|Monday, 21 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-04-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>April 30, 2003
 Efforts for Cyprus solution must continue within UN, Athens and Nicosia agreeAthens, 30/04/2003, (ANA)
Athens and Nicosia agreed that efforts for a solution to the Cyprus problem must continue within a United Nations framework, Greek government spokes-man Christos Protopapas announced on Tuesday.
He said Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos had jointly reached that conclusion during talks on the phone earlier that morning about the latest developments on the island republic, specifically the enthusiastic response of the general public, Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots alike, to an easing of restrictions to free movement by the illegal Turkish-Cypriot regime in the north, with tens of thousands flocking to cross the 'green line' in both directions.
He said Simitis and Papadopoulos had ''hailed the wave of brotherhood on Cyprus, that proved that the Cypriot people wished to leave the past behind.''
Papadopoulos also briefed Simitis, who currently chairs the European Council as head of the Greek EU presidency, on the measures that the Cyprus government long ago prepared and intends to announce regarding Turkish Cypriots.
The spokesman said that Papadopoulos will be visiting Simitis and Athens on May 26.
 Optimism in the UN over developments in CyprusNEW YORK, 29/ (ANA - P. Panikos)
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan welcomed the recent peaceful events in Cyprus and the greater freedom of Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots to move throughout the island, while a spokesman for the UN Secretary General on Monday said that the UN mediation team in Cyprus remained ''as it was'' headed by UN chief's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto.
Talking to reporters, Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard expressed optimism that ''these developments will have a positive impact with regard to the end objective which is the re-unification of Cyprus'', and reiterated Annan's position regarding resumption of the UN initiative for a political resolution to the Cyprus issue ''when there is real will on both sides for a comprehensive solution.''
UN diplomatic sources in New York believe that a new reality exists now in Cyprus, ''one that cannot be ignored by the leadership of either community on the island.''
The ''Green Line'' in Cyprus that has for almost 30 years partitioned the island republic, separating the free areas from a breakaway Turkish-Cypriot regime in the north that is recognized only by Ankara and supported by Turkish occupation troops, was opened for the first time just before Orthodox Easter last week-end.
The official confirmation of Cyprus' accession into the European Union in mid-April has led to pressure from EU partners for a final resolution of the island's political problem and for the Turkish Cypriot community to abandon its intransigent policy.
 Cyprus gov't: Movement across 'green line' acts toward solution
NICOSIA, 30/04/2003 (ANA - G. Leonidas)The dynamic created by the spontaneous public response to the lifting of restrictions to movement between the free areas of Cyprus and the Turkish-occupied northern territories could only work in favor of a solution to the Cyprus problem, Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said on Tuesday.
He rejected criticism that the government lacked strategy and was at a loss in the face of new developments, saying that the its strategy combined with Cyprus' accession to the European Union had forced Ankara and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to partially lift the restrictions to free movement.
He also dismissed fears that the display of passports by Greek-Cypriots in order to pass through checkpoints could be construed as recognition of the illegal regime and stressed that no private individual was in a position to ''recognize'' an illegal structure.
Chrysostomides said it was the Nicosia government's position not to prevent the free movement of citizens within Cyprus, while noting that the new developments did not alter the government's stance toward the Turkish-Cypriots, Cyprus' accession course and the progress toward a solution.
The spokesman once again criticized Denktash and his son Serdar for insisting on a policy of division, two states and the display of passports, which he stressed remained an illegal action. He also rejected an invitation by Denktash for direct talks with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on confidence-building measures without United Nations involvement.
Commenting on the Turkish-Cypriot move, Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iakovou on Tuesday said that it had been motivated by Turkey's total isolation after the collapse of UN-sponsored peace talks at The Hague due to Denktash's intransigence and the huge Greek and Cypriot success with the signing of the EU accession treaties. He intimated that the breakthrough had been achieved through strong Turkish pressure on Denktash.
Meanwhile, the rate at which Cypriots on both side of the dividing line turned out in order to cross over to the other side showed no signs of slackening on the sixth day that restrictions were eased, with nearly 100,000 estimated to have passed the line so far.
