|Tuesday, 10 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-03-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 28, 2003,
 PM: Greece supports initiative aiming toward common EU defense policy
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)Greece was in favor of an initiative by France, Germany and Belgium to seek a formula for strengthening common EU defense policy, Greek Prime Minister and European Council president Costas Simitis said on Thursday, as he re-addressed the Greek Parliament in an off-the-agenda debate on the Iraq war.
According to Simitis there were two models available in the search for alternative strategies for developing a common European defense policy, that of the Benelux countries and the Schengen Treaty model.
He referred to an initiative by France, Germany and Belgium, which were looking into the possibility of extending the Schengen agreement or whether there could be a parallel measure in defense.
According to Simitis, Athens was in favor of this initiative, while he promised that the Greek EU presidency would examine all the proposals and that Greece would participate in such developments ''if these cover our needs''.
He noted, meanwhile, that Europe was currently divided over what kind of relationship the Community should have with the United States. Some countries, including France, Germany and Greece, believed that Europe should be an ''autonomous pole'' that had its own policy, developed its own defenses and cooperated with the U.S. Others, such as Britain, Spain and Portugal, believed that the U.S. should play a central role in regional strategy.
This was an issue that had to be resolved with the EU and exceptional caution was required before this step was made in order to preserve the common effort, Simitis stressed.
Responding to a call by Coalition of the Left and Progress leader Nikos Constantopoulos for an initiative by the Greek presidency on this issue, Simitis made it clear that this could not happen unless the other EU member-states agreed.
Replying to criticism from the smaller opposition parties over the government' stance on Iraq, meanwhile, Simitis stressed once again that Greece was not participating in the U.S.-led military campaign.
Regarding the Greek Navy frigate 'Kountouriotis' that is currently in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, the prime minister clarified that this was far from the war zone and was there in the framework of the Enduring Freedom mission. With respect to bilateral treaties and agreements with the U.S., he said Greece was only providing those facilities foreseen under these agreements.
Commenting on the prime minister's statements in Parliament, government spokesman Christos Protopapas told reporters on Thursday that Greece ''supported and covered'' the initiative by France, Germany and Belgium and would re-evaluate its stance regarding Greece's participation in this once its term as EU president was over.
Greek EU presidency saddened over innocent victims, hopes for speedy end of war: At the beginning of his address, Simitis said he was saddened by the deaths and innocent victims of the Iraqi crisis and expressed hope that the hostilities would end as quickly as possible.
Briefing the Greek parliament plenary on last week's EU summit and the war in Iraq, Simitis stressed that strengthening the role of the European Union comprised the most significant prospect for averting a "monopolistic world", adding that the policy being followed by Greece was based on respect of international legality in tandem with respect of its bilateral agreements.
"It is the only policy that ensures the national interests," the premier said, adding, in response to criticism of the government's stance, that "we cannot on the one hand reinforce international legality and on the other hand undermine our alliances".
"We say 'yes' and 'now' where necessary. We do not play (games) and we do not experiment. Greece is not alone in the world, and we will safeguard the alliances that have been forged over a long period of time," the premier said.
Greece, he added, as the EU president, had followed a policy of "balancing the opposing views" on the Iraq crisis, and had succeeded in achieving common positions of the '15' in three EU summit meetings.
"We succeeded -- contrary to the desire of those countries that supported immediate intervention in Iraq -- to hold the spring summit of the EU, and without allowing it to fall victim to the war by not discussing the economic and social prospects of the EU," he said.
According to Simitis, the EU had the obligation to also discuss "what comes after", namely what will come after the war in Iraq. He further reiterated the positions taken by the EU, such as the need to safeguard Iraq's territorial integrity, stressing that any actions of neighboring countries against Iraq, "including Turkey", would comprise invasion and occupation and would therefore be illegal.
Simitis also stressed the need for the EU to manifest solidarity with the countries and populations that would be affected by the crisis, and also for the need for the UN to undertake the reconstruction of Iraq. "The UN must be at the centre of the entire effort," he said.
On the Greek position vis-a-vis the Iraq crisis, Simitis pointed out that the war was being carried out without the approval of the UN Security Council, adding that Greece was not taking part in the war operations and that it supported international legality.
Referring to the 'indignation' being expressed by the international and Greek public opinion, Simitis said that the anti-war manifestations were "positive", but added that "at the same time we must remain cool-headed".
"We must express the will of the people, but also hold the helm of reason," he said, adding, with respect to calls for Greece to withdraw from its alliances, that "isolation befits marginal factors".
"We do that which is in the interests of the country, we will not allow us to become part of the crisis, and we will continue to strengthen our position, with cool-headedness and self-confidence," the premier said.
 Main opposition stresses threat from Turkey in Iraq
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy particularly stressed the threat to Greece in the event of Turkey's involvement in Iraq, in an address by ND leader Costas Karamanlis that was otherwise markedly mild in its criticism of the government's stance on the Iraq crisis.
