|Tuesday, 22 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-05-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 15, 2003
 PM rejects industry fears of soaring unemployment
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Wednesday rejected fears voiced by industry earlier this month that joblessness could double to 18-20 percent if the government failed to take the right economic measures.
''Many people maintain that there will be an investment slump after the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, and they have forecast a decline in gross domestic product and a rise in unemployment. These forecasts are entirely erroneous,'' Simitis told the Association of Greek Industry's annual general meeting in a videotaped message.
It was the association's president, Odysseus Kyriakopoulos, who estimated the figure, saying the government should promote business activity through creation of necessary infrastructure and a business climate favoring the establishment of new firms, which would aid job creation.
''Unemployment will continue its downward course, and the era after 2004 will be better than the current one,'' the prime minister forecast.
In an indirect reference to the closure of a Greek operation by the multinational Schiesser Group of Switzerland that will bring 500 redundancies, Simitis said it was imperative to ensure a greater flow of high technology investments from abroad.
''This type of investment would not be seeking cheap labor as in previous decades, but rather a business friendly environment, a modern telecoms and transport infrastructure, a stable tax regime, and highly trained personnel,'' he added.
Simitis also called on companies and their staff to work with the government for ''a giant leap forward'' in boosting alignment with other European Union economies.
''We are again asking firms to contribute creatively to the shaping of a Greece that displays economic clout and social sensitivity,'' he said.
In addition, industry should make more investments, focusing on the creation of quality jobs.
Finally, the prime minister underlined the importance of enlargement of the European Union.
''New investment horizons are opening for Greek companies, as well as new challenges for the competitiveness of our products, and a new situation for the domestic labor market,'' he noted.
 Main opposition party states economic policy platform
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)The leader of the main opposition New Democracy party, Costas Karamanlis, on Wednesday delivered an economic policy platform that would apply if ND won national elections in April 2004.
Addressing the annual general meeting of the Association of Greek Industry, Karamanlis said that in its first six months, the party would overhaul the taxation system to include lower tax brackets and corporate tax and introduce a new development law and comprehensive fiscal records.
''Changes are needed in today's dead-end economic policy mix because we cannot gamble on the future through policies based on short-term cash gains and postponements, with the current state of the public sector, with the current tax system, and with the prevailing climate of corruption,'' the ND leader said.
''At current rates of GDP growth, convergence with other European Union countries will not even be attained in 50 years.
Karamanlis warned that Greek unemployment was the second highest in the EU.
The party would also change the statutory framework for use of the European Union's third support framework package of funds, introduce new statutes for state and co-financed projects, rapidly privatize state corporations, launch new projects, and reinforce the role of the fair competition, capital market, telecoms and energy commissions.
In addition, Karamanlis said ND planned to devise measures aimed at promoting exports and farm products, take steps to attract foreign investors, support the agricultural sector and the tourism industry, and introduce a bill to combat corruption.
Finally, the party would seek to improve the education system, adopt a new policy on public spending, and boost transparency in fiscal policy, he added.
 EU, Greece do not accept terrorism as political action, PM says
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)The European Union and Greece do not accept terrorism as a means of exercising policy, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Wednesday, in his capacity both as premier and European Union Council President.
Simitis spoke strongly against terrorism commenting on a statement made by U.S. President George Bush following the latest murderous terrorist attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Following the attack Bush had said that ''the war on terrorism is continuing''.
Speaking during a joint press conference he held with Maltese Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami in Valetta, he said that ''I would like to express my sorrow for the victims. I would also like to condemn this act and I would like to reiterate that my country, as well as the European Union does not accept terrorism as a political means. All of us should try to put an end to such means of action''.
''The Union always had the policy, that we should combat terrorism and we never said that we believed that this issue was resolved. On the contrary, it is necessary to continue the effort aiming to secure peace, since terrorist activity provokes retaliation,'' Simitis said.
