|Tuesday, 23 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-11-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>November 22, 2002
 PM deplores lack of progress on Euroforce issue at Prague
PRAGUE 22/11/2002 (ANA - V. Mourtis)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Thursday deplored the lack of progress on the Euroforce issue at the historic NATO summit in Prague, which opened the Alliance's doors to seven former Eastern Bloc countries.
Simitis said it was ''not positive'' that NATO had failed to take advantage of the opportunity to regulate military cooperation with the EU.
During Thursday's summit, Turkey once again blocked an agreement for EU-NATO military cooperation based on the EU Brussels decision. This text was a significant departure from that of the so-called 'Ankara document' drafted collaboratively by the United States, Britain and Turkey but opposed by Athens.
Instead, NATO leaders adopted an EU proposal for a joint military exercise between NATO and EU forces in 2003 and approved the start of the necessary processes and preparations, though a final decision on whether and when it will be carried out is still pending.
According to Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, this was due to an issue raised by the Turkish ambassador to the meeting.
Commenting on the results of the summit, the Greek premier said it had focused on NATO expansion and the Alliance's role at a time when international relations and technology were constantly changing and the world was faced with new threats, such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
The decision to admit seven new countries that were once behind the Iron Curtain, proved that the division of the world into two camps was a thing of the past, Simitis said.
In a historic decision on Thursday in Prague, the same city where the decision to break up the Warsaw Pact was taken a few years ago, NATO decided to admit Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, spreading NATO's security guarantee from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
Simitis said NATO leaders had unanimously agreed to set up a 20,000-strong NATO Response Force, designed to deal with high-intensity warfare and sustained operations in far-flung locations. An important condition for this to be carried through to completion, however, was a final settlement of EU-NATO military cooperation, he added.
The Greek premier said that Athens recognized the need to increase the NATO's defense capability and overall defense spending but underlined that Greece was already allocating 5 per cent of GDP to defense procurements and did not have any margins to rise spending on arms beyond its present levels.
He also called for equal participation and representation of all NATO member-states in the new streamlined command structure for the Alliance decided during Thursday's summit.
 PM Simitis' meetings with Bush, Sezer on sidelines of NATO summit in Prague
PRAGUE 22/11/2002 (ANA - V. Mourtis)Prime Minister Costas Simitis held separate bilateral talks with US president George Bush and Turkish president Ahmet Necdet Sezer late Wednesday on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Prague.
Diplomatic sources said the half-hour meetings with Bush and Sezer were "friendly" and focused on Greece and its prospects.
During the formal dinner hosted by the Czech president for the summit leaders, Simitis further had "substantive political talks" with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, the sources said.
The sources said that the leaders briefed Simitis on Turkey's positions vis-a-vis the Cyprus issue and the Euro-force, as well as on Ankara's aspiration to secure, from the EU summit in Copenhagen, a date for commencement of negotiations for Turkey's EU accession.
Blair, who recently had spoken with the winner of the Turkish elections, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was more informative on the Turkish views, the sources said, as during their talks Erdogan had put forward as a "package" deal the simultaneous arrangement of Cyprus' EU accession, resolution of the Cyprus problem, and setting a date for commencement of EU-Turkey accession negotiations.
The sources said that Simitis did not deny that Greece could contribute to finding a solution on Turkey's request for the commencement of accession negotiations with the EU. The diplomatic sources opined, however, that given the objections of several EU member states, what could feasibly be achieved at the Copenhagen summit was the determination of a date for the EU to discuss and decide on the Turkish request for a date for the commencement of accession negotiations.
Simitis clarified that Greece's stance on this issue hinged on the stance that Turkey would take on UN secretary general Kofi Annan's proposals and the issue of the European rapid reaction force.
New meetings: Prime Minister Costas Simitis discussed the European Union's Copenhagen summit, the Cyprus issue, the setting of a date for the beginning of EU accession negotiations with Turkey and the European army issue in talks with NATO leaders during the alliance's two-day summit which got underway here on Thursday.
Simitis met US President George W. Bush on Wednesday and is expected to meet him again either on Thursday or Friday.
He also held talks with Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on Wednesday night, focusing on the Cyprus issue, Cyprus' accession to the EU and Turkey's request for a date to be set for accession negotiations to begin.
Referring to the Cyprus plan submitted by the UN secretary general, Sezer said time limits are very narrow and Turkey does not have adequate time to examine the proposals by the time the Copenhagen summit starts. He also invoked the illness of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and that he has to recover first.
