|Friday, 15 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-12-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Papantoniou says Greece entering course of surplus budgets as of this year
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday during the ongoing debate on the 2001 state budget, said that if the aim of fiscal policy in the past was to cover deficits, from now on "budgets will distribute surpluses."
"We have a budget which, for the first time in recent history, does not impose any new tax but, on the contrary, is distributing a surplus of 450 billion drachmas among low and medium incomes through tax decreases and social expenditures," he said.
Papantoniou said that due to the decrease in the public debt and the decrease in interest rates low and medium incomes benefit again since additional funds amounting to 1.7 trillion drachmas are being released in their favor in the case of this year's budget.
He said that this proves that to date government policy combines stability with development and social justice and "the progress of the Greek economy is not only reflected in the nominal but in the real convergence we have achieved as well."
"Over the past four years development rates in Greece were substantively higher than the average of our partners in the EU, while the productivity of labor and salaries also increased considerably. The average income of the Greek citizen also increased from 62 percent of the average income of the European citizen in 1993 to 70 percent in 2000," he added.
Papantoniou said all these are achievements of the PASOK party, the force "which has identified its presence in the country's political life with great and historically justified modernizing efforts." He further accused the main opposition New Democracy party of "introversion and the lack of programmed speech and substantive political positions, combined with contradictory positions on crucial issues" and of making barren "opposition for the sake of opposition" which are elements which are not appropriate for a party which would like to be ready to rule.
 Simitis notes staff shortages during surprise visits to three state services in Athens
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)During surprise visits to three different state services in Athens on Tuesday, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said he had noted staff shortages that the government planned to correct.
Accompanied by Labor Minister Tassos Giannitsis, the prime minister carried turned up unannounced at a state nursery in Agia Varvara, the Korydallo branch of the Social Security Foundation (IKA) and a branch of the Manpower Employment Organization (OAED) in Peristeri.
In a press conference afterward, Simitis said he was generally pleased with what he saw but noted staff shortages in both OAED and IKA, while the nursery was apparently oversubscribed and unable to accept all the children in the area. He said that he would continue to carry out such surprise visits, in order to gain an accurate picture of how state services worked - since these were a reflection of how the government's policies worked.
The main problems in OAED, he said, were personal services for citizens, created a lack of staff, rather than organizational deficiencies. He said the government planned to restructure OAED to make it more efficient in fighting unemployment.
He also noted staff shortages at IKA, including shortages of medical specialists in certain fields, and announced that the government would go ahead with large-scale hiring of new staff, as demanded by IKA staff and management.
Shortly before, Deputy Labor Minister Christos Protopappas had emerged from a meeting with striking IKA workers saying that the government would consider their demand for additional staff, while IKA director Miltiadis Nektarios had said that he "agreed with and seconded" the demand for immediate large-scale hiring.
State insurance fund workers are on strike Tuesday and Wednesday - their second in four months. In the case of IKA, specifically, they are demanding large-scale hiring of new staff to cover shortages, they reject flexible working hours and demand that they receive a special bonus payment linked to productivity.
Commenting on Simitis' surprise visits, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that the "Prime Minister wants to see what citizens see on a daily basis, to see the problems at close hand in order to draw his own conclusions and give orders to solve the problems."
IKA workers on two-day strike; demand large-scale hiring: A demand by Social Security Foundation (IKA) workers for the immediate hiring of at least 2,000 new employees may well be met, following a surprise visit by Prime Minister Costas Simitis to an IKA branch on Tuesday during which he noted staff shortages and said that large-scale hiring for IKA was being planned.
Deputy Labor Minister Christos Protopappas had earlier emerged from a meeting with striking IKA workers on Tuesday saying that the government would consider their demand for additional staff, while IKA director Miltiadis Nektarios had said that he "agreed with and seconded" the demand for immediate large-scale hiring.
State insurance fund workers are on strike Tuesday and Wednesday - their second in four months. In the case of IKA, specifically, they are demanding large-scale hiring of new staff to cover shortages, they reject flexible working hours and demand that they receive a special bonus payment linked to productivity.
Striking workers also held a protest rally outside the labor ministry, followed by one outside the IKA central offices.
Nektarios, after a meeting with the strikers, said that he had submitted a request for the hiring of 2,000 new staff since huge sums were currently being lost through contribution evasion, while the service throughout the Aegean was under performing.
IKA union representatives said the strike had a high turnout and warned of a month of strike action in January if their demands were not met.
