|Wednesday, 11 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-03-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 22, 2003
 PM says EUís main role is the maintenance of Iraqís territorial integrity
BRUSSELS 23/03/2003 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Prime Minister Costas Simitis, presiding over the European Union's summit here, on Friday reiterated the existence of disagreement in the EU concerning the crisis in Iraq, stressing, however that since the war has started it is the duty of the EU to look to the future.
Speaking to the press at the end of the second day of the summit, Simitis said that the first and foremost role of the EU is the maintenance of the territorial integrity of Iraq after the end of the military conflict and noted that Turkey also agrees with this priority, according to statements Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul made in Brussels on Friday, where he is representing Turkey.
The second basic priority of the EU, he said, is the confrontation of humanitarian needs that will arise, especially if there are waves of refugees.
The third priority, he said, is the maintenance of balance in the wider region.
The premier also underlined the central role the United Nations should play from now on, while stressing the importance of inter-Atlantic relations, the continuation of the dialogue between the U.S. and Europe and the development of the peace process in the Middle East.
In light of the Iraq issue, Simitis noted once again the necessity for the strengthening of the EU's common foreign policy and the policy of security and defense, which, he said, is still under formulation and has not taken its final form.
Speaking on this issue, Simitis insinuated that Greece stands for the strengthening of cooperation on defense issues of all those member-states that wish this, noting that the same is already happening, especially concerning the Economic and Monetary Union and the common currency.
Finally, the premier stressed that, concerning the Iraq issue, all the representatives of the candidate member-states stated their full agreement on the decisions taken by the EU on Thursday.
PM Simitis says 'we want the war to end as soon as possible': Prime Minister and EU Council President Costas Simitis, on his return to Athens on Friday night from Brussels where he presided over the two-day informal EU Spring Summit which focused on the war in Iraq, said ''we want the war to end as soon as possible.''
''We hope that its end will mark the start of a safer world,'' he said, adding that ''these are the objectives we sought at the Council Summit in Brussels and we achieved a result which many thought before was unattainable.''
The prime minister went on to say that ''we are watching developments carefully,'' noting that ''in critical periods such as this one, we must be calm.''
 Chirac congratulates Greek EU presidency over Iraq issue management within EU
BRUSSELS 23/03/2003 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)French President Jacques Chirac on Friday expressed his warm congratulations to the Greek European Union presidency for its management of the Iraq issue among the member-states of the EU.
''The Greek presidency was successful with everything and we should recognize that, expressing our appreciation for the way it handled the process,'' Chirac said, in his opening remarks on Friday, during his press conference here, following the end of the EU summit.
The Greek presidency, Chirac said, managed to avoid the reproduction of confrontation in the United Nations Security Council, which did not lead anywhere and led the summit toward the future, emphasizing the Lisbon issues for the improvement of competitiveness and for the future of the European economy that are what is at stake in the EU.
Chirac also supported the common statement of the 15 EU leaders, noting that whatever the developments surrounding Iraq may be, the unanimous position of the EU is that in post-war Iraq the next move will be rebuilding, which must fall under the responsibilities of the United Nations.
 Greek EU presidency says it shares UN secretary general's view on Iraq war
Athens, 23/03/2003 (ANA)Greece, being the European Union's president, shares the view of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who called the US strike on Iraq ''not legitimate'' and said that the UN ''has been, is and will be'' the appropriate organization in charge of the crisis, a Greek government spokesman said on Friday.
Greek Deputy Mass Media and Press Minister Telemahos Hytiris said that being the EU president, Greece participated and played a leading role in developments with the Brussels Spring Council and he called Thursday's decision of the ''15'' very important, stressing that united Europe should maintain its unity and prospects and form its own united voice.
''The Brussels decision shows realism, moderation and faith in the role of united Europe and the dynamics of history that are not exhausted in the specific war'', Hytiris said, also stressing the need for Europe to overcome its weaknesses and play its international role.
 DM Papantoniou briefs President Stephanopoulos on Iraq developments
Athens, 23/03/2003 (ANA)Defense minister Yannos Papantoniou on Friday briefed President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos, at the latter's request, on the latest developments in Iraq.
No statements were made after the meeting, but sources said that before the TV cameras departed ahead of the two officials' private meeting, Papantoniou told the President that "we are awaiting the next stage".
