|Friday, 16 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-09-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>September 16 2003
 Gov't presents its proposals for reforming electoral law
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)The interior ministry on Monday released the government's official set of draft proposals for reforming the electoral system, to be discussed in cross-party dialogue over the coming months.
According to the announcement, the changes aim to simplify the system for parliamentary elections and strengthen the element of proportional representation, while retaining measures to boost the leading parties and produce strong governments.
As expected, the current 3 percent ''platform'' required for parties to elect an MP to Parliament is to be retained, while the government wants to abolish an article in the previous law that militates against pre-election alliances by only allowing single-party formations to benefit from first-party 'bonus' seats.
The government has also placed changes to the number and type of electoral districts on the table for discussion, such as dividing the very populous electoral districts in Athens and Thessaloniki into smaller districts electing up to nine or eight seats, or creating enlarged electoral districts corresponding to ''developmental or administrative'' regions in the country, in addition to the traditional electoral districts, that will be represented by 60 seats in the house.
Overall, it proposes that up to 80 or 85 per cent of the seats in the house will be divided among the parties using a system of proportional representation, and offers two alternative methods for awarding the remainder to the first and second parties, respectively.
The proposals in detail: The text suggests a number of alternative methods and systems for calculating and allocating seats that will be discussed by a cross-party committee that is due to convene on Wednesday.
Under the first alternative, 240 or 80 per cent of the seats in Parliament will be shared out among the parties according to the nationwide proportion of the vote and the remaining 60 will be divided among the first and second-highest parties in a ratio of 4:1 or 48:12.
In the second alternative, 255 seats in the house or 85 per cent are shared out among the parties according to their nationwide share of the vote and the remaining 45 will all be allocated to the party with the highest nationwide percentage.
The committee will also be called to discuss the details of calculating seats for each electoral region, ranging from a first-past-the-post system in one-seat districts to an 'electoral quotient' system for multi-seat districts.
The draft proposals also contain two alternative proposals with regard to electoral districts:
The first proposes retaining the basic electoral districts based on prefectures as they exist today with 12-15 state deputies, while the second proposes scrapping the institution of state deputies and replacing these with 60 MPs to represent 'enlarged' electoral districts to be chosen from a list presented by each party, with 240 MPs elected from the basic electoral districts.
The 60 seats for enlarged electoral districts might either represent the 13 administrative regions in the country or seven to eight wider 'developmental' regions.
The proposals also call for dividing the inner Athens electoral district into two, the greater Athens electoral district into five, the remainder of Attica into two electoral districts and central Thessaloniki district into two.
Each of the smaller districts will elect up to nine seats if the current system is retained or up to eight if the 'enlarged' electoral district system is adopted.
The talks will also cover other issues, such as whether voters will be allowed to vote for individuals outside the party of their choice, the number of candidates in basic electoral regions etc.
 PM to meet visiting Cyprus president on Tuesday
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis is due to meet visiting Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on Tuesday, government spokes-man Christos Protopapas announced.
Papadopoulos arrived in Athens for two-day working visit on Monday afternoon, shortly after a teleconference with Simitis at 13:00 during the ceremony inaugurating the operation of the Hellas-Sat 2 Greek-Cypriot satellite.
The Cyprus president will also pay a visit to Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis on Tuesday, after his talks with Simitis.
On Wednesday, the prime minister will attend a session of the Youth Parliament, after which he will chair a meeting with Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and Deputy Finance Minister Christos Pahtas, with the successive participation of Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas, Environment Minister Vasso Papandreou and Health Minister Costas Stefanis to discuss the implementation of the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF).
On Wednesday evening at 19:00, Simitis is to meet the environment minister to prepare for the regular cabinet meeting on Thursday, which will focus on town planning issues.
After the cabinet meeting, the premier will chair a meeting to prepare his tour of Thesprotia on Friday, during which he will visit the new dock and courthouse at Igoumenitsa.
Earlier on Monday, the premier chaired a meeting with ministers involved in wrapping up the 2nd CSF, while on Monday evening he will head a meeting with Education Minister Petros Efthymiou, Christodoulakis and Deputy Education Minister Nikos Farmakis regarding a threatened wave of strikes in the educational sector.