The illegal regime also decided to further ease restrictions and allow Greek-Cypriots to stay overnight in the occupied north for up to three days a week if they produced a hotel receipt when returning to the free areas and announced that a new crossing point would be established at Agios Demetrios, a western suburb of Nicosia.
A new pedestrian-only crossing was opened through a Turkish-Cypriot football field on Tuesday to ease queues at the Ledra Pallas crossing in Nicosia, where more than 8,500 Greek-Cypriots and 850 Turkish-Cypriots crossed into the occupied and free areas respectively by 12:30.
Turkish occupation forces were preparing to open a new crossing point on the Derynia-Famagusta road and a queue of 200 cars had gathered at the UN checkpoint at Tillyria in northeast Cyprus demanding to be allowed to cross.
Cypriot Justice Minister Doros Theodorou said he would be meeting with the head of the United Nations peacekeeping force UNFICYP later on Tuesday to discuss the situation, while noting that UN forces should facilitate the free movement of Cypriot citizens and not accept the illegal procedure imposed by the occupation regime.
Interior Minister Andreas Christou said that demarches on this issue had been lodged with the UN and possible crossing points suggested but that UNFICYP appeared hesitant.
Earlier on Tuesday, meanwhile, a Turkish-Cypriot living in the free areas of Cyprus was denied the right to enter the north by occupation forces, who arrested him on a charge of entering the free areas without permission.
 Four EU-nation meeting on reinforced European defense
BRUSSELS, 30/04/2003 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)The leaders of four European Union member-states said after a two-hour summit on Wednesday in Brussels that there was a need for an enhanced European defense identity, however, not competitively disposed towards NATO. Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker had agreed that the creation of a common European defense was a necessary precondition for an effectively functioning common EU external policy, the hosting Belgian prime minister told journalists after the meeting, adding that the four had also agreed that the common European defense should not act competitively towards NATO and that its aim was to reinforce the European presence within the framework of NATO.
Verhofstadt said that the ''four'' had agreed on a series of common proposals, which they would immediately table to the European Union for discussions, starting with the informal meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers scheduled later this week in Greece.
They also said that their common proposals would be presented for discussions at the European Summit in mid-June in Thessaloniki.
In general lines, the four states agreed on the development of a series of common initiatives aimed at the creation of a European rapid force, cooperation in air-transfer and the provision of humanitarian aid, the creation of common structures to confront terrorist strikes including chemical warfare, the creation of common military training centers, the formation of a defense planning nucleus and the gradual creation of a multinational force headquarters for European operations.
The Belgian prime minister said that the proposals would be communicated to all EU member states, as well as to the Convention on the Future of Europe currently working on the European Constitution, stressing that the ''four'' welcomed any EU member-state that was in agreement with those directions.
On his part, the French President said that the proposals of the ''four'' sought to create a credible European defense and that their aim was to reinforce the EU-USA partnership within the framework of NATO.
''A stronger Europe means a stronger NATO'', the French president said, adding that at the same time the European defense did not seek to create a front in competition with NATO, but to achieve a qualitative stride aiming at a better cooperation within the framework of the Atlantic Alliance.
On his turn, the German Chancellor also told journalists that the European Union was also in need of ''deepening'' in tandem with enlargement, and stressed the need for a reinforced European defense.
''The problem is not too much of US in NATO, but too little of Europe'', he said.
Finally, the prime minister of Luxembourg said fears that the European defense would act competitively toward NATO were groundless, adding that this was not a ''coup d'etat'' by the ''four'' and that their proposals were open to any interested state.
 Greek and Belgian PMs hold telephone conversation on summit of the 'four'
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister and European Council President Costas Simitis and his Belgian counterpart Guy Verhofstadt discussed the informal summit of the ''four'' (France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg) on strengthening cooperation on security and defense issues in Europe, during a telephone conversation on Tuesday.
The two leaders agreed during their conversation that the European Council should be briefed on the matter in its entirety in the framework of the Thessaloniki summit.
In a related development Foreign Minister and European Union Council of Foreign Ministers President George Papandreou had a telephone conversation with his Belgian and French counterparts Louis Michel and Dominique de Villepin on Tuesday night, and was briefed on the results of the informal summit of the ''four'' held in Brussels.
Included among the issues discussed in the Belgian capital was strengthened cooperation on security and defense between certain EU member-states, an issue also preoccupying the European Assembly, and the European defense industry.