DM briefed on Iraq war at National Operations Centre: Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou was briefed on developments in the war in Iraq at the National Operations Centre by National Defense General Staff Chief G. Antonakopoulos and Staff members on Friday and told reporters afterwards he feared very great human cost in Baghdad.
''The picture is that these operations are going ahead. Of course, they are very harsh attacks which are taking place in Baghdad now, I fear with a very great human cost, and they are showing the tragic dimension of this war now. According to the assessment of the chief and Staff members, it is difficult for an accurate prediction to be made on the duration of time these operations will take. I fear that it will not be very easy for them to end quickly but, of course, the coming days will show where we are heading,'' he told reporters.
Referring to the Greek frigate sailing in the Persian Gulf, Papantoniou said ''we are communicating systematically with
Lieutenant Commander Lambrakakis. The boys are very well, their morale is high and the order of the National Defense Staff is not to participate in operations in Iraq in any way. They are merely patrolling the region for reasons linked to the struggle against international terrorism. They have nothing to do with operations in Iraq.''
 PM Simitis on meeting with Blair, Cyprus issue, western Balkans
BRUSSELS 23/03/2003 (ANA - V. Demiris)Prime Minister and European Council President Costas Simitis, responding on Friday to a question by the press on whether he felt he had an enemy in front of him during his private conversation with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said ''no colleague of mine is an enemy of mine.''
Simitis said he and Blair discussed the proposal submitted by the British prime minister in a letter on the European Union's policy on immigration.
He added that this issue and ways of handling it will be discussed at the EU summit in Thessaloniki on June 21.
Referring to the discussion on the Cyprus issue, Simitis said the European Council expressed its dissatisfaction over the failure of the UN secretary general's efforts to find an overall settlement, appealing at the same time to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to reconsider his position.
On the question of the western Balkans, Simitis said the tragic assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic renders the EU's attention and adherence to the region necessary, as well as its full support for reforms required.
Simitis also expressed satisfaction over the start of the EU's military operation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to replace the NATO force stationed in the region.
Called on to comment on Italy's veto at the summit on the taxation of deposits, attempting in essence to link this issue with the lifting of the fine imposed on Italian milk producers for exceeding the quota allocated to Italy, Simitis said Italy has objections over the conclusion of the agreement which, however, had not been put forward in a perceptible way so far.
The prime minister further said that over the 20 years he has been a Council of Ministers member, it frequently happens that a member-state raises a special problem at a moment when another issue is being discussed.
He noted that he disagrees with this strategy since in this way one cannot go ahead and conclude agreements.
Commenting on the same issue, Finance and Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis stressed the need for the taxation package to close as soon as possible since, as he added, its solution will contribute to a decrease in taxation competition.
Foreign Minister George Papandreou, referring to Greece's initiative on promoting the Olympic Truce, said it is a means of support for the revival of an old tradition.
 European Council appeals to Turkish Cypriot leadership to reconsider its stanceBRUSSELS 23/03/2003 (V. Demiris - ANA/CNA)
The European Council on Friday appealed to the Turkish Cypriot leadership to reconsider its stance towards the UN-led peace effort and to work for a viable political settlement.
The final conclusions of the EU Spring Summit adopted earlier on Friday also said that Brussels strongly supports the continuation of negotiations between the two communities in Cyprus on the basis of a UN proposal for a comprehensive settlement.
The EU position was expressed ten days after the collapse of the latest UN-led effort to reach a negotiated settlement, which ended in The Hague after Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash refused to put to a referendum the UN proposal.
''The European Council regrets that the efforts of the UN Secretary General to find a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem have failed,'' EU heads of state and government said.
The EU ''strongly supports the continuation of the Secretary General's mission of good offices and of negotiations on the basis of his proposals.''
''It urges all parties concerned to spare no effort towards a just, viable and functional settlement, and in particular the Turkish Cypriot leadership to reconsider its position,'' the conclusions added.
Furthermore it reaffirmed its decisions taken at Copenhagen with regard to Cyprus' accession to the EU.
 Thousands join anti-war protests, strikes throughout Greece
Athens, 23/03/2003 (ANA)Hundreds of thousands of Greeks took to the streets on Friday to protest against the U.S.-led war on Iraq, as anti-war demonstrations, rallies and marches continued in cities throughout the country for a second day.
