|Thursday, 18 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-02-01
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 1, 2005
 Karamanlis says gov't will not back down from fighting corruption; comments on justice system furor
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday referred to his government's "unwavering" decision to eradicate sleaze in every corner of the country's public life, in beginning his first public statement over the ongoing furor of corruption in the justice system.
An investigative news program's high-profile disclosures of bribe-taking by first instance judges, trial attorneys and court employees to parole felons, mainly convicted drug dealers, has sent shock waves through the independent justice system and apparently stiffened the government's resolve to pass draconian legislation aimed at weeding out rogue justices.
The furor has also piqued the attention of the Church of Greece's hierarchy, as a controversial cleric's name has repeatedly been linked to the alleged cabal, multiple slander lawsuits and even an antiquities smuggling case on the island of Kythira.
On his part, Karamanlis referred to the measures announced by Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras for greater transparency and improvements in the justice system, while he called on Greece's independent judiciary to expel the few corrupt judges, as he said, from its ranks.
"The vast majority of Greek judges ... honor their oath and the institution. They and their leadership must, therefore - and as part of a framework of an independent judiciary - expelled these justices."
Justice Minister announces 12 measures to combat corruption in the justice system: Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras on Monday announced 12 measures designed to combat corruption within the system of justice. He said the new measures will soon be tabled in Parliament by his ministry.
Under the new measures, passive bribery of a judge will become a felony instead of a misdemeanor and will carry a fine ranging between 100,000 to one million euros, while anyone offering gifts or money to a judicial official will also face prosecution for a felony.
The number of court inspectors will be increased, as will the staff of the Inspection Secretariat.
The 'means and assets' statement process will be activated, with extra resources for the service involved and inspection of statements for past years submitted by judicial officials.
Any judge being investigated for serious disciplinary infringements will stop exercising his duties while the investigation is underway.
Any judge who delays in the issue of a judgment beyond eight months will be subject to a disciplinary inquiry and have the case file removed from him or her.
Other measures include the establishment of an appeals supervisor for examining magistrates for the larger courts in Athens and Thessaloniki, the introduction of severe penalties for perjury and filing a false complaint and ensuring that draws to select the panel of judges for criminal courts are unimpeachable, with a strict ban on replacing any judge drawn as a member of a criminal court.
Finally, there will be a review of all past inquiries into disciplinary offences involving judicial officials that have been placed on file, where these point to corruption.
Papaligouras also announced the creation of a justice ministry committee to draft laws that will help improve self-regulation of major courts.
The minister stressed that judges, who "daily make decisions concerning the honor, property and freedom of Greek citizens" had to be above reproach and that the new legislative measures sought to close the doors to corruption in the justice system.
He said the ministry was responding to both the common demand for unimpeachable justice but also to the need of the majority of Greek judges to protect and preserve their prestige, reliability and good standing in the face of the citizens that they were called to judge.
"We support and protect Greek justice, in which there is no room for any oath-breaking judge. Because the few cannot tarnish [the image of] the many," he added.
Shortly after Papaligouras announced the measures, the Executive Board of the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (EDE) held an emergency meeting. According to a statement issued by the Union, EDE found that the announced measures are a step in the right direction. EDE supports these measures and requests that they be implemented as soon as possible.
Furthermore, EDE called on Papaligouras to begin a dialogue and cooperation with the various judiciary unions in order to seek and adopt the best possible solutions in order to deal with the problems the justice system is facing.
 PM to meet French defense minister this week
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is to meet visiting French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie in Athens on Friday morning at 9:30, Greek government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced on Monday.
At 13:00 on the same day, Karamanlis will meet with political leadership of the Greek defense ministry, while in the evening he will attend a dinner that marks the close of a Euro Mediterranean Development and Business conference organized by the Greek foreign ministry in Athens on February 3-5, with the assistance of the European Centre for Public Law and an association of Greek Industry.
On Tuesday, the premier is to chair a meeting of the cabinet focusing on interior ministry issues, while on Wednesday he will inaugurate a new burns unit at the Thriasio Hospital.
In the framework of a series of meetings with government ministers, Karamanlis will have a meeting with the political leadership of the Macedonia-Thrace ministry at 10:30 on Thursday.
 FM Molyviatis and EU Commissioner for Enlargement agree negotiations on Cyprus should resume, sources say
BRUSSELS 1/2/2005 (ANA/B.Demiris)Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis met with European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn here on Monday, on the sidelines of the EU General Affairs Council meeting.
