|Saturday, 29 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-03-17
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 17, 2004
 Deputy foreign minister holds talks in Paris and Berlin
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis and French Deputy Minister responsible for European Affairs Noelle Lenoir discussed terrorism, the European Union's constitution and the Cyprus issue during their meeting in Paris on Tuesday.
Valinakis and Lenoir agreed that European efforts to combat terrorism must be intensified, an issue that will be discussed in detail at the EU foreign affairs ministers meeting on March 22.
As for the EU constitution, ''France has expressed its strong desire that discussions lead to positive results within the year and that all possible provisions be included that will allow unified EU decision-making.''
Lenoir said this means adopting the double voting system, expanding the decision-making process through a reinforced majority, especially on issues concerning internal security and the justice system, which are useful in the fight against terrorism, as well as more flexible mechanisms for stronger partnerships compared with what the existing terms and conditions allow.
Commenting on Cyprus, Lenoir expressed hopes that the negotiations that will begin after the bilateral talks, with the participation of Greece and Turkey on March 22, will lead to a settlement.
''We are requesting that every possible effort be made for a comprehensive and fair settlement for the creation of a viable state, as well as for conditions to be respected so that negotiations can conclude successfully before May 1, if possible,'' she stressed.
Valinakis asserted that the Greek government is committed to further strengthening Greek-French relations. Speaking of the EU constitution, he said: ''We have the significant opportunity of continuing discussions on the EU constitution, so that it can be realized as soon as possible. It is important that the EU constitution lead to substantial decisions that will address the needs of the EU citizen. Greece is committed to contributing to this process.''
 Deputy FM outlines Greek foreign policy issues in visit to Berlin
BERLIN 17/03/2004 (ANA/P. Stangos)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis outlined Greek foreign policy regarding the issue of Cyprus, the European constitution, Turkey's European Union accession prospects and European security in the wake of the recent tragedy in Madrid and in light of the Athens Olympic Games in talks he had in Berlin on Tuesday with his German counterpart, Permanent Deputy Foreign Minister Klaus Schariot.
Valinakis briefed his interlocutor on the present stage of negotiations regarding the issue of Cyprus, placing emphasis on the ''European aspect'' of the issue to enable, as he said in a statement to the Greek state-run NET television channel, a ''just, viable and European solution to be found for the Cyprus issue, a solution which will be in accordance with UN resolutions and in accordance with the acquis communautaire and European principles.''
Referring to the recent terrorist attack in Madrid and on impending measures to achieve better coordination among EU member-states in combatting terrorism, the Greek deputy foreign minister clarified Greece's ''special interest'' due to the holding of the Olympic Games in Athens and stressed that ''we are convinced that we shall organize safe and effective Olympic Games in the summer.''
Speaking to Greek reporters in Berlin, Valinakis said the Greek government, in order to achieve the ''national target'' of holding safe Olympic Games, is in favor of bilateral and multilateral cooperation and will not omit anything at European level capable of preventing terrorist acts and combatting terrorism.
 Inter-ministerial meeting convenes on Olympic security
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)An expanded inter-ministerial meeting on Olympic Games security in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Madrid took place on Tuesday afternoon at the public order ministry, bringing together not only relevant ministers but also the heads of the law enforcement agencies and Athens Olympic organizers’ (ATHOC) top leadership.
Participants were also briefed over an ongoing two-week-long readiness exercise (code-named “Hercules’ Shield”) currently taking place at undisclosed sites around Greece, a drill that includes personnel from other countries, especially the United States.
According to reports, Athens’ new Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport will host a portion of the security exercise this week, with a scenario foreseeing the crash of a passenger jet.
The new Karamanlis government has repeatedly focused on security for the Games since it assumed power on March 7.
 NATO to review Greek request for assistance during 2004 Games
BRUSSELS 17/03/2004 (ANA – V. Demiris)NATO has begun administrative procedures to examine Greece’s request for security assistance during the holding of the 2004 Olympic Games in August.
According to diplomatic sources, NATO General Secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer informed the alliance’s member-states about Athens’ request during an unofficial summit of NATO permanent representatives, which took place on Tuesday.
A relevant discussion on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday at the Council of Permanent Representatives.
Greece recently requested assistance from its allies to better safeguard its airspace, territorial waters as well as the dispatch of specialized units to counter bio-chemical threats.
Coalition reiterates objections to NATO role in Olympics security: Coalition of the Radical Left leader Nikos Constantopoulos on Tuesday reiterated his party's objections to NATO's involvement in security arrangements for the safety of the Olympic Games in August.
He also strenuously protested against what he called the involvement of United States Ambassador Thomas Miller in the country's "internal political affairs".