Karamanlis urged the government to revise its consent to activating article IV of the NATO charter in the event of a Turkish invasion in the north of Iraq. Article IV provides for a joint meeting of NATO allies in the case that one of them is attacked.
''Developments on Turkey's eastern borders and in its international relations could result in an increased chance of a harder stance toward Greeks and an attempt to transfer tension and the attention of Turkish public opinion to the west,'' he said.
''Turkey must understand that we support its European orientation but not as an invading and occupying country,'' he stressed and called on the government to stop ''unilateral gestures and concessions that lead nowhere.''
ND's leader broadly agreed with the stance adopted by the government in general but deplored what he called ''blatant contradictions'' between the statements of government members, the government and the EU presidency and the government and ruling PASOK.
He also pressed for Greece's participation in the ''inner core'' of European countries that wanted to progress more quickly toward a common EU foreign and defense policy along the lines of Economic and Monetary Union and said that Greece should take the initiative instead of following in Brussels' footsteps.
Regarding Iraq, he said ND had been in favor of peaceful disarmament and changing the dictatorial regime in Iraq and stressed that the top priority at this time was to avert a humanitarian disaster in Iraq and contain the refugees near their country.
 Smaller opposition parties slam gov't stance on Iraq crisis
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)The prime minister should find the courage to admit to the Greek people that Greece was participating in the war and was among the 48 countries thanked by United States President George Bush for supporting the U.S.-led war, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said on Thursday.
Speaking during an off-the-agenda debate in the Greek Parliament that had earlier been addressed by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, during which the premier had outlined the Greek government's line on the Iraq crisis and had briefed MPs on the results of the informal EU summit in Brussels, she urged Simitis to ''stop hiding behind Greece's commitments under treaties'' in order to justify use of the Souda naval base by U.S. forces and sending a Greek frigate to the Gulf.
She also noted that when one party to a treaty was acting outside the law, the other party was not bound by its commitments to the law-breaker.
This was also the approach taken by the Coalition of the Left and Progress party, whose leader Nikos Constantopoulos stressed that "facilities to an illegal war are themselves illegal," and accused the government of hypocrisy.
"If this war is illegal and outside the international rules of law, then based on our Constitution and the text of the defense agreement with the United States there is no contractual obligation," he said, adding: "It is the government's political choice to provide facilitations."
He also criticized Simitis and the government for "hiding behind their role as EU presidency" in order to avoid supporting the countries that openly opposed the war in the Security Council and NATO.
Popular sentiment is overwhelmingly against the war in Greece, with protest rallies and demonstrations held in cities throughout the country almost every day since the U.S. and British offensive against Iraq began. The Greek government has insisted that Greece is not participating in the war but has not prevented the use of Souda base and Greek airspace, citing obligations under bilateral treaties and agreements.
It has also stopped short of condemning the war, saying this would run counter to its role as EU presidency, though the ruling PASOK party has urged its supporters to join anti-war protests.
 Greece says international law should apply in post-war Iraq case
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)Greece believed that international law should be applied in Iraq, a Greek government spokesman told reporters on Thursday when asked to comment on Wednesday's statement by US Secretary of State Colin Powell that the United Nations would not play a role in post-war Iraq.
He said that those citing democracy to justify their attitude could not at the same time state that Iraq was their protectorate.
''I am happy that countries directly or indirectly participating in US-led military strikes have agreed within the European Union on the role of the UN in the post-war era,'' Greek Mass Media and Press Minister Christos Protopapas told reporters, noting that the EU was in a difficult position since six of its members had a view different than that shared by the other partners in the bloc.
He noted the danger that thousands of civilians would be killed was now apparent, and stressed that ''even though there was a deplorable dictatorship in Iraq'', nobody could be justified in killing people.
Replying to press questions, Protopapas said that the Greek EU presidency has to react in a way that was within an acceptable framework.
''We cannot be in breach of legality when replying to those that we denounce on the grounds of breach of legality'', he said and emphasized that ''we have to honor our international agreements''.
Asked about the prospect of a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who currently chairs the European Council, and US President George Bush, Protopapas said that for now, other than the scheduled meeting in June, no other meeting was being considered.
With regard to the role of the Greek presidency in broad terms, Protopapas underlined that Athens was very carefully seeking to avoid widening existing rifts and to undertake initiatives that might create clashes within the EU.
 Greece offers one million dollars to Iraq for humanitarian purposesNEW YORK 28/03/2003 ((ANA - P. Panagiotou)
Greece has offered one million dollars to Iraq for humanitarian purposes.
Greece's permanent representative at the United Nations, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, has delivered a relevant letter by Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos to Alternate UN Secretary General Loise Frechet.
The letter states that it is an ''initial gesture of support for the very vulnerable people of Iraq who are faced with a humanitarian crisis.''
Loverdos said Greece is closely watching relevant developments, particularly proposals by the secretary general for continuing coverage of humanitarian needs in Iraq through the ''Oil for Food'' program, stressing the need ''for the efforts of the UN's institutional apparatus to be supported to enable it to promote an emergency plan.''
