|Wednesday, 23 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-09-18
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>September 18, 2003
 FM and US counterpart Colin Powell discuss Cyprus, Olympic Games security, Iraq
WASHINGTON 18/09/2003 (ANA - T. Ellis)Foreign Minister George Papandreou stressed the need for the resumption of negotiations on the Cyprus issue based on the Annan plan, in 30-minute talks with his US counterpart Colin Powell at the State Department on Wednesday.
The issue of security for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games was also raised, while Powell reportedly had a positive approach to the preparations of the Greek authorities so far, which are cooperating closely with the US and other countries having necessary know-how and experience.
Also discussed was the volatile situation prevailing in the Balkans and Papandreou stressed the need for the continuation of close cooperation between the US and the European Union, which has proved to be effective so far.
Developments in the Middle East and Iraq were probed in depth. The Greek foreign minister assessed that past disagreements can be overcome and an agreement can ultimately be reached between the US and the Franco-German axis for the issuing of a Security Council resolution providing the UN with a substantive role and contributing to the country's reconstruction.
In statements after the talks, Papandreou said he had a constructive discussion with Powell in the framework of regular contacts Greece has with the US at a bilateral level.
''However, we focused our discussion on issues of direct Greek interest such as the Cyprus issue, developments and possible initiatives and possibilities we have to utilize a new dynamic. Dynamic on the ground,'' he said.
Papandreou further said ''there are Turkish Cypriots who are requesting to participate in this wider union (EU) in a united Cyprus, (as I ascertained from) meetings I also had with all sides, particularly with the Cypriot government of course, political forces, as well as the society of citizens and the Turkish Cypriots' opposition. All this, of course, was placed in the framework of Turkey's course towards the European Union, which the US is also very well aware of.''
''We discussed Balkan issues. I insisted that the Balkans have taken considerable steps, but despite the fact our attention as an international community has turned to Iraq, the Middle East and other possible places on earth, the Balkans remain a region requiring the attention, the affection if you like, the care of the international community to enable us to consolidate stability and overcome difficult problems such as that of Kosovo,'' he said.
Referring to other issues discussed with Powell, Papandreou said ''we had the opportunity to discuss wider issues such as dialogue between the EU and the US, as well as Iraq and the Middle East in particular. The feeling I have both from last week's meetings in Italy, as well as today and yesterday here in Washington is that there is a spirit, a mood, the international community, the EU with the US to see how they will help together to have the major problem existing in Iraq after the war to be overcome. There were disagreements, and indeed intense ones over the war itself. However, there is a will for a stable Iraq with a representative government and for us to ultimately reach, as soon as possible, an independent Iraq which will belong to the Iraqis.''
Asked to say whether he briefed Powell on the continental shelf issue, Papandreou said ''it strikes me that such reports exist because I did not have anything in particular to announce or to brief. In fact I did not even discuss the continental shelf issues with Mr. Powell. It is a known issue, of course. There is a process but this process has not reached a result. If we will have some result or some development we shall notify Greek public opinion immediately.''
On the question of whether there is any initiative on the issue of Cyprus on the part of the US, the foreign minister said ''Mr. Weston is continuing efforts and we hope that conditions will be ripe to enable us to support the UN secretary general once again in his own initiatives for a solution to the Cyprus issue.''
As regards Olympic Games security, Papandreou said Powell spoke positively of the aspect of security and of close cooperation existing on the issue.
Papandreou meets US national security advisor Condoleezza Rice: The situation in Iraq and the prospects for bridging the US-EU positions for the issue of a UN Resolution, the crisis in the Middle East and Palestinian president Yasser Arafat's role, the fragile stability in the Balkans, and the Cyprus issue were at the focus of a 45-minute meeting at the White House Tuesday (early Wednesday, Greek time), between visiting Greek foreign minister George Papandreou and US president George Bush's national security advisor Condoleezza Rice.
''We discussed many and general issues, such as Iraq, the Middle East, the situation in the Balkans,'' Papandreou told reporters after the meeting, adding that, on the Greek side, ''we focused our attention on the Cyprus issue, on Turkey's course to Europe, the strategic importance of that course, but also the need for these issues, particularly the Cyprus problem, to be seen in that course''.
''We analyzed how the developments of the coming months -- the next year -- will be significant with respect to Cyprus, because not only will Cyprus be formally joining the EU, but the road is opening for new initiatives, provided a volition truly arises on the side of the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey. It is a firm position on the part of (UN secretary general) Kofi Annan and the UN, just as is the fact that Turkey is seeking a date for the commencement of negotiations (for EU membership) at the end of 2004, at which time its own stance, including on the Cyprus issue, will be assessed,'' Papandreou said.
