|Tuesday, 22 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-05-03
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 3, 2003
 Informal EU Council of Foreign Ministers examines Middle East and Iraq
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)The European Union's informal two-day Council of Foreign Ministers got under-way on the island of Rhodes on Friday, focusing primarily on the Middle East issue and the reconstruction of Iraq.
In a press conference jointly addressed by Foreign Minister and Council of Foreign Ministers President George Papandreou, European Union High Commissioner for Common Foreign and Defense Policy Javier Solana and Foreign Policy Com-missioner Chris Patten, the first meeting between the 25 foreign ministers was hailed and the Council's informal nature was stressed that does not allow for official decisions.
On the question of Iraq's reconstruction process, Papandreou spoke of two common positions in the EU's ranks concerning the next steps to be taken and the need for the UN to issue a mandate on the legalization of the transitional status in Baghdad.
''We gave Mr. Patten the green light to prepare the humanitarian aid issues and the role of the European Union in the effort for the reconstruction of Iraq,'' Papandreou said.
The foreign minister added that on the part of the ''25'' there is the intention of their charge d’Affaires' returning to Baghdad, while Solana has undertaken the processing and preparation of proposals on shaping European strategy in the region to enable them to be presented at the European summit in Thessaloniki.
Replying to a question on the political symbolism of the foreign ministers' visit to the city of Kas, on the Turkish coast, on Saturday, Papandreou referred to ''falling walls, just as we are seeing walls falling in Cyprus as well these days.''
''The Greek islands face Turkey. There was intense trade activity between the two sides once upon a time. This activity can start again. This symbolism will be promoted in particular with our visit tomorrow,'' he added.
Referring to the discussion on common European defense, Solana spoke of a ''very useful exercise'' that will help the EU which is not a military power.
''The moment is suitable for us to begin a process to enable us to ascertain how and what we can do in this sector and if we can also agree on a certain text,'' he said.
EU FMs examine return of diplomatic missions to Iraq: The European Union is examining the issue of the return of their diplomatic missions to Baghdad as one of the first steps the Union is considering following the war in Iraq.
Following the meetings of the European Union's foreign ministers' council in Rhodes on Friday, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who is presiding over the council, said, during a press conference, that the issue was tabled as an ''in principle relevant intention'' of the member-states.
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw spoke of ''consent within the European Union for the return of the European ambassadors to Baghdad as soon as possible''.
It was not clarified; however, whether for the return of the diplomats would require the precondition of a mandate by the United Nations recognizing the provisional administration of Iraq.
 EU FMs meet in Rhodes Greece, discuss Mideast 'road map' to peace
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)The European Union's Council of Foreign Ministers on Friday reiterated its commitment for the implementation of the ''road map'' to peace in the Middle East that was drafted by the ''quartet'' - the EU, the USA, the UN and Russia.
During the first day of their meetings in Rhodes, Greece, in the framework of the Greek EU presidency, the ministers discussed the issue and stressed the necessity for adherence to the ''road map'' to peace.
According to Greek EU presidency sources, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who is presiding over the meeting, called the ''map'' a ''historic moment'' for the European Union and noted that ''it proves the fact that the European Union does not only have deficits and failures in its foreign policy, but bright moments of success as well''.
Papandreou welcomed the appointment of Abu Mazen and that of his cabinet, while commenting on criticism over Yasser Arafat's meddling in the appointment process, he said that ''Arafat is a historic figure and a necessary player in the peace process. Any effort to downgrade him would damage the peace process itself''.
''The European Union is over and above dilemmas whether the Union should discuss with Arafat or not,'' Papandreou stressed.
On his part, European Union High Representative for Foreign and Defense Affairs Javier Solana said that ''Europe should now work to exploit the happy circumstance of the 'road map' and move on toward its implementation''.
''The European Union should exert pressure toward the Israelis, so as to accept the map without terms and conditions. The map is not subject to changes. At the same time the Palestinians, however, should work toward controlling the extremist groups,'' Solana said.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer requested that all tools at the disposal of the European Union be used so as to take advantage of the opportunity of the road map and so that the effort will not be undermined, stressing that if this issue is tabled for another time it would mean a strategic defeat.
On his part, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin noted the necessity for the economic support of the Palestinians in their effort to create infrastructure and asked that the new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority be supported.
The European Union's special envoy for the Middle East Miguel Moratinos, who is concluding his term in June, spoke of ''wrong impressions'' on the part of the Israelis concerning the European Union and its initiatives for the resolution of the Middle East problem and noted that the ''quartet is the only institution that can enforce the road map''.