 FM Papandreou in US for talks with top leadership
WASHINGTON, 16/09/2003 (ANA – T. Ellis)Foreign Minister George Papandreou was due to arrive here on Monday for a two-day official visit that will include meetings with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Bush administration national security adviser Condoleeza Rice.
Papandreou will also meet with State Department special coordinator for the Cyprus issue and veteran diplomat Thomas Weston.
Contacts with members of the influential US Senate foreign relations committee are also planned, as the issues of security for the 2004 Athens Olympics and the Cyprus question are expected to dominate talks.
On the sidelines of his meeting, Papandreou will be honored by the Parliamentarians for Global Action group, which includes lawmakers from 105 legislatures around the world.
 Greece's disagreement with Israeli decision to expel Arafat reiterated
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)The Greek government's position that "Israel's decision for the expulsion of (Palestinian president)Yasser Arafat is mistaken" and its "clear-cut disagreement" with it was reiterated on Monday by government spokesman Christos Protopapas, in reply to press questions.
Protopapas reiterated that Arafat was the lawful representative of the Palestinian people, and warned that Israel's decision "puts the peace process at risk".
Calling on "all sides" to "commit themselves to materialization of the Roadmap and to undertake their responsibilities", Protopapas noted that the Palestinian authorities must clamp down the organizations carrying out terrorist actions, while Israel needed to not place the region in greater danger through its decisions.
 Gov't spokesman on euro referendum in Sweden
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)''We would like Sweden's participation in the Eurozone, but the people of that country have their own, different, opinion,'' Greece's government spokesman said Monday, commenting on the Swedish voters' negative vote in a nationwide referendum Sunday on joining the euro-zone.
The spokesman, Christos Protopapas, noted the 'great importance' of the euro in the field of transactions and development, adding, however, that a prerequisite for those advantages to be reaped was participation of the countries in the common European currency.
 China's deputy chief of general staff to visit Athens
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Deputy Chief of China's general staff, Lt.-Gen. Zhang Li, was due in Athens on Tuesday for a four-day official visit, Greece's national defense general staff (GEETHA) announced on Mon-day.
During the September 16-20 visit, Lt.-Gen. Zhang was due to meet with national defense deputy minister Lazaros Lotidis and with the defense ministry's military leadership to discuss issues of mutual military interest, the announcement said.
 PASOK MPs mostly toe the line on revealing stock market transactions
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)The majority of PASOK MPs appeared to have responded to a call by Prime Minister Costas Simitis to submit records of their stock market transactions for inspection on Monday, the last day of the deadline given by the prime minister.
Sources said that nearly all had submitted such a statement to PASOK Parliamentary group secretary Nikos Levoyiannis, even many of those that had originally objected to the premier's decision.
PASOK MP for Zakynthos Dionysis Gouskos and Thessaloniki MP Stelios Papathemelis, however, sent a letter to Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis stating that they had nothing to report that was not already in their 'statement of means' declarations, while Attica MP Theodoros Pangalos sent a letter to the prime minister stating that he had no stocks or shares.
The statements are to be handed over to the Capital Markets Commission within the week, while the inspection process is expected to be over by Christmas since most MPs either have either not carried out any stock market transactions or have kept their stock portfolios 'frozen'.
Asked to comment on the process, government spokesman Christos Protopapas noted that the deadline for submitting the 'statement of means' declarations and accompanying stock market transaction reports did not expire until Monday night and that it was too soon to say anything.
He stressed that PASOK had nothing to hide or fear and predicted that there would be no problems regarding the response to the Prime Minister's initiative.
Levoyiannis told reporters later on Monday that only one MP had failed to submit the statement, and this because he was out of town. He said that those MPs that chose to address letters to the prime minister or Parliament Speaker where covered by this action.
 Gov't denies receiving letter from Patriarch Vartholomeos
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Government spokesman Christos Protopapas on Monday denied that Prime Minister Costas Simitis had received a letter from Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos and stressed that the government would on no account become involved in ecclesiastical matters.
According to press reports, the letter asked for the prime minister's intervention in the altercation between the Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church of Greece.
"All these ecclesiastical issues are delicate, there are discernable boundaries and the government has no intention of intervening," Protopapas said.
 DM says key steps taken to upgrade public administration
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said on Monday major steps have been taken in past years to upgrade public administration, such as creation of the Higher Staff Selection Council, but added that the country needs an overall institutional and administrative overhaul.
