, notably regarding construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline. In Berlin, Papandreou and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer agreed on the need to bring terrorists to justice, but also emphasized the need for intervention in conflicts, such as in the Caucasus and the Balkans, that have helped terrorists expand their activities. The Papandreou-Powell meeting will also focus on the fight against terrorism, which the US expects Greece to join fully. The Greek government has pledged full support, despite indications that the Greek public is less keen: In a poll published yesterday by the daily Ta Nea, 86 percent of respondents opposed military action by the US in response to the terrorist attacks and only 21 percent agreed that Greece should help NATO in eventual operations, against 72 percent who disagreed.

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