LUXEMBOURG (ANA - G. Zitouniati) - European Union Security and Defence High Commissioner Javier Solana praised the European Union's Greek presidency at a press conference here on Monday for achieving a great deal and handling a host of issues.
Solana was speaking on the occasion of the last General Affairs Council before the EU summit due to take place in Thessaloniki later this week.
''It is difficult for one to find a presidency in past years in which so much was achieved and so many issues were handled in six months, from the war in Iraq to the enlargement of the EU and from the European constitution and defence to the situation in the Middle East and Iraq,'' he said.
Solana, as well as the EU's Foreign Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, praised the Greek presidency's rich and constructive work, making special reference to Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
''Our Greek friends handled difficult issues in a particularly delicate way and provided a splendid example of how one can be a gentleman and politician at the same time,'' he added.
Council President Papandreou, referring to the outcome of Monday's session, spoke of ''hard work with excellent achievements which strengthen the EU and promote its international role in new challenges.''
In the framework of the European security and defence policy, the Greek minister referred to the EU's role in Africa, and Congo in particular, where the Council decided to deply European army forces their second peacekeeping mission (after FYROM), parallel to diplomatic, economic and political moves.
The 15 foreign ministers also examined, Papandreou said, the question of weapons of mass destruction, namely control over their transportation and importation, to enable transparency and effective preventive policy.
They also expressed concern over recent developments in Iran and warned Tehran against the use of force and called on it to comply with international rules.
In addition, they discussed the European defence strategy, based on a relevant proposal put forward by Solana, which is expected to be reviewed at the Thessaloniki summit.
Papandreou said the upcoming EU Summit will initiate a ''new era for European defence, promoting the European values of democracy, human rights and sustainable development.''
On the sidelines of the session, the Greek foreign minister also met with Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Nabil Saat, and confirmed Europe's interest in promoting the Road Map peace initiative in Middle East.
Papandreou on Sunday will have a ''quartet'' level meeting with his U.S. and Russian counterparts and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to intensify efforts in support of the peace process.