Papantoniou was speaking at an event organized by the Union of Greek Banks.
''Mismanagement is a stumbling block for development and the exercising of social policy. Reforms are necessary at all levels to enable the upgrading of administrative apparatus' effectiveness,'' he said.
 PM inaugurates commercial operation of Hellas-Sat
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Monday inaugurated the start of commercial operation of the Greek-Cypriot telecommunications satellite Hellas-Sat at a special ceremony during which he held three teleconferences - the first with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos - that demonstrated the satellite's capabilities.
Apart from Papadopoulos, the prime minister was also linked directly with the commander of a Greek peace-keeping unit stationed in Afghanistan, Major Miltiades Kolatos, and the mayor of the remote Aegean islet of Fourni, Yiannis Manousis.
In an address at the ceremony, Simitis stressed that Greece was now among the countries with an active presence in space and that the satellite was a decisive step toward inducting Greece into the information and knowledge society.
He said Hellas-Sat would be a vital tool in the successful organization of the Athens Olympics in 2004 and would cover new needs created by the full deregulation of telecommunications in Greece.
Simitis also announced that Greece will soon become one of the countries that have a space program and congratulated all those who contributed to the success of the Hellas-Sat program.
Telecommunications Minister Christos Verelis referred to the many benefits that the satellite's operation will bring to Greece, noting that it was expected to earn 100 million euros for the Greek State during the 17 years that it will be in orbit and that it opened a ''new page and a new era'' for telecommunications in Greece.
Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) director Lefteris Antonakopoulos said the satellite would give OTE a salient advantage in the European market and be an important aid in the organization of the Olympics.
The ceremony was also addressed by Cypriot Works and Transport Minister Kikis Kazamias and attended by Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, who said the entire Armed Forces command and control system would henceforth be carried out via the satellite, which would allow instant high-quality communication during war or a crisis and give Greece an important strategic advantage.
Hellas Sat: The result of close cooperation between the Greek and Cypriot governments, the Hellas Sat
satellite was designed by Yiannis Karras, constructed by Astrium and launched on May 13, 2003 from Cape Canaveral, taking its position in orbit at 37,500 kilometers.
It will provide secure telecommunications coverage for all of Greece and Cyprus and about 25 countries in the surrounding regions, with the capacity to handle telephony, Internet, telemedicine, defense and digital television applications.
Due to a highly successful launch that brought it to the correct position very quickly, thus saving fuel, the satellite's lifespan has been extended by an additional two years to 17.
It was produced at a cost of 170 million dollars and is capable of covering areas in the Balkans, west and central Europe, as well as part of Asia and Africa.
 Social spending in Greece reaches EU average, report says
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Social protection spending totalled 27.7 percent of the country's gross domestic product in 2002, with Greece reaching or even exceeding the European average, official figures showed on Monday.
The National Statistics Service said that social spending rose steadily in the last few years from 26.1 percent of GDP in 2000 to 27.2 percent in 2001 and to 27.7 percent last year, compared with an average 27.3 percent of GDP in the European Union (2000 figures).
Greek Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, commenting on the figures, said that Greece has already converged with the European Union in social protection spending.
NSS said that social spending, in stable drachmas, exceeded one million per capita in 1999, recording a 57.6 percent increase from 1995, the highest growth in the European Union.
Spending rose 5.9 percent in 2002, 8.3 percent in 2001, 7.7 percent in 2000, 8.2 percent in 1999 and 7.3 percent in 1998 in Greece.
Total social spending was 39.2 billion euros in 2002, up 9.9 percent from the previous year.
 FinMin comments on reduced VAT plan
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)The European Commission is considering a plan to implement a reduced value added tax (8.0 percent) to real estate assets regarding the primary ownership of a house, Greek Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Christodoulakis, said that if the plan was approved by EU member-states, the introduction of VAT on new homes in Greece would be made on an 8.0 percent tax factor and not 18.0 percent as currently envisaged by community legislation.
The Greek minister said that a decision was expected in the next eight months.
Commenting on provisions of tax-breaks in a "social package" of measures recently announced by the Greek government, Mr Christodoulakis stressed that "tax breaks are not taboo, but reviewed, abolished or introduced from time to time".
He reiterated that the government was not planning any changes in taxation for next year.
