|Friday, 19 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-11-25
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>November 25, 2002
 Successful counter-terrorism exercise held for Athens Olympics
Athens, 25/11/2002 (ANA)A government counter-terrorism exercise to prepare for the Athens 2004 Olympics ended successfully on Sunday with players handling a mock airline hijacking at the capital's international airport and a pretend bomb attack against a floating hotel in Piraeus.
''We have demonstrated that when we make the right preparations, when we act with precision, when we handle all contingencies in an incident in the right way, then we emerge victorious,'' Public Order Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis told reporters.
Taking part in the three-day ''Rainbow 2002'' exercise to offer practice in terrorist attacks were more than 1,800 people including members of the police, fire brigade, coast guard, secret services, ambulance service, civil aviation authority, and Olympic Airways.
Hired were extras who played aircraft passengers and guests at the floating hotel, for which a ship was used in port.
The exercise was based on a British model, adapted to local Greek features. Officers from Scotland Yard helped to design and prepare the trial.
''This exercise was the product of at least a year's worth of preparations with British officers from Scotland Yard,' Chrysohoidis said.
''I think that the exercise is one step forward for an even more professional Greek police force, for even better preparation ahead of the Olympics, preparation for the police and other authorities taking part in security for the games,'' he added.
 Netherlands wants to see Cyprus rift solved before EU summit
THE HAGUE 25/11/2002 (ANA/B.Demiris)The Netherlands said on Saturday that interested parties in the Cyprus problem should work to find a solution through talks, preferably before the European Union's Copenhagen summit in December.
''The view of the Netherlands government on the Cyprus question is that interested parties should assume responsibility and hold talks among themselves so that they can find a solution,'' the country's interim prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, told a news conference.
He was speaking after a meeting with visiting Greek premier Costas Simitis, who conducting a diplomatic marathon among European leaders over the Cyprus issue.
Balkenende, who holds his post until national elections on January 22, said that a recent initiative by the United Nations had allowed the chance of a solution to the divided island's political problem.
''I have already stated that finding a solution before the Copenhagen summit could make a decision on Cyprus' entry into the European Union much easier,'' he noted.
''That is why we hope the two sides will assume responsibility and rise to the occasion,'' the prime minister added.
Simitis told the same news conference that Greece hoped for a solution to the Cyprus problem as soon as possible.
''This is because we desire cooperation in the region, and because the problem of Cyprus' partition must finally come to an end,'' he added.
Simitis said that EU member states still had critical decisions to take on enlargement of the 15-nation bloc, which should be made at the Copenhagen summit, and then ratified on April 16 in Athens during Greece's rotating presidency of the EU.
 Greece, Cyprus had no foreknowledge of UN plan
NICOSIA 25/11/2002 (ANA/G.Leonidas)Greece and Cyprus had no knowledge of the contents of a UN blueprint for reunification of the divided island before its official release, the Greek ambassador in Nicosia, Christos Panagopoulos, said on Sunday.
The governments of the two countries were in touch with officials who contributed to the final plan, but they did not divulge its provisions, Panagopoulos told reporters in response to media reports claiming the contrary.
Asked to comment on progress concerning the UN blueprint, the diplomat said that leeway appeared to be negligible in reaching an agreement, due to the Turkish side.
''Efforts by the Greek and Cypriot side are now focused on the second major goal, which is Cyprus' entry into the European Union, and that is where the two governments will give battle,'' Panagopoulos added.
 Opinion Poll: Half of Attica residents back UN Cyprus plan
Athens, 25/11/2002 (ANA)An opinion poll released on Sunday showed that 50.1 percent of Attica residents support a recent UN blueprint as the means of ending the partition of Cyprus.
Backing the plan as a basis for negotiation were 59 percent of respondents, with 44.0 percent saying they were satisfied with the government's handling of the matter, and 50.6 percent disagreeing, according to the survey conducted by Opinion.
Expressing the view that the UN blueprint favored Turkish-Cypriots were 49.3 percent of respondents; 7.9 percent felt that it favored Greek Cypriots; and 27 percent said that the plan was favorable for both sides.
Interviewed for the poll, which was published by the Sunday Eleftherotypia newspaper, were a sample of 1,011 residents of Attica.
