|Sunday, 31 May 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-03-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 19, 2003
 Greece sees major crisis due to Iraq war, says primary role belongs to UN
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed Athens' support for a leading role by the United Nations in developments concerning Iraq on Tuesday, while predicting that a war in that country would trigger a major international crisis.
''We support that the UN plays a primary role in developments and that the United Nations should be the guarantor of peace,'' Simitis said after an emergency government meeting to discuss the possible repercussions of war in Iraq.
He also made it clear that Greece would not participate or allow itself to be drawn into the war and that Athens believed the use of force should be the last resort. At the same time, however, he said Greece would fulfill any obligations arising from treaties that it had signed, indicating that Athens did not intend to block the use of U.S. bases, such as that of Souda Bay on Crete.
The Greek premier and current head of the European Council also made it clear that the crisis would have no effect on Europe's course but stressed that European countries had to have a common foreign policy and defense.
The Spring EU summit that would convene in Brussels on Thursday would discuss Iraq but also developments concerning Europe.
''It is our obligation and our choice to continue our course,'' he added.
Iraq intervention creates global crisis, PM Simitis warns, urges calm: Prime Minister Costas Simitis warned Tuesday that the decision for a military intervention in Iraq was creating a huge global crisis, and urged calm.
Speaking to reporters before he briefed President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos on the US decision to go ahead with war on Iraq if Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein did not step down within 48 hours, despite its failure to secure UN backing of the operations, Simitis said that "the decision for intervention in Iraq creates a large global crisis".
He urged, however, that "we must remain composed in the face of this crisis".
Simitis also reiterated that the European Union "must finally acquire" a common foreign policy "so as not to be led to situations that have very many negative elements".
Greeting Simitis before their meeting, Stephanopoulos noted that "these are difficult times", to which the prime minister agreed.
Simitis is due later to chair a broad government meeting, after which he would make statements to the press.
 FM Papandreou strongly concerned over Iraq crisis repercussions
BRUSSELS 19/03/2003 (ANA - V. Demiris)Foreign Minister George Papandreou, European Union Council of Ministers President in-office, on Tuesday expressed strong concern over upcoming developments on the Iraqi crisis and said he regretted the fact that the United Nations appeared divided on the Iraq issue, adding however that the EU remained united vis-a-vis the need for Baghdad's disarmament and compliance with UNSC resolution 1441.
Papandreou, in Brussels for the EU Cooperation Council-Ukraine meeting, told reporters after the meeting that he was strongly concerned over what he called the ''drama of the Iraqi people'', the integrity of Iraq's borders, stability in the wider region and the peace process in the Middle East, adding that EU president Greece, in quest of a peaceful solution, was in continuous contact with all interested parties, the Arab world and the UNSC permanent members.
''At this final hour we have the mandate to exhaust all diplomatic and peaceful means for a peaceful settlement to the Iraqi crisis'', he said.
On his part, EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said it was sad that despite the ''heroic efforts made by the Greek presidency'', the EU failed to adopt a common European position vis-a-vis the greatest challenge its external and security policy had ever confronted.
''The challenge we are confronting now is to minimize the damage within the EU and in our relations with the US and the Arab world'', the EU official said.
 FM holds series of diplomatic contacts in Brussels
BRUSSELS 19/03/2003 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Foreign Minister George Papandreou, the current European Union Council of Ministers president in-office, had a series of diplomatic contacts here on Monday, while on Tuesday afternoon he will chair a General Affairs Council meeting in preparing for the EU's Spring Summit.
Papandreou on Monday had separate meetings with EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten to seek possible points for convergence among the ''15'' vis-a-vis the Iraq crisis. According to sources, the results of the meetings did not produce any satisfactory results, while all indications point to a war in Iraq.
The Greek minister on Tuesday morning chaired a meeting between the EU Cooperation Council and Ukraine, and later in day participated in the works of the Convention for the Future of Europe, for the first time after his appointment to the Convention.
A scheduled briefing of the ''15'' by Convention President Valery Giscard d'Estaing on Thursday was cancelled, which is indicative of the climate dominating Brussels two days before the Summit. According to sources, the former French president requested the cancellation of the briefing, considering that a debate over institutional revisions in the EU would not be purposeful in light of recent developments with the Iraqi crisis.