 PM Simitis chairs meeting on Community Support Framework
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)The insurance of funds for the 4th Community Support Frame-work (CSF) depends on the good course of the Third CSF, national economy and finance deputy minister Christos Pachtas said Monday, following a meeting chaired by prime minister Costas Simitis with the participation of Pachtas, national economy and finance minister Nikos Christodoulakis, and environment, town planning and public works minister Vasso Papandreou.
No statements were made by Christodoulakis and Papandreou, while Pachtas briefed reporters that procedures for preparation of the 4th package (CSF) and the closing of the 2nd package had been discussed.
The government's goal for the 2007-2013 period (4th CSF) was to reinforce the periphery and eliminate regional inequalities, Pachtas said.
With respect to the 2nd CSF, he said, to date a total of 30 percent of the annual payments had been received while another 20 percent was due to be received at a later date.
Pachtas further said that several meetings have been planned this week to discuss the course of the 3rd CSF and ways of accelerating the projects and actions incorporated in it.
 Strong EU needs bold decisions, Greek FinMin says
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)The result of a Swedish vote on the euro is respectable but building an effective European Union needs bold decisions, Greek Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Monday.
The Greek minister stressed that the result of the vote was unfair to the euro currency and noted that the European issue and its prospects were a procedure demanding the integration of "give-and-take" policy between each member-state and the EU.
"The negative result is attributed either to bad timing or because voters had the feeling that euro entry could lead to hardships," Mr Christodoulakis said.
He added that the euro currency offered a strong shield to its members during the war in Iraq.
 Eurozone recovery delayed until 2004, ECOFIN says
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Economic recovery in the eurozone will be delayed until 2004, the European Union's Economy and Finance Ministers said in their informal meeting in Stressa, Italy, on Saturday.
Greek Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, speaking to reporters on Monday, said that ECOFIN generally agreed that economic recovery in the eurozone and the EU was delayed and that the region's gross domestic product (GDP) would not exceed 0.7 percent in 2003.
Mr Christodoulakis said that EU finance ministers delayed the recovery for next year when GDP growth was expected to reach 2.0 percent.
The Greek minister stressed that both the European Commission and the European Central Bank agreed that the US economy would outperform the EU's for one more year, with growth rates of 2.4 percent this year and 3.7 percent in 2004.
Saturday's ECOFIN also discussed the fiscal conditions in the EU and a proposal by the European Commission to broaden the use of Value Added Tax. The French Finance Minister Francis Mer stressed that the Stability Pact should be respected but also exploiting all flexibility possible. Other finance ministers urged Germany and France to contain their fiscal deficits to avoid undermining confidence in the euro currency.
 Gov’t announces measures to combat price increases
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Greece's Development ministry on Monday announced a package of measures aimed at improving regulation in the domestic market and combatting unjustified price increases in the country.
Development Deputy Minister Kimon Koulouris announced it was referring Greek tobacco manufacturers to the Competition Commission for allegedly - unjustifiably - raising their prices by 8-9 percent.
The Greek minister also announced a series of disciplinary measures, which included
imposition of heavy fines, against several companies accused of overcharging fresh produce, and imposing limits on wholesale and retail profit margins (7.0 percent and 22-25 percent, respectively) in the trading of potatoes, oranges, apples and peaches.
All manufacturing companies with an annual turnover of more than 7.3 million euros are obliged to notify with the Development ministry 30 days in advance of any price changes.
 Eurostat report on Greek fiscal, public deficits in 2002
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Greece recorded a fiscal deficit of 1.2 percent of GDP last year, while its public debt totalled 104.7 percent and its primary surplus 4.9 percent of GDP, respectively, Eurostat said on Monday.
The EU executive's statistics agency, in its reviewed figures for 2002, said that public spending totalled 48.5 percent of GDP (48.3 percent in the eurozone and 47.4 percent in the EU-15), while public revenues totalled 45.4 percent of GDP (46.1 percent in eurozone and 45.4 percent in the EU-15).
Germany and France recorded the highest fiscal deficits among the European Union's 15 member-states last year, exceeding a three percent limit envisaged by the Stability Pact, Eurostat said in its report.