Meanwhile, the Security Council's open session continued at the UN's headquarters on Thursday to have a decision taken on the sending and distributing of humanitarian aid to Iraq through the disbursement of existing funds from the program of the ''Oil for Food'' organization, following a request by the Arab League and the Non-Aligned Movement.
A new draft resolution revised for the third time, expected to be ratified by Friday, anticipates the strengthening of the UN secretary general's duties, at an initial stage, on managing earmarked economic funds and other means of implementing the program suspended since March 17 which refer to existing procurements contracts ''in cooperation with the relevant authorities or the government of Iraq, to the degree that this is possible, for a transitional time period of 45 days.''
Vassilakis was one of the speakers, who made an address on behalf of the European Union.
The Greek ambassador reiterated the EU's desire to have a main role given to UN agencies, both during and after the present crisis.
''The EU supports the territorial integrity of Iraq, its political stability and respect for the human rights of the Iraqi population, including those of minorities, while at the same time it calls on all countries in the region to abstain from any act leading to further destabilization,'' he said.
''The EU supports the prospect of Iraq's full and effective disarming and continues to contribute to the strengthening of the international alliance against terrorism, while, in parallel, it will strengthen efforts it is making for the shaping of an effective multifaceted policy of the international community with the purpose of preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,'' the ambassador added.
 Europarliament fails to adopt resolution on war in Iraq
BRUSSELS 28/03/2003 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)The Europarliament voted against a resolution expressing its sorrow over the war in Iraq, failing to find a common stance on the issue of the war, on Thursday.
The resolution was not adopted as 250 deputies voted against, 218 for and 46 abstained from the vote.
Differences of political and national character divided the traditional political groups and blocked the formulation of a majority on the basis of the proposed resolution that was tabled by the socialists, the liberals and the greens.
The proposed resolution was expressing the deep disappointment for the fact that no further efforts were made so as to follow to the end the road of peace and to avert this war and also that no extra time was given to the inspectors to extend their inspections, as they had requested and thus the resolution expressed its sorrow over the unilateral decision that was made in favor of the war.
The British labor and the Christian democrats found the resolution too sharp against the United States, while the united European left (GUE) voted against it viewing it as very ''moderate''.
According to the list of voting all of Greece's ruling PASOK party Eurodeputies voted for the resolution, as did four of main opposition New Democracy's Eurodeputies. On the contrary Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) and one of the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) Eurodeputies voted against.
Five ND Eurodeputies abstained along with a DHKKI Eurodeputy.
Following the vote each political group tabled their own resolution with little hope for approval.
 FM: Unilateral Turkish involvement in Iraq nullifies Article V support
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Thursday said any initiatives by Athens and the European Union vis-a-vis the Iraq crisis are at the moment very limited due to the ongoing military clashes.
Speaking before the Greek Parliament’s national defense and foreign affairs committee, he noted however, that the Greek government is promoting efforts to create secure humanitarian aid networks in the Mideast country in order to disburse aid wherever possible, while reminding that the European Union has officially favored the position of the United Nations assuming the humanitarian aid program in Iraq.
Moreover, he stressed that if Turkey unilaterally gets involved in the Iraq crisis, then NATO will end facilitations to the former, which emanate from the alliance’s Article V. Provisions in the article focus on solidarity to threatened NATO member-states.
Finally, in answer to repeated queries by deputies, Papandreou said Greek facilities used US forces are part of Athens’ standing bilateral and alliance commitments, much in the same manner as Germany and France also meet their commitments.
 Athens Bar Association issues resolution against war in Iraq
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)The Athens Bar Association board on Thursday issued a resolution stating that the bombings of infrastructure buildings and of non-combatants in Iraq constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity according to the Charter of the International Criminal Court.
Also the resolution stated that the necessary evidence is collected by the Athens Bar Association to be submitted to the International Court in a report seeking the politically responsible for the war in Iraq.
 Turkish warplanes violate Greek national airspace on five occasions
28/03/2003 (ANA)Ten formations of Turkish warplanes infringed Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) rules 10 times on Thursday, press reports said, and the infringements developed into five violations of national airspace in the northern and central Aegean and east of the island of Rhodes.
In all cases, the 25 Turkish aircraft were recognized and intercepted by Greek warplanes, while on eight occasions the interception process developed into an engagement.
Eight Turkish aircraft intercepted, following an engagement with Greek aircraft, were armed.
 DM meets with British Foreign Office Baroness Symons
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou met with British Foreign Office Undersecretary for trade and international relations Baroness Symons on Thursday and discussed current issues.
Symons made no statements after the meeting, but Papantoniou stressed that the fear of humanity that the war in Iraq may last more than 2-3 weeks, and so it may have more casualties, appears to become a reality as the Americans have underestimated popular reaction.
As for the meeting, Papantoniou called it constructive, adding that the two countries, despite their differences on political issues, are connected with strong bonds of friendship and are both European Union members.