 Simitis in Brussels to head EU informal Summit on Thursday, Friday
BRUSSELS 19/03/2003 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Prime Minister Costas Simitis was due to arrive here on Tuesday in his capacity as European Union president to head the informal summit, in an atmosphere saturated by the possible war in Iraq.
Beginning on Wednesday, Simitis will have a series of preparatory meetings in Brussels, in light of the summit which will begin on Thursday and will conclude on Friday.
During his Wednesday meetings Simitis will discuss relevant issues with representatives of European syndicates and employers' associations to prepare for the Social Summit, which will take place for the first time ever on Thursday morning, as pre decision of the '15' on March 6.
Later in the same day, Simitis will meet with European Union high representative for defense and foreign affairs Javier Solana, European Commission President Romano Prodi and Europarliament President Pat Cox.
On Thursday, after the Social Summit, the premier will participate in the European Socialists' summit also taking place in Brussels.
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis will also be in Brussels to participate in the summit of the European Peoples' Party.
 Iraq crisis mustn't stall EU political union, Papantoniou tells WEU meeting
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)The European Union should not allow the rift created by the Iraq crisis to interfere with its political union, Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told a symposium organized in Athens by the Western European Union's Parliamentary Assembly on Tuesday.
Instead, the head of the EU defense ministers' council called for EU common defense policies to be deepened, with the development and manufacture of shared weapons systems and perhaps the scrapping of an EU ban on financing research related to defense programs.
Despite apparent differences, he noted, EU countries shared a common view regarding the dictatorial regime headed by Saddam Hussein and a belief that Europe's political unification should not be affected by differences on the means by which the crisis should be handled.
On the contrary, he said, unification of EU institutions should be speeded up to avoid such phenomena in the future.
Papantoniou noted the need to upgrade common defense policy and Europe's embryonic military force, not confining this to humanitarian aid missions only - and called for the introduction of a mutual support clause between EU member-states and the manufacture of shared weapons systems by European countries.
''What happened in Iraq with the authoritarian intervention of the U.S. should lead us to strengthen our own identity, so that we have the power to guide developments based on our own values and principles,'' he said.
He also stressed that EU president Greece was particularly satisfied with the first mission by the fledgling European rapid reaction force, which began in Skopje two weeks before.
The symposium was also addressed by United States Ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller, who in a controversial address claimed that the terror attacks of September 11 had changed the way in which Americans saw things and what they were prepared to tolerate.
''In the past we could tolerate a level of threat against us but not today,'' he said.
Miller said that NATO would also have to change its character in response to the new forms of threat, ''which now come from unstable countries and terrorist organizations,'' he said.
''Terrorist groups will have to understand that geographical location would no longer be any sort of shield,'' Miller added.
He also supported the U.S. decision to wage war on Iraq in spite of objections to this course within Europe.
''U.N. Security Council resolution 1441 was not voted by the United States alone. The members of the Council knew that at some point they would have to take on their responsibilities, even if this meant war...Iraq did not make a political decision to disarm. President Bush has made it clear that we worked very hard. There was no other choice,'' the U.S. envoy claimed.
Strong criticism was voiced by MPs from Belgium, Germany and France, who accused the U.S. of ignoring the root causes of terrorism and of having armed Saddam themselves, while one MP accused Washington of failing to put the same pressure on Israel, despite the fact that it violated U.N. decisions since its formation.
One speaker from Britain noted that the crisis in relations between Europe and the U.S. was Washington's unilateralism in proceeding with action without the U.N. sanction.
 Public order minister says terrorism deals direct blow against democracy
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)Public Order Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis, speaking at the West European Union Parliamentary Assembly's conference on Tuesday, said ''terrorism deals a direct blow against democracy. It aims at coercing the many and imposing the will of the few.''
Chrysohoidis said ''the only healthy reaction towards terrorism is the enlargement of democracy. Only the society of citizens can constitute an antidote for whatever form of force'', adding that ''the expansion of democracy to all the lengths and widths of the world constitutes a challenge for our era.''
The minister also referred to organized crime as being an equally great danger for the societies of Europe and reminded that the Greek EU presidency has undertaken specific initiatives in this direction.