According to Constantopoulos, NATO's involvement was unconstitutional, while he also expressed concern about the presence of various secret services in Greece during the Games.
He said the Olympics were being converted from a sports event to a military-police operation that nullified the spirit of the Olympic Truce, compromised the country's sovereign rights, was outside the framework of democracy and greatly increased the cost of hosting the Games.
 U.S. denies its athletes will boycott the Olympic Games
WASHINGTON 17/03/2004 (ANA/T. Ellis)The U.S. State Department has officially denied a report in the British newspaper Daily Mail, to which the American NBC TV network referred, claiming that the United States, through their Ambassador in Athens Thomas Miller, threatened to withdraw their athletes from the Athens 2004 Olympic Games if security measures are not improved.
Asked to comment on the issue, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli on Tuesday made an official and categorical denial, stating that ''this news was completely mistaken,'' adding that ''Ambassador Miller never said such a thing.''
 New parliament to formally commence session on Thurs., vote of confidence Monday
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)The new parliament that emerged from the recent general elections will formally commence the first meeting of the new parliamentary session at 11:00 a.m. Thursday, with the taking of the parliamentary oath by the 300 MPs of the unicameral House, in accordance with Article 59 of the Constitution.
The oath-taking ceremony will be attended by Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece and representatives of the Holy Synod, as well as representatives of the Diplomatic Corps.
The MPs officially assume their duties immediately after the taking of the oath.
On Friday, the new deputies will convene to elect the parliament presidium comprising the president of parliament, 5 vice-presidents, 3 deans, and six secretaries.
The 4th vice-president, one dean and one secretary will be from the main opposition party, while the 5th vice-president and one secretary will be from the second-largest (in parliamentary seats) opposition party.
To date, the only certain candidacy for the post of parliament president is that of Anna Psarouda-Benaki. If elected, as expected, she will be the first woman to assume the parliament presidency since the establishment of the Greek State.
The new government's policy statement will be read out on behalf of prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, to be followed by a debate, with the leaders of the other political parties represented in parliament taking the floor to present their positions, with the entire process being completed at midnight Monday with a vote of confidence for the new government.
Government's policy statements to be based on ND's election program: The government's policy statements Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be reading in Parliament at noon on Saturday will be based on his New Democracy party's election program.
The names of secretary generals, as well as of organization governors such as of the governor of the National Bank who will succeed the late Theodoros Karatzas, have not yet been finalized.
Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias, who met with Karamanlis on Tuesday afternoon, confirmed reports that he has proposed alternate professor of the Athens University of Economics Provopoulos for the post, saying that he has been his associate for years, while Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis has reportedly proposed Arapoglou, who has been Citibank's general director in London to date and had headed the Ionian Bank during the Mitsotakis administration.
Souflias said the prime minister has taken no decision yet since Provopoulos is also being considered for the Commercial Bank.
The public works minister also said Olympic Games projects will be ready in time. Replying to a question on whether a difference of views exists with Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee (ATHOC) President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who also met with Karamanlis at noon, he said there is no problem and cooperation is very good.
 PM Karamanlis holds meetings with MP Psarouda-Benaki, director Cacoyiannis
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday conferred with party MP Anna Psarouda-Benaki, who has been proposed by his ruling New Democracy for parliament president, the first woman ever to hold the post in Greece.
The meeting was part of Karamanlis' ongoing consultations with his Cabinet and MPs ahead of the announcement of the new government's policy statement.
After the meeting, Psarouda-Benaki said in reply to press questions that she was ''very proud'' that she would be the first woman president of the Parliament of Greece.
Karamanlis, who has also retained the Culture ministry portfolio, met later with internationally-renowned Greek film and stage director Michael Cacoyiannis.
Cacoyiannis declined comment on the details of the 40-minute meeting when asked by reporters, saying only that he and the prime minister had had a general discussion on matters of cultural interest.
 Defense ministry source says no troops to go to Iraq, Afghanistan
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)Sources within the defense ministry on Tuesday denied that Greece had been asked to send troops to Iraq during a meeting between Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos and United States Ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller the previous day.
The same source also revealed that Greece plans to refuse a NATO request for troops and equipment in Afghanistan, on account of the increased burden on the Greek Armed Forces for the safety of the Olympic Games.
The decision was apparently made by the defense minister after he was briefed on the multiple tasks undertaken by the Greek armed forces in the measures taken for the safety of the Games, while Armed Forces General Staff Chief Gen. George Antonakopoulos has undertaken to inform NATO.
 Names of six more ministry secretary generals announced
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Tuesday night announced the names of six more ministry secretary generals.