 ND leader criticizes Athens' mayor for establishing new political party
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday accessed that the new party Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos announced he would establish would garner little support from voters.
Speaking to journalists during a dinner he hosted for them, Karamanlis said "the clouds dissipated. How long can all this last, 30,40,80 days? Motives and positions are to be judged now".
"It is one thing to be safely poised from the enemy fire and quite another to enter the furnace of politics," he said.
He differentiated the mayor's political move to that of former ND cadres who established antagonistic parties in the past, such as Stephanos Manos and Antonis Samaras.
Finally, Karamanlis criticized ND cadre Dora Bakoyianni, daughter of ND honorary president Constantine Mitsotakis, for her statements during a televised interview, where she said that Greek parties suffered from an "ownership attitude" by party cadres. He said that he certainly did not feel that the comment was directed at him but "for who ever she might have said it, it was a mistake to say it, a grand mistake".
Reppas says initiative by Athens Mayor Avramopoulos creates no concern for government: Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said on Tuesday the government is not concerned over the initiative by Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, who announced the creation of a political party.
Reppas said the government feels no concern over the initiatives of other officials, adding that "what concerns us is to carry out our mission with success."
Referring to the main opposition New Democracy party, Reppas said it is in a state of permanent crisis, it is unable to overcome its internal contrasts and it has failed to prepare a reliable program after its successive election defeats.
 Papandreou begins first official visit by Greek foreign minister to Nepal
KATMANDU, 20/12/2000 (ANA - D. Konstantakopoulos)Beginning the first ever-official visit to Nepal by a Greek foreign minister on Tuesday, George Papandreou had a series of meetings with the leadership of this Himalayan country, one of the poorest in the world.
In statements to the ANA, Nepalese Foreign Minister Chakra Prasad Banstola said that his country looked to Greece to become Nepal's voice within the European Union, from which it seeks access for its products to European markets and not just "rhetoric for the poor".
"We are trying to combine ways of dealing with the problems of globalization and the challenge of development," he added.
Sandwiched between rival nuclear powers China, India and Pakistan, mountainous Nepal tries to keep equal distances from Beijing and New Delhi, even though there are closer cultural links to India. Asked about the nuclear rivalry between his neighbors, Banstola said only:
"We live in the shadow of nuclear powers. We hope that an Asian nuclear arms race does not begin."
Nepal also seeks the EU's intervention with its neighbor Bhutan, which it accuses of trying to drive out its ethnic Nepalese community and for this reason refusing to take back tens of thousands of Bhutanese refugees currently living in camps within Nepal's borders.
With regard to Greek-Nepalese bilateral relations, Katmandu invited investments in hydroelectric projects, where it estimates a capacity that would allow the eventual export of electricity to China and India.
It also invited Greek participation in upcoming telecoms privatization tenders and in the tourism sector.
For its part, Nepal supported Athens in its unsuccessful candidacy to become a member of the UN Security Council and pledges to support it again in 2005, while it is also interested in Athens' support for its own candidacy in 2007.
Finally, Papandreou and Banstola discussed cultural and tourism issues.
FM comments on Cyprus on Nepal visit: Greece's foreign minister George Papandreou on Tuesday said Greece condemned recent moves by the Turkish occupation troops on Cyprus.
"We condemn those moves. We will brief all the authoritative organizations, beginning with the UN and the European Union, on the matter," Papandreou said in Katmandu, while on an official visit to Nepal.
Tension rose in the mixed Cypriot town of Pyla, located in the UN-controlled buffer zone surrounded by Greek Cypriots on the south, Turkish Cypriots on the north and British sovereign base areas on the east, on the weekend after Turkish troops constructed new fortifications in the area.
The tension was further fuelled on Monday following reports that Turkish occupation troops had threatened to shoot Greek Cypriot journalists from filming the fortifications.
"These moves indicate the impasse of the Turkish side in front of the new state of affairs, the international and European demand for a solution of the Cyprus issue, and Cyprus' positive course towards EU membership," Papandreou said.
"We expect that it will finally be realized that such an attitude does not conform with the new framework in Turkey-EU relations," the Greek foreign minister said.
Papandreou also called for radical changes within ruling PASOK so that it could reflect the political concerns of the younger generation.
Noting the distance of current party mechanisms, which were based on the experiences of the post-dictatorship political era, from the concerns and expectations of citizens, particularly the young, he called for "more participatory and political processes".