Former Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem expressed the concern of both his country and himself over the ''near abolition of the UN' regarding developments on Iraq which might, as he said, render terrorists the victors and societies the vanquished.
He also expressed his discontent over developments on a geopolitical level, with the worst scenario being a war between Iraqis and Kurds and the creation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq, ''something like a new Israel which shall be planted by the Western imperialists.''
Cem further said ''a third country is giving weapons to the north Iraqis to destroy the legal government of their country. This is irrational. It is not an issue of Turkey's integrity but that of Iraq.''
Former Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, present at a press conference at the end of the conference in his capacity as Vice President of the WEU's Parliamentary Assembly, discerned at the depth of developments the intention of the U.S. ''to have a form of federation with democratic institutions installed in Iraq'', terming it a ''very dangerous plan.''
Regarding the handling of terrorism, Pangalos said ''terrorism is a deeper phenomenon and we hope its causes are tackled where they exist, in inequalities and injustices.''
 ND, Synaspismos leaders on Iraq crisis
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday called for additional measures by the Greek government to protect the national economy in the face of an expected US attack on Iraq.
In speaking to his party’s sector coordinators, Karamanlis expressed his view that war is very probable.
The ND stressed that the Greek economy appears more vulnerable that other economies due to what he called the government’s policy, before calling for measures to better monitor the fuel sector.
Moreover, he said the sensitive tourism sector – an all-important industry for Greece – must be supported, included a new promotional campaign. Additionally, he said measures to prevent waves of migrants, fleeing the embattled areas, from inundating Greece are also imperative.
Finally, he advised calm-headedness discretion.
Synaspismos: Meanwhile, Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos on Tuesday called on the Greek government to clearly take a position on the Iraqi crisis, stressing that because a possible war would be illegal, ''there is no justification for providing facilitations to the US side''.
He also said the European Union must also take a clear stand against the war, calling on the current Greek EU presidency to begin an initiative towards this direction, and for Greek PM Costas Simitis to align the country with the European leaders opposing the war.
 Greece evacuates Baghdad embassy personnel ahead of looming war
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)Government spokesman Christos Protopapas on Tuesday announced that the foreign ministry ordered the evacuation of all Greek embassy personnel from Baghdad and called on all Greek citizens to depart from Iraq for reasons of their safety.
Responding to questions on the reasons for the evacuation of the embassy, and compared with the reasons why the Greek embassy in Belgrade was not evacuated during the NATO bombings there, Protopapas said that it was conducted for reasons of security.
''As conditions have developed, who ever remains in Iraq, does so at his/her own risk,'' Protopapas said in response to questions about westerners, including Greeks, now in Iraq that planned to call on the Geneva Convention and become ''human shields'' in protection of utilities.
Responding to questions about the possibility of the Greek presidency to issue a warning to EU member-states and candidate member-states about not taking part in the war in Iraq, Protopapas said ''no. During the course of the Spring Summit, the presidency will attempt to discuss the issue of Iraq, to arrive at a common EU position and to see the way in which there will be an EU intervention in developments,'' adding that the UN should play a central role in developments.
Commenting on a question of the legality of Greece's facilitation of war operations in Iraq, Protopapas said that the issue was resolved by a statement by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, adding that the agreements Greece has signed are binding for the country.
''Greece allocates to the US whatever the agreements prescribe and whatever is binding for the country, whether it has to do with Souda Bay Base or not,'' he said, when the Belgian reaction to the use of Antwerp was paralleled to that of the use of the Souda Bay Base.
Protopapas also stressed that the government's actions are in line with the agreements that it has signed, while adding that the Greek frigate in the now in the Gulf will not be recalled as it is not participating in the war, but is there in the framework of policing the region in the fight against terrorism and is under the Canadian force there.
Commenting on U.S. President George Bush's statements, he said that the government has expressed, via the premier, its sorrow that the ''specific efforts made that could have led to a specific result so as to avert the war, did not yield results''.
Speaking of increased security measures in Greece, due to the war, he said that Greece was not anymore in danger of homegrown terrorist groups, but increased measures have been taken to protect foreign embassies and businesses in Greece since the phenomenon of terrorism is a global one.