''Greece was from the very start against the war that was chosen to take place by the English and the Americans,'' Papantoniou said.
The Greek minister also stressed that the United Nations' role should be reconstituted after the end of operations in Iraq, regarding the administration of Iraq, and as a guarantor of international legality.
Speaking of Turkey's discussions with the United States on the entrance of Turkish forces in Iraq, he said that Turkey seems to have shied from direct involvement in the region, following talks with the US, possibly through some financial or other benefits.
He also warned that a possible involvement of Turkey will cause destabilization in the region and within Turkey, which will enter a long adventure.
Papantoniou also said that he discussed with Symons the course of the European Union's defense industry, as recently the EU has lifted the ban on defense research and development.
Speaking of this issue, Papantoniou said that it will be very significant for the Greek defense industry, to the degree that it will be able to participate in the common european market of weapons systems.
 ND leader to meet with French president on Friday
PARIS 28/03/2003 (ANA - A. Panagopoulos)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis will meet with French President Jacques Chirac on Friday.
Karamanlis is in Paris to attend a joint event of the Constantine Karamanlis Institute of Democracy and the Charles de Gaulle Institute.
On Thursday, Karamanlis met with French Minister on European Affairs Noelle Lenoir.
Karamanlis stood for the participation of Greece to the initiative for increased defense cooperation within the European Union, in which France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg are participating.
The first meeting for this initiative will take place on April 29 in Brussels and Karamanlis said to the French minister that NDs position for Greece is that it should participate in the initiative, which he said should remain open for other countries that wish to participate in the future.
Karamanlis' associates stressed that Greece should not remain outside this initiative, because there may be decisions made in Brussels and opportunities may be lost for Greece.
They added that not the Greek EU presidency, but the Greek government should make clear its intent to participate in this initiative.
Karamanlis and Lenoir also discussed the war in Iraq and found a substantial coincidence of opinion, while Karamanlis stressed that the war should have been avoided and that the margins for a solution within the UN should have been exhausted.
The ND leader expressed his concern for the future of Europe, which appeared divided in this crisis, while the French minister assessed that the problems will be overcome.
Speaking of the inter-Atlantic relations, Karamanlis said that there should be equitability between the EU and the United States.
Commenting on Turkey's stance on Iraq, they assessed that the new Turkish government that is supported by the Islamic party did not want to have problems with the Arab countries, while Karamanlis stressed that Turkey's stance on the Cyprus problem should be such that it may not have problems with its European Union rapprochement.
 EU's first military operation to begin in FYROM on March 31
BRUSSELS 28/03/2003 (ANA . Demiris)The European Union's first military operation, codenamed ''Concordia'', will begin in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on March 31.
The European force has a six-month mandate to remain in FYROM and it will replace the NATO ''Allied Harmony'' force.
According to EU military sources, the ''EUFOR'' force is composed of about 300 men from 27 countries, with France having the biggest participation.
It will be deployed all over the country, its headquarters being in Skopje, and will be composed of 22 mobile units of four men each without military backing by armor and of eight fixed units of four-to-eight men with military backing by armor.
Each country's participation in men, who will wear their national military uniforms, ranges between two and 100.
The sources said the purpose of the force is to avert national tensions in certain sensitive regions in the country, such as Tetovo, and in the event of clashes their solution as soon as possible.
In the event that FYROM appeals to the EU for an extension of the European force's presence, before the six-month deadline expires, the request will be examined by the EU's Council of Ministers.
 Euro-Parliament’s Socialist Group to meet in AthensBRUSSELS 28/03/2003 (G.Zitouniati ANA)
The war in Iraq, the crisis within the European Union and Europe’s role in the post-war period are the issues on the agenda of a plenary session of the European Parliament’s Socialist Group, convening in Athens from March 31 to April 3.
The session is to be addressed by Greek Prime Minister and European Council President in-office Costas Simitis, while attendants are expected to include ruling PASOK party Secretary Costas Laliotis, and a number of government ministers including Foreign Minister George Papandreou.
The stance taken by the Socialist Group, as reflected in a resolution tabled to the European Parliament on Wednesday, condemns the decision of the US and their allies to take military action on Iraq, as an action that violates the United Nations Charter and international law.
The socialists also demand from Turkey not to become involved in the war, noting that in the opposite case, that country “will not be eligible for the implementation of a mutual assistance clause in the framework of NATO.”
In addition the group expresses its disappointment at the decision of some EU member-states and acceding countries to support militarily the war on Iraq, stressing that Iraq’s reconstruction should be effected only in the context of the UN.
Participation in the Athens meeting of the Socialist Group in expected to include almost all of the socialist MPs, totaling 175 members, from the Union’s 15 member-states.
On the occasion of the meeting, the head of the ruling PASOK party Euro-MPs and vice-president of the Socialist Group George Katiforis said in a statement that the convention of the group in Athens “is another proof of the right handling by the Greek EU presidency and the recognition of the crucial role Greece plays at this moment in the EU.”