''We should continue our effort aiming at wiping out the causes of those terrorist actions whichever they may be: poverty, nationalism, feelings of oppression,'' he added, stressing that ''peace can be achieved in the Middle East, as well as in all the world, only if we focus on the causes and combat them. And that is what we are trying to do''.
Simitis was in Malta, as part of his EU capitals tour where he discussed the agenda of the June Thessaloniki EU Summit. In Malta, as in almost all other capitals of the new member-states, the European Constitution, now being drafted, took center stage. Also speaking during the press conference, Adami noted that up to this point the Greek presidency had happy moments, such as the enlargement but also international upheaval to deal with stemming from the Iraq crisis.
''I believe that the Greek EU presidency manages in a very positive and effective way these issues,'' Adami stressed.
He also spoke of bilateral issues the two men discussed, underlining the ongoing cooperation concerning search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, an issue that will be further discussed.
 FM notifies European Commission on Turkish violations in Aegean
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)Foreign ministry spokesman Panagiotis Beglitis said on Wednesday that Foreign Minister George Papandreou notified the European Commission on Turkish violations in the Aegean and the incident during a Greek aeronautical exercise on Tuesday.
''Foreign Minister Mr. George A. Papandreou notified the European Commission and relevant Commissioner Mr. (Guenter) Verheugen of the violations of Turkey in the Aegean and particularly of yesterday's (Tuesday's) incident during a Greek exercise. The Greek foreign minister also delivered a relevant note with all the evidence on Turkish behavior in the Aegean during the past period,'' Beglitis said.
Tuesday's incident concerned the shadowing of Greek aircraft during the exercise code-named ''Triaina'' by two Turkish F-16 warplanes.
Earlier on Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos told the Parliament's national defense and foreign affairs committee that Papandreou would submit a note to European Commissioner responsible for enlargement Guenter Verheugen either on Wednesday or Thursday detailing all the actions of Turkey toward Greece.
''Tonight or tomorrow morning Foreign Minister George Papandreou will submit a note to European Union Commissioner responsible for the enlargement process Guenter Verheugen, detailing all of Turkey's actions, which color in a negative way Ankara's course to the Union,'' Loverdos said.
He added that the list of Turkey's actions toward Greece details a ''quantitative and qualitative escalation of tension'' on the part of Turkey, saying that the government has directed the Greek envoy in Ankara to protest to the neighboring country's foreign minister.
Speaking to the Parliament committee that met to discuss the ratification of the EU stability and association agreement with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the deputy minister also said that both Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou protested recently to their Turkish counterparts, in relation to this issue.
The deputies' strong concern on the Greek-Turkish relations was caused by the cancellation of a programmed military exercise, due to Turkish airforce violations, during the first phases of the exercise in the Northern Aegean, despite a NOTAM having being issued, way in advance.
 Gov't spokesman says Turkey deadlocked and isolated from international community
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)Government spokesman Christos Protopapas, commenting on the incident with Turkish warplanes during the aeronautical exercise code-named ''Triaina'' on Tuesday, said on Wednesday Turkey is deadlocked and isolated from the international community.
The incident occurred when two Turkish F-16 warplanes, which had been intercepted on two occasions by Greek jets, shadowed Greek F-4 jets from a distance of 1,000 feet while they were attacking a towed sea target during the exercise.
The spokesman said the Turkish aircraft were intercepted and the foreign ministry made necessary demarches.
''The government is steadfast and is not losing its target which is a solution to the Cyprus issue, the shaping of the region into a zone of peace and cooperation and the promotion of national interests through the building of appropriate international balances,'' he added.
 State Dept.: Cyprus peace talks should come under 'UN process'
WASHINGTON 15/05/2003 (ANA – T. Ellis)The US State Department on Tuesday reiterated that a Cyprus solution must be found within the United Nations framework, while a spokesman also praised growing contacts between the two communities on the divided island republic -- three weeks after usually intransigent Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash partially lifted a ban on movement between the government-controlled side and the Turkish-occupied northern third.