 FM: Europe should develop external strategy as equal US partner
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country currently holds the European Union presidency, on Friday in statements ahead of the informal EU foreign ministers Council (Gymnich) on the islands of Rhodes and Kastellorizo over the weekend, said the meeting of the
''25'' could serve as a starting point for reinforcing a single EU voice on foreign policy issues.
He also said it could mark the beginning of ''more effective EU intervention'' in international affairs.
''Our aim is to have in-depth discussions over issues that have become most crucial for the future of the European Union, such as security, defense and transatlantic relations, and not be exhausted in discussions over the wording of a text'', Papandreou said, adding that the Greek presidency was opening this difficult dialogue as take-off for higher level discussions at the Thessaloniki Council in June, as well as during the visit of Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in Washington in June in his capacity as the European Council President.
The Greek foreign minister acknowledged that some concerns had been expressed on the US side regarding the initiative taken by France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg on a common European defense, but said he did not share such concerns, thus responding indirectly to commentaries in the foreign press that viewed Gymnich as an anti-NATO meeting.
Referring to discussions on the reconstruction of Iraq, Papandreou said this was a ''major issue that had surfaced a number of other, very significant, deeper issues that the EU will eventually be called on to tackle''.
''The EU should start developing its own external relations strategy as an equal partner with the US'', he added.
 Greek EU Presidency presents texts on Iraq and common EU defense policy
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Two informal texts, one dealing with European Union participation in Iraq’s reconstruction process and the other with the prospects for a Common European Security and Defense policy, prepared by the Greek EU Presidency, were presented on Friday to the informal EU General Affairs and External Relations Council taking place on the island of Rhodes, May 2-4.
The text relating to the EU’s participation in Iraq’s reconstruction, prepared jointly by the Presidency and the European Commission, reaffirms the Union’s intention to play a significant role in the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq.
It brings to the attention of the European Council some fundamental principles on maintaining that country’s territorial integrity and safeguarding a legal transitional government on the basis of international law.
The possible EU actions as recorded by the Presidency and the Commission include humanitarian aid, the day after lifting sanctions on Iraq, a likely dispatch of an EU delegation in the region to safeguard stability, dialogue with international financial institutions to settle Iraq’s debts and the return of EU member-states’ diplomatic missions to Baghdad.
The text points to the extensive experience gained by the EU in dealing with similar crises in the past, such as in Kosovo, Afghanistan, etc., and underlines that the Union believes it can contribute significantly to a speedy restoration of stability in the Iraq region.
With regard to the wider region of the Middle East, the Commission and Presidency believe that the Union should utilize its ties to safeguard progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by implementing the so-called ''Road Map'', as well as to help Syria and Iran strengthen their relations with Europe and promote dialogue with Turkey on common interest points in the Middle East – given the good relations existing between Ankara and Israel.
''Turkey could also assist in the peace process in Israel, as well as in safeguarding Iraq’s territorial integrity,'' says the text.
The second text presented by the EU Presidency is essentially a composition of the views held by EU member-states on the priorities of a security and external relations policy.
Such priorities relate to ''further developing a European Security and Defense Policy,'' safeguarding and making full use of EU-NATO cooperation, as well as EU foreign policy affairs in the Middle East, western Balkans, the Mediterranean, Russia, etc.
It also refers to the role of the United Nations and to the need to protect and further strengthen that role with regard to the efforts for international peace and stability and Euro-Atlantic relations, through developing dialogue and promoting a balanced relation based on common principles.
 EU presidency, executive make joint proposal for EU-Turkey dialogue
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)The European Commission and the Greek EU presidency on Friday made a joint proposal for the development of political dialogue between the European Union and Turkey focusing on the mutual interests of the two sides in the Middle East vis-a-vis the preservation of Iraqi borders and a solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute.
In an informal text presented at the EU foreign ministers' informal council, that on Friday launched its two-day meeting in Rhodes, the Commission and the Greek presidency proposed further ''development of the political dialogue with Turkey regarding common interests in the Middle East region, taking under consideration, among others, the good relations between Turkey and Israel, and involving Ankara in EU efforts toward an end to the Arab-Israeli dispute''.
The EU could also intensify dialogue with Turkey regarding the preservation of the Iraqi borders, the text said, which constitutes''food for thought'' for the meeting of the 25 European foreign ministers participating in the Rhodes meeting and a possible framework for the European Council in Thessaloniki in June.
 EU-Japan summit concludes in Athens
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)The 12th EU-Japan summit meeting opened Friday in Athens, attended by Greek prime minister and current European Union chairman Costas Simitis, visiting Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, European Commission president Romano Prodi, and EU External Affairs commissioner Chris Patten.