 EU-Latin America senior officials meet in Athens
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)European Union foreign ministers and their counterparts from South America states participating in the Rio group, the Andes Community and the Southern Common Market better known as Mercosur, Mexico and Chile are meeting on Thursday and Friday in Athens.
External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten and Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy will also participate in the meeting, which will focus on the progress of negotiations between the EU and the group of the four Mercosur states, the course of regional accession process for Central America states and the Andes Community, the EU-Mexico relations, the activation of a treaty recently concluded between the EU and Chile, as well as on issues touching upon recent international developments.
On the opportunity of the meeting, Patten is expected to announce an EU political initiative to aid and support the cooperation among all the key players in Latin America, especially in the area of social cohesion as the means leading to economic growth and political stability.
The external relations commissioner is also expected to express the desire of the European Commission to raise the issue of social cohesion to a major topic at the 3rd Latin America States, Caribbean and EU Congress in Mexico in 2004.
On his part, Lamy said the progress of negotiations within the framework of the World Trade Organization (Doha, Qatar) should top the agenda, adding that the EU as well as the Latin America countries strongly desired to contribute to and secure development in the foreign trade sector.
''At a moment when geopolitical tensions are heightened, we need to secure stability, transparency and the ability to forecast developments in the sector of the world trade system'', he said, indicating ''The EU and the Latin America countries should collaborate within the scope of promoting relevant negotiations, in the light of the Doha meeting, to insure the success of the WTO ministerial meeting in Cancoon, Mexico, in September''.
Alternate FM refers to upgrading of relations between EU and Andes Community: Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis, speaking at a press conference following a working luncheon between European Union and Andes Community delegations on Thursday, referred to the upgrading of relations between the two sides, based on the Association Agreement as it was prepared during the Madrid summit in 2002.
Yiannitsis also spoke of pursuing the preparation of a new political agreement with the purpose of further promoting bilateral relations.
He further focused on progress achieved in the sectors of human rights, the strengthening of democracy in the region of Latin America and the continuing struggle against drugs.
Colombian Foreign Minister and Andes Community President Carolina Barko acknowledged progress achieved in the bilateral relations sector and referred to sensitive political and economic issues harassing Latin American countries.
She also stressed significant progress achieved in the security sector, comparing the struggle against drugs with the campaign against terrorism.
European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said the regional integration process for countries in the region is on the right path, in accordance with what was agreed at the Madrid summit, adding that it is a complicated process whose success will depend on the determination and speed shown by the sides.
Lamy also said he is absolutely satisfied with the Greek EU presidency and the way with which it handled the Iraq crisis.
Press conference following EU-Chile Association Council meeting: Following the EU-Chile Association Council meeting, Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis, Chilean Foreign Minister Maria S. Alvear and European Commissioner on commerce Pascal Lamy gave a joint press conference in Athens late Thursday night.
Yiannitsis said that during the meeting, the sides were briefed on the progress of the relevant association procedure, the situation in the Middle East and Iraq, while it was decided for the political dialogue to be enhanced.
Alvear said the meeting was fruitful, underlining that she was proud that the 4th generation association agreement - as described by Lamy - was ratified by her country's national assembly and has gone into effect since February 1, 2003.
Lamy jokingly told reporters ''there are no news, because there are no bad news." On a bilateral level the commissioner said "all is going well," concluding that negotiations remain active. Finally, he noted that he was fully satisfied with what the two sides achieved during the negotiations.
 FinMin says no need for emergency measures, for now
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)There is no need, at the moment, to take any emergency measures adding to a cut in interest rates announced by the European Central Bank in early March, and adhering to strict fiscal policies, Greek Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Thursday.
Replying to journalists' questions over the possibility of taking emergency measures to deal with the likely impact of a war in Iraq on the European and Greek economy, Mr Christodoulakis stressed that the EU was closely watching developments and that an ECOFIN meeting next week would examine economic conditions in the wake of the beginning of war in Iraq to have a more clear view of the situation.
The Greek minister, who chairs ECOFIN meetings for the first six months of 2003 in the framework of the Greek EU presidency, noted that any moves would be coordinated and would cover all EU member-states.
Commenting on the domestic economic policy, Mr Christodoulakis noted that a new wage pay plan in the public sector would begin on January 1, 2004, and that the government would start paying a family bonus to civil servants from the same day.
He did not dismiss a decision by the government to pay an emergency income support sum to low-income pensioners to offset any impact from a rising oil price, saying that the government budget could afford such a move.
Mr Christodoulakis said that the government, in its effort to better shield the Greek economy from the consequences of the war, would focus its policy on: -promoting tourism through an advertising campaign that would start the day after the war was ended, budgeted at seven million euros, -accelerating procedures to collect funds from a Third Community Support Framework program to around 400 million euros every month, and simplifying bureaucracy in investment procedures.
 Anti-war rallies, strike planned for next Thursday
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)Greece’s biggest labor unions on Thursday announced strikes and work stoppages next Thursday to protest the US-led war in Iraq, industrial action that is expected to bring civil service offices and other state-run agencies to a grinding halt.