On the question of the so-called European army, Sezer expressed certain reservations, without mentioning anything specific, adding that Turkey wants certain clarifications on the issue.
Neither was it clarified on Thursday where exactly Turkey disagrees, while it blocked a relevant decision being taken.
Sezer called on Simitis to support the setting of a date for Turkey's accession negotiations at the Copenhagen summit, claiming that the EU should provide this date.
The Greek prime minister's reply was ''I explained to him that he cannot want everything.''
Turkey's position on the European army issue is evidently affecting the EU's stance on the issue of setting a date for negotiations to get started, as Simitis conceded in statements he made.
Greek delegation sources said Turkey's position on the European army issue eliminates one of the two preconditions set for a favorable examination of its request for a date to be set without, however, it being certain that the Europeans would have set the date called for by Turkey.
The second precondition concerned progress in finding a solution to the Cyprus problem. Simitis said that in his contacts the view of all leaders of EU member-states on the Cyprus issue is that they desire the process for a solution to go ahead and, consequently, Turkey to agree to the beginning of relevant negotiations. They do not want obstructionism on the Cyprus issue, nor do they accept Turkey's tactic of having the issue discussed indefinitely.
Greek delegation sources said if Turkey takes no decision by the Copenhagen summit on a solution to the Cyprus issue, the most it can claim at the EU's summit is a date on which the date for the beginning of EU-Turkish negotiations can begin.
There, they added, Turkey will be called on to prove that it has achieved progress on a series of issues, first of which will be the Cyprus issue.
The sources further said in the event there is no solution to the Cyprus issue until the Copenhagen summit, then Cyprus' accession will be considered a given fact.
The EU's relevant decision will contain a protocol, as part of the accession treaty, which will mention the accession of all of Cyprus and that the northern part will fully join when the problem of Cyprus has been resolved and in accordance with the East German model.
 Copenhagen summit will simply ratify Cyprus' accession, Hytiris says
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)The decision to let Cyprus join the European Union had effectively been taken already and would merely be ratified by the Copenhagen summit, government spokesman Telemachos Hytiris said on Thursday.
Hytiris was standing in for Press Minister Christos Protopapas, who has accompanied Prime Minister Costas Simitis to the NATO summit in Prague.
The spokesman also noted that Greece had its positions and was prepared to exercise its rights if anything untoward should take place at the EU summit.
With respect to Turkey, Hytiris said that Athens would not accept any 'packages' that Ankara might try to submit in Copenhagen and that Turkey would be judged by its present response to the United Nations plan for Cyprus and its stance at the NATO summit regarding the planned European military force.
''The decisions must be taken now. Afterwards it will be too late,'' Hytiris stressed.
Asked about Wednesday announcement about the UN plan by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece, Hytiris said this did not attempt to give guidelines to the country's political leadership.
The announcement had strongly criticized the set of proposals put forward by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, saying that they did not appear to constitute a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem.
Hytiris said Greeks were now being called on to support the decisions made by the Cypriot National Council and Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, who had the most intimate knowledge of the issues, the difficulties and negotiations.
The Greek government and political parties had already done this, he added.
 ND's Political Council discusses Cyprus
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)The main opposition New Democracy party on Thursday expressed fears over an attempt at packaging Cyprus' accession to the European Union, a solution to the political problem, the European army and the date requested by Turkey for the beginning of accession negotiations with the EU.
Members of the party's Political Council, which convened under the chairmanship of party leader Costas Karamanlis, confirmed ND's strategy and policy, saying that in no way can Greece accept whatever term or precondition for Cyprus' accession to the EU.
Karamanlis said the plan for a settlement of the Cyprus issue, as it appears, is a painful compromise and tough negotiations are necessary on workability, the acquis communautaire and settlers.
He added that a solution to the Cyprus issue should be separated completely from Cyprus' accession, while in the event a solution is not achieved it is a given fact that Cyprus will join the EU without terms and preconditions.
Former prime minister and ND honorary president Constantine Mitsotakis said if there are terms and preconditions it will be unfortunate and harmful for both Greece and Cyprus.
He noted that if the plan does not go ahead by Turkey's fault, the path for Cyprus to enter Europe is open.
Referring to Ankara's position, Mitsotakis said it might be due to objective difficulties or to negotiation handling.