Continuing, he said the problem was not whether PASOK could have a "twin leadership" and said it would be a mistake for the party to focus on this issue. Making an indirect reference to the new party currently under formation by Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, he said that PASOK had the potential to express a wide population base, to evolve, to modernize and to address the feelings of young people that the parties did not represent them.
Asked about his relations with Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Papandreou underlined that he did not feel doubted by the defense minister, that they worked well together and supported each other within the framework of the government's collective operation.
 Interior minister makes proposals on way of financing political parties
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Vasso Papandreou has submitted a series of proposals on the way of financing political parties, both by the state budget and private sources, to the Special Interparty Committee.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Costas Simitis in his capacity as PASOK leader, she called on him to appoint a representative of his in the committee which will function under her presidency and will include representatives of all parties represented in the national and European Parliament to ensure that "our legislation and the way of implementing settlements anticipated will consolidate transparency and reliability."
She also said in her letter that the aim is to "achieve the greatest possible consensus" on the issue in question.
Papandreou's proposals anticipate regular annual financing amounting for all parties to 1.2 0/00 of the state budget's regular revenues.
 Central bank to cut rates next week before euro-zone entry
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)The Bank of Greece, or central bank, is to lower its key short-term intervention rates by 1.0 percentage point next week as the final step in a long-term monetary alignment plan before the country's entry into the euro zone on January 1, 2001.
The decline will bring drachma rates to roughly the same level as their euro-zone equivalents. The central bank's base rate currently stands at 5.75 percent.
The central bank's monetary council met on Tuesday but did not announce a rate decline, as anticipated.
The bank's key short-term intervention rates are currently as follows:
Premier meets central bank governor: Prime minister Costas Simitis met Tuesday with Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos and discussed issues related to monetary policy and the operation of the Greek banking system within the euro zone.
After the one-hour meeting, Papademos told reporters that the central bank's anticipated reduction of key intervention rates by one percent would be effected in a one-off reduction either later Tuesday or next week.
This will be the final rate reduction to bring Greece rates in line with the rest of the euro zone, which the country formally joins on January 1, 2001.
 KKE addresses Europarliament president on attack on political detainees in Turkey
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Central Committee member and Eurodeputy Stratis Korakas on Tuesday ad-dressed a letter to European Parliament President Nicole Fontain concerning the attack by the Turkish military and police against political detainees.
"This policy is contrary to the UN's Ecumenical Proclamation and the European Human Rights Accord, as well as to the Turkish government's commitments with the Council of Europe and the European Parliament's decisions," Korakas said.
He urged her to call on the Turkish authorities to stop such inhuman operations and satisfy the political detainees' fundamental request not to be incarcerated in the white isolation cells and request their release.
In a related development, KKE denounced the attack by the Turkish police at 20 prisons holding political detainees who are protesting detention conditions and their incarceration in the white cells.
KKE once again expressed solidarity for political detainees held in Turkish prisons, who have been on hunger strike for two months, and called on the Greek people to strengthen their protest and solidarity over their continuing detention.
The Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) party likewise denounced "the crude attack by Turkey's security forces against political detainees, resulting in fatalities including women."
The Coalition also denounced the effort to eliminate political detainees in the notorious "white cells."
"Only a few weeks after the signing of Turkey's partnership agreement by the European Union's foreign ministers, the Turkish regime is trampling on both its political detainees and the Copenhagen criteria which demand respect for human rights, minorities and democratic freedoms in candidate countries," the party added.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos responds to recent criticism
ISTANBUL, 20/12/2000 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Addressing Greek pilgrims to the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate on Tuesday, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos asked them to be "witnesses and ambassadors of the spiritual experiences of the Great Church of Christ."
In a sermon to a group of pilgrims attending mass at the Church of St Sebastian on the saint's holiday, Patriarch Vartholomeos asked them to convey the message that "in Istanbul, around the Ecumenical Patriarchate, another morality prevails; that people there have a different view of the world, a different life theory, another way of thinking."
"This may be why we receive the flaming darts of the sly one even from those of our own doctrine, our own people," he added, drawing an analogy between the attacks aimed against the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the arrows that killed the martyr St. Sebastian.
"The Church of Constantinople through the ages has received the flaming darts of the sly one, who has used as his instruments various people over time, sometimes foreigners of different faith and doctrine and at other times those of the same nationality, faith and doctrine," Vartholomeos said.
"The Church receives these evil darts because it preferred not to be identified with this world, even though it lives within this world, but to express another morality, to preach other values, to live in a different way," he said, adding that it would continue to remain true to these principles and experiences, to its true and authentic demeanor.