Asked to comment on the fact that more than 300,000 Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots crossed the ‘green line’ of the divided island without incident for the first time in 30 years since a Turkish invasion and a continuing illegal occupation, deputy State Department spokesman Philip T. Reeker said:
“Well, without taking any particular position on your statements, I don't really have a particular comment. It is something we have observed. Those are choices for the peoples on Cyprus to make. I think it's a good thing that there has been no violence. That's very good. And as you know, for years we have been urging both sides in the situation there to work under the good offices of the United Nations effort to find a solution to that.”
Regarding media reports of US interest in restarting the peace process on Cyprus between the internationally recognized Cyprus government and Denktash, Reeker said the matter was under a “UN process ... That is the process that we support”.
 Berlusconi's office denies Turkish press reports on Italy's stance on Cyprus
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)The office of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday denied a report of a high circulation Turkish daily newspaper, which stated that the Italian premier said to Turkish businessmen that the European Union's Cyprus policy was wrong.
Berlusconi's office also denied that the premier said that the EU's stance toward the United Nations' plan for the resolution of the island republic's political problem was also wrong.
According to the Greek Foreign Ministry's spokesman Panos Beglitis, the Greek ambassador to Rome requested clarifications over the report from Berlusconi's office and officials there denied ''categorically the content'' of the report.
The response by Berlusconi's office confirmed only that Berlusconi expressed his wish to make possible a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the Cyprus problem.
''The rest is a common place practice of the Turkish press,'' the office of Berlusconi's said to the Greek ambassador.
 Yiannitsis addresses Europarliament on Iraq, EU priorities
STRASBOURG 15/05/2003 (ANA – O. Tsipira)The situation in Iraq and the priorities for further action by the European Union have been the focus of a speech delivered by current General Affairs Council president, Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis to the plenum of the European Parliament here on Wednesday.
Yiannitsis stressed that a new situation in military, political and practical terms prevails today in Iraq, and the priorities that the EU should adopt must center on three areas: humanitarian aid, clearing the situation in that country by defining the role of the United Nations, and finally, mapping out a European common foreign policy.
With regard to the humanitarian aid to Iraq, Yiannitsis said the European Commission has already earmarked 100 million euros, of which 33 million have already been channeled to the region.
He further placed emphasis on the need to protect Iraq’s cultural heritage, saying that an immediate target should be to recover invaluable artifacts looted.
Yiannitsis underlined that the UN has a fundamental role to play in Iraq and described as a positive step the appointment by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan of a special representative for Iraq. He added that the disarmament of that country should be settled decisively in accordance with UN resolutions, and be linked with the adoption of a comprehensive policy covering the wider Mid East region on non-proliferation of mass destruction weapons.
Yiannitsis made special reference to promoting the peace process in the Middle East, which he said would have a very positive impact on the Iraq crisis.
The Iraq crisis, according to Yiannitsis, reaffirmed the need for a European common foreign policy and gave rise within the ranks of the Union to a new momentum for a common foreign, security and defense policy.
 Military exercise by SEEBRIG command in Romania
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)The Hellenic Army General Staff on Wednesday announced that a multi-national military exercise by the Engineer Task Force (ETF) began on May 12 and will last until July 16 in Constanta, Romania.
The exercise, “Cornerstone 2003”, is being held under the command of the Multinational Peace Force South-Eastern Europe’s South-East Europe Brigade (SEEBRIG).
 Parl't Committee divided over bill for nationwide radio
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)Discussion of a proposed press ministry bill for nationwide radio networks continued within the Parliamentary Committee for Public Administration on Wednesday, even though the relevant sections of the bill had been withdrawn by Press and Media Minister Christos Protopapas the previous day.
The Committee was strongly divided over the bill and a majority opposed it, voicing concerns that it might create an oligopoly of major Athens stations that would crowd out local radio networks and seize a lion's share of advertising.