Koizumi arrived in Athens on Thursday and attended a working dinner hosted by Simitis, with whom he held a private meeting on Friday. He will also be received later in the day by President Costis Stephanopoulos.
A joint communique said that the EU-Japan ''strategic cooperation'' was discussed, as well as the situation in the Korean peninsula, which the statement said caused concern of wider repercussions in the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
The two sides further discussed developments in Iraq, on which the need for strengthening international solidarity was stressed in the communique, as well as the Middle East issue, on which the joint statement underlined that the Quartet's Roadmap needed to be implemented without delay.
Other topics discussed included the European prospect of the western Balkans, the need for a Cyprus solution via negotiations on the basis of UN secretary general Kofi Annan's plan, the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and the situations in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and China.
The two sides also discussed the content of a draft agreement for cooperation in non-competitive activities.
Replying to press questions, Koizumi referred to the recession in the Japanese economy following the 'Japanese miracle' of the 1980s, which he attributed partially to the repercussions of globalization but also to the need for modernization of the economic system in his country which dates back to the end of WWII.
Koizumi said that Japan had commenced structural reforms, introduced fiscal tools and put forward tax reforms, adding that he placed particular importance on privatizations. "But time is needed for improvement of our performance," he noted.
Prodi spoke of the "technological fatigue" in Japan, adding that the EU dialogue with that country aimed at reversing the "phenomenon of recession" as well as averting its spread to the EU.
In that direction, the EU was advancing the Lisbon strategy, Prodi added.
Responding to questions on the developments in North Korea, Simitis warned that the danger arising was not of a local nature. The prospective production of weapons of mass destruction was not the only problem, he explained, noting that acts incompatible with international law have been taking place in the region for the past 50 years.
"The EU does not want conflicts. It wants peace and respect of international law, and in that framework we shall seek a solution through a multilateral dialogue," Simitis said, adding that the "interests of the entire region" needed to be taken into consideration.
 EU Commission welcomes Cyprus government measures for Turkish Cypriots
BRUSSELS 03/05/2003 (ANA - V. Demiris)The European Commission on Friday welcomed a package of measures announced by the government of the Republic of Cyprus for the island republic's Turkish Cypriot community.
Speaking to reporters at the regular press briefing, a spokesman for Enlargement Commissioner Günter Ferhaugen said the Commission welcomed any action that aimed at the reunification of the island and rapprochement of the two communities in Cyprus, adding that the EU remained steadfast over its objective for accession of a unified Cyprus to the Union.
The spokesman said that pursuant to the decision of the Copenhagen Council, the Commission on May 21 would present a package of measures for the economic convergence of the occupied part of Cyprus, along with financial assistance to the tune of 15 million euros.
 Greek minister Venizelos on latest Cyprus developments
NICOSIA 03/05/2003 (ANA - G. Leonidas)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos received visiting Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos here on Friday, as the latter arrived on the island republic to participate in the second international conference of civilizations and religions.
“I had a long and every interesting conversation with the president of the Cyprus Republic in light of the new situation that has been created on the island over the last few days,” Venizelos said, adding:
“The Cyprus issue, as a political problem, has unfortunately not been solved, continues to be an open problem that is faced by the United Nations and the European Union, because it involves a member-state that will be fully included in the Union.
“Therefore, this is the framework in which we are moving. We are not downgrading anything, we are taking into consideration everything and that is why it is very significant for us to see what the political result from the latest events will be,” he added.
The Greek minister later visited the Ledra Palace checkpoint that separates Nicosia into the government-controlled sector from the Turkish-occupied part of the Cypriot capital.
''The Nicosia wall opened, but did not fall,'' was his statement.
 Justice minister Petsalnikos meets Hungarian, Slovenian counterparts
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos concluded on Friday in Athens a series of contacts with his European Union counterparts, in his capacity as EU Justice Ministers Council president-in-office.
In his last day of such contacts, Petsalnikos met in Athens on Friday with his Hungarian counterpart Peter Barandy, who underlined that the enlargement of the European Union was a major success of the Greek Presidency.
Barandy also referred to the changes that should be made to his country’s justice system to adjust to EU decisions.
Petsalnikos stressed that “participation in the EU does not mean losing national sovereignty,” saying that “the European family has proved that through continuous dialogue can identify commonly approved solutions.”
The two ministers agreed to work on furthering cooperation between their respective countries, not only on ministerial level, but also on judicial authorities’ level.
Petsalnikos accepted an invitation by Barandy to visit Hungary.
