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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-12-01

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Tsohatzopoulos and Albanian socialist party leader discuss bilateral relations
  • [02] Greek FM has successive meetings with the UN special adviser for Cyprus, Turkey's envoy for EU affairs
  • [03] Main opposition leader Karamanlis criticizes government, saying ND ready to form government
  • [04] Greece to ban several meat byproducts in light of Croitsfeld-Yacobs disease
  • [05] Reppas says that PASOK MPs' question on OA does not go against government's effort for privatization
  • [06] Health minister presents two upcoming bills for reforming the National Health System
  • [07] Bill on reforming and modernizing public administration tabled in Parliament
  • [08] Simitis addresses special session of Parliament for 80th anniversary of Thrace's liberation
  • [09] PASOK Eurodeputy calls on Greece to abolish unconstitutional laws limiting freedom of religion
  • [10] Athens cites opposition to direct T/C communication with UNFICYP
  • [11] Athens conference to focus on Albanians in other Balkan countries
  • [12] Greek stocks end cautiously higher
  • [13] Alpha Bank, Alpha Finance merger approved
  • [14] Gov't launches tender for electricity output
  • [15] Gov't freezes auctions of property repossessed by banks
  • [16] EU demands refund of farmers' subsidies, ND Eurodeputies say
  • [17] EU Council of Justice and Interior Affairs Ministers convenes in Brussels
  • [18] Greece, Bulgaria to sign capital market cooperation protocol
  • [19] Venizelos: Revision of 'forest' amendment to be rewritten
  • [20] International center for the training of public servant to be inaugurated in Thessaloniki
  • [21] Authorities rule out foul play in Minoan executive's death
  • [22] Culture minister discusses Athens 2004 Olympics preparations with deputy sports minister
  • [23] Kasoulides says government has all good will to attend next round of peace talks
  • [24] Government terms UN chief's remarks as 'positive'

  • [01] Tsohatzopoulos and Albanian socialist party leader discuss bilateral relations

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and Albanian socialist party leader Fatos Nano on Thursday discussed bilateral relations between Greece and Albania, as well as security and stability issues in southeastern Europe.

    Both Tsohatzopoulos and Nano clarified that relations between the two countries are excellent and there is not the slightest obstacle regarding the further strengthening of bilateral relations.

    Tsohatzopoulos further said that both the Greek minority in Albania and the large number of Albanian economic migrants living in Greece constitute a bridge of friendship, cooperation and stabilization between the two peoples.

    [02] Greek FM has successive meetings with the UN special adviser for Cyprus, Turkey's envoy for EU affairs

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister George Papandreou met the UN Secretary-General's special advisor for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, on Thursday morning, immediately after a meeting with Turkey's envoy for EU affairs, Faruk Logoglu.

    In statements after his meeting with de Soto, Papandreou said they had discussed the latest developments in the Cyprus issue and stressed that Athens supports the efforts of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    De Soto told reporters that Annan wanted to intensify the pace of the proximity talks during the next round, scheduled to take place at the end of January 2001 in Geneva.

    "We hope that at the next round there will be elements that will make talks between the two sides substantive," he said.

    He avoided commenting on the recent threat made by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, speaking from Ankara, to pull out of the talks.

    "Mr. Denktash has promised to examine the proposals of the Secretary-General. I will have an opportunity to talk with him during my visit to Nicosia in the next few days," he said.

    The UN official also plans to visit Ankara for talks with the Turkish government.

    Papandreou Logoglu: Commenting on his earlier meeting with the Turkish envoy, Papandreou said that they had exchanged views on EU-Turkey relations.

    "Every discussion," stressed Papandreou, "helps to clear up misunderstandings and explore common ground. I had the opportunity to discuss these issues with my [Turkish] counterpart Ismail Cem on Sunday in Vienna. The Greek position is clear: The EU-Turkey partnership agreement must definitely include the Helsinki decisions. This is a condition for discussing it further at the next EU General Affairs Council or the EU Summit in Nice, or at any other time."

