|Tuesday, 10 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-03-27
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 27, 2003
 Simitis: EU wants central role for UN in post-war Iraq
BRUSSELS 27/03/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis, the current European Council president-in-office, on Wednesday stressed that EU leaders proceeded with a spring summit focusing on the situation in the Union’s economic and social sectors as planned, instead of allowing it to become a “victim of the war” a direct reference to the ongoing conflict in Iraq.
Speaking before the European Parliament's plenary, Simitis said European leaders are eminently interested in developments in Iraq, “we’re saddened by the loss of human life and for the Iraqi civilian population.
That does not mean, however, that we must abandon our primary mission, which is our policies for economic development and employment in Europe, particularly in today’s era of economic slowdown and an increase of unemployment.”
The Greek premier emphasized that any cancellation of the summit or its holding exclusively to focus on the Iraqi crisis would “serve only those who want to stress Europe’s weakness in the face of critical situations.”
He added that the Council agreed on a common position, citing the need to ensure the territorial integrity of Iraq and to face possible serious humanitarian problems that may arise from the ongoing warfare, as well as the Union’s solidarity to countries affected by the crisis.
Moreover, the Greek premier said the Council agreed over the United Nations’ central role vis-a-vis the current crisis and, in general, over the need to ensure the international political system, saying that the Security Council should give the UN the mandate for the post-war period in Iraq.
Other aspects of the common statement, he said, included agreement over the need to rekindle the Middle East peace process; the bloc’s decisiveness to strengthen its Common Foreign and Defense Policy as well as to focus on the importance of trans-Atlantic relations.
“Does this position rank as ‘hypocrisy’ because we avoided talking about the main problem? No. The main problem, namely, differing views, was clear, and the impasse was also clear, discussions would have no meaning. We had to turn our attention elsewhere, to important issues for the future, and that is what we did,” Simitis said.
The Greek premier also focused directly on a nagging issue that has taken on worrying dimensions since the outbreak of the Iraqi crisis, with the Union subsequently split between members actively supporting Washington’s stance and the US-led military campaign, and those members opposed to unilateral action outside the United Nations’ framework.
“Is there a split in Europe at this moment? Yes. We won’t overcome it, however, by exacerbating it, but by trying to promote points of cooperation and common ground,” he said.
“The decision we took for Iraq is a decision that is based on the notion that the European Union has a say in international matters. That is why it is a contribution to the effort at formulating a balanced Euro-Atlantic relationship where the European Union retains its autonomy and has its own initiatives and its own role.
Simitis noted that the Unions goals are for the quickest possible restoration of the accepted system of international relations, a development, however, that presupposes that the United Nations, via its agencies, will provide the primary direction in the post-war period in Iraq.
“Return from questionable international legality will be achieved if it is clear that the United Nations will once again hold the central role,” he said.
Simitis acknowledged that differing views within the Union gave rise to concerns over a lack of a common EU external policy, “but things are not exactly like that”.
“Common position on issues of external affairs exists on a number of issues. On other issues, as well as on parts of certain general issues, the EU’s external policy is being formulated. Other policies are being formulated in other sectors too; in other sectors there are differences, from the Common Agriculture Policy to immigration,” he stressed, adding:
“No one though considers that the European Union is redundant because we can’t agree on a directive over workplace conditions or the treatment of economic migrants that request asylum, or finally, on changes to the Stability Pact”.
“The European Union is constantly changing. That is why this development is a challenge -- a challenge in concept; in exploiting knowledge and experience; in considering a future of prosperity and security. The war in Iraq is a part of this challenge. That is why we cannot restrict ourselves to simply applauding or condemning it. We must view the future prospects for Europe and the world,” he concluded.
 Simitis briefs Euro-Parliament over Lisbon strategy
BRUSSELS 27/03/2003 (ANA - V. Demiris)Prime Minister Costas Simitis, current European Council president in-office, presented on Wednesday the recent Spring EU Council conclusions to the plenum of the European Parliament here.