Also on Friday, the Greek justice minister had a meeting with his Slovenian counterpart Ivan Bizjak, who thanked the Greek EU Presidency for having assisted in completing Slovenia’s accession to the European Union.
Petsalnikos and Bizjak exchanged views on the issues to be on the agenda of the EU Justice Ministers Council in Brussels on May 8, to be presided over by the Greek minister. Slovenia will officially take part in the Council for the first time, along with the remaining nine acceding countries.
 EU environment ministers to meet for talks on May 2-3
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)The environment, the future of Europe and the management of transnational waters within the framework of regional cooperation on environmental issues in Southeastern Europe will be the center of discussions at the informal EU Environment Ministers Council on Friday and Saturday at the southern Attica coastal resort area of Lagonissi.
The conference is expected to be carried out in the midst of protests staged by environmental organizations who will march to Lagonissi on Saturday to protest what they call the absence of discussions over the essential European environmental issues from the Council's agenda.
The Greek EU presidency, through Environment Minister Vasso Papandreou, will seek an exchange of views on how the enlarged EU can acknowledge sustainable growth and the integration principle as one of its key objectives, to ensure a qualitative and healthy environment.
The informal Council, which will be also attended by the environment ministers of the Balkan states, will provide a forum for the exchange of views and experiences with regard to the importance of regional cooperation in the Balkans.
 Karamanlis to depart for Brussels for EPP meeting
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Monday will depart for Brussels to participate in the European Peoples' Party (EPP) presidium meeting and the ceremony welcoming the new members to the Europarliament.
On Thursday, Karamanlis will depart from Brussels for Vienna, where he will meet with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel.
 Minister of State sues 'Avriani', Kouris for slander
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Minister of State Stefanos Manikas, the target of allegations by the newspaper ''Avriani'', on Friday said he intended to sue the paper for slander over its latest front-page article, which he claimed was an indirect but unmistakable reference to him.
Under the headline ''Another minister lived for six years in villa with pool owned by public-sector contractor,'' Friday's front-page article in 'Avriani' called on the Premier Costas Simitis to investigate the residential arrangements of an unnamed minister renting his house from an offshore company identified as National Shelq SA.
The paper said it had received information that ''another minister from the notorious group of 'captains' around whom all the conmen in the country have gathered and are stealing, has been living for six years in a villa with a pool belonging to a state supplier that is in Alimos.''
Slamming the article as ''brazen lies'' and ''Avriani'' owner George Kouris as a ''systematic slanderer and distorter of reality,'' Manikas said he would be presenting evidence that clearly showed the truth.
The minister said he had rented a 121-square-metre flat in an apartment building between 1998 and 2001 from the company National Shield SA and had submitted a copy of the lease with the tax office, as well as declaring the rent in his tax statement and 'statement of means' declaration.
He said he was now living in a flat in Voula, whose lease and necessary documents were all properly declared.
Manikas had earlier been accused by the paper of making illegal gains on the stock market through insider trading.
Meanwhile, slander charges were filed against Kouris, ''Avriani'' chief editor Georgios Tsiroyiannis and former Altec employee Lili Xynarianou on Friday by a primary court prosecutor, in response to a suit filed by Press Minister Christos Protopapas the previous week. The suit concerned an article in the paper alleging that Protopapas' election campaign had been illegally funded by businessman Thanassis Athanasoulis.
 Coalition leader says gov't has exhausted its momentum, has mind on elections
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) party leader Nikos Constantopoulos on Friday assessed that the government has exhausted its momentum ''and no one can await serious initiatives for a change to the existing situation.''
According to Constantopoulos, henceforth the ruling PASOK party and government will only concern itself with electoral approaches, adding that after the end of the Greek EU Presidency ''we are clearly entering an election period.''
''The time of the elections will be chosen by the prime minister with the sole criterion of the interest of PASOK. Therefore elections can be held at any time from June onwards,'' he said.
Constantopoulos, who was speaking at the start of a two-day meeting of his party's Central Political Committee, said that in statements Prime Minister Costas Simitis made on Thursday, ''he attempted to reverse the unfavorable political climate for the government,'' but that the premier's statements ''were not convincing and thus ineffective.''
The Coalition leader further said Simitis ''has been ruling the country for 8 years already and was obliged to having proceeded in advancing measures for the institutional protection of the political system. However, he did not do this.''
 Protest over environmental impact of war during EU ministers' meeting
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)A protest rally over the impact of war on the environment will take place on Saturday in Varkiza, organized by the Genova 2000 Initiative and the European Social Forum, to coincide with an informal meeting of EU environment ministers in Athens.
The protest will condemn the actions of the major powers that cause pollution of the environment during a war because of bombing and its impact on future generations.
