|Friday, 6 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-03-08
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 8, 2003
 Unemployment still a problem in EU, PM tells ETUC conference
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)Despite having dropped, unemployment remained a major problem for the regions of Europe, Greek Prime Minister and current European Council president Costas Simitis told a European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) conference on Friday.
The conference is being held at the Asteras hotel in Vouliagmeni, a resort just outside Athens.
Achieving the targets set in Lisbon would mean creating an additional 15 million jobs, Simitis added.
Turning to the situation in Greece, the Greek premier said that joblessness had been reduced to less than 10 per cent and that employment remained one of the government's top priorities.
He stressed the need for new ways to combat unemployment and noted that the high rate of employment among immigrants (with 500-600,000 currently working in Greece alone) helped boost the domestic economy but made existing joblessness more acute.
In terms of labor relations, Simitis said that the Greek presidency of the European Union wanted to promote measures that would help the labor market operate more efficiently and make it adapt more promptly to changes in the economy and society.
He stressed, however, that the aim of the changes was not to disrupt labor relations.
''The end in view is how, through new measures, to ensure the necessary adaptability in order to boost the competitiveness of businesses and employment,'' he stressed.
As an example, he noted a proposed EU directive for temporary employment that Greece was working on, which aimed to make it easier for businesses to utilize human resources and also provide protection for workers in this category.
He also stressed that the labor market in Greece was more flexible than in the past, with new measures on working hours that helped both enterprises and the workforce and plans to introduce part-time employment in the public sector.
The conference was also addressed by Greek European Commissioner for employment Anna Diamantopoulou, who stressed that the coming EU social summit on March 20 will be a huge and historic opportunity for the social partners to influence employment policy.
The social summit will allow the social partners to submit their initiatives in terms of implementing and achieving the goals of the Lisbon summit, thus covering the areas that were outlined in the Barcelona conclusions regarding the adaptability of businesses on issues such as collective negotiations, containing wages, improving productivity, learning for life and new, flexible work practices.
Greek EU presidency: defense of peace in compliance with UNSC resolutions: Prime Minister and European Council president in office Costas Simitis on Friday told an Athens conference of the Confederation of European Trade Unions that the Greek presidency's objective was the defense and protection of peace in compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions.
In his address, Simitis referred to Iraq and said the UNSC was the focal point of international relations policy and Council resolutions should be the criterion for everyone's action.
He said unilateral actions were not permitted.
''All issues should be tabled there (the Security Council) in the same fashion that the European Union followed, so that decisions can be reached in that forum'', the Greek prime minister stressed.
He said war was not an unavoidable development and every effort should be made to avert it.
 Papandreou says 'great differences' of opinion exist on Iraq issue
NEW YORK 08/03/2003 (ANA - P. Panagiotou)Minister and EU Council of Foreign Ministers president George Papandreou told reporters at the close of the UN Security Council meeting on the Iraq crisis on Friday that he did not see differences between the Security Council members being overcome.
''I do not see a compromise of the different views," Papandreou said, giving the climate of dissension prevailing at the Security Council.
The Greek foreign minister said that there were also different assessments in the ranks of the European Union, noting that Europe has quite a few experiences from wars and crises.
Mr. Papandreou said also that ''there are great differences,'' noting, however, that efforts will continue for a peaceful settlement of the problem.
''At this moment there are differences, but we as the European Union presidency look forward to and are taking every initiative for there to be a united stance for the future. Of course, there is already one common EU position, but it does not specify the future steps and there are differences: how much time is needed, what measures the United Nations should take,'' Papandreou said.
''From today's meeting all believe that the inspecting procedures cannot be perpetual and that this proposal which exists on the negotiating table for the specific objectives, with a specific timetable for every objective, to constitute an alternative proposal, which may unite the Security Council. And it is a proposal which we have discussed with Annan and Messrs Blix and ElBaradei, as well as with the Arabs, with many EU partners, with the Russians and with the Americans. There is still no consensus in this proposal, but we can work for the possibility of a consensus. This would give the possibility for us to have an objective assessment for the compliance or not or the cooperation or not by Saddam Hussein with the UN,'' the Greek minister added.
