|Wednesday, 29 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-03-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 21, 2003
 PM Simitis pleased with common position reached at EU Spring Summit on Iraq
BRUSSELS 21/03/2003 (ANA-M. Spinthourakis)Prime Minister and EU Council President Costas Simitis expressed his satisfaction over the common position reached by the EU heads of state and government on Iraq at the informal EU Spring Summit here on Thursday night.
''The European Union had to give the message that in this difficult situation it is continuing to overcome its differences and to seek ways for understanding,'' the prime minister said, adding ''we are present and will remain present.''
Presenting the joint statement of the ''15'', the Greek prime minister underlined that the European Union ascertains that with the start of the military clash, a new situation has been created.
''Our hope is for an end to be put to the military clash with the least possible number of casualties, the fewest possible losses and the least possible misery,'' Simitis said, noting the particular importance which the European Union gives to the maintenance of the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political stability of Iraq.
The prime minister further said that the ''15'' supported the full disarmament of Iraq and the respect of the political rights of the entire Iraqi people, including the minorities.
The prime minister added that the EU views that the United Nations must play a central role both during the crisis and after. He noted that the UN has the necessary experience for the restoration of the damage to states following the end of the clashes. The ''15'' further support UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's proposal for the continuation of the granting of food to Iraq in exchange for oil.
''We must contribute so that the Iraqi people live freely and coexist peacefully with its neighbors,'' Simitis said, noting that the EU will seek in what way it should help the Iraqi people.
With regard to the regional dimension of the crisis in Iraq, the prime minister said that the ''15'' ''wish to help all the neighboring countries which will be faced with waves of refugees.'' However, he underlined that these countries should avoid action which could create greater instability and that they have responsibility for the avoidance of any terrorist act.
Referring to the Middle East, Simitis said the ''15'' support the ''road map'' which the international community has reached for the solution to the Middle East issue.
Concluding, the prime minister said the ''15'' declare their decision to strengthen the European Union's common foreign, political security and defense policy.
At the same time, however, the ''15 declare their will to strengthen transatlantic relations which he said were of ''fundamental importance.''
Simitis gave particular emphasis to the development of dialogue with the United States in dealing with major international problems as well as to the strengthening of international cooperation against terrorism.
Concluding, the prime minister underlined that for the European Union, the restoration of the unity of the international community constitutes at the present phase an imperative need.
Responding to questions, Simitis said ''the 15 heads of state and government at the EU summit in Brussels tonight agreed that they disagree on Iraq,'' adding that ''we therefore decided to look to the future.''
''We could not be able to overcome our differences tonight,'' Simitis said, adding that ''it would be futile to repeat the differences which were manifested for months at the United Nations Security Council.''
On his part, European Commission President Romano Prodi referred to the 21 million euros which the European Commission has approved for immediate use, while, as he said, there is a margin for additional funds to be given from the reserves of the EU budget.
 Simitis, Prodi hope Iraq war ends soon
BRUSSELS 21/03/2003 (ANA - Chr. Poulidou)European Union president Greece said on Thursday it deeply regretted that a peaceful solution to the Iraq problem could not be found and expressed hope that ''warfare would soon end so as to minimize casualties, particularly among civilians''.
''The Greek presidency will do its duty, as it did at the previous emergency European Summit'', Greek Prime Minister and European Council President in-office said at a press conference in Brussels on the results of an EU Tripartite Social Summit that took place early on Thursday, on the eve of the Spring EU Council in Brussels.
''We will try to sound once more the desire of the European people for a common course with peace and progress,'' he said, adding ''The Iraq issue will be on the agenda tonight and we are going to exchange views on it. The presidency will seek common positions, in spite of disagreements and difficulties. Common positions that will allow Europe to have its own voice and intervention in further developments''.
Along the same lines, European Commission President Romano Prodi, in a sharp statements indirectly addressed to EU partners, stressed ''we all agree that we owe our wealth and prosperity to the Union'' and that it was time to ''draw the lessons from this crisis. Europe can make an effective contribution to peace in the world only if its nations pull together within the European Union'' and that it was not in its interest to ''to continue relying on others when it comes to defending our values militarily.''
Prodi started his statement by saying ''This is a sad and somber day for all nations around the world'', since ''the onslaught of war has put paid to the international community's efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis within the United Nations.''