In fact, Press and Media Minister Christos Protopapas temporarily withdrew the article in question on Tuesday so that others sections of the bill, such articles on the organization of the ministry's press offices abroad, could go ahead.
Commenting on his decision to withdraw the article, Protopapas said on Wednesday that "a politician is obliged to propose a measure that he considers right but, out of respect for Parliament, when he sees that the logic of the measure is not accepted he must withdraw it."
He noted that only Greece and Sweden lacked nationwide radio stations and that he considered the specific measure a "sign of modernization". He also noted that nationwide television had not prevented the operation of local TV.
 Greek EU Presidency condemns terrorist attack in Chechnya
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)The Greek European Union Presidency in a statement on Wednesday strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Chechnya on Monday which resulted in the death of many people.
The statement said, among other things, the following:
''The EU Presidency strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Znamenskoye, Chechnya, on May 12, which caused the death of many innocent people.
''The above attack endangers the perspectives to find a political solution and is against the will of the Chechen people to live peacefully in the area and to work for a better future, after almost ten years of armed conflict. Moreover, it undermines efforts to normalize the situation and to create a functional presidential and parliamentary system.
''The EU Presidency encourages Moscow to continue its efforts towards the implementation of a comprehensive policy in Chechnya. It hopes that the above attack will not undermine the recently started process of reconciliation and economic and social reconstruction and will not endanger the implementation of rule of law and respect of human rights in the area.''
 Minister seeks better labor market to help ease joblessness
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Wednesday that improvement was needed in the workings of the labor market in order to help lower unemployment.
''In the last three years, joblessness has been falling in Greece, but employment has risen at a slower pace than expected, with a rate of growth of about 4.0 percent,'' Christodoulakis told the annual general meeting of the Association of Greek Industry.
An overall government target was to double the rate of alignment with the European Union, so that per capita income in Greece in the decade to come would reach the EU average, he said.
''We have steadily been increasing financing for the social state through fiscal planning, without giving in to unwarranted demands or making pre-election concessions,'' the minister noted.
Business activity should be encouraged, markets needed deregulating, and the economy had to be more outward looking, he said.
In addition, privatization had brought 3.0 billion euros to state coffers in 2002, despite an adverse climate in global markets. The revenue was the highest in the EU as a proportion of gross domestic product.
Christodoulakis also underlined that lending rates had to fall further, which meant banks should contain their operational costs.
Finally, the minister reported that a government investment incentive bill would be sent to parliament for a vote by the end of June, with implementation to begin in September.
 Industry chief seeks shelter for economy from election tussles
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)The economy should be sheltered from party political wrangling ahead of national elections expected in April 2004, the head of the Association of Greek Industry, Odysseus Kyriakopoulos, said on Wednesday.
''The government and opposition should contribute to offering as much protection as possible to the economy from friction that will emerge in the pre-election race in the coming eleven months. They should also refrain from populist rivalry, and upping the stakes in pledges,'' Kyriakopoulos told the association's annual general meeting.
''If we fail to accomplish this, we will place into question in practice the position we won with so much toil in the hard core of Europe,'' he warned.
The industry chief also noted that business was laboring under difficult conditions, which acted as a deterrent to growth, investment and modernization.
Needed were an education system and vocational courses geared to production needs, with emphasis on the new technology; a shrinking of the public sector and its compliance with market attitudes and practice; less red tape; a crackdown on corruption and a focus on transparency; lower taxation for producers; a more flexible labor market; and advanced technology in public administration.
 EU energy ministers agree on directive regarding joint thermal energy production
BRUSSELS 15/05/2003 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos chaired a meeting of European Union energy ministers here on Wednesday, who agreed on a directive regarding the joint production of thermal energy and electricity, which constitutes an element of the EU's strategy on environmental protection.
Commission vice president and relevant Commissioner Loyola de Palacio congratulated the Greek presidency for the successful outcome of work on this complicated technical proposal whose processing began last January.
The directive on the joint production of thermal energy and electricity covers a wide range of activities and contributes substantively to saving energy and decreasing carbon dioxide emissions.