According to Commission sources, the two officials reviewed the latest developments in Cyprus and agreed that efforts to solve the Cyprus issue within the context of the UN should resume.
On the issue of the EU directive regarding the commercial status of the Turkish Cypriot community, the same sources said that the EU hopes this impasse will be overcome soon.
Molyviatis and Rehn also discussed Turkey's EU accession course and the next steps to be taken after the December 17 EU summit, according to the same sources.
Regarding the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and its constitutional name, Rehn reiterated the EU position which supports a solution mutually acceptable to Greece and FYROM.
Finally, according to Cypriot diplomatic sources, a European Commission delegation will go to Nicosia on Tuesday in order to discuss amending the directive regarding the Green Line with Cypriot authorities.
 Elections in Iraq 'a good step for democracy', Greek government says
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Greek government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Monday hailed the elections taking place in Iraq as a "good step for democracy". He was responding to questions.
Replying to questions about the training of Iraqi soldiers, the spokesman said that Greece would "meet the conventional obligations it had undertaken within the framework of its membership in international organizations".
Iraqi elections a positive development for the region, FM spokesman said: "Greece along with the European Union and the rest of the international community supports the efforts of our Iraqi friends to determine its future not only for the benefit of Iraq, but for the benefit of peace and stability in the entire region," Foreign Minister Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Monday, commenting on the Iraqi elections that were held on Sunday.
He also noted that the fact the elections - the first with the participation of numerous political parties in 50 years - were conducted "relatively normally" considering the difficult circumstances in the country as well as the high percentage of Iraqis who voted, "constitutes a positive development in an environment burdened with tremendous difficulties and problems, which need to be effectively addressed urgently."
Koumoutsakos also pointed out that Sunday's elections are a first step in a series of measures that need to be adopted, such as a Constitution, and the election of a permanent government during 2005, if Iraq is to essentially become a democracy.
 Greece supports enlargement of UN Security Council
NEW YORK 1/2/2005 (ANA/P.Panayiotou)Greece supports the enlargement of the United Nations' Security Council, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, Greece's Permanent Representative to the UN said on Monday, speaking at a special meeting of the General Assembly's Plenary Session.
"Greece will support changes which aim at reinforcing representation, transparency and effectiveness of the structure and operation of the UN - an organization whose role in the modern world is irreplaceable," he said.
Vassilakis made his comments on occasion of a related report a 16-member committee of political officials and experts presented regarding changes to the UN's structure and operation in order to make it more effective in dealing with new threats. The report was commissioned by the UN's General Secretariat.
Finally, Vassilakis reiterated Greece's support in creating a committee for the promotion of peace to the extent that such a committee can help prevent the collapse or further weakening of smaller/weaker countries, in reinforcing peace-making procedures in post-conflict areas and in preventing the flare-up of conflicts.
Greece is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the two year period 2005-2006.
 PM Karamanlis meets with presidential candidate
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with presidential candidate and former PASOK MP Karolos Papoulias for the first time in public since the latter's nomination was announced, during a presentation of a book written by New Democracy Eurodeputy Ioannis Varvitsiotis on Monday.
Karamanlis and Papoulias had an informal discussion, while Varvitsiotis shortly before the presentation of his book "Cultural Photogrammetry", commented on developments currently plaguing the justice system. Varvitsiotis also commented on an article by independent deputy Andreas Andrianopoulos who expressed opposition to Papoulias' nomination, saying that everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis made a similar comment about Andrianopoulos' statement and said that Papoulias is highly regarded by the political community overall.
Present at Monday's event were Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki, numerous ministers, former Prime Minister Georgios Rallis, and many MPs.
 Government presents list of journalists employed in public sector to union
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, in charge of the media portfolio, on Monday handed a list of journalists employed in the civil service and wider public sector to the Athens Union of Journalists (ESHEA) at the request of ESHEA's president.
The list was compiled on the basis of the 1997 presidential decree and incorporates the 18 government ministries and 122 state-sector bodies.
In a letter to the president and board of ESHEA, meanwhile, Roussopoulos stressed that publication of the names would violate the principles of protection of personal data and he asked that the "necessary legislative provision" be observed.
He also notes that new lists covering the period until March 31, 2005 will be put together and sent to ESHEA in the beginning of April.
"I am certain that in the framework of self-regulation, ESHEA will play a leading role in order to stop accusations being directed summarily against the guilty and innocent. You will find me a supporter of your efforts," the minister said.