White House spokesman says 'Greece is an ally of the US' WASHINGTON 19/03/2003 (T. Ellis)
Asked to what extent the United States is in a position to safeguard the territorial integrity and security of Greece, which according to the reporter who posed the question is in danger of a terrorist attack due to the impending war against Iraq, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Tuesday that ''Greece is an ally of the U.S. and naturally has rights.'' The spokesman avoided however to comment on ''hypothetical'' situations, adding that he does not know of the existence of such a danger.
 KKE calls for immediate off-the-agenda debate on Iraq crisis in parliament
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Tuesday called for an immediate off-the-agenda discussion on the Iraq crisis in parliament.
KKE leader Aleka Papariga, in a letter to parliament president Apostolos Kaklamanis, called for a parliamentary debate on the issue of Greece's participation in the "unjust" war against Iraq.
Papariga claimed, in her letter, that the Greek government was "taking part in this war by providing facilities to the US via the operation of the base in Souda, Crete, the use of Greek crews in AWACS flights, the presence of a frigate in the Gulf, and a series of other actions, and in fact without having the approval of parliament even as a formality".
On the imminent military operation against Iraq, Papariga said that "the US and its allies are proceeding to a new crime against humanity, to an unjust war aimed at control of the oil in the region and the expansion of their military and geopolitical sovereignty".
Meanwhile, in a question to the prime minister tabled in parliament, Papariga said that "the evocation of Greece's supposed obligation to adhere to the agreements with the US cannot cover-up its complicity in the crime".
She asks the prime minister whether he intended to "close down the Souda base, withdraw the Greek vessel from the Gulf, and halt every facilitation on land, air and at sea to the US and its allies for realizing this dirty war against Iraq".
 Greece beefs up airport security ahead of Iraq operations
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)Greece was beefing up security at all airports throughout the country and other areas related to mass transport in view of the imminent commencement of military operations in Iraq, it was announced Tuesday.
Particular emphasis was on airports, were extra security measures were being implemented for civilian flights.
According to reliable sources, the package of measures to be applied upon the commencement of war operations on Iraq has been meticulously and extensively analyzed, and approved last week at a meeting between transport and communications minister Christos Verelis and members of the National Committee for Civil Aviation Security.
The measures include stricter checks on all airport personnel, individuals with access to airport facilities, stringent checks on luggage, cargo and post, and increased policing of facilities in cooperation with the public order ministry.
In addition, explosives detectors have been put in place for luggage.
 DM meets with PASOK party secretary
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou on Tuesday met with ruling PASOK party Secretary Costas Laliotis and discussed the party's course in light of the general elections, due in April 2004, and current political conditions in general.
''We agreed that PASOK should become an agent of the new in Greek society and to become once again a force of change,'' Papantoniou said after the meeting, adding ''the people do not only vote on accomplished works, but vote for hope and a message for the future''.
Responding to an unrelated question, whether Greece is ready to handle the repercussions of a war in Iraq, he said that Greece would have no problems, while commenting on Turkey's stance on the issue of the war he said, ''I would not say that I am concerned, but I think that Turkey is going through a transitional period, a very sensitive period, that much is obvious. It has not yet found its orientation, the new government has not yet been stabilized and that obliges Greece to be vigilant''.
 Spanish navy vessel 'ousted' from Souda harbor by anti-war activists
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)A Spanish navy torpedo boat docked at Souda Bay's commercial port was forced to raise anchor and find refuge elsewhere on Tuesday after a run-in with anti-war activists protesting against the war in Iraq.
The protesting youths had been in Hania since Saturday in order to take part in the demonstration at the Marathiou Base and were now waiting from a sailing ban imposed due to bad weather to be lifted so they could go home.
When they became aware of the Spanish navy's vessel 'Diana' they immediately went into action, writing anti-war protests on buildings in the harbor and throwing paint at the ship, while they were later joined by 20 students from Crete Polytechnic.
Police and coast guard officers arrived on the scene to prevent further incidents, while the Spanish ship eventually raised anchor and docked at another part of Souda bay.
 Athens denies press reports citing US request for peacekeepers
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)The Greek defense minister on Tuesday dismissed certain same-day press reports here claiming that the US ambassador to Athens recently conveyed Washington’s request for the dispatch of Greek peacekeepers to Iraq following any war in that country.