He said he hoped ''the war will be short and as bloodless as possible and that it will bring the least possible disruption to the region. The Commission is committed to delivering humanitarian aid quickly and effectively, therefore in the evening we will make preparations for an emergency Commission meeting tomorrow to coordinate activities''.
The Commission president noted that ''We need to concentrate all our efforts, under the auspices of the UN, on finding a solution that will bring a return to peace as soon as possible'', adding that ''this is a bad time for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, for the European Union as a whole, for the authority of the UN, for NATO, and for transatlantic relations'', stressing that the Commission ''has worked hard with the Presidency of the Union to seek a common position and it will continue to do so''.
Moreover, Simitis said the press conference was called on the works of the Tripartite Social Summit, since the Iraq issue would be discussed later by the ''15'' leaders.
''Let us not work hypothetically'', the Greek prime minister said, adding ''there were varying views regarding the usefulness of maintaining the Council agenda that focuses on the Lisbon strategy. Nevertheless, changes to the agenda would show that the EU is 'led by the nose' and that its stance was dictated by others, the EU would count among the war casualties''.
''We are the ones that should lend substance to the EU, others cannot determine our foreign policy. Mr. Prodi was right when he earlier said that we cannot rely on others when it comes to defending our security,'' Simitis said.
 EU president Greece pledges to spare no effort to ensure EU unity
Athens, 21/03/2003 (ANA)Greece is not involved in any way in the Iraq war, a Greek government spokesman on Thursday again stressed, adding that as the president of the European Union, the country will make every effort to secure the bloc's unity and future prospects.
Replying to reporters' questions, Greek Deputy Mass Media and Press Minister Telemahos Hytiris said the EU Spring Summit on Thursday would be very interesting, due to ''contradictions and varying stances within the EU''.
Moreover, he said he was confident that everyone shared a desire for Europe to advance.
Hytiris said there was a clear decision on the part of Greece for non-participation in the war, and that this decision would not change, regardless of any pressure that might be exerted.
He added that the Greek frigate ''Koundouriotis'', currently in the Persian Gulf region, was outside of the war zone and in the event the war zone was extended the frigate would sail back to Greece.
With regard to the use of Souda base (which hosts facilities for US naval support on the island of Crete), the spokesman said Greece, just as other countries, honors international agreements it has signed over the past decades.
Finally, he said all measures for the protection of Greek territory have been taken and that there was no reason for alarm or panic.
 War means failure, Greek EU presidency tells Europarliament emergency sessionBRUSSELS (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)
''When diplomacy ends and war begins, then we cannot but admit our failure,'' Greek foreign minister George Papandreou, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, told an emergency plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday, convened only hours after US-led military strikes commenced on Iraq.
Papandreou told the Europarliamentarians that up until now the EU's common target had been to exhaust all the margins for finding a solution to the Iraq crisis with peaceful means, adding that the Greek EU presidency had been dedicated to that goal.
Papandreou said he, personally, and the other representatives of the Greek EU presidency had had a flurry of consultations recently, to that end, with the UN Security Council member countries, US representatives, UN secretary general Kofi Annan, UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and other officials, in an effort to reach a peaceful solution.
He conceded that despite the Greek presidency's efforts, there had been internal disagreements within the EU as to the expediency and legitimacy of an armed intervention against Iraq. ''At this time, however, the hostilities have commenced, and what is foremost is that we determine our next steps,'' Papandreou said, outlining the priorities from here on.
The second priority was to tackle the humanitarian problem, while the third and fourth priorities were to ensure Iraq's sovereignty and integrity and to avert destabilization of the wider region, respectively, Papandreou continued.
In that respect, he underlined the problems that could potentially arise in Turkey vis-a-vis the Kurdish issue, warning that another war front must not be opened.
He further stressed the need for progress on the Middle East problem based on the so-called ''roadmap'' for peace between Palestinians and Israelis developed by a U.S.-led ''Quartet'' of international peace brokers, and also the role that the UN must play from now on, while at the same time noting the crisis that had erupted in trans-Atlantic relations.
Papandreou said that the present crisis should prompt the commencement of a new dialogue between Europe and the US aiming at global governance on the basis of commonly accepted principles, adding that the crisis in Iraq should be a catalyst for strengthening the European Union.
Taking the podium after Papandreou, EU external relations commissioner Chris Patten lauded the Greek EU presidency's ''heroic'' efforts in recent months to achieve common EU positions on the Iraq crisis.