 New public order deputy minister named
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Ruling PASOK party deputy for Pieria Pantelis Tsertikidis had been named the new deputy minister of public order, replacing Evangelos Malesios who resigned in mid-April, it was announced on Friday.
The 46-year-old Tsertikidis, an architect/engineer, was first elected to parliament in 1993 on the PASOK ticket.
Malesios resigned on April 15 after the Athens newspaper ''Avriani'' ran a front-page article alleging a possible link between the deputy minister and one of the two owners of the company Altec, currently under investigation for alleged stock market fraud.
According to the newspaper, Malesios has been living rent-free in a Melissia villa owned by Altec boss Thanassis Athanasoulis, whose company was a participant in the consortium that recently received the prized security contract for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The newspaper implied that the free home was repayment for alleged assistance by Malesios in landing the contract.
 Greek EU presidency: the promotion of a common EU tourist policy is key target
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Speaking at a news conference ahead of an informal tourism council to be held on Monday and Tuesday at Aghia Pelaghia, Crete, Greek Development Minister Tsohatzopoulos stressed there were signs that tourist demand was beginning to move smoothly, although with regional fluctuations.
Tsohatzopoulos, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, noted that the Greek presidency's main target was to promote a common tourist policy in the European Union, in promotion and communication levels, at a period when its share in the global tourism market has fallen by 10 percent in the last five years.
 Greek tourism to improve this year, Development minister
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Greek tourism will improve in the following months overcoming any losses suffered in the March-April period because of the war in Iraq, Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters, during a news conference ahead of an Informal EU Tourism Council to be held next Monday and Tuesday in Aghia Pelaghia, Crete, Mr Tsohatzopoulos stressed there were signs that tourist demand was beginning to move smoothly, although with regional fluctuations. "We are optimistic that this year will be good," the Greek minister said.
Mr Tsohatzopoulos noted that the Greek EU Presidency's main target was to promote a common tourist policy in the European Union, in promotion and communication levels, at a period when its share in the global tourism market has fallen by 10 percent in the last five years.
 Main opposition seeks off-the-agenda debate on economy
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis on Friday officially requested an off-the-agenda debate in Parliament about the economy in a letter to Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis.
"It is already a commonly-held conviction that the country's economy has come to a worrying pass and is on a steadily declining course," he said in the letter.
Karamanlis stressed the "highly indicative contrast between the shortfall of revenue and the great increase in spending during the first three months of the current year," saying that the revenues had increased just 2.5 per cent instead of an initial target of 5.1 per cent, while spending in relation to the previous year had increased by 25.2 per cent instead of an initial target of 6 per cent.
 Greece seeks EU financial support for natural disasters
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Greece has applied with the EU's solidarity fund for financial support to deal with the serious impact on the country's natural habitat and on the economy of severe weather conditions prevailed in the first quarter of 2003, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Friday.
The Greek minister said he had sent a letter to the European Commission seeking approval of a request for financial support, noting that repairing damages would need significant funds from the state budget, estimated around 300 million euros.
The Greek government is seeking the EU's solidarity fund to cover 50 percent of these funds.
Greece was hit by a large scale natural disaster in the January-March period, with island regions mainly suffering the most damages in their infrastructure (road networks, harbors, water systems, etc).
 ASE breaks above 1,700 level on Friday
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks ended sharply higher on Friday reflecting increased buying activity for blue chip stocks in the Athens Stock Exchange. The general index soared 1.73 percent to end at 1,720.75 points with turnover an improved 105.5 million euros. The index is recording gains of more than 15 percent since March 31, 2003.
National Bank led the market higher, with its share price ending 6.05 percent up.
The IT Solutions (7.68 percent), Insurance (6.37 percent), Retail (5.89 percent), Publications (4.21 percent) and Banks (3.86 percent) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 2.22 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 1.84 percent higher, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index jumped 2.07 percent, while the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index rose 2.14 percent.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 268 to 51 with another 43 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 81.5 mln euros Friday
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers out-match sellers on Friday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
Closing rates of May 2 2003
Parities in euro
For. Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,132 1,107
 Witnesses identify N17 suspects as culprits in bank robberies
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)A number of the 19 defendants on trial as suspected members of the terrorist group November 17 were identified with varying degrees of certitude by eye-witnesses on Friday as participants in bank robberies attributed to the terror organization.
First on the stand on Friday morning was the manager of the Ergasias bank branch in Peristeri, Nikos Mantas, who said he was absolutely certain that Christodoulos Xiros had been the man with a Walkman he had seen frequenting the bank who had coordinated the robbery.
