- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Feb. 4 (UPI) — Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou Tuesday called on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to seize a diplomatic opportunity and fully cooperate with the United Nations and ensure the safety of his people.

Papandreou, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, said war on Iraq was not inevitable and said the EU would join Arab countries to seek a negotiated settlement of the conflict.

The United States says Saddam has a history of deceiving the United Nations and must be disarmed either through the world body or by unilateral force. Several European leaders are seeking a peaceful resolution of the issue.

U.N. inspectors are at present in Iraq seeking proscribed weapons of mass destruction.

Speaking in Beirut after talks with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud, Papandreou said Saddam should "understand the reality that he must fully cooperate and answer the questions in the report" submitted by the U.N. chief inspectors to the United Nations.

"The war is not inevitable," he said. "We are not designed for war."

He said the EU had asked Arab states to relay a message to Saddam that it was necessary to implement fully Security Council Resolution 1441.

Papandreou also emphasized the need to focus on the deadlocked Middle East peace process.

During his meeting with Papandreou, Lahoud said there was still a possible chance for "peaceful and just solutions whether regarding Iraq or the Middle East crisis despite the prevailing tense climate."

The Lebanese president emphasized the need to give U.N. weapons inspectors more time to carry out their mission in Iraq. Furthermore, reports submitted by U.N. chief inspectors Hans Blix and Mohammed el-Baradei stating that they haven't found nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction should "prompt us to say that the culprit is innocent until proven guilty and not like in Iraq now where the culprit is guilty until he is proven innocent," he said.

Lahoud also called on the European Union to play an effective role for implementing the international resolutions concerning Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict and "be a stability factor that should achieve a political balance in the world in favor of peace and justice."

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