He added that he had stressed that continuous US support for the UN efforts, its continuous insistence on a just (Cyprus) solution, in accordance with the UN resolutions, ''is something that we would appreciate and would substantively aid the course towards resolution of the Cyprus issue''.
On the Balkans, Papandreou explained that continuation of the good cooperation between the US and Europe was necessary to confront the new frictions points arising in Kosovo and FYROM.
Greek diplomatic sources told ANA that Rice claimed that, despite the negative picture held by many, the domestic situation in Iraq ''is improving'', and the US was working hard for the political reconstruction of that country. Rice also opined that there would inevitably be agreement between the US and the France-Germany axis on the issue of a UN resolution, the sources said.
On the Middle East, Rice cast blame on Arafat and accused him of undermining resigned Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas and of not taking action to halt the terrorist activity of Palestinian extremist organizations, the sources said.
Papandreou, on an official visit to Washington, is also scheduled to hold consultations with US secretary of state Colin Powell at the State Department on Wednesday.
Review of items for talks with Powell: Papandreou also briefly reviewed the issues he was expected to discuss with Powell, with whom he said he had a "wider agenda".
He said they would naturally discuss the wider developments, such as Iraq, the discussion taking place and which would take place in the UN. "We will have the opportunity, next week at the UN, to discuss these issues also in the framework of the EU, but also with the other members of the UN Security Council".
He said that the EU position was that there may have been disagreements as to whether the Iraq war should have taken place and why, but on the other hand that it was of "vital importance to stabilize Iraq, for Iraq to enter a road of reconstruction, of representational government and, naturally, of independence".
"Consequently, Europe is coming with a strategic choice, which does not differ from the statements which have been made by Mr. Powell. The issue, though, is how this will be materialized, through what procedures, and what will be the important role of the international community, and of the UN more specifically," Papandreou said.
The second item for discussion, he continued, was "definitely the Middle East".
"I am certain that the position that the Roadmap must remain at the centre of our efforts will also be the position of the UN, but from there on we shall discuss how to give life again to this process. The impasses are apparent, violence breeds violence. It is possible that we will discuss the Arafat issue. As you know, the EU and we have also made statements on Israel's recent announcements, disagreeing with the policy, but more broadly the object is not to focus on the Arafat issue but on how to face this entire process," Papandreou said.
Naturally, for Greece the top priority was the Cyprus issue, and the resolution of the Cyprus problem remains Greece's basic target, Papandreou continued, adding that there was a "new dynamic" in that direction.
He reminded that Cyprus president Tasos Papadopoulos had met Tuesday in Athens with Greek premier Costas Simitis and reaffirmed the two sides' devotion to negotiations based on the Annan plan, and noted that the volition still existed in the international community, and particularly on the part of the UN chief, to contribute, provided, however, that "there is political volition on both (Cypriot) sides".
Papandreou reminded that such a will existed on the Greek Cypriot and Greek side, while it was the stance of the Turkish Cypriot and Turkish side that was in question. In addition, there were some domestic developments in the occupied northern sector of the island, where the political developments could influence that volition. "I am referring to the December voting process," he clarified.
A further issue on the agenda for his talks with Powell was the Balkans, Papandreou said.
He said that Greece, as a country and as the previous EU president, had contributed greatly to the Balkans and their European course. "Clearly it is a region that has made steps, but also has friction points that could give rise to crises".
This, he explained, meant that the international community "must not forget the Balkans", adding that EU-US cooperation on this matter was "important". This cooperation already existed, within the UN framework, in Kosovo, Bosnia and FYROM, Papandreou said.
On Greek Turkish relations, Papandreou said there were seven years of efforts which, along with the Cyprus issue, would be facing assessment in 2004.
Indeed, he said, the decisions of the EU Helsinki summit "explicitly speak of 2004". "Indeed, the Helsinki decisions chronologically coincide with the Copenhagen (summit) decision for assessment of Turkey and whether it may proceed to the next stage, which is the commencement of negotiations (for EU accession). Consequently, these issues will be assessed, beyond the Copenhagen criteria -- human rights, internal reforms, the role of the army -- on which the present government of Turkey has truly made steps".
Papandreou reiterated the Greek position that there was only one outstanding bilateral issue between Greece and Turkey, which was the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf.
