|Monday, 21 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-03-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 20, 2003
 Stepped up security, border patrols ordered throughout Greece
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)Greek authorities, including the armed forces and intelligence services, have been placed on a higher state of alert as of Tuesday, in the wake of an expected US-led attack against Iraq over the next few days.
Stepped up security at a handful of foreign diplomatic missions in the country, including the US, British and Israeli embassies, as well as around other possible targets has already been ordered.
Beefed up patrols at airports and stricter checking of passengers and luggage were also reported.
Meanwhile, law enforcement personnel have joined army patrols in the Evros border prefecture in northeastern Greece to prevent a possible wave of refugees the war zone from reaching the country’s territory via Turkey. Greece and Turkey’s only shared land borders are separated by the Evros River (Maritsa in Turkish) in the Thrace province – western Thrace belonging to Greece and eastern Thrace forming Turkey’s only European territory.
Increased coast guard and navy patrols in the Aegean are also aimed at preventing the sea borne transport of illegal immigrants to Greece or other EU destinations.
Finally, intelligence services are monitoring border posts around the east Mediterranean country in order to intercept possible terror suspects from entering the country, with a list of some 150 individuals -- mostly hailing from Arab countries -- reportedly being used. Finally, other reports stated some 200 individuals have been placed under surveillance in Greece itself.
Minister says civil protection apparatus alerted in light of Iraq developments: Minister of Macedonia and Thrace George Paschalidis said on Wednesday the civil protection apparatus is being alerted, particularly in border regions, and particular attention is being placed on the issue of illegal immigration in light of developments in Iraq.
Paschalidis, who was speaking after meeting the new police general director of Thessaloniki Constantine Tzekis, said ''we are keeping calm, but we are obliged to take all necessary measures to handle whatever consequences might arise due to the developments.''
The minister also met with the administrations of the Thessaloniki Workers and Employees Centre and representatives of citizens' movements for talks on the hospitality framework for visitors and support for parallel events during the week the EU summit will be taking place.
Increased security measures & equipment at Athens' airport: The management of the Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos installed three new more sensitive devices in locating explosives, while another five are on order, as part of a move to upgrade the security of the airport in light of the war in Iraq.
Additional security measures include increased patrolling by both vehicles and armed men, full checks of all vehicles and persons entering the tarpon of the airport, observation of airline offices and increased observation of spaces that are open to the public.
 FM: 'Honest dialogue' between EU, US now imperative
BRUSSELS 20/03/2003 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)Foreign Minister George Papandreou, currently chairing the European Union General Affairs Council that met here on Tuesday, in a joint post-meeting press conference with EU chief diplomat Javier Solana and External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten expressed disappointment over the failure of diplomacy in the Iraq crisis.
''We should have serious discussions about how and why we came to this point, as well as about the steps we should take from this point on,'' Papandreou said, before stressing the need for an ''honest dialogue'' on EU-US relations. He also added that this crisis should constitute the starting point for the enhancement of a common EU foreign and defense policy.
''We hope that this whole process will bring about a new spirit in Europe, boosting its will to play a more significant role in global developments'', he said. ''Until the first bomb is dropped in Iraq, the Greek presidency will do everything it can towards peace''.
He advised that the United Nations should be at the centre of developments even after the impeding war, coordinating reconstruction and humanitarian assistance efforts.
''Regardless of developments, our concern focuses on the Iraqi people, stability in the region and the peace process in the Middle East'', he noted.
Solana said it was very significant that 15 foreign ministers ''tonight gave the green light for the launch of the first EU military mission in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), where it will replace the corresponding NATO force.
''This is a very significant day for the development of the Union's military capabilities'', EU's chief diplomat said.
The 15 EU foreign ministers also discussed the situation in Serbia following the assassination of Serb Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, urging that country to boost its fight against organized crime and corruption, as well as to promote necessary reforms and develop closer ties with the EU.
Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic was present at the General Affairs Council meeting.
 EU talks on Iraq must focus on 'day after', FM says
BRUSSELS 20/03/2003 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Foreign Minister George Papandreou, current head of the EU Foreign Ministers' Council, on Wednesday said that talks between European leaders in Brussels on Iraq, despite the deep differences within the Union regarding the legality and the objective of the impending military operation, should focus on the ''day after'' and the role that the United Nations would be called on to play.