The move follows a recent furor about journalists illegally occupying more than one position in the wider public sector, amid more general accusations of corruption among the profession and its involvement in state-sector graft and dependence on big business.
 Papandreou criticizes 'primary shareholders' law; changes in public sector hirings regime
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Monday aimed his criticism at the government's recently passed "primary shareholders" law as well as envisioned changes in the way public sector hirings are conducted.
He also touched on foreign policy in the second of a two-part interview published by the Athens daily "Ethnos".
In terms of the "primary shareholders" law -- a high-profile government initiative aimed at curbing the influence of business interests that retain holdings in broadcast media and simultaneously execute state contracts -- Papandreou said the Karamanlis government was merely attempting to "control and subjugate" the media sector.
"Mr. Karamanlis (the prime minister) created an enemy, the mass media, which he believed did not support him before the elections, and which is the root of corruption and other ills," Papandreou was quoted as saying.
He also said it was naïve to believe that the bill will hit the phenomenon of corruption at its root.
Furthermore, the one-time foreign minister expressed misgivings about the foreign policy course mapped out by the current Greek government, charging that the latter is failing to outline a set position on a series of issues. "... part of its (government) effort not to trouble anyone abroad, and not face whatever political cost at home," he said.
Papandreou referred to what he called a "dramatic change" and "passiveness" over the past year on the foreign policy front.
Finally, he charged that objective criteria long set out for public sector hirings will be diluted by a pending law he criticized as "unfair and biased", pointing to the fact that a personal interview can now account for more points towards a hiring than academic qualifications and relevant experience.
 Main opposition accuses government of 'inadequate' handling of defense issues
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)The head of main opposition PASOK's foreign affairs and defense section, MP Anna Diamantopoulou, on Monday accused the government of inadequacy in its handling of defense issues and called on it to "take the next step".
Diamantopoulou criticized the government's new plan for the Armed Forces, saying it lacked direction and had a skewed view of the development of the Armed Forces. She also accused the government of embarking into a new round of promises involving military service that it would then be unable to deliver.
She particularly stressed the lack of any new contracts with the defense industry, saying that the government did not appear to have a clear-cut framework for the development of the defense industry. At the same time, she added, the government was announcing a major recruitment drive for the industry when over half its workforce was under-occupied.
Defense ministry responds to PASOK's accusations of 'inadequate' handling of defense issues: "If PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) has the political strength to bring to Parliament issues on which it has a bad track record (transparency, restructuring of armed forces, defense industry, etc." then let it; this way it will be able to receive the answers it deserves. PASOK should abandon the practice of 'guerilla warfare', accusations and subterfuge," the Defense Ministry stated in an announcement released Monday, in response to accusations made by PASOK MPs Anna Diamantopoulou and Andreas Loverdos.
Diamantopoulou, also the head of PASOK's foreign affairs and defense section, accused the government of inadequacy in its handling of defense issues and called on it to "take the next step", while Loverdos claimed that the defense ministry's leadership and decision-making centers lacked coordination.
 President Stephanopoulos to visit Belgium on Tuesday
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos will be departing for Brussels on Tuesday for a three-day visit, following an invitation by the Belgian Royal Family.
Stephanopoulos, who will be accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis and a group of Greek businessmen, will be meeting with the royal family as well as with Belgium's Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. He will also be inaugurating the business forum organized by the Belgian Chamber of Commerce and will meet with associations of the Greek community.
This will be Stephanopoulos' last trip abroad as President, since his second-year term will be ending shortly.
 PM confers with culture ministry, DEH officials
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis met on Monday with deputy culture minister Petros Tatoulis and ministry secretary general Costas Zachopoulos, to discuss government planning and priorities in the culture sector for 2005.
No statements were made after the meeting.
Earlier, the premier had a half-hour meeting with DEH public power corporation president Yannis Palaiokrassas. Again, no statements were made after the meeting.
 SYN accuses gov't of trying to 'rush' ratification of EU constitution
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)The Political Secretariat of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party denounced "the government's apparent intentions, in cooperation with PASOK, to 'rush' the ratification of the European Constitution through Parliament in March," in a statement it released on Monday.
Instead, SYN proposed that a referendum be held.
Furthermore, SYN recommended that a broad and comprehensive awareness campaign be conducted so that the Greek public can be informed on the issue, an issue that "is of great importance which concerns the course and future of our country and of Europe for decades to come."