Giving an account on the EU Council deliberations over the Lisbon strategy for boosting growth and employment, Simitis said the Council ascertained that an economic slowdown was longer than expected and the existing outlook for a recovery was shadowed by the war in Iraq, global political risks and economic uncertainty.
In spite of the worse economic environment, said Simitis, the Council estimates that after four years of Lisbon strategy implementation efforts, five million new job positions had been created, of which half a million within 2002.
According to the Greek premier, the EU Council set four priorities for the achievement of the Lisbon targets: an increase in employment and social cohesion, promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship, deepening of the single market and net-working, and protection of the environment.
 Europe should not abandon effort towards forming own policy, Simitis says
BRUSSELS 27/03/2003 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)''Europe does not create its identity with the view others have of it, it would be a mistake to abandon its effort, it should move on despite the difficulties toward the formulation of its own policy,'' Prime Minister Costas Simitis, in his capacity as EU president, told a press conference on Wednesday after presenting the results of the recent EU summit in the European Parliament.
Simitis referred to the elements that unite the European Union, such being the dominant role of the United Nations during the post war period in Iraq, the securing of its territorial integrity, the promotion of the European defense with the ''debut'' of the European rapid reaction force in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) at the end of March, the Lisbon strategy for competitiveness and the economy of knowledge, the policy of the EU in the Western Balkans etc.
''What transpired is maybe less than what we expected but we succeeded in making a step, looking at the future, for negative chain reactions not to exist,'' Simitis said.
He stressed that the priority of the Greek EU presidency was to defend the unity of the EU under difficult circumstances.
''The role of the presidency is not to utter its own opinion, as that of the EU, nor to adjudicate the correctness of one side or the other, but to synthesize conflicting opinions, as much as possible, in a common position protecting a basic element, the unity of the EU, and the function of its institutions,'' he said.
He stressed that there is room for understanding, which could contribute to overcoming the problems, recognizing the differences of opinion, without hypocrisy, concluding that Europe wants and should play a role in the building of a new world.
EU Commission President Romano Prodi also spoke of a critical ''crossroads'' for the EU during this joint press conference, stating that ''Europe can select another path from that of the dominant power that characterized the 19th century''.
He made special mention of the initiative of Belgium, Germany and France to move on further in the sector of defense in the form of a ''strengthened cooperation'', with as many countries that wish to do so, calling the invitation ''open'' and ''apt''.
Prodi also cautioned Turkey to the fact that any violation of Iraq's borders would cause complications for EU-Turkish relations.
Europarliament President Pat Cox also ''undersigned'' the cautionary statement made by Prodi, adding that ''Europe should draw its conclusions from this crisis,'' and that the United Nations should reinstate the international balance after the war, underlining that ''a mini Europe cannot substitute the EU''.
 Greece will not participate, but supports 'mini summit' on EU defense policy
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)European Union president Greece will not participate, but it supports a move by four European Union states for talks aimed at enhancing the EU's Common Foreign and Defense policy, a Greek government spokesman indicated on Wednesday.
Asked about Greece's participation in the initiative -- by Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg -- for talks on April 29 to discuss European defense policy, Mass Media and Press Minister Christos Protopapas said: ''We are positive towards all initiatives intended for the promotion of a Foreign and Defense policy,'' while adding: ''conditions for approaching this strategic objective are gradually maturing.''
With regards to discussions on the ''Future of Europe'', Protopapas said the EU leaders and Convention President Valery Giscard d'Estaing would discuss ''constitution'' issues on 16 April 16 in Athens, while final discussions would be possibly held at a special summit on June 30 in Brussels.
The ''15'' EU leaders will meet in Athens on April 16 for the signature of an Accession Treaty allowing 10 states into the Union next year.