H.G. Pottering, chairman of the parliamentary group of the European People's Party (PPE) in the Europarliament, said that instead of criticizing the US, the EU should
Enrique Baron Crespo, chairman of the parliamentary group of the Party of European Socialists in the Europarliament, sharply criticized the US, and warned that the European Union should not become its pawn.
 EU presidency regrets failure for peaceful Iraq settlement - Reactions in Greece
Athens, 21/03/2003 (ANA)The European Union on Thursday expressed its regret over the failure to resolve the Iraq crisis peacefully, shortly after the commencement of US-led military attacks on Iraq, while protest demonstrations erupted throughout Greece, which currently holds the rotating six-month EU presidency.
The European Union on Thursday expressed its regret that the Iraq crisis had not been resolved peacefully and in a climate of unity, in statements by Greek foreign minister George Papandreou, who chairs the EU council of ministers, in Brussels where an EU summit was due to begin later in the day.
''We all regret that we haven't been able to solve this problem in the international community in a united way and peaceful,'' Papandreou, whose country currently holds the rotating six-month EU presidency, said after the commencement of US-led military operations on Iraq.
''We will be discussing developments this (Thursday) evening and we all think what is now of paramount importance is the plight of the
Iraqi people and the stability of the region,'' Papandreou said.
In Athens, National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) chief Gen. George Antonakopoulos was closely monitoring the developments in Iraq at the National Centre for Operations and was continuously briefing the national defense ministry's political leadership on developments.
At the same time, deputy foreign minister Andreas Loverdos said immediately after the opening of bombings on Iraq that the Greek government ''is prepared at any moment to provide humanitarian assistance anywhere requested of us or whenever deemed necessary, so as to contribute to the greatest degree possible to ameliorating the consequences of the war''.
Two days of anti-war protests began in Athens and other cities throughout Greece on Thursday, while national carrier Olympic Carriers put into force emergency operational measures for flight and passenger safety, including the cancellation of flights to Middle East destinations. Also, several hundreds of peace demonstrators held a vigil outside the US embassy in downtown Athens shortly before midnight Wednesday until 3:30 a.m. Thursday, when the US government's ultimatum for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his two sons to leave Iraq expired, while morning rallies in Athens' central squares were due to converge at Syntagma Square at 11:30 a.m. for a protest march to the US Embassy.
In the all-night candle-light vigil late Wednesday, the demonstrators outside the heavily-guarded US embassy demanded the withdrawal of the military forces deployed around Iraq, and also called for Greece's non-involvement in the war.
Iraqi economic refugees in Greece also took part in the protest with songs and slogans against the US policy, at the same time thanking the Greek people for their support, and were joined by Greek artists and academics in support of the peace movement.
Although the peace protest took place in a calm atmosphere, several demonstrators threw various objects and eggs at the Embassy courtyard after the expiry of the ultimatum, when news spread that the military operations had commenced, but no tension or violence erupted.
Olympic Airways: National carrier Olympic Airways activated a series of emergency operational measures aimed at ensuring the safety of flights and passengers but also the airline's operation in the difficult period, both financially and operationally, initiated with the commencement of war operations in Iraq.
The measures included the discontinuation of flights to the Middle East, namely the destinations of Dubai, Beirut and Alexandria -- flights to Kuwait were discontinued nearly two weeks ago -- and a reduction in the frequency of lights to Cairo and Larnaca, while decisions on flights to Tel Aviv and Jeddah would be taken according to developments.
OA also plans to revise its flight itinerary to European destinations in accordance with demand, with the exception of Brussels, which will remain intact.
Further, the frequency of domestic flights will also be reduced in accordance with passenger demand, while the international flights to New York, Canada and Johannesburg will remain as is.
Planned protests: Trade unions, peace organizations and social groups on Thursday launched two days of anti-war protests in Athens, including several marches on Thursday and Friday starting out from Syntagma Square and the Athens University Propylae to the US embassy and from the Venizelos statue in central Thessaloniki to the US Consulate General.
The protest marches have been called by the GSEE General Confederation of Workers of Greece, ADEDY civil servants' supreme administrative council, the EKA Athens Labor Centre, the Social Forum, the Stop the War Alliance, the Action: Thessaloniki 2003 movement, and several other organizations.