“Nothing like that has been requested,” minister Yiannos Papantoniou said, before again stressing that no Greek forces are participating in military operations in the volatile region, except within the framework of bilateral and NATO commitments – a reference to a Hellenic navy frigate on patrol in the Arabian Sea as part of “Operation Enduring Freedom” and Greek airmen participating in AWACS missions over Europe.
 Albanian parliament c'tee approves base's reconstruction by Greece
TIRANA 19/03/2003 (ANA – I. Patso)A Greek-Albanian defense agreement to reconstruct a naval base at Durres, on the central Albanian coast, was approved by a majority of members of an Albanian parliament committee on Tuesday, the last step before ratification by Parliament.
Opposition party members on the committee, however, voted against the agreement.
A parliament plenum is expected to ratify the agreement next week.
The western Balkan country’s other large naval base, at Vlore, is currently being renovated by the Turkish military.
 Foreign ministry issues travel advisory on Kuwait
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)The Foreign ministry of Greece on Tuesday issued a travel advisory advising all Greek citizens due to travel to Kuwait to put off their trip under the present circumstances.
 Greek economy prepares to deal with impact from Iraqi crisis
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)Greek state agencies and the private sector are accelerating efforts to deal more efficiently with the likely impact of an imminent war in Iraq on the country's economy.
Greece's National Tourism Organization (GNTO) on Tuesday unveiled the creation of a four new commissions to work on drafting and promoting synergy programs in cooperation with foreign tour operator soon after the situation in Iraq was clear.
Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos stressed that Greek tourism authorities would seek a joint advertising campaign in international markets to quickly cover any lost ground from a delay in travel reservations.
Meanwhile, Greece's National Confederation of Commerce urged for additional government measures to shield the Greek economy against a likely impact from a war in the Middle East. The Confederation said in an announcement published on Tuesday that government measures were inadequate and failed to improve sentiment in the domestic consumer market.
The Confederation urged for an immediate meeting of a National Council, chaired by Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis with representatives of employers and employees' unions to discuss the current situation and adopting new measures to strengthen the economy.
The Confederation urged its members to deal the current situation calmly and with self-control.
 Gov't focuses on measures in fuel sector
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)A high-ranking government meeting focusing squarely on the Iraq crisis was held here on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, with a series measures decided to assure fuel supplies, prevent profiteering in the sector as well as to block waves of potential refugees fleeing the war zone.
According to government spokesman Christos Protopapas afterwards, state services will be ordered to more closely monitor domestic markets, while security levels have been raised at airports and other possible targets.
In a related development, the spokesman stressed that the Greek economy built on “strong foundations”, “although, of course, no one is invulnerable to international economic developments due to the crisis in Iraq. That’s why we’re taking necessary measures,” he said.
Finally, the Greek government on Tuesday said it was evacuating all diplomatic staff from its embassy in Baghdad.
 Greece raises Mediterranean products issue at Council of Agriculture Ministers
BRUSSELS 19/03/2003 (ANA - M. Kourmousis)Greece raised the issue of Mediterranean products at the Council of Agriculture Ministers here on Tuesday, calling on Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler to reveal the European Commission's positions on the issue.
However, the Commission did not respond to the call, while no other country referred to the issue.
A second issue raised by Greece concerned production costs for agricultural products. Greece, backed by Spain, called for the taking of measures (such as the granting of subsidies) in the event oil prices soar due to the looming war in Iraq.
The Commission once again appeared reserved and the Council did not appear willing to influence it.
 Level of 'Olympic funding' for Athens discussed on Wed.
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)The level of government funding for a variety of works and actions by the municipality of Athens in light of the 2004 Athens Olympics is expected to dominate Wednesday’s meeting between Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni and Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, whose ministry oversees Olympic preparations on the government side.
Municipal officials have pointed to a total budget of 183 million euros for their “Olympic interventions” program, 106 million coming from the state’s coffers, 52 million from the municipality itself and 24 million euros from the private sector.
Athenian officials want to renovate various public squares and buildings in the Greek capital; finalize a series of land expropriations; rebuild sidewalks; expand green spaces and even create new parking spots, among others.
