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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-05-07

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

May 7, 2003


  • [01] Greek economic growth exceeds target in 1st quarter
  • [02] Future of Europe, migration policy discussed by Greek, Estonian PMs
  • [03] Patriarch, Greek FM comment on latest Cyprus developments
  • [04] Erdogan will not announce gradual withdrawal of troops from Cyprus during visit
  • [05] Head of EU delegation in Cyprus denies press reports over Famagusta port
  • [06] FM says water resources management and environment issues political ones
  • [07] Greek EU presidency - informal ministerial council meetings
  • [08] COSAC meeting concludes in Athens
  • [09] Croatia's EU prospects discussed
  • [10] Acting gov't spokesman again points to spring for elections
  • [11] EU disappointed over upholding of conviction of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim
  • [12] Main parties avoid reaction to book claiming ND links to big business
  • [13] Neonakis slams Kouris for 'conscious lies' in 'Avriani' report
  • [14] Government in talks with Schiesser over Athens factory closure
  • [15] Evert revives allegations of stock market fraud prior to 2000 polls
  • [16] OTE leads Greek stocks higher on Tuesday
  • [17] EU conference lays foundations for common tourism policy
  • [18] Philip Morris Holland buys 75 pct in Papastratos
  • [19] Environment rules hamper mining firms, trade group says
  • [20] Palacio warning over new toll rates cited
  • [21] EU Council of Health Ministers hold emergency meeting on SARS
  • [22] N17 trial continues with Saunders case, Vyronas police station raid
  • [23] Suspected terrorists present plea to additional charges
  • [24] Archbishop of Greece closes conference on Europe's values in Athens
  • [25] EU Council of Culture Ministers proclaims Patra Cultural Capital of Europe 2006
  • [26] EU sports ministers to meet in Athens on Thursday, Friday
  • [27] Advancement in EU-U.S. negotiations over judicial cooperation detected
  • [28] Greek aid convoy attacked in Iraq safely reaches Baghdad, no injuries
  • [29] Greek Church affiliated NGO distributes humanitarian aid in Iraq
  • [30] EU culture ministers express concern over destruction of Iraqi monuments
  • [31] Trans-European rail networks the focus of conference in Brussels
  • [32] Athens mayor declares May 7 'AIDS Orphans Day'
  • [33] Commission says developments not substitute for settlement
  • [34] President Papadopoulos says developments not even near solution
  • [35] Relatives urge Greece to place issue of missing before EU

  • [01] Greek economic growth exceeds target in 1st quarter

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    Greek economic growth exceeded budget targets in the first quarter of 2003 and was in course to achieve a 3.8 percent growth rate set by the country's stability program, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Tuesday.

    The Greek minister said he expected the inflation rate to fall in April and in the months ahead and stressed that "the economy will be the country's strong point".

    Mr Christodoulakis predicted a smoother implementation of the state budget in the next months, with reduced spending, although he did not exclude more spending hikes. Ordinary budget revenues were growing 11.5 percent in the first quarter of the year, two-and-a-half times more than a 5.0 percent growth rate envisaged by the state budget, he noted.

    Mr Christodoulakis said that the government would promote initiatives to ensure that a Schiesser - a Swiss company - underwear manufacturing factory would continue its operations despite a decision by the Swiss owners to close down the factory. He added that the government was examining its policies in the textile industry, a sector hit after the deregulation of the global market in 1999.

    Mr Christodoulakis said that the government would begin payment of its 2003 incomes policy to civil servants and pensioners on May 25.

    Finance ministry sources said that the government would proceed with a new issue of so-called "popular" state bonds aimed for small depositors, offering a 3.6 percent interest rate.

    The Greek minister said that global and Greek economic prospects were positive after the end of a war in Iraq helped lift any geopolitical uncertainties. He stressed, however, that the Greek government would not be contend with the situation and that it would seek speedier implementation of its economic policy.

    He announced changes in funding procedures for local governments, a new regulatory framework covering tax inspections and submitting to parliament a new draft bill envisaging a more efficient control of state spending.

    Commenting on a series of tax inspections, currently held on listed companies, Mr Christodoulakis said that ASE chairman, Panagiotis Alexakis has asked for a complete tax inspection of 77 listed Greek companies.

    [02] Future of Europe, migration policy discussed by Greek, Estonian PMs

    Tallinn 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis, the EU president-in-office, began his tour of the Baltic countries here on Tuesday, where he was welcomed by his Estonian counterpart Juhan Parts.

    Estonia is the fifth stop on the Greek prime minister’s tour of all 24 EU member-states and acceding-states’ capitals following last month’s informal Athens summit, and in light of next month’s official EU summit in Thessaloniki.

    In a joint press conference afterwards, Parts said the results of the Convention for the Future of Europe as well as the development of a common European migration policy along with efforts to stem the tide of illegal immigration. Additionally, he said a common EU security and foreign policy, slowly dominating the Union’s agenda of late, was also discussed.

    “Moreover, other issues that we will deal with are those of international policy in tandem with the European Union’s foreign policy, the issue of Iraq, the Middle East and if steps have been made towards the implementation of a road map, because we believe it is necessary to have peace in the Mideast,” Simitis said in his comments to reporters.