On Friday, GSEE and ADEDY have called work stoppages beginning at noon and running to the end of the working shift, while the Athens Metro and ISAP Kifissia-Athens-Piraeus underground will not run between noon and 4:00 p.m. Shops and SMEs will pull down their shutters from 1:00-3:00 p.m. Also, the Federation of Civil Aviation Employees' Unions (OSYPA) has called a three-hour work-stoppage Friday from noon to 3:00 p.m. At the same time, the Panhellenic Labor Front has called a 24-hour strike on Friday. Similar protests have also been called in the northern Greek capital of Thessaloniki and most of the cities and towns in the wider area of Macedonia.
At dawn Thursday, shortly after the commencement of the Iraq operations, members of the Action: Thessaloniki 2003 movement symbolically blocked off the Kodra military camp in Kalamaria and the Thessaloniki City Hall, while a protest was also staged outside the US Consulate in Thessaloniki.
Another demonstration and march to the US Consulate, commencing from the statue of Venizelos, will be staged at noon Thursday, called by Action: Thessaloniki 2003, PAME and EDYETH. The same organizations will hold a protest concert and other demonstrations from 3:00 to 6:00 Thursday afternoon, followed by another march to the US Consulate. At 6:00 p.m., the Thessaloniki Labor Centre, which has called a 24-hour strike on Thursday, is holding its own demonstration at the Venizelos statue and march to the US Consulate, while one hour later the Greek Social Forum will follow suit with a rally at the Venizelos statue and march to the US Consulate.
 Iraq-DM Papantoniou: No Greek involvement in war operations
Athens, 21/03/2003 (ANA)Greece is not involved in any way, directly or indirectly, in the war operations on Iraq, Greece's defense minister Yannos Papantoniou reassured parliament on Thursday.
"Greece is not taking party in any way, directly or indirectly, in the war operations vis-a-vis Iraq," Papantoniou said during a discussion of a timely question to the prime minister tabled by Communist Party of Greece leader Aleka Papariga on the war in Iraq and facilitations by Greece.
Papantoniou replied to the question, which was presented by KKE deputy A. Skyllakos, on behalf of Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who was in Brussels for an EU summit. Greece is holding the rotating six-month EU presidency in the first half of the year.
Papantoniou opined that the US intervention in Iraq was changing the terms and conditions of security in Greece, and called on all the political forces of the country to display "responsibility and calm-headedness" and refrain from "irresponsible actions and statements" because "there is much at stake from this intervention".
He warned that the intervention in Iraq would "act negatively" on Greece's national security in the long-term, and warned that "there are some hazards that we must weigh with great responsibility".
Replying on the issue of "facilities", Papantoniou said that "whatever is happening at Souda base (in Crete, a NATO anchorage) or anywhere else in the Hellenic Armed Forces, and whatever our frigate is doing in the Gulf, are not outside the framework of our country's legal obligations, and are nothing out of the ordinary. Both Souda base and the frigate 'Koundouriotis' are carrying out missions that have absolutely no relation to Iraq," Papantoniou assured.
More specifically, Papantoniou said that Greece was taking part in missions "linked with the fight against international terrorism", such as its participation in the "Active Endeavor" mission in the eastern Mediterranean and the "Enduring Freedom" mission in the Gulf.
He said the Greek frigate Koundouriotis, which was currently in the Gulf, "has no connection with the war operations against Iraq but is participating in the struggle against the Al Qaida, in the framework of the naval squadron in which a French frigate is also participating".
As for the facilities to the US forces (Souda base, etc.), Papantoniou said they were "provided for and governed by the provisions of the Greek-US defense cooperation agreement of 1990 and the Greek-US technical agreement of 1997, and by various accords between the Greek and US navies".
He clarified that on Souda base "the US activities comprise visits by ships for personnel and refueling reasons, and have no relation with war operations".
Skyllakos charged that the war against Iraq was illicit, "in essence", because it was being carried out over the oil reserves there and for the US' further sovereignty, but also "with respect to formality" because the UN Charter had been "trampled".
He said that the agreements invoked by the Greek government to justify the facilities provided to the US "cannot be in force today" since "the Souda base is being used as a refueling base without which the war on Iraq would be made substantially more difficult".
He supported this claim by citing press articles according to which "four aircraft took off from Souda and refueled American airplanes that bombed Iraq, while Greek crews were on board at least two AWACS (Airborne Warning radar planes) which, from Ikonio (base) were spying on Iraq to guide the American bombs".
