|Friday, 19 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-03-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 15, 2003
 EU defense ministers' summit in Athens focuses on "Euroforce", Iraq
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, speaking at the end of the first day of an informal European Union defense ministers' meeting on Friday, said the "night will be long and possibly hides significant events" in referring to developments on the problem of Iraq.
Papantoniou said the crucial aspect of events lies in whether the window of diplomacy is still open, whether it can open further or, unfortunately, it has closed.
He said a very tough diplomatic struggle is currently taking place and nobody can predict the outcome of consultations, adding that the weekend will be crucial from the point of view of developments.
The defense minister said he could not confirm whether the telephone call to EU High Commissioner Javier Solana, who left the hall to speak, was related to reports that chemical weapons had been found in Iraq.
Papantoniou, after clarifying that a relevant request has not been made, categorically ruled out the possibility of Patriot missile batteries being sent to Turkey to strengthen it due to a possible war in Iraq.
The issue of Iraq will be examined during the second day of the meeting on Saturday.
On the question of the operational readiness of the European rapid reaction force, the defense ministers praised the efforts of the Greek EU presidency to achieve this objective.
Moreover, work groups involved in covering deficits in weaponry systems of the European rapid reaction force will submit their reports in May to enable European governments to go ahead with political commitments at the Brussels special ministers' conference for the procurement of necessary systems.
Papantoniou stressed that achieving the operational readiness of the European rapid reaction force is a great political success for Greece and an important step forward for the political unification of Europe.
 Solana holds phone talks with Powell on Iraq problem
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)EU High Representative for Security and Foreign Policy Javier Solana had phone talks with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell during Friday's first day of an informal European Union defense ministers' meeting in Athens, according to press sources.
According to the same sources, the object of the talks was the planned meeting between the U.S. Britain, Spain and possibly Portugal on the Iraq problem. The meeting is expected to take place at the beginning of next week.
At the same time, British diplomatic sources do not share the optimism of the French defense minister regarding the course of consultations between Britain and France, on a level of foreign ministers, concerning a peaceful solution being reached on the Iraq crisis.
The same sources stated that Britain does not agree with the possibility of an extension being given to the deadline for weapons inspectors to complete their mission.
 DM Papantoniou meets German counterpart Struck
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)A series of issues related to the Iraq crisis and the informal EU Council of Defense Ministers were the center of discussion between Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and his German counterpart Peter Struck.
The meeting between the two defense ministers was held after the end of the first day of the informal EU Council of Defense Ministers, taking place in Athens Friday and Saturday.
Papantoniou said they both expressed their concern over the situation regarding Iraq, and their confidence in the need for a peaceful way out of the crisis. A more detailed discussion of the specific issue will take place on Saturday morning.
The Greek minister, who is currently presiding over the Council, added that both Greece and Germany hold identical views in utilizing all means to avert a war in Iraq.
In addition, both countries expressed their confidence in the unification of European defense, as well as their contentment at the dispatch of the European Rapid Reaction Force in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the body’s first such mission to begin towards the end of March.
Struck spoke favorably over Papantoniou’s positions and careful and essential recommendations, which he said characterized the essence of European defense.
“I have to tell you that Germany’s and Greece’s positions on Iraq are identical. What we want is to give diplomacy all the tools and all the possibilities to exhaust its potential… we wish that UN arms inspectors go there and do their job, and we hope this way we can achieve Saddam Hussein’s disarmament, not through war,” Struck said in his statement after the meeting.
 Greek, French defense ministers say force should be the 'last resort' in Iraq
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)The Greek and French defense ministers, Yiannos Papantoniou and Michele Alliot-Marie, respectively, talking to reporters in Athens on Friday after the first session of a two-day informal EU defense ministers meeting, said that all margins for a peaceful settlement on the Iraq issue should be exhausted.
The French defense minister said that her country supported the disarmament of Iraq from weapons of mass destruction and stressed that France rejected the second draft resolution proposed by Britain at the United Nations Security Council, because it ''was not in line with legitimacy''.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the staunchest supporter of Washington's push for military action, on Wednesday proposed setting Iraq six specific disarmament tests.
Alliot-Marie said that France would only have to exercise its veto at the UNSC if the US government managed to secure a majority vote at the Council, which was not the case.