Papandreou further referred to the prospects of developments from an intervention by the Arabs, noting that ''the second most important is that the initiative which we took with the Arabs is developing. The Arabs are here to discuss with Kofi Annan and later with the members of the Security Council and they are departing early next week for Baghdad, sending a message for us to see whether if with their help as well, there can exist this cooperation, the undisputed one, which will allow for there to be a peaceful settlement of the problem.''
Concluding, he stressed that ''the Greek EU presidency is therefore continuing with initiatives to discuss with all here in New York. We had the opportunity to discuss these initiatives with the English, Americans, Germans, French, Spaniards and Russians.''
Asked how he saw the new draft resolution which the four countries submitted with March 17 as the final deadline, he said ''it is certain that there is a difference of views in the Security Council, as within the European Union. Therefore, we must seek alternative thoughts, I will also talk with the ministers of the two tendencies, so that we can see as the presidency, if we can contribute towards this direction. Of course, we are not the UN, but as the EU with whichever proposals and views of ours, to a more fruitful effort effort for consensus and a peaceful settlement of the Cyprus issue.''
To a question whether he will go to The Hague for the meeting on the Cyprus issue, he said:"I will have the opportunity to speak with Kofi Annan today on the Cyprus issue and on the developments. I will see on what level he himself awaits the delegations and according with the level we will arrange the representation, to have the same level in each delegation."
Asked whether there was a difference of views between Athens and Nicosia, he said:"Not at all. I want to categorically deny it."
 Athens stresses importance of Hague meeting on Cyprus
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)Greek Deputy Press Minister Tilemachos Hytiris on Friday stressed the importance of a meeting that is to take place next Monday at The Hague between United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in efforts to achieve a breakthrough on the Cyprus problem.
Hytiris noted that Greece had displayed a very constructive stance and was waiting for Turkey to respond in kind, "which it has not done yet," the spokesman said, while noting that this could have repercussions on Turkey's European course.
According to an ANA dispatch from Istanbul, meanwhile, the leader of Turkey's Justice and Development party Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose earlier statements had given rise to hopes that Turkey was softening its stance on Cyprus, on Friday stressed the need for changes to the Annan peace plan, saying that he had been unaware of all the details of the plan when he had described it as acceptable.
"When Mr. Annan had visited Ankara we were not aware of the new form of the plan, only certain headings to which the United Nations Secretary General had referred. When this plan came to us, however, I realized that there were certain seriously negative points. If these negative situations are not overcome, difficulties will arise. If they are overcome, I stress that steps toward a solution will be made," Annan said.
Reports by the Turkish news agency Anadolu, meanwhile, quote Erdogan as saying that solving the problem would be difficult unless "both sides make sacrifices, because it is not right to only expect sacrifices from the Turkish side".
Denktash, meanwhile, who is currently visiting Ankara for meetings with the Turkish leadership, on Friday told reporters that he would not be going to The Hague to say no.
"We emphasize changes that must be made to the plan and that the plan is unacceptable if it retains its present form," he added.
 Environment minister heads EU delegation to Russia
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou on Friday concluded her visit to Moscow, as part of a European Union delegation to urge Russia to sign the Kyoto Protocol for the protection of the environment, as soon as possible.
Along with Papandreou, as the presiding EU minister, EU Commissioner Margot Wallstrom and Italian Environment Minister Altero Matteoli composed the delegation.
''The Kyoto Protocol offers significant opportunities for investment in the energy system of Russia by Western firms, through the regulation of Common Implementation, which includes technological know-how transfer to Russia, while at the same time it promotes modernization,'' Papandreou said.
On her part, Wallstrom said that the ''EU aims at strengthening its general political bonds with Russia. The ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by Russia, would be an indication that we can expand our cooperation in the environmental sector''.
Metteoli stressed that ''now is the time to make political decisions. The Kyoto protocol is the international framework for the confrontation of climatic changes benefiting all countries''.
