29 June, 2004
ISTANBUL, 29/6/2004 (ANA - Ch. Poulidou)
During a press conference at the end of the NATO summit's morning session on Monday prime minister Costas Karamanlis said that by the alliance's decision "we are given the possibility of training (Iraqi troops) on Greek territory."
Karamanlis also kept his distance from the French "interpretation" of the decision, since in the view of French officials the allies' training mission on Iraqi soil "cannot take place under NATO's flag" and, consequently, the specific task "concerns the allies and not the alliance."
The prime minister said the decision in question "concerns the entire alliance" and, replying to a question on the strengthening of NATO's force in Afghanistan, Karamanlis said a specific number of troops to be deployed additionally in Afghanistan "has not been decided."
Asked to comment on the issue created by the publication of an interview given by Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos to the newspaper "Hurriyet", the prime minister said "the issue closed with the statement of denial made by Mr. Spiliotopoulos" and made no further remarks.
On the question of Tuesday's process of electing the EU Commission's president and persistent reports on preference for Portuguese Prime Minister D. Baroso, Karamanlis said "there is nothing certain at this time" but added that if Baroso succeeds Romano Prodi "it will be a very positive development."
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, currently in Istanbul to attend the NATO summit taking place in the city, was to have a number of meetings with other heads of government on the sidelines of the summit on Monday.
Among the scheduled meetings are one with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.
Regarding Monday's summit, which was mainly occupied with the transfer of power in Iraq, Greece backed the general consensus to aid the new Iraqi government in training its security forces but would stipulate that it can only contribute financially to the country's reconstruction.
Greece has so far given 4.5 million euros for Iraq and is prepared to release another 3.0 million euros.
Similarly, Athens has declined to send additional troops to Afghanistan to strengthen the peacekeeping force during the Afghan elections, citing the higher security requirements for the Athens Olympics.
Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, meanwhile, had a meeting with his counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Ilinka Mitreva on the sidelines of the summit to discuss bilateral relations and FYROM's European prospects. According to sources, the meeting did not touch on the issue of FYROM's chosen name of Macedonia that Greece objects to.
During a dinner given on Sunday night by Turkish President Ahmet Nezet Sezer for the leaders attending the NATO summit, meanwhile, Karamanlis spoke briefly with United States President George Bush, who asked about the progress of preparations for the Olympic Games.
Karamanlis expressed satisfaction with the rate at which Olympic projects were being completed, while Bush said the information he was receiving was similar and that his father, the former President George Bush, greatly desired to lead an American delegation to the Athens Olympics.
The Greek premier also exchanged a few words about Greece's soccer triumph with Erdogan during the dinner, who congratulated him on the Greek team's victory against France in the Euro 2004.
Source: Athens News Agency