|Tuesday, 22 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-11-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>November 28, 2002
 Powell says settlement of Cyprus problem a U.S. priority
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA - F. Karaviti/T. Ellis)U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking on Wednesday after holding talks with his Greek counterpart George Papandreou at the State Department, said the settlement of Cyprus' political problem and Turkey's European course is a basic priority for the U.S. these days.
Powell said the blueprint by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for a comprehensive settlement of the protracted Cyprus problem, is a ''historic opportunity'', expressing his conviction that both sides ''realize the seriousness of the moment and will respond to the blueprint's timetables, stating their positions by November 30 in a way permitting us to proceed''.
Regarding Turkey's demand for the setting of a date for the start of this country's EU accession negotiations, Powell said: ''Over the period remaining until the European Council, we shall assess whether progress has been achieved and we shall see what ground we have and if the possibility exists for either a date for the beginning of accession negotiations or a 'date for the date' to be given to Turkey''.
Referring to what was said during the meeting between the two delegations, Papandreou conveyed the commitment of the U.S. ''to make every possible effort so that the opportunity of December 12 will not be lost.''
The ministers agreed to the need of speeding up the process for a solution to the Cyprus issue after the counter-proposals of Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash are given to the UN secretary general by Saturday, while the reaching of an agreement by the European Union's summit in Copenhagen (on December 12-13) remains the target of both the U.S. and the international community.
If the letter addressed to the UN secretary general on Wednesday by Denktash is accepted as a ''positive response'' to the Annan blueprint, and according to initial indications this is the UN secretariat's interpretation, then indeed the process will enter the next stage in coming days.
Kofi Annan's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said that the Secretary General received on Wednesday morning from Turkish Cypriot leader Denktash a reply to his earlier letter of November 11, in which he states that he is prepared to negotiate on the basis of UN chief's proposal for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem. Denktash's delayed response was originally expected on November 18 after Annan, on November 11, had given the two sides in Cyprus seven days to say whether they accept the plan as a basis for negotiation.
However, Powell left open the possibility of a solution not being signed in the brief time limit remaining, saying ''I don't know if we will have or we will not have a solution by December 12.''
In this context, and according to reports, Powell assured Papandreou, as national security adviser Condoleezza Rice had done on Tuesday, that in the event that a solution is not achieved by the Copenhagen summit the process should not collapse but, on the contrary, the momentum for a solution to be found should be maintained.
This, of course, does not overturn the decision taken by Washington to press hard for an agreement to be reached before December 12.
The second important factor, the same reports noted, resulting from the meeting was that Washington is now beginning to seriously examine the possibility of a ''date for a date'' being given to Turkey.
Powell said they discussed this possibility, while Rice had asked Papandreou about the same issue on Tuesday.
Papandreou said the accession of Cyprus to the EU will be decided in Copenhagen regardless of a solution or whatever messages are sent to Ankara.
He added that Greece desires and will press for a date to be set for the beginning of EU accession negotiations with Turkey, which is also a standing request by Washington.
However, reactions continuing to exist by other European countries appear to produce as a more realistic development an announcement by the EU of a date on which Turkey's course will be assessed and the final date for the beginning of accession negotiations will be set.
Talks between the two ministers also focused on the situation in the Middle East and developments in Iraq, while Powell expressed admiration over Greece's recent successes in confronting terrorism.
 FM Papandreou's talks with US security advisor Rice in Washington
WASHINGTON 28/11/2002 (ANA - T. Ellis)The present period was particularly significant for issues concerning Greece, as the EU Copenhagen summit next month and Greece's assumption of the EU presidency for the first half of 2003 were approaching, US president George Bush's national security advisor Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday during a meeting with visiting Greek foreign minister George Papandreou.
Rice also pointed out that the US and the EU were facing decisions of ''strategic importance'' with respect to Iraq, the Middle East, the Cyprus issue, and EU-Turkey relations.
On the Cyprus issue, Papandreou spoke of a ''historic opportunity'' that must be taken advantage of, adding that his Turkish counterpart Yasar Yakis, with whom he held a telephone discussion earlier in the week, agreed with this view.
Papandreou, who briefed Rice on his discussion with Yakis, also said that he had decided to visit Ankara on December 4 to meet personally with Yakis and other Turkish officials, in continuation of a recent visit to Greece by the winner of the Turkish elections, Justice and Development Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On EU-Turkey relations, asked by Rice what was anticipated from the Copenhagen summit on December 12, Papandreou replied that there was the important development of Cyprus' EU accession, which would be decided regardless of whether a solution to the island republic's political problem had been achieved by then.