They were followed by Portugal (2.7 percent) and Italy (2.3 percent). Finland (4.2 percent), Luxembourg (2.5 percent), Denmark (2.1 percent) and Sweden (1.3 percent) recorded the biggest fiscal surpluses, while the eurozone average was 2.2 percent and the EU-15 average was 1.9 percent in 2002.
Eurostat said that Greece recorded the third highest public debt in the EU (104.7 percent of GDP) after Italy (106.7 percent) and Belgium (105.8 percent), while Luxembourg the smallest public debt (5.7 percent of GDP). Eurozone's average was 69 percent, while EU-15 average was 62.3 percent in 2002.
Finland recorded the highest primary surplus in 2002 (6.4 percent of GDP), while Germany recorded a primary shortfall of 0.4 percent. Both the eurozone and the EU-15 recorded a primary surplus of 1.4 percent in 2002.
 ND leader Karamanlis meets with shipping representatives
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis met Monday with shipping representatives and discussed the problems faced by the sector.
Karamanlis noted that tax and other reliefs needed to be introduced in order to strengthen the competitiveness of Greek maritime vessels, and promised to back the interests of Greek merchant shipping in Europe, with respect for the environment and the international treaties, through the reform of maritime education in order to attract youths to the profession, and with a 'genuine' social insurance reform through reduction of the employers' and employees' contributions and the finding of funds to cover the deficit of the Seamen's Pension Fund (NAT).
Present at the meeting where Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) president Nikos Efthymiou, chairman of the London-based Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee Epaminondas Embiricos, and president of the Maritime Chamber Spyros Alexandratos.
 Greek EU official wants to see pension rights intact after job changes
BRUSSELS,16/09/2003 (ANA/G.Zitouniati)The European Union's employment and social affairs commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou, said on Monday that the pension rights of nationals of the bloc should remain intact despite changes in job or country.
Diamantopoulou, Greece's commissioner, was speaking after release of an EU guideline that urges member states to ensure security of rights for changes in employment, or residence in another country in the bloc.
Compliance would mean that employers and unions should align their vocational pension systems to ensure the preservation of rights, the guideline said.
 Phillip Morris to pay 17.97/18.02 euros per share for Papastratos stake
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Phillip Morris Holland BV is to pay either 17.97 euros or 18.02 euros per share for a 75 percent stake in Athens-quoted Papastratos SA, depending on an agreement yet to be made on a valuation of real estate owned by the Greek firm.
Acquisition of the stock is subject to approval by regulatory authorities, the companies said in a statement on Monday.
 Atlantic Bank to acquire business of Allied Irish Banks NY branch
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Atlantic Bank of New York, a member of the NBG Group, and Allied Irish Banks (AIB) Plc jointly announced on Monday that they have signed an agreement under which Atlantic Bank will purchase all deposit accounts, safe deposit boxes and certain consumer and business loans located at AIB’s Park Avenue branch office.
The branch represents AIB’s sole retail banking office in the US.
Upon completion of the transaction, Atlantic Bank expects to assume operation of the Park Avenue branch as part of its more than 20 branch office network.
The transaction, which is subject to the receipt of appropriate regulatory approval and other customary conditions of closing, is expected to be finalized during the fourth quarter of this year.
This transaction follows a decision by AIB and M&T Bank not to proceed with their previously announced sale of the Park Avenue branch office. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Commenting on the transaction, William Strickland, AIB’s Executive Vice President and General Manager, stated, ''The sale of our Retail Branch business to Atlantic Bank is very good news for our employees, customers and community,''.
Thomas M. O’Brien, President and Chief Executive Officer of Atlantic Bank, said: ''The acquisition of AIB’s Retail Branch office and related business represents an excellent opportunity to expand Atlantic Bank’s retail branch presence and our small- to middle-market business franchise in the Manhattan market.''
Established in 1926, Atlantic Bank of New York is one of the top 20 commercial banks serving the New York area.
With over $3.0 billion in assets, Atlantic Bank is a full-service commercial bank providing a comprehensive range of financial services to small- and mid-sized businesses, commercial real estate investors and consumers.
The Bank operates 20 branch offices in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island, Westchester, Duchess and Boston.
Atlantic Bank has more than $57 billion in assets and operates in 17 countries.
AIB Group is Ireland’s leading banking and financial services organization. It operates principally in Ireland, Britain, the USA and Poland, and has assets of more than $86 billion.
