|Tuesday, 16 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-09-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>September 24, 2003
 President receives visiting Hungarian head of state
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Tuesday received visiting Hungarian President Ferenc Madl, currently in Greece on an official visit.
Madl's talks with Stephanopoulos covered cooperation between Greece and Hungary in the framework of NATO and the European Union, of which Hungary is to become a full member on May 1, 2004.
The two men also discussed business investments, Euro-Atlantic ties, the new European Constitution and the outcome of a dispute between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate over the fate of a cathedral in Budapest.
Madl expressed his country's ''admiration and respect'' for Greece's economic and political achievements after the restoration of democracy and its gratitude for Greek support of Hungary's efforts for democratization and to join the EU.
He asked that the two countries intensify cooperation within NATO organs, noting that Budapest attached great importance to the Alliance, and asked that Greece support Hungary's request that the new EU constitution contain articles for the protection of ethnic minority rights.
Stephanopoulos replied that Greece supported the processes leading to the creation of an EU constitution and said that those drafting the text had given the necessary guarantees for the full coverage of such rights.
Regarding the cathedral under dispute in Budapest, Madl said that it had been a Greek Orthodox Church that had passed into the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate during the period of Russian influence and reiterated a Hungarian proposal to build a new church if the Russian Patriarchate agreed to return the cathedral to the Greek Orthodox Church.
Stephanopoulos accepted the Hungarian proposal with satisfaction and expressed hope that it would be accepted in Moscow, so that the affair might be settled without further procedures.
Immediately after his meeting with the Greek president, Madl laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
He is due to meet Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Wednesday.
 Greek and Hungarian presidents discuss central European road network
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)The implementation of Corridor 10, a modern road network linking central Europe and the Balkans with Greece, was one of the issues discussed during Tuesday's meeting between President Kostis Stephanopoulos and visiting Hungarian President Ferenc Madl, said Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos who participated in the talks.
Loverdos said one of the major cooperation issues between Greece and Hungary regarding the Balkans, was the ''passability'', namely the implementation of Corridor 10.
A Greco-Hungarian meeting was agreed in November to examine possibilities of cooperation on the project.
A foreign ministry announcement reminds that this meeting is a continuation of a series of meetings held with Serb officials on Corridor 10, such as Loverdos' visit to Belgrade last July and the visit by a Serb delegation to Thessaloniki during the International Fair.
A visit by senior Greek officials to Belgrade has also been scheduled to prepare issues concerning Corridor 10 in light of the president's official visit to Serbia-Montenegro next month.
Sections of Corridor 10 to be financed by the Greek government are expected to be announced on the occasion of the visit, the foreign ministry's announcement added.
President Stephanopoulos hosts dinner for Hungarian counterpart: President Kostis Stephanopoulos hosted a dinner for his visiting Hungarian counterpart Ferenc Madl on Tuesday evening, stressing the need for the new enlarged Europe to find the necessary flexible and effective apparatuses for its future course and the achievement of its targets.
Speaking during the dinner, President Stephanopoulos said united Europe must play in the world the role belonging to it and promote in every direction the great principles it believes in.
Referring to Cyprus' accession to the European Union, the Greek president expressed the conviction that the signing of the accession act opens auspicious prospects for all the people of Cyprus and the hope that the Turkish Cypriots will realize the great advantages entailed by their participation in the European family and will cooperate with the Greek Cypriots in finding an overall solution to the political problem and the reunification of Cyprus.
President Stephanopoulos also focused on the crisis occurring at the World Trade Organization's ministerial session in Kankoon, saying ''it is due to the increasing difference in the standard of living and in the level of human dignity between rich and poor.''
 Parliament speaker meets Hungarian president
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis on Tuesday received visiting Hungarian President Ference Madl in Parliament and exchanged views on the role of Europe and the new countries in the European Union.
Madl is currently carrying out an official visit to Greece for talks with the state and government leadership.
Kaklamanis supported the need to create a dynamic Union with its own foreign and defense policy that will "guarantee the security and safety of all European peoples".
The Hungarian president, whose country will become a full member of the EU on May 1, 2004, thanked Kaklamanis for Greece's warm support of Hungary's European course and promised to continue working to build a United Europe.