A Communications Secretariat of the government will be set up with Margarita Papada as communications secretary and Panagiotis Livadas as information secretary.
At the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Ministry, former Preveza deputy George Tryfonidis assumes the post of public works secretary general, Athanasios Kouloumbis as secretary general for jointly-funded projects and Dimosthenis Katsiyannis as town planning secretary general.
At the Merchant Marine Ministry, professor George Vlachos assumes the post of Harbor Policy secretary general.
 Deputy FM meets department heads at secretariat for Greek Diaspora
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister for expatriate issues Panagiotis Skandalakis on Tuesday had an introductory meeting with the department heads at the General Secretariat for Expatriate Greeks, where he was briefed on outstanding issues and the finances of the Secretariat during the current year.
He said a basic priority was to rationalize the way the services operated and organize it so that it could carry out its immediate duties concerning hospitality programs for the Olympic Games in August, promoting volunteerism among overseas Greeks and sponsoring cultural events organized by expatriate Greek organizations throughout the world.
The minister especially emphasized the need for major reforms to the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), saying it needed to change its structure, strategy and policy in order to enlarge the base of expatriate Hellenism, allowing all overseas Greeks to have access and to participate instead of just the more powerful.
 PASOK leader meets party officials to prepare for gov't policy statement
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)The head of the main opposition PASOK party, George Papandreou, on Tuesday had successive meetings with party officials to prepare for the upcoming discussion of the government's policy statement in Parliament.
Papandreou began meeting party cadres a few days ago, asking them to come forward with ideas and proposals on various issues that are likely to arise during the debate.
On Tuesday he met former Parliament speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis, former ministers Akis Tsohatzopoulos and Yiannos Papantoniou and Executive Bureau member Milena Apostolaki.
 Ecumenical Patriarch, UN chief discuss Cyprus, terrorism, world peace
NEW YORK 17/03/2004 (ANA/P. Panayotou - CNA)The Cyprus problem and the Middle East crisis, combatting terrorism, environmental concerns, and religion as a means of promoting global peace and reconciliation were the focus of a discussion between UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and visiting Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday.
After the half-hour meeting, which was also attended by Archbishop Demetrios of America, Vartholomeos told reporters that both he and the UN chief had expressed the wish that Cyprus would join the European Union as a reunited country. |
He said they also talked about ''peace around the globe and especially in Cyprus and in the East Mediterranean region'', and further stressed that the problems in the Middle East were linked with the effort to tackle international terrorism.
''I expressed the hope that Cyprus, after the final settlement of the political problem, would join the European Union as a whole, as a united island in the coming weeks,'' he added.
Vartholomeos further outlined the Ecumenical Patriarchate's initiatives, focusing on the inter-religious dialogue and on the mutual understanding of the different religious groups and creeds, noting that in the autumn a conference would be held in Istanbul with the participation of tens of religious leaders from all over the world.
Earlier Vartholomeos met members of the Jewish Congress and Senator Hilary Clinton, who reiterated her full support to efforts by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch to have the Theological School in Halki, in Turkey, open again.
Clinton expressed hope that developments would lead to the accession of a reunited Cyprus to the EU.
The Patriarch, speaking to the staff of the Archbishopric in New York, said that reforms underway in Turkey could lead to the reopening of the seminary school in Halki.
 Anti-war rally against occupation of Iraq to be held in Athens on March 20
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), the Athens Labor Center (EKA), the Greek Social Forum, the Stop the War Alliance, the Anti 2004 Campaign and other peace organizations have called an anti-war rally against the occupation of Iraq at Syntagma Square in downtown Athens at 12 noon on March 20.
The rally will be taking place in the framework of the international day of anti-war action which has been called by the World and the European Social Forum.
Anti-war rallies are expected to take place in about 60 countries all over the world in the framework of this day.
Despina Spanou, the coordinator of a press conference given on Tuesday by the cooperating organizations and a member of ADEDY's board, said that acts of terrorism such as the recent one in Madrid are the result of the climate of war campaigns like the one against Iraq.
ADEDY President Spyros Papaspyros condemned terrorism, as well as the aggressive policy emanating from the United States.
The slogans to be voiced during the rally will be ''an end to occupation in Iraq, solidarity for the Intifada, NATO's base at Souda on the island of Crete must be shut down and no Greek soldier should be obliged to operate outside the country's borders.''
 EU informs gov't of probe into Olympic Airlines
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis was informed on Tuesday by the European Union's Commission of its decision to probe the legality of a bill passed in Greece's parliament on the creation of Olympic Airlines from its predecessor, Olympic Airways.