In an unrelated development the Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate were working to resolve existing problems between them before the New Year, sources here said, on Tuesday.
Apparently the two churches are in disagreement over the status of the Estonian Orthodox Church, since the independence of that former Soviet republic the Orthodox Church there made overtures toward the Ecumenical Patriarchate, departing from the Russian Patriarchate.
The efforts toward rapprochement between the two churches aim at the participation of the Moscow Patriarch at the "Gathering of Orthodox Patriarchs" due on Dec. 25 in Istanbul.
 Relevant committee satisfied with development of identity card issue
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)The Control and Transparency Committee responsible for handling the issue of identity cards, including senior magistrates, jurists and university professors, convened at Petraki Monastery on Tuesday for a briefing by the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Ierotheos on the process of collecting signatures in support of a referendum being held on whether or not religion should be registered in new identity cards.
Ierotheos said that the Signature Collection Process Committee ascertained once again that Greek citizens are responding in numbers and with enthusiasm to the invitation of the Church. He did not mention a specific figure of signatures collected so far but said they exceed two million and that a strategy exists.
He also said that the Control and Transparency Committee has ascertained the appropriateness and comprehensiveness of the process applied to date and expressed its satisfaction over the very positive development of the issue in general.
 Tsohatzopoulos to make one-day visit to Bosnia on Wednesday
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos will meet Greek officers participating in the Greek Force in Bosnia (ELDYB) to maintain peace in the republic in the framework of a one-day visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday.
Tsohatzopoulos will visit ELDYB's headquarters in Visoko, where he will dine with its members and exchange gifts and greetings with them on the occasion of the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Earlier, he will be having successive meetings in Sarajevo with the federal government's Defense Minister Miroslav Pirlic, Alternate Minister Sakib Machmoulin, Foreign Minister Yiabranco Pirlic and the members of the federation's three-member presidency.
Tsohatzopoulos will also visit SFOR's headquarters at the Budmir army camp and meet with the force's commanding officer Lieutenant General Michael Dodson.
 Skandalidis to open Thessaloniki seminar on local government on Wednesday
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)PASOK Central Committee Secretary Costas Skandalidis will be speaking at a seminar on "Local government in the 21st century - Thessaloniki's prospects" that is being organized on Wednesday by the Local Government Sector of the PASOK's Prefectural Committee in Thessaloniki.
The seminar will be held at the "Electra Pallas" and begin at 19:00 local time.
Other speakers will be Deputy Interior Minister Costas Kaiserlis.
 Central bank sets monetary policy tools for euro-zone entry
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)The central bank on Tuesday issued a decree that sets the monetary tools it will be able to use after Greece enters the euro zone on January 1, 2001.
Among the tools listed in the decree by the Bank of Greece's monetary policy council are reverse transactions, currency swaps and standing facilities.
The tools are used by the eleven other central banks of the euro-zone's member-states, under the European Central Bank.
 New passenger shipping company to activate itself soon in the Saronic area
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)A new passenger shipping company, the "Argosaronicos Shipping Company SA", intends to activate itself in the Saronic area soon, after the Shipping Communications Advisory Committee recently approved the granting of two operating licenses.
A general assembly of shareholders decided an increase in share capital and the purchase of two ships capable of reaching speeds of up to 28-30 knots and of carrying 450 passengers.
Capital requested to complete the purchase of the two ships amounts to 3.5 billion drachmas. It was decided that two billion drachmas will be found from subsidies and loaning, while the remaining 1.5 billion through the participation of shareholders. The company's first general assembly was attended by 80 percent of the shareholders.
 Greek industrialists set up trade group for listed firms
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)The Federation of Greek Industry has created a new trade group to represent firms quoted on the Athens Stock Exchange, at their request.
Member firms on Monday signed the founding statutes of the Union of Athens Stock Exchange Listed Companies.
 Citizens will be able to communicate electronically with Greek Tourist Organization as of March 1, 2001
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)Citizens will be able to communicate with services of the Greek Tourist Organization (EOT) electronically as of March 1, 2001, while until June 2001 all of EOT's correspondence (inland and with third parties) will be expedited both electronically and in printed form.
As of June 1, 2001 onwards-inland correspondence will only be conducted electronically, while communication with citizens will be both in electronic and printed form.
EOT's Secretary General Evgenios Yiannakopoulos on Tuesday announced the organizations entry into the digital economy era and presented the integrated informatics system created and installed at EOT.