The ranks of tertiary education and high-school students that again turned out to voice their opposition to the attack on Iraq were swelled on Friday by members of the workforce, who responded to a call for a four-hour strike from trade unions and came out in force to join the protestors.
Public services, public transport, ferries, banks, even shops, light industry and supermarkets were among those that shut their doors, while more demonstrations have been organized for Saturday.
In Athens, demonstrators filled Syntagma Square and the surrounding streets in their thousands to join the rally organized by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the civil servants' union ADEDY, the Athens Labor Centre and activist groups such as the Greek Social Forum, the ''Stop the War'' Alliance and others. Among them were former resistance fighters, pensioners, civil servants, even members of the clergy.
Addressing the crowds, GSEE representative Philippos Thomas stressed that the first victim of the war was the United Nations and he called on Europe to stand and be counted.
''(British Prime Minister Tony) Blair and (Spanish premier Jose Maria) Aznar do not represent (Europe),'' he said.
Another speaker called on the government to finally close the U.S. naval support base in Souda Bay on Crete, stressing that the ''Greek public are not fools''.
Down the road on Kotzia Square, meanwhile, the Syntagma demonstration was mirrored in a rally called by PAME, a trade union group affiliated to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).
Arriving at the rally at noon, KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga slammed EU leaders, who she said had not made one reference to Iraq in the joint communique issued by informal EU summit on Thursday and Friday.
''All EU leaders care about is sharing the spoils in Iraq in the post-Saddam era,'' she said.
According to police estimates, more than 50,000 people turned out for the anti-war rally in Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city, whose central banner was Pablo Picasso's painting ''Guernica''.
As on Thursday, meanwhile, rallies were held in other main cities throughout Greece, including Corfu, Ioannina, Samos and elsewhere.
Iraq-Overnight sit-down protest outside US embassy in Athens: Hundreds of peace protestors staged peaceful all-night sit-down demonstrations outside the US embassy in Athens and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in central Syntagma Square beginning late Thursday to protest the US-led war on Iraq.
Some 500 members of non-government organizations (NGOs) and peace movements -- including the WWF, Action Aid, Greenpeace, Medecines du Monde and the Ecological Organization of Greece -- formed what they called small "circles of peace", and sat on the ground in silent protest throughout the night in the hope that "Mr. (US president George) and Mr. (British prime minister Tony) Blair will realize their mistake and stop the war" against Iraq, a spokesperson for the demonstrators told ANA.
The protestors, who gathered outside the US embassy and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 10:00 p.m. Thursday for the overnight vigil, used lighted candles to form a large peace symbol, and set up a large banner that said "We are all here".
The NGO and peace activists outside the US embassy were joined by dozens of Greek citizens who held their own overnight candle-lit vigil aimed at sending the message that "war is not a solution".
Central Vassilisis Sophias avenue that begins at Syntagma Square and runs up past the US embassy was closed to vehicles throughout the sit-down demonstration, while a discrete police contingent was on hand.
Youths clash with police during anti-war protest in Athens: The anti-war protest march to the United States Embassy in Athens was cut into two at around 14:30 on Friday when groups of youths clashed with riot police, attacking them with stones, flares, fire-crackers and sticks near the Athens Hilton.
The police responded with heavy use of tear gas between the War Museum and Eleftheria Park, preventing those bringing up the rear of the march from continuing.
As the trouble-makers fled into the side-streets off Mihalakopoulou, a large part of the march was stuck below the Hilton Hotel, waiting for the incidents to come to an end so that they could continue walking to the U.S. Embassy.
Sources said the youths caused extensive damage that has yet to be assessed to banks, cars and shop windows using fire-bombs and other objects.
The violent incidents came after a previous attack at 14:00 that was quickly quelled by limited use of tear gas. The agitators then fled into the crowd and were not pursued by police.
Tensions was also reported outside the Embassy itself, where protestors threw bottles of water, fire-crackers and other objects into the air or at police.
 UNHCR appeals to Iraq neighbors to 'keep borders open' to refugees
Athens, 23/03/2003 (ANA)U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers has urgently appealed to the countries neighboring Iraq neighbors to keep their borders open for all those requiring temporary protection and assistance, according to a UNHCR statement released in Athens Friday.