Liapis said the country's new government would respect the EU's decision, at the same time doing its best to save the troubled airline.
In its election platform before balloting on March 7, the now ruling New Democracy party had said that it was eager to privatize the airline but wanted the change in its form and status to meet all legal requirements.
The Commission said earlier in the day that it would initiate a formal state aid investigation against Greece concerning Olympic Airways, as it had qualms about the arrangement for creating and then privatizing the new company to be known as Olympic Airlines.
''It is high time to take action. This is the last chance for Olympic Airways. Unless the privatization process is completed in full conformity with European legislation, the company will have to be placed into liquidation, as was the case with other companies in the competitive air transport market'' the EU's energy and transport commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, said in a statement.
''I am certain that the Greek Government will cooperate fully with the Commission to avoid the errors which led to this situation'' de Palacio added.
The Commission has decided to initiate a formal investigation under Article 88(2) of the Treaty to see whether measures taken in recent years may be regarded as compatible with the single market.
It will assess whether the advantages granted to Olympic Airways constitute new state aid, in particular non-payment of tax debt in 2003; provision of an advance by the Greek state to fund the company's restructuring and privatization; and non-payment of an airport modernization tax charged to passengers.
In addition, the Commission intends to verify conditions under which the Greek state set up at the end of 2003 a new company to be known as Olympic Airlines which took over the aviation activities of Olympic Airways.
''The Commission takes the view that all the companies which belong to the group are a single undertaking from the point of view of Community State aid rules. All assets of Olympic Airways (airplanes, staff), and in future the maintenance and ground handling divisions have been or will be transferred to the new company,'' the Commission said in a statement.
''The airline has also taken over slots, traffic rights and public service obligations of Olympic Airways. Accordingly, the Commission has doubts about the lawfulness of the advantages that Olympic Airlines, as successor to Olympic Airways, may enjoy; and about the procedure used which does not allow it to assess whether the potential purchaser will pay a fair price,'' the statement said.
Lastly, the Commission is calling for the formal repeal before 31 December 2004 of several articles of Law 96/1975, establishing an exemption scheme for Olympic Airways which, in its opinion, distorts or threatens to distort competition within the single market.
 FinMin, SMEs unions discuss tax reform
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Tues-day met with representatives of the General Confederation of Professionals and Craftsmen (GESEBE) and the National Confederation of Greek Trade (ESEE) to discuss issues covering small- and medium-sized enterprises, their tax status ahead of a government-planned tax system reform, and informal trade in the country.
GESEBE president, Dimitris Asimakopoulos, speaking to reporters after the meeting said: "We discussed the existence and development of SMEs, shop working hours, coordinating policies and the creation of an agency to coordinate policies on SMEs. The response was positive and we expect to see the results of this response in actions".
ESEE's president Dimitris Armenakis stressed that the union discussed tax matters with Economy Minister and ways to combatting informal trade.
Mr Alogoskoufis said that a planned tax reform and the procedure of tax inspections would be determined by the behavior of taxpayers.
The Greek minister said that small- and medium-sized enterprises were the "back-bone" of the economy while he reiterated his pledge to implement all pre-election commitments for the support of SMEs.
Mr Alogoskoufis plans to maintain regular meetings with both unions in the future.
 Eurostat: Greece showed fiscal deficit of 1.7 pct in 2003
BRUSSELS 17/03/2004 (ANA/V.Demiris)Greece showed a fiscal deficit of 1.7 per cent in 2003 as a proportion of gross domestic product, accompanied by a public debt of 102.4 per cent and primary surplus of 3.9 per cent, Eurostat said on Tuesday.
According to data released in the Belgian capital by the EU's statistics service, Greece's public debt was the second highest in the EU in 2003 after Italy at 106.2 per cent of gross domestic product.
Cyprus posted a fiscal deficit of 6.3 per cent, a public debt of 72.2 per cent and a primary deficit of 3.0 as a proportion of GDP, Eurostat said.
 Interior minister promises civil servants' union dialogue without surprises
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)In his first meeting with the presidency of the civil servants' union ADEDY on Tuesday, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos promised that the government will follow a policy of social dialogue without surprises for the unions.
He stressed that the government's primary goal will be to stamp out bureaucracy and corruption in public administration, though noting that civil servants must on no account be blamed for corruption en masse.
Pavlopoulos said the government will let ADEDY know the framework of its positions for seasonal staff by the end of May, saying it intended to put an end to policies that held these workers "hostage" and asking for ADEDY's own proposals on this issue.
The minister also announced that there will be dialogue with the participation of the employment ministry on the status of those doing heavy and hazardous work for the public sector.