 Hungarian president awarded Medal of the Order of Merit of the City of Athens
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni bestowed the Gold Medal of the Order of Merit of the City of Athens to visiting Hungarian President Ferenc Madl during a ceremony held at the Athens Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon.
In her address, the Athens Mayor referred to Madl's exceptional personality, focusing on his brilliant academic career which culminated in him heading the seat of International Private Law at Budapest University in 1985.
Bakoyianni also noted that the Hungarian president has written 20 books and has been co-author of another 100.
Ferenc Madl, before becoming president, also served as minister without portfolio and as culture minister.
On his part, the Hungarian president, who is on an official visit to Greece, said he was deeply moved by the honor bestowed on him by the city of Athens, ''an act which does not only honor me, but all the Hungarian people.''
 Greek and Swedish DMs concerned over worsening of security conditions in Iraq
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and his Swedish counterpart Leni Bjorklund expressed concern over worsening security conditions in Iraq in talks held in Stockholm on Tuesday, during which they exchanged views on European defense and the reorganizing of the armed forces.
According to reports, Papantoniou extended the Greek government's condolences over the tragic loss of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, which the Swedish side appreciated.
On the question of developments in Iraq, Papantoniou reiterated Greece's position on strengthening the role of the UN in shaping conditions of stability in the country and the return of power to the people of Iraq.
The two ministers reiterated the differentiated positions of their countries on the issue of European defense, meaning, as Papantoniou said, Sweden considers European defense an inseparable lever of European foreign policy, while Greece believes it is a substantive means for Europe's integration policy.
Regarding the issue of reorganizing the armed forces, Greece has a different position towards Sweden and the other European countries since, as the Greek defense minister said, Greece continues to face conventional and territorial threats from the East.
Focusing on the modernization of the Greek armed forces, Papantoniou pointed out that through the hiring of professional soldiers a decrease in defense expenditures is achieved, enabling a vertical decrease in the cost of defense expenditures by 1.5 percent of GDP, providing the possibility for 2.5 million euros to be channeled for the coverage of social needs.
The Greek delegation is due back on Wednesday afternoon.
 Skandalidis on new 'statement of means' bill
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis on Tuesday said that a new law for monitoring the assets of "politicians and other persons handling public money" was absolutely enforceable since it significantly limited the number of people subject to inspection.
Skandalidis also noted that the unified database and IT system used by the inspection services would simplify the process of recording and processing the information received.
He was responding to reporters' questions during a meeting held to announce the appointment of Prof. Ioannis Chrysoulakis as vice-president of the international union of schools and institutes of public administration, of which over 150 countries are currently members.
Skandalidis said the appointment constituted international recognition of Chrysoulakis' work at the head of the National Centre of Public Administration and its innovative measures in setting up a unified system for public sector staff.
 Synaspismos leader criticizes both PASOK and ND
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos on Tuesday said that the "bipartisan political game was the highest point of political hypocrisy and partisan demagogy".
Speaking at a Synaspismos party event in Piraeus, he criticized ruling PASOK for ''talking about socialism, but serving neo-liberalism'' and main opposition New Democracy ''for believing in neo-liberalism, but using the sociopolitical populism''.
He added that both PASOK and ND view society only as a collection of votes and fans and that both parties view Synaspismos as a "strategic opponent and a bothersome competitor of the democratic equality of all people and of the alternative progressive policy for the country".
Constantopoulos concluded saying that PASOK and ND, for reasons of common interest, refuse the simple proportional system in elections.
 Premier meets with agriculture minister
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis met with Agriculture Minister George Drys to discuss the new legislation concerning the protection of forests, as mandated by the amended Constitution.
The new bill will be submitted in the cabinet for discussion on Thursday
 Patriarch letter to Greek FM outlines views over differences with Church of Greece
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos has sent Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou a letter reportedly detailing the Patriarchate’s positions regarding the recent friction between the Phanar (the seat of the Patriarchate in present-day Istanbul) and the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece.
Numerous press reports cite a friction between the two closely knit Orthodox Churches over the issue of the appointment of a new Metropolitan of Thessaloniki, one of the largest bishoprics in Greece. The seat was left vacant following the death of Thessaloniki Metropolitan Panteleimon II in early July at the age of 78. The well-respected ecclesiastical leader held the Metropolitan’s throne of Thessaloniki since 1974.