Papandreou explained that one of the purposes of his visit to Ankara next week was to ensure continued Turkish interest in resolving the Cyprus issue even after the EU summit if some agreement has not been signed by then.
The US side is making every effort to achieve a Cyprus solution before the EU summit in Copenhagen, but has said that if that was not possible it would continue to press for a speedy solution.
Papandreou also said that one of Greece's "strategic targets" was for Turkey to remain in a European orbit, and informed Rice that the EU countries' stance vis-a-vis Turkey appeared more positive recently.
Rice called the Greek government's approach on this issue and Papandreou's personal involvement as "visionary", and said the US fully agreed with his analysis of the situation.
Papandreou called on the US government to exercise its influence on Ankara and send a clear-cut message to Turkey that it needed to take measures and moves that showed in action that the country was moving towards the European principles.
Papandreou and Rice agreed to be in frequent contact until the EU summit.
The two officials further discussed Greece's upcoming EU presidency and the fundamental priority placed by Athens on strengthening EU-US ties, as well as the EU-US summit the Greek government was planning to organize after the Thessaloniki EU summit in mid-June.
On the issue of Iraq, Rice thanked Greece for the positive stance it has maintained to the present, and reiterated the Bush government's determination to continue pressing for the disarmament of Iraq and change of the Iraqi regime.
Papandreou later had a half-hour meeting with State Department coordinator on the Cyprus issue Tom Weston, while he was due to meet with US secretary of state Colin Powell on Wednesday.
 FM comments on Denktash's Statements for U.N plan
WASHINGTON 28/11/2002 (ANA - F. Karaviti)Foreign Minister George Papandreou assessing on Wednesday statements by Turkish Cypriot community leader Rauf Denktash concerning the U.N. plan for the resolution of the Cyprus issue, said that his demand was ''a demand for pre-negotiations, before the negotiations''.
''I believe that this was not what the United Nations Secretary General (Kofi Annan) would want and I believe that Denktash’s demand will not be acceptable,'' Papandreou said after his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Collin Powell, adding ''it could perhaps be seen as a move and as a positive first step made by the Turkish Cypriot side''.
''Let's hope that Denktash will realize that the historic moment has come to end the games, to mature and to see that the peoples of Greece and Turkey have a common fate,'' Papandreou said.
Papandreou also called ''touching'', a big rally organized in the occupied territories of the island republic earlier in the day by Turkish Cypriots in support of the Annan plan, and talked of a clear message of the people of Cyprus.
''The people of Cyprus themselves want a different fate, over and beyond the interventions, within a democratic country which will determine its future by itself,'' the Greek FM said.
He reiterated his wish for the resolution of the island republic's political problem, before Dec. 12 and the Greek government's decisiveness to support the European prospect of Turkey, even on the issue of the request, by Turkey, for a date for the initiation of accession negotiations, ''on condition that the criteria set by the European Union are fulfilled''.
 PM fully backs foreign minister's trip to Ankara, spokesman says
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Prime Minister Costas Simitis were in full agreement over the foreign minister's planned trip to Ankara, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said on Wednesday.
Regarding a trip to the United States planned by Papandreou, the spokesman said the foreign minister's contacts there would greatly contribute to increasing pressure on Turkey and promote Greek positions on the Cyprus issue and bilateral relations.
 Premier, alternate FM discuss Greek EU presidency organizing
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis received Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis on Wednesday and discussed with him the organizing of the Greek EU presidency due to begin in January and last for the first half of 2003.
Following the meeting Yiannitsis called the Greek presidency difficult and challenging, adding that Greece would have to manage the economic and social policies of the Union.
On Thursday Greece will present the symbols of the Greek presidency.
 Europarliament president Cox due twice in Athens next month
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA)European Parliament president Pat Cox is scheduled to visit Athens twice next month, it was announced on Wednesday.
Cox was due in Athens on December 9, just three days before the EU summit in Copenhagen, to discuss EU enlargement issues with Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
Cox was due again in Athens on December 19, a week after the summit and accompanied by the leaders of the Europarliament's political groups, to discuss with Simitis and the foreign ministry leadership issues related to the priorities of the Greek EU presidency in the first half of 2003.
 Cyprus EU accession without terms, of outmost importance, Karamanlis says
BRUSSELS 28/11/2002 (ANA - V. Demiris)The accession of Cyprus to the European Union - without terms and preconditions - is of the outmost importance, main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis said on Wednesday here.
Karamanlis made the statement following a meeting with the ND Eurodeputies at the sidelines of the European Peoples' Party (EPP) presidium meeting here. Karamanlis is a vice-president of EPP.