 Erdogan calls an ''offense'' the possibility that EU does not set date for Turkey
STRASBOURG 22/11/2002 (ANA - O. Tsipira)Turkish Justice and Development party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday called an ''offense'' to the whole of the Islamic world the possibility that Turkey may not be given a set date for the initiation of EU accession negotiations during the Copenhagen Summit.
Erdogan arrived here on Thursday and the same afternoon met with Europarliament President Pat Cox and the leaders of the political groups, while following his meetings he held a press conference.
''If in Copenhagen they decide not to set a date, it will be an offense, not only against Turkey, but against the whole of the Islamic world. This element they should take into consideration,'' Erdogan said, during the press conference.
''We will maintain our good will and our good intentions. I would like to say, however, that Turkey is the only country, where the majority of the population is Islamic and there is a message to send here. If this date is given to Turkey, new horizons will open for the whole of the Islamic world,'' he said.
''You know that there is talk of the conflict of civilizations, instead of a conflict of civilizations, it would be good to show that we are building for the first time on the ruins of the past,'' he stressed.
''There are shortcomings, which we are ready to cover,'' he concluded.
 Gov't slams main opposition's economic criticism as 'populist'
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)Responding to a series of attacks by main opposition New Democracy over its economic policies, the government on Thursday accused ND of 'rampant populism' and of having its eye fixed on general elections that were still a year and a half away.
Deputy Press Minister Telemahos Hytiris particularly focused on statements by ND spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos about low inheritance taxes for businesses. Describing the statements as a 'grave mistake', he noted that the lower tax targeted some 750,000 small to medium-sized businesses on the Greek market, which the government wanted to support.
He also noted that the Greek economy had shown stability and growth in the past few years, while pointing to an OECD report that predicted 4 per cent GDP growth for Greece in 2003.
Hytiris was standing in for government spokesman Christos Protopapas, who has accompanied Prime Minister Costas Simitis to the NATO summit in Prague.
 Ratification of US-Greece technical agreement postponed
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)Parliament's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday postponed a vote for the ratification of a Comprehensive Technical Agreement (CTA) between the United States and Greece, asking to be shown previous agreements on this issue with the US as well as similar agreements between the US and third countries, such as Italy, Spain and Turkey.
The request was accepted by Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos.
The agreement had been signed between US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou on June 13, 2001.
It consolidates a number of provisions regarding the status of U.S. forces in Greece, currently contained in numerous bilateral agreements supplementary to the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed in 1951, and incorporates counterpart SOFA provisions that deal with the status of Greek forces in the United States. The Greek CTA was envisioned as the final piece of three major agreements regulating the defense relationship with Greece. The other two major agreements already in force are the NATO SOFA and the 1990 Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA), which updated US basing arrangements in Greece and established the requirement to negotiate and sign the CTA. The counterpart SOFA provisions, incorporated in Part II of the agreement, deal with the status of Greek forces in the United States.
Committee member and former minister Theodoros Pangalos, a ruling PASOK MP for Attica, caused a stir by suggesting that ratification of the CTA be postponed in order to send a 'message' to the US government. Pangalos said the Greek government needed to show its displeasure over an unofficial document sent to all EU foreign ministries apart from Greece by Washington, which called for establishing a firm date for the start of accession negotiations with Turkey at the next EU General Affairs Council.
Pangalos also claimed that the CTA in its present form contained more provisions that were unfavorable to Greece then the agreement negotiated while he was minister.
 Alternate FM departs for Morocco for talks with officials
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis on Thursday departed for Morocco, where he is due to meet with the country's Prime Minister Driss Jettou, Foreign Minister Mohamed Benaissa and his counterpart Taib Fassi Fihri.
During his stay in the North African country Yiannitsis will also meet with Moroccan Economy Minister Fath' Allah Oualalou and Agriculture Minister Mohand Laenser.
The agenda of Yiannitsis' talks include bilateral relations, the relations between Morocco and the European Union, which will be analyzed in light of Greece's EU presidency, as well as issues related to the EU-Africa Summit which will take place during the Greek presidency.
 Lord Mayor of London in Athens this month
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)The Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman Gavyn Arthur, will visit Athens later this month at the head of a business delegation, with several high-profile contacts with Greek leadership scheduled during his stay.
During his visit, Arthur will be received by Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and other senior Greek government officials, with talks expected to focus on Athens’ EU presidency in the first half of 2003, and especially on its positions vis-a-vis financial services issues, a crucial sector for the British capital.