 Greek, Cyprus ministers meet over merchant marine issues
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Greek Merchant Marine Minister George Paschalidis received his Cypriot counterpart Kikis Kazamias, who holds the transportation portfolio in the Papadopoulos government.
Expectedly, a variety of maritime and sea transport issues were discussed, including reciprocity and application of the principles of fair competition.
 Government to give salary increases to secondary education teachers
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)The government on Monday decided to give salary increases to secondary education teachers as part of the package of benefits announced by the government in early September.
Prime Minister Costas Simitis chaired a meeting on pay claims by elementary and secondary education teachers. Among others, the meeting was attended by Education Minister Petros Efthymiou and Finance and Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis.
At the end of the meeting, Christodoulakis announced salary increases ranging between 40,000 and 57,000 drachmas a month.
The government's decision apparently does not satisfy teachers, while union circles let it be understood that teachers are considering strike action scheduled for October 6-7.
 Greek stocks end sharply lower on Monday
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks ended Monday's session sharply lower in the Athens Stock Exchanger as lack of fresh buying left share prices vulnerable to selling pressures.
The general index ended 1.69 percent lower at 2,047.66 points, slightly off its session lows, with turnover a low 95.1 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 1.68 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index dropped 2.71
percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index plunged 3.76 percent.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 138.2 mln euros Monday
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers on Monday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
Closing rates of September 15 2003
Parities in euro
For. Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,137 1,111
 President Stephanopoulos visits Olympic Games installations
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)President Kostis Stephanopoulos visited Olympic Games installations at the International Radio and Television Centre, the Shooting Centre and the Equestrian Centre on Monday.
President Stephanopoulos was welcomed at the International Radio and Television Centre by Athens 2004 Organizing Committee (ATHOC) President Gianna Angelopoulos Daskalaki and Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos who gave him a tour of the installations.
 Attorney for US victims of N17 presses for guilty verdicts
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)It was the turn of attorneys representing victims and the families of victims on Monday to present final arguments at the closely watched “November 17” terrorism trial, nearly into its sixth month of proceedings at a specially modified prison courtroom.
Noted Athens attorney Ilias Anagnostopoulos, who represents the families of a handful of US victims as well as the family of the assassinated British defense attache and last N17 victim Stephen Saunders, vilified the alleged leaders and top assassins amongst the 19 defendants.
Five US diplomats and military personnel were killed by the notorious and once-elusive terror band since its debut in December 1975 with the murder of Richard Welch, a US diplomat long considered the CIA’s station chief in Athens at the time. Several others were injured in various assassination attempts.
Saunders was shot dead by a N17 gunman while driving to the British embassy on the morning of June 8, 2000.
Regarding Alexandros Giotopoulos, who lived under the alias of “Michel Economou” for more than 20 years, the attorney said the latter’s claim of a “conspiracy” by foreign and domestic intelligence agencies was “childish” and an
Giotopoulos is more-or-less identified in the voluminous indictment as a N17 co-founder and mastermind, code-named “Lambros”.
Dimitris Koufodinas was, according to the attorney, the band’s “military chief”.
“His (Koufodinas) adult life is made up of murders, explosions and robberies; a convinced serial killer. While at the same time he was also the organization’s archivist, treasurer and relics-keeper,” he stressed, before charging that Koufodinas’ long-time companion and subsequent wife, Aggeliki Sotiropoulou, knew and aided his “murderous actions”.
Sotiropoulou is the only woman amongst the 19 defendants on trial. He married Koufodinas, an amateur beekeeper, after both of them were incarcerated.
As far as two out of the three Xiros brothers on trial are concerned, the attorney called Christodoulos a “brutal and cruel” exterminator for the group. “He could have been a protagonist in horror movies, but he was active in real life,” Anagnostopoulos said of the hulking and often scruffy-faced Christodoulos.
Regarding Savvas Xiros, whose botched bomb attempt in June 2002 at the port of Piraeus generated almost two dozen arrests of other suspects afterwards, Anagnostopoulos described him as a “killing machine”, an untiring man in search of criminal methods.
Finally, the attorney called on the three-judge appellate court trying the unprecedented terrorism trial to consider defendants’ initial statements to authorities and their subsequent confessions to judicial magistrates as serious evidence of guilt. Most of the defendants recanted during the trial, with some – including Savvas and Christodoulos Xiros – claiming their statements were the product of duress and psychological pressure.