    According to foreign ministry diplomats, Greece is expecting the EU's French presidency to present proposals on the EU-Turkey partnership agreement document.

    [03] Main opposition leader Karamanlis criticizes government, saying ND ready to form government

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Thursday criticized the government, called it tired and stressed that his party was ready to form a strong government.

    During an interview at the Foreign Press Association of Greece, Karamanlis said that ND could not force elections to be called, insinuating that his party would not seek early elections.

    Responding to questions, he said that he would not seek reaffirmation as a president of ND, saying that proposals to that effect were based on positive motives, while he declined to discuss the possibility of the creation of a party by Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos.

    He added that party spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos would not be the partys choice of candidate for the Athens municipality in the next local government elections, stressing that it is too early to discuss this issue.

    He said, however, that Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki is an able person and for that reason ND proposed her for her current post.

    At the beginning of the conference, Karamanlis called attention to the suicide of Minoan Flying Dolphins shipping company vice-president and Managing Director Pantelis Sfinias, saying it was a tragic incident and criticizing the government for not forging forward with the investigation into the Express Samina shipwreck that cost the lives of 80 people in September.

    In discussing the case of the Royal property in Greece, Karamanlis said that the comments of the government against ND constituted an excuse for those really at fault, while he called on the government to respect international law and attempt to secure a low cost arraignment with the former monarch through negotiations, so that the Greek people would not be overburdened.

    He added that the Greek political system was not in any danger from such court cases.

    Speaking on the Cyprus problem he said that Greece should bloc all European Union enlargement if Cyprus' accession course does not move forward, while he criticized the government policies on Greece's national issues.

    He also said that the contract for the purchase of "Eurofighter" type war airplanes should be discussed in Parliament before the government signs it.

    Finally, Karamanlis said that ND was waiting for the decision of the National Radio and Television Council before introducing a motion in Parliament for discussion on prosecutor Doyiakos' report, regarding the appointment of the Mt. Athos governor Stavros Psycharis and the purchase of tickets for government officials from a travel agency owned by a newspaper owner.

    Karamanlis says gov't 'foot dragging' over 'Samina' sinking probe: Main opposition leader Karamanlis on Thursday continued to assail the government for what he called its "foot-dragging" into the investigation over the sinking of a ferryboat in late September, an accident that claimed the life of 80 people.

    Karamanlis, speaking at a Foreign Press Association (FPA) news conference, made the comments just one day after a passenger-shipping executive whose company owned the ill-fated "Express Samina" fell to his death in an apparent suicide.

    In other answers to press questions, the ND leader noted that he won't ask an upcoming party congress for a vote of confidence, and dismissed repeated queries regarding Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos' intentions, saying he has already commented on the specific issue in the past.

    Additionally, he said he doesn't plan to request early elections, as the main opposition has no power to force such a development. Finally, he called the current PASOK government "worn out" and said ND was ready to "form a strong government".

    Gov't spokesman: In reply to Karamanlis' statements, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas later referred to "ND's leadership of defeat".

    "The monotonous repetition of false claims and stereotype comments does not comprise a political proposal," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

    [04] Greece to ban several meat byproducts in light of Croitsfeld-Yacobs disease

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    A European Union team of scientists will arrive in Greece at the end of January to check the country's livestock health condition especially in relation to spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease or Croitsfeld-Yacobs disease, Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis said on Thursday.

    Following a meeting with the Greek National Scientific Committee, Anomeritis said that the committee was ready to table specific proposals to EU authorities in efforts to confront the problem.

    He said that the scientists will propose a total ban on the consumption of beef intestines, adding that the ban would not concern sheep and goats under the age of one year, a total ban on the use of animal feed containing meat by products, while there will not be a ban on the use of fish feed of milk use for animal feed.

    Deputy health minister says Ioannina patient did not get Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease by eating meat: Deputy Health Minister Christina Spyraki reassured the public on Thursday that the latest reported incident of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in Greece was not related to meat consumption or "mad cow" disease (BSE).