A representative of the Patriarchate, Metropolitan of Pergamus Ioannis, met with Papandreou at the latter’s office in order to deliver the Patriarch’s letter, while he also noted that the purpose of the visit was not to seek the Greek state’s intervention but simply to brief Athens about the entire issue.
Asked about whether a rapprochement was possible between the two churches over the issue of the “new territories” -- bishoprics in northern Greece, the eastern and northern Aegean island – Ioannis said there is such an interest on the part of the Patriarchate to solve the issue “so that the unity of the two Churches is promoted.”
“We hope that there is a similar disposition on the part of the Church of Greece,” he added.
 Greek exports show signs of recovery, finmin says
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Greek exports have shown signs of recovery, vindicating moves to boost investment and competitiveness, Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Tuesday.
''An encouraging development is that exports have started to grow despite the weakness of external demand,'' Christodoulakis told a joint meeting in Dubai of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
''This indicates that past investments are starting to pay dividends and that Greece's competitiveness and long-term prospects are improving,'' the minister said.
Helped by a healthy rate of growth, unemployment fell below 9.0 percent in the second quarter of 2003, and is expected to hold its downward trend,'' he added.
In 2003, Greece is expected to post a growth rate of about 4.0 percent, the highest in the European Union.
''The inflation rate also eased in recent months from relatively high levels, and is expected to move closer to the eurozone average in the course of 2004,'' Christodoulakis said.
He also emphasized that Greece was committed to upholding the EU's stability and growth pact.
''In 2003, the general government deficit is expected to be contained at slightly above 1.0 percent of GDP, despite the high costs of preparing for next year's Olympic Games,'' the minister noted.
He said that further consolidation was planned for coming years in order to ensure that the rate of public debt to gross domestic product remained on a sustainable downward trend.
The government's convergence charter aims to achieve real alignment with the EU by invigorating an existing process of structural reform, with priority on the energy and tourism sectors.
The main policy instruments to attain alignment are controls on public spending; further privatization and moves to form strategic partnerships between large utilities and firms abroad; reducing tax-induced distortion; and promoting mobility of labor and adaptability, in order to aid job creation.
''A more equitable distribution of incomes is not only a social desideratum, but also a prerequisite for the growth process itself,'' the minister said.
''We are committed to allocate more resources to education, as defense spending is reduced as a percentage of GDP from a formidable 4.5 percent today to about 3.0 percent over the next five years,'' he added.
 Taxis stay on strike after talks fall flat
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Taxis in Attica are to remain on strike until early on Friday morning as originally announced after talks between union representatives and the government broke down.
Union representatives said that Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis had rejected the strikers' demands at a meeting on Tuesday, which meant that the four-day strike would continue as planned.
 Local gov't workers to stage strikes in October
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Local government workers said on Tuesday that they would stage two strikes in October to seek higher pay and the incorporation of allowances into base pay.
The first nationwide stoppage is on October 6; and the second on October 16-17, the POE-OTA union said in a statement.
 ASE reaffirms strong support level at 2,000-point
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Greek investors tested the market's resolve on Tuesday pushing share prices lower and the general index temporarily below the 2,000 level in intra-day transactions in the Athens Stock Exchange.
The general index fell to 1,993.75 points early in the session only to recover by the close helped by strong buying interest in blue chip stocks to end 0.23 percent higher at 2,026.52 points.
Turnover was a disappointing low 95 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 0.27 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index eased 0.10 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index dropped 0.42 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 184 to 123 with another 52 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 112.2 mln euros Tuesday
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers on Tuesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
Closing rates of September 23 2003
Parities in euro
For. Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,155 1,129
 Gov't-ATHOC inter-ministerial meeting focuses on Paralympics
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)The upcoming Paralympics dominated Tuesday’s inter-ministerial meeting between the government and Athens organizers’ (ATHOC) leadership, as Prime Minister Costas Simitis termed the hosting of the 2004 Paralympics Games “a major challenge for the country”.