''In today's meeting with the ND Eurodeputies, it was only natural that we discussed the Cyprus issue and the related developments. It is an opportunity to reiterate the position of ND, that what is of the outmost importance to us is the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, without terms, without conditions and this must be done in the Dec. 12 Summit in Copenhagen,'' Karamanlis said.
''Furthermore, we discussed the condition of the Greek economy. I would like to point out that in a Europe, that forges ahead, it can not be that Greece will remain stationary and even take backward steps. It was a common view hat the Greek economy occupies one of the last places in ranking in Europe. Unfortunately, we are first in unemployment, we are first in corruption, we are first in creative accounting, as Eurostat verified,'' Karamanlis stressed.
''On the other hand we are the last in absorption of EU funds. We are last in competitiveness, we are last in investment,'' he added.
''I would like to point out that we achieved to get on the train of Europe at the end of the 1970s during times of hardship. It is unthinkable to lose this train today, after the inflow of that much and that great of funds from the community,'' he concluded.
 Defense minister holds press conference for foreign press in Athens
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA)Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou on Wednesday held a press conference for foreign journalists in Athens, focusing on Greek-Turkish relations, developments on the Cyprus issue, the situation in Iraq and purchases of the Greek Armed Forces.
Speaking on the possibility of operations in Iraq, Papantoniou said that Greece's participation would be limited to the use of facilities and other such services to the allies, as Greece would not participate in war operations.
Papantoniou, commenting on conditions in Turkey, said that the terms of balance between the military and political leadership in the neighboring country have not been stabilized yet, pointing to the contradictions in their reactions towards Greece.
He stressed that the Greek defense doctrine, that the major threat to the country comes from its eastern borders, remains in force, adding that it would change when Turkey's attitude changes in a convincing and stable manner.
Responding to questions on the possibility of the resolution of the Cyprus issue, he said that it would not be correct to express optimism or pessimism on such difficult and complex issues.
He stressed, however, that Cyprus will enter the European Union regardless of the resolution or not of the political problem of the island republic, adding that this will be so as it has been prescribed by the Helsinki summit decisions.
 Gov't optimistic about outcome of former monarch's suit, spokesman says
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA)The work done to counter the demands of the deposed former Greek monarch made the government very optimistic about the outcome of his property suit against the Greek state at the European Court of Justice, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said on Wednesday.
The spokesman said reporters should not place too much credence in reports that the European court had awarded former king Constantine a generous settlement for the former royal estates.
He advised journalists to wait until Thursday afternoon, when the court's final decision would be announced. An announcement issued on Tuesday by the foreign ministry, he added, was intended to describe the actions taken so that all sides were well informed about the steps taken by the government to defend the interests of the Greek people.
Commenting on statements by main opposition New Democracy MPs, the spokesman said ND should keep quiet because the handling of the issue by the 1992 ND government had allowed Constantine to press his suit from a position of greater strength.
He attributed ND's ''unacceptable'' stance to an attempt to cover the party's own actions in this case and to deal with internal problems, claiming that many of ND's members had a favorable view of the former king's demands.
Minister expresses respect for institutions on ex-king issue: Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, speaking on Wednesday in light of the decision expected to be taken by the European Human Rights Court on Thursday on the issue of ex-king Constantine's property, said ''we respect institutions and we respect the European Human Rights Court.''
Venizelos said what is important is that with its previous main decision, the European Court in Strasbourg accepted that the Greek law of 1994 was correctly applied regarding the expropriation of the so-called royal property.
He further said ''I proposed, on behalf of the government and with the unanimity of all factors involved, the legislation of 1994'', adding that ''the legislation of 1994 was supported by all of PASOK and the overwhelming majority of Parliament and had the absolute agreement of the President of the Republic at the time, the late Constantine Karamanlis.''
Also commenting on whether ex-king Constantine will come for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, Venizelos said ''nothing has been settled on this issue'' and that formal legislation governing the Olympic Games exists and criteria applied in the United States or in other countries which had hosted Olympic Games will be implemented.
 Deputy FM in Burkina Faso for Euro-African conference
OUAGADOUGOU 28/11/2002 (ANA - M. Boukaouri)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis arrived in Burkina Faso on Wednesday to attend the Conference for Euro-African dialogue.
Beglitis is representing Greece, which is taking part in the conference as a member of the EU troika and the next EU presidency.
Apart from the Greek minister, numerous EU foreign ministers and officials will be attending the gathering, as well as representatives of 52 African countries.