This issue, he explained, had a "territorial dimension, as we consider that our borders are a given fact". The continental shelf had not been set out because, with the treaties of the past, "the issue of the continental shelf did not exist, so there was no reason to do so". Now, however, such an issue existed, "and we must resolve it".
In these efforts, he said, Greece insisted on international legality, and on its firm position that it does not negotiate its sovereign rights, and that the continental shelf issue can be resolved within the framework of international law, through referring it to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
Papandreou noted that "exploratory" talks were ongoing between Greece and Turkey, but explained that they enabled simply an exchange of views and in no instance comprised negotiations. The talks were "an exchange of views to see if we can reach a negotiation".
Although there was nothing significant to report, no change, for example, the fact that those discussions were taking place, the effort for rapprochement in that direction was, in itself, positive, Papandreou said, adding that other contacts in which a series of other matters were being discussed were also ongoing, in an effort to formulate a climate of greater confidence between the two countries.
"And it is this entire effort that will be assessed in 2004," Papandreou said.
 FM honored in D.C.; refers to Lindh, Turkey's EU prospects
WASHINGTON 18/09/2003 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou was honored here on Tuesday by the international group Parliamentarians for Global Action for his efforts at promoting global peace and democracy, during a ceremony at the Library of Congress that came on the sidelines of his contacts this week with top US administration and State Department officials.
Among others, Papandreou referred to his late father, Andreas, a three-time premier of Greece, as well as to an ambitious International Olympic Committee (IOC) initiative, the Olympic Truce, which he is vigorously backing.
In other comments, the Greek FM also referred to the recent assassination of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, with Papandreou emphasizing the democratic and liberal spirit of the highly developed Scandinavian country where he lived in the 1970s for several years.
Finally, he pointed to the European Union’s role as a “successful endeavor for peace and democracy”, saying that countries such as Turkey and the Balkan states have a place in this Union.
 Gov't on ICAO agreement involving Aegean air corridors
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)The government on Wednesday responded to stepped up press queries here following the signing of an agreement with Ankara over new air traffic corridors in the Aegean a deal that was initially brokered and finally announced by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on Monday.
Government spokesman Christos Protopapas, addressing reporters at his regular press briefing, said the ICAO agreement was backed by both Greece and Turkey, while it will benefit the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) “operationally” by increasing the volume of air traffic able to fly over the Aegean and thereby making the air transport sector more profitable, among others. He also said the Aegean islands, practically all Greek territory, will be better served.
In response to questions over whether the agreement lessens the country’s control of the international airspace within the Athens FIR in favor of Turkey, Protopapas said the decision does not involve military activity, while “specific national specifications fall within the pre-existing framework.”
In a press release available on its website, the ICAO said “efforts initiated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), have resulted in a historic agreement between Greece and Turkey for the improvement of the air traffic services (ATS) route network over the Aegean Sea. The new ATS route package is set for implementation on 25 December 2003.
“The agreement, reached after extensive negotiations between Greece and Turkey, and fully supported by ICAO and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), addresses the national requirements and operational aspects of a new ATS route network proposal that had been developed by airspace users. Critical topics included: increased airspace capacity, improved efficiency and a continued high level of flight safety. Meetings held under the auspices of ICAO's European and North Atlantic Office considered the preparations required for the aeronautical system to meet the expected increase in air traffic demand before, during and after the upcoming 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.''
Reactions: Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party deputy Spylios Spiliotopoulos, who heads the party's national defense division, said ''the agreement is one-sided in favor of Turkey, undermines (Greece's) steadfast national positions and creates commitments which eventually will culminate in the weakening of responsibilities and rights which had been given by the international community (ICAO) to Greece for the control of the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR).''
In a later reaction, a spokesman for the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party called the agreement a ''dangerous development'', adding that it marks the ''continuing illegal flights by Turkish military aircraft within the Athens FIR''.
''The pretense of the Olympic Games cannot cover the up until now tolerance of the Greek side vis-a-vis the infringements of the Athens FIR, which the recent agreement legalizes,'' Synaspismos official Nikos Hountis said.
The Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) in an announcement said that ''the government, without consulting Parliament and the Greek people, is offering air corridors in the Aegean at the expense of our national interests. This fact facilitates Turkey's illegal claims in the Aegean.''