"You are accomplices in the crime," Skyllakos said, and set out the reasons that "dictate a discontinuation, even temporarily, of those agreements".
He said the accords signed by the government presupposed adherence to the UN Charter and the facilities were provided for defense purposes, but pointed out that the war on Iraq was aggression, while "if there is any hazard for Greek security, you can take restrictive measures" and posed the question: "There are no such risks? Then why did you increase the guard at Souda and other areas that could be considered targets by Iraq?".
IN reply, Papantoniou said that "no European country, no NATO member, not even France, has abrogated existing military cooperation agreements", and called on Skyllakos to state, point blank, whether he was "asking that Greece abrogate bilateral agreements, and agreements linking it with NATO".
To Skyllakos' affirmative reply, Papantoniou explained that such an eventuality required discussion "on a different basis", but at the present time the government could not be called on "to abrogate existing military cooperation agreements that have been ratified by the Hellenic parliament and bind the country internationally".
 Simitis: Iraq war not to affect Accession Treaties signing
BRUSSELS 21/03/2003 (ANA–Chr. Poulidou)Prime Minister and European Council President in-office reaffirmed on Thursday here that the Iraq crisis would not affect the signing of the Accession Treaties for the Union’s new members, in Athens on April 16.
 Greek president's visit to Belgium postponed due to international developments
Athens, 21/03/2003 (ANA)The official visit Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos was due to pay to Belgium on April 1-3 has been postponed due to the international developments, it was announced on Thursday. The visit was to take place at the invitation of the king and queen of Belgium.
 ND leader speaks against war at EPP summit in Brussels
BRUSSELS 21/03/2003 (ANA - A. Panagopoulos)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis on Thursday expressed his sorrow over the fact that the crisis and the disarming of Iraq were not achieved by peaceful means and because the situation got out of control, resulting in extreme conditions.
Karamanlis, who is participating in the European Peoples' Party (EPP) summit here, stood in defense of international law, for peace and against the war, stressing that the European Union once again did not rise up to circumstances.
He said that it was unthinkable and disappointing that the EU was not able to speak in a unified voice on critical issues.
Karamanlis underlined that this recent traumatic experience that was caused by the Iraq crisis should provide the impetus for more decisive and effective steps toward the common foreign policy and security policy of the EU.
''At last,'' he said, ''those countries that want to should move forward just as in the case of the economic Eurozone. The time has come for decisions''.
He stressed the necessity for aid to the victims, as well as coordinated European action toward the possibility of a large wave of refugees.
''For countries such as Greece, that are on the borders of the EU, this is an important and critical issue,'' he added.
In any case, the U.S. attack against Iraq caused reaction among the members of the EPP with Spain, Portugal, Italy and The Netherlands promoting a resolution in support of the U.S., while Austria and Luxembourg spoke out openly against the war.
 Political party reactions in Greece to war in Iraq
Athens, 21/03/2003 (ANA)PASOK Central Committee Secretary Costas Laliotis on Thursday lashed out against United States President George Bush and the European leaders that supported him in launching the war against Iraq, while he called on members and supporters of the ruling party to join in anti-war demonstrations being held throughout the country.
A 'no' to Bush, he noted, was tantamount to a 'no' to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who had for years been armed and supported by the United States themselves.
He accused Bush and the ''hawks'' that jumped on the war bandwagon - naming among them British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Spanish Premier Jose Maria Aznar, Portuguese Premier Jose Manuel Durao Barroso and Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi - of weakening all possibility of a peaceful solution for Saddam's disarmament from weapons of mass destruction.
He said that the US president had focused exclusively on the interests of the United States and accused him of waging a war that lay outside the dictates of international rules and laws, whose ultimate aim was to establish America's dominance over the world.
According to Laliotis, the unilateral actions of the US had undermined the United Nations and had injured the cohesion, unity, and joint prospects of the European Union, with the joint responsibility of European leaders.
According to an ANA dispatch from Brussels, main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis on Thursday expressed regret that war had prevailed over peace, in violation of international legality, during a meeting with the presidency of the European People's Party (EPP).
In Athens, meanwhile, ND Parliamentary Group general secretary Dimitris Sioufas urged the government to initiate a debate on the war in the Greek Parliament, as it had done for the war in Yugoslavia.
He made the suggestion in response to a proposal by the Coalition of the Left and Progress and the Communist Party of Greece for an off-the-agenda debate on the issue.