Speaking during the session, Simitis reportedly said the September 2004 Paralympics “beyond just a supreme sports event, allow for major interventions that will increase the participation of people with special needs in society; interventions that improve accessibility and ensure the conditions for a greater interest in sports for people with disabilities.”
The Greek premier also noted that the issue of complete and universal accessibility is the key, as he cited off the new metro, the under-construction tram and suburban rail line networks, along with pre-existing museums, archaeological sites and cultural sites in general.
In briefing the government’s top ministers, Athens 2004 Olympic Organizing Committee (ATHOC) President Gianna Angelopoulou-Daskalaki repeated that some 4,000 athletes from a record number of countries (143) would participate, while the cost for the country to host the Games is around 50 million euros. Additionally, some 5,000 media representatives will cover the 2004 Paralympic Games.
According to the government, Greece is the first country to underwrite the cost of hosting the Paralympic Games.
She also emphasized that first category (five and four-star) hotels already ensure accessibility, while second and third category lodgings need to increase their accessibility.
Asked later about the issue of accessibility, Deputy Mass Media Minister Telemahos Hytiris, who is the government’s spokesman in terms of Olympic preparations on the Cabinet side, agreed that problems with accessibility in the greater Athens area remain, pointing to city buses, among others. Conversely, he added that a significant number of new handicap-accessible buses as well as specially modified taxis will be on the streets by the time the Games convene.
Moreover, he noted that one of the government’s “center-piece” projects is to ensure access to the Acropolis for people with disabilities.
Asked about the sensitive issue of 2004 Olympic Games finances, Hytiris said the matter will be covered at a Thursday meeting, one again chaired by PM Simitis and including the participation of National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, among others.
The 2004 Paralympics will begin a month after the 2004 Olympic Games.
 ATHOC president briefs Coalition party leader on Olympic Games preparations
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee (ATHOC) President Gianna Angelopoulos Daskalaki on Tuesday briefed Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party leader Nikos Constantopoulos on the test events of August and the state of preparations for next year's Olympic Games.
Speaking after the briefing, Constantopoulos said four issues are of importance from now on.
''Firstly, the holding of the Olympic Games should be carried out with dignity and adequacy. Secondly, the loss of time occurring over the first three years, which were lost and which contributed to the burdening of cost, must not lead to a further pressure of time which shall increase cost and environmental repercussions. Thirdly, the Olympic Games must not become an object of election exploitation during a period of intense and polarized political life. And fourthly, the issues of security must not become the cause for political developments or commitments by the country towards other governments or other countries,'' he said.
Daskalaki reiterated that ''the issue of the Olympic Games has mobilized all Greeks, apart from differences which are natural and healthy to exist in a society. It is our obligation to prepare ourselves so as to be impeccable and to show the world that Greece can organize dignified Games according to the country's standards and with the tradition this country has.''
 President Stephanopoulos receives ACNO President Rania
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)President Kostis Stephanopoulos received the President of the World National Olympic Committee Association (ACNO) Mario Vasquez Rania on Tuesday.
Rania was accompanied on his visit by Greek Olympic Committee President and member of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Executive Committee Lambis Nikolaou.
Both officials invited President Stephanopoulos to inaugurate ACNO's conference in Athens in February, 2004, which will be attended by representatives of all National Olympic Committees.
Earlier, Rania met with Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni and Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos Daskalaki, while on Monday night he dined with Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
The ACNO's Mexican president said he was impressed by projects in Athens, primarily by the new motorways and the Eleftherios Venizelos airport.
 Alternate FM Yiannitsis addresses UN session on HIV/AIDS pandemic
UNITED NATIONS, 24/09/2003 (ANA - P. Panagiotou)Greece's Alternate foreign minister Tasos Yiannitsis addressing a special UN General Assembly on HIV/AIDS on Monday, placed strong emphasis on the importance of the decisions taken at a similar assembly two years earlier, stressing that "the progress achieved recently with respect to the developing countries' access to medical care" was an "encouraging sign", which he said he hoped would very soon be "accompanied by specific results".
Yiannitsis reaffirmed Greece's full support for a relevant statement submitted by the Italian EU presidency, as well as for an EU declaration on combatting AIDS which was presented in July at an international conference in Paris.