The action comes after a series of spirited anti-war demonstrations in the country before and particularly after the onset of the military campaign in Iraq, similar to rallies held around the world.
Mass transit utilities’ employees, however, will not strike, as organizers said public transports will be necessary to bring would-be protesters to rally sites in downtown Athens.
In announcing the 24-strike, the head of the civil servants’ union (ADEDY) said an earlier industrial action had been planned over various institutional demands, although still simmering anti-war sentiments have now forced a change in the union’s objectives.
The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the largest trade umbrella group in the country, called a four-hour work stoppage for Thursday as well. Local government entities will also close their doors as part of the nationwide protests.
At a meeting of union representatives, peace groups and political party-affiliated youth groups on Thursday in Athens, most speakers also called for aid to various groups active in humanitarian relief efforts in and around Iraq, especially the Greek chapter of the “Doctors of the World” organization, which is setting up three camps: on the Iraq-Iran border; on the Iraq-Syria border, and on the Iraq-Jordan.
 Greek construction sector to consolidate further, study says
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)The construction sector has emerged as a main driving force behind Greece's economic growth in the last few years, a survey by Stat Bank said on Thursday.
The survey said that the size of the country's construction sector (in public sector contracts) rose to 5.58 billion euros in 2001 from 4.5 billion euros in 2000, while fixed asset investments jumped to 1.87 billion euros in 2001 from 587.8 million euros in 1993.
The survey, conducted by the Institute of Construction Economics, said that the construction sector's contribution to the country's Gross Domestic Product totalled 16.5 percent in 2000, a rate expected to rise to 20.7 percent by 2004.
The sector also contributes significantly in employment, with the number of people employed in the construction sector totalling 290,000 in 2000, or 7.5 percent of total employment in Greece. The institute expects the number of employed people in the sector to reach 350,000 by 2006.
The survey expects the construction sector to continue contributing largely to the growth of the Greek economy in the next years, noting that the country still lagged behind the average infrastructure levels of other European countries.
The survey stressed that the construction sector has made significant steps forward since 2001, aiming to boost consolidation in the market to become more competitive with foreign players.
Analysts said they did not dismiss a second round of mergers and acquisitions in the domestic market aimed to create bigger and stronger groups. The same sources said that they expected the volume of projects in the domestic market to drop to a level that could not afford the current high number of companies in the industry.
 Greece expects increased tourist arrivals from Russia
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)Greece expects increased number of Russian tourists this year, compared with 2002, on the precondition that a current war in Iraq would be short-lived, Greece's National Tourism Organization chairman, Yiannis Patellis said on Thursday.
Mr Patellis said evidence so far showed that tourist arrivals from Russia could be increased in 2003. He made this comments after attending the inaugurating ceremony of a 10th International Tourism Trade Fair in Moscow (MITT 2003).
GNTO's chairman met with tourist officials from Russia, Turkey, Cyprus, Bulgaria, China, Romania and other countries and discussed tourism prospects amid the war in Iraq.
Greek tourism participates in the trade fair with a large pavilion including 25 exhibitors from Greece.
 EU to accelerate ban on single-hull tankers
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)European Union transport ministers on Thursday approved acceleration of a ban on ''rust bucket'' single-hull tankers carrying heavy fuel oil to the year 2010 from 2015, as originally scheduled.
''We support all rules and measures that lead to a strengthening of the quality of maritime transportation with top-level services and respect for the environment,'' said Greek Transport Minister George Anomeritis after the meeting.
Greece is the European Union's rotating president.
''Our decisions will safeguard the safety of ships and crews,'' Anomeritis told reporters.
Ministers also agreed a transition period for smaller single hull vessels of up to 5,000 tones, which are needed for supplying small islands with fuel. The vessels have to be withdrawn in 2008, the minister added.
 Daylight savings time resumes on Sunday
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)Daylight savings time resumes as of this Sunday in all of the European Union member-states, including Greece.
Clocks should be set one hour ahead – from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m.
Daylight saving time ends on Oct. 26.
 No end in sight for stock market uncertainty
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)A current time of uncertainty and shifting expectations on international stock markets is likely to last, the head of the capital market commission, Stavros Thomadakis, said on Thursday.
''Stock markets worldwide are being sorely tried,'' Thomadakis told the annual general meeting of the Union of Athens Stock Exchange Quoted Companies.
At the same time, he welcomed cool-headedness so far shown by Greek market players.
''As a result, volatility have been greatly curbed in comparison with the past, and also in comparison with that seen in other small markets, and large European ones,'' Thomadakis added.
 ASE follows international market lower on Thursday
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)Global uncertainty over developments in the war in Iraq hit stock markets around the world and pushed share prices lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday.
The general index fell 0.80 percent to end at 1,539.40 points, with turnover a low 59 million euros.