 Athens again warns against Turkish incursion into N. Iraq
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)Greece on Wednesday again reiterated its stern opposition to any Turkish incursion into Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq, something Ankara has repeatedly threatened to do since the outbreak of a US-led military campaign.
A government spokesman in Athens said such an initiative would violate UNSC Resolution 1441 – which mandates that Iraq eliminate all weapons of mass destruction, among others – as well as a clear European Union decision emphasizing Iraq’s territorial integrity and the protection of minorities.
“The problem of refugees (fleeing the war zone) does not justify an invasion; the EU retains significant funds for this (possibility) and (Greek Foreign Minister) George Papandreou recently referred to the need for assuming relevant initiatives,” spokesman Christos Protopapas said.
He also noted that Ankara has received similar warnings by numerous other countries not to invade the oil-rich region of its neighboring country. “From what’s known so far Turkey has not proceeded with an invasion of Iraqi territory,” he told reporters at his regular press briefing.
 FM appeals to Turkey to avoid further destabilization action in region of Iraq
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou, briefing the National Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee on developments in Iraq on Wednesday, appealed to Turkey to avoid any action capable of creating further instability in the region of Iraq and creating problems in its European course.
''In my contacts with my (Turkish) counterpart Abdullah Gul, I noted that the European Union is ready to contribute to the handling of humanitarian problems (refugees from Iraq), but an involvement in northern Iraq would create huge problems, it would lead to wider destabilization, while it would have, as a matter of fact, repercussions on its European course,'' he said.
Papandreou further said ''it will also have repercussions on NATO's decision to contribute to Turkey's defense with Patriot batteries and AWACS aircraft in the event it was attacked by Iraq.''
He added that these provisions could not apply if Turkey exceeds the limits of international rules and becomes involved in war in Iraq.
Papandreou stressed that Greece's policy is steadfast against war and unilateral interventions. Reiterating the government's priorities in relation to developments in Iraq, he said the first concern is safeguarding Greek interests, as well as stability in the region and respect for rules of international law (no change in borders, etc).
Commenting on problems appearing inside the EU, the foreign minister said the crisis with the United States is probably the biggest in past decades, which deepened with the Iraq crisis, ''but had been looming from before'', as it became apparent with the Kyoto Protocol (on the environment), the creation of the International Criminal Court, etc.
The foreign minister reminded of the Greek EU presidency's initiatives for shaping a common position in the EU, as well as the promotion of Euro-Arab relations (establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005) and focused on the future of the EU's enlargement which ''should not be affected negatively by developments in Iraq.''
Papandreou predicted that many new members which currently feel that their security against possible attacks is covered through NATO and the United States, will feel safe in European institutions when, in coming years, Europe becomes capable of responding to these problems.
Referring to the issue of Cyprus, Papandreou said ''one cannot know if, without the crisis in Iraq, we would have reached a favorable outcome'' and reiterated that the target is ''the accession course of Cyprus to go ahead and not find an obstacle for whatever reason.''
 Defense minister reiterates objections to Turkey entering north Iraq
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou on Wednesday repeated Greek objections to any involvement by Turkey in northern Iraq and stressed that Athens would re-evaluate its positions if fears that Ankara planned a strong incursion into Iraq were confirmed.
Stressing that any international move to avoid this outcome would be positive, the minister also noted rumors that limited numbers of Turkish troops were already in north Iraq.
For the time being, Greece was not concerned about a loan to Turkey if this was used to help that country deal with its massive economic problems, he added.
Regarding the latest developments in the Iraq war, Papantoniou said this appeared to be running into difficulties with respect to the time frame and the cost in human lives.
The Greek government was monitoring events closely but still considered that the consequences for the Greek economy would be minor provided the war ended quickly, he said.
In the event that the war dragged on, Athens would re-evaluate this position, he added.
The defense minister was speaking in Halkida, where he visited Evia local authorities after a visit to the Hellenic Defense Industries (EAB).