There was a preliminary meeting between high-ranking EU officials on Wednesday in Burkina's capital to prepare for Thursday's conference on a ministerial level.
This will be followed by a meeting of the European troika with 16 West African countries on Friday, in the framework of ECOWAS.
The main issues to be discussed at Thursday's conference, which picks up from the Euro-African Summit in Cairo in 2000, are economic cooperation to combat Africa's foreign debt and the environment, especially efforts against drought and desertification. The conference will also discuss a document drafted by Greece and Finland on the return of cultural artifacts stolen or illegally taken out of African countries, human rights, democratization, the fight against AIDS and terrorism and combatting the illegal trade in women and children.
Dialogue between European and African countries is difficult, with both sides insisting on their respective positions. While Africa persistently demands more funds and a write-off of foreign debts, Europe stalls and demands more democracy and a crackdown on corruption in African governments.
Serious problems in Euro-African relations have also been caused by the Brussels' decision that bars entry to officials from Zimbabwe and accuses the Zimbabwe government of corruption and squandering public funds.
As an upcoming EU presidency, Greece is in favor of dialogue and will seek a general consensus since it hopes to gain the support of African countries for its candidacy to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2005-2006.
 Diamantopoulou addresses ''Turkish Platform of the Society of Citizens'' event
BRUSSELS 28/11/2002 (ANA - A. Simatos)Greek Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou on Wednesday expressed her optimism that Greece and Turkey will be the development ''engines'' behind the further prosperity of Southeastern Europe.
Speaking at an event organized by the ''Turkish Platform of the Society of Citizens'', Diamantopoulou spoke of the importance of the exchange of views and the active participation of the society of citizens in the new conditions under formulation now in the European Union.
Diamantopoulou also stressed that the ''EU is a block that is defined by common principles and rules and not by geographic or religious criteria''.
 Finance minister discusses Greek EU presidency's priorities in Berlin
BERLIN 28/11/2002 (ANA - P. Stangos)Finance and Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and German Economy Minister Hans Eichel held an across-the-board exchange of views here on Tuesday night in the framework of preparations for the European Union's Greek presidency in the first half of 2003.
Christodoulakis, who briefed Greek reporters after his dinner with Eichel, said that in talks with the German minister an agreement was reached in general on promoting the so-called Lisbon strategy, meaning the strengthening of policies for economic growth and combating unemployment that aim at safeguarding the EU's ''social image.''
The Greek minister stressed the necessity for a ''dual tactic'' aimed at combining the measures for increasing effectiveness in the labor market with the safeguarding of its quality and security.
He also said the German side is not pursuing the overturning of the Stability Pact, while Eichel assured him that maintaining the ''logic'' of the 3 percent of GDP criterion, as the ceiling for the budget's annual deficit which must be eliminated by 2006 according to the Maastricht decisions, is not being questioned.
Christodoulakis said the possibility of war in Iraq and handling its repercussions in economic developments in the EU was also discussed at length with Eichel.
He added that the increase in the price of oil in the event of war will particularly harm countries whose economies depend on oil imports (such as Greece and Germany) and, consequently, these countries are taking, or have already taken, necessary measures.
Christodoulakis further said he believes the logic that war is unavoidable mistaken, adding that relevant uncertainty has a negative effect and slows down economic growth.
 Christodoulakis in Paris to outline Greek EU presidency aims
PARIS 28/11/2002 (ANA)Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis on Wednesday met his French counterpart, Francis Mer, to outline goals of Greece's rotating presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2003.
Christodoulakis told reporters after the meeting that he agreed with Mer that the 15-nation bloc needed stronger growth and new jobs.
Required to improve growth and jobs were an acceleration in structural funds in order to achieve a true single market; the integration of financial markets and services, especially the compatibility of products; and the attainment of a more adaptable and efficient labor market while boosting job security.
The two officials also discussed economic stability in the EU.
 Minister outlines Greek EU presidency priorities
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA)Labor and Social Insurance Minister Dimitris Reppas, speaking to social partner representatives on Wednesday, said the priorities of the European Union's Greek presidency in the labor and social security sector in the first half of 2003 will be strengthening the Lisbon strategy, meaning policies promoting full employment, improving the quality and security of labor and social cohesion.
The meeting was also attended by Federation of Greek Industries President Odysseas Kyriakopoulos and General Confederation of Workers of Greece President Christos Polyzogopoulos.
Reppas said the target of policies will be to increase employment to 70 percent for men and to 60 percent for women in the EU by 2010.