An exchange of views took place at the Council, which convened for the first time with the participation of candidate countries, a development hailed by the presiding Greek minister, on progress achieved so far on targets concerning sustainable development set by the world summit in Johannesburg in July 2002.
The energy ministers also ratified a text of conclusions on the EU's international energy relations and the dialogue on energy between the EU and Russia in particular.
They further supported the targets of the upcoming Euro-Mediterranean energy conference in Athens on May 20-21, during which priorities will be adopted for the next three years, while expressing satisfaction over progress achieved at the Euro-Mediterranean energy forum which took place in Brussels last April.
 Main opposition blames gov't ineptitude for loss of 2nd CSF funds
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)Main opposition leader Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday said the government's ''ineptitude and inadequacy'' had cost the country vast sums in lost subsidies from the European Union.
Arriving at the Athens Concert Hall for the annual address given by the head of the New Democracy party to the Union of Greek Industry (SEB), Karamanlis said that Greece had only asked for 360 billion drachmas from the 560 billion drachmas available from the 2nd Community Support Framework (CSF), as revealed by European Commissioner Michel Barnier.
This meant the country was losing out on 160 billion euros that it was entitled to and would also have to shell out an additional 20 billion euros because of the Land Register project.
According to the ND leader, this was a ''major political issue'' that concerned both Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his government, all of whose members bore their share of responsibility.
He also reminded reporters of the prime minister's pledge that ''not one drachma would be lost'' when responding to a main opposition question in Parliament three months earlier, noting that this had proved not to be the case.
Responding to Karamanlis, government spokesman Christos Protopapas on Wednesday said the sums referred to were the final payments that marked the close of the 2nd CSF.
''In Greece we carried out extremely stringent checks on the projects ourselves. In some programs we found that the execution had not been what it should be and we asked that these funds not be paid,'' he said.
The government did not wait for the European Commission to carry out its own checks but went ahead to close the accounts on its own and took on the responsibility for any further procedures, the spokesman added.
 Greek hoteliers urge for state support measures
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)Greek hoteliers on Wednesday urged for government support measures to ensure the surviving of hotel units, warning that "if the core of the tourist industry collapsed, the Greek economy and the country's society will face huge problems, especially in the unemployment sector".
The Federation of Greek Hoteliers said that any government measures should move towards: easing the tax burden on tourist packages, improving terms of subsidizing modernization investments, directly supporting businesses' liquidity and ensuring employment during the crisis, limiting bureaucratic procedures and ensuring sufficient funds to promoting and advertising Greek tourist products.
The Federation stressed that intensified competition currently facing the Greek tourist product from other Mediterranean low-cost destinations, combined with increased tax burdens imposed on Greek hotels in the last few years, have weakened financially the country's hotel businesses.
 Public sector employees call strike on Monday
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)The Civil Servants’ Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) on Wednesday announced that it called on its members to strike on Monday, protesting the compensation package offered by the government.
Demands for the new payroll program for public employees include the coverage for income losses in 2002 and 2003, the incorporation of extra bonus pays in the basic salary and an agreement for payment of back-pay.
 Greece plans shipping register for yachts
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)Greek Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis on Wednesday announced a plan to create a special shipping register for yachts and sailing boats, in the framework of the country's national shipping register, and the set up of a special shipping company for these vessels.
Speaking to reporters, in a news conference, Mr Anomeritis noted that the current legislation did not favor the creation of shipping companies to cover yachting and sailing boats.
The new draft bill, submitted to Parliament on Tuesday, envisages changes in the regulatory framework in the yachting business.
There are currently 1,381 Greek yachts operating in the country, with another 1,472 yachts operating under foreign flags.
 GDP up 4.3 pct in Q1 year/year
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)Gross domestic product rose by 4.3 percent in the first quarter of 2003 against the same period a year earlier, the Greek National Statistics Service (GNSS) said on Wednesday.