ADEDY president Spyros Papadopoulos said that dialogue between the government and ADEDY would continue after Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis presented the government's policy statements.
 GSEE leader unveils union demands ahead of congress
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)Raising wages, safeguarding labor relations and reducing the working week to 39 hours will be the primary demands set forth by GSEE, Greece's largest trade union umbrella, its president Christos Polyzogopoulos said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters, ahead of the annual GSEE congress -- scheduled for Wednesday -- Mr Polyzogopoulos said registered union members were up 15 percent from the previous congress, totalling 840,000 wage earners.
GSEE's president said employers' proposals for this year's
collective labor agreement were unacceptable, while reiterating that workers will seek an 8-percent pay raise this year and a 39-hour working week. He also urged union members to participate more actively in a planned general strike on March 31.
 More than five million Greeks to file tax statements in 2004
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)More than five million taxpayers are expected to submit their tax statements for last year's incomes by June 1st, 2004, a finance ministry announcement said on Tuesday.
The process of submitting income tax statements officially began on Monday, with taxpayers offered the choice of filing their statements through the Internet.
Greek tax revenues soared 91 percent in the January-August 2003 period, compared with the same period last year. 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 a report.
 Northern Greek firms seek state financial support
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)A total of 243 enterprises, based in Central and Western Macedonia, have applied with a government-sponsored program offering financial assistance to companies.
The budget of submitted applications totals 4,969,799 euros with the state subsidy (40 percent) covering 1,987,919 euros, official figures showed on Tuesday. An official report said that total sum applied exceeded by 90 percent initial forecasts by state-run agencies.
The program aims to offer financial support to manufacturing, trade, tourist and services enterprises, small- and medium-sized enterprises for the restructuring and rationalization of their productive procedure and to ensure improved quality of their products and services.
The Thessaloniki prefect accounted for the majority of applications (167 proposals or 68.72 percent of total with a total budget of 3,311,829 euros), followed by the Pella Prefect (18 proposals or 7.41 percent and a budget of 411,460 euros, Imathia Prefect (11 proposals or 4.53 percent of total and a budget of 263,580 euros), Pieria Prefect with 11 proposals (4.53 percent and a budget of 226,900 euros).
Manufacturing enterprises accounted for the majority of submitted applications (36.21 percent of total), followed by commerce enterprises (25.51 percent), services (19.75 percent) and construction (4.94 percent).
Evaluation of submitted applications is expected to begin soon.
 Greece, Israel to hold biotechnology seminar in Athens
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)The Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) and the embassy of Israel in cooperation with the Greek-Israeli Commerce of Trade are organizing a joint seminar on "Steps to the Future-Biotechnology in Greece and Israel" on March 23.
Scientists and academics from Greece and Israel are expected to address the seminar and to present the latest applications of bio-technology in the fields of medical, pharmaceutical and agriculture. The seminar will also present ways on how to transform scientific research into business profits.
The seminar will be addressed by EBEA president, Mr Drakoulis Fountoukakos and Israel's ambassador to Greece, Mr Ram Aviram.
Israel is one of the 12 countries with the largest biotechnology sector in the world, along with the US, Canada and Germany. Israeli companies have successful activities in pharmaceuticals, diagnostic equipment, bio-information and agro-biotechnology. The country expects revenues from the biotechnology sector to reach 50 billion US dollars in 2005 from 35 billion in 2001.
Biotechnology research and development in Greece focuses in research centers, universities and hospitals.
 Stocks rise in late, high-cap buying
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)The Athens bourse finished higher on Tuesday in a burst of buying in high capitalization stocks during the last two hours of trade, traders said.
The general share index gained 0.78 per cent to end at 2,382.05 points. Turnover was 154.0 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 0.80 per cent up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization paper 0.30 per cent higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap equities rose 0.13 per cent.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 161 to 129 with 63 issues remaining unchanged.
Closing rates of March 16 2004
Parities in euro
For. Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,244 1,216
 PM, ATHOC chief discuss Olympic preparations, delays
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis received Athens 2004 Olympic Organizing Committee(ATHOC)President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki at his office on Tuesday for talks on Olympics preparations, with the emphasis on a handful of delayed projects.
Greece's new prime minister is due to meet with IOC President Jacques Rogge on March 25 during a lighting ceremony for the Olympic Torch Relay in ancient Olympia in order to finalize decisions for delayed projects and to examine alternatives for others, including the roof over the main Olympic Stadium (OAKA) as well as the new tram and suburban rail line networks.
"We will do everything possible to make up for lost time in Olympic preparations, and we will host a successful and safe Games," Karamanlis, Greece's youngest post-WWII premier, said.