She said that the second British proposal was automatically promoting a resort to force which France had rejected from the beginning, insisting that the work of the UN weapons inspectors should continue and only if they say they cannot continue with their work then examine the possibility for resorting to force as a last resort.
''War is neither a correct or an effective solution. In the 90's it was proven that inspections have led to better results than operations'', she said, adding ''in addition to thousands of victims on both sides, a pre-emptive war would destabilize the region and would lead to a precipitous rise of terrorism''.
Alliot-Marie said that the inspectors' work was advancing very well and said they should be reinforced with personnel and more means and that discussions were underway at a foreign ministers level between Britain and France to bring French and British positions closer.
With regard to the EU position she noted that differences were not big compared to those in the interior of the US.
''We might be in disagreement with Britain and Spain regarding the method and the time for the war, however there are no differences in substance'', she said.
On his part, the Greek defense minister said there was a ''window'' in diplomacy for a peaceful settlement on the issue, but ''efforts should be made so that hope could turn into reality''.
He said Greece supported the disarmament of Iraq, the work of the inspectors, the UN decision-making procedure and believed that war was the last resort.
Moreover, with regard to the preparedness of the European Rapid Reaction Force, the French defense minister praised the efforts of the Greek presidency toward the completion of the goal and said that the European force would operate in collaboration with the corresponding NATO force and would be in a position to fulfill its mission in Bosnia in the beginning of 2004.
 EU-NATO security agreement signed in Athens
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)The European Union and NATO signed a security agreement here on Friday which the alliance’s general secretary called a “significant step in developing relations between the two organizations.”
The agreement opens the way for military missions by the Union within the framework of the European Security and Defense Policy, and in areas where the NATO alliance is not active as a whole.
NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou – the current president of the EU Council of Ministers – signed the agreement for the respective blocs.
The latter expressed his satisfaction that the agreement was signed during the current Greek EU presidency, while Lord Robertson praised the Greek presidency for its efforts.
“This security agreement confirms our volition to assume responsibilities in more and more areas, starting with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM),” Papandreou stressed.
In an unrelated development, the Greek FM again expressed Athens’ shock over this week’s assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.
 Media minister rules out Greek participation in Iraq war
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)Press and Media Minister Christos Protopapas on Friday ruled out all possibility that Greece might become involved in military operations in a war against Iraq, saying that the country would only contribute humanitarian aid and then only if the operations involved were sanctioned by the United Nations.
Protopapas made the statements during the presentation of a book by journalist Costas Mardas entitled "Bases, Blood and Oil: From the Cold War to Globalization".
Regarding the use of the military base in Souda by the United States, the minister said that Greece was bound by the agreements it had signed and the obligations arising from these.
Turning to the role of Europe in world developments and international security, Protopapas said that it was now breaking away from its dependence on the United States and seeking to enhance its presence on the international scene.
"The peoples [of Europe] are replying that they do not want a new Roman Empire. Instead, they want a world order based on international law that is determined by the United Nations and not by one country," he noted.
Iraq's disarmament had to take place but the way in which this should be done was a decision for the United Nations, he added.
Asked how the European Union would react in the case of war, the minister said that the situation would be closely monitored by the EU's summer council and that another emergency summit might be held if necessary, while stressing that events within the U.N. Security Council would be very important.
Statements regarding the prospects of war in Iraq were also made by main opposition New Democracy's spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, who said that the Greek EU presidency could still work for peace.
"Saddam Hussein is a dictator and, from this point of view, the people of Iraq must be helped. But this cannot be done through the use of arms," he said.
 Alternate FM: EU must move forward, despite problems such as Iraq
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)It was crucial that the European Union moved forward on a number of major issues, in spite of problems such as Iraq that gave rise to disagreements, Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis said on Friday.
He said that Greece, the current EU president, had made great efforts on the issue of Iraq and had tried to find compromises that would allow Europe to forge ahead united.
Yiannitsis made the statements when asked to comment on a British proposal for a meeting of EU European Affairs ministers to discuss relations between the Community and the United States that would include the 10 candidate-countries due to join in April.
Relations between the EU and the US, as well as relations between the EU and the Arab and Moslem world were particularly crucial issues that intensely concerned the Union, the minister noted.
He said that the Greek EU presidency would examine and assess the action needed to deal with the problems after the Spring EU summit, following a calm and constructive joint assessment of developments.