    According to Spyraki, doctors believe that a 55-year-old woman diagnosed with the disease at Ioannina hospital is one of the rare cases of hereditary spongiform encephalopathy that occasionally occur in Greece and is not related to BSE.

    According to the minister, doctors have sent a sample of the woman's cerebral-spinal fluid to the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Report Center at Aiginiteo Hospital in Athens for tests, the results of which should be out in 10 days.

    Based on her symptoms and age, however, doctors expect that the woman will be one of the 10 to 20 cases that occur in Greece every year and are not related to diet.

    Asked if she could rule out the occurrence of diet-related incidents of Creutzfeldt-Jakob in the future, Spyraki said that the prospect could not be ruled out, especially as scientists still knew very little about the disease.

    She pointed out, however, that no confirmed case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob related to beef consumption had been officially recorded in Greece, while the Agriculture ministry had officially assured the Health ministry that there were no problems with Greek cattle and sheep.

    New variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is the human version of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and is invariably fatal. Scientists believe eating BSE-contaminated meat contracts it.

    [05] Reppas says that PASOK MPs' question on OA does not go against government's effort for privatization

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said on Thursday that a question tabled in Parliament by 61 PASOK deputies regarding Olympic Airways did not go against the government's efforts to privatize Greece's ailing national carrier.

    He added that the course chosen by the government was the only course for OA's survival and that it would not threaten the interests of the airline workers but instead protect them.

    Sixty-one ruling PASOK party deputies lodged a question in Parliament on Wednesday calling on Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis to provide information on the course of Olympic Airways, the country's national carrier.

    They called on Verelis to state the solution considered by the government for the airline and how the solution will safeguard its operation and viability, as well as its employees' labor and insurance future.

    [06] Health minister presents two upcoming bills for reforming the National Health System

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos said on Thursday that he expected to have the first two bills for the reform of the National Health System ready before the government tables the budget.

    He said the changes introduced by the bill would address issues of quality as well as organization, while particularly stressing the scrapping of the present centralized system in favor of 16 regional health systems, three based in Attica and two in Thessaloniki.

    As regards the organization of the hospitals themselves, Papadopoulos said the first changes would be to make them more autonomous and decentralized units run by their own board of directors and with their own budget.

    Under the new bill, he added, hospitals will also be allowed to run outpatient clinics on a 24-hour basis. This, he said, would give citizens better access to medical services, as well as making better use of hospitals' specialized equipment.

    He announced that the problem of inadequate services would be dealt with by hiring 5,000 new health-sector workers over the next three months.

    Another thrust of the reforms, the health minister said, would be to fight corruption in the health sector and end revenue losses by closer monitoring of hospital procurements.

    [07] Bill on reforming and modernizing public administration tabled in Parliament

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    A bill by the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Ministry on reforming and modernizing public administration was tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

    The program, named "Politeia", is prepared every three years, it is ratified by a cabinet decision and includes all activities in the public administration sector.

    It is divided into subprograms, which are aimed at improving human potential, expanding the use of new technologies and improving administrative functions and methods, as well as improving relations between administration and the citizen.

    [08] Simitis addresses special session of Parliament for 80th anniversary of Thrace's liberation

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    During a special session of Parliament for the 80th anniversary since Thrace was incorporated in Greece, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Thursday that the government wanted "Christians and Moslems in Thrace to live, act and work in conditions of equality before the law and state."

    Addressing the house plenum, attended by former president Christos Sartzetakis and Christian and Moslem religious leaders, he added that Thrace would act as the benchmark of the government's success in achieving balanced regional development.

    He noted that Thrace's "isolation" had already been partially lifted, while saying that the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace region had achieved 74 per cent of the average European level of development and was among the top absorbers of the 2nd Community Support Framework.