In a related development, Bakoyianni announced a public works ministry-managed program to allocate more than 30 million euros for rehabilitating the facades of buildings along several of Athens’ major thoroughfares.
Finally, the city’s administration hopes to plant some 10,000 large trees in the congested Greek capital.
 Greek stocks jump 3.34 pct on Tuesday
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks staged a spectacular rebound on Tuesday following a recovery in international markets as investors began sensing a quick end to the crisis in Iraq.
The general index soared 3.34 percent to end at 1,538.15 points, with turnover a low 81.2 million euros.
All sector indices ended higher with the Publication (9.31 percent), Textile (8.49 percent), IT Solutions (6.98 percent), Construction (6.87 percent) and Metal (5.88 percent) sectors scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 3.42 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index jumped 4.36 percent, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index rose 5.63 percent and the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index ended 3.79 percent up.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 337 to 14 with another 16 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 105.6 mln euros Tuesday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 105.6 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Sellers match buyers on Tuesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 Deputy FM discusses Greek humanitarian aid to Iraq with Kuwaiti ambassador
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos met on Tuesday with Kuwaiti Ambassador Monther Bader Al Eissa in the wake of his visit to Kuwait during his tour of the Middle East and countries in the Persian Gulf, according to a foreign ministry announcement.
It was agreed during the meeting that in the framework of the granting of Greek humanitarian aid to Iraq in light of the crisis, the Greek government will cooperate with the ''Kuwaiti Development Fund'' on better coordinating the humanitarian aid, as well as with the new emergency centre created by the government of Kuwait in the event of war.
During Loverdos' visit to Kuwait, an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation was signed, Kuwait was invited to the Thessaloniki International Fair and the holding of a relevant event was agreed, as well as an exchange of visits by chambers of commerce and the organizing of business delegations to and from the two countries.
 V. Papandreou outlines Greek presidency's eco-priorities to Europarliament
BRUSSELS 19/03/2003 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou on Tuesday stressed the will of the Greek EU presidency to ''safeguard the environment, in such a significant and difficult period - during which the European Union ushers in 10 new members - as a basic element for the future prosperity and quality of life''.
Speaking to the Europarliament about the Greek presidency's priorities concerning the environment, she said that they promote the basic aims of the European Union strategy for sustainable development, while they continue and strengthen the legislative work of the Environment Council.
The council already adopted - last week - a directive for the participation of the public in plans and programs that are related to the environment, while it also made progress in other priority issues, such as the Union's program for the observation of woods and forest ecosystems and for the maintenance of the marine environment.
It also promoted the proposals for the strengthening of the environmental dimension of the Lisbon process and balancing between the three dimensions of sustainability, which are the economy, the society and the environment.
Papandreou stressed that the Greek presidency would promote over the next few months legislation on issues such as environmental responsibility, with laws based on the principle ''the polluter pays'', among others.
Speaking of her international meetings, the Greek minister noted the work of the presidency to provide impetus for continuing on the commitments the EU has undertaken in Johannesburg and the European wide meeting in May in Kiev.
 Orthodox faith to make proposals in view of shaping of European constitution
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)A two-day inter-Orthodox meeting on proposals which the Orthodox faith will make in view of the formulation of the European constitution began in Iraklion, Crete on Tuesday in the presence of Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
It is a working meeting of representatives of the Orthodox Autocephalous and Autonomous Churches of Europe and is being held under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Venizelos said in an interview that an acquis communautaire exists in the European Union which, among other things, regulates the matter of religious freedom, religious equality, the forbidding of discrimination and the right of parents to determine the education of their children.
''The European Union's charter on fundamental rights, in combination with the constitutional traditions of the member states and with the European human rights treaty, fully protects religious freedom and equality,'' the minister said. ''Therefore, what should be done is the full implementation of the charter and its incorporation in the future European constitution, with the greatest possible legal validity,'' Venizelos concluded.
The sessions of the inter-Orthodox meeting is expected to be concluded on Wednesday with specific proposals.
 Women can contribute to global peace, Euro-MP Karamanou says
BRUSSELS 19/03/2003 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)An open session of the European Parliament’s Committee of Women’s Rights and Equal Opportunities was held here on Monday at the initiative of PASOK party Euro-MP Anna Karamanou, who is also the Committee's president.