He also stressed that the EU would continue efforts to find a peaceful solution until the very last moment.
Diplomatic sources, meanwhile, said that the Greek EU presidency was already examining alternative texts of final conclusions for the spring EU summit that will begin in Brussels on Thursday.
According to the sources, there is already a text that is based on the assumption that the hostilities in Iraq will have started before the end of the summit on Friday. This places emphasis on the role that the U.N. will have to play after the fighting has ended.
A second alternative assumes that the military operation has not begun, in which case the Greek presidency wishes to emphasize the need to find a solution through peaceful means.
At a press conference held in Brussels earlier on Wednesday, the Greek foreign minister also confirmed that the president of the Convention for the Future of Europe, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, would not be briefing the '15' on the Convention's progress at the summit.
Papandreou said the postponement had been requested by Giscard d'Estaing but stressed that the time-frame for completing the Convention's work would be adhered to and that the briefing of EU leaders would take place on April 16, when they were gathered in Athens to sign accession treaties for the new EU member-states.
 Simitis outlines Spring Council schedule to EU leaders
BRUSSELS 20/03/2003 (ANA - A.Simatos)Latest developments in the Iraq crisis and issues relating to the Lisbon strategy agenda will be the focus of the Spring EU Council, to be held here on Thursday and Friday, according to a letter sent by Greek Prime Minister and EU Council President Costas Simitis to the EU’s 15 heads of state and government.
“The Iraq issue currently dominates the global agenda and consequently we should above all place emphasis on that specific issue,” premier Simitis says in his letter.
The letter also contains the schedule of meetings and deliberations to be held during the top European meeting.
The Council will open Thursday afternoon with a meeting and exchange of views with European Parliament President Pat Cox, to be followed by a discussion of the Iraq crisis, which would continue on during a working dinner to be attended by the Union’s 15 Foreign Ministers, with the latest developments in the Middle East and the Balkan to be also on the table.
At a separate working dinner also on Thursday evening, EU Finance Ministers are to hold a discussion on the global economic situation.
On Friday morning, the Council will open with a discussion of the Lisbon strategy by both foreign and finance ministers.
Issues to be looked into, according to Simitis, will relate to the so far achievements and difficulties in implementing the ten-year Lisbon strategy, adopted by the European Council in 2000.
“Three years after the adoption of the Lisbon strategy, we are facing an especially difficult and changing global economic and political environment,” Simitis stresses in the letter, adding that “within this context, it is imperative to reaffirm and support our policies for an economic and social reform and for a Europe of viable development that will create prosperity and job positions.”
At noon, the 15 EU leaders will have a luncheon together with the leaders of the 13 acceding countries, and discussion would focus on all issues that would have been debated by that time.
Two separate working dinners will be held in the evening, one of EU foreign ministers together with their counterparts of the 13 acceding nations, and the other of finance ministers with their acceding counterparts.
Issues to be on the table of the foreign ministers shall include latest developments in the Middle East, North Korea and Cyprus, while their economic counterparts would review structural reforms and better incorporation of Lisbon strategy targets into national policies of EU member-states and acceding countries.
Greece pledges not to let Iraq dominate the EU summit's agenda: EU president Greece vowed to do everything possible to preserve the European Council Spring Summit agenda and prevent the Iraq crisis from monopolizing discussions at Thursday's meeting of the EU's 15 leaders, a Greek government spokesman said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters at the regular press briefing, Christos Protopapas said that Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis would continue to fight his battle for the development and reinforcement of a common EU foreign and defense policy.
''Differences in views should not negate the potential to seek solutions and common initiatives'', Protopapas said, adding that the impending war was creating concerns over the ''day after''.
Replying to questions over the timetable for EU enlargement, he reiterated that the Accession Acts would be signed with the new member states on 16 April in Athens as scheduled.
Protopapas said Simitis had received a telephone call from Brussels on Tuesday night from French President Jacques Chirac, focusing on European Council issues.
Moreover, he confirmed that the French warship '' Charles de Gaulle'' was scheduled to anchor in Souda Bay, on the Greek island of Crete, on 21 March.
In his regular briefing from foreign press correspondents, meanwhile, Deputy Press Minister Telemahos Hytiris similarly stressed that every effort would be made to keep talks in Brussels focused on the socio-economic agenda agreed at Lisbon, though he did not rule the possibility that interest would focus on Iraq.