Finally, SYN stressed its opposition to the European Constitution, which it considers to promote neo-liberalism and "strengthens Europe's Atlantic orientation." The party's political secretariat emphasized that it will take all initiatives necessary to prevent "anti-democratic methods" which aim at ratification without the participation of the Greek people.
 SYN and Venezuela's MVR agree to tighten relations
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Representatives of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party, headed by SYN President Alekos Alavanos met with members of Venezuela's Movement of the Fifth Republic (MVR) party on Monday, on the sidelines of the World Social Forum (WSF) currently under way in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
The two sides agreed to work at strengthening ties.
SYN released the following statement on Monday: "During our meeting, Venezuela's delegation provided a detailed chronological analysis of the various stages of the country's democractic, revolutionary and reformative undertaking from 1996 until today. They emphasized the Bush administration's continuous imperialistic aggression at the expense of Venezuela, aggression which peaked two and a half years ago with a coup attempt carried out by the opposition and the oligarchy with direct support from the US. They asked for political solidarity from our country and particularly from the Left. They stated that structural, democratic reforms of their country's institutions, the economy, the fight against poverty, exclusion, illiteracy, agricultural reform and others, are moving at a faster pace."
 Greek public and private healthcare sectors need closer cooperation
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Greek Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis on Monday urged for the creation of a working group to examine prospects of cooperation between the public and private sectors in healthcare and insurance.
Addressing a seminar on the healthcare sector, organized by the Union of Greek Insurance Companies, Kaklamanis said that the working group would include representatives of the Health ministry and would use the European experience in drafting new proposals. Kaklamanis stressed that the working group would have to complete its work in a very short period of time.
Addressing the seminar, Mrs E. Hadjiandreou, a professor of Health Management and Policy at the Harvard University, said that Greek insurance companies would cooperate closely with the public sector and stressed that this cooperation was a "one-way" road. Professor Hadjiandreou noted that the Greek healthcare system suffered from a high cost, medical and hospital inflation, two elements creating structural problems to the sector's total cost and citizens' health.
She said that the Greek public healthcare sector was "dangerously unorganized, lacking respect to citizen and with chronic problems, while the private sector was suffering from high cost, leaving the country low in world lists on private insurance spending.
Mrs Hadjiandreou urged for a closer cooperation between the public and private sector in creating an integrated system aimed to reduce hospitalization costs. She also urged for drafting national quality indexes for a more efficient control of the system.
 Talks on bank sector's pension system to continue Wednesday
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis will meet with representatives of bank employees' union OTOE on Wednesday to discuss the sector's pension issue.
A first meeting between the two sides on Monday ended with OTOE saying that the climate of talks was not satisfying. Union representatives told reporters, after the meeting, that creating a single bank employees' pension fund was a difficult task and noted that a strike on Monday was a success.
Bank workers report successful strike: The bank employees' union said that turnout in a 24-hour strike on Monday was major in the state-controlled sector, and satisfactory in private credit institutions.
It was the first in a series of walkouts that are scheduled for each Monday in February.
Members are seeking introduction of a single supplementary pension system for all banking staff versus a piecemeal arrangement for each credit institution, the OTOE union said in a statement.
Union representatives have asked Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis to intervene in the dispute with employers due to a deadlock in talks.
The minister is to meet OTOE leaders for fresh talks on Wednesday.
 Government, EU commissioner in talks on fiscal outlook
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis on Monday met the European Union's commissioner for regional policy, Danuta Hubner, for talks in Brussels on the fiscal outlook for 2007-2013.
Valinakis, whose portfolio includes European affairs, told Hubner that Greece backed an EU Commission proposal on the fiscal outlook that, from Greece's point of view, would be the minimum acceptable level.
Under the terms of the proposal, the Commission set a spending ceiling of 1.24% of the EU's gross domestic product and 33% of total spending to cover cohesion.
In addition, Greece wanted to see a fair distribution of the fiscal burden of enlargement among all member states, Valinakis said.
Both sides agreed that negotiations for a final agreement were tougher than in the past taking into account an inflexible stand so far by the bloc's net contributors to its budget, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Finally, Greece would like the see the matter resolved by June this year, the statement added.
 Farmers to end 12-day rally in Tempe, freeze protests
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Cotton farmers from Larissa are to withdraw their tractors from Tempe on Tuesday after a 12-day protest rally, as part of a freeze on protest action for about a month.
The farmers will decide on further action after February 24 when the agricultural development ministry will end hearings on objections submitted by farmers claiming that cotton they produced should be classed as legitimate output; and release findings on controls of stock it has conducted.