The Coalition party slammed the Greek EU presidency on Thursday for doggedly sticking to the arranged agenda for the informal EU summit in Brussels in spite of the war and the deepening crisis within the union, saying it had failed to rise to the occasion and the historic events that were taking place.
''At a time when the illegal attack of the United States against Iraq is underway and the entire world is filled with anxiety and uncertainty about tomorrow, as millions come out in protest throughout the world, the EU president is addressing EU citizens in a way that demolishes the Community's prestige in their eyes,'' Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos said.
The head of the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI), Dimitris Tsovolas, slammed the US and British invasion of Iraq as an ''unforgivable and criminal'' action that clearly violated the rules of international law and would lead to the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
Communist party accuses gov't of deceiving Greek public: The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Thursday called on all the Greek people to take to the streets in protest against the war on Iraq, and accused the country's socialist PASOK government of deceiving the Greek people regarding the country's non-involvement in the war operations.
KKE leader Aleka Papariga accused the government of hypocrisy and said that the government "had given everything" and that "two Greek pilots are manning the AWACS (early warning radar planes) that are flying, via Turkey, and murdering the people of Iraq".
"The hypocrisy of the foreign minister (George Papandreou), who today (Thursday) in Brussels spoke of peace and expressed his regret (that the Iraq crisis had not been peacefully resolved) must stop," Papariga said, adding that only the peoples could oblige the EU, or at least its member-state governments, to stop providing facilities in this war.
A KKE announcement earlier in the day repeated the accusations, saying that the Greek government's statements that it was not participating in the war against the Iraqi people were "false and provocative".
KKE said that Greece, "through the PASOK government and with the unequivocal support of ND, is participating, as also are the EU countries that reacted against the US-British war (against Iraq)".
"In conflict with the popular sentiment and the thousands of people who are demonstrating, the government and ND are shedding crocodile tears for the people of Iraq while at the same time taking part in the massacre," KKE said.
The KKE announcement said that the Greek participation is "also expressed with the concession of air and naval bases, with the concession of (Greek) airspace and ports, and with other refueling (facilities)".
It said that the slogan "Greece out of the war" was of "vital importance", adding that the Greek people should not show any respect to the Greek-US accords "which are of an aggressive nature, but are hypocritically called 'defense'" accords.
"Everyone take to the streets! PASOK and ND must pay the political cost," the KKE urged.
Meanwhile, ruling PASOK MP Christos Papoutsis said that the war was illegal, adding that "those who led the developments to this point will face charges of committing war crimes".
Greece, said Papoutsis, a former EU Commissioner, should remain "on the front lines at diplomatic level, inside and outside Europe, for the termination of the war, which is being carried out without justification".
Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos earlier said that today was "tragic for the entire planet", and criticized Bush and Blair over the war on Iraq, while calling on the Greek government not to provide any facilitations to the US.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos, Constantopoulos also criticized the European Union, saying it "could not remain voiceless in the face of such events".
He added that the Greek EU presidency could not hide behind procedural pretexts, and called on Simitis to table an issue of condemnation of the war at the EU summit opening in Brussels later Thursday.
Constantopoulos further reiterated SYN's demand for convening a parliamentary debate on the war, noting that "everywhere around the world the parliaments and political parties were discussing and being informed", and accused the Greek government of "systematic absence".
Lastly, the SYN leader stressed the need for further strengthening of the peace movement, and called on the government to "comprehend that the Greek people are opposed to the war".
Before going into their meeting, Constantopoulos and Stephanopoulos agreed that the present days were a "trial for the entire world", particularly those who would suffer the war.
An announcement later on Thursday said that the relevant Parliament committee would briefed on the war by Papandreou the following Wednesday, while noting that an off-the-agenda debate requested by the two smaller opposition parties could only be requested by either the government or the main opposition, since they had already used up their right to request such debates.
 Contract signed for procurement of 170 Leopard-2 tanks
Athens, 21/03/2003 (ANA)Greece signed a contract with the German Krauss Maffei Wegmann company on Thursday for the procurement of 170 new Leopard-2 HEL modern technology tanks.
The total cost of the contract amounts to 1.7 billion euros (565 billion drachmas). Relevant sources said the final offer price set by the company for each tank at the end of February 2001 was 7.42 million euros, while the finalized price was set at 8.18 million euros.