He was considerably less certain about the identity of the man holding the automatic weapon that had ordered the bank's deputy manager to open the safe, giving only a 40-45 per cent possibility that this was Dimitris Koufodinas, alleged operations chief for the terror group.
Bank clerk Alkiviadis Vehlidis, however, was absolutely certain that Koufodinas was the man who had shot him in cold blood during a robbery at the National Bank of Greece branch in Pangrati in December 1998, wounding him in the leg.
He testified that a tall man wearing a hood had then taken the loot, which came to more than 100 million drachmas.
Koufodinas questioned the man's testimony, noting that the witness had described him as he looked now, even though the bank where the robbery took place was very near the Damareos Street safe house used by the group.
''Does the court believe I would risk this...without changing my appearance. You have to decide what we were: operationally competent or incompetent,'' he said.
Another bank clerk, Georgios Aspradakis, also positively identified Koufodinas as one of the four men he had seen casing an Ergasias Bank branch in Patissia two days before it was robbed.
He gave a 50 per cent possibility that one of the four men had been Vassilis Tzortzatos but was unable to positively identify Kostas Karatsolis who also stands accused of the same robbery, despite having named him in his testimony during the pre-trial investigation.
Of the defendants accused in connection with the specific robbery only Kostas Telios admitted to taking part, while Xiros, Tzortzatos and Karatsolis denied all involvement.
The prosecutor on the bench also asked Thomas Serifis whether he had taken part in the Peristeri bank robbery in July 1990 but he said he would respond in his address to the court.
According to presiding judge Mihalis Margaritis, however, a degree of connection between the group and the bank robberies attributed to it had already been established through Wednesday's statement in court by Savvas Xiros, who confessed to taking part in the robbery on an OTE security van in Piraeus and denied that his younger brother Vassilis had been involved.
Last on the stand was American Express employee Fotis Maragdoulis, who said he had seen a couple photographing the bank branch on Panepistimiou street two or three days before a bomb was set in the bank in 1991. He was unable to identify any of the prisoners in the dock as the couple he had seen, however.
The trial ended with the reading of documents regarding explosions in Ekali and a bomb attack on the company Proctor and Gamble.
It resumes on Monday with testimony regarding the murder of British military attache Brigadier Stephen Saunders, whose widow Heather is expected to appear in court to testify.
 Palacio’s response touches on Greek road safety
BRUSSELS 03/05/2003 (ANA – Y. Zitouniati)New Democracy (ND) Euro-Deputy Antonis Trakatellis cited a response by European Union Commissioner Loyola De Palacios this week as pointing to responsibilities, as he said, by the Greek government over transports and road safety in the country.
Trakatellis, a noted medical researcher and former university rector in his native Thessaloniki, tabled a question to Palacios, whose portfolio includes transports, following two bus accidents in northern Greece over the past few months, the latter of which cost the life of 21 high school pupils.
According to a press release by Trakatellis’ office here, the answer is damning as far as the “frequency and adherence to foreseen Community regulations.”
The press release also mentions work conditions for truck and coach drivers, insufficient use of seat belts as well as the regime of issuing professional driving licenses in Greece as the main elements, along with poor national road conditions, causing such accidents.
 Greek-owned ship sinks in collision with Spanish freighter, crew safe
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)The Greek-owned ship "Junior M", registered under a Malta flag, sank in the early hours of Friday morning after colliding with a Spanish freighter in the Black Sea.
Its crew of 17 foreign nationals and three Greeks were all retrieved safe and sound after the collision.
The causes of the collision have not yet been ascertained, while the force of the impact breached the hull of the Greek-owned vessel, which began to take on water, and also inflicted severe damage on the Spanish-flagged ship.
The "Junior M" had a gross tonnage of 13,000 gt and had sailed with from a Ukraine port laden with wheat bound for Turkey.
 Press minister issues statement in light of int'l press day
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Press and Media Minister Christos Protopapas on Friday issued a press release in light of Saturday's International Freedom of the Press Day, stressing that ''on May 3rd we are not only celebrating the freedom of the press but democracy itself''.
''We are celebrating the rejection of every kind of censorship and forced compliance, methods that undermine democracy and turn against society. Methods that withhold the right of man to state his thoughts and opinions, ideas and feelings. The right to feel free,'' he said.
''That is so because free men and democratic conscience are formulated only in free societies, where the press, both printed and electronic are not subject to unacceptable limitations, commitments and threats,'' Protopapas said.
 ND leader Karamanlis tours Cephalonia, Ithaki
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis on Friday began a two-day tour of the Ionian islands of Cephalonia and Ithaki for talks with local officials and social partners.