 Greece sees Cyprus on brink of EU entry
NICOSIA 25/11/2002 (ANA)Greek Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said that Cyprus was only a hair's breadth away from entry into the European Union, and would join with or without a solution to its political problem.
Greece would continue to act on the island republic's behalf at the 15-nation bloc, ensuring a bright future for the Cypriot economy as an EU member, Christodoulakis told a seminar on enlargement held by the Bank of Cyprus.
Formerly adverse circumstances in Greece and the EU when Cyprus had first applied for membership had been rectified by careful handling in Athens and Nicosia, he said.
In addition, Cyprus' economy had been in poor shape at the time, the minister added.
 Greece says Athens, Nicosia hold key to Turkey's EU entry
NEW YORK 25/11/2002 (ANA/M.Georgiadou)Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis said on Saturday that Athens and Nicosia held Turkey's passport for European Union entry in the neighboring country's bid for membership.
''Turkey's diplomatic passport for entry into the EU is held by Athens and Nicosia,'' Magriotis told ethnic Greek groups in New York.
He quoted Turkey as saying that Greece was not a rival but a key partner.
''Turkey has come to realize that only EU entry will end the impasse in which it finds itself,'' said Magriotis, also citing the country's economic woes.
Magriotis, whose portfolio includes ethnic Greeks abroad, was in New York to attend Cultural Olympics Week and a regional conference of the Council of Overseas Greeks.
Turkey again welcomes UN Cyprus plan ANKARA 25/11/2002 (A.Abatzis)
The newly-appointed Turkish Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul, has welcomed a U.N. peace plan to end partition of the divided island of Cyprus.
''Our government believes that a solution must definitely be found for the Cyprus issue,'' Gul told parliament in a policy statement.
On Sunday, the head of the ruling Justice and Development Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told the CNN Turk television channel: ''Turkey must take very serious steps to solve the problem (of prosperity for Turkish-Cypriots). And that is a single state, supported by two equal and sovereign founding states. The rest can be discussed later.''
 Turkish FM says UN peace plan could be negotiated
NEW YORK 25/11/2002 (CNA/ANA)Turkey's newly appointed Foreign Minister, Yasar Yakis, who met in New York with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to discuss UN Secretary-General's plan for a comprehensive settlement, said on Sunday that the plan ''could be negotiated''.
Yakis' meeting with Denktash lasted one hour and Turkish FM told reporters that he visited Denktash to convey to him the wishes of Turkish Government for an early recovery as well as ''to convey to him the impression we got from our contacts in the European capitals and to exchange views on the plan submitted by Kofi Anan''.
''Our assessment coincide with that of Denktash and we believe that we will work on it and we will achieve something concrete and constructive,'' Yakis said.
Asked by CNA, whether the Turkish Government accepts the UN peace plan as a basis for negotiation, Turkish FM said that ''the plan could be negotiated''.
''Accepting it as a basis for negotiations means one thing in the diplomatic and legal jargon, but we believe that the way of negotiation is open. At least we do not reject the negotiations'', he said.
Yakis was due to have a new meeting with Denktash on Sunday and then depart for the Portuguese capital to meet there with Turkey's leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is visiting Lisbon.
Before leaving from New York, Yakis will meet with US Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Marc Grossman.
The UN Secretary-General put forward to the two parties on November 11 a proposal, which, he said, he believes can form the basis for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
The National Council, comprising parliamentary parties, recommended last Monday by majority vote that President Glafcos Clerides negotiates the UN proposal with a view at finding a political settlement in Cyprus.
The Turkish Cypriot side has yet to reply to Kofi Annan's request to say whether it accepts the proposal as a basis to negotiate an agreement.
 Thomas Miller: US totally supports Anan's peace plan
NEW YORK 25/11/2002 (CNA/ANA)S Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller expressed his country's full support to the UN peace plan for Cyprus, stressing that there is now a better opportunity for a solution.
''We support this plan, there is now a real effort to push it and there is a coincidence with this December 12th date (European Council in Copenhagen)'' Miller said, adding that ''this doesn't mean we don't support Cyprus' accession, it does mean we have a better opportunity if we push that time window now''.
US Ambassador was addressing, over the weekend, as the man of honor, the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) in Manhattan in the framework of the Cultural Olympic Week and the regional US Congress.