The three ministers reached an understanding that all foreign ministers should be informed of the content of Tuesday's meeting of the ''four'' in the framework of the informal summit of EU foreign ministers due to be held on the islands of Rhodes and Katellorizo on May 2-5.
 FM sends invitation to EU counterparts for Rhodes, Kastellorizo meeting
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in his capacity as president of the European Union's council of ministers, on Tuesday sent a letter to his EU counterparts inviting them to the informal council meeting that will take place in Rhodes and Kastellorizo islands, south eastern Aegean, on May 2-5.
In his letter, Papandreou noted that ''We will start our first working session on the island of Rhodes. I intend to begin our discussion over lunch with the topic of Iraq. It is of utmost importance to find common ground on how to deal with the “day after” in the country and the region''.
''I expect that the Middle East Peace Process and the role of the EU in the wider region, now a pressing foreign policy issue, will also be discussed in this context. Our agenda will include the transatlantic relationship at an important turning point and in preparation of the EU-US Summit on 25 June,'' he added.
''It is also of great importance to talk about finding ways and means to strengthen our CFSP as well as the ESDP. We can start our discussion with this item, on May 3, on board the ship that will take us to the island of Kastellorizo,'' he noted.
Papandreou also stressed that a ''brief discussion about developments in the Western Balkans'' will take place and the council will focus ''on the issue of proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, for which we need to elaborate a clear strategy''. ''On the island of Kastellorizo, our colleagues from Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey will join us for lunch, during which we will have the opportunity to brief them on our discussions,'' he added.
 EU environment ministers informal meeting at Lagonissi on Friday
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)Greek Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou will chair the informal meeting of European Union environment ministers on Friday and Saturday at the southern Attica coastal resort of Lagonissi, a press office announcement of the Greek environment ministry said on Tuesday.
The EU ministers meeting, which will also be attended by the environment ministers of Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, Romania and Turkey, will focus on ''regional cooperation on environmental issues in South-Eastern Europe'' with special focus on the management of trans-national waters, the announcement said.
At the meeting, the Greek EU presidency will seek an exchange of views as to how the enlarged EU should acknowledge viable development and the principle of incorporation as one of the bloc's key objectives toward a qualitative and healthy environment.
Vasso Papandreou and EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom will hold a press conference on Saturday, the announcement said.
 EU-Iran meeting takes place in Athens
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)The biannual European Union-Iran meeting took place in Athens on Tuesday, headed by Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis and Iranian Deputy Minister for Western European and N. American affairs Dr. Ahani.
The closed door meeting of the EU troika and Iran, according to press sources, dealt with bilateral affairs, investments, energy issues, immigration and conditions in the wider Middle Eastern region.
 Greek EU Presidency statement on formation of Palestinian Government
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)The Greek European Union Presidency issued a statement on Tuesday concerning the formation of the Palestinian Government and the vote of confidence by the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Following is the full text of the EU statement:
''The Presidency of the European Union warmly welcomes the formal approval of the new Palestinian Government by the Palestinian Legislative Council. We see this approval, as well as the appointment of a Palestinian Prime Minister, as hopeful signposts along the road towards defusing the conflict and returning to the negotiations table. We also count on this new government for pursuing with greater resolve the necessary policies of reform, especially in the field of law and order.
''We also believe that time is ripe for the promulgation of the Quartet’s roadmap. It is for the benefit of regional peace and stability that parallel progress be made in all three tracks - security, political and economic. It is evident that such progress will be the most effective instrument against extremism and terrorism.
''At this critical juncture for the region, we call upon both parties to refrain from all sorts of acts of aggression, violence and terrorism and take the responsibility of implementing the roadmap. We also call upon them to prepare themselves for painful albeit inevitable compromises in order to reach peace based on a two-state solution. The European Union is ready to help, as it has done all through the Peace Process, both parties to accomplish these most important tasks.''
 Mitsotakis criticizes government during visit to Hania, Crete
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)ND deputy and former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis on Tuesday criticized the government for what he called a climate
of corruption and disintegration, adding that everyone in the government is dealing with their own problems and not with the great problems of the country.