Russia was represented in the meetings by its Energy Minister Igor Khanukovich Yusufov, who stressed the Russian sides wish to ratify the protocol, but did not commit to a date for such action.
 Scotland Yard informs embassy on Greek student case, Protopapas says
LONDON 08/03/2003 (ANA - L. Tsirigotakis)Press and Mass Media Minister Christos Protopapas, currently on a visit here, said on Friday that a representative of Scotland Yard communicated earlier in the day with the Greek Embassy in London and ''expressed his regret over the difficulties which were created due to the failure to brief the Greek diplomatic service in England concerning the arrest of Greek student Haralambos Dousemertzis who is being charged on the basis of a clause in the anti-terrorism law.''
Protopapas also said that the Greek foreign ministry instructed Greek General Consul in London Alexis Hatzimihalis to be present in the court where Dousemertzis will be brought before on Tuesday morning, so as to offer him any assistance he needs in the context of the rights of a Greek citizen.
Press & Media minister hold series of meetings in London: Press and Media Minister Christos Protopapas on Friday met with members of the Greek and Greek-Cypriot communities here.
In early afternoon he was hosted to a dinner by the Greek shipping association of London and briefed them of the priorities of the Greek EU presidency.
Earlier in the day he met with British MPs of the Greek lobby and with the Federation of Greek-Cypriot Organizations of Britain Haris Sofoklides.
Later in the day he is expected to speak at the London's economic sciences school on the "Greek Presidency 2003: a historic and substantial landmark for the course of the EU in the future".
 Greece welcomes Arafat decision to ask top PLO official to be prime minister
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)EU president Greece on Friday welcomed the decision of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat to appoint senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Mahmoud Abbas as the Palestinian Authority's prime minister, a Greek foreign ministry press release said.
Greek presidency spokesman Panos Beglitis on Friday told reporters ''the nomination, which we hope will be approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council, promotes necessary reforms on the Palestinian side, it accommodates an exit form the crisis and paves the way toward a peaceful settlement on the basis of United Nations Security Council resolutions and the existence of two states'', the press release said.
 Papantoniou meets allied forces deputy commander
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)The deployment of the European Union’s Rapid Reaction Force in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), making up Europe’s first such peace mission, was the focus of a meeting on Friday in Athens between Greece’s Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and visiting Deputy Commander of European Allied Forces German Admiral Rainer Feist.
The Rapid Reaction Force is expected to be deployed in FYROM in April, Papantoniou said during an event organized by the Greek-German Chamber on Thursday.
He further clarified that the European Common Foreign and Defense Policy (CFDP) would at a later stage include a clause for mutual contribution, under the model of NATO’s article 5, which would initially enable the joint handling of terrorism.
The 60,000-strong EU Rapid Reaction Force was agreed in 2000 and is expected to be fully operational within 2003. The force is part of the EU’s Common Foreign and Defense Policy (CFDP) and Common European Security and Defense Policy (CESDP). It will undertake peacekeeping duties in operations where NATO may not be required.
 Gov't again advises Greeks to avoid traveling to Iraq
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)Deputy Press Minister Tilemachos Hytiris on Friday repeated the Greek foreign ministry's recommendation that Greek citizens avoid traveling to Iraq at this time but said that Greece's diplomatic representation would remain in the country until the hostilities began.
Asked to comment on reports that the United States had issued a travel advisory that included Greece, Hytiris confirmed that the State Department had issued a warning to U.S. citizens concerning the wider region.
We do not know if Greece is included in this region and we have asked for clarifications, since we do not consider Greece to be within the crisis zone," Hytiris said.
 Press deputy minister denies early general elections rumors
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)Press and Media deputy minister Telemachos Hytiris on Friday denied rumors of early general elections, saying that "the elections will take place at the end of the four-year term".
Replying to press questions during a briefing, he said that if the general elections coincided with European Parliament elections, "so much the better".