Another issue that would be raised at the spring summit was the stability pact, he added, though any changes made to this would be limited.
In response to questions about the progress of the Convention for the Future of Europe, following an announcement by its head Valery Giscard D'Estaing on Tuesday that he would postpone a briefing of the European Council, Hytiris confirmed that this might also lead to postponing the presentation of a text of proposals for a European 'constitution,' scheduled to occur at the Thessaloniki Summit.
Hytiris said there was a possibility the postponed briefing would take place on April 16, when all the EU leaders would be gathered in Athens for the signature of accession treaties but, if this effort failed, the text presented in Thessaloniki might well not be the final set of proposals.
 Cox calls urgent Europarliament meeting to focus on Iraq
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)European Parliament President Pat Cox has called an urgent European Parliament session for Thursday morning in Brussels to discuss the Iraq crisis, a press statement issued by the European Parliament's Athens bureau stated on Wednesday.
The European Council and the European Commission will be represented at the highest levels at the meeting, which is not expected to adopt any resolutions.
The European Parliament president has invited Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, currently chairing the European Council, and European Commission President Romano Prodi to participate in discussions, the statement read.
 Coalition party asks Parliament speaker to call special session on Iraq
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)Coalition of the Left and Progress party leader Nikos Constantopoulos on Wednesday asked Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis to call an emergency special session of Parliament to discuss the Iraq crisis.
After his meeting with Kaklamanis, Constantopoulos said Parliament had to make its present felt among other mobilization against the war in Greek society. He also stressed that the "illegal" war in Iraq should not be facilitated in any way.
 Greek EU presidency briefs US Senate subcommittee chairman on EU policies
WASHINGTON 20/03/2003 (ANA-T. Ellis)The Greek EU presidency on Tuesday (early Wednesday, Athens time) briefed the chairman of the US Senate subcommittee on European Affairs on Euro-Atlantic relations and on the European Union's policy on a series of issues of mutual interest, including the Iraq crisis.
Greece's ambassador in Washington George Savvaides, who chairs the EU ambassadors to the US, and European Commission ambassador Guenter Burghardt briefed subcommittee chairman George Allen on the EU positions on a variety of issues.
On the matter of Iraq, Savvaides stressed that the EU countries agreed on the substance of the issue, namely Iraq's disarmament, but differed on the method of achieving that target.
Senator Allen said that there was much more uniting the US and the EU than dividing it, adding that, on the issue of Iraq, the US respected the decisions of its allies if they did not take part in the military operations.
Savvaides also noted that there were many margins for international cooperation in post-Saddam Iraq in order to secure that country's future as well as stability in the wider region of the Middle East.
The Greek envoy further outlined the importance of the EU's enlargement with 10 new countries, which would be signing the accession treaty on April 16 in Athens, and also the ongoing discussions on a new constitution for Europe.
Savvaides also briefed Allen on the goal for an EU common foreign and defense policy, as well as the importance of the EU-US summit scheduled for June 25 in Washington.
Burghardt, in turn, briefed the US official on the role the EU was playing in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, in the Balkans and in the Middle East, given that the European Union and its member states comprised the largest donor in humanitarian and developmental assistance internationally.
 Gov't confirms closing of embassy in Baghdad
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)A foreign ministry spokesman on Wednesday confirmed that the Greek embassy in Baghdad has shut down and that the country’s diplomatic staff in Iraq has departed overland for Amman, Jordan. However, he added all other Greek diplomatic missions in the region are open.
 Greece calls journalists, Greek nationals to quit Iraq
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)Greek government spokesman Christos Protopapas on Wednesday urged all Greek nationals, including journalists, to depart from Baghdad while stressing that the government's call did not constitute any form of intervention, especially in the work of the media.
He also announced that a press and media ministry mission had been sent to the area to assist Greeks in the region, which was now in Doha and would be moving between Kuwait and Qatar.
 EU must proceed with economic reforms despite slowdown, FinMin
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)Despite a slowdown in economic growth rates in Europe, EU member-states must proceed with a procedure of economic reforms to reassure markets that ''we are getting the messages'', Greek Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Wednesday presenting the agenda of a Spring EU summit.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Mr Christodoulakis, who currently chairs the EU Finance ministers' council, said that despite a forthcoming crisis, the EU's heads of states and governments would focus their attention on a so-called Lisbon process, aimed to make the European Union the ''most competitive and dynamic economy in the world''. The issue will be discussed by EU leaders on Friday, after a previous discussion of developments in Iraq, the Greek minister said.