He further said issues on which changes will be promoted and on which dialogue will be held will include promoting flexibility in labor relations, quality and security in labor, combined with productivity, and measures to confront inequality between the genders and promoting the integration of immigrants.
 OTE issues press release over its interest in RomTelecom
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA)Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), a heavily traded stock on the Athens bourse, said on Wednesday that it was not ready to announce a final agreement with Romanian authorities over a share capital increase for Romtelecom, as the market was expecting.
On November 21, OTE had said that it would release details of the transaction and its plans to improve RomTelecom’s performance on release of third quarter results for 2002.
''However, due to recent regulatory developments, OTE has informed Romanian authorities that certain issues need to be resolved before it proceeds with the finalization and implementation of transactions and the transfer of capital,'' the Greek firm said in a statement released by the Athens Stock Exchange.
''Under these circumstances, OTE will not announce specific terms of the agreement or a business plan until a mutually advantageous solution has been attained,'' the statement said.
On November 1, OTE and Romania's telecommunications ministry had signed a memorandum of understanding on boosting the Greek telecom's stake in Romtelecom. OTE was to provide 243 million US dollars for the share capital rise.
 Greece, Albania seek closer cooperation in agriculture
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA)Agriculture Deputy Ministers, Mr Evangelos Argyris and Fotis Hatzimichalis on Wednesday met with visiting Albanian counterpart, Mr Thoma Mitso.
The three men discussed issues of mutual interest for the two countries and agreed to sign a memorandum of cooperation, including the immediate sending of a Greek scientific and technical delegation to Albania to help in agricultural issues.
 Greek exports to Turkey lag imports in trade balance
ANKARA 28/11/2002 (ANA/A.Abatzis)Greek exports to Turkey totalled 222.9 million US dollars in January-September 2002 while imports from the neighboring country were higher at 380.6 million dollars, Turkey's statistics service said on Wednesday.
Marking an 11.9 percent rise was the total volume of trade between the two countries in January-September to total 603.5 million dollars, the Turkish service said in a statement.
Greek exports to Turkey grew by 19.1 percent while imports rose by 8.1 percent, the statement said.
In September this year, Greek exports to Turkey totalled 17.7 million dollars, and Turkish imports 72.5 million dollars.
 First survey of Greek companies with foreign links
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA)Greece's National Statistics Service on Wednesday announced it was conducting a pilot survey of Greek companies linked with foreign enterprises, in the framework of a Structural Business Statistics regulation in the European Union.
The survey, the first of its kind in Greece, will also aim to create a company record per parent company and to collect business data to held national policy and businesses.
The figures to be collected will cover the 2001 fiscal year. The survey is expected to be completed by December 15, 2002.
 EU Commission uneasy over Greek, Italian public debt
BRUSSELS 28/11/2002 (ANA/B.Demiris)The European Union's executive Commission said on Wednesday that it was uneasy about the size of Greek and Italian public debt.
''The cases of Italy and Greece are among the most worrying, as their public debt is discernibly higher than 100 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and progress attained in the last four years to approach 60 percent of GDP remains very limited,'' said the Commission in an approval of proposals on EU policy coordination.
Contrary to expectations, the two countries had failed to make much of a dent in their public debt, mainly due to numerous capital shifts that increased the debt, and despite lower interest rates resulting from the eurozone, the Commission said.
At the same time, the Commission welcomed cooperation from the Greek government in checks conducted by Eurostat into the public finances of member states, and the formulas they use to calculate economic indicators.
The checks are conducted to ensure that members are using the same criteria for indicators, making them compatible.
Greece agreed to modify some of its calculations after the checks.
 Parliament president inaugurates BSEC conference in Athens
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA)Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis on Wednesday inaugurated the 20th Plenum of the Parliamentary Conference of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Pact countries taking place here in Athens.
The two-day conference is attended by representatives from Azerbaijan, Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, the Ukraine, Romania, Russia and Turkey.
''The greatest challenge confronted by the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Pact is its cooperation with the European Union … (as) the BSEC wants to attract the interest of Europe and to upgrade the level of cooperation with the EU in light of the latter's enlargement,'' Kaklamanis said.
 Greek stocks end flat, unable to follow Europe's recovery
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA)Greek stocks ended Wednesday's session mixed to higher unable to benefit from a rebound in other European markets.
The general index of the Athens Stock Exchange rose 0.13 percent to end at 1,869.22 points, recovering from an early decline as Hellenic Telecommunications Organization’s share price reversed early losses.