At the same time, farmers aligned to the Communist Party of Greece on Monday began protest rallies around the country.
Farm Minister repeats policy on subsidies: Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos said on Monday that the government lacked the right to exceed EU subsidies of 1,100 billion drachmas annually, which are awarded under specific terms.
The minister was replying to farmers aligned with the Communist Party of Greece.
 Souflias says new public contracts law a success
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Minister of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Yiorgos Souflias said "Cassandras were proved wrong," in a press conference on Monday, commenting on the results of seven out of 10 major bids for the construction of parts of Egnatia Odos.
Souflias said he was extremely satisfied with the new legislative framework that was recently put in place regarding awarding of public works. The minister said that the discounts given by companies participating in the bids amounted to only 25%, evidence that the first test of the new law was a success. He also responded to the opposition parties, which had predicted that discounts would run up to 55%-60%, saying that they would have to review their opinions.
"After many decades, Greece has acquired a system that is functional and reliable thus guaranteeing transparency and the best interests of the state," he said.
Souflias said that the new law applies transparent procedures and has many safety clauses, such as high guarantees. Also, the law foresees strict penalties for contractors and supervisors in case of negligence.
 Greek participation at Copenhagen tourism fair
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)The Greek Tourism Organization participated in an international tourism fair in Copenhagen this week, as a Greek pavilion in the fair also included the prefectures of Heraclio, Hania and Rethymno (Crete).
Greek dance troupes also appeared at the fair while visitors were offered traditional Grecian delicacies. Around 47,000 people visited the Copenhagen tourism fair, mainly representatives from the tourism industry.
 Gov't presents measures to improve road transport
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis on Monday announced a series of measures aimed to address truck owners' demands, such as intensified inspections to combat illegal transportation of goods and stricter implementation of community legislation on labor relations.
During a meeting with union representatives, Liapis also proposed an 8.0 percent increase in truck fares this year, in two trances.
The first, 4.0 percent in February, and the second after six months. The two sides also agreed to extend a ban on the use of national road network by trucks during weekends throughout the year. Truck owners' unions will meet on Saturday to decide whether to proceed or not with threatened mobilizations.
 Gov't announces 8.0 pct increase in taxi, truck fares
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)The Greek government on Monday announced an 8.0 percent increase in taxi and truck transport fares.
The decision was taken during a meeting between Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Alogoskoufis said that the government was continuing a round of exploratory talks with interested parties on the sale of Olympic Airlines, while Liapis said that a decision to raise fares was taken after a dialogue with taxi and truck owners.
 Greek business visit to Libya in March
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Greece's External Trade Organization (OPE) on Monday announced it was organizing a business visit to Libya, March 8-13, in the framework of further increasing Greek exports in important markets in the Mediterranean.
The business visit in the cities of Benghazi and Tripoli will include participation in two international trade fairs in Tripoli, organizing an information seminar in Athens and Thessaloniki and of business meetings.
OPE said that the Libyan market was particularly interested in food, aquaculture products, farm machinery equipment, building materials, hotel equipment, medical equipment, hospital equipment.
 Conference for boosting business activity in the Mediterranean region to be held in Athens
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)The Foreign Ministry's International Developmental Cooperation Service (YDAS) is co-organizing a meeting focusing on development and business activity in the Mediterranean region, which will be held in Athens on February 3-5. The other co-organizers of the conference are the Federation of Greek Industries and the European Centre of Public Law.
Ten ministers and deputy ministers from various Mediterranean countries, as well as 150 businesspeople from Greece and the region, will be participating.
On Friday, February 4, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be the keynote speaker at a formal dinner that will be held within the context of the conference.
Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis will inaugurate the conference, while a speech by Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis will follow. Other ministers and deputy ministers are also scheduled to speak during the three-day event.
 GSEE leadership meets with President Stephanopoulos
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)The leadership of the General Confederation of the Employees of Greece (GSEE) met with President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Monday.
During the meeting, GSEE President Christos Polyzogopoulos briefed Stephanopoulos on issues that are of primary concern to employees and unions - mainly wages, the high cost of living, unemployment, and insurance reform.
 Stocks drop in late blue-chip selling
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Stocks finished lower after late selling in blue chips reversed an early rise, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,919.93 points, posting a decline of 1.16%. Turnover was 275.8 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.27% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.28% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.69% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 190 to 114 with 54 remaining unchanged.
