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Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos denied in Washington on September 23 that he had signed a defense pact with Iran, contradicting reports in the Iranian press during his stunning June 28-30 trip to Iran, the first ever by a European defense minister since the 1979 revolution.
Tsohatzopoulos, who is believed to be grooming himself as a future Prime Minister, came to Washington to meet with National Security Advisor Samuel (Sandy) Berger. He flew in to Andrews Air Force base after attending a NATO defense ministers summit in Canada.
Speaking to board members of the Jewish Institute for National Security in Washington just before his scheduled meeting with Berger, Tsohatzopoulos went out of his way to downplay his trip to Tehran, and to insist that he delivered a firm message to the Iranian government on terrorism, human rights, and weapons of mass destruction. "In Tehran, I made it clear we could not accept the development of long-range missiles, because this is not helpful to regional security. I also tried to make clear how important the human rights situation in Iran is for us. I put on the table the case of the 13 Iranian Jews and told them it didn't help the development of relations with the European Union."
Tsohatzopoulos told JINSA his goal is to position Greece as a key intermediary for the negotiation of a regional security "framework" stretching from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, that would include Turkey, Israel, the Arab states, and Iran. "In my talks with President Khatami, he told me that he was not against recent developments in the Arab-Israeli peace process, unlike other factional leaders in Iran. This is the first time Tehran has shown an interest in a regional security policy."
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