 DM says if Iraq war drags on with many deaths it may breed more terrorists
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)'If the war against Iraq, which is taking place in the name of the so-called fight against terrorism, lasts long and has a great cost in human lives, on the one hand will create multiple destabilizing tendencies in the region and on the other may create the foundation for more terrorists than those that it wants to quell,'' Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said on Wednesday.
In a speech he gave on Wednesday night in Halkida following meetings he had with Evia Prefect Thanassis Bourantas and Halkida Mayor Dimitris Anagnostakis, the defense minister referred to what he termed the ''crude and flagrant violation of international legality.''
Papantoniou noted that ''the existence of only one superpower leads to arbitrariness and to the law of the jungle.''
''In front of this situation, the European Union must develop its political and defense unification so as to constitute the rival awe,'' the minister concluded.
 KKE issues press release about Baghdad's market bombing
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Tuesday issued a press release commenting on the bombing of Baghdad's main market saying ''the slaughter of Iraqi non-combatants in the market of Baghdad by the American-British canons, is one more war crime, one more indication of the imperialist monstrosity''.
''The government has one obligation: to take Greece out of the war now! Only in this manner can it show that it truly cares for the innocent victims. Otherwise it is an accomplice to the slaughter,'' the press release said.
 Athens municipality, NGOs to send humanitarian aid to people of Iraq
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni and representatives of humanitarian organizations met at the Town Hall on Wednesday and decided on humanitarian aid to be sent to the people of Iraq.
Present at the meeting were representatives of UNICEF, ''Doctors of the World'', the Red Cross, the UN High Commission for Refugees, Action Aid and other organizations.
Bakoyianni, after her meeting with the representatives of the non-government organizations, appealed also to other organizations to act in the same direction in order for this joint effort ''to be serious and effective and reach the children of Iraq as soon as possible.''
The mayor said that the Athens municipality will start collecting as of Monday goods and medicines for the needy people of Iraq.
 Petsalnikos hopes Iraq war does not harm Europe
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)Justice Minister Filippos Petsalnikos said on Wednesday that efforts should be made to avoid harming the European Union as a result of the war in Iraq, so that the EU's further unification may be carried on.
Speaking on Greek State Television (NET), Petsalnikos referred to the war in Iraq saying that it was started without the international community having legitimatized it at all.
“The war itself is negative. It can never be a good thing, and as far as the specific case is concerned, owing to the complete lack of international legitimacy of these actions, it is obvious that the consequences would be even more severe,” Petsalnikos said.
He further said he hoped the number of casualties be kept at a minimum and the war has a quick end.
Petsalnikos described the handling of the Iraq crisis by EU president Greece as very satisfactory, but said efforts should be made by all of Europe to avert ‘fractures’ within the Union to allow its course of further unification.
 Athens Bar Association to examine lawsuit against Tony Blair for Iraq war
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)The Athens Bar Association's board decided on Wednesday to create a special committee to examine whether a lawsuit can be filed against British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the International Criminal Court for violating international law regarding the war in Iraq.
The committee will be composed of lawyers specialized in international criminal law who will determine cases falling under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, in accordance with evidence to be collected.
The board also decided to appeal to all bar associations in the European Union, as well as to other legal organizations, and request their activation within the existing legal framework.
It unanimously agreed that the war in Iraq, taking place without the UN Security Council's authorization, is illegal and aggressive and lacks any legal basis.
 EU Commission urges Turkey to seek Cyprus solution before Nov. 2004BRUSSELS (V. Demiris, 27/03/2003 (ANA)
The European Commission on Wednesday urged Turkey to renew its efforts for a solution to the Cyprus problem sometime between the end of the war in Iraq and November 2004, when the Commission will present its report on Turkey's candidacy for EU accession.