Yiannakopoulos said that in the framework of the 3rd Community Support Framework a study would be prepared on the specialized software, which will be required to enable the entire system of license giving to be provided in electronic form as well as of January 1, 2002.
The Integrated Informatics System project cost 459 million drachmas and its completion was undertaken by the Sysware company after an international auction was held.
 Financial Crimes Unit to step up market inspections against excessive prices, especially for meat
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)The Financial Crimes Unit (SDOE) announced on Tuesday that it would increase market inspections during the holiday season, as well as checks on tax offices and trade ministry services.
During a meeting between Deputy Finance Minister Apostolos Fotiadis and Deputy Development Minister Milena Apostolaki on Tuesday, which was also attended by SDOE's outgoing special secretary George Kanellopoulos and meat importers and traders, it was decided that 500 SDOE officers and tax inspectors would organize daily market inspections throughout the holiday season in order to stamp out profiteering and excessive profit-taking. On a national level, the number of inspectors will total 2,000.
Inspections will cover the entire chain of supply, from production to retail sales, and will be even more intense around Christmas because of the high demand for meat.
Fotiadis asked meat importers and traders to cooperate in efforts to stamp out profiteering and excessive prices, reminding them that meat prices would also determine the eventual course of inflation in the country.
 Hellenic Railways to launch new routes
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)Hellenic Railways Organization on Thursday is to launch new routes linking Athens to Trikala and Karditsa to Trikala.
The Athens to Trikala connection will be by high-speed Intercity trains, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
 Shares slump in thin trade
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)Equities on the Athens Stock Exchange finished lower on Tuesday with sentiment down in low turnover and a lack of buying interest.
The Athens general index finished 1.90 percent lower at 3,462.48 points, with turnover at 71.92 billion drachmas.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks closed 1.87 percent down, while the FTSE/ASE 40 index for medium capitalization shares fell by 2.35 percent.
Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: -1.81% Leasing: -5.46% Insurance: -4.14% Investment: -1.97% Construction: -2.03% Industrials: -1.52% Miscellaneous: -2.75 Holding: -2.54
The parallel market for smaller capitalization stocks ended 2.87 percent down.
Of 355 shares traded, declines led advances at 301 to 43 with 11 remaining unchanged.
Main closing share prices (in drachmas): National Bank: 13,805 Alpha Bank: 13,000 Eurobank: 7,490 Lambrakis Press: 5,445 Hellenic Petroleum: 3,585 Commercial Bank: 17,400 Intracom: 8,420 Hellenic Telecoms: 5,735 Titan Cement (c): 13,860
Equity futures end down, tracking Athens bourse: Equity futures traded on the Athens Derivatives Exchange finished lower on Tuesday, in line with the bourse indices on which they are based.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 1.87 percent down, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 2.35 percent lower.
Turnover was 14.3 billion drachmas.
A total of 3,052 contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 20 with turnover at 12.3 billion drachmas.
On the FTSE/ASE 40 index, 1,130 contracts changed hands on turnover of 1.8 billion drachmas.
Bond prices drop in brisk trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Tuesday finished lower in heavy trade.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.482 percent from 5,474 percent in the previous session.
The Greek paper's yield spread over German bunds was 61 basis points, the same as a day earlier.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 215 billion drachmas from 54 billion drachmas in the session before.
Sell orders accounted for the bulk of trade.
Drachma ends flat vs. euro, down vs. dollar: The drachma on Tuesday ended flat against the euro and lower versus the US dollar in the domestic foreign exchange market.
At the central bank's daily fixing, the euro was set at 340.750 drachmas, the same as in the two previous sessions.
Also at the fix, the dollar was set at 383.500 drachmas from 380.630 drachmas a trading day earlier.
Yield drops in T-bill auction: The average weighted yield on twelve-month treasury bills auctioned by the government on Tuesday fell sharply to 4.59 percent from 5.26 percent in the last auction, the finance ministry's public debt management agency said.
Auctioned to the market's primary dealers were 50 billion drachmas of paper, the debt management agency said in a statement.
Offers totalled 118 billion drachmas in the sale, which was 2.36 times oversubscribed.
 Gov't appoints special secretary for information society
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)The national economy ministry has appointed Yorgos Papakonstantinou as special secretary for the information society, a newly created post.
Papakonstantinou, who worked for 10 years at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, will be responsible for handling projects funded under the European Union's Third Community Support Framework.
Prime Minister Costas Simitis endorsed the appointment.