Lubbers also appealed for unrestricted access for UNHCR personnel to all border areas.
The refugee agency has more than 200 staff in the region with "pre-positioned emergency supplies for some 300,000 people in regional stockpiles".
UNHCR's contingency planning for a conflict in Iraq has been based on a preparedness figure of 600,000 refugees.
The full text of Lubbers' appeal is as follows:
"Despite all of the U.N.'s efforts to find a peaceful solution, we are now faced with the sad reality of war in Iraq and more suffering for the Iraqi people.
"We must do everything we can to alleviate that suffering, including keeping borders open so that those fearing for their lives can reach safety in neighboring states."
"UNHCR is doing all it can to assist these neighboring governments in meeting their primary responsibility to provide refugees with temporary protection and material assistance.
"We have people and resources in the region and more are arriving every day. But to save lives, we must have open borders and access to all of those seeking temporary asylum."
"While we expect neighboring states to live up to their responsibilities to protect refugees, we also expect the international community to do its part by supporting humanitarian efforts throughout the region."
 Patriot missiles deployed at Hania, Crete
Athens, 23/03/2003 (ANA)A battalion of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles was transferred to Hania, Crete on Friday, it was announced.
Military sources said the move aimed to increase the sense of security amongst the citizens since there were military installations on the island.
Other sources revealed that the missiles have been deployed at two points on the northern shores of Hania prefecture.
 Deputy foreign minister meets Egyptian ambassador
Athens, 23/03/2003 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos on Friday met Egyptian Ambassador to Athens Magda Moustafa Kamal Shahin for talks on bilateral economic cooperation.
They ascertained a common desire for close economic and trade ties and examined the possibility of calling the 6th Mixed Biministerial Committee between the two countries in the second half of 2003 and organizing visits by business delegations.
Ambassador Shahin invited Loverdos to Egypt for further talks on bilateral economic issues.
 Deputy foreign minister holds talks with Tunisian ambassador
Athens, 23/03/2003 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos on Friday met Tunisia's Ambassador to Greece Mohamed Bachrouch for talks on strengthening bilateral economic ties and developing investments.
They agreed to hold the 8th Mixed Biministerial Committee between Greece and Tunisia and the business forum associated with this in September 2003.
 Swiss deputies to visit Athens in April
GENEVA 23/03/2003 (ANA - N. Robin)The Swiss parliament's Switzerland-Greece committee organized a discussion-briefing session on the Edipresse conglomerate for the Balkans and especially for Greece, as part of efforts to bring the two countries together.
Deputies Barbara Polla and Joseph Zysiadis, co-presidents of the committee, announced they will depart for Greece in April for a two-day visit with the members of the corresponding Greek Parliament committee.
 Israel's ambassador to Athens makes farewell visit to Thessaloniki
Athens, 23/03/2003 (ANA)Israel's Ambassador to Greece David Sasson on Friday made a farewell visit to Thessaloniki, northern Greece, as he is leaving Greece very soon.
The Israeli diplomat met with Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos, Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis and the President of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki David Saltiel.
Asked to comment on the war in Iraq, he said that Israel was not participating, but lived in fear of a possible missile attack from the Baghdad regime.
 EU Summit acknowledges economic slowdown, urges for structural reforms
Athens, 23/03/2003 (ANA)European Union leaders reaffirmed a slowdown in economic growth and in job creation this year and said that economic uncertainties and world political dangers were burdening heavily on short-term prospects and delaying recovery, while noting that emphasis should be given by member-states in fulfilling their commitments on healthy macro-economic policies and structural reforms.
In a draft conclusion paper of the EU Spring Summit, held in Brussels, the 15 leaders noted that after four years of implementing a Lisbon Strategy plan, EU economies have created five million new jobs, of which 500,000 last year despite negative economic conditions, while the number of unemployed people fell by two million.
The EU leaders stressed that promoting stable growth and creating better job positions should remain a top priority in the EU's agenda. ''This goal,'' the 15 said, ''can be achieved if macro-
economic policies were followed, focusing on growth and stability, if economic reforms were boldly promoted, if decisive action was taken to increase job positions and restructuring a European social model, innovation and business activity in Europe, strengthening internal market and environmental protection.''