Presenting the revised EU-Turkey partnership agreement that was approved by the Commission on Wednesday, EU Commissioner for enlargement Guenter Verheugen also stressed that any engagement by Turkish troops in northern Iraq was ''undesirable'' and made it clear that any invasion would adversely affect Turkey's efforts to join the Community.
Regarding the revised partnership agreement, Verheugen said that this aimed to support pro-European forces in Turkey and to help Turkey preserve its European orientation.
He stressed, however, that in the last weeks it had become apparent that the role of the military in Turkey was different from that which existed in the rest of the EU.
In addition, there appeared to be shortfalls in the implementation of legislation abolishing torture and laws for the respect of political rights and fundamental freedoms, such freedom of speech, religion and others, Verheugen said.
Noting that Turkey was in a ''difficult situation'', the EU Commissioner urged Ankara to ''respect the rules of the Community and international law''.
The new EU-Turkey partnership agreement doubles the financial assistance that Turkey will receive from the EU in 2004-2006 to one billion euros, a sum that Verheugen described as not particularly 'attractive' when compared to that received by other EU candidate-countries.
As an example he mentioned Poland, which stands to receive one billion euros in EU aid in 2004 alone.
The Commissioner made it clear, however, that continued payment of financial aid after 2004 would depend on the pace of reforms, noting that the new agreement abolished distinctions between medium-term and long-term goals in the obligation to meet the political criteria decided at the Copenhagen summit.
Finally, he defended the partnership agreement with Turkey and said that its absence would be a ''very negative message'' for Turkey.
The text ended with an appeal to Turkey to contribute constructively to efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem despite the recent failures and to support the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General.
 FM to meet with counterparts from Mexico, Chile, Colombia
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in his capacity as European Union Council of Ministers' chairman will meet with his counterparts of Mexico Luis E. Derbez-Bautista, Chile Maria S. Alvear and Colombia Carolina Barko on Thursday in Athens.
The meetings will take place on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting of the European Union with the Rio group taking place in Athens on Thursday and Friday.
Following the meeting, Papandreou, European Commissioner on commerce Pascal Lamy and Paraguay Foreign Minister Jose Ruffinelli, who is presiding over MERCOSUR will hold a press conference.
 Russia's Kaliningrad envoy discusses visa issue with EU presidency
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)Greek Foreign Minister and president of the EU foreign ministers' council George Papandreou on Wednesday met the Russian President's 'Kaliningrad envoy' Dimitri Rogozin for talks on the future of the enclave and Moscow's objections to visa requirements for Russians traveling between Kaliningrad and the rest of the Russia.
With the accession of Poland and Lithuania to the European Union in April, this Russian foothold to the Baltic Sea and its roughly one million residents will become surrounded by EU territories that separate it from the rest of Russia proper. Under the Schengen Treaty as it presently applies, any Russians traveling to or from Kaliningrad will be obliged to obtain a visa in order to traverse Polish or Lithuanian territories, to which Russia strongly objects.
A final settlement that will address Russian concerns on this issue is due to be decided on at the EU-Russia summit in June.
ND leader meets Russian envoy on Kaliningrad
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday met with Russian Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dimitri Rogozin, who is also Russian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy.
The two men discussed international developments and Karamanlis reiterated ND's stance on the war in Iraq, expressing the hope that Russia would contribute, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, in making the UN the center of developments the day after the war ends.
Karamanlis and Rogozin also discussed EU-Russian relations, as well as the Kaliningrad issue.
 EU declaration on arrests of opposition members in Cuba
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)The Greek EU presidency on Wednesday issued a declaration condemning the arrests of members of the opposition in Cuba.
''The European Union is deeply concerned at the arrests of dozens of independent journalists and opposition members by the Cuban authorities. The wave of arrests is contrary to the principle of freedom of speech, a principle which the European Union is anxious to promote in its relations with non-member countries,'' the press release stated
''The European Union condemns those arrests and demands that those persons, whom it considers prisoners of conscience, be released without delay. These recent events highlight the common position on Cuba, specifically the call for democratic reform and greater respect for human rights. Violations of fundamental civil and political rights will be monitored very closely by the European Union and they will continue to influence the Union's relations with Cuba,'' it added.