The Greek alternate minister further recalled that the EU member states, during the recent EU summit in Thessaloniki marking the end of Greece's presidency of the European Union, had reaffirmed their commitment to combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
"Greece, despite its limited resources, pledged 250,000 euro (for the effort) at the (Thessaloniki) summit," Yiannitsis added.
With respect to combatting AIDS in Greece, Yiannitsis presented statistical data and underlined the fact that AIDS-related deaths in Greece had gone down after 1997 following the adoption of treatment with specialized medication.
 Vartholomeos continues official visit to Georgia
ISTANBUL, 24/09/2003 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos said on Tuesday that the Patriarchate expressed the ''unity of the Greeks'' speaking to the Greek community of Georgia, during his address in the Church of Agios Nikolaos in Batum, during his official visit.
''The Ecumenical Patriarchate expressed through the centuries the unity of Greeks and we at the Phanar, day and night, we pray for them all over the world, as we pray for all our Orthodox brethren,'' Vartholomeos said.
The local state university presented Vartholomeos with an honorary doctoral degree, during a ceremony attended by the Patriarch of Georgia Ilias.
Earlier in the day, Vartholomeos participated in the celebrations of the millennium since the founding of the Dormition of the Theotokos Church of Bagrati, Tibilisi, which is a national symbol of the Georgian people.
Upon his arrival at the Georgian Patriarchate in Tibilisi, Patriarch Ilias welcomed him saying that the ''Ecumenical Patriarchate is that great power, which unites all of Orthodoxy''.
On his part, Vartholomeos noted the deep roots of Christianity in Georgia, saying that ''the Georgian people, with its faith and devotion, honored Christianity''.
During his stay here, the Ecumenical Patriarch met with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze.
 'N17' final arguments continue with attorney for Axarlian family
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Tuesday’s deliberations at the closely watched “November 17” terrorism trial included the final argument of an attorney representing the family of an unintended victim of the notorious terror gang: a college student walking in downtown Athens when a “N17” rocket-propelled grenade missed its intended target, the Greek finance minister at the time.
Fragments of the exploded rocket fired at an armor-plated sedan carrying then minister Ioannis Paleokrassas killed passer-by Thanos Axarlian only a few meters from the ministry on a busy downtown Athens street just off Syntagma Square. Another five people were injured in the attack.
In launching an acerbic attack on Dimitris Koufodinas, the group’s alleged operations chief and most prolific assassin, attorney Nikos Livas said the latter activated a remote-controlled rocket launcher that led to the death of Axarlian.
The attorney then focused directly on the self-described beekeeper’s stance during his rejoinder before the three-judge court, including a reference to the “legacy” Koufodinas said he left to his only son.
“Thus, in this manner Dimitris Koufodinas has passed on the blood of Thanos Axarlian to his own son … I bow before Thanos’ sacrifice, and I can assure him that his own blood, and that of the other victims of terrorism, has not been for naught. I am certain that he was not squandered for the criminal whims of terrorism but for the consolidation of democracy,” he stressed.
Moreover, Livas also referred to a smattering of applause by some members of the public during rejoinders by Koufodinas and alleged “N17” mastermind Alexandros Giotopoulos in the specially modified jailhouse courtroom, saying he puts forth the wails of Axarlian’s mother to the “clappers of Koufodinas and Giotopoulos when they were lowering him to the grave”.
Finally, he called on the court to consider the disdain shown by the defendants vis-a-vis Axarlian’s death.
Another attorney, this one representing Paleokrassas, stressed that the terror group’s fundamental and totalitarian value was “extermination” of their enemies.
Attorney George Mavros said he doesn’t subscribe to the notion of paranoid murderers, “because they portray the defendants and their person as evil, as an anomaly…But the members of N17 are human. And what is human on them is their inhumanity,” he charged.
In terms of Giotopoulos, the lawyer said the 62-year-old former student activist’s murderous activity can be partly explained by his late father’s beliefs in revolutionary violence to implement social change and popular uprising.
 Justice ministry unveils draft legal aid bill
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos on Tuesday unveiled a draft bill prepared by his ministry on providing legal aid to those with low incomes.
According to the minister, the bill is the first to introduce a comprehensive system for the provision of legal aid to those with limited financial means - such as those on low pensions, the unemployed and erratically employed - and seeks to ensure that every citizen has access to legal counsel to defend their rights in court.