The EU Summit stressed that in order to achieve a goal of transforming EU as the more competitive and dynamic economy of knowledge in the world ''capable of sustained growth with more and better job positions and a greater social cohesion'', EU member-states should give priority in: -increasing employment and social cohesion. The draft conclusion statement stressed the real increase in employment but noted that in order to achieve a 70 percent employment rate by 2010 in the EU, a goal set in Lisbon, member-states should promote bold structural reforms, boost productivity, reform tax and benefit systems, offer incentives in the labor market and combat sex discrimination in labor markets. -promoting innovation and business activity in Europe. The 15 leaders believe that it was needed a more efficient investment in human resources, lifetime knowledge, languages and developing digital culture.
The EU leaders said that to restructure a European social model, national labor markets should be reforms with emphasis given to: -reforming tax and social benefit systems, -improving wage setting systems, and -increasing workforce's contribution, particularly among older people, women, immigrants and younger people.
The EU leaders also said that to achieve social cohesion, EU member-states should promote viable social welfare systems.
 EU leaders meet to discuss fiscal policies, structural reforms
BRUSSELS 23/03/2003 (ANA - Chr. Poulidou)The European Union's ''15'' leaders, setting aside their differences on the Iraq issue, on Friday met for the morning session of the European Council holding its Spring Summit to discuss coordination of fiscal policies and structural reforms toward further growth within the EU, a direction dictated by the Lisbon strategy.
The EU Council of finance ministers (ECOFIN) on Thursday reached an agreement on the harmonization of energy tax, but Italian objections prevented agreement on a savings tax in money EU citizens have deposited in other EU states.
The consequences that the Iraq war may have on the European economy and the Union's contribution to the reconstruction of that country were also central to discussions at the ECOFIN.
Greek Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, who chairs the Council, told reporters here that ECOFIN was prepared to offer its collaboration ''when required to deal with the consequences of war''.
''For now, markets are calm and there is no great danger in the economic field'', the Greek minister said.
Comparable ''preparedness'' was confirmed on behalf of the European Central Bank by its President Wim Duisenberg who pointed out that the height of the contribution could not be yet determined since the cost of the war depended on its duration.
Finally, Internal Market Taxation and Customs Union Commissioner Frits Bolkestein welcomed an agreement for the issuance of a directive on energy taxation, which he said ''constitutes a big step forward, in spite of its many exception clauses''.
Simitis, Prodi on economic aspects of EU Council: Greek Prime Minister and European Council President in-office said on Friday that in spite of global economic uncertainty the European Union managed to convey the massage that growth and employment should be strengthened, and further in which way this can be achieved.
The Greek premier was speaking here after the end of the Spring EU Council and summed up the conclusions reached in relation to economic reforms required in order to attain the Lisbon strategy targets, set by the 15 three years ago, to turn the European block into the globeís most dynamic and competitive economy by 2010.
Simitis said the Unionís primary target was to boost employment and achieve social cohesion, which required specific tax motives and certain changes in the labor market.
The major priorities will be to boost the EUís production capacity, the promotion of innovative business plans, an increase in allocations for industrial and technological research and a simplification of procedures for setting up new enterprises.
Simitis noted the need for a further deepening of the single market and an opening of specific markets, such as the energy, transports and financial services markets. He further pointed to the significant improvements in the EU, including the better coordination of member-statesí fiscal policies, the introduction of the EU patent following years of negotiations and better operation of financial markets.
The Greek premier underlined the significance of setting up a working team to look into the changes that need to be made in the European labor market, which is to be headed former Dutch prime minister Vim Coc. However, Simitis expressed unhappiness over the failure to achieve agreement on savings taxation.
Ending his press conference, Simitis said the fact that weighty decisions were taken by the Council proved wrong all those who were against it owing to the war in Iraq.
President of the European Commission Romano Prodi spoke after Simitis, whom he congratulated on the successful outcome of the Council, and stressed the need for EU member-states to intensify their efforts to promote economic reforms.
Prodi placed special emphasis on the promotion of inter-European transport, energy and telecommunications networks, saying that the EU would initially earmark 20 billion euros.
The Commission, according to Prodi, in its evaluation of member-states economic performance and their compliance with the Stability and Development Pact would take into account the predicaments resulting from the current war in Iraq.