Miller stressed that the UN peace plan can serve as a basis for negotiation and for an agreement and it ''protects legally the vital interests of all people in Cyprus''.
He added that although the plan is not perfect it is still a reasonable one and referring to the US efforts for a solution of the Cyprus issue, he said that ''some time the door was closed and we had to look for window. It's never been easy. Now we have got a real opportunity''.
He recalled the ''deal'' pushed forward by former US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke in 1995 with the EU, ''regarding Turkey's EU Customs Union in return for Cyprus' course to the EU.''
''This agreement did not gain a lot of attention back then, but it changed the equation'' Miller said, adding that this deal ''added the new ingredient to inject into the Cyprus equation, to help create a push to solve the problem''.
The US ambassador said that at that time Cyprus' EU accession seemed like a distant prospect, adding that ''December 12 is nearly three weeks from now. It is not a distant prospect and it is a very good move''.
Cyprus is expected to be invited by the Copenhagen EU Summit, along with other nine candidate countries, to join the EU.
 Greek EU presidency wants to help promote peace in Mideast
Athens, 25/11/2002 (ANA)Greece's presidency of the European Union will work to help promote peace in the Middle East during its rotating presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2003.
"Both now and in its EU presidency, Greece will do whatever is possible to contribute to peace in the Middle East, which is in our region," Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis said.
He was speaking in a message to a seminar held on Friday by the Panteios University of Athens.
"Achieving peace requires decisiveness, boldness and political will so that the problems may be overcome and the two peoples may live together peacefully within secure and steady borders," Yiannitsis said.
 Greece, Morocco discuss EU summit with Africa in 2003
Athens, 25/11/2002 (ANA)Greece and Morocco last week discussed a European Union summit with African countries that is due to be held in the first half of 2003 when Athens holds the rotating presidency of the 15-nation bloc.
During a visit to the north African country on November 21, Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis ascertained Morocco's interest in achieving closer ties with the EU.
Yiannitsis, who affirmed Greece's backing for the EU's Mediterranean angle, met officials including the country's prime minister, and ministers of foreign affairs, finance and privatization, and agriculture.
Other topics on the agenda for talks were coordination on illegal migration, the Middle East conflict, Iraq and the need for stability in Africa.
The two countries also agreed to set up a joint business committee to handle programs in the economic sector.
 EU foreign ministers to meet in Alexandroupoli in 2003
Athens, 25/11/2002 (ANA)The European Union's foreign ministers are to meet in Alexandroupoli early in June 2003 at the end of Greece's rotating presidency of the 15-nation bloc, Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos said on Sunday.
The meeting will focus on cooperation for development, including reducing global poverty, Loverdos told reporters during a visit to the northeastern town to monitor preparations for next year's event.
Also attending the June session will be the foreign ministers of 10 countries nearing EU membership, including Cyprus, Loverdos added.
 US: Terrorism no longer stumbling block in ties with Greece
NEW YORK 25/11/2002 (ANA/M.Georgiadou)The US ambassador to Greece, Thomas Miller, said that terrorism was no longer a stumbling block for Washington in its ties with Athens.
''For a long time there was fear and discrimination against Greece,'' Miller told the Council of Overseas Greeks, which awarded him a plaque on Saturday for his role in Greek national issues and contribution to culture.
''This matter (terrorism) will no longer stand as an obstacle in our relations,'' he said.
Many alleged members of the November 17 terrorist group have been remanded in custody pending trial following a string of arrests and confessions since the summer.
Several of the urban guerrilla group's victims were US officials.
 Opposition claims gov't overpaying for Apache helicopters
Athens, 25/11/2002 (ANA)The leader of the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Saturday alleged that the government was knowingly overpaying for Apache helicopters ordered for the armed forces.
''For the same number of helicopters, but better equipped, Kuwait paid 868 million US dollars, while Greece is negotiating a price over 1.0 billion dollars, accompanied by a mark-up after signature,'' ND leader Costas Karamanlis told his party's central committee.
''Concerning procurements for the armed forces, non-transparent and illegal maneuvering will not be allowed to pass,'' Karamanlis said.
A lack of transparency and breaches of legality burdened the tax payer, also creating problems in the operation and efficiency of the armed forced, he added.