 Rio-Antirrio bridge to reopen on Tuesday in one lane
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)The Rio-Antirrio suspension bridge is to re-open on Tuesday but only in one direction until repairs on the snapped supporting cable have been completed, Development Minister George Souflias announced on Monday.
According to the minister, bridge operators and builders "Gefyra SA" have given assurances that the bridge is perfectly safe.
Souflias said that the cause of the fire that snapped the cable will continue to be investigated but the operating company guarantees the bridge's safety.
The bridge has been closed to traffic since Thursday morning after one of the supporting cables suddenly caught fire and eventually snapped. So far, no explanation for the mysterious fire has been put forward, with theories ranging from an electrical charge built up by a thunderstorm, a bolt of lightning or materials stress due to high winds.
 Greece's European Commissioner proposes strategy for tackling mercury pollution
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)The European Commission on Monday proposed a strategy for dealing with mercury pollution, including the phasing out of EU exports by 2011, adopting a proposal prepared by Greece's European Commissioner Stavros Dimas, in charge of the Commission portfolio for the environment.
According to the Commission, low-level mercury pollution that exceeded international accepted safety levels, such as that found in certain fish and seafood, still affected the health of some European citizens, particularly around Mediterranean coastal regions.
Dimas said the Commission was determined to reduce mercury emissions:
"We will take steps to reduce the demand for mercury products inside the EU. We will also take the lead in tackling the global pool of mercury that exists in our environment. The EU is the biggest global exporter of mercury and we have a responsibility to phase out this trade altogether," he said.
The Commission notes that the EU is currently the main supplier for global mercury demand and envisions a total ban of exports by 2011, coupled with global action in cooperation with other countries to control the mercury trade, emissions and the use of mercury in activities like gold mining.
This will be coupled with a reduction in EU demand for mercury, for example in thermometers or mercury fillings used by dentists, finding ways to deal with EU surpluses, such as safe storage of mercury decommissioned by industry and further study of mercury already circulating in society, for example in old products.
Other measures will be to investigate and disseminate information designed to reduce EU emissions, prevent further exposure and improve understanding in mercury knowledge.
While the total quantity of mercury cannot be changed, human activities act to release mercury contained in relatively stable deposits, such as coal, into the air, water and ultimately the food chain, where it turns into more toxic compounds. Such activities include the burning of coal, gold-mining and use of mercury in certain man-made products.
 Athens Mayor presents an account of her two years in office
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis gave an account of what has been achieved so far during her two years in office, at a special event held at Athens Concert Hall on Monday evening.
Bakoyannis defended the work the municipality undertook before the 2004 Athens Olympics in order to build infrastructure and to improve the city aesthetically.
The Athens mayor also referred to the municipality's finances. She said that in the last two years, the municipality's rate of investment has increased 505% - its investment program increased from ¬ 18 million in 2002 to ¬ 91 million in 2004, while its incomes over the two-year period increased at a rate of 15% annually.
Bakoyannis also emphasized that important work was done regarding provision of better services to citizens. More specifically, seven citizens' service centers (KEP) were established throughout Athens, a telephone hotline was set up, as well as a series of other initiatives.
In addition to achievements so far, the mayor also presented the municipality's goals for the following two years. These include creating more green spaces throughout the city, reinforcing social solidarity, refurbishing residential areas and improving traffic flow.
 Strong earthquake jolts Zakynthos, seismologists reassu0ring
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)A strong earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale jolted the island of Zakynthos early Monday, but no damage was immediately reported, and seismologists were reassuring that the phenomenon was developing normally.
The earthquake was recorded at 3:05 a.m. at a distance of 340 kilometers west of Athens, and its epicenter in the sea area southwest of Zakynthos. A second, smaller quake registering 4.0 on the Richter scale was recorded ten minutes later.
Athens Observatory Geodynamic Institute seismologist Stavros Tasos told ANA that the phenomenon was developing normally.
He noted the high seismic activity of the area, adding that the 5.6 magnitude trembler appeared to be the main quake.
Tasos further noted that the quality of construction on the island was very good, and therefore "we will have no problems".
 Journalist from Crete awarded by Women's Rights Association
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)The Women's Rights Association honored Taxiarchoula Samenou-Sifaki from Crete with the Pavlos Paleologos award for her journalistic work in Rethymno's "Kritiki Epitheorissi" (Cretan Review) regarding women's affairs. The journalist from Crete was presented her award by Deputy Government Spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Monday.
The Association's second award "Avra Theodoropoulou", which is normally given to journalists working in electronic media, was not awarded since the association felt that no one fulfilled the basic criteria.