 Greek stocks end week sharply higher
Athens, 23/03/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks ended Friday's session sharply higher in the Athens Stock Exchange, following a recovery in major international bourses on hopes of a swift war in Iraq.
The general index jumped 2.05 percent to end at 1,570.39 points, with turnover an improved 92.2 million euros.
The Publications, Textile, IT Solutions, Construction and IT sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day (4.51 percent, 4.40 percent, 4.34 percent, 3.55 percent and 3.48 percent, respectively), while the Industrial and Cement sectors scored the smallest gains (1.51 percent and 0.89 percent, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 2.51 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 2.36 percent higher, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index jumped 3.31 percent, while the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index ended 2.56 percent up.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 312 to 29 with another 23 issues unchanged.
The general index ended the week with a net gain of 3.73 percent.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 104.2 mln euros Friday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 104.2 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Buyers match sellers on Friday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 Olympics projects on track, have post-Games value, deputy culture minister says
Athens, 23/03/2003 (ANA)Projects for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games are on track, despite problems and delays, and the government will continue to work hard for the organization of successful Games, deputy culture minister Nassos Alevras assured Friday, in an interview with the Athens News Agency (ANA), noting that the projects had a high post-Olympics value.
Alevras, who directly oversees the projects for the 2004 Games and has been closely involved in Olympics preparations for the past three years as deputy culture minister and his previous post of deputy environment, town planning and public works minister, is well aware of the weaknesses, the problems, and the advantages of this major national endeavor and is optimistic on the outcome.
The deputy minister shrugged off recent International Olympics Committee (IOC) concerns on the course of the projects, noting that it was the IOC's job to worry and that it had expressed similar concerns for all Olympiads to date, but observed an 'inconsistency' in public statements by IOC members on the issue.
Conceding initial delays, Alevras said that every effort was being made to ''win the battle against time'', criticized the opposition of ''distorting reality'', and noted the ''decisive'' role of Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Athens 2004 Olympic Games organizing committee (ATHOC) chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki.
Asked to comment on recent statements by IOC president Jacques Rogge expressing concern over the course of the Olympics projects, Alevras said ''it is the duty of the IOC to worry about the progress of the projects...it is something the IOC does with all (Olympics) organizations''.
However, he added, ''we observe an inconsistency in the public statements, particularly when taken into consideration the impressive progress we have achieved in the projects, which has been acknowledged by the IOC as well as a number of officials of the International Sports Federations''.
''I believe it is important to see that, at this moment, all of Greece and all of Attica prefecture are a huge worksite, with a series of large athletic projects and infrastructure projects progressing at a rapid and impressive rate, which is the best proof that there is no cause for concern,'' he said.
Alevras conceded that there have been delays. ''It is a fact that the initial period was very difficult because many problems needed to be clarified. The most difficult point for the projects is the period of maturation and selection of the sites, the drafting of the studies and issue of permits. Today, we are making every effort to make up for the lost time, and have proven that we can do it,'' he said.
The time element was pressing on three projects, he said: ''The two projects at the Athens Olympics Sports Complex (OAKA) -- the aluminum dome designed by the internationally renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, which is a unique work worldwide due to its complexity, and also the work on the surrounding area, due to delays incurred by court proceedings by the construction companies -- and the project at Ellinikon (exhibition/convention centre), which was delayed for the same reasons''.
''These are the projects that are somewhat pressed for time, but I believe the will be ready in time,'' he added.
On disagreements between the government and ATHOC that existed up until even a few weeks ago, Alevras said that, in such an immense endeavor, it was reasonable that there should be ''disagreements on specific aspects...different approaches and different viewpoints''.
''But this does not mean that we have different goals. We are all heading in the same direction, we all have the same concerns. We want the Olympic Games to succeed and be unique. What is important is to find solutions to problems as they arise, which the government, in cooperation with ATHOC, has proved,'' he said.
On the main point of disagreement, namely the Olympic overlays and the establishment by the premier of a three-member committee chaired by Alevras to monitor costs on the government's side, the deputy culture minister explained that ''a series of additional works and procurements are necessary in organizing an Olympiad, which are supplementary to the major projects being carried out, for the impeccable organization of the Games. These added needs have an added cost...For the best possible handling of this, it was decided to set up this committee, which is looking into finding the required funds for financing the additional needs''.