Eligible for legal aid under the bill are all Greek and European citizens, as well as citizens of third countries that are legal permanent residents of the EU, provided that their annual family income does not exceed two thirds of the minimum annual wage set by the National General Collective Agreement of the time. This sum currently stands at 5,400 euros.
According to Petsalnikos, the bill aims to keep the process of granting legal aid as simple, quick and flexible as possible so as to facilitate those that apply for it and ensure the right decision is made.
The cost of the measure, including lawyers' fees and sundry expenses (interpreters etc), will be paid directly from the state budget without any additional dues or financial burden for the public.
 Cabinet to discuss issue of forest land, gov't says
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Government spokesman Christos Protopapas on Tuesday announced that there would be further talks within the government at a future cabinet meeting regarding lands now classified as forest, with a view to finally settling the issue in a "modern way that reflects the current situation".
Commenting on Monday's talks on this issue between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Deputy Agriculture Minister Fotis Hatzimihalis, Protopapas noted that current records were based on aerial photographs dating back to 1945.
 Appeals Council to decide on extradition of Gusinskiy, gov't says
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)Greek government spokesman Christos Protopapas on Tuesday said that Greek authorities had received a Russian request for the extradition of fugitive businessman Vladimir Gusinskiy and had passed this on to the Appeals Council, which would make the final decision.
Protopapas was responding to questions.
 Acropolis closed due to striking contract employees
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)The Athens Acropolis remained closed Tuesday morning as 5,000 culture ministry contract employees went on strike to protest the planned hiring of 300 tenured and 750 open-ended contract employees with procedures they claim exclude the contract employees who have been working at the ministry for several years.
The employees have called two 24-hour strikes for Tuesday and Thursday, including the closure of the Acropolis on Tuesday until 1:00 p.m. and a protest rally outside the culture ministry beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday.
 Culture Ministry reacts to Turkish reports that relics have been destroyed
Athens, 24/09/2003 (ANA)The Culture Ministry announced on Tuesday that ''there will be an urgent communication with the Turkish Culture Ministry as well as communication with the archaeological department of Aghia Sophia'' in order to check a report in a Turkish newspaper according to which relics in a warehouse of Aghia Sophia, in Istanbul, were destroyed.
The Culture Ministry, along with the archaeological and maintenance services, declared that it is ready to offer any help necessary, not only for these movable monuments but also for whatever else is required.
According to an ANA dispatch from Ankara, a report of the Miliyet newspaper from Istanbul stressed that of the 600 icons stored in the warehouse of Aghia Sophia only some 50 or 60 can be restored in efforts that will begin next week.
According to the newspaper, the icons were moved to the Church turned to museum in 1935, from churches of Istanbul and Asia Minor that same year.
The report also noted that the condition of the icons was discovered by the new Museum Director Seracedin Sahin, who took the post a month and a half ago, and reported the case to the Directorate of Museums and Cultural Heritage.
''The icons were strewn in the dust. There was not a chance for an icon to remain intact in that space,'' Sahin said.
The director noted that the restoration effort will begin next week, stressing ''from the 600 icons, only about 50 or 60 icons are in good condition and can be exhibited''.
He concluded that following their restoration they will be exhibited in the Agia Irini Church turned to museum, which is located next to Aghia Sophia.
 FM Iacovou attends EU meeting, opening session of UN General Assembly in New York
UNITED NATIONS, 24/09/2003 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou participated on Tuesday in a European Union meeting in New York, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
The meeting took place to prepare contacts the 25 EU members will have in New York with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov later on Tuesday and US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday.
During the preparatory meeting, talks focused on the situation in the Middle East, Iraq and Iran.
Iacovou also attended the opening session of the UN General Assembly, which was addressed by US President George Bush.
Later on Monday, Iacovou was due to attend a lunch hosted by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in honor of the heads of state and government currently in New York.
 Greece-Cyprus war games depend on political developments, says government
NICOSIA, 24/09/2003 (CNA/ANA)The decision whether the military exercise ''Nikiforos-Toxotis'' is going to take place will depend on the political developments, said here Tuesday government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides.