    He announced that 164 projects costing 107 billion drachmas were planned under the 3rd CSF, which aimed to make use of Thrace's geographical position, create an independent local economy, protect the natural environment and redress social inequality.

    Parliament speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis and the leaders of the political parties, who said that the work was lagging behind the rhetoric in the development of the region, despite a certain amount of progress, also addressed the body.

    [09] PASOK Eurodeputy calls on Greece to abolish unconstitutional laws limiting freedom of religion

    BRUSSELS, 01/12/2000 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    Ruling PASOK Eurodeputy Anna Karamanou on Thursday requested of Greek Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos to abolish two unconstitutional laws, which limit freedom of religion.

    In a letter to Stathopoulos, Karamanou requested the that two laws of the 1930s Metaxas dictatorship era, limiting freedom of religion be abolished as unconstitutional, since they are divisive and run against modern understanding of the freedom of religion and Greece's Constitution, as well as the European Human Rights Convention.

    [10] Athens cites opposition to direct T/C communication with UNFICYP

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    Greece on Thursday reiterated its opposition to allowing the Turkish Cypriot leadership direct lines of communication to the United Nation's peacekeeping force (UNFICYP) on the divided east Mediterranean island.

    According to the Greek government's spokesman, Foreign Minister George Papandreou recently aired Athens' objections over any such prospect to UN envoy Alvaro de Soto, specifically citing opposition to the possibility of including such an amendment in a Dec. 15 UN resolution.

    "We've made our position crystal clear," spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

    Roughly one-third of the Cyprus Republic's territory remains occupied to this day by Turkish military forces since an invasion in the summer of 1974.

    [11] Athens conference to focus on Albanians in other Balkan countries

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    An unprecedented conference entitled "Albanians as minorities in the Balkans" will apparently bring together here on Friday representatives from neighboring countries, several Greek envoys stationed in the area and the Tirana government's leadership.

    The conference, set to take place at a seaside resort southeast of Athens, takes place under the auspices of Princeton University.

    Among others, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis is expected to receive his visiting Albanian counterpart Ilir Meta, who will also be accompanied by Foreign Minister Paskal Milo.

    Additionally, members of Serbia's transitional government and a representative of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) government will participate, whereas Ibrahim Rugova as well as ethnic Albanians from Kosovo may also arrive for the conference.

    Athens' ambassadors in all the other Balkan countries will attend the conference, set to focus on issues related to the recent developments in the region and within Kosovo; relations between Serbia and Montenegro, as well as the situation in Albania.

    According to a Greek foreign ministry spokesman on Thursday, Foreign Minister George Papandreou will host a reception for the conference's participants on Friday evening.

    [12] Greek stocks end cautiously higher

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    Equity prices continued moving cautiously higher for the second consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday to end off their day's highs as profit-taking selling limited earlier gains.

    The general index ended 0.46 percent up at 3,245.77 points, off the day's highs of 3,292 points. Turnover was 111.87 billion drachmas, of which 70 billion were pre-agreed block trades.

    Traders said the market needed a significant increase in capital inflows to resume its upward trend.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.55 percent higher at 1,855.55 points, and the FTSE/ASE 40 index ended at 394.15 points, up 0.50 percent.

    Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: 6,778.67 +0.62% Leasing: 598.92 +5.49% Insurance: 1,481.21 -0.24% Investment: 1,130.18 +1.97% Construction: 1,193.04 +2.21% Industrials: 2,008.14 +0.77% Miscellaneous: 2,885.04 -0.88% Holding: 4,047.50 +1.40%

    The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks ended at 329.53 points, up 1.29 percent.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 222 to 108 with another 26 issues unchanged.

    Astir Hotels, National Real Estate, National Bank, Hellenic Telecoms and Alpha Bank were the most heavily traded stocks.