The EU's main goals were to boost economic growth and economic and social cohesion in the European Union. ''To achieve this goal,'' Mr Christodoulakis said, ''we must strengthen innovative business initiatives, to deepen internal market and to link regional European markets.''
The Greek minister stressed that the EU should take specific initiatives to promote economic reforms, to boost business culture in Europe and to support industrial research particularly in key sectors of the European economy.
Both the Greek minister and EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs Pedro Solbes acknowledged that there significant delays in directions agreed at a Lisbon Summit, although they stressed that these delays should become an incentive to strengthen EU member-states' efforts.
Mr Christodoulakis noted that an economic slowdown and any problems arising from an expected crisis in the Persian Gulf should not lead to a loosening of coordination of economic policies between member-states.
He stressed that the crisis should not lead to measures, such as energy tax cuts, by national governments.
Iraq crisis to have adverse impact on Greek economy, bank says: The Iraq crisis and a likely war on the Middle Eastern country will have an adverse impact on the Greek economy, blue-chip Alpha Bank said in weekly market report.
''In a period of slacker discipline in fiscal and incomes policy, a long-term war could in reality weaken the growth dynamic of the Greek economy,'' the report said.
''That is why goals of improving competitiveness and fiscal adaptation must return to centre stage as the top priority,'' it warned.
''Adverse repercussions from the climate of war in the Middle East have been accompanied by a cost to the Greek economy, which has appeared mainly as a rise in the price of products and services, or a reduction in demand for travel abroad or exported goods,'' according to Alpha's analysis department.
The report said that the cost to the small, exposed Greek economy could not be buffered through a further increase in domestic demand using the state budget and incomes policy.
''The problem of competitiveness would be exacerbated, given a rise in the euro and a shift in demand towards foreign products,'' it added.
 Simitis meets European employers’ association president
BRUSSELS 20/03/2003 (ANA/C. Poulidou)The concerns of the European business world over European industry’s competitiveness were outlined to Greek Prime Minister and current EU Council President Costas Simitis by the Union of Industrial and Employees’ Confederations of Europe (UNICE) during a meeting here on Wednesday.
Simitis was handed a report on Lisbon targets progress prepared by EU member-states’ employers’ associations.
The meeting was attended by UNICE President Georges Jacobs and Vice-President Odysseas Kyriakopoulos.
 ND leader and EU commissioner discuss enlargement and agriculture
BRUSSELS 20/03/2003 (ANA - A. Panagopoulos)Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis held talks with European Union Agriculture and Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler on Wednesday, stressing the need for support for Greek farmers and that EU enlargement should not harm the interests of member-states and their farmers.
Karamanlis pointed to the great importance attached by his party to the sectors of agriculture, stockbreeding and fisheries, adding that opportunities existing for farmers and EU funds should be utilized which, as he said, is not taking place to an adequate degree at the government's responsibility.
The ND leader said the country cannot afford to lose funds and disclosed that he and Fischler also discussed the issues of compensation for farmers for natural disasters and the revision of Common Agricultural Policy.
 ND leader Karamanlis visits GNTO office in Brussels
BRUSSELS 20/03/2003 (ANA - A. Panagopoulos)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis, on arrival here on Wednesday afternoon, visited the offices of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) where he noted that measures must be taken to strengthen Greek tourism in light of the looming war in Iraq.
Karamanlis is in the Belgian capital to participate in Thursday's summit of the European Peoples' Party.
The director of the GNTO office briefed Karamanlis on the lack of tourism brochures at the office for regions such as the north Aegean, Sporades and the Peloponnese.
The ND leader stated that measures must be taken for the Greek economy which, as he said, is the most exposed and most vulnerable of the other European economies.
He noted that Greece is a safe destination, far away from the theatre of war operations, and reminded that Greece will host the Olympic Games in one and a half years time.
 Greece. Germany discuss shipping
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis met on Wednesday with Germany's deputy transport minister, Ralf Nagel.
Discussed were issues raised by Greece's six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, focusing on the withdrawal of single hull ships.
Also on the agenda were rules for the ship repair industry.
 Labor ministry tables bill in Parliament, changing regulations on employment
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)The labor ministry on Wednesday tabled a bill in Parliament on the ''social dialogue for the promotion of employment and social protection,'' which includes regulations for the labor market in the country and for changes in the Social Security Foundation's network system.