Foreign ministry says Aegean air corridor accord not related to military issues: The foreign ministry, in an announcement Wednesday on the agreement reached in the framework of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on air corridors in the Aegean, said ''these arrangements are not related to military activity issues.'' ''The existence of air corridors in the Aegean, both old and new, always refers to the need for the political and military coordination of activities in accordance with the mandates of ICAO, as we steadfastly demand,'' the announcement said, adding that ''the technical specifications of the air corridors, such as minimum heights, neither change nor affect this obligation.''
Among other things, the announcement said ''in the framework of what is anticipated by the clauses of ICAO, and through processes anticipated by the International Organization, Greece pursued and achieved an improvement in the system of international air corridors passing through the Athens FIR. The holding of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and the subsequent additional increase in needs rendered the interest of all parties involved in these improvements imperative, particularly ICAO and IATA (International Air Transport Association).''
It further stressed that no bilateral negotiations were held in any form and at any stage of the process.
According to the announcement, ''with the new package, the Athens FIR will have 13 additional international air corridors at higher and lower heights, which serve both overflying traffic and movement to and from Greek destinations.''
It also stressed that ''with what has been adopted not only are Greek interests safeguarded but an economic and operational benefit is also created. With the addition of new air corridors the Athens FIR is becoming more facilitating and attractive as a route for airline companies.''
 Gov't unveils tougher 'statements of means' law
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)The government on Wednesday said it wants to expand the mandatory filing of “statements of means” to include mayors, other local and regional government officials as well as judges and prosecutors, while also foreseeing stiffer penalties and extra staff to monitor such statements.
The measures were announced by Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis on Wednesday, who unveiled the major points of a new bill the government hopes will better tackle the problem of public sector corruption while at the same time increasing transparency.
According to the minister, the new legislation foresees the inclusion of stock market dealings and offshore holdings in filed statements of means, as well as more a precise listing of property holdings by various categories of public and private sector individuals.
If passed, the law will retroactively cover the period from 1990 and onwards, while including the option of opening bank accounts, brokerage codes, stock exchange dealings and tax returns.
Main opposition again tables 'statement of means' amendment: Main opposition New Democracy on Wednesday announced that it would again table an amendment seeking to extend a requirement to submit 'statement of means' declarations to high-ranking officials in public enterprises, which was defeated when tabled in Parliament during the summer.
The amendment also called for monitoring of the stock market transactions of both MPs and high-ranking public officials.
The party blasted a draft law unveiled on Wednesday by the interior ministry that also seeks to impose tougher transparency measures on politicians and the public sector, saying that it essentially gave "absolution" to the directors of state enterprises that ND claims participated in the "stock market scandal of 1998-2000".
The main opposition questioned whether the Capital Markets Commission was the appropriate body to carry out the investigation into the finances of MPs and state officials, asserting that it was not fully independent, while it slammed the draft bill as a "smoke screen that attempts to cover up the sins of the past".
It reiterated its insistence that the checking be carried out by judges on the State Auditing Council.
 PM and public works minister hold talks on unauthorized building issue
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis held two-hour talks with Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou on Wednesday evening in light of decisions the cabinet will be taking on unauthorized buildings on Thursday.
Papandreou made no statement afterwards, reminding that she will be making announcements on the issue during a press conference on Thursday.
According to reports, a bill to be submitted in Parliament will link thousands of unauthorized buildings in the Attica prefecture and in other regions with the Public Power Corporation's (DEH) network on condition general town planning studies have been created in these regions.
The arrangement will solve a longstanding problem with citizens who have created unauthorized buildings in Menidi and Megara and citizens belonging to low and medium income brackets in Attica and other prefectures in the country.
Public works ministry sources clarified, however, that unauthorized buildings created in forested areas, archaeological sites and protected areas in general will in no way be legalized.
 Commission: 22 cases against Greece referred to Eurocourt, 6 withdrawn
BRUSSELS 18/09/2003 (ANA-M. Spinthourakis)The European Commission has referred 22 cases against Greece to the European Court of Justice, while six of these were subsequently withdrawn, European Commission President Romano Prodi said on Wednesday.
He was responding to questions put by New Democracy MEP Stavros Xarhakos.
According to an announcement put out by Xarhakos, Prodi said that fines had been imposed on Greece over the uncontrolled dumping of wastes at the Kouroupitos site in Hania, Crete and the lack of plans for dealing with solid wastes and toxic or hazardous wastes.
On July 4, 2000, the European court ordered Greece to pay a fine of 20,000 euros a day until it took measures to comply with a previous ruling of April 7, 1992.
