|Friday, 19 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-03-31
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 31, 2003
 Hijacker of Turkish passenger jet to face magistrate on Monday
Athens, 31/03/2003 (ANA)The young hijacker of a Turkish Airlines plane, who briefly sent shivers throughout an already tense region late Friday when he forced the aircraft to land in Athens by claiming he was carrying a bomb, is expected to appear before a local magistrate on Monday.
The hijacker’s claim of a bomb proved baseless after Greek police apprehended him at around 3 a.m. He had earlier agreed to free the plane’s occupants in what, by all accounts, was an amateurish spur-of-the-moment attempt to allegedly divert the plane to Germany, according to local media reports. Other reports claim the lone suspect has previously been treated for mental illness.
Nevertheless, the 20-year-old Turkish national was formally charged with two felonies on Saturday in connection with the hijacking of the Turkish Airlines (TK160) airplane. The aircraft was carrying 194 passengers and a nine-member crew on a domestic flight from Istanbul to Ankara. The Airbus130 made the unscheduled landing at Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport just after midnight on Friday, sparking a mobilization of Greece’s anti-terrorism squad and late-night worries in both Athens and Ankara that the incident was a terrorist action. Two Hellenic Air Force fighter jets, in fact, escorted the plane as it entered Greek airspace over the eastern Aegean and throughout its entire flight towards the Greek capital.
According to court records, the suspect -- identified as Ozgur Gencaslan -- requested a customary 48-hour stay in order to prepare his defense.
The Turkish government, meanwhile, has requested Gencaslan’s extradition.
Passengers departed Athens for Ankara on another Turkish Airlines plane a few hours after their ordeal, while the hijacked airliner disembarked a half hour later with only its cabin crew aboard.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who arrived at airport during the brief crisis, praised law enforcement and airport authorities for their efforts at gaining the safe release of the passengers and crew.
On his part, a Greek government spokesman on Saturday said the manner in which the incident was resolved demonstrated the effectiveness of the country’s law enforcement and security forces.
“Greece is one of the safest countries in the world, it is in a position to confront all dangers, especially in light of the Olympic Games of 2004,” spokesman Christos Protopapas said.
 Papantoniou: Greek airmen on AWACS to be withdrawn if Turkey invades N. Iraq
Athens, 31/03/2003 (ANA)Greece’s defense minister has reiterated Athens’ solid backing for a political and defense unification of Europe based on the successful Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) model, a position that points to the recent Franco-German alignment in the run-up to the Iraq war.
Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, quoted in an interview published by the Sunday edition of the Athens daily “To Vima”, also said Washington’s initial assessments of a quick military victory in Iraq were proved wrong due to a grave political error, namely, a belief that the Iraqi people would greet US and British forces as liberators.
In answer to a question regarding Greek-Turkish relations in the wake of Ankara’s latest controversial statements about possible involvement in northern Iraq, Papantoniou said the neighboring country may “increase its intransigence towards Greece” if it is isolated over its stance on the controversial matter.
Finally, he said Greek airmen serving aboard NATO-administered AWACS planes currently assisting in the monitoring of Turkey’s airspace would be withdrawn if Ankara sent troops into northern Iraq.
On his part, Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos appeared pessimistic vis-a-vis the development of international relations following the Iraq war, before laying the blame on Washington.
Tsohatzopoulos, Papantoniou’s predecessor at the Greek defense ministry, was quoted in interview published in the Sunday edition of another Athens daily, “Eleftherotypia”.
Meanwhile, in a slight departure from Athens’ official stance regarding a common European defense and foreign affairs policy, Tsohatzopoulos appeared to favor the principle of a “weighted majority” formula for decision-making in the crucial sector, rather than the current requirement of unanimity.
Moreover, the Thessaloniki area deputy said the recent crisis caused by Washington’s stance towards the United Nations, Europe and NATO will continue after the US-British invasion of Iraq, with two blocs emerging in all three: one including the US and its allies and another formed by countries with opposing views.