According to a press release issued on Thursday by the British embassy in Athens, Arthur will also address a business luncheon on Nov. 25 organized by the British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce on the theme, “The City of London: a European Asset”. He will also serve as the keynote speaker at an Economist Conferences’ Nov. 26 event entitled, “The 2004 Paralympic Games Summit”.
Other meetings on the Lord Mayor’s itinerary are scheduled with out-going Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos and Mayor-elect Dora Bakoyianni.
 Minister says EU should transform towards federal direction
NICOSIA 22/11/2002 (ANA - C. Poulidou)Finance and Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, speaking in the University of Cyprus' auditorium on Thursday, stressed the need for the European Union to transform towards a federal direction, meaning with a strengthened European identity and conscience.
''A globally powerful EU can handle certain unfavorable repercussions of globalization,'' he said, adding that this necessitates consolidating political union, turning the euro into a global reserve currency (in parallel to the dollar) and maintaining the Stability and Development Treaty.
Referring to the EU's Greek presidency, in the first half of 2003, Christodoulakis said that over this period enlargement and institutional reforms will be underway in the framework of a difficult economic conjuncture.
He added that the Greek presidency will aim at further progress in the direction of strengthening enterprise, developing the European economy of knowledge, deepening the single European market, seeking more and better jobs and consolidating policies strengthening solidarity and social cohesion.
 Interior minister's proposal for EU Senate finds fertile ground
BRUSSELS 22/11/2002 (ANA - V. Tsiorou)Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis on Thursday expressed his satisfaction for the warm attitude the European Union's Regions Committee showed for his proposal to establish a Senate elected with a direct plebiscite.
Skandalidis' proposal found unanimous approval by the representatives of all parties. However, the minister, during his press conference, said that such a body is far from being instituted, but Europe in its final form should confront issues taking into account the will of the people.
Speaking on the Cyprus problem he said that Greece wishes to see Cyprus enter the EU united in April, adding, however, that this may happen if the island's political problem is solved by then.
 Jerusalem Patriarchate expresses support for people of Cyprus
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem on Thursday issued a press release expressing its full support for the people of Cyprus, noting that it participates in ''the justified agony of the pious Greek Nation for the developments of the national issue that is the resolution of the Cyprus problem''.
 Israeli envoy flatly rejects claims of journalists 'blacklist'
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)Israel’s ambassador to Athens on Thursday flatly denied certain reports over the past few days claiming that the Israeli embassy here has compiled a so-called “black list” of local journalists who promote anti-Semitic views, while instead he pointed to an Athens-based NGO and also condemned what he called a "defamation campaign" against his embassy.
In a letter addressed to Athens Journalists’ Union (ESHEA) President Aristides Manolakos -- with notification to Press Minister Christos Protopapas as well -- Israeli envoy David Sasson stressed that “... in reality these individuals are referring to a report of the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), a NGO that deals with human rights, which has nothing to do with the Embassy of Israel.”
“Last week, the GHM, not the Israeli Embassy, did in fact publish a report about anti-Semitism in Greece. Of course, we are not responsible for the reports of Greek NGOs, and we will not tolerate defamation against our Embassy for positions expressed by other organizations,” Sasson’s letter reads.
 Palestinian envoy holds talks with head of Athens Bar Association
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)Palestinian Ambassador to Athens Abdullah Abdullah on Thursday visited the head of the Athens Bar Association Dimitris Paxinos to exchange view on the Palestinian issue.
The envoy briefed Paxinos on the continuing cycle of blood and violence in Palestine, asking him to send a delegation to witness the situation at close hand.
The two men also set December 20 as the date for a visit to the Palestinian territories by a delegation of lawyers representing the plenary of Greek Bar Association presidents.
 OECD says Greek economy to grow around 4.0 pct in 2003/04
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) forecasts that the Greek economy would grow by around 4.0 percent in 2003 and 2004 and expects stronger private consumption and business investments in the country due to low interest rates, increased job positions and lower taxes over the same period.
In its semi-annual report on the country's economic outlook, the Paris-based organization said that investment activity was expected to increase further with completion of infrastructure projects ahead of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and the continuing inflow of European structural funds.
OECD also forecast that inflation would fall to 3.3 percent in 2003, from an estimated 3.8 percent this year, due to a drop in food and energy prices.