 ND leader says EU must have common position on possible Iraq war
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis, referring to the crisis over Iraq, said on Friday the European Union must have a common position and stance on a possible war.
Karamanlis was speaking during the first meeting of his party's Political Council with its new composition and at which an identity of views was ascertained on the policy the party should follow on the issue of Iraq.
Referring primarily to developments on the issue of Cyprus, Karamanlis said the Greek Cypriot side observed a constructive stance. He added that ND had reservations as to whether the solution would be viable and workable and that there were hopes that the new Turkish leadership would change its longstanding position at the last moment.
The ND leader also said Turkey's European prospects depend on a solution to the Cyprus issue and that work should be continued for a viable solution to be found for the political problem.
Former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis said Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash took advantage of weaknesses on Turkey's political scene, pointing out that responsibility for the rejection of the Annan plan lay on the Turkish side.
Mitsotakis congratulated the party's leader because the policy he is following on the issues of Cyprus and Iraq is in the country's interest.
KKE leader sharply criticizes prospect of war in Iraq: Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga received Iraq’s charges d’ affaires in Athens on Friday, before she sharply criticized the prospect of a war against the country, saying control of the region’s oil was the true reason behind the crisis.
“We are not relying on the resistances shown by European countries (to calls for military action),” she warned, adding that her party hopes such resistance will foil any war.
 Athens-Piraeus Prefectural Council declares support for anti-war rallies
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)The Athens-Piraeus Expanded Prefectural Council on Friday passed a resolution support anti-war rallies against the war in Iraq that are to be held in Athens over the coming weeks.
It urged the public to take part in the rallies that will take place in Athens on Saturday to coincide with EU defense ministers council in the city and on Friday, March 21, at Syntagma Square.
Three anti-war rallies, March in Thessaloniki:
Three anti-war rallies that will culminate in a single protest march against war in Iraq will be held on Saturday in Thessaloniki.
The first rally at the Venizelos statue at 13:00 is organized by the Greek Social Forum and EDOTh, the second will be held at the same time at the city port and is organized by Action Thessaloniki 2003 and the trade union organizations EDYETh and PAME, while the group Thessaloniki Resistance 2003 will hold a rally at noon in Kamara.
All three will join to hold a march that will head toward the 3rd Army Corps and the American Consulate.
Protestors surround defense ministry to protest possible Iraq war: Members of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), of the EEDYE, of the Action ''Thessaloniki 2003 and other peace organizations were symbolically surrounding the Defense Ministry as of 5 p.m. on Friday to protest a possible war in Iraq.
The organizers called on the people of Athens to respond and escalate their protests, pressuring the government to close the Souda Bay U.S. base.
They were also protesting the creation of the ''Euroforce''.
 Europe forging ahead despite other events, Greek EU presidency says
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)Europe was forging ahead despite the other events, Greece's foreign minister and current chairman of the EU Council of Ministers, George Papandreou, said Friday, adding that the EU needed greater acceleration now and that was the message the Greek EU presidency wished to put forward at next week's Summit in Brussels.
The EU summit on March 20-21 in Brussels was the focus of a meeting chaired Friday by prime minister Costas Simitis attended by Simitis, alternate foreign minister Tasos Yiannitsis, national economy and finance ministry Nikos Christodoulakis, labor minister Dimitris Reppas and press and media minister Christos Protopapas.
The message the Greek EU presidency wishes to put forward is that now Europe needs greater acceleration, Papandreou told reporters after the meeting.
He said the Greek EU presidency had done very good work in the achievement of specific goals, adding that next week's Summit could be a successful one and noting that "Europe is progressing despite the other events".
On the prospective war in Iraq, Papandreou said that nothing could be ruled out as long as diplomatic efforts were continuing, including a diplomatic, peaceful solution to the problem being found even at the last minute.
On press speculation that US president George Bush has called a weekend meeting with the British and Spanish prime ministers at a European venue, Papandreou said he there was no specific information on such a meeting, adding that he would be speaking with US secretary of state Colin Powell later Friday or Saturday, who would be able to provide information.
 EU presidency comments on closure of Turkey's HADEP party
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)The Greek EU presidency on Friday issued a press release expressing its great concern over the closure of the HADEP party in Turkey by the country's constitutional court.