He added that the economy of the country as in deep crisis and that the government was unable to deal with any problem small or large, adding that the only solution is for the government to leave power as soon as possible.
''This is something I can not say that it is possible, but I think it is necessary,'' he said, speaking in Hania, Crete.
 FM to receive Turkish ambassador
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)Foreign Minster George Papandreou on Wednesday will receive Turkish Ambassador to Athens Yigit Alpogan, according to a press release issued by the Greek foreign ministry.
 Trade unions planning rallies and marches for Labor Day
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)A 24-hour general strike, marches and rallies are being planned by the main trade union organizations in Greece for this year's Labor Day on May 1.
A rally in Syntagma Square in central Athens, organized by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the civil servants' union ADEDY and the Athens Labor Centre, will be held on Thursday at 10:30, while similar rallies will be held in other major cities throughout the country.
Public transport workers will participate in the general strike with symbolic work stoppages that will be announced by their unions.
In a Labor Day message released on Tuesday, meanwhile, GSEE stressed that it would continue its struggle for a 35-hour working week without loss of pay and benefits that respected collective labour agreements and labour laws.
It also stressed the need to resist further changes to the state insurance and pension system against the interests of the workforce, and to fight for higher pay and pensions, protect the income of those on low pensions and ensure equal treatment of all insured.
ND leader issues Labor Day message
criticizing gov't's employment policy
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday issued a message in light of the May 1st Labor Day, stressing that this year's celebration finds Greece ''entangled in impasses created by the lack of a comprehensive policy''.
''The inability to promote the necessary structural reforms, the abandonment of the productive forces of the country and the trapping of the government by vested interests'' have created a series of problems, he said.
Karamanlis noted that Greece's performance concerning unemployment is one of the worst in the European Union, adding that more than 150,000 university graduates are unable to use their degrees and are seeking any kind of employment.
 Greece, Russia debate natural gas, oil supply projects
PARIS, 30/04/2003 (ANA/O.Tsipira)Greece and Russia on Tuesday discussed details of a project to supply natural gas to Europe and the Balkans.
Meeting on the sidelines of an International Energy Organization ministers' session in the French capital were Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov.
''Greece's initiative with Russia and Turkey essentially opens the way for a natural gas market for Europe, ensuring a plurality of distribution of the gas, and, as a result, of competition,'' Tsohatzopoulos told reporters.
''Also ensured are new methods of oil transportation to Europe, thanks to the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline,'' he noted.
Tsohatzopoulos said that contact would be made with Japanese construction firms in connection with the projects following consultations he held with his counterpart from that country.
Tsohatzopoulos also discussed energy issues involving Russia and the European Union with Yusufov; and between Greece and Russia, including the supply of Russian natural gas to Greece, and supplementary means of distribution for oil from the Caspian to Alexandroupoli.
''Our aim is the unification of all Balkan networks, in order to create a regional energy market, electricity and natural gas. This venture is included in the EU's trans-European networks,'' Tsohatzopoulos said.
''Already agreed with Turkey is the unification of natural gas transportation systems, as well as a link of the two countries' electricity networks,'' he added.
Tsohatzopoulos and Yusufov are due to meet in Moscow on May 12 to prepare for an EU energy ministers' meeting in Brussels on May 14, and for an EU summit with Russia in St Petersburg on May 31.
 Queries raised about market authorities in wake of Altec uproar
Athens,30/04/2003 (ANA)A former leader of the main opposition New Democracy party, Miltiades Evert, on Tuesday questioned the effectiveness of market authorities in connection with charges of financial crimes against Athens-quoted Altec SA.
''How did stock market authorities and the capital market commission allow the company to enter the bourse and hold successive share capital increases without first carrying out detailed financial inspections?'', Evert asked in a statement.
Last week, the government's financial crimes squad said that it had uncovered breaches of tax legislation during an audit of the computer manufacturer's books.
Most of the findings involved fraudulent invoices that resulted in the non-payment of 17.8 billion drachmas of tax in 1999-2000, and the enquiry was continuing, according to the financial crimes squad.
Evert also enquired whether the same authorities had checked out Athens-quoted Emporiki Bank, which was underwriter of Altec's bourse entry and ensuing share capital rises.
