US Secretary of State Lauds Greek EU Presidency for Modulating Differences Over Iraq
The crisis in Iraq was “a difficult time” for the Greek presidency of the European Union (EU), but it handled the difficulties “with great skill,” Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview with Greek TV NET on April 25. “There was a split within the European Union over Iraq and how to support or not support what the coalition was doing,” he noted to NET’s correspondent in Washington DC, Dimitri Apokis, “and I think that the Greek presidency, and especially my colleague Foreign Minister Papandreou, did a good job of modulating those differences so that it didn’t result in a complete rupture.”
Powell said the important thing now is to move forward to rebuild Iraq and help the Iraqi people build a better life for themselves, and as this happens, he believes the EU “will have an important role to play in that reconstruction effort.”
The Secretary said he is troubled by demonstrations of anti-Americanism in Greece, but as the Greek people “see the faces of these Iraqi citizens who are now free of the repression, free of the terror, as they see the evidence of Saddam Hussein’s cruel regime and cruel ruling come to the front, when they see pictures of people being pulled up out of their graves who had been murdered and butchered and terrorized, I hope they will realize that this is a regime that the world is glad to be rid of, and that the coalition did something that was noble and right.”
Secretary Powel said he wished he had had the chance to visit Greece already because he very much enjoys visiting “in this wonderful country”. And he revealed a trip to Greece is on his agenda to do it as soon as he can.
ON TERRORISM AND OLYMPICS
Powell expressed disappointment that progress was not achieved on the latest plan offered by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to reach a settlement in Cyprus, but added, “we believe there are positive elements in that plan that are still there, available for the two sides to use and to work with as they move forward.”
He also said it will be very interesting to see what happens now that Greek and Turkish Cypriots are being permitted to cross the border and can interact more closely. “Maybe that will bring pressure to bear on their political leaders to find a way forward,” Powell said.
On the issue of Turkey’s accession to the EU, Powell reaffirmed the U.S. position that “Turkey belongs in the European Union” and expressed the hope that “at some future time when it’s taken up for consideration again, all the factors will be positive.”
Asked about “November 17” he declined to comment on the trial, while still in process. But he expressed pleasure “that after all these years, finally, the leaders of this organization are being brought to justice. This was a major problem that just went on and on and on with respect to bilateral relations between Greece and the United States, and it was a threat to Greece’s own democracy. So I am glad, finally, that this terror organization has been broken up.
On Athens 2004 Olympic Games, Colin Powel said this will be a major challenge for the Greek Government.
“But in my conversations with Foreign Minister Papandreou I know that the Greek Government is hard at work on this. We are providing assistance. We are providing support. We are providing any information we can provide to make sure that we have a safe Olympics season in Greece. I mean, the home of the Olympics. We want it to go off without a hitch and without any trouble.
And we hope that some of the success we’ve been having on the war against terrorism and the way we have terrorists on the run will also contribute to having a much safer environment for the Olympics next year. And I hope I will have a chance to visit during the Olympic season”.