    The Greek prime minister said French statesman Giscard d’ Estaing will present the draft for a new European convention at the Summit, and “we will make a decision on how this will be discussed by the member-states, when this will start and when such a discussion will end.”

    Finally, in response to a question, Simitis said tended to favor a one-year EU presidential term instead of the current six-month term, saying that continuity is lost by only a half-year presidency, although he cautioned against a lengthier term.

    “We will consider these issues at the Intergovernmental Conference. However, the current system does not aid in dealing with modern and major problems,” he added.

    [03] Patriarch, Greek FM comment on latest Cyprus developments

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    The increasingly high-profile issue of viable development throughout the world, and especially the concept’s water resources parameter, was the focus of an international conference that began here on Tuesday, with participants including Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos and Foreign Minister George Papandreou.

    Entitled “Viable Development for a Continuing Peace: Common water resources; a common future and a common knowledge”, both men touched on the “common aspect” to cite the recent developments on Cyprus following the free movement peoples on both sides of Europe’s only remaining divided line.

    “The citizens of Cyprus turned into action what for years was not occurring, and I hope Mr. (T/C leader Rauf) Denktash gets the message from the dynamic that is being developed so that a solution to the Cyprus problem can be found,” Papandreou said on the sidelines of the conference at a seaside resort southeast of Athens.

    “The differences, the walls, the green lines, whatever you choose to call them, bring only despair and impasses,” he added.

    On his part, Vartholomeos, whose Ecumenical Patriarchical throne is located in Istanbul, Turkey, noted that his past efforts at Greek-Turkish rapprochement were often misconstrued in the past.

    “However, these developments vindicate us. Every rational person welcomes these unexpected developments, which did not expect, even though we understood that something was pending… The Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots lived together for many years, and the large-scale movement of peoples and the feelings that were exhibited demonstrated that they want and can live together peacefully,” the Patriarch said.

    Regarding the actual conference, Papandreou said the paramount issue of how to manage water resources and protecting the environment tops the agenda, saying that both aspects are also political and tied to security and stability on all levels.

    [04] Erdogan will not announce gradual withdrawal of troops from Cyprus during visit

    ANKARA 07/05/2003 (ANA - A, Kourkoulas)

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will hold talks with the Turkish Cypriot leadership and the opposition when he arrives in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus on Friday, an Anadolu news agency dispatch said on Tuesday.

    Erdogan will depart from Ankara on Friday morning. Taking part in the meeting which Erdogan will have with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash will be Dervis Eroglu and Serdar Denktash.

    The Turkish prime minister will also meet with the ''heads of the political parties'' and give a press conference prior to his departure for Ankara, according to Anadolu.

    Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul stated on Tuesday that the Turkish premier's forthcoming visit to Cyprus is taking place ''so as to encourage the moves which the Turkish Cypriot side has already made.''

    Gul dismissed Greek Cypriot press reports that Erdogan would announce the gradual withdrawal of the Turkish occupation troops from the island. ''Such a thing is not true,'' he said, commenting on the Greek Cypriot press reports.

    [05] Head of EU delegation in Cyprus denies press reports over Famagusta port

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    The head of the European Union Delegation in Cyprus Adrian Van der Meer on Tuesday denied press reports that he had recommended the re-opening of Famagusta port under the control of the United Nations or a British firm.

    ''The future of Famagusta is not included in the issues concerning the European Union,'' Van der Meer said.

    With regard to the measures implemented in recent weeks for the free movement of the island's residents, he said they were ''welcome'', but stressed they could never substitute for a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem.

    He said current positive developments should lead to a re-assumption of talks under the aegis of the United Nations, adding that this was also the wish of the European Union, which would play a supportive role in the efforts of the international organization.

    Van der Meer also said EU support measures for the northern part of the island for bring it closer to the Union were still under development in consultation with the government of Cyprus. The measures are expected to be announced on 21 May.

    The Republic of Cyprus on 16 April signed an Accession Treaty with the EU. The European Council has decided that, in the absence of a settlement, the application of the acquis to the occupied northern part of the island shall be suspended, until the Council decides unanimously otherwise, on the basis of a proposal by the Commission.

    [06] FM says water resources management and environment issues political ones

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Tuesday the issues of water resources management and of the environment in general are political ones and are linked with security and stability at inter-state, regional and global level.

    Papandreou made his statement while inaugurating the two-day conference on ''Sustainable growth and permanent peace: Common waters, common future, common knowledge.''

    The foreign minister said the main question which must be answered is how the environment and common natural resources in bordering countries can constitute objects of moderate political approach and form the basis for the creation of wider cooperation and the smoothing out of whatever tensions.

    Papandreou also referred to a new form of diplomacy, the environmental or ''Green Diplomacy'' which is being developed and can form an implement for promoting cooperation on environmental issues and easing a crisis in a region.

    He further said many ''globalizations'' are taking place in the world simultaneously, the main ones being the globalization of the economy and of ecology, but added that from these two forms of globalization result incommensurate costs and benefits because they are not accompanied by a global governance, which is not synonymous to a global government, but is understood as an agreement with specific terms and commitments between various countries.

    [07] Greek EU presidency - informal ministerial council meetings

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    Food quality, health and safety will top the agenda of European Union agriculture ministers who will assemble for an informal council on the island of Corfu from 10 to 13 May. The Greek EU presidency has already submitted a paper to the ministers to be used as the basis for their discussions.

