Prime minister of Greece to meet British foreign minister for conversations on Cyprus

Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis will meet the British foreign secretary Thursday amid a simmering diplomatic row between Britain and Cyprus, the government said Monday. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw did not indicate a breach between Greece and close regional ally Cyprus, whose President Tassos Papadopoulos has refused to see Straw on Wednesday in protest of his planned talks with the Turkish Cypriot leader.

"The Greek government is in constant contact and understanding with the Cypriot government on all matters," Roussopoulos said.

Papadopoulos objects to Straw's plans to meet Mehmet Ali Talat at his office in the Turkish-occupied north of Nicosia, the island's capital, despite Britain's assurances that it did not recognize Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus.

Cyprus has been divided between a Greek Cypriot south home to the island's internationally recognized government and a Turkish-occupied north since 1974, when Turkey invaded in the wake of an abortive Athens-backed coup by supporters of union with Greece. The self-declared Turkish Cypriot state is recognized only by Turkey.

Straw will meet Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iakovou on Wednesday for talks on bilateral issues and stalled efforts to reunite Cyprus. He will then visit Talat.

On Monday, Cyprus' acting Church leader called on the government to further cool relations with Britain the island's colonial ruler from 1878 to independence in 1960.

"Britain's provocative, rigid and arrogant stance to methodically upgrade the (Turkish Cypriot) breakaway state is a continuation of its markedly hostile stance," said Chrysostomos, Bishop of Paphos, reports the AP.

D.M.