    Leading shares' closing prices (in Drs): National Bank: 12,400 Alpha Bank: 12,150 Commercial Bank: 16,740 Eurobank: 8,700 Piraeus Bank: 5,165 Lambrakis Press: 5,020 Heracles Cement: 5,250 Titan Cement (c): 14,245 Hellenic Telecoms: 5,615 Panafon: 2,705 Hellenic Petroleum: 3,600 Attica Enterprises: 2,850 Intracom: 8,215 Hellenic Bottling: 5,315

    Equity futures end mixed, tracking Athens bourse: Equity futures traded on the Athens Derivatives Exchange finished mixed on Thursday, roughly in line with the bourse indices on which they are based.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 0.55 percent up, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 0.50 percent higher.

    Turnover was 15.8 billion drachmas.

    A total of 3,148 contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 20 with turnover at 11.8 billion drachmas.

    On the FTSE/ASE 40 index, 2,493 contracts changed hands on turnover of 3.9 billion drachmas.

    Bond prices rise in heavy trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Thursday finished higher in heavy trade with a surge of buying interest seen in 15-year securities.

    The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.694 percent from 5.728 percent in the previous session.

    The Greek paper's yield spread over German bunds was 67 basis points from 66 basis points a day earlier.

    Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 160 billion drachmas from 168 billion drachmas in the session before.

    Buy orders accounted for around 136 billion drachmas of trade.

    Drachma continues recovering against US dollar: The drachma continued recovering against the US dollar in the domestic foreign exchange market following a rebound in the euro/dollar rate to 86.81 cents in international markets on Thursday.

    The Greek currency rose to 392.430 drachmas per dollar at the day's fixing, up from 394.590 on Wednesday.

    The drachma also moved closer to its central parity against the euro currency at 340.550 drachmas per euro.

    [13] Alpha Bank, Alpha Finance merger approved

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    A deal for the merger of Alpha Bank and Alpha Finance was approved by the two companies' boards on Thursday.

    The deal envisages the absorption of Alpha Finance by Alpha Bank through a 1-to-1.35 stock swap following a share capital increase plan.

    The deal is part of a wider restructuring plan implemented by Alpha Bank Group following its merger with Ionian Bank earlier this year.

    [14] Gov't launches tender for electricity output

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    The government on Thursday launched a tender that will allow companies to produce electricity in a key step to liberalize the power market.

    The development ministry said in a statement that the deadline for expressions of interest in the award of electricity production licenses was February 19, 2001.

    Receiving the expressions of interest is the state's Energy Regulatory Authority, which will then make a call for bids.

    The move will end a virtual monopoly on electricity output held by the state-owned Public Power Corporation.

    [15] Gov't freezes auctions of property repossessed by banks

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told parliament on Thursday that he had frozen until March 31, 2001 bank auctions of property repossessed after the non-payment of loans by creditors.

    The minister acknowledged the social problem the auctions had caused, which, in turn, stemmed from an unpopular law on payment of surplus interest on overdue loans.

    He pledged to hold talks with the Union of Greek Banks on the issue and invite its leaders to meet parliament's economic affairs committee.

    Papantoniou was speaking during a parliamentary debate on measures to ease the law on overdue loans.

    [16] EU demands refund of farmers' subsidies, ND Eurodeputies say

    BRUSSELS, 01/12/2000 (ANA - M Spinthourakis)

    Greek farmers' cooperatives were called on by the European Union to refund 260 billion drachmas they received in the past, a press release issued by Greek main opposition New Democracy (ND) Eurodeputies said on Thursday.

    According to the press release, this development comes at the wake of a European Court decision, which turned down a Greek government appeal to suspend the implementation of the decision initially issued on March 1, 2000, which mandates the immediate refund of money paid to farmers' cooperatives for what was deemed to be illegal subsidies.

    [17] EU Council of Justice and Interior Affairs Ministers convenes in Brussels

    BRUSSELS, 01/12/2000 (ANA - V. Demiris)

    The European Union's Council of Justice and Interior Affairs Ministers convened here on Thursday and, among others, discussed the regulation on international jurisdiction, recognition and implementation of decisions in civil and commercial cases.