The report said that speedier progress in dealing with structural rigidness in the labor market and speedier deregulation of network industries would contribute in converging Greek incomes with EU averages.
OECD also said that global recovery "is more cautious and less widespread than initial forecasts" although it stressed that there was no danger of falling back to recession.
The Organization expects an 1.5 percent growth rate among its 30 member-states this year, rising to 2.2 percent in 2003 and to 3.0 percent in 2004.
 High-profile London event to focus on Greece's role in SE Europe
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)A bevy of Greece’s top government officials, state-affiliated enterprises’ chiefs and business executives, led by Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, will participate in a conference and series of events in London early next month, part of a high-profile initiative by the British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce.
The conference, entitled “Greece – The Regional Economic Centre in Southeast Europe”, was unveiled on Thursday in the Greek capital by British ambassador to Athens David C.A. Madden.
“We hope to make this an annual event in the British-Greek calendar,” Madden said, while stressing Greece’s significant political and commercial role in southeast Europe as the only European Union member-state in the region. He also cited Athens’ upcoming EU presidency in the first half of 2003 and, of course, the Athens Olympics of 2004.
Besides a keynote speech by Christodoulakis on Dec. 4, other Greek leaders scheduled to address the conference include Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis, National Bank of Greece Governor Theodoros Karatzas and the president of the Athens Stock Exchange, Panayiotis Alexakis.
On the British side, the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman Gavyn Arthur, will open the conference, while Baroness Elizabeth Symons, the minister of state for trade and investment as well as deputy leader of the House of Lords, will focus on the theme of challenges and prospects in bilateral economic cooperation.
The Dec. 3-4 events will be held under the British ambassador's aegis in cooperation with the Confederation of British Industries and the London Stock Exchange. The major sponsor of the event is National Bank of Greece, with BP and the Piraeus Port Authorities also serving as sponsors.
 Larissa farmers lift block from national highway, ending protest
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)Larissa farmers, who drove some 200 tractors and farm machinery blocking on Wednesday the Larissa-Kozani national highway at Tyrnavos, decided on Thursday to postpone their actions, as Agriculture Minister George Drys announced that they will receive 50 per cent of the compensations that were promised to them for damages incurred to their farms.
The damages were reported to the European Union and the farmers were inducted in the FROGY program, but were not compensated to date, thus the minister promised that they will receive half of what they are owed by Christmas.
The damages to crops and livestock happened due to frost in January.
 ETEBA shareholders OK merger with National Bank of Greece
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)Shareholders of National Investment Bank for Industrial Development (ETEBA) on Thursday approved management's proposal of absorption into National Bank of Greece, its parent company and the country's largest bank.
National's shareholders endorsed the move on Wednesday.
The investment bank's operations will be absorbed into National Bank, allowing higher risk to be undertaken, according to the parent bank's management.
Following the absorption of ETEBA's stock, National's shares will rise by 3,790,534 to 231,870,986 in total.
Blue-chip National Bank of Greece also received shareholder approval on Wednesday for absorption of another subsidiary, Banque Nationale de Grece (France).
Management said that the merger was to boost competitiveness, lower costs and give the French operation access to its parent's capital.
 GNTO pavilion receives distinction at tourism exhibition in Shanghai
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)Greece took part in the tourism exhibition China International Travel Mart, Citm in Shanghai from November 14-17, where the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) participated in a 90 sq. meter pavilion along with 21 Greek tourism enterprises as co-exhibitors.
The GNTO pavilion received an honorary distinction for having the best appearance and operation at the exhibition.
Also taking part in the exhibition, with independent pavilions, were two Greek tourism enterprises - Travel Plan and Worldwide Infotravel.
The GNTO distributed 5,000 copies of a two-page color pamphlet in the Chinese language on the themes ''Greece, Beyond Words'', ''Athens 2004'' and ''Cultural Olympiad''.
 Gov't says EU funding package on target
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)Deputy Finance Minister Christos Pachtas said on Thursday that the government was on track in absorbing funds funded under the European Union's Third Community Support Framework package.
Rejecting statements to the contrary a day earlier by the main opposition New Democracy party, Pachtas said in a statement that Greece had received money representing 101 percent of 2001 funding from the EU budget, 14 months before the absorption deadline of December 31, 2003, on average meeting its commitment.
 Traders voice mixed feelings on 2003 budget
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)The National Confederation of Greek Commerce said on Thursday that the government's budget for 2003 was favorable in its attempt to rationalize the economy but would show a deficit.