Alevras added that both the government and ATHOC believed the funds could be found from the existing Olympics budget without having to resort to additional financing.
The deputy minister criticized the opposition of ''systematic exaggeration'' with respect to the Olympics budget, and of ''distorting the efforts being made'', adding that ''the supposed high cost of the Olympic Games'' cited by the opposition ''creates a wall of distrust'' between the citizens and the endeavor.
Alevras reiterated that the projects being carried out with a view to the Olympic Games would change the face of the country: in Attica, ''in a few months the citizens will enjoy a complete road network comprising the Attica Toll way, the Hymettus Freeway, and the new Stavros-Marathon road, as well as the overpasses on Kifissias Avenue and the coastal road; at OAKA, ''the new road axis linking the Olympic Village with the national highway''.
''The citizens will also be able to use a series of new commuter facilities, such as the Metro, the Suburban Rail and the Tram, which will connect the coastal area with the city centre,'' he said.
Continuing this mental tour of the projects, Alevras listed the modern athletic centers currently underway ''which, after the Olympic Games, will be the hubs of athletics in Greece''.
He further mentioned the new indoor weightlifting complex in Nikea, the wrestling complex in Liosia, the gymnastics complex in Galatsi, and the modern rowing and canoeing centre at Schinias, and also the outdoor sports facilities at Elliniko and new sports facilities at the Peace and Friendship stadium, Faliro and Aghios Kosmas, etc., not to mention the landscaping works.
In the periphery, Alevras added, the 432 billion drachma Hellas 2004 program was financing a series of new infrastructure and sports projects to serve the citizens and the athletics projects for the Olympic Games in the four ''Olympic cities'' of Patras, Volos, Thessaloniki and Heraklion, Crete, ''which are not simply soccer stadiums but venues for hosting many sports events that will give the youth the ability to engage in sports daily''.
Alevras said that the projects painted the picture of a ''substantial change for the better, after 2004''.
''And this proves that the investment we are making will not go to waste,'' he added.
 N17 court goes into recess early due to anti-war demonstrations
Athens, 23/03/2003 (ANA)The court trying 19 suspected ''November 17'' terrorists went into recess early on Friday so that the lawyers taking part could make their way across the capital before the start of demonstrations against the Iraq war in the city.
The defendants Dimitris Koufodinas, Angeliki Sotiropoulou, Vassilis and Christodoulos Xiros and Vassilis Tzortzatos did not return to the courtroom after the midday recess in protest against the start of the campaign against Iraq.
At the start of the proceedings, Tzortzatos had read out a statement announcing their decision to stay away from the trial for three hours, though presiding judge Mihalis Margaritis had queried their right not to take part in the proceedings.
Savvas Xiros, whose arrest after a botched bomb attempt in the summer led police to the capture of the other 18 suspects, believed to have formed the most elusive and dangerous terror group in Greece during the past 30 years, was absent from the start of the day's proceedings due to health reasons. He suffered extensive injuries to his hands and eyes during the abortive bomb attempt.
The trial continued on Thursday with the testimony of police officer Panagiotis Mytiloudis regarding the attack on a MAT riot police bus in 1985, attributed to the group. Mytiloudis was a passenger on the bus at the time of the attack, in which police sergeant Nikos Georgakopoulos was killed.
 Greece needs water management policy, professor says
Athens, 23/03/2003 (ANA)A policy for a more efficient management of water reserves will help Greece to avoid facing any water shortage problems in the future, Ioannis Mylopoulos, a deputy professor at the Thessaloniki University said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters, in a news conference ahead of a world water day on Saturday, March 21, Professor Mylopoulos stressed that such a policy should be drafted by combining a new European directive on water and the formation and operation of a national water institute.
"An issue that is expected to come up in the next few years is the management of trans-border water resources, an issue clearly political," Mr Mylopoulos stressed. He added that the current war in Iraq also showed that besides political diplomacy there was also "water-diplomacy" with Turkey building around 30 large water dams to control the waters of the rivers Tiger and Euphrates.
Around 25 percent of Greek waters were imported, the professor said and noted the absence of any state agreements envisaging cooperation between countries in the Balkan region in exploiting water resources and protecting the quality of water.
Mr Mylopoulos said that the citizens of Thessaloniki were consuming water of a very good quality and urged for the need to build a second distribution network to cover water needs in industrial areas with lower quality water supplies.