    Moreover, the Union's transportation and merchant marine ministers will also hold an informal meeting in Greece, aboard a yacht, from 15 through 19 May, to discuss shipping-related issues.

    [08] COSAC meeting concludes in Athens

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    The 29th Meeting of the Conference of Community and European Affairs Committees (COSAC) concluded on Tuesday in Athens. The two-day meeting was presided over be Greek Parliament Vice-President Dinos Vrettos.

    Two important decisions were taken during the COSAC meeting, one relating to modifications of the Conference rules of operation, which would allow the Conference to take decisions through an increased majority. The specific measure is expected to provide for the body’s greater effectiveness and solid work.

    The second decision regards the setting up of a secretariat to the Conference, securing continuity and cohesion in the body’s work.

    The Athens COSAC meeting approved a recommendation text to EU organs and the European Convention on the Future of Europe, which refers to the successful completion of the European block’s enlargement, as well as to the need for EU cooperation with the United Nations in Iraq’s reconstruction and to the progress achieved in the work of the Convention.

    The text also refers to necessity of the specific plan to be presented to June’s Thessaloniki EU Council, and to the fact that the Intergovernmental Conference should conclude its work in time to allow for the new European Constitution to be endorsed before the 2004 Euro-elections.

    During the two days of meeting’s sessions, speeches on the above topics were delivered by Greek Prime Minister and European Council President-in-office Costas Simitis, Greek Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis, Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Public Order Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis.

    [09] Croatia's EU prospects discussed

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis on Tuesday received his Croatian counterpart Ivan Simovic here for talks focusing squarely on the western Balkan country’s European Union prospects.

    Simovic, in fact, pointed to the second day of an EU Summit in Thessaloniki next month, where the session will be devoted to the countries in the western Balkans. He also said a road map for EU accession for such countries is more-or-less expected.

    Cooperation in the tourism sector as well as in transports, especially ferry boat links, was also discussed.

    [10] Acting gov't spokesman again points to spring for elections

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    The acting government spokesman on Tuesday reiterated that general elections would take place as scheduled next spring, whereas the prime minister retains the sole right to proceed with a reshuffle.

    The matter often pops up from time to time when asked by reporters during the government spokesman’s regular daily press briefings.

    Press ministry general secretary Dimitris Gerou also clarified that prime minister had referred to certain six-month goals in a letter to Cabinet members last January, “these targets will be re-examined after the end of the (Greek EU) presidency,” he said.

    [11] EU disappointed over upholding of conviction of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    The European Union on Tuesday expressed disappointment over a verdict upholding the conviction of Malaysian former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and voiced deep concern over the fairness of the legal proceedings.

    In a statement issued in Athens by the Greek EU presidency, the European Union further voiced deep concern over the fairness of the legal proceedings.

    The full text of the EU Presidency declaration is as follows:

    Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the Outcome of the Appeal by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim against his conviction on 8 August 2000

    "The European Union, which has continued to monitor closely the case, notes the decision of the Malaysian Court of Appeal to uphold the conviction and sentence on 8th August 2000 against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia.

    "The European Union recalls its earlier statements voicing deep concern about the fairness of the legal proceedings and expresses its disappointment that the verdict has been upheld."

    [12] Main parties avoid reaction to book claiming ND links to big business

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    Both ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy carefully avoided any reaction on Tuesday to the publication of a book by former 'Eleftheros Typos' editor Georgios Kyrtsos, who claimed that ND was gradually slipping into ever deeper dependence on business and media interests.

    According to sources, ND has issued instructions to its MPs and party members to ignore the allegations made by the book and avoid public controversy, believing it is an effort to counteract the latest round of alleged scandals surrounding PASOK by creating the impression that ''everyone is just the same''.

    In his book entitled ''The Secret War of Powers'', Kyrtsos blames the loss of his job as head of ''Eleftheros Typos'' on his dispute with ND headquarters over these ''interests'' and said that ND leader Costas Karamanlis had ''ceded part of his power in the party'' to business.

    According to the former editor, Karamanlis was not corrupt and had not sold out but was easily trapped, since his staff was full of people making proposals to serve the goals of these business interests rather than promoting the goals of the party.

    On the government's side, meanwhile, media ministry general secretary Dimitris Gerou, who is standing in as government spokesman, said the government was not concerned with the issue.

    [13] Neonakis slams Kouris for 'conscious lies' in 'Avriani' report

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    High-ranking PASOK official Mihalis Neonakis once again blasted newspaper owner George Kouris on Tuesday over the latest articles appearing in the newspaper "Avriani" that again accuse him of illegal stock market gains.

    "Mr. Kouris continues spewing mud from his sewer. The so-called winnings that he refers to in today's article are conscious lies and slander and will make his position before Greek justice that much more difficult," Neonakis said.

    "Mr. Kouris need have no doubts. He will fully shoulder the cost and consequences of his vileness. Tricks and word play will not save him," he added.

    [14] Government in talks with Schiesser over Athens factory closure

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    The government on Tuesday held talks with Schiesser of Switzerland in a bid to persuade management to save the multinational's Athens underwear manufacturing plant, slated for closure at the end of the month due to losses.

    Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas said in a statement later in the day that Scheisser appeared resolved to go ahead with closure on May 30, leading to about 500 redundancies.

    Also involved in talks with management were representatives of the General Confederation of Labor of Greece, a trade union umbrella group that represents nearly a million workers.

    Opposition expresses solidarity for redundant Schiesser workers: The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Tuesday urged workers to show solidarity for 500 people slated for redundancy at the end of the month when Schiesser, a Swiss multinational, closes its Athens factory.

    The Schiesser Group, which produces Palco brand underwear, announced on Monday that the Athens-based operation had shown the lowest level of competitiveness among the Group's plants in Europe, coupled with high operational costs. The result was that the firm, 70 percent of whose output was ordered by Scheisser AG, was no longer viable.

    The KKE said in a statement that the right to work had been severely eroded following endorsement of Europe's Maastricht Treaty by the ruling PASOK party and main opposition New Democracy Party.

    In a separate statement, the Coalition of the Left and Progress called on the government to make a last-ditch effort to persuade the Schiesser Group to reverse its closure decision.

    ''This multinational company is halting operations and relocating to Bulgaria. The government is following these dramatic developments as a spectator - the de-industrialization of the country - in a cowardly and spineless fashion, with no industrial policy for the key sector of apparel,'' the Coalition's leader, Nikos Constantopoulos, said.

    ''The government has left the economy to run on automatic pilot, dictated by the market, and it has left society exposed to competition,'' Constantopoulos added.

    The Schiesser Group has said it is undertaking a restructuring in order to meet a worldwide recession and fierce competition from countries undercutting the market. The company plans to shift plants to Balkan and Asian countries.

    Another Greek plant owned by Scheisser - in Komotini, northern Greece - is competitive and is destined for expansion and job creation.

    [15] Evert revives allegations of stock market fraud prior to 2000 polls

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    Former New Democracy president Miltiades Evert on Tuesday returned to the issue of alleged stock market manipulation by the Public Securities Company (DEKA) before the 2000 elections, this time also raising queries about the role of the stockbrokers P & K in the suspect transactions.

    According to Evert, contained in the dossier sent to Parliament by the public prosecutor investigating the affair after he uncovered evidence implicating members of the government was evidence that the stock brokerage P&K had carried out the transactions on behalf of two of the 10 largest stock market players of that period.

    One month after receiving the prosecutor's report, in November 2001, Parliament voted against lifting immunity from prosecution for the three ministers involved and effectively blocked further investigation into the issue.

    Evert said that P&K had carried out share purchases worth 3,616,319,650 drachmas and sold stock worth 7,550,199,845 drachmas in six sessions between March 21, 2000 and April 5, 2000 under the client code 11986.

    These included the purchase of OTE shares worth 2,458,924,250 drachmas and their sale for 3,030,038,500 drachmas, meaning that the specific client earned 428 million drachmas from OTE shares alone.

    The second client with a code of 19339 had bought shares worth 1,745,301,200 drachmas and sold shares worth 8,144,097,150 in seven sessions between March 23, 2000 and April 7, 2000.

    According to Evert, these were clear signs of 'insider trading' and indicated that the two specific clients had known about the government's pre-election games on the stock market and were able to take advantage of them at the expense of the ordinary public.

    The former ND leader also asked whether the government would continue to refuse a Parliamentary investigation into the stock market scandal involving members of the government and ruling party.

    According to newspaper ''Avriani'', PASOK Executive Bureau member Mihalis Neonakis had a share in P & K but this was denied by both the minister and the brokerage.

    The 2001 judicial investigation had focused on DEKA's activities from March 21 to April 10 2000, before Greek general elections on April 9 that year, during which the company bought stock in Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, Hellenic Petroleum, National Bank of Greece and Commercial Bank, representing an outlay of 250 billion drachmas in state funds.

    The prosecutor's report said that share prices had been disrupted by non-market factors unrelated to supply and demand that had misled the market.

    The investigation was begun after Evert accused the state-owned Public Securities Company of bulling up the market through bulk buying in state-owned firms before the elections, and being responsible for losses suffered by investors in the subsequent artificial slide.

    Commenting on Evert's announcement, press ministry general secretary Dimitris Gerou said that those attempting to revive or create a stock market issue were ''creating a murkiness'' that was harmful to Greek society.

    ''The government will give a definitive and absolute answer to all these issues in the Greek Parliament,'' he said.

    Gerou is standing in as government spokesman.

    [16] OTE leads Greek stocks higher on Tuesday

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    A jump in Hellenic Telecommunications Organization’s share price late at the session helped push Greek stocks to new highs on Tuesday in the Athens Stock Exchange.

    The general index rose 0.94 percent to end at 1,768.27 points, with turnover a stable 130.7 million euros.

    The Telecommunications sector led the market's advance ending 2.78 percent higher, reflecting a 5.71 percent jump in OTE's share price. The Food-Beverage (2.73 percent), Publications (2.71 percent) and Insurance (2.37 percent) sectors followed with big percentage gains. The Holding, Investment and Retail sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day (0.28 percent, 0.21 percent and 0.18 percent, respectively).

