Although his visit to Israel was not official and he came primarily to participate in the coronation of Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilus III, Greek President Karolous Papoulias asked to meet with President Moshe Katsav before flying home.
Papoulias, w ho came to Israel for only a few hours, had obviously done his homework.
Within minutes of being greeted by Katsav at Beit Hanassi, the Greek president invited him to come to Greece on an official visit. "I know you love antiquities," he said, "and we have lots of antiquities that we can show you." Katsav happily accepted the invitation. Once the problems related to the general elections are behind him, said Katsav's political adviser Avi Granot, he can start planning his trip. Although no specific date was set, it was understood that the visit would take place early next year.
The two main topics discussed by the two presidents were the upcoming Palestinian Authority elections and the dangers posed by Iran.
Papoulias was particularly curious to know what Katsav thought of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Katsav replied that he considered him to be a man of integrity, but that he had yet to prove his determination to vanquish terrorism. For all that, Katsav could not think of a better man at the helm of Palestinian aspirations than Abbas.
Papoulias said that Greece was strongly opposed to the anti-Israel remarks made by the president of Iran, and promised that Greece, working within the framework of the European Union, would not allow Ira n to carry out its threat to exterminate Israel.
Katsav said that it was high time for the United Nations Security Council to take up the matter and exert the type of pressure that would make Iran realize that by spewing this kind of hatred it will isola te itself from the rest of the world.
The controversial issue of Israel's refusal to recognize the appointment of Theophilus was not raised by either president.
At the conclusion of the visit Papoulias wrote in Greek in the Beit Hanassi visitors' book t hat he was happy to have met Katsav and to have held fruitful discussions with the president of Israel, a country that has close historical ties with Greece.
He was certain that in the future Greece and Israel would make a united effort for peace and pro sperity for their respective peoples.
Before leaving, Papoulias told Katsav that he was looking forward to continuing their dialogue in Athens.fË‡