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09 January, 1997
Foreign Minister Theodores Pangalos held a meeting yesterday with US ambassador to Greece Thomas Niles, during which the two men set out their respective governments' position on Cyprus' decision to purchase several advanced Russian-made surface-to-air missiles.
Washington, along with several European countries, has expressed concern about a possible escalation of arms proliferation in the region, while Turkey has vehemently condemned the recent purchase agreement. On the other hand, Athens has strongly defended Nicosia's decision to bolster its defense capability by acquiring the S-300 missile system.
Replying to reporters' questions, government spokesman Dimities Repose said the 45-minute meeting was held at Mr. Pangalos' initiative, and in response to a request put forth by Mr. Niles in the past.
Mr. Reppas added that Washington's reservations about the multi-million dollar deal signed in Moscow last Saturday had also been conveyed to the Greek ambassador in the US, Lucas Tsilas.
Asked about a visit by State Department official Carey Cavanaugh to Nicosia, Athens and Ankara this weekend, Mr. Reppas replied that the government had not been informed about which issues the American envoy responsible for southern Europe intends to raise.
The spokesman clarified, however, that Mr. Cavanaugh would be meeting with foreign ministry officers.
In addition, Mr. Reppas said that procurement of the S-300 system could be canceled "tomorrow" if a program was implemented immediately for the total demilitarization of the divided island republic.
In statements later in the day, Education Minister and former national defense minister Gerassimos Arsenis said that both Greece and Cyprus should persist on the armaments program, but warned against creation of a climate of tension.
Source: Athens News Agency