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 1.24 percent higher, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index rose 0.58 percent, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index rose 1.19 percent and the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index ended 1.12 percent up.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 164 to 137 with another 57 issues unchanged.

    Bond Market Close: Buyers outstrip sellers on Tuesday

    Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond

  • Yield: 4.25 pct

  • Spread over German bund: 13 bps

  • Day's Market Turnover: 2.1 bln euros

  • Most Active Bond: 10-year, expiring May 2012 (310 mln euros)

    Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 99.7 mln euros Tuesday

    Equity Index Futures:

  • FTSE/ASE-20 (high cap): At discount

  • Underlying Index: +1.24 percent

  • FTSE/ASE-40 (medium cap): At discount

  • Underlying Index: +0.58 percent


    Closing rates of May 6 2003

    Parities in euro

    For. Exchange Buying Selling

    US Dollar 1,143 1,117

    [17] EU conference lays foundations for common tourism policy

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    An Informal Ministerial and High-Ranking Officials meeting on European Tourism, held in Aghia Pelaghia, Crete, under the Greek EU presidency, laid the foundations for drafting a common tourism policy in the European Union by proposing specific measures on tourism promotion and communication.

    The informal meeting also recorded the common will of an expanded EU's 25 member-states to include a reference of the tourism industry's significant contribution to sustainable growth in a European Convention, to be presented in 2004.

    Greek Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos made these announcements after completion of the informal meeting alongside EU Commission Erkii Liikannen.

    The Greek minister stressed that tourism issues would be discussed, for the first time, in a Competitiveness Council (a new EU body aimed to ensure coordination of micro-economic policies).

    Mr Tsohatzopoulos also announced a decision by the 25 EU members to create a common portal for the promotion of tourism in EU level.

    Both the Greek minister and EU Commissioner Erkii Liikannen expressed their optimism over European tourism in 2003 despite the impact from a war in Iraq and the SARS global scare.

    [18] Philip Morris Holland buys 75 pct in Papastratos

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    Papastratos SA, a listed Greek tobacco company, on Tuesday announced an agreement between its main shareholders - accounting around 75 percent its total equity capital - with Philip Morris Holland BV, a subsidiary of Philip Morris International - a company based in Lausanne, Switzerland - to sell their equity holdings to the Dutch company.

    A company announcement said that the agreement was reached to ensure the future of the company.

    "There is not doubt that the development is positive for Papastratos," a shareholders' announcement stressed.

    Completion of the agreement is bound for approval by domestic competition authorities, a satisfactory outcome of an auditing control and approval by Altria Group Inc., the parent company of Philip Morris Holland BV.

    Under the agreement, the transaction will be held at a maximum share price of 18.15 euros per share, excluding last year's dividend to be distributed to Papastratos' shareholders ahead of the sale transaction.

    Philip Morris Holland BV is expected to make a public bid for the purchase of the remaining 25 percent of Papastratos' equity capital within 30 days after completion of the sale agreement.

    The Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday announced a temporary suspension of trading in Papastratos shares.

    [19] Environment rules hamper mining firms, trade group says

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    The Association of Mining Companies said on Tuesday that its members' operations were hampered by lengthy and complex procedures for environmental approval.

    The trade group's president, George Georgiadis, told an annual meeting that other problems included a lack of clarity in land use regulations coupled with a negative response from many local communities.

    Taken together, the factors had minimized mining exploration in Greece with adverse long-term repercussions on the national economy due to weakening of a sector that is based on exploration, Georgiadis added.

    [20] Palacio warning over new toll rates cited

    BRUSSELS 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    The European Commission has reportedly issued a statement saying toll rates on the recently opened Attica ring road, expected to connect western Attica and the new Athens international airport, are illegal because they are not based on traveled distance or the size of a vehicle.

    A press release issued by the office of Greek Euro-MP Alekos Alavanos noted that EU Commissioner Loyola De Palacio responded to a tabled question by saying that any unified toll charge, regardless of distance traveled, violates Community law and must be dealt with.

    A private company created by the consortium that built the project manages the partially completed Attica toll way, expected to extend from Elefsina to the Eleftherios Venizelos airport. The most significant portion opened so far is from Marathon avenue to the airport.

    Alavanos, meanwhile, has called for modifications in the toll way’s rates based on distance traveled, especially for cars.

    Finally, the press release notes that Palacio says the Commission will first refer the matter to Greek authorities for further clarifications.

    [21] EU Council of Health Ministers hold emergency meeting on SARS

    BRUSSELS 07/05/2003 (ANA - V. Demiris)

    The EU Council of Health Ministers held an emergency meeting here on Tuesday to discuss measures for coping with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) ''mystery pneumonia''.

    The ministers ascertained that SARS constitutes ''a significant threat'' to public health and that there should be closer cooperation and coordinated action on a world level with a broader exchange of information for the prevention and confrontation of possible cases of this contagious disease.

    Greek EU Council of Health Ministers President Costas Stephanis said the mystery pneumonia has an endemic character and is restricted to countries such as China, Singapore and Hong Kong. At the same time, he recommended to the competent authorities of the European Union member-states to be on constant alert in accordance with the instructions given by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Commission.

    With regard to a proposal for travelers who pass through or arrive from infected regions to be submitted to tests, Stephanis said the Council agreed that the EU member-states could take measures in this direction on condition that ''they will be balanced and that they would not create excessive concern with adverse repercussions for economic and social life.''