 Anti-war protests focus on U.S., NATO bases in Greece
Athens, 31/03/2003 (ANA)A protest rally against the war in Iraq, organized on Sunday by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in Crete, attracted more than 3,500 people from around Greece and headed by KKE leader Aleka Papariga reached the U.S. base in Souda Bay.
The protesters demanded the removal of the U.S. and NATO bases from Crete, while Papariga, speaking to the protesters in the city of Hania demanded that the base closes and all facilitation to U.S. forces ceases.
The KKE leader called positive the awareness of the public opinion, which, as she said, was expressed through the anti-war protests and rallies and the participation in the efforts to collect humanitarian aid for Iraq.
The protest ended peacefully, but before its end, Papariga called reporters and stated that ''according to a responsible and credible source two U.S. submarines were expected to arrive in Souda, to load ammunition and to move on with the speedy rearmament of the U.S. forces in Iraq. This goes to the premier (Costas Simitis) who believes that the base of Souda is nothing (significant) for the war''.
Parallel with the protest at Souda Bay, about 70 students organized a protest near the NATO base of Marathi, Crete, where they organized a concert with anti-war songs.
While the protests in Crete gathered thousands of people, another protest near the NATO headquarters in Tirnavos, central Greece, was organized and hundreds of people attended, also protesting against the war in Iraq.
KKE Parliament deputy Dimitris Tsiogas spoke to the protest rally saying that ''even now some people wish the war in Iraq ends quickly so that they may grab the flesh of the Iraqi people. They want to rebuild that which the Americans and British are destroying.
A similar antiwar rally was organized in Athens on Saturday by all youth groups of parties represented in Parliament and with the participation of workers' unions and other organizations.
The rally took place in Athens' central Syntagma Sq. and ended in front of the U.S. embassy.
 EU's first military operation to begin in FYROM on Monday
SKOPJE 31/03/2003 (ANA - N. Frangopoulos)NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson, European Union high commissioner Javier Solana and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in his capacity as EU presiding foreign minister, will be present for the changeover of the peacekeeping force in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), on Monday.
With the deployment of the Euroforce, the European Union will begin its first ever military operation by undertaking the peacekeeping activities of NATO in the small landlocked country of the central Balkans.
FYROM requested officially, following a unanimous vote of its Parliament, the deployment of the Euroforce, in an operation, codenamed ''Concordia'', that has a six-month mandate replacing the NATO ''Allied Harmony'' force.
Papandreou and Solana will hold separate meetings with FYROM President Boris Trajkovski and with the country's Prime Minister Branco Crvenkovski, as well as with the leader of the Union for Democratic Incorporation Ali Ahmedi.
According to EU military sources, the ''EUFOR'' force is composed of about 350 men from 27 countries, with France having the largest participation.
It will be deployed all throughout the country, its headquarters will be 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. 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.
The next aim of the Euroforce, which will number 60,000 men, will be to replace NATO forces in Bosnia, which now number 12,000 men, if of course there is an agreement between NATO and the EU, similar to that of FYROM.
 Missile-boat added to Souda Bay's waterway security force
Athens, 31/03/2003 (ANA)A gunboat was added on Sunday to the security of Souda Bay, Crete to protect the waterway that leads to the US base, since the guarding of Greek territorial waters is the sole responsibility of the Greek state.
The ''Troupakis'' missile-boat came to support the ''Batsis'' torpedo boat that was already in the waterway patrolling for some time now.
The addition to the waterway's security came as a response to the three US coast guard ships that arrived in Souda Bay from Italy to protect the bay. According to reports the two coast guard vessels remain in the port, while the third departed.
 Synaspismos central committee focuses on war's impact
Athens, 31/03/2003 (ANA)The war in Iraq and its repercussions internationally dominated a two-day conference by the Coalition of the Left’s (Synaspismos) central committee here in Athens, kicked off by an address from the party’s president, Nikos Constantopoulos.
Constantopoulos said repercussions from a decision by an “ultra-rightist and corrupt clique” in the US to declare an “illegal war” will be deeply felt, a war he said thrusts humanity into a “darker period”.