The bill mandates the establishment of a National Committee on Social Protection, which will conduct a dialogue on combatting poverty, it also mandates fines for private work placement offices that function without a license and creates an one time regulation for payment of back dues to pension funds for the self-employed.
The bill also changed the existing regulation allowing to newly hired personnel in businesses to take paid leave from work from the first year of employment, so that Greece may be in line with the rest of the European Union. Thus newly hired employees will have the right to take a day off from work for every month they work, before they complete their first year of employment. Meanwhile the bill increases the days allowed for maternity leave.
Also the bill mandates harsh penalties for the custodians and employers of persons under the age of 18.
Finally, the bill is dealing with the problems of the Social Security Foundation's network.
 Greek tourism ad campaign to begin in April
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)Greece's tourism advertising campaign will begin next month amid an imminent war in Iraq, Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said on Wednesday.
Addressing an annual general assembly of the union of restaurant-pastry shops owners, Mr Tsohatzopoulos stressed that the Greek economy was "shielded" and could deal with the Iraqi crisis.
Commenting on a likely impact in fuel supplies, the Greek minister said that the Greek market would not face any supply or unjustified price increases problems since the country's oil reserves could last 129 days.
 Greek stocks end 0.33 pct up on Wednesday
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks ended Wednesday's session slightly higher as buying demand for small- and medium-capitalization stocks overcame pressures on blue chip stocks in the Athens Stock Exchange.
The general index rose 0.33 percent to end at 1,543.29 points, with turnover a low 59.2 million euros.
The Holding, Construction and Cement sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day (2.30 percent, 0.92 percent and 0.91 percent, respectively), while the parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks rose 0.91 percent. On the other hand, the Bank and IT Solution sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses (0.66 percent and 0.59 percent, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 0.05 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 0.95 percent higher, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index rose 1.13 percent and the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index ended 0.31 percent up.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 221 to 87 with another 56 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 72.6 mln euros Wednesday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 72.6 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Sellers outstrip buyers on Wednesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 Budget for Athens' beautification prior to 2004 Games finalized
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)The government on Wednesday promised to allocate 59 million euros for works around the Greek capital in light of next year’s 2004 Olympic Games, with the municipality’s leadership adding that the city will also earmark an equal sum for various projects to beautify and promote Athens.
A cleaner Greek capital during the next Olympic Games remains one of the primary goals of both the government and Athens 2004 organizers (ATHOC), with the burden mostly falling on the shoulders of Athens’ municipality and other local government entities in the greater Athens area.
Other projects long cited by civic leaders and top government ministers include rehabilitating the facades of buildings – including neo-Classical structures -- along several of Athens’ major thoroughfares; establishing and funding a much-needed stray animal shelter; more green space in the congested Greek capital, as well as an advertising campaign to promote Athens. Absolutely imperative improvements in infrastructure for disabled people (i.e. sidewalks and ramps) are also necessary prior to the Games.
Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni called the agreement, announced by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, “respectable”. The city’s leadership had, nevertheless, initially hoped for central government funding to the tune of 106 million euros or more.
Venizelos, whose ministry oversees Olympic preparations on the government side, said half of the 59-million-euro figure furnished by the state will come from bank loans guaranteed by the Greek state and Athens’ municipality.
Regarding the city’s budget, Bakoyianni, a former high-profile deputy of the main opposition New Democracy party and the daughter of former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis, stressed “that the city’s residents will under no circumstances” be called on to foot the bill via increases in municipal taxes and charges.
Athens’ vice-mayor added that municipal revenues, based on 2002 figures, total 300 million euros, of which 20 million are earmarked for debt servicing. The city’s total loan burden is approximately 60 million euros.
Meanwhile, in terms of another issue that has raised eyebrows in the wake of 2004 preparations and ATHOC’s commitments vis-a-vis the International Olympic Committee (IOC), namely eliminating billboards, Venizelos merely said relevant legislation exists. On his part, Venizelos emphasized that preparations for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games are continuing as planned, unaffected by any crisis or war, “nor is the message that they send (affected), which is peace”.
Finally, Bakoyianni noted that the city’s Olympic preparations have been greatly delayed, with the best possible coordination now necessary.