The sources referred to points included in the contract, and corresponding to the requirements of the military, accounting for the difference in price in the final offer price and the contract price.
The participation of the Greek defense industry in the production of the new tank, through joint production programs, amounts to 40 per cent, about 230 billion drachmas.
The first tanks will begin being delivered in 2005.
 Simitis: Spring Summit to give message of confidence in EU economic prospects
BRUSSELS 21/03/2003 (ANA - V. Demiris)Prime Minister Costas Simitis, European Council President in-office, on Thursday in Brussels told the first Tripartite Social Summit that the current political conjuncture with the war in Iraq was exacerbating the economic situation and warned of further unfavorable implications on oil prices, international trade, tourist activity, consumers and investors confidence.
''In today's global uncertainty, the Spring Summit is summoned to give a convincing message of development and confidence on Europe's economic prospects and on its potential to generate growth, wealth and jobs,'' Simitis said.
He said the stable macro-economic framework, long-term viability and the quality of national economies constituted the foundation for growth and the way to confront the implications that Europe's aging population has on social protection systems.
Simitis also said that via the Tripartite Social Summit a better organization in social dialogue would be institutionalized, and a message would be disseminated to our societies that the EU's political leadership acknowledged the significance of the role of the social partners.
He said the Greek EU presidency was seeking solutions with regard to the Community Directive pertaining to conditions in the workplace through temporary employment offices, and stressed that the approval of the guideline would facilitate businesses to better use human resources and toward the protection of employees in that category.
Referring to migration, the Greek prime minister said that so far the issue was being dealt with as a border protection question, and stressed the need to examine the implications that migration has on the economy, employment, competitiveness, ''third market'' activities, taxation, the pension system, the policies vis-a-vis society, such as housing, health and education, but also the multiculturalism of our societies.
 Greek EU presidency wants cash to rebuild Iraq kept to minimum
BRUSSELS 21/03/2003 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)The consequences the war on Iraq may have on the European economy and the European Union’s contribution to the reconstruction of that country are the central themes to be examined during the EU Council of Finance Ministers here on Thursday evening.
Greek Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, who presides over the Council, told reporters here of the need for coordination among the Union’s 15 in order to shift financial markets and avert an aggravation of inflationary pressures as a result of surging oil prices.
The EU wishes to be part of Iraq’s reconstruction process after the war and should coordinate its action with international organizations, Christodoulakis said.
He added that the Greek EU Presidency held the view that EU contribution to Iraq’s reconstruction should be kept to a minimum, with the cost and support being undertaken by international bodies.
Referring to issues to be reviewed by the Council of Finance Ministers, Christodoulakis said it was expected that a conclusion would be reached with regard to energy taxation, which was essentially agreed upon during Wednesday’s session of the council, and savings taxation.
 Greece, Germany discuss impact of Iraq war on transport
Athens, 21/03/2003 (ANA)Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis met on Thursday with Germany's deputy transport minister, Ralf Nagel, to prepare for a European Union ministers' meeting later this month chaired by Greece, the 15-nation bloc's rotating president.
Discussed were the start of a US-UK war on Iraq and its likely impact on the transport sector.
Also on the agenda were bilateral talks since 1998 on cooperation in the trans-European networks, the Galileo system and railway transportation.
 Olympic Airways reduces flights due to Iraq war, protests
Athens, 21/03/2003 (ANA)Olympic Airways is to reduce its flights due to the war with Iraq and due to work stoppages called for Friday by the General Confederation of Labor of Greece and the ADEDY civil servants union to protest against the war.
Taking part in the stoppage from 1200 to 1500 on Friday are air traffic controllers. Flights will be disrupted.
Olympic's new flight schedule for the near future is available from the airline and from travel agents.
 Greece, Russia discuss closer tourism cooperation
Athens, 21/03/2003 (ANA)Renat Gareystin, Russia's Development Ministry representative, on Thursday visited the chairman of Greece's National Tourism Organization, Yiannis Patellis, to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral tourist relations.
The two men also discussed the likely impact on tourism from a war in Iraq.
Mr Gareystin is visiting Greece on the orders of Russia's Tourism secretary Vladimir Strezalkowski.
Greece's tourism authorities are participating with a large number of exhibitors in this year's international tourism fair, to be held in Moscow March 26-29.