He also said the EU is faced with a serious crisis, as it deals with the question of its relations vis-a-vis the United States.
Finally, he criticized the Greek government for offering facilitations, as he claimed, for all of Washington’s “aggressive wars”.
 Arab League's Amr Moussa in Athens on Monday
Athens, 31/03/2003 (ANA)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, the current president of the EU Council of Ministers, will receive visiting Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa here on Monday at the foreign ministry.
Statements to the press will follow, a foreign ministry press release noted on Sunday.
 Tsohatzopoulos addresses political event in Thessaloniki
Athens, 31/03/2003 (ANA)Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos on Sunday addressed a political event in Thessaloniki focusing on the international actions of the United States and the reactions of the European Union.
''The United States, in cooperation with some allies, chose, disregarding the common sentiment of all peoples, to change to their exclusive benefit, the existing geopolitical balance and the balance of power in the Middle East and Asia,'' Tsohatzopoulos said.
Speaking of the European Union he said that ''it is necessary to realize that only a truly and not in words united Europe can seek an autonomous course, which is a precondition for the survival of Europe''.
The minister also addressed conditions within the ruling PASOK party and called for work in averting unemployment, insecurity and social inequalities.
 MRB poll gives main opposition 7,9 per cent lead over PASOK
Athens, 31/03/2003 (ANA)The main opposition New Democracy party leads ruling PASOK by 7,9 percent in an MRB opinion poll released on Saturday evening, while Prime Minister Costas Simitis appears to be slightly ahead of ND leader Costas Karamanlis with a 0.7 percent lead on who would make best premier.
Analytically, 39.6 percent of respondents said they would vote for ND in the next elections, 31.7 percent for PASOK, 5.2 percent for the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), 3.5 percent for the Coalition of the Left and Progress, 2.1 percent for the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) and 1.9 for the newly formed party LA.O.S. headed by Parliament deputy George Karatzaferis, while 16.1 percent answered don't know/won't say.
In the question on who was most suitable for prime minister, Simitis came first with 41.4 percent and Karamanlis second with 40.7 percent.
The poll was conducted on March 5, before the beginning of the war in Iraq.
 EU Justice ministers conclude informal summit in Veroia, Greece
Athens, 31/03/2003 (ANA)The meetings of the second day of the informal European Union council of justice and interior ministers continued on Saturday, focusing on issues of justice.
Greek Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos held a joint press conference with European Union Commissioner Antonio Vitorino at the conclusion of the council's meetings.
Petsalnikos noted that the council dealt with issues concerning judicial guarantees for suspects and the accused in criminal proceedings, as well as the conference for the future of Europe in relation to the judicial cooperation in Europe.
The Greek minister, who presided over the specific meetings in the north central Greek town of Veroia, spoke of the Green Bible that includes the right of judicial assistance and representation of the suspects and the accused, the participation of translators, the protection of vulnerable population groups and the reading to the accused of his/her rights.
He added that they also discussed issues concerning double jeopardy and the release on terms (bonds etc).
The ministers also focused on issues concerning the actions of new institutions such as Eurojust and Europol and ways to control their actions via institutional guarantees, in order to secure the rights of citizens.
 Greek ministers attend celebrations of Greek Independence Day in New York
NEW YORK 31/03/2003 (ANA - P. Panagiotou)The Greek-American community celebrated on Sunday the March 25th Greek Independence Day here, with a doxology at the Agia Triada church of the city of New York officiated by Archbishop of America Dimitrios.
Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis and a delegation of Greek deputies along with the ambassadors and general consuls of Greece and Cyprus attended the doxology and were to represent the Greek government in the grand parade on 5th Avenue.
Later in the day, following the parade they would attend the banquet organized, as every other year, by the New York City leadership here in honor of the Greek community.
 Deputy FM addresses Greek-American community in Astoria, New York
NEW YORK 31/03/2003 (ANA - P. Panikos)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis, who is visiting New York to participate in the Greek-American community's celebrations for Greek Independence Day, addressed an event organized in Astoria.