Speaking at the ceremony, held in Athens, Antonaros said that "much progress has been made regarding equality of the two sexes, thanks in part to efforts made by your association, which has had a long and vital presence." He also added that women's rights is not just a woman's issue but it concerns everyone and has as much to do with changing attitudes as with legislative intervention.
 Six foreign nationals charged with smuggling illegals, holding them for ransom
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)A second migrant smuggling ring ferrying illegals into the country before imprisoning them until relatives paid a ransom was uncovered by authorities on Monday north of Athens.
According to reports, 21 Bangladeshis, including a woman and seven minors, were found locked in two warehouses off the Athens-Lamia national highway and near the Avlona township.
Six foreign nationals -- four Pakistanis, a Syrian and a Romanian woman -- were arrested in the raid and charged with migrant smuggling and false imprisonment charges.
The illegals were reportedly part of a bigger group of around 70 Third World nationals ferried onto Greek territory from neighboring Turkey. The other migrants had still not been located by press time.
Police said the suspects preyed on the recently smuggled illegals by demanding they call relatives and beg for money, anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 euros.
 Cleric linked to judicial corruption probe called to provide statement on antiquities smuggling case
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)A high-ranking cleric at the centre of a national investigation into judicial corruption requested and received a 48-hour extension on Monday to prepare his statement before a Piraeus magistrate.
Iakovos Yiosakis, who holds the ecclesiastical title of archimandrite, was subpoenaed in order to provide information over an antiquities smuggling case on the Kythira.
Yiosakis recently returned from Lebanon, where he traveled last week.
 Metro lines briefly shut down after alleged pickpocket fled into tunnel
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)A Hollywood-like chase of an alleged pickpocket stopped two busy metro lines in downtown Athens early Monday afternoon after the man ran onto the tracks with security guards in hot pursuit.
The man fled through metro line 2 at Syntagma station, the main hub of the new metro system of Athens, while metro officials soon immobilized trains on both lines 2 and 3 for 10 and 30 minutes, respectively.
Later reports said security staff subsequently "located" and "retrieved" the man at around 2:30 p.m. (local time), without giving further details on his condition.
 Traffic fatalities in Jan-Nov 2004 marginally down from corresponding period last year
Athens, 1/2/2005 (ANA)The country's appalling road fatality figures for the Jan-Nov 2004 period were marginally down from the corresponding period of 2003, the National Statistical Service (ESYE) announced on Monday, with 1,485 traffic-related deaths recorded 2004 compared to 1,496 deaths in 2003.
In terms of severely injured individuals, 2,280 cases were reported for the first 11 months of 2004, up from 2,209 in Jan-Nov 2003. The total number of traffic accidents in Jan-Nov 2004 was 14,123; 14,575 during the same period of 200.
Specifically for the month of November 2004, 110 people lost their life in traffic-related accidents, as opposed to 128 in November 2003.
 Cypriot Minister optimistic about EU regulation
BRUSSELS 1/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs George Iakovos, who represented Cyprus in Monday's General Affairs Council in Brussels, said he was optimistic regarding the Green Line Regulation and expressed certainty that there would be positive developments soon.
He noted that the head of the European Commission group for Cyprus, Leopold Maurer, would be visiting Nicosia this week for talks, adding he believed that differences between the Commission and the Cypriot government would be bridged.
Iakovos said there was a good chance that the outcome of the talks would be adopted by the next General Affairs Council, to be held in Brussels on February 21.
Regarding the proposed regulation to fund the Turkish Cypriots with 259 million euros, Iakovos said Cyprus had accepted this regulation but noted that some countries refused to disassociate the regulation from that on direct trade with the Turkish occupied areas.
''We do not accept direct trade, neither do we discuss it, especially after the concessions we will make on the Green Line Regulation,'' Iakovos said, and expressed satisfaction over the handling of the issue by the Luxembourg EU presidency.
 Cyprus Spokesman: no reason for Papadopoulos-Talat meeting
NICOSIA 1/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)There is no reason, at this stage, for Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and self-styled premier in the island's Turkish-occupied areas Mehmet Ali Talat to meet, Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said here on Monday.
The spokesman also said that Talat prevents economic cooperation between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, in a bid to obtain political gains.
''We are ready to begin further procedure, within the UN framework, to find a political settlement provided that the foundations for a successful outcome of such negotiations are laid down,'' Chrysostomides said.
