- The Washington Times - Friday, May 21, 2004

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has assured President Bush that there would be adequate security for the summer Olympic Games in August.

Athens is “doing everything humanly possible to achieve a really successful event,” Mr. Karamanlis told Mr. Bush at a White House meeting Thursday.

Train bombings in Spain in March that killed 191 persons and a series of minor bomb explosions in Greece in recent weeks have fueled worries about the security at the Games in the country of their origin.

Greece is spending well over $1 billion on security plans to safeguard the event.

The United States is sending 550 athletes and a support staff of 300, along with more than 100 federal agents to keep an eye on them, according to U.S. officials.

In their meeting, the two leaders also discussed the war on terror, the Middle East peace process and Iraq. Mr. Bush stressed the importance of moving forward on a U.N. Security Council resolution that would legitimize a new interim government in Iraq, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Mr. Karamanlis told reporters later that Greece continued to support, and would actively participate in, international efforts to secure a quick transition to a democratic Iraq.

The White House meeting was the high point of a round of talks held by the prime minister, whose conservative New Democracy party swept into office in March.

The victory of New Democracy ousted the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), which had begun its career as a left-of-center movement but gradually drifted to the center as it vigorously embraced membership in the European Union.

At the same time, New Democracy itself moved closer to the political center, becoming in some ways indistinguishable from its major rival.

Asked at the Washington press conference what Greece can expect from the new conservative administration, Mr. Karamanlis acknowledged that any changes would be gradual.

“There is a broader sense of national consensus as far as the major questions of foreign policy are concerned,” he said.

As prime minister he is expected to pursue a more enthusiastic approach to free markets and largely unfettered private investments.

The prime minister’s visit also was dominated by questions on the future of divided Cyprus, whose government Athens staunchly supports, now that the majority has roundly rejected a 9,000-page unification plan drawn up under the guidance of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

At the United Nations on Tuesday Mr. Karamanlis urged the world body to continue pursuing reunification of Cyprus, but the overture was greeted with an icy coldness.

After a meeting with Mr. Annan, Mr. Karamanlis said there was hope the Annan plan could be revived.

“I am not ready to accept the recent developments as a full stop, but only as one phase in the process,” he told reporters in New York. “I believe that basically the secretary-general shares these views.”

The island state has been divided for 30 years into a Greek-speaking majority and a Turkish-speaking minority. The plan, which would have ended the partition and permitted the Turkish minority to share in the benefits of EU membership obtained by the Greek-ruled Cypriot government starting May 1, was approved by the rulers of the Turkish minority.

Turkey, which maintains some 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus in the wake of a 1974 invasion, also expressed its approval.

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