The Publication, Cement and Textile sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day (2.39 percent, 1.80 percent and 1.75 percent, respectively), while the IT Solutions, Retail and Holding sector scored the biggest percentage gains (1.28 percent, 0.09 percent and 0.02 percent).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 1.07 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index eased 0.47 percent, the FTSE/ASE SMALLCAP 80 index ended 1.52 percent down, and the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index fell 1.02 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 232 to 66 with another 58 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 41.3 mln euros Thursday
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers outstrip sellers on Thursday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 Simitis chairs ministerial committee meeting on Olympic Games preparations
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)The ministerial committee for the preparation of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games convened on Thursday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Costas Simitis and dealt with the forthcoming visit to Greece of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Coordinating Committee.
Following their two-hour long meeting at the Maximos Mansion, the components of the preparations for the Games, namely Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Athens 2004 Olympic Organizing Committee (ATHOC) President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki appeared visibly pleased with the outcome of the meeting.
On his part, Deputy Press and Media Minister Telemachos Hytiris told reporters that projects underway are within the timeframe and there was no reason for concern.
Hytiris said that Prime Minister Simitis will meet with IOC Coordinating Committee President Denis Oswald on April 10.
 IOC technocrats satisfied with Athens Olympic Games preparation
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)International Olympic Committee (IOC) technocrats appreciate steps taken in past weeks in preparation for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, the main points being the awarding of the Games' security program, the agreement on the reconstruction of the Karaiskaki Stadium and the speeding up of such projects as the Athens Olympic Stadium and Hellenikon which had been delayed due to legal action.
Technocrats had made negative reports on the Olympic Games preparation as early as a month ago, prompting IOC President Jacques Rogge to underline delays in projects (Karaiskaki, Athens Olympic Stadium and Hellenikon) and the security program in a dramatic way.
The IOC technocrats arrived in Athens on Thursday to prepare an inspection by Denis Oswald and the IOC's Coordinating Committee, due to take place in early April, and to participate in a meeting of the Project Monitoring Group, chaired by Deputy Culture Minister Nasos Alevras.
 Deputy FM departs for New York for Greek Independence Day events
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis on Thursday departed for New York, where he will represent Prime Minister Costas Simitis and the Greek government in the events of the Greek community for the celebration of the ''March 25th'' Greek Independence Day.
During his stay in New York the Greek minister will meet with Archbishop of America Dimitrios and Greek-American community leaders, he will address a series of events organized by the Greek-American community and he will be present in the official doxology in the Agia Triada church of the city of New York.
On Sunday, Magriotis will represent the government in the grand parade for the Greek Independence Day that will take place on the 5th Avenue, as every year and then he will attend the banquet organized by the New York City leadership here in honor of the Greek community.
 Greece and Brazil sign education cooperation agreement
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)Greece and Brazil signed an education cooperation agreement in Athens on Thursday on the sidelines of the ministerial political dialogue between the European Union and the countries of Mercosur (Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile).
The agreement was signed by Greek Foreign Minister and EU Council of Foreign Ministers President George Papandreou and his Brazilian counterpart Celso Amorim.
 'N17' defendant again assumes 'political responsibility' for acts
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)The man authorities charge with being the operational chief for the notorious “November 17” terrorist group on Thursday again stated that he assumes the 'political responsibility' along with the 'criminal consequences' for the deadly band’s actions, as proceedings continued on Thursday in the high-profile “N17” trial. Dimitris Koufodinas, identified in a voluminous indictment as the “N17” top assassin known as “Loukas”, responded to a direct question by the attorney of the family of one of the terror band’s victims.
“I will remain in jail for the rest of my life. That’s obvious. The set of principles I retain does not allow me to say who participated in every action,” Koufodinas, a self-described amateur beekeeper, said.
The attorney of the family representing slain industrialist Alexandros Athanasiadis-Bodosakis asked him if he admits to his participation in the latter’s murder.
Well-known local attorney Alexandros Lykourezos, who is also a Parliament deputy, asked Koufodinas the question after an objection by Koufodinas’ counselor, who spoke of “concocted TV-style identification (of defendants)” by prosecution witnesses.
Earlier, an eyewitness identified Koufodinas as the gunman who shot Athanasiadis-Bodosakis in March 1988 in the upscale Athens district of Filothei. The industrialist was shot by the pillion-passenger on a motorcycle.
The witness, a friend of the industrialist, expressed his absolute certainty that Koufodinas was the assassin.
“Without any hesitation, Dimitris Koufodinas’ face is the face I saw at the murder scene,” he said.
Another witness, meanwhile, identified Christodoulos Xiros as the pillion-passenger who fled atop a motorcycle from the scene of a blast that killed US embassy military attache William Nordeen in June 1988.
 EU presidency wants to speed up e-Europe project
Brussels 28/03/2003 (ANA/ A.Simatos)Greece, the rotating president of the European Union, wants to see acceleration of a project for electronic links in the 15-member bloc for creation of the information society.
''We are working to speed up Europe's steps towards goals set in Lisbon. After a fruitful dialogue today, the opportunity was given to member states to exchange views and experiences on the strategies they are pursuing,'' said Greek Transport and Communications Minister Manolis Stratakis.