    An extensive discussion was held on the proposed settlement to enable consumers purchasing services through the Internet to sue selling companies in the country of the consumer's residence.

    Greek Justice Minister Mihalis Stathopoulos supported the right and said that if consumers are obliged to lodge their lawsuits in the country of the selling companies, consumer protection will be drastically reduced.

    Responding to fears that such a settlement will deal a blow at electronic trade, Stathopoulos said that, on the one hand, consumer protection has priority and, on the other, this protection will encourage purchases through the Internet and in this way electronic trade will not be harmed.

    [18] Greece, Bulgaria to sign capital market cooperation protocol

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    Greece and Bulgaria will sign on Friday a bilateral agreement on capital markets' regulatory cooperation.

    The cooperation protocol is expected to be signed in Sofia by Greece's Capital Markets' Commission president Stavros Thomadakis and Bulgaria's National Securities' Commission, Radoslav Tsonchev.

    The cooperation protocol aims to establish and implement a procedure for mutual help between the two countries' regulatory authorities, such as to exchange confidential information to ensure implementation of existing laws.

    The protocol agreement is the first step in an effort to establish and enhance bilateral cooperation in capital markets' operations.

    [19] Venizelos: Revision of 'forest' amendment to be rewritten

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    Ruling PASOK's proposal to revise Article 24 of the Constitution, the provision dealing with the sensitive issue of forestlands in the country, will be rewritten in order to abide by a recent Council of State (CoS) ruling, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Thursday.

    The ruling by the CoS, the highest administrative court in Greece, essentially forbids legislators from amending, at will, the notion of what constitutes forestlands.

    Various local environmental advocacy groups have vehemently protested over the past few weeks against any revision of Article 24, saying it would spell the 'death knell' for the country's dwindling forests.

    Venizelos, in fact, who serves as the ruling party's spokesman in the Constitutional revision process, made the announcement after a meeting on Thursday with several environmental groups.

    In response to questions over the same issue a few hours later, the government spokesman rejected claims of a government setback regarding the issue, while saying that the proposed amendment would not have led to any pogroms against forestland.

    [20] International center for the training of public servant to be inaugurated in Thessaloniki

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    Thessaloniki will be a center for the acquisition of public administration management know-how for eastern European countries, with the operation of the International Center of Public Administration in the northern Greek city, Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Vasso Papandreou said on Thursday.

    The minister will inaugurate the center on Friday, following a meeting of the interior and public administration ministers of Balkan countries in a Thessaloniki hotel.

    The center was established by the Greek interior ministry in cooperation with the United Nations and aims at developing the public administration sector of Balkan, central and eastern European countries, as well as the countries of the former Commonwealth of Independent States.

    The center will train public servants of the aforementioned countries and will establish a network of experts aiming to aid their cooperation, toward mutual development.

    [21] Authorities rule out foul play in Minoan executive's death

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    Authorities on Thursday pointed to suicide as leading to a passenger shipping executive's six-floor leap off his Piraeus office on Wednesday, nearly two months after his company's ill-fated 'Express Samina' ferry sank in the Aegean with the loss of 80 people.

    A report signed by two local coroners ruled out foul play or accident in the death of Pantelis Sfinias, 62, the managing director of Minoan Lines' subsidiary Minoan Flying Dolphin (MFD), the largest passenger shipping company in Greece.

    The 'Express Samina' sank on the evening of Sept. 26 in rough seas only a few nautical miles from the port of Paros, a popular holiday island in the Cyclades chain, and after the vessel rammed into a well-marked rocky outcropping.

    According to another MFD executive on Wednesday, Sfinias simply went over to his office's window, opened it and jumped out without saying a word. Police said the Rethymno native's body crashed onto the hood of a car parked outside the building.

    Among others, Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Wednesday expressed his condolences over Sfinias' death from Hungary, where he is on an official visit.