''The Presidency, on behalf of the EU, takes note with great concern of the verdict issued by the Turkish Constitutional Court, with regard to the closure of the HADEP party. It also notes that the Chief Prosecutor of the Court of Appeals has requested the Constitutional Court to initiate similar proceedings against the DEHAP party,'' the press release said.
''The EU will examine both developments in depth. It reiterates the fundamental importance it attaches to democratic pluralism and to the freedoms of expression and political opinion,'' it concluded.
 Magriotis meets German SPD European affairs official
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis , who is currently on a two-day visit to Germany, met in Berlin on Friday with Social Democratic Party (SPD) official Gunter Glosser, responsible for European affairs.
The focus of discussions, according to a Greek Foreign Ministry announcement, was on European and global affairs, with an emphasis on the situation regarding Iraq and developments in the Cyprus problem.
Magriotis referred to Germany and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s decisive role in defending international law principles.
With regard to the EU, he stressed that Greece was in favor of EU enlargement, of the Union’s credible and decisive role and an economically strong, prosperous and progressive Europe of citizens.
Glosser noted the special role the Greek EU Presidency played in dealing with the Iraq crisis, stressing that the political cost of war would be must higher that the economic one.
Referring to Cyprus, the German official said that efforts by the United Nations and Secretary General Kofi Annan for a solution should continue, while he expressed certainty for Cyprus’ EU admission.
Further, Glosser expressed the hope that before the end of the semester he would be in position to discuss the draft constitution of the EU, taking place for the first time and during the Greek presidency.
 Petsalnikos in favor of European adjustment of justice
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)The need to adjust the justice system at both national and European Union levels is becoming inevitable, Justice Minister and current EU Council of Ministers president Philippos Petsalnikos told the opening of a meeting of the European Judicial Training Network at Thessaloniki’s National Judicial School.
“To implement the space of freedom, security and justice, provided for in the EU Treaty, judges and public prosecutors should understand in depth their own judicial and jurisdictional systems, as well as cooperation means,” Petsalnikos told participating judges.
He added that constant education, training and updating of judges promotes scientific dialogue and knowledge and contributes to the positive assimilation of modern considerations and data.
Finally, the Greek justice minister underlined the importance of national educations systems’ enlargement and networking, by respecting their identity and retaining the independence of justice.
 Former PM Mitsotakis blasts government on economy, repercussions of Iraq war
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)Former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis on Friday launched a scathing attack against prime minister Costas Simitis and his government, accusing them of ''not telling the truth to the people'' on and avoiding to take extraordinary measures for the repercussion of the prospective war on Iraq because ''they're only concern is to cling to power''.
In an interview on a private radio station, Mitsotakis, honorary president of the main opposition New Democracy party, said that the government ''should have stepped down yesterday'', adding that it should call early general elections as soon as Greece completed it's six-month term in the EU presidency in June.
Mitsotakis opined, however, that Simitis would not call early elections but attempt instead to exhaust the entire four-year term in office until May 2004, ''unless he loses control'' over the situation.
The former premier was equally critical of Bank of Greece governor Nikos Garganas, intimating that the central bank chief was playing down the situation in his report, and called on the government to take measures to contain expenditures and strengthen productivity and competitiveness, and to proceed with denationalizations as well as structural changes in the labor and social security sectors.
Mitsotakis said that he had supported Simitis' efforts in the hope that he would make a contribution, but this government was a bad government and had to leave because the dying PASOK could not improve.
''Where are the prime minister and national economy minister living,'' Mitsotakis asked, adding that New Democracy had the appropriate officials to govern, while ND leader Costas Karamanlis was suitable for prime minister.
Mitsotakis declined to comment on his own political future, but announced that his son, Kyriakos, would stand for election to parliament in the Athens B' electoral district.
Turning to the issue of terrorism, the veteran politician said that ND would continue its investigations so that light would be shed on the matter if the government failed to complete investigations into all the aspects of the problem, and insisted that only the 'operational' leg of the 'November 17' terrorist group had been arrested and was currently on trial.
On the Cyprus issue, Mitsotakis placed full blame on Turkey and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for the collapse of the UN secretary general's effort and plan for reunification of the island republic, noting that as a result Ankara's position vis-a-vis the EU and the US was had been weakened while Greece's was strong.