The meeting, held on the theme “Women work for peace and security in the Middle East”, was also attended by Foreign Minister George Papandreou.
In her opening speech, Karamanou expressed great concern over the consequences the crisis and a likely war in Iraq may have for the Middle East. She stressed that women, through the enhancement of their role and participation in decision-making centers, could certainly contribute to promoting global peace.
“Women are peace agents and can change the culture of violence and confrontation to a culture of peace and creative human co-existence,” Karamanou said.
Participants were also addressed by two Israeli and two Palestinian representatives from women organizations who addressed the participants.
At the close of deliberations, Papandreou said humanity’s problems can only be settled through dialogue and political means, not by military action.
Referring to the Greek EU Presidency targets, the current president of the EU General Affairs Council said that Greece wished to promote dialogue between cultures and religions in cooperation with the Arab League.
 First witnesses testify as November 17 trial enters 11th day
Athens, 19/03/2003 (ANA)As the trial of 19 suspected terrorists accused as members of the urban guerrilla group ''November 17'' entered its 11th day on Tuesday, discussion of objections raised by defense lawyers to various aspects of the proceedings drew to a close and the first witnesses were called to the stand to testify.
First called up was Eleftherios Kontodios, an eyewitness to the attempted murder of U.S. Sargeant Robert Judd on April 3, 1984, who said that he could not now recognize any of the accused as Judd's attackers but might be able to identify them if he saw photographs of how they looked 20 years ago.
Those accused of the attempt on Judd's life include the alleged leader of the terror group, Alexandros Giotopoulos, and the defendants Nikos Papanastasiou, Dimitris Koufodinas, Patroklos Tselentis and Christodoulos Xiros. The person who pulled the trigger is believed to be the now deceased Yiannis Skandalis.
The testimony of the next witness on the stand, police officer Nikos Kostakos, was also inconclusive since he could not remember details of the incident 20 years ago.
The defense for Papanastasiou submitted a written assurance from his employers and social insurance records showing that he had worked a full-time shift throughout April that began at 7:00 and ended at 15:00.
The court next called witnesses to the murder of police officer Christos Matis during a bank robbery in Petralona in 1984, for which the defendants Nikos Papanastasiou, Patroklos Tselentis, Christodoulos Xiros faced charges, while Yiannis Skandalis and an unidentified Turkish national, both now deceased, are also believed to have been involved. None of the accuse face charges for the robbery, however, for which the 15-year statute of limitations has expired.
One of the eye-witnesses, Pavlos Nikolaidis, positively identified Dimitris Koufodinas as the bank robber who had entered the bank disguised as a police officer and approached the victim carrying a box of pastries.
He was unable to identify Matis' shooter, however, because of the struggle that ensued to immobilize the victim.
According to the next witness, bank clerk Georgios Kasios, Matis was shot by one of the robbers in civilian clothes. He said that at least four, including the one wearing a police uniform, had entered the bank together and all of them were wearing make-up.
Asked if the shooter had intended to kill Matis or whether he was forced to shoot him because he put up resistance, Kasios said that the killers had other options and that, in his opinion, the shooting was cold-blooded murder.
A third witness in the case was the bank's supervisor at that time Aggeliki Gilipathi, who said that three robbers had entered the bank, that the guard was shot by someone in civilian clothes and that she was almost certain that the man in the police uniform was Koufodinas, based on earlier photographs of the suspect that she had seen.
Tuesday's session of the trial ended with the testimony of a second bank clerk present at the robbery, Nikos Matzounis, who said he only became aware that a robbery was in progress when one of the robbers threatened him at gunpoint, while he failed to identify any of the suspects as the man who had threatened him.
Earlier in the day, the Three-Member Criminal Court had rejected a motion to remove the depositions, confessions and laboratory findings collected in the stages prior to the magistrate's examination from the case file.
It reserved judgment, however, on whether this material could be used as evidence.
According to presiding judge Mihalis Margaritis, if the defendants claims that psychological and other forms of coercion had been used on them were proved true, the court would not take their confessions and depositions into account.