    Stephanis further said that the Council asked of the Commission to submit a proposal at the next EU Council of Health Ministers on June 2 for the creation of a centre for the prevention and control of diseases in the European region.

    [22] N17 trial continues with Saunders case, Vyronas police station raid

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    Police woman Niki Vergi on Tuesday identified Savvas Xiros and Vassilis Tzortzatos, two of the 19 suspected terrorists on trial as suspected members of the urban guerrilla group November 17, as participants in the group's 1988 raid on a police station in Vyronas.

    She said she was certain that Xiros had been the one posing as a police officer and Tzortzatos had played the part of a prisoner.

    According to Vergi, six men had taken part in the operation in order to steal weapons from the police station. She also said that Savvas Xiros had kicked and threatened her in order to get the key to the store room where the fire-arms were kept.

    An earlier witness, police officer Emmanuel Zervoyiannakis who was on guard outside the station when the raid took place, was unable to recognize any of the accused.

    The trial began on Tuesday morning with the testimony of an eye-witness to the murder of Brigadier Stephen Saunders, who was killed on a busy Athens high street in June 2000.

    Construction contractor Sotiris Kravaritis was able to give a detailed description of how the hit was carried out but was unable to identify or describe either of the two hitmen because they had been wearing motorcycle helmets.

    Dimitris Koufodinas, believed to be the band's operations chief and one of those accused of the Saunders' murder, strongly contested the testimony of an earlier witness, Theodosia Mania, who said she had seen him and his wife Aggeliki Sotiropoulou examining the scene of the Saunders' hit the day before the murder.

    Koufodinas claimed that the charges against his wife were a means to put pressure on himself and that Sotiropoulou was in no way involved with the terror group's activities.

    He also contested that Mania had seen him, saying that this defied common sense.

    ''This hit was prepared carefully over three months. The area was carefully studied for three months - would we have to wait until the last day before the mastermind of the organization and his wife could inspect the scene? I lived as an outlaw for 17 years, I had developed certain behaviors and techniques to go unobserved,'' he said.

    The trial continues on Wednesday with further testimony by Vergi, while the presiding judge has also asked for witnesses to Sykourio army camp robbery and the Peratikos murder to appear in court.

    [23] Suspected terrorists present plea to additional charges

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    Suspected terrorists Aggeletos Kanas and Irene Athanasaki on Tuesday presented their pleas to appeals examining magistrates that visited them in Korydallos prison, denying additional charges brought against them concerning the activities of the terror groups ELA and May 1 after 1988.

    Kanas, a former community head on the island of Kimolos, submitted a 50-page memorandum in which he denied some 50 charges against him and said that there was no new evidence against him.

    Kanas attributes his involvement to the testimony of his former wife Sofia Kyriakidou, saying that she had accused him for reasons of revenge, and to the former Kimolos community chief Yiannis Ventouris, who he said was involved in financial scandals.

    Kanas' defense lawyer will ask for a face-to-face examination of his client, Kyriakidou and Ventouris and will also file for his release from prison.

    [24] Archbishop of Greece closes conference on Europe's values in Athens

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on Tuesday closed a three-day conference on the values and principles for the building of Europe that was organized by the Orthodox Church of Greece.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, the church leadership, representatives of other dogmas, academics and politicians also participated in the event.

    Speaking of the conference's conclusions, Christodoulos stressed that ''Europe today needs, more than ever before, the experience of spiritual resurrection, one heart and one soul''.

    ''At this moment the Christian Churches of Europe, state clearly their decision to cooperate with each other and with every person that has good will, so as to confront the difficulties of the times ... For this reason it is unthinkable for the European Union to not include in the Constitutional Treaty, the convention for the future of Europe is preparing, a regular dialogue with the Christian Churches,'' he said.

    Christodoulos stressed that now that the economic, political, military and diplomatic measures proved inadequate for the European peoples to relay on, the need to find a base relaying on reality is even greater.

    ''We are asking to become a type of partner in the dialogue with the European Union and its bodies as Churches and not as an unidentified society of citizens. We are asking for Christianity to be named the source and base of Europe,'' he noted.

    ''We are asking for the possibility to have cultural diversity, that is for everyone to maintain their language, religion, tradition and their individual rights,'' he concluded.

    [25] EU Council of Culture Ministers proclaims Patra Cultural Capital of Europe 2006

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    The European Union's Council of Culture Ministers convened in Brussels and on Tuesday proclaimed the Greek city of Patra Cultural Capital of Europe for 2006.

    An announcement by the municipality of Patra stressed that the decision seals in the best possible way a series of successful moves by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Patra Mayor Andreas Karavolas, starting from the Cultural Affairs Committee's meeting in Brussels on January 20, 2003.

    Karavolas said, among others, ''since 1998 when, as the municipal authority, we submitted our vision and bid to have Patra the Cultural Capital for 2006 we were certain of the positive outcome of the undertaking. This faith of ours was considerably strengthened by the public commitment by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, here in Patra, that our city will be one of the most successful Capitals in the history of the institution. I feel the need to thank, on behalf of the people of Patra, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the officials of the culture ministry and all who offered substantive work in this great case.''