He said that if Turkey wanted to accede into the EU, it would have to resolve the Cyprus issue, and opined that Cyprus' imminent EU accession could lead to a solution of its political problem.
On the Iraq crisis, Mitsotakis said that the differences between France and the US were small and technical ones that could be bridged. He said the Europeans were correct in demanding a UN Security Council resolution, but criticized them for not having done the same for the attacks on Serbia. He also claimed that the Greek EU presidency was not playing a role in the matter.
 Communist Party of Greece urges strike over rising prices
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)The Communist Party of Greece on Friday urged workers to take part in a strike on March 21 against rising prices, government austerity policies, unemployment and redundancies.
In a statement, the party also called on the public to take part in anti-war protests.
 Coalition party expresses condolences for Djindjic murder
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)The leader of the Coalition of the Left and Progress party Nikos Constantopoulos, accompanied by the Coalition's head for international relations Panos Trigazis, on Friday visited the Serbia-Montenegro embassy in Athens and conveyed their condolences for the murder of Serb Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.
They expressed hope that the Serbs would overcome this blow to stability and progress for Serbia and the wider region with democratic and political normalcy.
 Symposium on joint EU and US strategy against terrorism
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)A symposium entitled ''Europe and the new United States national security strategy: jointly tackling terrorism'' is being organized by the Greek Parliament in cooperation with the Western European Union (WEU) in the framework of the Greek EU presidency on March 17-18 at the Divani Apollon Palace hotel in Kavouri.
Among the participants will be Greek Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis, the head of the WEU Assembly J.D. Blaauw, Greek Foreign Minister and head of the EU foreign ministers' council George Papandreou, Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, former Greek foreign ministers Theodoros Pangalos and Karolos Papoulias, former Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem, Greek Ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller and more than 140 MPs, political analysts and experts from Europe and the United States.
 Court dismisses objections raised by defendants in N17 trial
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)The Three-Member Criminal Appeals Court trying the sensational 'November 17' terrorism case on Friday dismissed arguments that the trial should be held before a mixed jury court on the grounds that the crimes involved were "political".
Presiding Judge Michalis Margaritis explained that the term 'political crime' did not arise from the Constitution but from legal precedent in Greek courtrooms.
Under this he said, the court accepted the definition of political crime as being that which directly attacks the system of government and aims toward toppling the establishment class.
However, he added, this did not extend to crimes for which the political beliefs of the perpetrator may have been a motive.
Later in the day, it also rejected yet more objections raised by lawyers representing the defendants Vassilis Tzortzatos, Iraklis Kostaris, Kostas Karatsolis and Pavlos Serifis regarding various technicalities.
More objections by the defense concerning the pre-trial procedures and motions for the removal of depositions and confessions made by the defendants in the preliminary stages are expected to be submitted when the trial resumes on Monday.
The court has, however, asked the witnesses in the first three cases to report to the courtroom on Monday morning.
 Top gov't meeting focuses on CSF public awareness
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)Better promoting public awareness of programs funded by the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF) was the focus of a top government meeting on Friday, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
According to the government spokesman afterwards, the meeting’s focus was not the course of CSF funding but only the portion dealing with promotion and public awareness.
Several high-ranking ministers attended the meeting.
 Black Sea Trade & Dev. Bank annual meeting in June
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)The Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB) will hold its fifth annual meeting of its board of directors and its fourth Black Sea “Business Day” in Thessaloniki in early June, a press released on Friday stated.
Meanwhile, a major conference is scheduled on June 1 under the auspices of the Greek EU presidency, which has continuously pointed to a goal of promoting economic relations between the Black Sea region countries and the European Union.
For more information, contact BSTDB directly by e-mail at email@example.com
 European consumers need more information, conference says
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)European consumers need more information and education, a two-day conference organized by Greece's Economic and Social Commission (OKE) and the European OKE in Thessaloniki said on Friday.
The conference, held on the occasion of a European Consumer Day, March 15, was titled "Consumers and the expansion of the EU".
Speaking in the conference agreed that to achieve this goal it would need funding and drafting of partnership programs around the European Union.
OKE Europe's chairman, Roger Briesch, said that in the next meeting of the plenary, March 26-27, the agency would adopt a significant opinion for the education of consumers and the enhancement of their position as major factors of the market. "In our opinion, this is a major priority, both for current member-states and for the new EU members next year and in the future," Mr Briesch noted.