The Food-Beverage, Bank and Investment sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day (0.91 percent, 0.58 percent and 0.10 percent, respectively), while the Publication, IT and Holding sectors scored the biggest percentage gains (1.53 percent, 1.09 percent and 1.06 percent).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks eased 0.16 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index rose 0.74 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 0.58 percent higher.
Turnover was a low 70.7 million euros.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 160 to 134 with another 67 issues unchanged.
The most heavily traded stocks in value were Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, Football Pools Organization, Panafon, Public Power Corporation, and Intralot.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 59.0 mln euros Wednesday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 59.0 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Sellers outstrip buyers on Wednesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 PM stresses 'social dimension' of Olympics works at gov't meeting
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA)The government had to highlight the social dimension of projects for the 2004 Olympics and make sure the public understood that every euro spent on the Games was ultimately targeting the needs of Greek society and the Greek economy, Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed on Wednesday.
Speaking during a government meeting to monitor progress in preparations for the Games, the premier also expressed satisfaction at the positive feedback from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) about the preparations and certainty that all the loose ends would soon be dealt with.
According to sources within the prime minister's office, Simitis presented this as the best way to counteract the main opposition's claims about budget overruns and waste.
He also pointed to a recent labor ministry announcement regarding the allocation of houses built in the Olympic Village by the Labor Housing Organization after the Games, showing that the works had been designed with their use after the Olympics primarily in mind.
The same was true of all Olympics projects, he added.
The prime minister then noted that the government's attention would shift from construction projects to the organization of the Games over the coming days.
''Our first priority will be to promptly and efficiently incorporate all the various sub-programs...into a single Program of Action,'' he said.
Simitis also referred to the importance of the ''ELLADA 2004'' program for developing the provinces and agreed with the culture ministry's proposal that the next meeting of the government committee for the Olympics examine the progress of the specific program.
Culture minister on Calatrava project: Emerging from the meeting afterwards, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said that a contractor had been assigned to carry out the major Olympic Stadium makeover designed by Italian architect Santiago Calatrava.
''We believe that the project is feasible because a large part will be carried out in a factory and not on the worksite,'' he said.
The minister also referred to the price of tickets for the Olympics, which are due to be announced within the next 24 hours by the IOC, saying that these should be kept as low as possible in order to be accessible to all Greeks.
Ticket price is decided exclusively by the IOC and the Olympics Organizing Committee. Sources say that ATHOC head Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki has already informed the prime minister about the ticket prices decided on.
Athens to organize successful Olympics, speakers at Economist conference say: Athens will organize very good Olympic and Paralympic Games, but solutions should be applied to the city's functional problems, according to speakers at a conference organized in Athens by the Economist magazine, which focused on the Paralympics in Athens.
Athens Mayor elect Dora Bakoyianni, addressed the conference, saying that because of the Games in Athens, the city will have to reorganize itself, but hopes for a radical reorganization are not realistic.
She stressed, however, that many public works projects are in process, which will improve existing conditions.
''There is need for funds,'' Bakoyianni said, adding that the municipality will request funds to promote public works projects for the benefit of Athens, as the image of the city is the element that will be of critical importance for the Games.
On his part, Education Minister Petros Efthymiou stressed the importance the Greek government is placing on the Paralympics, noting that the actions of the government will include physical education classes, which are under way in Greece and similar programs in European Union schools, as 2003 was declared European Year of Education through Sports.
International Paralympics Committee President Phil Craven noted that ''shopkeepers in Athens lose allot of money for lack of accessibility and that Greece loses funds for the same reason,'' adding, however, that he was optimistic that Athens will organize the best Olympic and Paralympic Games ever.
U.S. Ambassador Thomas Miller, who also addressed the conference, spoke of his government's support for the Paralympic movement, expressed the belief that the Olympic Games of 2004 will be successful as the effort, as he said, "is based on the goodwill, the dignity and the pride of the Greeks". Regarding the Paralympics, he said that they present an opportunity for a change of attitudes, which will constitute the realization of U.S. President George Bush's hope ''that persons should be recognized based on their abilities and not their handicap''.
 Ticket prices for Athens 2004 Olympic Games
Athens, 28/11/2002 (ANA)The price of tickets for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games will be cheaper than initially estimated. The Athens 2004 Organizing Committee (ATHOC) announced on Wednesday that tickets for the events will range between 10 to 300 euros, while for the opening ceremony from 100 to 950 euros and for the closing ceremony from 50 to 750 euros. A total of 5,300,000 tickets will be issued, of which 2,300,000 will be given to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The tickets will start being sold to the general public from May 12, 2003 (simultaneously in all the countries of the world).