 EU ministers discuss noise, electronic goods caused pollution
BRUSSELS, 20/12/2000 (ANA - B. Demiris)The two-day meeting of the European Union council of environment ministers begun on Tuesday, with noise pollution and electronic and electric goods refuse management.
Greek Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Deputy Minister Ilias Efthimiopoulos represented Greece in the meeting.
On the issue of noise pollution the council decided to adopt a directive to resolve relevant problems by undertaking measures for the medium and long-term noise pollution management in member-states.
The council also decided on a directive mandating the separate collection of refuse containing electrical and electronic materials by the producers.
 The Onassis foundation announces series of scientific lectures
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)The Onassis Foundation on Tuesday announced a series of lectures on physics, biology, chemistry, information systems and mathematics, for professionals, during a press conference in Athens.
The "Onassis Foundation Science Lectures" aim at the continuing education of Greek scientists and university students and will take place every summer in Iraklion, Crete over the period of a week.
Noted international scientists will be invited to deliver lectures on the aforementioned subjects.
Government satisfied tension in village of Pyla is starting to defuse
NICOSIA, 20/12/2000(CNA)The Cyprus government on Tuesday appeared satisfied with the fact that tensions in a village east of the island, bordering the Turkish-occupied areas and inhabited by both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, are starting to defuse.
Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou told his daily briefing that it seems the Turkish occupation forces have stopped constructing new military posts in Pyla, but underlined that the government insists on its demand that everything illegally constructed is destroyed.
"Tension is starting to defuse and the government is trying to reinforce this," he said. Papapetrou noted that "as a result of the government's representations and consultations with UNFICYP (UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus), it appears that the Turks have stopped the construction of new positions and outposts."
However, he underlined "the government demands that whatever was illegally built is destroyed."
Replying to questions, he said visits to the village by political party leaders and government ministers have helped defuse tensions. on Monday, General Secretary of left-wing AKEL party Demetris Christofias visited Pyla, calling on all to safeguard the peaceful coexistence of the two communities in the village.
President of the Social Democrats' Movement Vassos Lyssarides and Vice President of the Democratic Party Nicos Kleanthous were scheduled to visit the village on Tuesday.
Foreign Affairs and Interior Ministers, Ioannis Kasoulides and Christodoulos Christodoulou, also visited Pyla on Sunday.
The Cyprus government also reiterated its support to UNFICYP's mission to maintain the status quo in the buffer zone.
Pyla borders the areas of Cyprus occupied by Turkey since its troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of its territory in 1974 and is one of two villages where both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots continue to live together.
The Turkish occupation troops are placed on a small hill right above the village, from where Turkish Cypriots living in Pyla have access to the occupied north.
Government expresses optimism abducted Greek Cypriot will be released
NICOSIA, 20/12/2000 (CNA)The government has expressed cautious optimism that a Greek Cypriot, abducted by the Turkish occupation forces, would be released.
"We continue our efforts and there is some optimism Panicos Tziakourmas would be freed", government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said here on Tuesday, but avoided any comment on the specific steps the government is taking towards this goal.
He said on Tuesday morning President Glafcos Clerides informed Tziakourmas' wife, Niki, on government moves on the issue.
Tziakourmas, a building contractor by trade, was abducted last week as he waited for Turkish Cypriot workers to cross from the Turkish occupied areas into the British Bases area to ferry them to their place of work, as he used to do on a daily basis.
"The President informed me about the concerted efforts to free my husband. He was understanding to my concerns that Panicos should be with his family at Christmas", Niki told the press after meeting the President.
She said the president confirmed to her that British High Commissioner to Cyprus Edward Clay had told him her husband was indeed abducted within the Bases area.
Britain has retained two military bases on the island after it granted independence to Cyprus in 1960 as part of the treaties that established the Republic.
"The President is concerned with this matter and has taken it up with party leaders", she added.
Replying to questions, she said her husband, who is suffering from diabetes, is in a bad state of health and his morale is at rock bottom.
 US reaffirm support for Cyprus talks
Athens, 20/12/2000 (ANA)The United States reaffirmed late Monday its support of the UN-sponsored talks for resolving the Cyprus issue, and called on Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to attend the next round of proximity talks slated for next month in Geneva.
"We perceive that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has invited the two leaders to return to Geneva to continue this process of talks that will resume in January," US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said.
"We believe that the interests of the Turkish Cypriots and of Turkey are better served with the continuation of the UN process, which we strongly support," Reeker said.
Annan has invited Cyprus president Glafcos Clerides and Denktash to a sixth round of proximity talks in Geneva in January.