Prodi said that Greece paid the fine between July 4, 2000 and February 26, 2001, at which time it completed the measures needed to comply with the court ruling, during which time the Greek State had paid the sum of 5.4 million euro within the deadline imposed.
 Finmin says no danger of losing EU funds
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Wednesday that there was no danger of losing funds under the European Union's Third Community Support Framework (CSF).
''By the end of the year, the absorption rate of the CSF will come to 30 percent against 25 percent presently, on average,'' Christodoulakis told reporters after a meeting with the prime minister.
''The programs are going ahead at a brisk pace despite major difficulties, and there is no risk of losing funds. The aim is alignment of the regions, and that can be achieved by means of the CSF package. Efforts to move faster will continue,'' he said.
 Greek inflation eased in August, Eurostat report
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)Greek inflation eased to 3.3 percent in August from 3.5 percent in July, the second highest rate in the European Union, Eurostat said on Wednesday.
The EU executive's statistics agency, in its monthly report, said that Ireland recorded the highest inflation rate in the EU in August (3.9 percent), followed by Greece (3.3 percent) and Spain (3.1 percent).
Austria (0.9 percent), Germany (1.1 percent) and Finland (1.2 percent), recorded the lowest rates.
Annual inflation rose to 2.1 percent in August in the eurozone from 1.9 percent in July, unchanged from the same month last year. Inflation also rose to 2.0 percent in the EU-15 in August from 1.8 percent in July and 1.9 percent in August 2002.
Austria, Denmark and Finland recorded the biggest percentage declines in the inflation rate in August, compared with the same month in 2002, while UK, Sweden and Belgium recorded the highest percentage increases over the same period.
Germany (1.0 percent), Belgium, UK and Austria (1.4 percent each) recorded the lowest average inflation rates in the 12-month period to August 2003, while Ireland (4.4 percent), Portugal (3.7 percent) and Greece (3.6 percent) the highest average rates.
The inflation rate was running at 2.2 percent in the US and 0.5 percent in Switzerland in August.
 Talks between gov't, university teachers fall through
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)No agreement was reached during pay negotiations between the government and striking tertiary education teachers, following a meeting between with Education Minister Petros Efthymiou and Deputy Education Minister Nikos Farmakis on Wednesday.
The 7 per cent rise in academics' salaries and pensions - which the government stressed was the highest it could offer - was rejected by university and technical institute staff unions, who said the government's proposals were essentially unchanged and that they would continue strike action.
According to Farmakis, there were no margins for improving the government's offer, which would cost the state 20 million euros a year as it stood, while offered pay rises to primary and secondary school teachers would set back state coffers by an additional 125 million euros annually.
Both university and technical institute teachers, meanwhile, are insisting on pay rises of 20 per cent - which they say were recommended by a trilateral committee set up to deal with problems in tertiary education - and are determined to continue the five-day strike they began on Monday, while they are also mulling an indefinite strike as of September 22 that will essentially cancel the September examination period.
The ministry has also failed to reach agreement with primary and secondary school teachers, who plan to begin strikes on October 6 and October 6-7, respectively.
 Tourism sector could absorb 35 pct of Greek unemployed by 2010, report
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)The tourism sector could create up to 150,000 new job positions by 2010 absorbing around 35 percent of the current number of unemployed people in Greece, a survey on ''Tourism and Employment'' said on Wednesday.
The survey was presented, in a press conference, by the chairman of the Union of Tourist Enterprises, Mr S. Andreadis, in the presence of Development Deputy Minister Dimitris Georgakopoulos, National Tourism Organization’s chairman Ioannis Patellis, GSEE chairman Christos Polyzogopoulos and other officials.
Mr Polyzogopoulos, in his intervention, stressed that the tourism sector was developing as the biggest economic activity in the country with great prospects of both quantity and quality development. He proposed the creation and joint management of an employment observatory in the tourism sector to ensure Greek tourism's competitiveness through a constant training and upgrading of services.
The survey showed that the tourism industry recorded an 87 percent increase in employment over the last 20 years, compared with a 9.2 percent increase in total employment in the country and a 15 percent decline in the manufacturing sector.
The tourism sector's workforce totalled 808,000 people (around 18 percent of total workforce in the country) in 2000. The report said that part-time employment in the sector totalled 89,000 while indirect employment reached 464,000 in 2000.
The survey also said that employment in the tourist industry was directly related with the growth of the market, saying that every 100 new hotel beds were creating 16 new jobs in the country.