Karamanlis also alleged that the government had used rigged procedures for pre-agreed procurements in the search for security systems to be used at the Athens 2004 Olympics.
''Financial interests around supplies for the armed forces have managed to influence government decisions and force painful solutions,'' he added.
Gov't denies wrongdoing in defense procurements: The government on Saturday denied wrongdoing in obtaining defense procurements following allegations by the main opposition party that it was knowingly overpaying for Apache helicopters.
Spokesman Christos Protopappas said that a concrete rebuttal of the charges by New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis would be released on Monday, following a scheduled government meeting on defense.
''Mr Karamanlis is renowned for his struggle to undermine and ruin the country and its achievements on the altar of petty party political interests,'' Protopappas said in a statement.
''However, it is unprecedented and inadmissible to act like this in matters concerning the armed forces and the country's defense; and shameful to use baseless data and inaccuracy to create an artificial shadow over issues of major national significance. This so-called information is completely inaccurate,'' he noted.
Finally, the spokesman said that National Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou had launched a drive to contain defense spending so that savings could be put towards the government's social policy.
Earlier, Karamanlis had told his party's central committee that the state was negotiating a price of more than one billion US dollars for Apache helicopters, accompanied by a mark-up after signature, while Kuwait had paid 868 million US dollars for the same number of craft, which were also better equipped.
He had also alleged the existence of ''rigging'' in defense procurements, including the supply of security systems for the Athens 2004 Olympics.
 Two main trade union groups may unite in five years
Athens, 25/11/2002 (ANA)The country's two largest trade union groups may join forces in five years following a vote held by one of the groups, the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), over the weekend.
The GSEE, which represents nearly a million workers in the private and public sectors, voted to adopt a five-year phased alignment plan with the ADEDY civil servants union that could lead to unification of the two most influential trade union umbrella groups.
GSEE leaders had called the meeting to change the groups' statutes, including unification of sector federations and labor centers on a regional level, and the abolition of tenure limits for the board, motions that were passed.
At the same time, acrimony broke out when trade unionists aligned to the Communist Party of Greece and Coalition of the Left and Progress voted down a motion by ruling PASOK-aligned members to change ''workers'' in the federation's name to ''employees''.
When the proposal fell flat, PASOK-aligned GSEE president Christos Polyzogopoulos stirred passions by accusing the Coalition of supporting alleged members of the November 17 terrorist group, who have been remanded in custody awaiting trial.
In an ensuing rumpus, Polyzogopoulos said he retracted the statement and asked to have the offending phrase removed from the meeting's minutes. But Coalition-aligned delegates stormed out of the meeting in protest.
The motion for a name-change was backed by tendencies aligned to the main opposition New Democracy party, but failed to gain a large enough majority to pass.
 Gas stations, doctors, taxis to stage strikes this week
Athens, 25/11/2002 (ANA)Petrol station owners are to stage a 24-hour strike on Monday, meeting later the same day to decide if further action will be taken to protest against government measures affecting the sector.
In addition, state hospital doctors are to strike for 48 hours beginning on Monday morning to press for financial demands. Emergencies will be handled, as required by law.
The doctors want to see more state spending on health in the 2003 budget to allow more recruitment, mainly in regional hospitals; 13.4 percent more funding for off-hours duty; and absorption of monies from the European Union's Third Community Support Framework.
Also being sought from the government are an immediate start to talks on a new pay scale for doctors and swift payment of a 176 euro bonus that doctors say other state workers have received since January 1, 2002.
Finally, taxi owners will stage a 48-hour strike beginning at 0500 hours on Wednesday.
The SATA union said that it had called the strike to press for a rise in the base tariff, and to protest against the introduction of new bus lanes, from which taxis are barred.
Members will stage a protest in central Athens on Thursday and a protest march along selected bus lanes, the statement said.
 Gov't vows to combat joblessness in Thessaloniki
Athens, 25/11/2002 (ANA)Labor and Social Security Minister Dimitris Reppas on Sunday pledged to tackle unemployment in Thessaloniki, the country's second largest urban area, as part of an integrated plan.
''We believe that this will play a major role in combatting joblessness, which remains at high levels in the broader Thessaloniki area,'' Reppas told journalists in the northern port city.
The minister said that one move underway was to create three new job finding centers for the city next year, bringing the total to four.