''The Acceding Countries Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia, the Associated Countries Bulgaria and Romania and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area align themselves with this declaration,'' it concluded.
 Length of Iraq war seen determining impact on Greek economy
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)The duration of the US-led war on Iraq will determine the extent of repercussions on the Greek economy, the president of the Association of Greek Industry, Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, said on Wednesday.
So far, the impact was impossible to gauge, Kyriakopoulos told reporters.
The association repeated its call for a reduction in oil and diesel tax for industrial users.
 EU sea transport ministers to meet March 27-28 in Brussels
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)Greece's Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis will chair a two-day sea transport ministers' council in Brussels, accompanied by ministry officials.
The council's agenda is dominated by the double-hull tanker issue, that emerged after the sinking of the Prestige tanker late last year. Mr. Anomeritis is expected to have an emergency meeting with Mrs. Loyola de Palacio, deputy chairman of the European Commission, in an effort to agree to a common stance between the Greek EU presidency and the EU's executive on the matter.
The council is also expected to discuss a likely impact on shipping transport from a war in Iraq, a proposal to support the Greek candidate, Mr. Efthimios Mitropoulos, as the new secretary-general of IMO and deregulation of shipping transport services in view of on-going GATTS negotiations.
 More Polish tourists to visit Greece in 2003
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)More Polish tourists are expected to visit Greece this year, despite a negative international situation, Poland's National Tourism Organization’s chairman, Mr. Kozlowski, told his Greek counterpart Yiannis Patellis during the latter's visit in Warsaw.
Around 200,000 Polish tourists visited Greece in 2001, with the number rising to 250,000 in 2002. Greece's National Tourism Organization expects this figure to rise further this year, saying that at the same time tourist arrivals to Turkey from Poland remained unchanged.
Central European tourist markets (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary) and the Baltic States were recording dynamic growth in outgoing tourism in the last few years, a trend expected to accelerate after an anticipated EU expansion, with Greek tourism authorities seeking to obtain a bigger market share in the region.
Greek tourism is largely dependent (48 percent) on tourist arrivals from Germany and Britain, leading Greek tourism authorities to seek new rapidly growing outgoing tourism markets, both in Europe and in Asia (particularly China).
Mr. Patellis had a series of meetings with tour operators and government officials in Poland. He is now traveling to Moscow to attend an international tourism trade fair in the Russian capital.
 Greek stocks end off session highs on Wednesday
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks ended Thursday's session higher reflecting an improved climate in international markets after positive news on the war in Iraq, although the general index ended off the day's highs as several investors took early profits during the last hour of trading in the Athens Stock Exchange.
The general index rose 0.17 percent to end at 1,551.80 points, with turnover a sharply increased 240 million euros, of which 160 million euros were pre-agreed block trades.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 268 to 50 with another 43 issues unchanged.
The Cement and Telecommunications sectors were the only ones to suffer losses (0.62 percent and 0.48 percent, respectively), while the Publications (6.31 percent) and Textile (5.42 percent) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day. The Industry sector scored the smallest percentage gains (0.16 percent).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 0.41 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 1.12 percent higher, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index rose 2.08 percent and the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index ended 0.70 percent up.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 45.7 mln euros Wed
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers outstrip sellers on Wednesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 IOC president optimistic over 2004 Athens Olympic Games
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper ''El Pais'', expressed optimism that the 2004 Athens Olympic Games will be excellently organized.
Rogge said that despite the delays of the first two years, the situation has improved and everything will be ready if no more time is lost.