 Greek EU presidency - declaration on behalf of EU on Haiti
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)The Greek EU presidency on Friday issued a declaration on behalf of the European Union on Haiti. The full text of the declaration follows below:
''The European Union attaches great importance to the respect for democratic values and the rule of law that governs its relations with third countries. These values are at the heart of the partnership between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP). Since democracy had not been re-established in Haiti after the fraud in the May 2000 Senate elections, which favored the candidates of the ''Fanmi Lavalas'' party, the European Union renewed on 10 January 2003 the measures partially suspending its aid to Haiti. However, it is continuing with those cooperation programs that directly benefit the people. The Union stands ready to revise these measures at any time as the situation develops.
''The OAS adopted Resolution 822 in September 2002, with the agreement of the Haitian authorities, which immediately undertook to implement it. The European Union believes that the said Resolution contains all that is necessary to end the crisis and re-launch a credible electoral process, and notes that it is the responsibility of the authorities to protect democratic pluralism, freedom of expression and individual rights.
''The European Union is alarmed at recent reports of increases in threats and intimidating behavior towards journalists and human rights and opposition militants, as well as towards civil society and trade union leaders, by armed individuals many of whom belong to popular organizations or mafia groups. It urges President Aristide to put an end to these actions, which are contrary to the rule of law and democracy, and to re-establish good governance in order to set the country on the road to peace and prosperity.
''The European Union expects that the provisional electoral council be put in place rapidly so that the process of preparing for the future elections can commence. It voices the hope that all the parties will shortly be able to appoint their representatives to it.
''The European Union will lend its support to a demarche by the 'Group of Friends' with the purpose of reminding the authorities of their duty to implement Resolution 822, even gradually. It is willing to lend its support to a gradual process of returning to the rule of law, the first stage of which is to re-establish trust and security, thus making it possible to constitute the provisional electoral council. If appropriate, it will take part in a program of technical support for the Haitian police and judiciary, provided that guarantees are obtained from the authorities with a view to the re-establishment of order, security and the rule of law.
''The European Union reiterates its political will and preparedness to contribute to the smooth conduct of the electoral process under the terms of Resolution 822.
''The Acceding Countries Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia, the Associated Countries Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey and the EFTA countries, members of the European Economic Area align themselves with this declaration.''
 EU finance ministers fail to reach agreement on deposit taxation
BRUSSELS 08/03/2003 (ANA - V. Demiris)The European Union's Council of Finance Ministers failed to reach an agreement on bank deposit taxation here on Friday, due to Italy's reservations.
The issue of bank deposits, as well as the issue of energy taxation which was not discussed during the meeting, will be examined at a special ECOFIN Council meeting on March 19.
Referring to the issue of deposit taxation, Finance Minister and Council President Nikos Christodoulakis said the political agreement reached by the Council in January was confirmed, while Italy's reservations on the completion of the agreement were recognized.
Italy linked the achievement of the agreement on the taxation package with the agreement on energy taxation, and also requested the writing off of fines amounting to 500 million euros imposed on Italian milk producers for exceeding quotas.
Christodoulakis said unsettled issues regarding the achievement of an agreement on the issue of deposit taxation have been minimized and are now limited to the completion of the agreement on the directive concerning parent companies and subsidiaries, as well as the directive on interest and rights.
However, he stressed the need for the Council to reach an agreement before the spring summit on March 21-22.
January's political agreement anticipated an exchange of information on incomes coming from the deposits of EU citizens in countries where they are not permanent residents.
Replying to a question on the risk of oil price increases due to a possible war in Iraq, Christodoulakis said the Council agreed to full coordination and an exchange of information between member-states so that ''we can respond in the best possible way to the possibility of a crisis.''
He added that the target should be to avoid an increase in inflation and the taking of unilateral measures.
 EU: concern over sluggish economy, recovery expected at year end
BRUSSELS 08/03/2003 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)Finance minister Nikos Christodoulakis, EU finance council president in office, and EU economic & monetary affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes exiting a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels late Thursday expressed concern over a sluggish European economy exacerbated by uncertainties due to geopolitical strain related to the Iraq crisis.