"We discussed all the issues that need to be resolved. It is a very positive development that solutions are found quickly and that our cooperation continues to be excellent. Greece will give a unique response to all those who dared to doubt it," the high-profile ATHOC chief said.
 US confident Greece will succeed in hosting secure Olympics
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)US state department deputy spokesman David Ereli reiterated on Monday that the US had "every confidence" that Greece would succeed in hosting secure Olympic Games this summer, adding that it was and would continue to work with and support the Greek government to that end.
During a regular press briefing and in reply to press questions on Greece's request for a NATO role in security planning for the Games, Ereli simply noted that "the Greeks have reported that they are asking NATO for assistance with security at the Olympics", and suggested that any questions on that issue be "referred to the Greek Government for commentary or information on that request, or to NATO".
"And we've made our position clear that we are and will continue to work with the Government of Greece to support them in any way that they request and think is appropriate to enhance security for the Olympics. And we have every confidence that they're going to be able to do that," Ereli added.
Asked to comment on a recent four-page report by the strategic analysis company Stratford Institute of Austin, Texas, predicting that it was untenable for Cyprus to reunify prior to May 1st and that this could result in a new Greek-Turkish crisis, Ereli declined comment on the report, and reiterated that the US was "committed to the Annan plan, and we believe that there's a unique and good opportunity to reach an agreement to allow for entry of a unified Cyprus into the EU on May 1st".
 Dep. culture minister briefed on renovation of Archaeological Museum
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis on Tuesday visited the National Archaeological Museum to be briefed on the progress of works to renovate the museum and redisplay the exhibits in June 2004.
He met with museum curator Nikos Kaltsas and other staff, who also showed him around the galleries now being refurbished.
Afterward, Tatoulis said the ground floor areas of the museum will open in the first 10 days of June 2004 and that subsequently, new galleries will gradually open to the public.
Replying to questions regarding the construction of the Acropolis Museum - being built to house the Parthenon Marbles that Greece hopes will be returned to Athens for the Olympics - Tatoulis said a meeting with the culture ministry's legal service and staff was held at the ministry that morning, in view of an upcoming meeting by the Council of State regarding complaints about the legality of the studies for its construction.
''Our goal is to protect the culture ministry's previous policy and the museum's interest,'' Tatoulis said.
The new deputy minister is due to visit a number of museums throughout the country, giving first priority to those in Delphi, Thessaloniki, Volos, Iraklion and other Olympic cities.
 Belgian senators campaign for Parthenon Marbles' return home
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)European Union enlargement and the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens for the 2004 Olympic Games would be ''a sign of European cultural reconciliation,'' according to Belgian senators Francois Roelants du Vivier (Mouvement Reformateur) and Paul Wille (Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten)who launched a relevant campaign several months ago.
Within the context of this campaign, 150 Belgian MPs and more than 350 academics, art historians, and archaeologists signed the letter of protest the two Belgian senators addressed to the British ambassador to Brussels.
On March 8, and without having received a response, Vivier and Wille sent another letter of protest, this time to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, urging him to make every possible effort for the marbles' return before the Athens Olympic Games' opening in August.
 Emergency drill at Athens International Airport successful
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)A large-scale exercise at the Athens International Airport ''Eleftherios Venizelos,'' whose purpose was to ensure high-quality training, readiness, and the coordination of airport staff and related authorities, was carried out successfully on Tuesday.
The exercise dealt with the handling of an off-site emergency: an airplane approaching the airport for landing would send off a distress signal and would attempt to ditch in the sea just beyond the gulf of Porto Rafti.
Apart from Athens International Airport, other participants in the exercise included, the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority, Olympic Airlines, the Fire Brigade, the Police, the National Search and Rescue Coordinating Center, the Coast Guard, the Emergency Medical Unit, the Hellenic Red Cross, and the Prefecture of Eastern Attica.
The airport's management stated in a press release that the large number of entities involved in the exercise (more than 400 people participated) tested their ability to communicate and coordinate in an emergency situation.
According to the same source, the exercise went well but it will be assessed in more detail for more analytical conclusions to be reached.
 Former minister, police chief called to testify in ELA trial
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)The Three-Member Criminal Appeals Court trying the case of five suspected members of the terrorist group ''Revolutionary Popular Struggle'' (ELA) on Tuesday agreed to call a former minister, police chief and other members of a committee against terrorism to appear as witnesses in the court.
The court said it would issue a subpoena for former public order minister Stelios Papathemelis, former police chief Mihalis Nistikakis, university professor Christodoulos Gialouridis and Mary Bosi, in accordance with a request made by civil suit lawyer George Mavros.