Speaking at a meeting with social partners in Cephalonia on Friday, Karamanlis accused the government of state inefficiency, the lack of a social state and for weakness to control vested interests and corruption.
''The much-advertised 'social state' does not appear anywhere,'' he said, adding that ''the social funds do not reach those who are in need.''
Karamanlis further underlined that ND was preparing an integrated Action Plan against Corruption.
The ND leader also referred to his party's economic policy, underlining that ''our basic aim is to strengthen competitiveness.''
 Journalists Union says Iraq war, war on terrorism created new dangers
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)The Athens Journalists Union (ESHEA), in an announcement on Friday on the occasion of World Press Day on Saturday, said the attack on Iraq and the so-called war against terrorism which followed the events of September 11, 2001, have created new uncertainties and dangers.
''In the place of expectations for peace, even more military conflicts are breaking out. It is being ascertained internationally that journalists become the targets of violence and attacks while exercising their profession,'' the announcement said.
It further noted that the International Federation of Journalists report for 2002 registers 70 fatalities among journalists, while 2003 was marked by the murders of 12 more journalists who were lost in the Iraq war. This fact shows the danger facing journalists while they perform their function.
''At the same time, the future of journalism and of working people is being dealt a blow by the consequences of globalization in the information sector, due to the concentration of ownership and the creation of global media networks. Various pressures exerted on journalists while they exercise their profession are increasing,'' it was added.
Referring to conditions prevailing in Greece in the media sector, the announcement said ''Greek journalists already have a rich negative experience from this new world order being created in the information sector. Dismissals, the attack on income, problems in labor relations, in the implementation of collective agreements and phenomena of vested interests and dependencies are the crude reality thousands of journalists are facing in our country every day.''
 Verelis speaks at information society conference
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)The estimation that European and thus Greek citizens would soon be able to have access to all kinds of information that would facilitate a better daily life was voiced by Greek Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis during a conference organized in Athens by the Greek EU Presidency on the “Society of Information”. The conference was attended by the responsible EU ministers, as well as by minister from southern-eastern European countries and EU Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society Erkki Liikanen.
Verelis said one of the targets of the information society was to eliminate long queues in public services, as well as providing all the required technology for easy and quick search of information required by citizens.
The minister also stressed the need to create an Observatory for electronic governance, whose fundamental tool would be a revised framework for evaluation of related actions of the Europe.
Participating ministers welcomed the progress that has been achieved as a result of joint efforts by the ten acceding countries – which last month signed their accession treaties in Athens – and by countries at the state of accession negations with the EU.
 PM to address 29th COSAC Conference in Athens on Monday
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Public Order Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis will address the 29th Conference of the European Affairs Committees of the national Parliaments of European Union member-states, the candidate countries and the European Parliament (COSAC), which will be held in Athens on May 5 and 6, the Greek Parliament press office announced on Friday.
Greek Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis will deliver the opening speech on Monday, immediately following the formal reception of the foreign delegations by the Chairman of the Parliament's Committee for European Affairs Dinos Vrettos, the announcement said.
Greece is currently holding the rotating six-month EU presidency.
 European Day cultural events to be held in Athens on 8,9 May
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)Young people from European Union member states and candidate countries on 8 May will meet in Athens to celebrate European Day with a two-day cultural event organized by the Athens-Piraeus Prefect and the European Commission representation in Athens, with the participation of artists from most European countries. Cyprus will participate with its national symphonic orchestra, while the closing notes at the events will be provided by popular Greek singer Giorgos Dalaras.
 Greek warship replaces sister ship in NATO flotilla
Athens, 03/05/2003 (ANA)The Hellenic Navy general staff announced on Friday that the frigate “Bouboulina” has arrived in Cartagena, Spain to replace the frigate “Elli” in NATO’s Standing Naval Force Mediterranean (SNFM), which patrols the Mediterranean as part of the “Active Endeavor” operation.
 FM Iacovou says Europeans dismiss Denktash's positions
NICOSIA , 03/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou said on Friday that European counterparts of his dismiss as unfounded the positions expressed by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots cannot live peacefully together.
Iacovou told CNA from Rhodes, where he is participating in the Informal Council of Foreign Ministers of the 25 EU members, that his European counterparts showed great interest in the situation after the government announced a package of measures to support Turkish Cypriots.
He said he briefed the European foreign ministers on the situation after the Turkish occupation regime decided last week to ease the restrictions on the free movement of Greek and Turkish Cypriots on the island, saying that he presented Turkey's motives in their true colors.