    [22] Culture minister discusses Athens 2004 Olympics preparations with deputy sports minister

    Athens, 01/12/2000 (ANA)

    Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos met with Deputy Sports Minister George Floridis for one and a half hours on Thursday to discuss the Athens 2004 Olympics and developments in the sports sector generally.

    Emerging from the meeting, which took place at Floridis' office, Venizelos said he was completely satisfied and that the schedule for the preparations for the Olympics was being met.

    [23] Kasoulides says government has all good will to attend next round of peace talks

    LARNACA, 01/12/2000 (CNA/ANA)

    Cyprus Foreign Minister, Ioannis Kasoulides, said on Thursday that the government had all the good will to attend the next round of UN-led proximity talks on the Cyprus problem, as long as the UN Secretary-General's report on Cyprus and the Security Council's resolution on the renewal of the UN peacekeeping force's

    (UNFICYP) mandate were positive. Speaking at Larnaca Airport, on his return from a trip abroad where he discussed the Cyprus problem in all his meetings, Kasoulides said the Republic's diplomatic services were working diligently and had already acted to prevent any negative references in the UN chief's report and the UNFICYP resolution.

    Commenting on statements by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who said he would not attend the next round of peace talks, Kasoulides said "the Republic's diplomatic services are on alert" and "had acted preventatively on all possible levels".

    Replying to questions, Kasoulides said "our side has said it has all the good will" to attend the talks, but noted "its final decision will be taken after the Secretary-General's report and the Security Council resolution".

    Referring to Turkey's European Union accession course, Kasoulides said "Turkey will have to decide between Europe and the non solution of the Cyprus problem", noting that Turkey would have to face the consequences if it insists on the current situation.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied the northern third of the island. UN-led proximity talks, separate meetings of the UN with President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, began last December. The UN has invited the two sides to a sixth round in late January.

    [24] Government terms UN chief's remarks as 'positive'

    NICOSIA, 01/12/2000 (CNA/ANA)

    The government has welcomed as "positive" remarks by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the Turkish Cypriot leader should not carry out his threat not to participate in the next round of UN-led proximity talks, due to resume in late January in Geneva.

    Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said here today the Greek Cypriot side considers that current discussions do not necessarily prejudge the outcome of the negotiations, noting that there are elements that he would like to see changed.

    Papapetrou was commenting on statements by Annan to local media that he urges Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to "stay with us" in the peace process, pointing out that "where you end up is not where you are today."

    "Annan's statement cannot be anything but a message to Mr. Denktash not to carry out his threat and be in Geneva for the continuation of the talks," Papapetrou said today.

    Describing the statement as "positive", he said "the parties must continue the peace effort with a view to pave the way for a settlement and not to create new obstacles in this process, as apparently Mr. Denktash is trying to do."

    Replying to questions, the Spokesman said Annan made it clear that the talks do not prejudge their outcome.

    "This is our demand too because there are many things we would like to see changed before we get to a settlement," Papapetrou said.

    Replying to questions, he said there was no change in the government's policy on participation in the next round of talks.

    "The government has a positive approach, in principle, to its participation in the talks, we have no other way to solve the problem except through talks," the Spokesman stressed.

    He expressed hope that there would not be such developments in December that would make the convening of the talks difficult.

    In his remarks yesterday in new York, Kofi Annan said, "I hope his position is not final, I think we are at relatively early stages of the talks and I know he was not particularly pleased with some of the suggestions I put forward at the last meeting in Geneva."

    He also explained that what was discussed today may not have all that much bearing on the final results.

    "We are in a process and I think what is important is the final outcome and I would urge him to stay with us and I am sure he will," he added.

    "I expect him in Geneva, and I expect Mr. Clerides, we have lots of work to do, the people need it, the people deserve a stable situation, I think if we work diligently at the system, we will get the results we all seek and I expect them in Geneva and I will be there," the UN chief concluded.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied the northern third of the island. UN-led proximity talks, separate meetings of the UN with President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, began last December. The UN has invited the two sides to a sixth round in late January.

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