Stratakis was speaking to reporters after chairing a telecoms ministers' meeting in the Belgian capital on Thursday.
''Member states also had the opportunity of coordinating their action and initiatives for the resolution of problems in the telecoms sector, and the effective implementation of programs,'' he said.
The ministers approved a monitoring program for the EU's e-Europe action plan (2003-2005). They also heard a report from the EU's executive Commission on e-Europe 2002, Stratakis said.
 Greeks especially concerned over environment, Eurobarometer says
BRUSSELS 28/03/2003 (ANA - A. Simatos)Greeks appear especially concerned about environmental problems, but are convinced that they can do much on a personal level to improve the situation, according to a report published on Thursday by the Eurobarometer in Brussels.
Specifically, 55 per cent of those Greeks asked said that they are especially concerned over environmental problems, compared to 44 per cent of Italians or 25 per cent of Swedes.
Also, Greeks are more prone to take personal action as with 56 per cent come second to the French (58 per cent) believe that they can improve conditions by undertaking personal situation.
 ''Cultural Olympiad'' donates $7 million to UNICEF's inoculation program
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)The ''Cultural Olympiad'' will donate seven million dollars to UNICEF's program for the inoculation of 1.4 million children of up to 5 years old, in third world countries, against six basic fatal diseases.
The ''Immunization Plus'' program was initiated last December in New York and the Greek donation was made official on Thursday in a signing ceremony attended by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and officials of the ministry and UNICEF.
Afghanistan, the Congo, Liberia, Somalia, Angola and the Sudan are the countries heading the list of this important program.
 Greek Ombudsman submits annual report to Parliament
Athens, 28/03/2003 (ANA)The head of the Greek Ombudsman's Office Nikiforos Diamantouros on Thursday submitted the agency's annual report to Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis, who praised the agency's role in protecting the public in its transactions with the public sector and ensuring that the deficiencies and inequities of the state were revealed.
Diamantouros will soon be resigning as Greek Ombudsman, following his election as European Ombudsman earlier this year.
 UN Cyprus envoy briefs 'big five'
UNITED NATIONS 28/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)The UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto briefed on Wednesday the five permanent members of the UN Security Council about the collapse of the latest UN peace effort to find a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus, prior to the signing of the EU Accession Treaty in mid April.
Government spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides said on Thursday that the government wishes to see the good offices mission of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan continue in order to help find a viable and workable solution.
The New York briefing lasted hardly half an hour and according to diplomatic sources events were presented in an objective manner and in line with what Annan had said after the collapse of the talks on March 11 at The Hague.
Annan had said Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash refused to put to a referendum a UN peace proposal for a comprehensive settlement. He also said Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos agreed to conduct a referendum, provided Annan's peace proposal was completed in terms of legislative work and the people were sufficiently informed about the plan.
De Soto is said to have told the ambassadors of the five Security Council members that both he and Annan wish to have the peace effort continued but the parties involved should not be pressured to return to the negotiating table.
The ambassadors agreed with de Soto's assessment of the situation and expressed appreciation for the efforts made by him and the Secretary General.
A report, prepared by de Soto, on the peace process will be given to the Security Council on Monday and will cover the entire period of talks from December 1999 when this latest attempt began to the meetings at The Hague.
Following Security Council consultations, a resolution is expected to be issued at the end of next week.
 Appeal by House President for freedom in occupied CyprusNICOSIA 28/03/2003 (ANA) (CNA/ANA)
Cyprus House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias has appealed to the UN Secretary General, the President of the European Parliament and others to exert their influence in order to secure the freedom of speech of Turkish Cypriots in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus.
The House President condemned the threatening tactics applied by the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime in occupied Cyprus, which ''detained'' six Turkish Cypriots, including a party leader and senior trade unionists, as they tried to hold a symbolic referendum on a UN peace proposal for the reunification of Cyprus, which their leadership had rejected.
''I would greatly appreciate it if you could exercise all your influence so that these personalities and in fact all Turkish Cypriots are left free to voice their opinion and be heard without further threats or hindrance,'' a letter sent Wednesday by Christofias said.
The regime of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in occupied Cyprus ''faced this initiative (of holding a referendum) with its usual intransigent and oppressive tactics.''
Outlining events as they unfolded on Tuesday, Christofias said ''police forces'' attacked organizers and participants of the referendum, grabbed the ballot box and hit people with sticks.
''These defiant Turkish Cypriot representatives were doing nothing more than expressing their community's fervent wish for the reunification of our country,'' divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island's northern part, the letter added.
He condemned unreservedly this ''despicable act of muzzling the voices of brave Turkish Cypriots speaking for peace and reunification in Cyprus. It is an act indicative of the stand taken by the Turkish Cypriot leader and the Turkish government against any effort that would augur a peaceful future for the whole people of Cyprus.''
The Cyprus government as well as political parties and organizations have also condemned Denktash's tactics.