Those interested can order the tickets through the ATHOC website or at all the branches of Alpha Bank.
It is noteworthy to point out that the average price of tickets for the Athens 2004 Games are 34 per cent cheaper than the corresponding average price of the Games in Sydney.
Of the total 5,300,000 tickets which will be issued, 3,600,000 (68% of the total) will cost up to 30 euros, 2,900,000 (55%) up to 20 euros and 2,000,000 (38%) will cost 10 to 15 euros.
 Denktash prepared to negotiate on Annan plan, UN wishes to move ahead with Cyprus peace process
UNITED NATIONS 28/11/2002 (CNA/ANA)The UN wishes to move ahead with the Cyprus peace process now that the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides have said they would negotiate on a UN proposal on a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus.
Stephan Dujarric, UN Secretary General's spokesman, said here on Wednesday that Kofi Annan expects the leaders of the two sides to respond by Saturday to his letter outlining their comments, suggestions or requests on his proposal, submitted to them on November 11.
Replying to questions, he said that ''the important thing is we have answers from both Mr Clerides (President of Cyprus) and Mr Denktash (Turkish Cypriot leader) saying they are willing to move forward on negotiations on the plan. Now, we go back to them and ask for more substantive remarks. And we await those remarks.''
Asked if the Secretary General is considering having both leaders in New York for negotiations, he said he had no information on that.
Invited to say if Annan still believes there is enough time until the European Union December summit to conclude an agreement, Dujarric said ''time is very important on this. The clock is obviously ticking. We got the first positive initial responses so we like to move ahead. As I said, he would like to receive comments by November 30th.''
President Glafcos Clerides replied within the deadline (November 18) set by the UN, saying he accepted the UN proposal as a basis for negotiations.
Denktash, who was in hospital recovering from open-heart surgery, gave his reply on Wednesday.
Dujarric said that the Secretary General received on Wednesday morning from Denktash a reply to his earlier letter of November 11.
He said ''the letter has been studied but it does confirm that Mr.
Denktash is prepared to negotiate on the basis of the proposals, attached to the Secretary General's letter of November 11.''
Dujarric also confirmed that the Secretary General on Tuesday sent letters to Clerides and Denktash.
 President confirms receipt of letter from Annan
NICOSIA 28/11/2002 (CNA/ANA)President of the Republic Glafcos Clerides confirmed on Wednesday that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has sent him a letter asking to be informed about changes the president wishes to see in a proposal put forward to the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides on a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
''The Secretary General has sent me a letter and tomorrow I will put it before the National Council,'' the president told reporters, when asked about the letter.
The president's remarks were echoed by his spokesman Michalis Papapetrou who told journalists after a cabinet meeting that Annan had sent a letter to the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides inviting their comments by Saturday on points they wish to see amended in the proposal he presented them with on November 11.
Papapetrou said the reply would be conveyed to Annan through his Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, who is continuing his consultations with interested parties.
Replying to questions, he said the letter does not refer to clarifications on certain points of the proposal but ''to points which we wish to negotiate with a view to changing them.''
The spokesman said that certain points raised by cabinet ministers will be added to the list of clarifications the Greek Cypriot side is seeking to obtain with regard to the UN proposal.
''Many ministers have submitted to the President their observations on certain points of the plan, which are not necessarily negative,'' he added.
 Straw urges both sides to respond to Annan's request
LONDON 28/11/2002 (CNA/ANA)Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said here on Wednesday that every effort should be made to secure a settlement of the Cyprus question before the Copenhagen European Council.
Speaking in London after meeting Cyprus' Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, Straw further said this is an historic opportunity to bring peace and prosperity to Cyprus.
''We discussed the urgent need for a solution of the Cyprus problem which has gone on for far too long'', he said, according to a press release of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Straw said he ''congratulated Mr. Kasoulides on President Clerides' acceptance of the UN proposals as a basis for negotiation,'' adding that Britain believes ''every effort must be made to secure a settlement before the Copenhagen European Council on December 12, at which key decisions on Cyprus' candidacy will be taken.''
The British Foreign Secretary urged ''both sides to respond quickly to Kofi Annan's request for full and substantive comments by November 30 on the proposals''.
He also said that Britain believes ''we have an historic chance this year to bring peace and prosperity to the Eastern Mediterranean by means of accession to the EU by a re-united island.''
Kasoulides said the two talked about the prospects following the letter from the UN Secretary General seeking the submission of the two sides' remarks on the points they would like to negotiate.
He said the president would decide on the issue once he consults tomorrow with the National Council.