Finally, the ND deputy enquired how banks that had financed Altec also failed to undertake checks into the company's finances in order to make sure that the loans were viable.
He added that he believed other Athens-quoted firms were in a condition similar to Altec's.
 ECB sees moderate eurozone growth in first half
BRUSSELS, 30/04/2003 (ANA/G/Zitouniati)The European Central Bank has forecast moderate growth for the eurozone in the first half of 2003, with a gradual acceleration in the second half, the ECB's vice president, Lucas Papademos, said on Tuesday.
Allowing the rise were a decline in uncertainty and in interest rates and oil prices, said Papademos, presenting the bank's annual report to Europarliament's economic and monetary committee in the Belgian capital.
Eurozone growth in 2003 was forecast at 1.0 percent in 2003 and around 2.0 percent in 2004, with inflation at about 2.0 percent this year, depending on oil prices and wage rises, Papademos added.
 PLATO informatics program presented in Beijing
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)The PLATO model, developed to meet the needs of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games Organizing Committee (ATHOC), has been presented in Beijing during meetings organized by the European Union's Informatics Society General Department.
The model is a pioneering informatics program, an implement for supporting the planning of sports tournament functions.
The purpose of the meetings, also attended by ATHOC, is the adoption of a dialogue between Europe and China on the role of Informatics and Telecommunications Technologies in the 2008 Olympic Games.
The PLATO (Process Logistics Advanced Technical Optimizer) model was developed by the Olympic Games Organizing Committee's General Technology Department.
 ATHOC reacts strongly to Australian press reports
Athens, 320/04/2003 (ANA)The Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee (ATHOC) reacted strongly on Tuesday to comments that appeared in the Australian press that the country was considering to keep the Olympic Team's members within the Olympic Village and not allow them to move freely in Athens for security reasons.
ATHOC stressed that for Greece the security of the Games was a matter of the highest priority, adding that more than 600 million dollars have been secured for funding of the security of the Games.
The committee also said that the necessary infrastructures and the necessary personnel and funds are available as Greece prepares to host the Games.
ATHOC also noted that IOC coordinating committee president Denis Oswald expressed his satisfaction over the preparations on security aspects during his latest visit here.
 Police report better accident stats during Easter exodus
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)Accident statistics throughout the country during this year's Easter holiday were significantly improved in relation to last year despite an increase in the number of cars traveling on the roads, police reported on Tuesday.
They noted, however, that the holiday-makers' return was not yet complete, with more cars expected to make the homeward trip after May Day and the Sunday after Easter.
A record 763,100 cars are estimated to have left Athens since the Saturday before Easter week, an 8.78 per cent increase relative to 2002 when 701,500 cars left the capital.
From that day until Monday, there had been 402 traffic accidents throughout the country that caused 37 deaths, 67 serious injuries and 495 light injuries.
This represented a 16.6 per cent decrease in total traffic accidents and a 42.2 per cent decrease in fatalities relative to 2002, during which 64 people lost their lives, 78 were seriously injured and 565 suffered minor injuries in 482 road accidents during the Easter holiday break.
 N17 trial resumes after Easter but witnesses stay away
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)The ongoing trial of 19 suspected members of the terrorist group ''November 17'' resumed after a long break for Easter on Tuesday but only two of the 17 witnesses called to testify regarding the 1999 rocket attack on the German Ambassador's residence and a series of armed robberies attributed to the group were in court.
Among those who failed to appear was German diplomat Karl Heinz Kuna, who had been the target of the group's attack.
According to one of the two witnesses who was present, the people in the house at the time of the attack would have been in grave risk if the rocket had not fallen on the roof but hit lower down.
Defendant Savvas Xiros avoided saying that he had been injured in the attack but said that the rocket had hit ''exactly where we intended''.
None of the witnesses in the other cases were present and the court ordered that all those who were absent on Tuesday be brought in to testify by force. He called on witnesses to six incidents to be present at the proceedings on Wednesday.
Former Greek royals depart after spending Orthodox Easter in Greece Athens, 30/04/2004
The former Greek monarch Constantine, his wife Anna Maria and his son Nicholas departed from Thessaloniki airport on an Olympic Airways flight to London on Tuesday afternoon, after spending the Orthodox Easter in northwest Greece.