During Tuesday's session, the court continued hearing the testimony of journalist Vassilis Zisis, who will also be on the witness stand on Wednesday.
 Albanian heroin-trafficking ring busted in police raid
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)The Attica Police Narcotics Department on Tuesday announced that it had dismantled what it believes to be an organized ring of Albanian heroin traffickers smuggling large quantities of heroin from Albania to Greece.
Four Albanian nationals were placed under arrest and 7.196 kilos of heroin were confiscated during a raid by the authorities, along with 9,400 euros in cash and a private car.
Police said they made the arrests acting on a tip-off and believe that it is a major blow to organized drug-trafficking rings that operate in a number of large European cities, along the lines of the Italian mafia.
One of the alleged members of the organization had been a resident of Italy and had an ID and residence permit issued by Italian authorities.
The four suspects were led before a public prosecutor while police are continuing their investigation to uncover and arrest more of their associates.
 Holy Synod meeting discusses relations with Ecumenical Patriarchate
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)Relations between the Autocephalous Church of Greece and the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate based in Istanbul were the main topic of Tuesday's meeting of the Holy Synod, in view of the latest developments after a visit to Fanar by a Church of Greece delegation.
A Synod spokesman said that agreement had been reached on several aspects of a dispute between Athens and Fanar concerning the ecclesiastical administration of the so-called ''new territories'' in the north of Greece.
He appeared sanguine that a final solution would be reached, saying that both sides were anxious to reach an agreement that was legal and did not require changes to the church charter.
The spokesman also announced that Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou was due to visit Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on Friday and said the meeting had discussed the issues that would be put during the meeting.
Among these he mentioned issues concerning religious education in schools, ecclesiastical training, funds to the Church from the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF) and other issues.
 Dead whale washed ashore on Crete
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)A dead whale about 3.5 meters long, believed to be a small sperm whale, was washed ashore on a beach near Iraklio, Crete on Tuesday.
Local residents that found the whale carcass have informed Crete's Institute for Marine Biology, which will be sending experts to examine the body on Wednesday.
The initial indications are that the whale was hit by a boat propeller.
 Modified fire-fighting plane delivered to Greek Armed Forces
Athens, 17/03/2004 (ANA)The Armed Forces on Tuesday took delivery of the first CL-415 fire-fighting plane that will reinforce its search-and-rescue sector.
The plane, which has arrived at Elefsina, can land at sea and is equipped with flight organs, such as radar and an automatic pilot, that also enable it to participate in rescue operations in addition to its main mission of fighting forest fires.
Another aircraft of the same type is currently being modified in Canada for the same purpose.
Greece currently has 10 CL-415s for use in fighting forest fires.
 EU officials dismiss Turkish demand for permanent derogations
NICOSIA 17/03/2004 (CNA/ANA)European officials dismissed on Tuesday the Turkish demand for permanent derogations from the acquis communautaire in the case of a Cyprus settlement.
Speaking during the 25th European Union-Cyprus Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) meeting, both JPC co-chairperson Mechtild Rothe and Ambassador of Ireland to Cyprus John Swift, whose country holds the EU rotating presidency, stressed that the EU would not accept permanent derogations from the acquis communautaire.
''The normal rule within the community is that transitional periods are not permanent," Swift said, adding the Presidency is convinced that what is proposed on the basis of article 4 of Protocol 10 of the Accession Treaty is the best way to safeguard the interests of all parties to the negotiating process and the best way to fully safeguard a possible settlement.
Swift called on both sides to stop blaming each other for the difficulties in the negotiating process and to begin in every possible way to promote the advantages and benefits of the agreement in their communities.
The Irish diplomat also pointed out that the talks have now entered a decisive stage and the parties should show a real will in order to bridge their differences.
''The challenge is to promote the negotiations not only on technocratic level but even more the political level, where one has to admit progress is not so much encouraging," Swift added.
Rothe said that any derogations can only be accepted as temporary ones, adding that the United Cyprus Republic must respect the European fundamental principles.
Referring to the Turkish demand for the re-ratification of the Cyprus Accession Treaty, Rothe said she could not imagine that the European Parliament would agree on a new Accession Treaty.
''This is absolutely inapplicable," Rothe noted, pointing out that even when Germany was reunified, no Parliament was invited to ratify a new Accession Treaty.
European Commission Representative and Director of the Directorate General on Enlargement Pierre Mirel pointed out that the European Commission sent on Monday the invitations for a high-level preliminary donors Conference for funding a Cyprus solution, which will take place on April 15, noting that individual countries, EU member-states and international banks would participate in the conference.