''Recovery is expected near the end of the year'', the Commissioner said, adding that November forecasts were being revised downward.
On his part, the Greek minister said that recovery remained the basic target. He welcomed interest rate cuts by the European Central Bank, but said they were a ''step, but not a leap''.
Asked about the implications of a prospective war in Iraq, Solbes said the EU would deal with such implications on the basis of the Stability Pact provisions for ''extenuating circumstances''.
 EU trade unions-Greek presidency: concurrence on single defense industry
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)European Union president Greece and EU defense industry trade unions on Friday confirmed their shared position on the presidency's priority for a single defense industry within the EU.
At a meeting between Greek defense minister Yiannos Papantoniou and a trade unions delegation the two sides exchanged views on the presidency's proposals for deregulation of the resources and funding committed to research for the creation of a European weapons organization.
The proposals of the Greek presidency will be the focus of discussions at the upcoming European Summit on 20 and 21 March in Brussels.
 Greek inflation jumps to 4.3 percent in February, yr/yr
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)Greek annual inflation, measured by the consumer price index, soared to 4.3 percent in February from 3.1 percent in January, reflecting the impact of extended bad weather conditions in the country and of increased oil prices in international markets, National Statistics Service said on Friday.
NSS said that the 1.2 percentage points jump in the inflation rate in February, from the previous month, reflected a 0.9 percentage points rise in fruit and vegetable prices and a 0.3 percentage points increase in international oil prices leading to higher domestic fuel prices.
More analytically, the month-on-month rise in inflation reflected a 2.6 percent average increase in food and non-alcohol drinks, a 1.7 percent rise in housing prices, a 0.9 percent increase in transport prices, a 6.6 percent jump in clothing and footwear and a 0.9 percent increase in hotel, cafe and restaurant prices.
The average inflation rate in the period March 2002-February 2003 was running at 3.6 percent, compared with a 3.5 percent rise in the previous year.
Greece's harmonized inflation rate also rose to 4.2 percent. The National Statistics Service said that February's jump in the inflation rate equaled its level in January 2002.
 Greek economy grows 4.0 percent in 2002
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)Greece's gross domestic product (GDP) grew 4.0 percent last year, reflecting a 3.1 percent rise in domestic consumption in 2002, the National Statistics Service said on Friday.
NSS said that GDP grew an annual 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2002.
The statistics service said high economic growth rates reflected a 3.1 percent increase in final consumption last year from 2.2 percent in 2001. Final consumption spending rose 2.7 percent in the fourth quarter, contributing by 1.7 percent in total demand in the economy.
The 2002 GDP figure also reflected a 6.7 percent rise in investments, although slower compared with a 6.9 percent increase in 2001. Fourth quarter investments grew an annual 6.2 percent. It also reflected a 4.5 percent drop in exports compared with the previous year. Exports fell 4.9 percent in the fourth quarter from the same period in 2001.
Imports fell 2.7 percent in 2002, compared with a 3.9 percent drop in 2001. Fourth quarter imports fell 3.1 percent from the same quarter in 2001.
 Greek weekly economic review
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)The Athens Stock Exchange plunged to new five-year lows this week pushing the general index below the 1,550 technical support level, for a loss of 14 percent so far this year. Figures by the Union of Institutional Investors showed that domestic equity and combined mutual funds recorded negative returns totalling -15.0 percent in the first two months of 2002.
Annual inflation jumped to 4.3 percent in February from 3.1 percent in the previous month, reflecting the impact of bad weather conditions in the country and of high international oil prices.
The European Central Bank lowered its base lending rate by 25 basis points to 2.50 percent disappointing markets which were expecting a more generous cut. Greek commercial banks, however, are not expected to make any fundamental changes in their deposit and lending interest rates.
In other headline news this week, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis unveiled plans to set up an independent Supervisory Authority to monitor the country's insurance market. Mr Christodoulakis rejected calls for new increases in insurance contract prices.
Representatives from the tourist sector urged Greece's tourism authority to take measures to reverse a declining trend in the domestic tourist market, warning that any fall in tourist demand could lead to lower employment and lower economic growth rates.