The ex-king, who was ousted out of the monarchy by a national referendum in 1974, was again traveling under the name 'de Grecia', under which he has been issued a Danish passport.
As on his arrival, the erstwhile royal avoided any political statements and confined himself to expressing his own and his family's satisfaction with their time in Greece.
He said he would soon be back but ruled out a new visit by May 21.
Some 50 supporters of the monarchy greeted Constantine on his arrival at the airport with a bouquet for Anna-Maria and a basket of traditional red Easter eggs and wine for Constantine and Nicholas.
Constantine's party had departed from Kalambaka, where they had stayed overnight, early on Tuesday and made a brief stop at Tempi to deposit flowers at the site where 21 teenage school students from Imathia had lost their lives in a tragic accident two weeks ago.
 Three men missing after Greek-owned vessel capsizes
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)Three foreign workers on board the Greek-owned fishing vessel "Poseidon" based in Halkida were missing since Tuesday morning after the 30-metre craft capsized for unknown reasons in waters off the coast of New Guinea.
The three men were part of a crew of 20 foreign nationals and one Greek ship's mechanic named Dimitris Kontrafouris.
According to ship-owner Stavros Manousos, who reported the accident to the merchant marine ministry, conditions at sea at the time were fair.
 ''Eurojust'' inauguratated at The Hague
THE HAGUE, 30/04/2003 (ANA)Europe’s single justice space, Eurojust, was inaugurated today at the Hague, in the presence of Greece’s Justice Minister Filippos Petsalnikos, representing the EU Presidency, EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino, European justice ministers and ambassadors from acceding countries.
The decision to create Eurojust was taken three an a half years ago (Oct. ‘99) in Tampere to improve cooperation among member-states in fighting organized cross-border crime.
Eurojust would have an important role to play in identifying deficiencies in the current arrangements for cross-border cooperation between investigating and prosecuting authorities.
Eurojust’s tasks would, among others, include the following types of crime: terrorism, human trade, drug dealing, electronic, economic and environmental crimes, counterfeiting, etc.
Commissioner Vitorino said in his address: “Enlargement represents a further challenge, for Eurojust as much as for the other institutions and bodies of the European Union. Today is indeed a special day because, scarcely a fortnight after the signature of the Accession Treaty, this event has brought together Ministers of Justice from the present and future Member States. I know that Eurojust has already started preparing for accession, notably by developing its links with contact points in the acceding states. We hope that these links will further intensify over the coming year, so that the national members from the acceding states will play their full part in Eurojust immediately upon accession on the 1st of May next year.”
He added “Euripides remarked that a bad beginning makes a bad ending. Eurojust has had an excellent beginning, which leaves me in no doubt about its future success.”
 Strong quake rocks Messini in the Peloponnese
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)A strong earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale with its epicentre very close to the town of Messini in Messinia prefecture was recorded 45 minutes after midnight on Tuesday morning by Thessaloniki University's Geophysics Laboratory.
An announcement said the epicentre of the quake was located 390 kilometres south southwest of Thessaloniki and 170 kilometres southwest of Athens.
 Interior minister signs new revised 'Xenokratis' emergency plan
Athens, 30/04/2003 (ANA)Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Costas Skandalidis on Tuesday signed the new revised ''Xenokratis'' emergency plan dealing with radiological, biological, chemical and nuclear threats, as well as issues concerning bio-terrorism.
The new civil protection plan has been adjusted to new conditions facing modern-day societies and has been enriched with the experiences of more advanced countries to enable the various agencies to respond effectively during emergencies.
For the first time the plan contains a detailed account of types of natural disasters and emergencies and instructions are provided for the planning and formation of special groups to handle such phenomena and for their training and equipping.
 National Council convenes to examine developments
NICOSIA, 30/04/2003 (CNA/ANA)The National Council convened on Tuesday and evaluated the situation that has emerged from the Turkish occupation regime easing the restrictions on the free movement of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Speaking after the meeting, which lasted four hours, government spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides said that the National Council, which is the top advisory body to the President on the Cyprus problem, reached assessments that will be announced on Wednesday, and reiterated that easing the restrictions was not a settlement.
He said the Council also discussed the government's policy regarding the Turkish Cypriots and the measures to support them, which will be discussed and decided on on Wednesday by the cabinet.