''We have accepted the plan as a basis for negotiation. Our aim is to find a solution, if possible, before Copenhagen. We see this as our aim and not as a guillotine,'' Kasoulides said.
He explained that efforts would continue at the same rate even after Copenhagen.
 Cyprus solution must be in line with EU principles, says Prodi
NICOSIA 28/11/2002 (CNA/ANA)European Commission President Romano Prodi has said a Cyprus solution should be in line with European Union fundamental principles and acknowledged that derogations could be accepted as part of a comprehensive settlement.
Replying to questions on Wednesday during an on-line chat, he expressed hope that the Cyprus question will be settled this year.
On Turkey's accession prospects, Prodi said it has every chance of meeting the Copenhagen criteria, noting that EU member states will decide on the message they want to send to Turkey at their December summit.
Asked by CNA if the signing of an agreement on Cyprus prior to the December summit is pivotal for the EU, he replied ''it is our hope that the Cyprus problem will be resolved this year.''
Invited to say if the EU is prepared to accommodate derogations from the acquis communautaire as these appear in a UN proposal on a comprehensive settlement, Prodi said ''the EU is ready to accommodate a Cyprus settlement in line with our fundamental principles.''
''Certain derogations could be imagined in the framework of a global solution,'' he added.
Asked to comment on the situation of human rights in Turkey in relation to its bid to join the Union, he said ''Turkey is addressing its human rights problems and there are clear signs of improvement, Turkey certainly plays a key role in the Eastern Mediterranean.''
Replying to another question on Turkey's accession course, he said ''it is up to member states to decide on the message on Turkey''.
Asked why Turkey has not been given a date for the start of accession negotiations, he recalled that in the Commission progress report on Turkey it was made clear that Turkey does not yet fully meet the conditions but is moving in the right direction.
''Turkey has every chance to meet the Copenhagen criteria, it is making good progress, Turkey's prospects for accession depend on its meeting the criteria for membership, it is making progress, we urge Turkey to make every effort,'' he added.
 Verheugen says decision on Cyprus to be taken in Copenhagen
BRUSSELS 28/11/2002 (CNA/ANA)The decision for Cyprus' accession to the European Union will be taken at the Copenhagen European Council next month ''whatever happens,'' Commissioner on Enlargement Gunter Verheugen said on Wednesday.
At the same time he warned Turkish Cypriots and Ankara over the consequences of not achieving a solution to the Cyprus problem.
Replying to questions during a meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels with the presidents of the parliaments of candidate for EU accession countries, Verheugen said the plan put forward by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for a Cyprus settlement presents Turkish Cypriots with an historic opportunity which will not appear again in the future.
For this reason, he called on the Turkish Cypriots to take advantage of the opportunity and agree with Greek Cypriots before the Copenhagen summit on a document, which will pave the way for the island's reunification.
Indirectly referring to statements made by Turkey's Justice and
Development leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, about a simultaneous accession of Turkey and Cyprus to the EU, the Commissioner said ''the clock is ticking and whatever happens Cyprus' accession will be decided at the Copenhagen European Council. There is no way to postpone the decision,'' Verheugen added.
He warned Turkey that if the island's accession is decided at Copenhagen without a settlement, Ankara should know that its influence at EU level would be much weaker than it is today.
Verheugen acknowledged that the time left until December 12 is not enough to complete negotiations on the UN chief's plan for a Cyprus settlement, adding that ''what we want is to sign a document with guidelines on the reunification of Cyprus.''
 Turkish Cypriots stage rally in occupied Cyprus
NICOSIA 28/11/2002 (CNA/ANA)About 20,000 Turkish Cypriots, representing 92 organizations, staged a mass rally on Wednesday to press on with their demand for the start of negotiations on a UN proposal for a comprehensive settlement.
People of all ages, from five to 85, holding placards in favor of accession to the European Union and a better life, participated in the rally, supported by the Communal Liberation Party, the Turkish Republican Party, the United Cyprus Party and the Movement of Patriotic Unity.
''Yes to the EU - We want a better life'' and ''This land is ours and we shall not be ruled by others,'' are some of the slogans on the banners the protestors were holding.
The 92 organizations signed earlier this year a declaration on the vision of Turkish Cypriots on a solution and EU accession and want their leadership to accept the UN proposal as a basis for negotiations.
The so-called Turkish Cypriot police in the occupied areas took additional security measures in and around the venue of the rally. Ali Erel, chairman of the Turkish Cypriot chamber of commerce, called on both sides on the island to begin negotiations on the basis of the UN proposal and try to amend certain provisions.
The teachers' trade union also part