 EU officials say Cyprus to sign EU Accession Treaty next month
BRUSSELS 23/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou has received assurances from EU officials that despite the failure of the UN-led peace talks for a Cyprus settlement, the island will be signing the Accession Treaty on April 16 in Athens.
Iacovou met in Brussels on Friday with European Commissioner Gunter Verheugen and President of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament Elmar Brok, who assured him that there is absolutely no problem with Cyprus' accession to the EU.
The Cypriot minister noted that Verheugen praised President Tassos Papadopoulos' stance on the Cyprus question as well as Cyprus' accession course, adding that the conversation with Verheugen and Brok ''showed that the EU's role in the efforts for the solution of the Cyprus question would increase in the future.''
''Cyprus will sign the Accession Treaty on April 16 in Athens,'' Iacovou noted.
Commenting on a view expressed by Turkish Cypriot politicians that Annan's plan should be incorporated in the Accession Treaty, Iacovou said that ''there is absolutely no possibility for any amendments on the text of the Accession Treaty.''
Furthermore, Iacovou pointed out that during the lunch between the foreign ministers of the EU member states and their counterparts of the acceding and candidate countries, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou only referred to the EU conclusions with regard to Cyprus, due to the fact that the Council was overshadowed by the crisis in Iraq.
Cox says Cyprus to sign treaty without problems: The Republic of Cyprus will join the EU and sign the Accession Treaty on April 16, European Parliament President Pat Cox reassured House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias during a meeting they had in Brussels on Friday.
At the meeting, Christofias expressed Cyprus' readiness to continue the negotiations for a settlement of the Cyprus problem after the Accession Treaty has been signed.
The House President also expressed satisfaction for the fact that Cox blamed Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and the Turkish establishment for the collapse of the negotiations on Cyprus in The Hague.
''Cox said that Denktash bears the responsibility for the collapse of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's initiative and what we call the 'deep state' of Turkey,'' Christofias said, adding that the European Parliament President reassured ''Cyprus' European course will face no problems.''
He told reporters in Brussels that ''Cox also expressed his interest on the future of the island as well as on whether both sides are ready to continue negotiations having in mind the Annan peace plan.''
Christofias also said that he reassured Cox that the government ''will make every effort, through measures the government is examining, so that the Turkish Cypriots can take advantage of EU accession, taking into account that the state should not be undermined.''
Referring to the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs that ''almost unanimously voted for Cyprus' accession to the EU,'' the House President said ''it seems that there is no obstacle for signing the Accession Treaty.''
''Usually, when the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs takes a certain decision on one issue, it does not change it. We consider the Committee's decision very positive,'' he concluded.
Also present at the meeting were Foreign Minister George Iacovou and Cyprus' Permanent Representative in Brussels Theofilos Theofilou.
Christofias attends EU lunch and discusses Cyprus question: Efforts to reach a settlement in Cyprus were discussed at a brief face-to-face talk between President of the Cyprus House of Representatives Demetris Christofias and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, during a lunch held in Brussels on Friday by the EU member states for the 10 acceding countries and the three candidate states.
Christofias, who was representing Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos at the EU summit, told CNA that he called on Gul to exert pressure on Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to shift from his intransigent stance in the UN-led Cyprus peace talks.
The House President said that during the lunch, Greek Premier and European Council President Costas Simitis also mentioned the Cyprus question and expressed regret for the failure of the UN-led talks in The Hague, and referred to the EU Summit conclusions which also point to the need for a change in Denktash's negative stance.
Speaking during the lunch, Gul expressed his support to the continuation of efforts to reunify Cyprus and according to Christofias he said ''Turkey is ready to continue contributing towards a solution."
Christofias told CNA that the Turkish minister also brought up the meeting he had with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, during which they agreed that the door for the solution of the Cyprus question should be kept open.
Speaking at the lunch, Christofias expressed his regret for the failure in the UN effort, despite the efforts by the Cypriot President and the good will shown by the Greek Cypriot side.
The House President also had brief conversations with the president of the European Commission, and the prime ministers of Italy and Ireland, who expressed their regret for the failure of the UN-led talks.
Christofias also expressed Cyprus' regret for the war on Iraq and pointed out that he shares the conclusions of the EU Summit on the issue.