Asked whether the technical problems have been overcome regarding the announcement of the measures, Chrisostomides said, ''I believe so, some technical issues remain, which I hope by tomorrow will have been solved."
Replying to questions, the spokesman said the easing of restrictions ''does not constitute a solution of the Cyprus problem."
He added that ''the government's position, and that of the political leadership and the National Council in general, is the safeguarding of the free movement of all the legitimate inhabitants of Cyprus and the protection of all human rights throughout the Republic of Cyprus."
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Cox says crossings tantamount to people's revolution,
BRUSSELS, 30/04/2003 (CNA/ANA)The ''extraordinary events'' taking place over the past few days in Cyprus, with the Turkish occupation regime easing the restrictions on the freedom of movement of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to and from the occupied areas, is ''tantamount to a 'people's revolution','' President of the European Parliament Pat Cox has said.
Cox was speaking at the meeting of the President of the European Parliament and the Presidents of Parliaments of the Accession and candidate states in Brussels on Tuesday, during which the latest developments regarding the crossings in Cyprus were discussed.
''I take a great sense of inspiration from the people's leadership that we are currently witnessing in Cyprus,'' he said.
Cox added that ''the extraordinary events taking place, around the
more than 100,000 crossings, are tantamount to a 'people's revolution'''.
''The people have spoken loud enough to be heard in Brussels, and I hope, in other centers of authority. The people want a settlement and the people want a settlement now. I hope that the political class can find the wisdom and the serenity to meet the people's aspirations,'' he said.
 Meeting held to improve situation at checkpoints
NICOSIA, 30/04/2003 (CNA/ANA)A meeting was held on Tuesday afternoon at the Ledra Palace checkpoint in Nicosia, attended by Minister of the Interior Andreas Christou, Chief of Police Tasos Panayiotou, Police officers, and representatives of the Public Works Department, the Civil Defense and the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
The meeting, held at a newly renovated building at the Ledra Palace checkpoint, dealt with the potential of further improving the situation at the checkpoint and the new passage that opened today in Nicosia, after the Turkish occupation regime decided to ease the restrictions on the free movement of Greek and Turkish Cypriots last week.
Speaking after the meeting, Christou said ways to create better conditions for pedestrians and motorists crossing the divide were looked into at the meeting, adding that some of the measures examined were improving the roads, covering the area with canopies, creating better access, providing water to those coming and going, setting up a first aid unit, and installing lights so that the road could be used at night too.
Christou said the United Nations welcomed the idea of improving the conditions at the checkpoint and noted that arrangements should be made with the Turkish Cypriot side before anything further was done.
Panayiotou said Police and Customs units were placed at each checkpoint and that more units would be sent to the new passages to be opened, in order to combat smuggling, among other offences.
By 16:00 local time (13:00 GMT), about 4,500 Greek Cypriots had crossed into the Turkish occupied areas from the Ledra Palace checkpoint, and about 1,500 Turkish Cypriots into the government-controlled areas of the Republic.
On Tuersday, the Ministers of Defence, Kyriakos Mavronicolas, and Justice and Public Order, Doros Theodorou, visited the Ledra Palace checkpoint.
Mavronicolas said the government was interested in the situation at the checkpoint and noted that efforts were being made to solve problems, especially delays in crossing the divide.
He added that the Ministry of Defence was looking into the possibility of opening more passages.
Asked when Turkish Cypriots would be allowed to cross into the government-controlled areas of the Republic in their vehicles, Mavronicolas said the National Council and the cabinet would be convening and ''developments are expected in this and other issues, within the general policy of the government and the political leadership, so that the issue is tackled positively.''
Theodorou said that if the Turkish occupation regime means ''free movement,'' then it should stop insisting on procedures that are time-consuming, which do not serve any purpose ''apart from the illusion of recognition (of the illegal regime), which they do not have nor will they have.''
He said the situation was ''not at all pleasant'' at the checkpoint, noting that movement was slow and the people were being delayed for hours.
Theodorou said the government was doing everything it could to relieve the Greek Cypriots waiting to cross into the Turkish occupied areas and that efforts were being made to facilitate certain groups of people, that is the sick, the children and the elderly.