"Once more we declare our solidarity for the New Yorkers in the face of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11… Greece stands firmly on the side of the struggle against terrorism," Magriotis said.
He congratulated the Greek-American community for its efforts in favor of Cyprus' accession to the European Union and called on them to visit Greece during the Olympic Games of 2004.
 Bulgarian high court nullifies decision to close down nuclear reactor
SOFIA 31/03/2003 (ANA - B. Borisov)The Bulgarian high administrative court on nullified a decision of the Bulgarian government to shut down the two nuclear reactor units of the Kozlodui nuclear reactor in 2006.
The court ruled that a decision by the country parliament that mandated that Bulgaria would not close down the reactor before entering the European Union, took precedent to the decision of the government.
 Suspected "mad cow" case in Evros prefecture
Athens, 31/03/2003 (ANA)The Evros Prefecture northeastern Greece and the agriculture ministry on Saturday announced that a cow that was slaughtered and sold in the region may have been infected by the "mad cow" disease.
The cow was imported in Greece from the Czech Republic on 1993 and was used as a milk cow.
Initial results of laboratory tests in Greece did not confirm the fear, but laboratory tests from Britain are expected by Tuesday.
 Cyprus responds to Turkish statements
NICOSIA 31/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)Government Spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides said on Sunday that Turkey's policies on Cyprus and those of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash cannot lead anywhere because they are based on a distorted assessment of the political realities of today.
The spokesman was commenting on statements from Ankara's powerful National Security Council expressing full support for Denktash's intransigent positions on UN-led efforts to find a settlement.
Chrisostomides stressed that this assessment contradicts the position taken by the international community and in particular the European Union.
''It seems that the National Security Council of Turkey and the policy followed by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan are fully aligned in support of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's monolithic hard line policy as far as the Cyprus problem is concerned,'' the spokesman said.
Such policy, he told CNA, will lead nowhere as ''it is an approach based on a distorted assessment of the political realities of today and it is contrary to the position taken both by the international community and the European Union in particular.''
The spokesman said the UN was the only forum through which efforts for a solution can bear fruit with the support of the European Union, noting that the accession process of the Republic is now in the completion stage.
Chrisostomides pointed out that Turkey's and Denktash's policies reflect the latter's intransigence towards efforts to find a negotiated political settlement.
He said Turkish tactics cannot procure a deviation from international legality, which recognizes the Republic of Cyprus and states that the efforts for a solution are restricted at the level of the two communities.
 Cyprus hopes for objective report on peace process
NEW YORK 31/03/2003 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus' Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Sotos Zakhaios appeared optimistic on Saturday that a UN report on the latest peace process to find a comprehensive settlement would be objective.
Addressing a meeting of the Cyprus Federation of America here, he said that ''events speak for themselves, the UN Security Council has called a spade a spade as far as the Cyprus question is concerned in the past four times that it has dealt with the issue.''
He said statements by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan after the collapse of this month's attempt to make headway make it clear that the Turkish Cypriot side is to blame.
''We expect Kofi Annan's report and we have made the necessary contacts and interventions to see that the report, which will be lengthy and will cover developments since 1999, is objective and lays responsibility where it is due,'' Zakhaios told the meeting.
He said that the Council will adopt a resolution after the report.
The ambassador said he did not expect soon a good offices mission from the Secretary General to the extent and the intensity of the recent past but added that the Security Council will give Annan the mandate to continue his good offices mission.
''We support the continuation of his good offices mission and we shall continue our efforts to find a just settlement that would protect the human rights of all Cypriots and that is in line with the acquis communautaire,'' he said.
Earlier this month after day-long talks in The Hague Annan said the latest UN effort for a settlement had come to the end of the road. He said Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash rejected his suggestion to put to a referendum a UN peace proposal and demanded radical changes to it.
Annan said Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos agreed to a referendum but said he wants the legal issues relating to the peace proposal to be completed and the people to be informed about the contents of the proposal.