The trade group said in a statement that tax on small and medium sized enterprises remained high, state spending was still at high levels, and the public debt harbored dangers for growth.
 Greek stocks end to two-month highs on Thursday
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)Greek stocks staged a spectacular recovery in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, helped by renewed buying interest in blue chip stocks.
The general index ended at 1,860.49 points, up 2.16 percent, with turnover an improved 127.9 million euros.
The index surpassed the 1,850 level after almost two months (September 27).
The Food-Beverage sector was only one to suffer losses (0.20 percent), while the Telecommunications, Banks and IT Solution sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day (3.03 percent, 2.97 percent and 2.29 percent, respectively).
Panafon (+6.79%), National Bank (+5.07%) and Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (+3.11%) were major gainers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 289 to 43 with another 37 issues unchanged.
The most heavily traded stocks in value were Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, Football Pools Organization, Panafon, Cosmote, and National Bank of Greece.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 102.4 mln euros Thursday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 102.4 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Sellers outpace buyers on Thursday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 Athens mayor and culture minister discuss Olympics preparations
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)Newly-elected Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni and Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos met on Thursday to discuss improvements to the Greek capital in view of the Athens Olympics in 2004.
Among the issues discussed were the city's overall aspect and functioning, advertising, road works, access for people with special needs and an overhaul of the city centre.
After the meeting, Venizelos announced the formation of a working group to deal with all issues that concerned relations between central government and the Athens municipality.
Bakoyianni said the municipal authority would work closely with the culture ministry on ambitious programs in order to prepare the city to receive the millions of tourists expected to arrive for the Games.
 Large scale security exercise at airport, port in light of 2004 Olympic Games
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)The first large scale readiness exercise by security forces in light of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games begins on Friday.
Taking part in the three-day exercise, to be held at Athens' ''Eleftherios Venizelos'' International Airport and at the port of Piraeus, will be 1,800 police officers and members of other related agencies as well as British experts.
The scenario of the exercise at the airport foresees police intervention of a hijacked plane, while in the port of Piraeus the scenario foresees the taking over of a ship by terrorists and the intervention by special forces.
 Public works minister provides information on major projects
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)Major projects are being built at speedy rates and some of them will be completed sooner than scheduled, according to data presented during a press conference on Thursday by Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou.
The Attica motorway is proceeding speedily and the project is expected to be completed in stages by December 31, 2003, three months earlier than scheduled.
The building of another 31 kilometers of the Egnatia motorway in northern Greece will be completed in 2002 or in early 2003 and will be added on to the 363 kilometers of the motorway already completed.
She said the Egnatia motorway is being built with the most modern safety and convenience specifications, while national and European funds exceeding 3.37 billion euros have been secured.
On the question of the Rio-Antirrio bridge, the recently revised timetable anticipates completion of the project on November 2, 2004, two months earlier than initially planned.
Meanwhile, extensions of the Metro, as recently announced, are being built at a speedy rate and the Monastiraki-Syntagma section will be ready for operation in March.
The Metro network will also be linked to the ''Eleftherios Venizelos'' airport by the 2004 Athens Olympic Games through the suburban railway.
 Reception held in honor of Stephanopoulos on occasion of Armed Forces Day
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)The Hellenic military leadership gave a reception on Thursday evening in honor of President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on the occasion of Armed Forces Day.
Present at the reception, which was held at a central Athens hotel, were, among others, Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis, Deputy defense ministers Loukas Apostolidis and Lazaros Lotidis, former prime minister and honorary president of the main opposition New Democracy party Constantine Mitsotakis, parliamentarians, the leadership of the armed forces and security forces and high-ranking officers of the three branches of the armed forces.
President Stephanopoulos earlier in the day also attended an event at the Old Parliament building on the occasion of Armed Forces Day.
Among those present at the event were Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, the civil and military leadership of the armed forces and parliamentarians.
The event was addressed by Athens University Rector George Babiniotis.
 ''Hellenic Ancient Ports Association'' organizes series of events in Cyprus
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)The ''Hellenic Ancient Ports Association'', now based in Larnaca, Cyprus in cooperation with the Hellenic Culture Foundation organizes a series of cultural events in Cyprus scheduled to open on Sunday and last until the end of the month.
The series of events is entitled ''Art and Science in Europe's 20th century: a comparison of three generations''.