 EU Commission to discuss e-commerce issues
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)The European Commission on Wednesday announced it has launched an eight-week consultations with all interested parties to discuss legal hurdles facing companies using electronic commerce and other applications of electronic transactions.
A Commission statement said that such problems could occur from diverging national legislation on electronic pricing or different legal use of on-line and other compatible business transactions.
The Commission urged national chambers and business unions to brief their members over discussions made in the consultation round and submit their proposals with the EU executive's bodies.
The consultation round will be open to all business until November 7. The round's results will be presented and discussed further in a conference to be held March/April 2004 in Brussels.
 Tax revenues jump 91 pct in Jan-August, ministry report
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)Greek tax revenues soared 91 percent in the January-August 2003 period, compared with the same period last year, the finance ministry said on Wednesday.
A ministry announcement said that tax revenues totalled 1.754 billion euros in the first eight months of the year, up from 918.635 million euros in the same period in 2002.
Greece's National Assessoring Center, responsible for large enterprises, reported a 94.5 percent increase in its certified tax revenues totalling 628.124 million euros, while Regional Assessoring Centers certified tax revenues totalling 497.533 million euros, up 60.1 percent, the ministry said in its report.
 Taxis stage 48-hour strike until Friday
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)Taxi drivers in Athens and Attica have launched a 48-hour strike that ends on Friday at five o'clock in the morning, their union said in a statement.
The drivers are protesting against a government plan to make the use of electronic cash registers in their vehicles mandatory from January 1, 2004; and against the government's refusal to allow taxis to use bus lanes.
The government has said it will not backtrack on receipts.
Taxi drivers, who are also seeking a rise in tariffs, are due to stage another stoppage beginning on Monday.
 Labor union leader briefs President Stephanopoulos on economic, social issues
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) President Christos Polyzogopoulos visited President Kostis Stephanopoulos on Wednesday evening. During the meeting the labor union leader briefed the president on economic and social issues of interest to working people and on the issues of employment and unemployment in particular.
 Greek stocks end higher on Wednesday
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks ended higher on Wednesday reversing a several-day decline in the Athens Stock Exchange with market sentiment improved by a positive trend in international markets.
The general index ended 1.79 percent higher at 2,062.38 points, reflecting a 4.67 percent jump in National Bank's share price.
Turnover was an improved 170.7 million euros.
All sector indices ended higher with the IT Solutions (3.74 percent), Textile (3.41 percent) and Bank (3.24 percent) sectors scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks jumped 2.12 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 1.82 percent higher and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index rose 2.17 percent.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 272 to 63 with another 29 issues unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers on Wednesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 142.7 mln euros Wednesday
Equity Index Futures:
Closing rates of September 17 2003
Parities in euro
For. Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,130 1,104
 Event held marking exactly one year before opening ceremony of Paralympics
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)The opening ceremony of the Paralympics will take place in exactly one year from now and to mark the occasion, Athens Organizing Committee (ATHOC) President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki during a special event at the Conference Centre of the Organizing Committee on Wednesday presented the medal and mascot of the Paralympics.
Athens 2004 President Angelopoulos-Daskalaki noted that ''Athens 2004 is the first Organizing Committee which has jointly undertaken the preparation of both the events, the Olympic Games and the Paralympics.''
The opening ceremony of the 12th Paralympics will be on September 17, 2004 and the closing ceremony on September 28, 2004.
A record number of athletes will take part in the Paralympics in Athens, the ATHOC chief said. Specifically, taking part will be 4,000 athletes from 142 countries - a record number in the history of the Paralympics.
On his part, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said during the event that ''for us, the hosting of the Paralympics does not only simply have the equal importance with that of the Olympic Games, but double, as the moral achievement is double. It is an athletic achievement but also a social achievement.''
A seahorse named Proteas is the mascot which was presented during the event. One side of the medal depicts the emblem and the serial number of the 2004 Paralympics, the city and the year in the Greek language, but also with the Braille. The other side of the medal depicts the Acropolis.
 Attorneys' final arguments continue to take aim at N17 suspects
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)Attorneys representing the families of victims murdered or attacked by the “November 17” terrorist group over the past two and half decades continued final arguments on Wednesday at the closely watched trial of 19 suspects.
An attorney representing the families of two slain industrialists – Dimitris Angelopoulos and Alexandros Athanasiadis – as well as one target that escaped a rocket attack -- well-known shipping and energy magnate Vardis Vardinoyiannis -- on Wednesday derided the defendants as “ideological fossils with a particular acumen for crime ... which in the name of Marxism and a vision of socialism sowed terror in citizens, pain to the injured and grief in the families of victims”.