JPC Co-chairman and President of the European Affairs Parliamentary Committee Nicos Kleanthous said a solution to the Cyprus question before May 1 so that a united island would join the EU, constitutes a top national priority.
Kleanthous described the UN-led talks, which started on February 19 as a positive step, adding however said that the ''lack of progress in the talks is due to Turkish side's and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's tactic to put forward maximalistic views, outside the framework of the Annan plan as well as to the tolerance shown by the UN representatives and the international community."
 Cypriot FM says UN document does not predetermine dialogue
NICOSIA 17/03/2004 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou believes that the document given to the two sides in Cyprus on Monday by the UN chief's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto would not predetermine the dialogue to take place in the next phase of negotiations for a Cyprus settlement, with the participation of Greece and Turkey, because it did not contain issues of fundamental importance for the two guarantor powers.
He also said that the Greek Cypriot side would not agree to the Turkish side's demand to ratify again Cyprus' EU Accession Treaty, noting that such a decision would have to be approved by the 15 EU member states.
Speaking on the sidelines of Tuesday's Cyprus-EU Joint Parliamentary Committee meeting, taking place in Nicosia, Iacovou said de Soto's document constituted ''an effort to systemize and summarize positions, in preparation of what the UN official describes as give-and-take.''
''Our position is that we seek only the improvement of the functionality and viability, and this is not exchangeable, it is in favor of the two communities, and thus there is no reason to pay for our wish for improvements,'' Iacovou said.
Asked if the document was binding for the next phase of negotiations, Iacovou said ''this cycle ends on Friday and everything will be forwarded to the next phase.''
Iacovou did not think that the document would limit the dialogue on changes in the next phase of talks, because ''it does not contain some issues that are of fundamental importance for Greece and Turkey.''
Referring to the Turkish demand to ratify again Cyprus' EU Accession Treaty, so that derogations from the acquis communautaire would become EU primary law, Iacovou said he got the impression from European officials that the European Commission would not accept any derogation.
He pointed out that the solution plan proposed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan contained derogations from the acquis and noted that ''the Turks fear that these derogations would not be upheld in European courts and insist on a new ratification of the Treaty, so that these derogations are adopted as primary law.''
Iacovou added that this would have to be agreed at the Cyprus talks, something which would not happen because the Greek Cypriot side would not agree to it, and anyway it would have to be approved by the 15 EU member states and ''unanimity on this would not be possible.''
 UN official arrives to review Cyprus talks
LARNACA 17/03/2004 (CNA/ANA)UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Sir Kieran Prendergast arrived in Cyprus on Tuesday to review progress in talks to solve the Cyprus problem and to meet with the leaders of the two communities.
Speaking on arrival, Sir Kieran said he thought the talks would probably enter a second phase, with the participation of Greece and Turkey, noting that if there is still a deadlock, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan would finalize his solution plan and put it to referenda.
''I look forward very much over the next few days to meeting the leaders again and also to reviewing with the Secretary-General's team how we are getting on in the talks,'' he said.
He added that his visit ''has been planned for quite a while,'' noting that ''the Secretary-General asked me to come out every ten days to two weeks to review with our team how things are going and also to keep in close touch with the leaders.''
''I will review the existing ideas with our team here. I am not bringing new ideas because, as you know, the talks are in the hands of Alvaro de Soto, who has the Secretary-General's full confidence,'' Sir Kieran said.
Asked if the talks would enter their second phase, that is with the participation of Greece and Turkey, Sir Kieran said ''I think so,'' noting that ''this is all laid down in the agreement of February 13 in New York so we are set to proceed on that basis.''
''If there is still a deadlock, then the Secretary-General will finalize the plan and it will be put to referenda,'' he concluded.
Sir Kieran will be meeting with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos on Wednesday morning and with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash on Wednesday evening. He leaves on Thursday.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Talks between the two sides began under UN auspices last month and were switched to separate meetings with the UN. The aim is to reach an agreement that would be put to referenda, the positive outcome of which would enable a reunited Cyprus to join the EU in May this year. In the absence of an agreement, Greece and Turkey will join the talks, and if there is still no outcome, the UN Secretary-General will fill in the gaps of an agreement, which will be subsequently be put to the referenda.
 US reiterates commitment to Annan Plan
NICOSIA 17/03/2004 (CNA/ANA)The US has reiterated its commitment to the Annan Plan for a Cyprus solution before May 1, 2004 so that a united Cyprus can enter the European Union.
Answering to questions US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli, said Monday that the US is ''committed to the Annan Plan'' and it believes that ''there's a unique and good opportunity to reach an agreement to allow for entry of a unified Cyprus into the EU on May 1st''.