The court also refused a motion to have the lawyers for the civil suit filed in the Constantinos Androulidakis case removed from the courtroom, saying that the defendants were accused of manslaughter with intent whereas doctors at Evangelismos Hospital who had been ordered to pay compensation to the family of the slain public prosecutor had been found guilty of manslaughter through negligence.
 Greek environment exhibition inaugurated at European Parliament
BRUSSELS 19/03/2003 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou inaugurated an exhibition titled ''Discovering the Greek Environment and Greek Organic Foods" at the European Parliament here on Tuesday.
The exhibition, taking place at the initiative of PASOK Eurodeputy Meni Malliori, displays photos of lakes, rivers and sea regions of the country, as well as organic products of Greek producers.
Inaugurating the exhibition, Papandreou referred to the beauty of Greek nature and stressed the sensitivity of the government and the Greeks for the protection of the environment.
Malliori said the exhibition is a golden opportunity for those who do not know the beauty spots of Greece and Greek organic products to discover them.
 Cyprus a safe country, says the government
NICOSIA 19/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus is away from the centre of possible US military intervention against Iraq and is a safe country, said here Tuesday government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides.
He was speaking after a meeting at the Presidential Palace, chaired by Acting President, House President Demetris Christofias, which examined the situation prior to the looming US war against Iraq.
Chrysostomides said Cyprus does not wish to become involved in any war operations, ''nor does it wish to be used as a launch pad.''
Cyprus, he added, will fully cooperate with the European Union regarding its foreign policy on the Iraqi crisis.
''Cyprus respects the principles of international law and the UN Charter. Its policy therefore is based on this framework and in view of its accession to the European Union it follows EU common policy,'' he added.
Cyprus, he said, ''is far from any possible war arena, it is safe and there is no reason for concern,'' adding that a campaign is already underway to curb any adverse fallout on tourism and to reduce any repercussions on the economy.
He said that the whole issue would be examined during a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, bearing in mind the suggestion made by the meeting on Tuesday that any facilities granted in connection with the Iraqi crisis would have to be ''solely for humanitarian and emergency purposes.''
Chrysostomides said the Foreign Ministry has set up a special committee to monitor the situation and a hotline for citizens to contact for information on the crisis in the region.
Asked if Tuesday's proposal is inconsistent with an existing agreement between Cyprus and the US for the use of the Republic's air space, ports and airports by the US military in connection with the war against terrorism, Chrysostomides said the Foreign Ministry will inform the Cabinet on Thursday about the arrangements made in the past and other agreements between the US and Cyprus on these issues.
''There are agreements and details from accords made between October 2001 and December 2002. These accords will be presented, analyzed and interpreted at the next cabinet meeting,'' Chrysostomides said.
The ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Public Order, Defense, Communications and Works, the Permanent Secretary of the Interior and the Undersecretary to the President attended Tuesday's meeting at the presidential palace.
Foreign Minister George Iacovou said the agreement includes the use of the Cyprus air space and airports, always in consultation with the Republic of Cyprus.
Acting President Christofias who met US Ambassador in Nicosia, Michael Klosson, also assured that Cyprus is in no danger and is away from any possible war affected area.
Christofias conveyed to Klosson the House's opposition to a US strike against Iraq.
''Cyprus is not a hostile country to Iraq and the Arab people, it is a friendly country,'' Christofias said.
Regarding the past agreement with the US, Christofias said the Cabinet will examine whether the commitment between the US and Cyprus in relation to the war against terrorism is still valid. ''There is a different situation now that has to be examined,'' he added.
Communications Minister Kikis Kazamias assured there has been no violation of Cyprus's airspace since he assumed his duties at beginning of the month and added that there is no danger for civilian flights, as a result of increased air traffic in the Nicosia FIR by US warplanes.
Meanwhile, Police Chief Tasos Panagiotou said the Force has undertaken extra security measures at all entry points of the Republic's government controlled areas, noting these measures will gradually increase. He was speaking after a meeting with Justice and Public Order Minister Doros Theodorou, which examined measures regarding a possible war in Iraq.
''Already increased security measures are in force at entry points, that is ports and airports, diplomatic missions, screening foreigners on arrival and departure as well as other measures,'' Panagiotou added.