“In trials of criminal terrorist groups such statements (and confessions) by the co-defendants comprise one of the most vital forms of evidence, because the conspiratorial structure of such groups does not allow third parties (non-members) to witness the planning and execution of criminal acts,” he stressed.
Final arguments by other attorneys representing N17 victims are due on Tuesday.
 Gov't expected to announce measures for illegal buildings on Thursday
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)The environment and town planning ministry is currently putting the final touches to a bill to deal with the problem of buildings without planning permission, which are due to be given the go-ahead by the cabinet on Thursday, sources said.
Environment Minister Vasso Papandreou is to announce the final decisions, which are estimated to affect more than 600,000 Greeks in the low to middle-income strata, after the cabinet meeting.
The government is expected to allow buildings constructed without planning permission that are within the town planning zone to immediately hook up with the Public Power Corpo-ration's electricity grid - a measure expected to affect 150,000 property owners. Ministry officials stressed, however, that no buildings within forested land, archaeological areas and protected areas would be legalized.
 Two policemen killed in traffic accident outside Megara
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Two policemen were killed early Monday outside of Megara when their patrol car rammed into an electricity pole.
The accident occurred at 2:00 a.m. on the 33rd kilometer of the Athens-Corinth national highway when the patrol car veered off course and overturned after ramming into an electricity pole.
Both officers in the patrol car were killed in the accident, one of them the 26-yearold father of three children and the other a 19-year-old rookie.
The Megara traffic police were investigating the accident which, according to press sources, was possibly due to excessive speed.
 Free public transport on Tuesday as part of 'European Mobility Week'
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)The public will enjoy free public transport on Tuesday as part of ''European Mobility Week'' which begins on the same day.
On the occasion, the transport and communications ministry and the Athens Urban Transport Organization will organise ''To the City with Public Transport'' day on Tuesday.
European Mobility Week is dedicated this year to the use of environmentally friendly means of transport, with particular emphasis being placed on the bicycle and facilitating transport for people with special needs.
Athens currently has the biggest fleet of environmentally friendly buses in Europe since 295 buses are powered by natural gas, while this figure will increase considerably over a short period of time.
Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis said in a statement that more and more citizens are relying on public transport for their travel.
 College professors threaten to strike over pay demands
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)University and technical school professors and lecturers threatened to begin a five-day strike on Monday in demand of pay raising, an industrial action that could postpone the upcoming examination period.
Professors are demanding a 20-percent increase in pay and are not satisfied with a 7-percent pay raise offered by the government.
Following inconclusive talks with Education Minister Petros Efthymiou, professors' representatives said the strike would begin on Monday.
The government called on professors to begin classes so that students will not miss the examination period.
 President Stephanopoulos inaugurates 32nd book festival in Athens
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)President Kostis Stephanopoulos inaugurated the 32nd book festival in Athens on Monday night.
''Our children must become accustomed to reading and the beauty of the language instead of their parents allowing them to spend hours in front of television,'' President Stephanopoulos said during the inauguration ceremony.
Referring to the festival's poster, a picture of destruction, he said ''it does not have a pessimistic message but shows the ill-treatment of the book to enable one to admire its good use'' and expressed optimism that year after year more titles will be published and readers will increase in number.
 Five disabled athletes to attempt swim across Aegean
Athens, 16/09/2003 (ANA)Five athletes with a disability and two swimmers/coaches on Saturday will attempt to swim across the Aegean, as they will disembark from Cape Sounion, in the extreme southeastern portion of Attica prefecture, in an effort to reach the Cyclades island of Milos in five days.
Intermediate stops will be the other Cyclades islands of Kythnos, Serifos, Sifnos and Kimolos.
The audacious project is has been dubbed “Aegeathlon”, from the Greek word “athlos”, which means an extraordinary achievement. The initiative supported by the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The crossing comes exactly one year before the Paralympic Games of 2004 (Sept. 17–28, 2004) are hosted in Athens. The aim of the project is to better inform and inspire the public about Paralympic athletes’ potential and their achievements. It also aims to promote the Aegean islands’ unsurpassed beauty and culture.