He told reporters that the Cabinet would take the necessary decisions, adding that preparations to conduct the military maneuver continue.
Invited to comment on reports that the Americans are trying to secure the postponement of the exercise, Chrysostomides said ''it's nothing new'' because every year the US and other forces are trying to postpone the exercises in an effort to reduce tension in the region.
Commenting on reports which say that Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul's visit to Athens will be accompanied by ''surprises'' as far as the Cyprus problem is concerned, Chrysostomides said these reports indicate once again Turkey's tactics to leak ''news'' in an effort ''to win diplomatic points in the international arena.''
''We are anticipating measures to lift the occupation either partially or totally. Whatever measures are taken by the occupation force, and it is up to Turkey, that will lift the occupation measures are welcomed by us,'' he added.
To a remark that Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said he is not anticipating a new initiative before December, therefore there is no issue to postpone the military exercise, the spokesman replied ''I agree. However no one knows what the final decision will be and whether there would be examples indicating the resumption of the negotiations soon.''
He pointed out that just like Defense Minister Kyriacos Mavronicolas had said, this issue would depend on the substance of the political developments.
''The issue has not been examined yet by the Cabinet. Let's wait to see what the developments will be and then the Cabinet will take the necessary decisions,'' he added.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of the island's territory.
The Cyprus National Guard ''Nikiforos'' exercise is scheduled to start in October in conjunction with the Greek ''Toxotis'' war-games in the Aegean.
 Three Cypriots and donkey released by occupation regime
NICOSIA, 24/09/2003 (CNA/ANA)Two Greek Cypriots, a Turkish Cypriot and a donkey were released on Tuesday by the Turkish occupation ''authorities'', having being ''arrested'' on Monday during a demonstration at the Ledra Palace checkpoint.
UNFICYP spokesman Brian Kelly told CNA that Greek Cypriot donkey owner Savvas Christodoulou, Greek Cypriot taxi driver Andis Kyriakides, and Turkish Cypriot peace campaigner Salih Taskin were ''fined'' two million Turkish lira each by an illegal ''court'', that is less than one Cyprus pound (approximately 1.5 US dollars).
The three men were arrested on Monday, along with a donkey, after trying to pass the checkpoint without ''proper documents'', except for the cardboard animal ''passport'' in the name of ''Mr. Kypros.''
It was ''issued'' in the name of the ''United Federal Republic of Donkeys'' and came complete with a photograph of the animal.
The publicity stunt was sponsored by bicommunal groups who object to having to show their passports to travel within the island.
The donkey protest was a response to a comment made by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash that the Cyprus donkey was the only thing native to the island.
 US envoy says 'elections' best chance for expression of political will
NEW YORK, 24/09/2003 (CNA/ANA)US State Department Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston has said the so called elections in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus represent the best chance for the expression of the Turkish Cypriots' will and offers an opportunity which was not there before.
He was speaking during a gathering on Monday night of overseas Cypriots organized by the Cyprus Federation of America, the International Coordinating Committee-Justice for Cyprus, the Cyprus-American Chamber of Commerce and Congressman Frank Pallone, held in New York.
Weston who analyzed the Annan Plan on Cyprus said ''we are in a situation where after the failure'' of the UN talks last March, the Security Council pronounced itself in support of the Secretary General's response to that.
He said the international community continues to believe that there should be a settlement before the accession of Cyprus to the EU.
''The SG remains committed to restart his good offices mission to reach a settlement, if the necessary political will is demonstrated, not only by the leaders of the two communities, but at the high political level of Greece and Turkey.'' Weston said.
To a question what the US is trying to do, Weston replied ''to get to a position where all four parties demonstrate the necessary political will called by the Secretary General.''
He emphasized that what is clear is ''that this effort has to concentrate on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots,'' which translates with Turkey having one government with interest in getting a settlement, and that is related with Turkey's desire to get into the EU.
With the Turkish Cypriots, he said, it is a situation ''where there has been an expression of a political will on the part of a large element of the T/C public'' but the question becomes how this political will ''translates into political will of the whole Turkish Cypriot community.''
Noting that the 'elections' in the occupied territory 'are of course illegal,'' they represent the best chance for the expression of the T/C will and offers an opportunity which was not there before.''