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11 January, 2002
US President George W. Bush expressed confidence that Greece will organize an excellent Olympiad in 2004, welcoming Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in his Oval Office on Thursday.
"The fact that the Games are returning to Athens will be a wonderful moment for the sports world and I am convinced that your country will do an excellent job," Bush said.
Responding to an informal invitation extended to him by Simitis to visit Greece during the 2004 Olympic Games, Bush said "I look forward to the Olympic Games in Athens and I thank you for the invitation."
President Bush also referred to the improvement in Greek-Turkish relations, expressing both his personal and his government's appreciation over the fact that Greece is cooperating with Turkey and saying "your relations have improved. I thank you for your vision, for the hard effort by the foreign minister to enable the world to become more peaceful and I wish to thank you for this."
He further said that Greece and the U.S. have "much in common" which he would be discussing with Simitis during their 45-minute meeting.
President Bush said he appreciates "your very strong position in combatting terrorism" and termed Simitis a "friend", adding that Washington and Athens are jointly concerned over the need to crack down on terrorism.
On entering President Bush's office, the Greek prime minister, who is the first European leader to visit the U.S. following the introduction of the euro currency, offered to him two coins of one and two euros, as well as a T-shirt bearing the emblem of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Bush thanked Simitis and underlined the role of Greek Americans "who are living here in our country and are continuing to love Greece."
On his part, Simitis referred, in a brief statement in the Oval Office in the presence of President Bush, to Greece's determination to cooperate in combatting international terrorism.
"We are absolutely committed to combatting international terrorism and we are taking part in the efforts in Afghanistan, while we believe that we should cooperate to enable terrorism to be eradicated everywhere in the world and to break up terrorist groups which are active in certain Balkan countries," Simitis said.
"Terrorism should be placed under control," Simitis went on to say and thanked President Bush "for your contribution towards the improvement in Greek-Turkish relations" and assured him that on its part Greece is working for peace and stability in the region on the basic principle of the implementation of rules of international law so that "we can have a really peaceful southeastern Europe."
Simitis says meeting with President Bush 'very good and cordial':
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, following his talks with U.S. President George W. Bush and his advisers, told reporters outside the White House on Thursday that his meeting with Bush at the Oval Office centered on the combatting of terrorism and the two countries' cooperation in this sector, the Cyprus issue and the prospects from the meetings between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot community leader Rauf Denktash, developments in the Balkans and US - Greek relations which Simitis termed as "excellent".
"We had a very good, very friendly and cordial meeting with President Bush and we reviewed all the issues of mutual concern to the two countries," Simitis said.
"First of all, of course, we discussed the problem of terrorism. The common conviction that terrorism must be eradicated, to be combated drastically everywhere in the world, because if we do not achieve its complete eradication, then the phenomenon will reappear. I believe that there is decisiveness from all the sides for us to proceed in this direction," he said adding that Greece was committed in combatting terrorism.
"A second important issue are the developments in southeastern Europe, in the Balkans, the continuing need for the presence of the United States. Of course, the role which Greece is playing for stability and cooperation in the region.
"We discussed developments in the European Union, the new European currency, which means an enormous change, which will influence, not only the economic but mainly the political developments and will give an impetus to European integration, a view shared by President Bush.
"We also discussed the issues of the southeastern Mediterranean, the Cyprus issue, of course, which is of particular interest to us, in order for the solution of the political problem to proceed and the necessity for Cyprus' accession to the European Union as well as relations between Greece and Turkey, the effort which Greece is making so as international law to be implemented and for there to be peace.
"We also spoke about our bilateral relations which are extremely good both politically and economically, and also on the military level.
"We further spoke personally and in a friendly way about habits, on how we see progress in relation to life.
"I believe that this meeting confirmed the good climate which exists between the two countries, the need for cooperation and the need to confront problems in such a way as to promote peace, development and cooperation in the world community," the Greek prime minister said.
Speaking to journalists in English as well, the prime minister referred to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games saying: "Although we are a small nation, we have done a lot of work and now things are on track. I am convinced that we will organize excellent and perfect Olympic Games. On this occasion, I have invited President Bush to come to the Games as his favorite sport is baseball, and the U.S. team along with the Greek team will participate, and he should come and throw the ball".
Washington talks 'between friends', Simitis tells Greek reporters:
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, at the end of his contacts with U.S. President George W. Bush and other American officials gave an assessment of his talks here in a press conference he gave on Thursday.
He said that his talks with Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his telephone communication with Vice-President Dick Cheney were successful.
Simitis said the U.S. officials raised the issue of the security of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games for which he noted there was already complete cooperation with the U.S. and other countries. He stressed that Greek experts and officials of the competent services will be in Salt Lake City for the Winter Olympic Games where they will obtain useful experience in security matters.
Referring to the issue of the sea borders between Greece and Turkey, the prime minister underlined that the Greek borders are not defined neither by maps nor by any other country but they are defined by international law only.
"Greece has right and this right does not cede it to any agency," Simitis emphasized, adding that gone are the times when Greece went to meetings of this nature as "a small country", and henceforth is being regarded as an equal partner and ally.
He said that in none of his meetings a discussion arose on maps concerning the borders between Greece and Turkey, reminding that according to the EU Helsinki summit decisions, Turkey must have recourse to the international court at The Hague by 2004 to resolve the only issue existing between the two countries, that is the delimitation of the continental shelf.
"It was a discussion among friends," Simitis reiterated, adding that all his meetings were held in a very good climate.
On the Cyprus issue, the premier said that he got the impression that the United States wanted a just and viable solution to the problem and that Washington intended to work towards that direction. He also emphasized that none of his interlocutors at any moment suggested that the solution of the island republic's political problem was a condition its EU accession.
With regard to the Balkans, he noted that Greece's positive role in the region was recognized while he conveyed to the U.S. officials Greece's position that Bulgaria and Romania should join NATO.
The prime minister said his interlocutors agreed that there should be a peaceful settlement of any problems that exist in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and that there should be no change of borders, but agreements should be implemented and that this state has a right to exist.
Simitis underlined that none of his interlocutors raised an issue of a list of suspects in the 17 November terrorist organization affair.
He concluded by saying that he did not intend to go to the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.
Source: Athens News Agency