 Testimony of prosecution eyewitnesses continues at 'N17' trial
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)An eye-witness in the ongoing trial of 19 suspected ''November 17'' terrorists, believed to have formed Greece's most dangerous and elusive terrorist group, on Wednesday positively identified two of the defendants as participants in the double murder of newspaper publisher Nikos Momferatos and his driver Panagiotis Rousetis.
Journalist Costas Bakatselos, who witnessed the hit on the corner of Tsakaloff and Voukourestiou streets in central Athens from a balcony on Tsakaloff street, said that he recognized the elder Xiros brother, Christodoulos, as one of the two men that shot the victims after having seeing video footage of the suspect when he had longer hair and a beard on television.
He also named the alleged leader of the group, Alexandros Giotopoulos, as the man who ordered the hitmen to get into the car after the hit.
Bakatselos was exhaustively cross-examined by Giotopoulos' defense lawyer, while Giotopoulos himself intervened and claimed that the witness's testimony in court departed significantly from his original statements during the preliminary investigation and magistrate's inquiry.
Bakatselos insisted that the face engraved on his memory on the day of the murder was the face he saw on television when Giotopoulos was arrested and led before the public prosecutor.
Rahiotis, however, disputed that Bakatselos had a clear line of sight to the culprits from his vantage point on Tsakaloff Street and also noted that the journalist had contradicted himself under cross-examination, claiming that three people were shooting whereas he had originally claimed there were two people shooting and one holding a gun. He said the witness was perjuring himself.
Bakatselos was called to re-appear in court on Thursday so that the cross-examination could continue.
Earlier witnesses in the Momferatos-Rousetis murder were the wife of the slain driver, Ermioni Rouseti, who claimed that the newspaper publisher had been receiving threatening phone calls prior to the hit
The publisher's wife, Irini Momferatou, meanwhile, told the court that her husband knew he was on a list of targets after the murder of Tzortzis Athanasiadis.
Facing charges for the Momferatos-Rousetis murders are Alexandros Giotopoulos, Nikos Papanastasiou, Dimitris Koufodinas, Patroklos Tselentis, Christodoulos Xiros and Vassilis Tzortzatos. According to the police, the shooters were Tselentis and Koufodinas.
The trial had begun on Wednesday with the testimony of the remaining witnesses to the murder of police officer Christos Matis, who was shot during a robbery at a National Bank branch in Petralona in 1984.
Absent during Wednesday's proceedings was Savvas Xiros, the accused would-be bomber whose arrest after a botched attack last July led to what Greek authorities believe is the eradication of the country’s most lethal terror band.
Xiros’ younger brother and co-defendant, Vassilis, said Savvas could not attend due to health reasons. Savvas Xiros, one of three brothers arrested and being tried in the case, suffered extensive injuries to his eyes, ears and chest after a make-shift explosive device went off in his hands or very close to him at the port of Piraeus. He also lost half his right hand in the blast.
The most noteworthy testimony on Wednesday in the Matis case came from a prosecution witness who reportedly said the eyes of a suspect that killed a police guard during a 1984 bank robbery resembled those of alleged “N17” top assassin Dimitris Koufodinas. However, the woman added that she “could not be sure”.
Earlier, the same witness said that a man, one “with slanted Oriental eyes,” and wearing a policeman’s uniform, shot and killed officer Christos Matis at close range.
The robbery was linked to the notorious terrorist group last summer after Matis’ service revolver was found at an “N17” safe house, according to authorities.
Another prosecution witness, a pastry shop owner near the same bank, testified that he saw a woman giving the police imposter a box of sweets prior to the robbery.
According to court records and investigation notes dating from the deadly Christmas Eve robbery, the imposter handed police guard Matis a box of sweets and wished him a happy “name day” before shooting him. People with the name of “Christos” or “Christina” celebrate their names days on Christmas Day, according to the Greek Orthodox religious calendar.
The shop owner’s testimony regarding an unidentified woman suspect caused an outburst by Angeliki Sotiropoulou, Koufodinas’ long-time companion as well as the only woman jailed in connection with the “N17” investigation.
Her reaction came after an attorney for the family of Christos Matis asked the witness if an appellate level magistrate had shown him a photograph of Sotiropoulou during the pre-trial investigation, to which he replied in the negative. The attorney then cited “oversights” in the investigation, an indirect reference to Sotiropoulou’s possible involvement in the December 1984 bank robbery and aggravated homicide.