The Athens Stock Exchange placed 15 listed companies under surveillance citing worries over their financial conditions. The 15 companies are: Tasoglou, Ideal Group, Plias, Alatini Ceramics, Themeliodomi, Kambas, Korint Pipes, LogicDis, Datamedia, Alysida, Space, Olympic Catering, Galis, Kekrops and Vernikos.
Greece's development ministry approved price rises ranging from 0.84 percent to 19 percent for 175 medicines and price reductions ranging from 0.21 percent to 67.5 percent to other 82 medicines.
Greek economy grew 4.0 percent in 2002, official figures showed on Friday, reflecting a 3.1 percent increase in domestic consumption. Fourth quarter GDP rose 3.4 percent compared with the same period in 2001.
 Greek stocks plunge to new five-year lows on Friday
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks plunged to new five-year lows on Friday reflecting investors' worries over a possible war in Iraq and market uncertainty in the aftermath of an ASE decision to place 15 listed companies under surveillance citing their serious financial conditions.
The general index fell 1.72 percent to end at 1,540.74 points, with turnover a low 46.3 million euros.
The Retail sector was the only one to score gains (up 0.62 percent), while the Publication, Holding, IT and Cement sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day (3.91 percent, 3.83 percent, 3.77 percent and 2.84 percent, respectively).
The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks dropped 2.31 percent. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 1.60 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index eased 1.74 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 6.09 percent off. The wider FTSE/ASE 140 index dropped 2.06 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 253 to 51 with another 50 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 33.1 mln euros Friday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 33.1 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Sellers outstrip buyers on Friday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 ATHOC chief strongly protests to IOC vice-president's statement on Athens Games
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)Athens 2004 Olympics organizing committee (ATHOC) president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki on Friday strongly protested against recent statements by International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president R. Kevan Gosper appearing in the Australian press that the Athens Games would be an "unpleasant interlude" between two incredible Olympiads staged in Sydney and Beijing.
In a telephone call to IOC president Jacques Rogge, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki strongly objected to the statement by Gosper, who is an IOC member from Australia and president of the IOC press committee.
Sources said that the ATHOC chief told Rogge that Gosper was entitled to have his worries, but could not disdain the organization and insult Greece's prestige, especially since Rogge himself and the other IOC members have repeatedly expressed their conviction that Athens would host unique Games.
IOC sources said that Angelopoulos-Daskalaki's reaction resulted in a back down by Gosper, who contacted top IOC members in a bid to justify himself, claiming that his statements had been misinterpreted.
Gosper reportedly told the IOC officials that he believed in a successful organization of the Athens Games and that he would repeat this in public in the next few days, thus putting an end to the matter.
 N17 suspects are being tried by wrong court, defense claims
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)The fifth day of the November 17 terrorism trial on Friday was taken up entirely with the presentation of arguments on whether the court was competent to try the 19 defendants accused as N17 terrorists, with certain members of the defense claiming that their clients' crimes were ''purely political'' and should therefore be tried by a mixed jury court.
Ioanna Kourtovik, who is representing both the group's alleged top hit man Dimitris Koufodinas and his wife Angeliki Sotiropoulou, said her client's trial by the Three-Member Criminal Court was a violation of the principle of trial by one's natural judges.
She made it clear, however, that she was objecting to the court only on behalf of Koufodinas and not Sotiropoulou.
Stressing that Koufodinas had voluntarily given himself up and had claimed ''political responsibility'' for N17's actions, she noted that the group's victims were political targets and that its actions and activity ''aimed to establish a new order of things''.
Similar arguments were also presented by the lawyer representing Savvas Xiros and another lawyer hired by the three Xiros brothers.
At some stage, Koufodinas requested the right to speak and said that he had accepted political responsibility for the group's actions and would obviously also have to face the penal consequences.
He also claimed that November 17 had no leader and that he ''did not represent anyone or claim something that did not exist''.
The trial has adjourned until next Tuesday, when arguments on whether the court is competent to judge the case will continue.