''What the European ministers noted was that the lies of Denktash in the past that Greek and Turkish Cypriots cannot live together are totally unfounded arguments," Iacovou said, adding that ''everyone has realized this."
Iacovou said that during the first day of the session in Rhodes, the ministers discussed the Middle East and the post-war situation in Iraq.
He added that after the signing of its Accession Treaty with the EU last month, Cyprus participates actively in all EU institutions.
 Government says Turkish side following developments
NICOSIA, 03/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides said on Friday that Ankara and the Turkish occupation regime in Cyprus were following developments, not preceding them, noting that the regime was falling apart.
Chrisostomides said the stance Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is maintaining regarding the measures announced by the government to support Turkish Cypriots was of no importance, adding that the measures were for the benefit of the Turkish Cypriots. The spokesman said the occupation regime and Turkey were ''following, not preceding'' developments, noting that the easing of restrictions on the free movement of citizens, decided by the regime last week, followed the collapse of the peace talks at The Hague and the signing of Cyprus' Accession Treaty with the EU.
He noted that the Turkish Cypriots are ignoring the occupation regime, are coming in thousands to the free areas of the Republic and are applying for passports and certificates.
''This indicates to a great degree the procedure of the collapse of the regime,'' he stressed. Chrisostomides said the government with its measures is undertaking a serious initiative for cooperation with the Turkish Cypriots.
He said the EU asked to meet with government officials to discuss some fine details and that the meeting would take place early this month in Brussels.
Invited to comment on Denktash's reaction to the measures, the spokesman said the Turkish Cypriot leader was ''speaking in the same tone as he was 29 years ago,'' when Turkey invaded and occupied the island's northern third.
''The examination of the measures by Denktash is of no importance, the measures are offered by the Cypriot government for the benefit of the Turkish Cypriots personally, what Denktash says about the measures is of no interest to us,'' Chrisostomides said. Denktash had said that the measures were announced to overshadow his initiative to ease the restrictions on free movement, and that the measures degrade the Turkish Cypriots to a minority.
 Government brands 'arrests' of Greek Cypriots in occupied areas 'illegal'
NICOSIA, 03/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)The illegal arrest of Greek Cypriots by the occupation regime shows that it still prevents movement, Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides said here on Friday.
The regime illegally arrested a total of 21 Greek Cypriots, according to the Turkish Cypriot press. Eighteen of the Greek Cypriots are being held because they crossed to the occupied north from an area other than a Turkish Cypriot control point and another three because they allegedly tried to ''steal'' the bell of their occupied church in Spatharico village. The church bell was in a storage area while the church has been turned into a mosque.
Spokesman Chrisostomides said all necessary representations are being made while President Tassos Papadopoulos has shown personal interest to free the Greek Cypriots ''detained'' by the Denktash regime.
Chrisostomides referred to the ''arrest'' of the Greek Cypriots who wanted to take with them the abandoned church bell at the church in Spatharico village. The Greek Cypriots were in the occupied areas with their permits but were ''detained'' when they returned to the Turkish Cypriot control point.
''This shows how bewildered the occupation regime is towards the peaceful exchange of visits by Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots,'' he added.
''We consider these arrests illegal and all necessary representations were made and the President of the Republic has shown personal interest to free the 'arrested' Greek Cypriots,'' Chrisostomides said.
He called on all Greek Cypriots to be extra careful during their movement in the occupied areas not just because of the possible ''arrests'' but also because of the existence of landmines and other dangers, which might undermine their personal safety.
 Spokesman says Turkey's latest move merely machinations
NICOSIA , 03/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides dismissed as machinations Turkey's new approach regarding the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decision in the Titina Loizidou case.
The spokesman told reporters here Friday the decision was final and must be implemented, and stressed that there was no way the appeals made by Greek Cypriots against Turkey would be withdrawn, unless the interested parties themselves decided to withdraw their appeals.
'' All Turkey's proposals conflict with the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights. The decision in the Loizidou case is final and must be implemented,'' he said.
Regarding the appeals pending and those that may still be brought against Turkey, Chrisostomides said ''there is no way for them to be withdrawn, they will follow their course,'' as long as the Court judges that these appeals are acceptable and the case should be heard before the ECHR.
He said ''Turkey wants to avoid its responsibilities, wants to provoke the withdrawal of appeals pending and wants to give the impression that home court procedures should be exhausted before someone can appeal to ECHR.''
Chrisostomides described Turkey's positions as ''machinations that do not respond to the legal framework in which ECHR moves''.
According to the Turkish Cypriot press, Ankara suggested the creation of a special court on the island to hear the grievances of Greek Cypriots against Turkey regarding their property.