"It is necessary to promote consumers' education across Europe, so that they can take decisions and measures to ensure their rights," OKE Greece's chairman, professor Andreas Kintis said.
Mr Kintis stressed that the EU expansion "was a great democratic challenger for the Union and an historic opportunity to create a single political, economic and social area". He added that "expansion would have interactive benefits both to member-states and candidate states, it would improve competitiveness of the European economy in the long-term and promote political and economic stability in Europe".
Greek Euro MP, Christos Folias, said that an EU expansion was a "great challenge for Greece". Mr Folias stressed that Greek consumers were not having all the information they should have and urged for a stricter implementation of laws to promote healthy competition and consumer protection.
 Greek economy - weekly review
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)Greek households are not overdebted, Bank of Greece's governor Nikos Garganas said on Thursday dismissing claims by Greek consumer groups that banks were auctioning several thousand confiscated homes and cars.
The Greek central banker was presenting an ICAP survey on Greek household debt that showed that one in two households was debt-free, while the vast majority of households with debt were servicing their loans regularly.
Meanwhile, in the Athens Stock Exchange the general index fell below the 1,500 level during the week, although it recovered in the last two sessions, hit by a negative climate in international markets because of fears of a possible war in Iraq. Small investors are remaining on the sidelines of the market having suffered heavy losses in the last three and a half years.
In other headline news this week: Prime Minister Costas Simitis said that there was no need to take any emergency measures to deal with problems in the economy from a possible war in Iraq. Addressing a cabinet meeting to discuss recent economic developments, Mr Simitis reiterated his confidence in the Greek economy and stressed that the government would not be carried away from those trying to create a climate of crisis and fear.
Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis stressed the need to enhance an anti-inflationary policy and promoting structural changes in the economy. He did not exclude, however, a possibility of the government offering income support to low-income pensioners if conditions worsened. He was adamant, though, that the government would not adopt spending cuts, nor a looser economic policy.
The Greek minister, speaking to reporters, after another meeting to discuss progress in a Third Community Support Framework, stressed that the government would immediately seek the acceleration of procedures to absorb EU funds.
Greek unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2002 from 10.9 percent in the same period in 2001, although up from 9.5 percent in the third quarter 2002, National Statistics Service said. NSS said that unemployment has fallen by two percentage points since 1999, or 18 percent of the average annual number of unemployed people.
The Greek government approved a plan to speed up a merger procedure between Hellenic Arms Industry (EBO) and PYRKAL, the country's ammunition manufacturer.
Greek car sales dropped 32.6 percent in February from the previous month to 20,119 units, from 29.858 units in January, official figures showed this week. Toyota topped the list of sales with 1,829 units in February, followed by Hyundai (1,634 units) and Ford (1,390 units).
 Consumer group calls for boycott on banks next week
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)A leading consumer advocacy group on Friday called on the public to refrain from using banking products and services throughout next week.
The move is timed to coincide with World Consumer Day on Saturday, and with the start of a hearing on Monday brought by the Ekpoizo consumer group against Athens-quoted Alpha Bank for a recent steep rise in loan rates.
Inka, another consumer group, is to file a class action suit against most banks within two weeks, seeking the abolition of terms ordained by banks for credit cards, and consumer and personal loans.
 Greek stocks end week 1.74 pct down
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks rose moderately in the last trading session of a highly volatile week in the Athens Stock Exchange, with initial big gains reduced near the end of transaction as investors took early profits ahead of the weekend.
The general index rose 0.49 percent to end at 1,513.88 points, with turnover a low 68.7 million euros. The general index ended the week with a net loss of 1.74 percent.
The Telecommunications, Investment and Construction sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day (2.06 percent, 1.59 percent and 1.21 percent, respectively), while the Textile (1.39 percent), Banks (0.88 percent) and IT (0.65 percent) sector suffered the heaviest losses.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 0.25 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 0.05 percent higher, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 0.62 percent up and the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index rose 0.25 percent.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 189 to 109 with another 64 issues unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Sellers outstrip buyers on Friday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 71.4 mln euros Friday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 71.4 mln euros
 Health ministry presents plan for 2004 Olympics biochem protection
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)Health Minister Costas Stefanis on Friday chaired a meeting of the National Council for the Prevention of Biological and Toxic Hazards, which focused on the council's role in setting up systems of protection that were as effective and wide-reaching as possible for the 2004 Olympics.