The increase follows successive year-on-year rises in 2002 of 4.2 percent in the second quarter, 3.8 percent in the third quarter, and 3.4 percent in the final quarter of the year, the GNSS said in a statement.
Investments in the first quarter increased by 7.9 percent against the corresponding period of 2002, contributing to a 1.6 percent rise in overall demand, the statement said.
 Greek exports fell 5.9 percent in 2002
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)Greek exports fell 5.9 percent in 2002 to 10,946 million euros from 11,630 million euros in the previous year, according to preliminary figures released by the National Statistics Service.
The figures were included in a monthly bulletin published by the Panhellenic Exporters' Union, reviewing export performance in 2002 in the country, in general and in regions.
The report said that despite a general decline in exports, exports recorded a strong rebound towards Libya, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine.
Export activity in US dollars fell around the world with the exception of European Union, Middle East and other countries, while in euros the decline was more general, with the exception of other countries, the report noted.
Greek exports to India soared to 123 million US dollars in 2002 from 40 million dollars in the previous year, an increase of 204 percent, a 137 percent jump in exports to Libya, a 60 percent rise to Ukraine and a 21 percent increase to Saudi Arabia.
Exports to China totalled 57 million US dollars in 2002, from 44 million dollars in the previous year, a rise of 29 percent.
 Buying in small caps leads ASE higher on Wednesday
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks moved higher on Wednesday supported by renewed buying activity in smaller capitalization stocks in the Athens Stock Exchange.
The general index rose 0.55 percent to end at 1,742.04 points, with turnover an improved 112.9 million euros.
The Metals, IT, Cement and Investment sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day (2.11 percent, 2.11 percent, 1.90 percent and 1.80 percent, respectively), while the Textile and Holding sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses (1.47 percent and 0.52 percent, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 0.59 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 0.94 percent higher, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index jumped 1.34 percent and the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index rose 0.73 percent.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 211 to 90 with another 57 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 80.0 mln euros Wednesday
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers outpace sellers on Wednesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
Closing rates of May 14 2003
Parities in euro
For. Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,159 1,132
 ATHOC responds to report of ticket delays in Australia
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)Athens 2004 organizers on Wednesday countered reports that the Organizing Committee (ATHOC) for next year’s Olympics bears responsibility for glitches in providing tickets for the 2004 Games to fans in Australia.
ATHOC’s top press and media director, Serafim Kotrotsos, responded to an article in the Australian mass-circulation daily “Herald Sun” this week, which cited “disappointment” on the part of many Australian fans unable to secure tickets for next year’s highly anticipated Olympic Games. The paper said a company tapped by the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Australia to sell the tickets in that country was “bombarded” by telephone calls and visits to its website. A spokeswoman for the firm, Sportsworld Pacific, was quoted as citing a delay in receiving ticket information from the organizers, while noting that tickets will go on sale in Australia in about 15 days.
However, Kotrotsos countered from Athens that ATHOC met a relevant deadline and briefed the International Olympic Committee and National Olympic Committees over its ticketing policy. Officials here added that ATHOC is obliged to work with NOCs in countries outside the European Union, with the latter responsible for choosing one or two local firms as the sales representatives for the 2004 Olympic tickets.
In other comments, the Sportsworld Pacific spokeswoman added that Australian fans are not expected to “lose out” from the delay, whereas no figure was given on how many 2004 Olympic tickets will be made available there.
 Hellas Sat launched successfully from Cape Canaveral
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)Greece and Cyprus finally acquired their first domestic telecoms satellite on Wednesday with the successful launch of ''Hellas Sat'' - a joint Greek-Cypriot endeavor - from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
After being postponed twice this week, the launch finally took place 13 minutes later than scheduled at 1:10 Greek time.
The satellite was taken up into space by an Atlas V rocket and then released into orbit around the Earth about half an hour later. When it reaches its final position it will be at 39 degrees East at a height of 36,000 kilometers.