Sotiropoulou and her defense lawyers vehemently objected on grounds that she is not charged in that case, while a voluminous indictment states that she has been a member of “N17” since 1986.
In his testimony, the shopkeeper said he couldn’t recognize the woman because he only saw her from behind, although she was substantially shorter than the imposter policeman. He also said he saw the woman give the box of sweets to the suspect just before he entered the bank.
“Does an attorney have the right to ask questions about me, given the fact that I am not charged (with this crime)?” the diminutive Sotiropoulou asked the three-judge panel trying the case in a brief courtroom “flare-up”.
“You retain the presumption of innocence,” the presiding judge responded.
 Church of Greece offers prayer for peace in Iraq
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece on Wednesday offered up a prayer for peace in Iraq after its regular meeting headed by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos.
Talking to reporters, Christodoulos said that these were crucial times and that there were always solutions but war was definitely not among them.
He noted, however, that the Church of Greece was ready to offer humanitarian aid to the victims of war.
During the prayer, the head of the Greek Church referred to the consequences of war and said that the top priority for the Church was human life.
Iraq's infrastructure and economy could be reconstructed after the war but the human lives that would be lost were irreplaceable, he stressed.
 Ecumenical patriarch hopes war in Iraq is averted
ISTANBUL 20/03/2003 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Wednesday expressed his hope that the looming war in Iraq be averted, so that "humanity may not weep new hecatombs of victims and horrible holocausts".
"The basic precondition for peace is the respect for the holiness of the human face and its freedom and dignity," he said.
 Protestors take over British Consulate in Thessaloniki
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)A group of 150 protestors belonging to the Greek Social Forum charged into the British Consulate building in Thessaloniki on Wednesday, shortly after 13:00.
About 30 of them broke through a police cordon into the building and asked to hand a resolution with their positions and demands to the British Consul and to raise a banner with anti-war slogans on the front of the building.
The take-over ended two hours later at 15:00 when the protestors handed their resolution to one of the staff at the Consulate, due to the absence of the Consul, and hung their banner from the roof of the building.
They also demanded that TV crews be allowed to enter the consulate and in statements to reporters they asked that Greece have absolutely no involvement in the war against Iraq.
 "The Aegean of Coins" exhibition inaugurated at The Hague
THE HAGUE 20/03/2003 (ANA)"The Aegean of Coins" exhibition opened its doors on Wednesday here, showcasing 96 ancient Greek coins of the Aegean and 25 artifacts that trace the monetary activities in the archipelago.
The exhibition was organized in the framework of the Greek EU presidency by the Greek Embassy in The Hague the Athens Monetary Museum and the Allard Pierson Museum.
"The Aegean of Coins" was inaugurated by the Greek Ambassador in The Hague George Kaklikis in the presence of academics, political leaders, community and economic personages of the Dutch capital.
 Greek justice minister in Brussels for LIBE Committee briefing
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)Greek Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos on Wednesday flew to Brussels where on Thursday he will brief the European Parliament's Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs (LIBE) Committee on the results of the European Union Justice Ministers' Council, which convened here at the end of February, a ministry press bulletin stated.
The Greek minister is the president of the Union's Justice Ministers' Council in-office as Greece currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
 Special program to provide access to places for disabled people
Athens, 20/03/2003 (ANA)The program ''Ermis-accessible option'', giving the possibility of access to all places for disabled or obstructed people (including people facing difficulty in transport and communication, the elderly, pregnant women and children), will play a decisive role in upgrading the quality of life in the country.
The program was discussed on Wednesday by Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, a delegation of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Athens 2004 Organizing Committee (ATHOC) President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki.
Daskalaki said 12 per cent of the total population of European Union member-states are disabled people, adding that all people should have easier access to as more places as possible.
Tsohatzopoulos said it is a social obligation for the government to support this section of the population who have the same rights as all Greek citizens, their constitutionally safeguarded demand for access to markets, services, seas and tourism.
 Europarliament committee approves Cyprus' EU accession
NICOSIA 20/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament has given the green light to Cyprus' accession to the European Union, adopting with an overwhelming majority (57 votes in favor, one against and two abstentions) a recommendation to this effect by Jacques Poos, Cyprus rapporteur.
Foreign Minister George Iacovou welcomed the outcome of Wednesday's vote, saying it signaled the end result of Cyprus' long course towards EU membership, which he said should be completed successfully.