Three N17 terrorist suspects express confidence in court: Three suspects currently on trial for alleged participation in the November 17 terrorist group, in a statement not submitted in court but distributed to the press by their lawyers on Friday, expressed their confidence in the court.
The statement was made by Costas Karatsolis, Iraklis Kostaris and Pavlos Serifis.
''Since views were expressed during the procedure that your court possibly lacks necessary impartiality, we wish to declare categorically that none of us adopts these views. On the contrary, we wish to declare that we are absolutely certain of the objectivity and impartiality of your court which we encompass with our absolute confidence,'' the statement said.
 PM and education minister discuss educational issues
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis received Education Minister Petros Efthymiou for an hour an a half on Friday for talks on the state of education in Greece and the results of an informal EU education ministers' summit in Athens last weekend.
Efthymiou said he had also briefed Simitis on the ministry's plans to extend the institution of all-day schools and details of a bill on assessment of universities and technological educational institutes, while a meeting between the premier and the heads of universities had been scheduled for March 12.
Asked to comment on a decision by the European Court of Justice and an EU directive on professional rights, Efthymiou warned parents not to believe newspaper reports claiming that degrees from "Free Studies Centers" would have automatic recognition.
 Accident commission refutes 'premature' reports on Anafi chopper crash
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)The Commission for the Investigation of Accidents and Flight Safety on Friday refuted reports in the media regarding the crash of an EKAB ambulance service helicopter at Anafi on June 17, 2002, saying these "did not correspond to the facts" and were based on partial and arbitrary information.
The Commission said it was now examining the report of a fact-finding team assigned to investigate the accident and would soon issue its conclusions, which would be legally valid.
The reports in the media had been attributed to sources and had said the Anafi accident was due to human error.
 Debate on the Future of Europe – religion
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)A broad debate is underway in Europe on whether a religious reference should become an integral part of the European Union ''Constitution'' currently being shaped by a 105-member convention headed by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
The debate was further fuelled when the Pope expressed his wish to d'Estaing at their meeting in the Vatican for an explicit mention to be made by the Convention to God and informed him that he would travel to Strasbourg to raise the issue at the plenary session of the European Parliament.
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos also sided with that view.
''We hope that a mention will be made to the religious heritage or to the spiritual or ethical reserves of our continent in the future Constitutional Treaty'', he said in his address to d'Estaing.
Germany has seconded that motion, while France and the Scandinavian countries maintain that the Church should be separated from the secular State and that consequently, a reference to God in the ''Constitution'' would be inappropriate.
 Exhibition on new Acropolis museum inaugurated in New York
NEW YORK 08/03/2003 (ANA - P. Panagiotou)An exhibition on the new Acropolis museum was inaugurated at the exhibition centre of the Alexandros Onassis Foundation here on Thursday night.
The inauguration was conducted by Archbishop of America Dimitrios. Apart from architectural designs, models and photographic material, four model archaeological findings are also on display.
The exhibition will remain open until April 9 and is being presented under the auspices of the culture ministry.
 ''Sports and Women'' conference opens in Thessaloniki
Athens, 08/03/2003 (ANA)A conference titled ''Sports and Women'' opened in Thessaloniki on Friday in the framework of the Greek European Union Presidency.
The event is a tribute to the late Melina Merkouri, a renowned actress and a PASOK government culture minister, marking nine years from her death.
The meeting brings together a number of highly acclaimed personalities from the area of sports.
Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos stressed the fact that the event was organized to coincide with Saturday’s international women’s day. He referred to efforts by the Greek Presidency of the Union to promote the inclusion of sports in Europe’s future constitution and to safeguard the genuine nature of sporting activities.
In a videotaped address to the gathering, EU Education and Culture Commissioner Viviane Reding spoke to attendants in fluent Greek and congratulated the Greek EU Presidency on choosing such a well-timed topic, further stressing the importance of sports in promoting gender equality.