After a briefing, the council discussed the actions planned by the ministry and its bodies and its Operations Plan for securing the Olympics against radioactive, biological and chemical threats was presented.
''The ministry will take all action within its sphere in order to make the required and expected contribution to hosting the Olympic Games in Athens,'' Stefanis said.
 Greek EU presidency - seminar on cultural heritage in March in Athens
Athens, 15/03/2003 (ANA)The Greek ministry of culture organizes a seminar within the context of the Greek European Union presidency entitled ''Enhancement and Promotion of Cultural Heritage of European Significance'' to be held on 17, 18 and 19 March in Athens (Zappeion Hall) and Delphi (Delphi European Cultural Centre).
The seminar will focus on policies for the protection and management of cultural heritage, as these are determined by international conventions.
Key issues such as the European identity and values inherent in cultural heritage, a comprehensive preservation of archaeological sites and monuments, the management of archaeological sites, monuments and museums and finally, the organization of temporary exhibitions will be discussed.
The seminar will open in Athens with speeches by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and the head of the European Com-mission's General Directorate for Education and Culture Antonios Cosmopoulos.
 Archbishop Dimitrios of America elected to Athens Academy
NEW YORK 15/03/2003 (ANA - P. Panagiotou)Archbishop of America Dimitrios has been elected a member of the Athens Academy, it was announced on Friday.
The Greek Orthodox Church prelate was made a "corresponding member" of the Academy among overseas Greeks in Theology, Ethics and Political Sciences, the announcement said.
 Kavafis remembered at U.S. Congress Library event
WASHINGTON 15/03/2003 (ANA - T. Ellis)The Library of the U.S. Congress, in cooperation with the Greek Civilization Foundation, held a special event on Friday to mark the seventieth anniversary of the death of poet Konstantinos Kavafis, which also coincided with the 140th anniversary of his birth.
The event was entitled ''The life and work of Kavafis: the international Greek poet of the 20th century'' and was organized, with the cooperation of the Greek embassy in the U.S. capital, by the largest library in the world today.
Lectures and documentaries were headed by Greek poet and writer Dinos Siotis.
 Cyprus: UN report must allocate responsibility
NICOSIA 15/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)The Greek Cypriot side expects that a UN report on year-long peace talks will allocate blame where it is due and will express UN resolve to continue being seized by the search for a political settlement in Cyprus, government spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides has said.
He also said the government will explore all possibilities to ensure that the peace effort continues with a view at reuniting the island before it officially accedes to the European Union in May 2004.
''The government expects the report will clearly allocate responsibility to where it belongs,'' the spokesman told CNA in an interview, days after the latest UN peace effort collapsed in the early hours of Tuesday, in The Hague, where the UN and others failed to convince Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to agree to holding a referendum on a peace proposal.
Expressing regret at the outcome of the talks, the spokesman said the Turkish Cypriot leader was fully backed by Ankara during the negotiations in The Hague on Monday, which through its prime minister elect Tayyip Erdogan changed its tune on Cyprus, reversing earlier positions it had adopted.
Questioned further on the report, to be submitted to the Security Council by Secretary General's special adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto who conducted the talks, Chrisostomides said that the government hopes that ''the Council and Kofi Annan apart from allocating responsibility will continue to be seized by the problem along the lines followed so far by the Security Council.''
''If fundamental issues are reopened in relation to a new process, the Greek Cypriot side reserves the right to put forward its positions,'' he said.
Asked how the government would act to meet its commitment to continue the peace effort for a settlement, he said ''we will explore all possibilities through the UN, the good offices of Secretary General Kofi Annan to achieve continuation of the negotiations.''
He said the government would also explore ''other avenues available through the European Union in the context of the UN efforts,'' stressing that any future talks should take place under the aegis of the UN Secretary General.
Replying to questions, he said future peace talks will be on the basis of the Annan plan, adding that this plan is on the table.
Referring to what happened in The Hague, the Cypriot official told CNA that the Greek Cypriot side gave a definite ''yes'' to holding a referendum in response to the Secretary General's request, a position that is in line with the steadfast desire of President Tassos Papadopoulos as well as the political leadership for a speedy solution.