The ''Hellenic Ancient Ports Association'' is composed of mayors of cities around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea that were founded by Greeks in antiquity.
The association is already eight years old and was based up to this day in Agathi of Southern France.
 Greek, Turkish heart-surgeons give new flavor to rapprochement
Athens, 22/11/2002 (ANA)The Greek-Turkish rapprochement found a new venue on Thursday as Greek and Turkish heart-surgeons met in Greece to exchange medical experiences and to implement innovations.
During their exchange visits to Athens and Istanbul, the heart-surgeons of the two countries will conduct surgical operations in common.
One of the points of interest for the Turkish doctors was an improved form of by-pass surgery, which is called pi graft and is used on high risk patients, as it is not especially intrusive.
 Greek woman weightlifter breaks world record in the Clean and Jerk
WARSAW 22/11/2002 (ANA - G. Manteos)Greece's weightlifter Anastasia Tsakiri, 22, broke the world record in the women's 63-kilo category in the Clean and Jerk with a lift of 136 kilos.
Apart from the gold medal in the Clean and Jerk, Tsakiri also won the silver medal in the Snatch and came second in the total with 240 kilos.
 De Soto hopes Turkish Cypriot side will come soon with its reaction
LARNACA 22/11/2002 (CNA/ANA)UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, said on Thursday he hoped the Turkish Cypriot side would come very soon to the UN Chief with its reactions to the plan submitted earlier this month.
In brief statements before departing for The Hague where he will meet Kofi Annan on Friday for consultations on the Cyprus peace process, de Soto also expressed hope there will be a settlement before the Copenhagen European Council on December 12, which will decide about the EU enlargement.
Asked what would happen if things do not progress as planned, de Soto said, ''I can't predict the future but I hope there will be a settlement before that (December 12).''
To a remark that the Turkish Cypriot side has not yet given its reply to the Annan plan, de Soto said ''we believe that time is of the essence and they will come to us with their reactions to the SG's plan very soon.''
The Greek Cypriot side replied Monday to the UN within the requested time framework of seven days from the day the UN proposal was presented on November 11.
However, the Turkish Cypriot side failed to meet Monday's deadline.
Denktash is still recovering in New York since October 7 following open-heart surgery.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of the island's territory.
It is expected to be invited by the Copenhagen EU Summit, along with other nine candidate countries, to join the EU.
 UN still has no answer from Denktash
UNITED NATIONS 22/11/2002 (CNA/ANA)The UN has still received no reply from Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to the plan submitted by the UN Secretary-General for a Cyprus solution.
UN spokesman Stephan Dujarric on Thursday acknowledged they received a letter from Denktash but said he had no information "on what answer was given" to him adding that "the SG's statement a day before yesterday speaks for itself."
Invited to comment on statements Denktash had made Wednesday to a Turkish Cypriot radio station that his answer will be negative, the spokesman said the UN have "not received any answer from the Turkish Cypriot side," adding he did not know if the Secretary General was planning to visit Cyprus next week.
In a statement issued by his spokesman Annan said he was worried by the delay in the start of the talks on his blueprint for a Cyprus settlement, due to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's illness.
 President Clerides receives British envoy
NICOSIA 22/11/2002 (CNA/ANA)President Glafcos Clerides and British special representative for Cyprus Lord David Hannay met here on Thursday morning for over an hour and discussed developments in the peace process, as these emerge following the submission of a UN proposal on a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus.
Hannay reiterated the view he expressed Wednesday after a meeting in Athens with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou. ''We have said there is still time for a settlement,'' Lord Hannay told reporters when asked if there is time to reach agreement on Cyprus before the European Union summit in mid December in Copenhagen.
His visit comes as consultations are taking place among all interested parties in Cyprus on the UN proposal in a bid to begin negotiations and if possible conclude an agreement in principle before the December summit.
President Clerides had said he is ready to negotiate on the basis of the proposal but indicated there are points that need further clarification or amendment.
The working breakfast took place in the presence of senior aides to the President, including Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and Attorney General Alecos Markides and Hannay's team that included British High Commissioner Lyn Parker, his deputy Philip Barton and others.
Kasoulides had an-hour long meeting with Hannay after the working breakfast.
On Friday, he will have a working breakfast with the Attorney General and then cross into the Turkish-occupied part of the island to meet Turkish Cypriot party leaders.
There will also be a briefing of European Union Ambassadors resident in Nicosia before he leaves on Friday night.