It will be operationally ready in about a week but will not begin broadcasting properly for about a month until tests have been carried out and its final position ''fine-tuned''.
Hellas Sat is one of the most up-to-date satellites in the world, equipped with two steady beams with 18 transmitters to cover Europe and two mobile beams with 12 transmitters to cover the Middle East, Africa and Southeastern Asia.
Each transmitter has a bandwidth of 36MHz and can offer a wide range of telecommunication and television services, such as satellite Internet, audio and visual services and digital satellite television.
It was designed by a Greek, Yiannis Karas, working for the US firm Lockheed Martin, which was responsible for the design, construction and launch of the Greek satellite.
In Florida to witness the launch were Greek Deputy Transport and Communications Minister Manolis Stratakis, the Orthodox Archbishop of the Americas and executives of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization and Hellas Sat SA.
Speaking from Nicosia, Cypriot Communications Minister Kikis Kazamias hailed the launch from Nicosia, saying it would provide new and better services, as well as better quality in the telecommunications sector.
In a meeting with OTE vice-president and the chairman of Hellas Sat Cyprus, George Skarpellis, Kazamias reaffirmed the political will for cooperation between Cyprus and Greece, specifically between OTE and the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority.
The Cypriot minister also pointed to the new prospects opened by Cyprus' accession to the EU, noting that the EU '25' were prepared to cooperate with the ''two newest members of the satellite family'' and pay to use Hellas Sat's as soon as it was in position.
An announcement by OTE in Greece, meanwhile, said that the launch of the satellite made this a historic day for OTE and for Greece, which was now among those countries with their own domestic satellite and a factor in the European telecommunications arena, while extending the voice and influence of Hellenism.
It said that Hellas Sat would achieve full operational capacity 34 days after it was set in orbit and arrived at its final position.
''Hellas Sat'' is an Astrium Eurostar E2000+ model. The 3450 kg (7603 lbm) spacecraft will carry 30 Ku-band transponders, with an expected life of 15 years. It will be able to provide a range of services, especially in southeast Europe.
According to OTE chairman Lefteris Antonakopoulos, mean-while, the new satellite will also facilitate broadcasts of the 2004 Olympic Games around the world.
 Tests fail to confirm virus in Greece's first suspected SARS case
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)All tests carried out on a young woman admitted to hospital earlier this week as a Greece's first suspected case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - including a molecular analysis or PCR test that can establish the presence of SARS with 100 per cent certainty - had so far failed to reveal signs of the virus, Greek health authorities said on Wednesday.
They said the 23-year-old air hostess from South Africa was not home free yet, however, since there was still a chance that she might develop antibodies that would show the SARS virus was present within the next 20 days.
Announcing the results of the latest tests, Health Minister Costas Stefanis said the patient's condition was very satisfactory but that she would remain in special quarantine facilities at Athens' Sismanoglio Hospital until doctors were sure she had not been infected.
The negative result on the molecular test further reduced the chances that the patient was a possible SARS victim but did not exclude it entirely, Stefanis told reporters.
SARS, also known as atypical pneumonia, has killed 600 people and infected more than 7,500 in over 30 countries.
The young woman, a flight attendant with Emirates Airlines, had traveled to Greece after a recent visit to Hong Kong, one of the areas hit hardest by the virus, which has no known cure.
She developed flu-like symptoms compatible with SARS shortly after her arrival and was taken to hospital with a high fever at midnight on Monday, where doctors decided to admit her to the special 'zero pressure' isolation ward designed to contain the virus.
Questioned about his decision to report the suspected SARS case to the World Health Organization (WHO), Stefanis stressed that all parties had to be informed and know everything about this disease, or Greece might find itself placed on the WHO's blacklist for hiding the truth.
With respect to precautions against the virus, the health minister pointed out that even the most stringent controls at the borders could not fully safeguard against the entry of the virus into Greece, since patients might develop symptoms after they entered the country.
He announced plans for additional precautionary measures, such as the issue of information leaflets and questionnaires to travelers during their flight instead of when they reached the airport.