Attorney Petros Mahas told the special three-judge appellate court that the objective of the trial is every Greek citizen’s to live without the threat of terrorism hanging over them. He added that N17 members’ characteristics are an ultra-leftist ideological platform, persistence on extremist ideologies, an inability to discern momentous (political) changes and a “tendency towards crime”.
Another attorney focused on a bomb attack against a bus carrying riot police in 1985 outside a well-known Athens hotel.
Vassilis Taouxis, in fact, cited eyewitness accounts from the incident of a female accomplice at the scene of the attack, which he said match Angeliki Sotiropoulou, the lone female N17 defendant on trial. The latter reacted angrily, while the attorney countered that Sotiropoulou was linked closely with at least two members of the once-elusive group – a direct reference to Savvas Xiros, her first husband, and Dimitris Koufodinas, her long-time companion and current spouse following a jailhouse wedding this year.
Both men are accused in the voluminous indictment as being top N17 assassins and protagonists in most of the group’s attacks over the past 20 years.
Conversely, the same attorney favored acquittals for defendants Yiannis Serifis and Anestis Papanastasiou.
Finally, another attorney focusing on the same riot police bus attack said the assembly of the explosive device used pointed to advanced electrical know-how, “which, of course, Vassilis Tzortzatos, as an electrician, had,” he said in reference to one of the most visible defendants.
 Romanians arrested for setting up child begging racket
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)Police have announced the arrest of a ring of Romanians accused of setting up a child begging racket based in two central Athens hotels.
The eleven Romanian nationals, who were led before an Athens misdemeanors court prosecutor on Wednesday to hear the charges against them, are accused of forcing underage children to beg on their behalf.
According to police, the children were dropped off at central Athens locations each morning and picked up the ring in the evening.
A search of the suspects' rooms revealed handwritten signs used by the children to ask for money, as well as handwritten notes recording the daily take of each child.
 Coast guard intercepts 42 illegals in 2 separate incidents
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)The coast guard on Wednesday reported that a total of 42 illegal immigrants were arrested in two separate incidents involving attempted landings on Greek territory by migrant smugglers.
In the first instance, a wooden craft carrying 21 illegals sank in the early morning hours off the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos, with a total of 20 people rescued by Greek authorities and the crews of two fishing boats. One woman, reportedly from the African Horn nation of Eritrea, was listed as missing. Search efforts are continuing, authorities said.
The coast guard reported that the would-be migrants – 11 men and 10 women -- had disembarked from the opposite Asia Minor coast in a Turkish-registered vessel – a route and method of transport favored by Turkish migrant-smugglers attempting to ferry mostly Third World nationals onto Greek and EU territory.
In an unrelated incident on the southern shores of the Peloponnese, 22 illegal immigrants and three migrant smugglers – two local men and an Egyptian national -- were intercepted on a beach in the Messiniakos Gulf.
The trio of alleged migrant traffickers is reportedly the crew of the 14.5-metre charter vessel “Filotimos”, which authorities believe initially disembarked from Egypt. All of the illegals told authorities they were Palestinians.
An investigation is continuing.
 Youth Parliament ends this year's session
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)This year's Youth Parliament came to a close on Wednesday in the presence of President Kostis Stephanopoulos and party leaders, with youth ''deputies'' presenting their views on a variety of issues.
Referring to educational issues, speakers expressed dissatisfaction over the majority of teachers who are either indifferent or distant and harsh.
The Youth Parliament once again proposed that teachers should be assessed by pupils themselves and noted that school books are monotonous and partial and require modernization and reviewing as regards their objectiveness.
Other issues referred to were globalization, the Iraq war, the problems faced by farmers and the Cyprus issue on which Greek Cypriot pupils had the first say.
They said the Annan plan needs improvement in the direction of the adoption of the acquis communautaire, while the wish was expressed for the Turkish Cypriot opposition to win the ''elections'' due to take place in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus in December.
A delegation of speakers visited Prime Minister Costas Simitis' office in Parliament, where one girl told him ''we might be your successors'' and he replied ''why not.''
President Stephanopoulos also received a Youth Parliament delegation at the Presidential Mansion.