Chrisostomides said that the president stressed that the solution should be immediately functioning in accordance with the Annan plan and to this effect he pointed out a number of issues emanating from the plan and strictly within its parameters which would respond to the need to putting into effect immediately the new state of affairs.
The points President Papadopoulos raised relate to the completion of the basic and important legislation in the plan which would give the state an immediate framework of good start as well as preparation of the constitutions of the component states which should be compatible with the constitution as included in the Annan plan.
At the talks on Monday in The Hague, President Papadopoulos explained that the lack of cooperation on the part of Denktash to fill the gaps in the plan, repeatedly mentioned by UN officials, would mean ''a lame start'' of the state and would lead to conflict in the form of recourses to the Supreme Court on day one of the new state of affairs.
The spokesman said that during The Hague talks, Papadopoulos, as agreed with the UN, pointed out that all security arrangements between the guarantor powers should be agreed and established prior to the referendum as provided for the UN peace plan.
''The attitude of Turkey from an early stage was negative on this issue despite repeated invitations by Greece to meet and agree on this issue,'' the spokesman said.
Chrisostomides recalled that the UN had pointed out that ''lacking an agreement on this issue, there could not be any question of holding a referendum.''
He said that the effort of the Greek Cypriot side was to secure success of the eventual referendum by putting to the citizens a complete plan which the political leadership could put forward clearly to the voters and be in a position to advocate its acceptance.
The Cypriot official told CNA that the Turkish Cypriot leader's reply to the UN call for a referendum was an immediate no. Denktash told Annan that he had made this view known to him before The Hague talks.
''It is obvious that his position was supported by Turkey,'' the spokesman said, recalling statements by Turkish premier-elect Tayyip Erdogan that the UN had duped the Turkish Cypriot side and that the Annan plan cannot be accepted.
Denktash wanted to effect radical changes to the plan, did not agree to the overall philosophy and structure of the plan and remained stuck to his well known positions for separate state-hood, sovereignty and ethnic purity of the two component states of Cyprus that would emerge from the negotiations.
Replying to questions, the spokesman said the Turkish Cypriot side maintained a negative stance during the last part of the UN effort to achieve a revision of the timetable by agreeing on four paragraphs.
Expressing regret and disappointment for the collapse of the talks, the spokesman said that this was due entirely to the responsibility of Denktash.
''We assure our Turkish Cypriot compatriots that the efforts for a solution will continue, even after the signing of the Accession Treaty so that a reunited Cyprus is achieved for the benefit of all its citizens, within the European family,'' he said.
 US still committed to a Cyprus settlement
NICOSIA 15/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)Despite the failure of the UN-led talks in The Hague, the United Stated are committed to seeking a just and durable settlement to the Cyprus problem, Assistant Secretary of State, head of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Beth Jones has said.
Briefing the Congress on Friday on US relations with Europe, Jones expressed regret for the failure of the talks in The Hague for the solution of the Cyprus problem and she accused Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash of not allowing the Turkish Cypriots to decide on their future.
''In Cyprus we have strongly supported the efforts of the UN Secretary General to achieve a settlement before Cyprus signs the EU accession treaty April 16, so Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots would enjoy the benefits of EU membership,'' she said.
''We were deeply disappointed that the Secretary General's talks with the two leaders in The Hague did not result in an agreement to put his plan to referenda in both communities'' Jones added, noting that ''we regret in particular that Mr Denktash refused to allow to the Turkish Cypriots to decide for themselves on their future.''
However, Jones indicated that ''despite this setback, the US remains committed to seeking a just and durable settlement to the Cyprus problem.''
 Greek prime minister to visit Cyprus on April 18
NICOSIA 15/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis will pay an official visit to Cyprus on April 18, only two days after Cyprus and another nine countries sign in Athens the Accession Treaty with the European Union.
''The visit is a particularly important political event and confirms the good and close cooperation between the two governments,'' government spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides said here on Friday.
Cyprus will be the first stop in Simitis' tour of the ten acceding countries.
The spokesman welcomed remarks by Simitis congratulating the political leadership in Cyprus for its constructive stand during the two days of talks in The Hague.
Simitis, the spokesman added, criticized the negative stand of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash which led the talks to collapse.