The distance between Cape Sounion – long associated with the ancient temple of Poseidon -- and Milos is 145 km (78 nautical miles). However, depending on weather and sea conditions during the relay, athletes may swim 160 to 170 km (85 – 92 nautical miles).
Athletes are expected to set off early in the morning and swim continuously, one after the other, until they reach their next destination, and without the use of artificial limbs or swimming aids, such as flippers. Experienced escorts will be nearby on boats, while a medical team will also monitor the athletes during the relay.
Participating Athletes include Constantinos Fykas (Paralympic gold medalist in Sydney 2000), Marianna Bratsalia, Giannis Chatzibeis, Sakis Kostaris and Nikos Paterakis. George Mathas, the first Greek to officially cross the English Channel, and Petros Tsiallas, a champion long-distance swimming, will join them.
“Aegeathlon” is sponsored by the Yacht Club of Greece (NOE), GM Yachting and Adidas.
A press conference will be held at the premises of the Yacht Club in Microlimano, Piraeus, on Thursday at 12:30pm.
For more information, call Antonios Rellas at (+30) 69188.8.131.52 or send a fax to (+30) 184.108.40.2065. A relevant website is at www.aegeathlon.com, email to email@example.com
 President Papadopoulos in Athens to hold talks with Simitis
LARNACA, 16/09/2003 (CNA/ANA)The Annan peace plan needs amendments in order to become more functional and viable and this is generally accepted, President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos stated here Monday on his departure to the Greek capital.
In Athens, President Papadopoulos will hold talks with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his aides and will meet with President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, President of the Greek Parliament Apostolos Kaklamanis and leader of the opposition New Democracy Party Costas Karamanlis.
Regarding his meeting Tuesday with Greek Premier Costas Simitis, the president said that it falls within the framework of the usual meetings, ''aiming to achieve the best possible coordination of our policy''.
''It is generally accepted that the Annan peace plan needs amendments in order to become more functional and viable. This is the stance of the Greek Cypriot side and it is gaining broad support'', President Papadopoulos said.
He added that for the past five months the Greek Cypriot side has been continuously ''assessing and evaluating the plan''.
Invited to comment on press reports regarding new proposals by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash on the issue of the closed part of Famagusta, the President of the Republic said that Denktash's declarations ''do not persuade anyone'', especially because they are made a few months before the so called elections in the Turkish occupied north.
He reassured that the government is ready to deal with any declarations made by Denktash, if the latter, ''as he is obliged to, persuades Turkey to free the town of Famagusta and return it to its legitimate residents''.
''This would be welcomed by us'', the president said, adding that Famagusta is under the control of Turkish military and not under Denktash.
Regarding the European Parliament elections, to take place in June 2004, President Papadopoulos said that according to the EU, Cyprus, as a whole, is a single electoral area and he reiterated the government's position that as many Turkish Cypriots as possible must vote.
The president is accompanied by Foreign Minister Giorgos Iacovou, Undersecretary to the President is Christodoulos Pashiardis, Government Spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides and Director of the President's Diplomatic Office Tasos Tzionis. Greek Ambassador to Cyprus Christos Panagopoulos also went to Athens for the President's visit.
Papadopoulos and his entourage return home on Tuesday.
 Cyprus urges Israel to rescind its decision to expel Yasser Arafat
NICOSIA, 16/09/2003 (CNA/ANA)The Government of the Republic of Cyprus ''endorses the statement of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union of 12th September, concerning the recent decision by the Israeli Security Cabinet to expel Yasser Arafat -the elected President of the Palestinian National Authority- from the Palestinian Territories'', and expresses its profound concern over this decision and calls for its rescinding.
An official statement said the government notes that ''such a decision will aggravate an already explosive situation and will have unpredictable and dire consequences'' as well as ''contribute immensely to the uncertainty that prevails in the region, causing more bloodshed''.
''Cyprus believes that there cannot be a solution by imposition of the will of the one party on the other, or through violence'' and that the solution must be based on justice and be consistent with Security Council Resolutions, in particular 242 (22.11.1967), 338 (22.10.1973) and 1397 (12.3.2002), which will provide security for all the states of the region and for the peaceful coexistence of two states, including a Palestinian state.
''Cyprus also urges the Parties to return as soon as possible to the negotiating table and to reaffirm their commitment to the implementation of the Road Map'', it concludes.