 Concert to mark award of 'Melina Mercouri' prize at UNESCO
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)On the occasion of the awarding of the "Melina Mercouri" cultural heritage landscapes prize by UNESCO's general director on September 18, the Greek UNESCO agency will organize a concert at the international organization’s central hall on September 19, featuring the work of Greek composer Dimitris Papadimitriou played by the ERT orchestra and Greek artists Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Fotini Darra and George Florakis doing the vocals.
The concert is entitled "Two Nobel Prizes and Cavafy the Alexandrian", while it is sponsored by the Greek Culture Ministry and Olympic Airways.
 Foreign nationals arrested for state document forgery
Athens, 18/09/2003 (ANA)Police on Wednesday announced the break up of a ring of foreign nationals accused of setting up an organized forgery racket selling fake state documents, such as work permits and driving licenses.
They identified those arrested as Pakistani national Osman Mohammad, 29, Indian national Dilbak Sins, 21, while a third man from Bangladesh known as Saidh is being sought.
The authorities have also confiscated a number of foreigners' work permits, driving licenses from various Asian countries and employer statements to the Social Insurances Foundation (IKA) found on premises used by the three, as well as handwritten notes and photographs of prospective clients seeking forged documents.
According to police, the ring has operated for some months and produced all kinds of documents useful to foreign nationals staying in Greece, which were produced using a desk-top publishing system.
The arrests were made during a raid on the apartments used by the Pakistani and Indian on Monday.
The pair were led before a misdemeanors public prosecutor in Athens and charged the same day, while the case has now been referred to the 6th examining magistrate.
 Cyprus President leaves on Monday to NY to address UN General Assembly
NICOSIA 18/09/2003 (CNA/ANA)President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos departs Monday for New York to address the UN General Assembly, where he will also meet UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The president will be accompanied by Foreign Minister George Iacovou, Director of the President's Diplomatic Office Tasos Tzionis and Foreign Ministry officials, government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said on Wednesday during his daily briefing.
To a question whether the president will ask the UN Secretary General something specific, Chrysostomides replied ''the President is always specific and he will be so during his meeting with Annan.''
Invited to comment on a statement made on Tuesday by UN Secretary General's spokesman Fred Eckhard that not all parties in Cyprus are committed at this time to negotiate on the basis of the Annan plan, Chrysostomides said that ''this confirms that one of the two sides in Cyprus has not changed its policy regarding the Annan plan.''
He added ''the request or challenge, I would say, for a change of stance refers to the Turkish side.''
On Tuesday Eckhard said that ''the Secretary General has indicated that he would once again get actively involved if he received from the parties some serious and credible expression of their willingness to once again negotiate for a settlement along the lines that he proposed to them on the basis of his plan, but that commitment is not in place from all parties at this time.''
 German MP says Annan plan a proper basis for solution
NICOSIA 18/09/2003 (CNA/ANA)The Annan peace plan for Cyprus is a proper basis for the solution of the Cyprus question, President of the German-Cypriot Parliamentary Friendship Group Siegfried Helias stressed here on Wednesday.
Helias, at the head of a parliamentary delegation of the German Bundestag, met in Nicosia with Foreign Minister George Iacovou, who briefed the German delegation on recent developments in the Cyprus problem.
In his remarks to the press after the meeting Helias expressed regret because, as he said, ''Cyprus has not yet been reunified and the Annan plan has not been crowned with success. We believe that the Annan plan is a very good basis for negotiations,'' the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) delegate said.
He expressed the view that ''probably (the Annan plan) is not the final goal the island wishes for,'' but added that ''it is definitely the proper basis (for a solution).''
Helias pledged that the German Parliament will support Cyprus in its way to reunification.
 Nearly 1.5 mln crossings of the divide between April and August
NICOSIA 18/09/2003 (CNA/ANA)There were nearly 1.5 million crossings between the free and the occupied areas of Cyprus and vice-versa between April 23 and August 31, 2003 according to a Justice and Public Order Ministry report on the government's measures aimed at improving the position of Turkish Cypriots.
Justice and Public Order Minister Doros Theodorou on Wednesday told a news conference on government measures for Turkish Cypriots that the government had shown its good will to help Turkish Cypriots by introducing a series of measures aimed at bringing people from both sides of the divide together and at improving the Turkish Cypriots' position, always within the framework of the Republic's laws and EU laws and directives.
Theodorou said the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and other countries would not accept the partial lifting of restrictions on free movement in Cyprus as a solution to the Cyprus problem.
The minister reported on each ministry's role in taking measures aimed at improving the position of the Turkish Cypriots.