In addition, airport authorities would be responsible for keeping the names and places of residence and the duration of their stay for all passengers from countries worst-hit by the disease.
He announced plans to position a specially-trained doctor who would monitor arriving passengers for signs of ill health but said the government did not intend to impose temperature measurements for all passengers.
Stefanis praised the prompt response of the Control Centre for Special Diseases to the suspected SARS case, saying it had managed to alert all people that had come into contact with the young woman over the past few days, including staff and guests at the hotel where she was staying, the doctors who treated her, the crew and all 116 passengers that were on the plane she arrived with and another 50 passengers that disembarked on Cyprus.
 EFSA Scientific Advisory Body decides on inter-European Network on food safety
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)The European Food Safety Authority's (EFA) Scientific Advisory Body convened in Athens on Wednesday and decided to create an inter-European Network for the prevention of new feeding risks and crises and, in the event they appear, the securing of the greatest possible readiness, speed and effectiveness in handling them.
The meeting was attended by 25 national representatives from the corresponding European Union member-states and issues concerning suitable communication processes between relevant bodies were discussed. All agreed on the need to speed up procedures for organizing national bodies and the corresponding inter-European Network.
On the question of evaluating risks from the use of genetically modified organisms or genetically modified ingredients in food and animal food, it was pointed out that it should be based on new analytical scientific implements and, primarily, longstanding studies of an experimental nature regarding toxicity, unexpected consequences, etc.
 Witnesses testify over alleged N17 involvement in armed robberies
Athens, 15/05/2003 (ANA)The trial of 19 “November 17” suspects continued on Wednesday with testimony of several witnesses in two separate cases, a bank robbery and the robbery of a post office branch in the early 1990s.
A couple of witnesses recognized a handful of suspects, while other could not positively identify any of the accused, whereas defense attorneys again questioned the reliability of the eyewitnesses.
Earlier, accused N17 operations chief and top assassin Dimitris Koufodinas was also interviewed by a special appellate-level prosecutor earlier in the morning about an incident known as the “Riancour fiasco” of the early 1990s, where police had information about the a meeting of “N17” cadres, but failed to apprehend them in a botched operation.
Koufodinas refused to answer questions about the incident, while again simply referring to a proclamation issued at the time by the notorious terror band.
 Benefits from peaceful meetings evident, says President Papadopoulos
NICOSIA 15/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)The benefits that have emerged from recent peaceful encounters between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots far outweigh the problems arising from presenting passports to the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime in occupied Cyprus, President Tassos Papadopoulos said on Wednesday.
The president also said that there are political expediencies in the decision by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to ease restrictions on free movement to and from the island's occupied areas and he reiterated his readiness to participate immediately in substantive negotiations, under UN auspices, on the basis of a UN peace plan, the Kofi Annan proposal.
''The government, having assessed the situation with decisiveness and objective criteria, believes that the advantages gained from the practical collapse of the myth Denktash has been nurturing for years that Greek and Turkish Cypriots cannot live peacefully together far exceed the legal and technical problems that arise from his illegitimate demand to present passports when Greek Cypriots cross into the occupied areas of the Republic,'' the president said in his speech at the AGM, read by Communications and Works Minister Kikis Kazamias.
Papadopoulos said ''any official prohibition or restriction of free movement would undermine, perhaps irrevocably, the foundations of our policy on the question of Cyprus, which is nothing more than the implementation of human rights and fundamental freedoms without any conditions or restrictions.''
''These measures (easing of restrictions) and other steps to show good neighborly relations is not the solution of the problem, it cannot even be regarded as a step towards a solution,'' he added.
He said the government, the UN and the European Union understand that there are political expediencies behind Denktash's decision to ease restrictions.
The president repeated his resolve to sit immediately at substantive talks, under UN aegis, on the basis of the Annan plan, which, as he pointed out, should be improved and amended following the new circumstances within which a viable and workable solution should be sought.