 Cyprus: We may decide on our reply at The Hague
NICOSIA 08/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)Government spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides said on Friday that the Greek Cypriot side may take its final decision on whether it will hold a referendum on a UN peace proposal, on Monday, at The Hague.
The spokesman also said that former president of the Republic, Glafcos Clerides would travel to The Hague with President Tassos Papadopoulos and members of the National Council for a meeting with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who has invited the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides there to tell him if they will put to the people of Cyprus his plan for a comprehensive settlement.
''The position of the Greek Cypriot side has not been finalized yet.
The National Council will convene tomorrow and the reply of the Greek Cypriot side will depend on developments at tomorrow's meeting and the views of Council members,'' he said.
Asked if the Greek Cypriot side will communicate its reply to Annan even if the other side says that it would not respond or that it would adopt a negative stance, the spokesman said that ''our reply will represent the response of the Greek Cypriot side, irrespective of any answer the Turkish Cypriot side gives. This is our position.''
Asked to what extent the reply of the Greek Cypriot will depend on how the other side behaves, Chrisostomides said ''nobody knows how things will develop, all we know is that there will be a meeting of the president with the UN Secretary General at 10 on Monday morning at the Peace Palace in The Hague.''
The spokesman said that ''we must give a reply at The Hague'' and pointed out that ''a clear reply might not mean a mere 'yes' or 'no'.
There are other elements which might be included in our reply,'' he added.
Replying to questions, he said that the Greek Cypriot side wants to negotiate and depending on the outcome of the meeting on Monday, the future course of the peace effort will be defined.
Invited to comment on statements from Turkey with regard to the peace effort, ahead of Monday's meeting, he said ''Denktash's (Turkish Cypriot leader) speech before the Turkish National Assembly and the statement by the spokesman of the Turkish president as well as remarks by three other parties give no indication for a positive stance on the part of the Turkish side towards the UN peace plan.''
Chrysostomides said the Denktash's attitude ''remains the same and that generally, the Turkish side's stance is not constructive.''
 UN envoy: no plans for week-long meetings in The Hague
NICOSIA 08/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)The program of Monday's meeting in The Hague with the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus has not been finalized, UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto told CNA here on Friday, and indicated that consultations with the two parties would take place on Monday but not beyond that.
De Soto said on Sunday he would be meeting Secretary General Kofi Annan in The Hague and would be in touch with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos to inform him about the procedure of the Monday meetings.
De Soto, who leaves for The Hague on Saturday accompanied by his team of experts, said that depending on the outcome of Monday's meeting he might go to New York or return to the island.
Asked what the procedure would be for the Monday meetings, he said ''the program has not been actually spelt out'' and noted that Papadopoulos had been in touch with him on Friday morning to inquire about this.
''All I was able to tell him was that the meetings would be concentrated on Monday but I would be in touch on Sunday to give them details, I will meet the Secretary General on Sunday,'' he added.
Invited to comment on speculation that there would be actual negotiation in The Hague with the two sides after Monday, the top UN envoy on Cyprus replied ''my return ticket is open because I do not know what my destination would be after Amsterdam, whether I would come back to the island or go to New York.''
The Secretary General would decide, he explained and said that this decision ''would depend on the outcome of the meeting'' with the two leaders.
''We have no plans to continue through the week, I have seen that kind of speculation, the Secretary General has engagements in The Hague on Tuesday,'' he added, referring to the inauguration of the International Criminal Court.
Asked if Kofi Annan has sent letters to President Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash with regard to Monday's meeting, he explained that the Secretary General had extended personally an invitation to the two leaders and gave them the text of his talking points, that spelt out in writing what he was proposing.
''He did not feel necessary to resort to the formality of sending a letter to the two leaders since they accepted his invitation and he made the announcement in a prepared statement they had agreed to,'' de Soto said.
Replying to questions, he told CNA that there has not been a reply yet from Greece to Annan's letter inviting Athens to send a representative to The Hague at a level commensurate of the importance of the meeting.
De Soto said it was for the three guarantor powers (Greece, Turkey and Britain), all of whom got invitations to go to The Hague, to judge the level of representation.