    The city of Patra and the port were lit up on Tuesday night on the occasion of the proclamation.

    [26] EU sports ministers to meet in Athens on Thursday, Friday

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    The European Union's sports ministers will meet in Athens on Thursday and Friday, with the participation of the sports ministers of the new member-states in the framework of the Greek European Union presidency.

    Deputy Sports Minister George Lianis will head the two-day session, which will focus on ''Sports and regional development. The economic and social dimension of the Olympic Games and the major sports meets''.

    [27] Advancement in EU-U.S. negotiations over judicial cooperation detected

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    The Greek EU Presidency regards that European Union–U.S. negotiations over the signing of mutual judicial cooperation agreements have recorded good progress, according to Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos.

    Briefing the members of the relative parliamentary committee on Tuesday, Petsalnikos said that considerable progress has been achieved in EU-U.S. talks, stressing that an extradition agreement recognized the right of all EU member-states to refuse extradition if such an action runs contrary to a member-state's constitutional principles.

    The minister stressed that the right to refuse extradition was also recognized for reasons not expressly stipulated in the bilateral agreement.

    Petsalnikos reminded the committee members that during the previous phase of negotiations, when Greece was part of the EU troika, the U.S. had accepted to withdraw its demands relating to the abolition of ‘political offences’ as a reason to refuse extradition.

    He added the U.S. also agreed to accept the likelihood of imposing a death penalty as a reason to deny extradition.

    [28] Greek aid convoy attacked in Iraq safely reaches Baghdad, no injuries

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    The Greek charge d’Affaires in Iraq and the Greek convoy carrying humanitarian aid that was attacked some 90 kilometers outside Baghdad on Monday were safe in Baghdad, Greece said on Tuesday.

    Deputy foreign minister Andreas Loverdos, replying to press questions Tuesday on the incident, said that gunmen shot twice at the jeep carrying charge d’Affaires N. Garilidis, who was heading the convoy, in an effort to immobilize it, but fortunately no one was injured.

    Loverdos added that the convoy, including a refrigerator truck filled with medical supplies and its three escorts -- one Greek and two Portuguese -- from the NGO Medicines sans Frontieres, and another three members of the NGO Greek Rescue Team, had safely reached Baghdad.

    The deputy minister also said that the Greek embassy buildings and ambassadorial residence in Baghdad had not suffered any damage throughout the war in Iraq.

    [29] Greek Church affiliated NGO distributes humanitarian aid in Iraq

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    The Greek Orthodox Church affiliated non-governmental organization ''Allileggyi'' (Solidarity) arrived on Monday evening Iraq and has been serving the communities of Kirkuk, Al Quain and Ar Rut.

    Representatives of the NGO are distributing the second shipment of humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, while some 11 tons, that came from the warehouses of the NGO in Amman, Jordan have been distributed already to the citizens of Ar Rut.

    Sixty more tons from warehouses in Syria are underway to Kirkuk and Al Quain. All distribution is expedited with the facilitation of local governments.

    [30] EU culture ministers express concern over destruction of Iraqi monuments

    BRUSSELS 07/05/2003 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)

    European Union culture ministers and ministers whose portfolio includes the audiovisual sector convened here on Tuesday, under the chairmanship of Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Press and Information Minister Christos Protopapas respectively, expressing their profound concern over the destruction of archaeological monuments in Iraq.

    The Council of Culture Ministers unanimously accepted an initiative by the Greek presidency on the formulation of a clear and strong statement on the need to protect and restore Iraq's cultural heritage ''which belongs to the entire world.''

    The statement further says ''the main principle of the EU as a community of cultural values is the respect and protection of the world's cultural heritage'' and stresses the need for the effective protection of Iraq's cultural goods.

    The Council of Audiovisual Means examined the directive on ''Television without borders'', particularly its possible revision.

    An exchange of views also took place on the extension of media programs for the year 2006 with a corresponding increase in the budget.

    [31] Trans-European rail networks the focus of conference in Brussels

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    Railroads are the center of the new European policy for transport, stressed speakers at a conference organized by the Greek transport ministry and the European Parliament in Brussels in light of Greece's EU presidency.

    The conference entitled ''Toward the integration of the Trans-European and Pan-European Transport Networks'' was attended by the EU transport ministers, Eurodeputies and representatives of international financial institutions.

    Speaking of the networks, Greek Transport Minister Christos Verelis stressed that the Trans-European Networks should aim at increasing the competitiveness of the European economy, as well as economic and social cohesion.

    At the sidelines of the conference Verelis met with European Commissioner Loyola de Palacio.

    [32] Athens mayor declares May 7 'AIDS Orphans Day'

    Athens, 07/05/2003 (ANA)

    Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni on Tuesday declared May 7 as the day for orphan children whose parents had died of AIDS after visiting a Contagious Diseases ward in Aghia Sophia Children’s' Hospital where three such orphans are currently staying.

    The three children, aged seven, three and one and half, respectively, are HIV positive but have no AIDS symptoms. They are currently in the hospital until foster homes can be found for them.

    The mayor said the Athens Municipality had been persuaded to declare the AIDS Orphans Day by the non-governmental organization Francois Xavier Bagnoud, which runs 87 such programs in 17 countries. She said the move aimed to sensitize public opinion to the plight of this vulnerable group.