''There are problems in all tournaments. I also remember the problems of Barcelona, for example. Organizing the Games is always a difficult affair. But I am optimistic. They will be well organized. Sometimes we must make indications and I said, following the Executive Committee of Lausanne last February, that I was seriously concerned over two reports: those regarding security and the ground for holding the soccer finals. But these problems have been resolved. The contract has been signed with the company for the procurement of security equipment and the law on the ground has been ratified by Parliament. There are some other issues, but in general the situation has improved. There were delays during the first two years. They are working better now, with great speed. If no more time is lost they will be ready,'' he said.
Rogge also said there was a risk of repercussions only if the Games are held during some war, but reminded that the war in Yugoslavia was taking place during the Barcelona Games, without it affecting them substantively.
 Law to parliament on leasing homes for Athens 2004 Olympics
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)The government on Wednesday sent an amendment to parliament that sets the legal framework for the lease of homes by the public to host visitors of the Athens 2004 Olympics, easing an accommodation shortage.
Homeowners will be able to rent out their homes from a minimum of three days to a maximum of two months from July 10 to September 10, 2004.
The measure applies to the prefectures of Attica, Corinth, Evia and Viotia.
Premises offered for rent will have to meet government ordained specifications, and will be checked beforehand for compliance.
 White House banquet for Greek Independence DayWASHINGTON (T.Ellis 27/03/2003 (ANA))
The Greek Independence Day of March 25th was celebrated at the White House in an event attended by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Archbishop of America Dimitrios, CIA Director George Tenet, the Ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus Savvaides and Kozakou-Markouli and the leaders of the Greek community in the U.S.
Card spoke of the ideals of freedom that bind Greece and the U.S. in friendship, noting also the strategic bonds of the two countries that struggled together in the most important wars and thanked Greece for the use of the Souda Bay base in the operations in Iraq.
He also lauded the contribution of the Greek-American community in American society and the work of the CIA director, who is Greek-American, calling him a ''true patriot that loves everything Greek and with whom President George Bush spends the first hours of every day, being briefed on conditions around the world''.
Because of the tight schedule of the war, Bush was not present in the event, in contrast with the same event two years ago.
Card also expressed the White House's support for the efforts of the United Nations for the resolution of the Cyprus issue.
On his part, Archbishop Dimitrios said that this year's celebration of Greek Independence is conducted during an especially critical period for the United States and for the whole world, for peace, security and freedom and sends messages of vital importance, for the ideals of freedom and independence, which in the case of Greece were connected with Orthodoxy.
 Greek community celebrates Greek Independence DayVIENNA ( D. Dimitrakoudis 27/03/2003 (ANA))
The Greek community here celebrated the 182nd anniversary of the Greek independence war with a grand event at the Embassy of Greece that was attended by hundreds of public persons and diplomats.
Greek Ambassador to Austria Christos Alexandris hosted the banquet, which was the culmination of events that began on Sunday evening.
Among those attended was Greek Orthodox Bishop of Austria, Hungary and Middle Europe Michail, who officiated the liturgy of "Evangelismos" on Tuesday.
 'N17' trial continues; 1 defendant stands by confession
Athens, 27/03/2003 (ANA)Testimony continued on Wednesday during the trial of 19 “November 17” terrorism suspects, with proceedings breaking off in the early afternoon after more than two dozen prosecution witnesses called to the stand were not in the courtroom.
Twenty-one of the prosecution witnesses not in court on Wednesday were US citizens injured aboard buses in two separate bomb attacks by the notorious urban leftist group. More prosecution witnesses for a handful of assassinations that “N17” took credit for are expected to take the stand on Thursday.
Earlier, the high-profile attorney representing the family of slain Greek industrialist Dimitris Angelopoulos requested that one of the defendants, Patroklos Tselentis, answer questions about the specific murder.
Attorney Alexandros Lykourezos said Tselentis’ pretrial testimony offered details about the industrialist’s assassination, which the defendant did not subsequently recant – as several of the other ‘N17’ suspects did after their initial statements to an anti-terrorism prosecutor and depositions to an investigating magistrate.
