Greek minister attacks Rifkind

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The Independent Online
Greece's fiery new Foreign Minister, Theodoros Pangalos, lashed out at Britain yesterday for refusing to take the Greek side in a persistent diplomatic row with Turkey over a small rocky island in the Aegean.

He described remarks by the Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, as an expression of deep British hostility towards European integration. Mr Pangalos, famous for his undiplomatic language, contrasted Mr Rifkind's studied non-partisan attitude with a resolution passed in the European Parliament yesterday upholding Greece's sovereign rights to the rocky islet of Imia (or Kardak, as the Turks call it) and accusing Turkey of a "dangerous violation".

"Britain does not want a united Europe," Mr Pangalos said in Athens. "It wants a big market where it can maximise its own interests. It is systematically against the political integration of Europe. Thus it does not want external EU borders, a common foreign policy or common defence policy."

The occasion which provoked this outburst was a meeting in London on Wednesday between Mr Rifkind and the Turkish Foreign Minister, Deniz Baykal, in which Mr Rifkind said the EU was not in the habit of taking sides in territorial disputes, even if they involved its own member states.

Relations between Greece and Turkey, which had been cautiously improving, were pushed to breaking point at the end of last month when both countries sent warships to the eastern Aegean island. The dispute was defused by the US Assistant Secretary of State, Richard Holbrooke, who later criticised the EU for not taking the initiative itself.

Mr Rifkind will have a chance to answer Mr Pangalos next week when he visits Athens. The Foreign Office made no immediate comment.

n A rocket grenade fired by suspected left-wing urban guerrillas missed the American embassy in Athens last night and exploded in a nearby parking lot, blowing out windows, Reuter reports.