    Athens is the first European city and the second city in the world after New York to dedicate a day to the orphans created by AIDS.

    [33] Commission says developments not substitute for settlement

    NICOSIA 07/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)

    Head of the European Commission delegation in Nicosia, Adriaan Van der Meer, said on Tuesday that the EU welcomes the easing of restrictions on the free movement of persons and the Cypriot government's measures to support the Turkish Cypriots but noted that these developments could not substitute a comprehensive settlement.

    Speaking at a press conference, Van der Meer said the EU supports the resumption of talks to solve the Cyprus problem under UN auspices.

    He added that the EU package of measures for Turkish Cypriots, expected to be made public later this month, was still subject to internal deliberations and with the Cypriot government, adding that the package will deal with trade, aid and bringing the Turkish Cypriots closer to the EU.

    Referring to a recent meeting with President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos, Van der Meer said they discussed the government's package of measures for the Turkish Cypriots that was announced at the end of April.

    ''I must say that we welcome very much this package, it is a broad-ranging package, it covers many issues and we are pleased that telecommunications for example have been restored. I tested it out myself. I think this is a confidence building measure in order to improve the relations between the communities,'' he said.

    Referring to the decision of the Turkish occupation to ease the restrictions it had imposed on the free movement of persons across the divide, Van der Meer said ''in general we are positive about all the developments that have happened in recent days, it is overwhelming especially for me as an outsider to see the emotions, to see the friendships that have been restored.''

    ''The fact that Turkish Cypriots have kept personal things (of Greek Cypriots), like photos and other personal tokens, and are now in the position to give them back, I must say that I find it extremely touching and extremely deep in terms of feelings and emotions,'' he added.

    Van der Meer expressed hope that this ''new spirit'' would lead to the resumption of the UN process to solve the Cyprus problem ''as soon as possible,'' adding that the EU fully supports the UN in this effort and hopes that ''when the conditions are fulfilled as spelled out by Secretary General Kofi Annan the talks can resume again.''

    The European official noted that recent developments could not substitute a settlement. ''There can never be substitution for a comprehensive settlement. The only way forward to meet a comprehensive settlement on the core issues is via the Annan plan. I cannot see otherwise,'' he said.

    Invited to comment on the fact that Greek Cypriots must show their passports when crossing into the Turkish occupied areas of the Republic, Van der Meer said it was ''an individual decision.''

    ''We are discussing this course among colleagues, among friends but at the end it is each individual that counts and each individual has to take the decision for himself. And this is exactly what the EU is built on. We are built on individuals, we are built on individual values and on that basis we work together to find and define common policies,'' he said.

    Commenting on reports that the Turkish occupation regime is preparing a ''black list'' of Greek Cypriots, Van der Meer called upon the so-called ''authorities'' of the occupation regime ''to apply a policy of the rule of law.''

    [34] President Papadopoulos says developments not even near solution

    ROME 07/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)

    Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos has said that what is happening in Cyprus over the past few days is important but does not constitute a solution of the Cyprus problem, not even a significant step in that direction.

    In an interview with Italian newspaper ''Corriere della Sera'', President Papadopoulos said that the people of Cyprus have proven that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can indeed live together but noted that a lot remains to be done.

    He also expressed the view that ''the Turks intend to use the Cyprus problem, postponing the solution, so as not to lose a trump card in negotiations for accession to the EU.''

    ''Many say that Turkey, the main aim of which is to accede to the EU, has an interest to favor a solution of the Cyprus problem. But everyone knows that Turkey could accede to the EU in five, seven, ten years, maybe more,'' he said.

    The newspaper publishes President Papadopoulos' interview under the title ''In Cyprus it is not enough for the wall to fall, reunification is needed, Mr. Papadopoulos accuses Turkey of wanting to use the island as an exchange for accession to the EU''.

    Asked if the last wall of Europe has indeed fallen, President Papadopoulos said, ''what is happening is important but it is not the solution of the problem, not even a significant step,'' adding, ''the people have proven that cohabitation is possible but a lot more is still needed.''

    Referring to the measures the Cypriot government has announced to support Turkish Cypriots, the president said the measures had been prepared by the previous government and that shortly before they were made public, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash decided to take everyone by surprise and announce the easing of the restrictions on the free movement of people across the divide.

    Asked if Denktash had heeded the will of the Turkish Cypriots, the president said the Turkish Cypriot leader ''followed mostly what Ankara asked rather than what the people wanted.''

    Invited to say if the new Turkish government had changed its stance on the Cyprus problem, President Papadopoulos said there was no such indication, noting that the will of Ankara and the Turkish military was needed before anything changed.

    [35] Relatives urge Greece to place issue of missing before EU

    NICOSIA 07/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)

    The Pancyprian Committee of Relatives of Missing Persons calls on the Greek presidency of the European Union to place before the EU the humanitarian issue of missing persons, in order to exert pressure on Turkey, which aspires to become a member of the block, and to stress that the pending for 29 years issue is a flagrant violation of human rights.

    After the exhumation and identification of remains in the government-controlled areas of the Republic, the Greek Cypriot missing persons since the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island stand 1,586, while 500 Turkish Cypriots are still listed as missing.

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