 Greek stocks ease as war begins in Iraq
Athens, 21/03/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks eased slightly on Thursday in the Athens Stock Exchange reflecting investors' reluctance to participate in the market only hours after the war began in Iraq.
The general index fell 0.29 percent to end at 1,538.89 points, with turnover a low 45.5 million euros.
The Cement, Publication and Retail sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day (2.20 percent, 1.73 percent and 1.68 percent, respectively), while the Wholesale, Textile and Investment sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses (1.50 percent, 1.23 percent and 1.06 percent, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 0.74 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index rose 0.29 percent, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 0.16 percent higher and the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index eased 0.47 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 146 to 140 with another 71 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 53.2 mln euros Thursday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 53.2 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Buyers outstrip sellers on Thursday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 OA signs sponsorship deal with ATHOC
Athens, 21/03/2003 (ANA)State-run Olympic Airways on Thursday became the eighth largest "Grand Sponsor" of the 2004 Olympic Games by pledging 10 million euros worth of airline tickets and other facilitations.
The agreement was announced here by Athens 2004 organizing committee (ATHOC) President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who added that the current Games have surpassed all expectations in terms of sponsorship, with commitments totaling 272.8 million euros. An initial target pointed to 200 million euros. More importantly, that figure comes with only 20 percent of the sponsors that the Sydney 2000 Games accumulated, she said.
The ATHOC chief added that a new target of 300 million euros in sponsorship revenue has been set.
Returning to the specific sponsorship deal with OA, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said Greece’s national air carrier will also issue a special category of discounted tickets.
The initiative was announced in the presence of Transport Minister Christos Verelis, who hailed the agreement as eminently important for OA’s future prospects amid a very competitive and depressed air travel sector.
 2 more cruiseships signed up for 2004 hospitality program
Athens, 21/03/2003 (ANA)ATHOC reserved another two luxury cruiseships for its ambitious “sea borne” hospitality program late this week, namely, the Holland America Line’s “MS Oosterdam 5” and the “MS Rotterdam 4”.
ATHOC officials signed the contract with executives of the Sportius Hospitality S.A. firm at ATHOC’s headquarters.
The two state-of-the-art cruiseships will be docked at the port of Piraeus, just south of Athens, along with several other vessels contracted by Athens organizers. The two Dutch-owned vessels are expected to house three of the largest “Olympic Family” national delegations, namely, those of Russia, the Ukraine and Cyprus.
The recently finished Oosterdam, Holland America's second “Vista Class” ship, can host 1,848 guests on its 10 decks, making it one of the largest such vessels in the world today. The Rotterdam, declared the 1999 ''Ship of the Year'' by World Ocean & Cruise Liner Society, can host 1,316 guests.
ATHOC signed another high-profile deal with the Royal Olympic Cruises (ROC) line late last month to reserve three new cruiseships, all expected to host visitors for the 2004 Games.
Two of the vessels, the “Olympic Voyager” and the “Olympia Explorer”, built in 2000 and 2002, respectively, are able to host 836 passengers in 420 luxury suites. A third cruiseship, the “Olympia Countess” offers a more economical hospital package.
Athens organizers have promised a small flotilla of cruiseships in an upgraded and beautified Piraeus port by August 2004, one of the alternatives to meeting pressing hospitality needs during the upcoming Olympic Games.
 Prodi says Cyprus talks suspended not terminated
BRUSSELS 21/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)President of the European Commission Romano Prodi told CNA here Thursday that talks for a solution of the Cyprus question have not stopped, but have been postponed, adding that despite the present difficult phase, the European Union is working towards the resumption of the talks to reunify Cyprus.
''The moment is difficult but we are working in order to restart the conversation,'' Prodi said replying to CNA questions.
To a comment that time is running out for a reunited Cyprus to join the EU, taking into account that the signing of the Accession Treaty is less than a month away, Prodi said not only would he prefer a reunited Cyprus to join EU but he did his best towards that direction.
''But always your preferences are not met by circumstances, so I go on working in this direction,'' Prodi said, adding that ''probably we shall not arrive in time, but the door is always open.''
Asked whether the EU could do anything towards the resumption of the talks, Prodi pointed out that ''this moment is difficult but we are working in order to restart the conversation.''
Referring to the talks, he said ''don't think that they are stopped, they are suspended.''
To a comment that the UN-led talks have frozen, the President of the Commission said that he hoped ''there is a warmer period in order to melt the ice.''