Asked by the presiding judge of the three-jurist panel trying the case if his statements stand, Tselentis said:
“I, along with Christodoulos Xiros, went with a motorbike and waited on Kanari St. (downtown Athens) for Dimitris Angelopoulos. When he appeared Christodoulos Xiros shot him and we left”.
Conversely, Christodoulos Xiros again denied that he had any involvement in the industrialist’s murder, while terming his own confessions to authorities shortly after his arrest as “manufactured”.
“I don’t know Patroklos Tselentis. He has a very strong motive to say these things in order to benefit from the (anti-terrorism) law’s provisions,” Xiros responded to the former’s statements implicating him, and without noting if he believed Tselentis was involved with the elusive terror band.
 Spokesman says delicate consultations ongoing at UNNICOSIA 27/03/2003 (CNA/ANA),
Cypriot and Greek diplomats are engaged in delicate consultations with UN officials in New York in anticipation of a report on the outcome of the latest peace effort to solve the Cyprus question, which ended in failure earlier this month, government spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides said here on Wednesday.
He said the government is seeking to ensure that the good offices mission of the Secretary General for a solution through peaceful means is safeguarded and that the UN report will depict a true picture of the positions of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides throughout this latest effort and apportion blame where it is due.
The spokesman was replying to press questions ahead of a briefing on Wednesday by Secretary General's special adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, who conducted the year-long talks, before the five permanent members of the Security Council.
The briefing takes place after the Secretary General said in The Hague on March 11 that ''we have come to the end of the road'' of this effort, having noted in a statement that Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos had agreed to hold a referendum on his peace proposal whereas Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Dentkash declined to do so, and demanded radical changes to the proposal.
The spokesman said there is a concerted effort by Cyprus and Greece to inform fully the appropriate circles about the collapse of the talks, noting that this campaign has already yielded tangible results.
Alvaro de Soto, whose office here is closing down this week after a decision by Kofi Annan, is in New York preparing a voluminous report on his attempt to bring about a comprehensive settlement, ahead of Cyprus' accession to the European Union.
Cyprus signs next month the Accession Treaty and in May 2004 it will join the EU as a full member.
 Cyprus government condemns Turkish Cypriot 'arrests'
NICOSIA 27/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus government condemns efforts by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to suppress any opposite view among Turkish Cypriots, said here Wednesday government spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides, commenting on the ''arrest'' of Turkish Cypriots who were trying to carry out a referendum on Monday on the Annan plan for a Cyprus settlement.
''We condemn Denktash's efforts to suppress any opposite view,'' said Chrisostomides when asked about the ''arrest'' of six Turkish Cypriots by so-called ''policemen'' of the Denktash regime.
Asked whether the government favors the holding of a referendum in the occupied areas on the Annan plan, he said the government has not expressed any view on the issue since the procedure is internal.
He said Denktash's attitude towards the UN is not helpful and explained that the UN cannot offer any help to Turkish Cypriots as regards this issue since it does not recognize the illegal regime and its so called ''institutions''.
Chrisostomides said Denktash's positions remain the same he
(Denktash) continues to insist on changing the fundamental aspects of the Annan plan.
''He maintains an attitude which is not conducive to efforts to solve the Cyprus problem,'' the spokesman added.
The government spokesman said the positions of the Greek Cypriot side remain the same, noting there is no room to misinterpret them, especially now that delicate efforts are underway for the report to the Security Council on Cyprus.
He reiterated that an overall package of measures for Turkish Cypriots is being examined and will be ready the soonest. The aim, he said, will be to help Turkish Cypriots remain in the occupied areas.
Chrisostomides said that negotiations to complete the package are underway and an exchange of views with the European Union will take place, if necessary, either before or after April 16, 2003, when Cyprus signs the Accession Treaty.
The Denktash regime finally released the six Turkish Cypriots on Wednesday evening after filing charges against them.