''This is the best result any of the ten acceding countries has managed to get,'' the minister said, adding that ''today's opinion by the Committee is an indication of the final outcome with regard to our accession.''
On Wednesday the Committee examined all ten reports on the acceding countries in separate discussions. The plenary of the European Parliament will issue its opinion on the accession of all ten nations seeking EU membership in early April.
The foreign minister said that Cyprus is examining all possibilities in connection with the completion of its accession course but noted that there is optimism that this course will end successfully with the country officially joining the EU in May 2004, as agreed last December at the EU Copenhagen summit.
Poos' recommendation on Cyprus was incorporated in a general report on enlargement, by Elmar Brok, Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, which will be referred to the plenary of the European Parliament.
This report incorporates the recommendations to the Parliament by the rapporteurs dealing with all ten acceding countries.
Jacques Poos said he was pleased with Wednesday's developments and noted that Wednesday's vote preempts the outcome of the final opinion the Parliament will issue on April 8 and 9.
In his report on Cyprus Poos said that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and his entourage have a big responsibility for the deadlock in the UN-led peace talks aiming at a comprehensive settlement. The talks collapsed early last week in The Hague and Secretary General Kofi Annan announced the end of this attempt to find a negotiated settlement before Cyprus signs the Accession Treaty in mid April.
The report also notes that the government of the Republic of Cyprus is the only legitimate government on the island, adding that no other state apart from Turkey recognizes the breakaway Turkish Cypriot regime in northern occupied Cyprus.
Poos says that for reasons of ''force majeure'' the application of the acquis communautaire should authorize, through a special provision, the EU Council to negotiate adjustments and transitional periods needed for the implementation of EU rules and regulations in the northern part of Cyprus, once the obstacles for the reunification of the island are lifted.
 US asks Cyprus to use airspace, says foreign minister
NICOSIA 20/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)The United States has asked the Republic of Cyprus to extend an agreement on terrorism, which included opening up its airspace and ports to US use, during its imminent conflict with Iraq, Foreign Minister George Iacovou said on Wednesday.
The minister said the issue would be considered at Thursday's Cabinet meeting, noting the decision will be such that will serve the island's national interest.
''Due to our geographical location, the US has asked for some facilities,'' Iacovou told reporters.
He explained that the previous government made an agreement with the US in October 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks, granting the US ''blanket use,'' as he said, of Cyprus' national airspace and the island's airports, in the fight against terrorism.
Iacovou said since then, the use of local airports by the US was extremely limited.
''We have studied the US request to expand this agreement in the case of Iraq and the issue will be examined by the Council of Ministers tomorrow. All factors will be taken into consideration,'' he said.
Asked if the island's airports will be used for military purposes, Iacovou said they are not equipped to handle warplanes.
''The issue is political, not technical,'' the minister said, noting the government is in contact with other countries which although oppose the war in Iraq, they are offering the same facilities to the US.
Asked if the government is to receive anything in exchange for a positive reply to the US, Iacovou pointed out that no decision has been taken yet.
''We will consider all factors, the European Union's position and the position of other countries but we will take a decision that will serve our national interests,'' he added.
Iacovou reiterated the government spokesman's statements that Cyprus is considered a safe destination.
''I can assure the public that Cyprus is completely safe,'' he added.
Cyprus should not become a launch pad in war against Iraq: Cyprus does not wish to become a launch pad during a war against Iraq and any facilities offered by the Republic should be granted only for humanitarian purposes, Defense Minister Kyriakos Mavronicolas said in Nicosia on Wednesday.
Mavronicolas said that the National Guard (armed forces) has taken all necessary measures to deal with any possible repercussions from the imminent war against Iraq and assured the people of Cyprus that ''there is security'' and ''there is no reason for concern.''
He said that Cyprus is a peaceful country and does not want to participate in this war. Mavronicolas also noted the fact that the UN Security Council and the EU have not endorsed a war against Iraq.
''What we are saying as a new government is that facilities must be granted for humanitarian reasons. This means no participation of Cyprus in the event of a war and no use of its ports or airports. It would be a fortunate development if the British Bases on the island are not used as a launch pad,'' he added.
He said as far as the government was concerned the military bases Britain has retained since Cyprus became an independent state will be used only for providing supplies and not as a launch pad in the event of a war.