He said at present there is no reason for Papadopoulos to meet Talat, especially because the latter, in an effort to obtain political advantages, he has a negative approach towards the implementation of measures that would help cooperation and understanding between the two sides.
''The Turkish Cypriots should know that we have done everything possible to facilitate cooperation and commercial exchanges on the basis of the European Union Green Line regulation on the movement of goods across the Green Line and the export of Turkish Cypriot produce through the legal ports of entry,'' the spokesman added.
Talat, he said, does not seem to allow this to develop to the extent that it could.
Chrysostomides recalled that an EU financial aid program for the Turkish Cypriots, worth 259 million euros, is being delayed because of obstacles Talat raises in a bid to link this aid to another EU regulation on direct trade between the EU and the occupied part of Cyprus.
''The regulations are there, the government and the EU have proposed ways to implement them, if there is a desire to help the Turkish Cypriots, Talat must rise to the challenge,'' he added.
He noted that Turkish Cypriot exports are rather limited (50 million dollars) half of which are citrus fruit and these could easily be exported through legal ports of entry.
''We are studying and discussing with the EU further measures to facilitate the implementation of the Green Line,'' the spokesman added.
Responding to questions, the spokesman said the Turkish side expects to see the outcome of the forthcoming ''parliamentary and presidential elections'' in occupied Cyprus.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.
 Cyprus President: Turkey's obligations to EU not linked to Cyprus
NICOSIA 1/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has said that Turkey's obligations towards the European Union must not be linked to the question of Cyprus.
Papadopoulos dismissed suggestions that foreign interested parties in the question of Cyprus are not privy to his positions on changes in an UN-proposed solution plan he wants to introduce so that it meets the concerns of the Greek Cypriot community.
He was critical of Mehmet Ali Talat, Turkish Cypriot party leader and strong advocate of the UN plan, that he (Talat) had backed it because he had received promises with regard to efforts to lift the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.
''It would be wrong to link Ankara's obligations to the EU with the solution of the Cyprus issue. Recent statements by the Turkish Prime Minister are very confusing,'' Papadopoulos said when asked to comment on remarks by Tayyip Erdogan on his obligation to adapt the Ankara Agreement, relating to Turkey's customs union with the EU, so that it applies to all ten new EU members, including Cyprus.
Responding to questions, Papadopoulos said that the US and Britain have for a long time maintained that they are not aware of his positions and that he should outline the points of disagreement in the Annan plan.
''This insistence impresses some people,'' President Papadopoulos said, and referred to a meeting he had with British Minister of State Denis McShane during which he (Papadopoulos) listed a number of changes the Greek Cypriot side wants in the Annan plan and the day after McShane told the House of Commons that that he had yet to receive a list of changes the Cyprus government wanted.
Responding to questions on the yes vote by the Turkish Cypriot side at last April's referendum on the Annan plan, Papadopoulos said Mehmet Ali Talat backed the plan not because he believed it served the interests of the Turkish Cypriot community but because he had obtained certain promises.
''Talat and Turkey had no difficulty in saying yes to this plan as they got everything they had asked for during the arbitration process, at the UN-led talks, except diplomatic recognition, which they do not seek and which is not feasible,'' Papadopoulos said.
He pointed out that Talat does state that he has received promises to approve the Annan plan, which according to Talat have not been kept.
''I believed that the yes vote by the Turkish Cypriots in the referendum was a clear choice by the Turkish Cypriot community in that they considered the plan was serving their interests. I did not know that the approval of the plan had been bought out through promises given,'' Papadopoulos.
Responding to questions, Papadopoulos said he supported ''very much'' meetings between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot political parties.
''All contacts, all meetings are useful. However what you say and how you say it is important,'' he concluded.
The overwhelming majority of the Greek Cypriots (76 per cent) rejected the Annan plan in the April referendum. The Turkish Cypriots voted in favor by 65 per cent.
 Turkish side responsible for CMP impasse, says Cyprus government
NICOSIA 1/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)The Turkish side must act to reverse the negative climate that prevails at the Committee of Missing Persons (CMP), after an inconclusive effort to locate a burial site of Greek Cypriot missing persons which the T/C side had indicated. Cyprus Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides, commenting on statements made by the T/C representative to CMP Rustem Tatar that the Committee's meetings have been suspended because of unjustified absences by the G/C representative, he said ''Mr. Tatar is trying to justify the unjustifiable''.
The spokesman said Tatar should realize ''the great responsibility which the Turkish side, the occupation power bears, since it misled the CMP giving false information on the Trahonas area''. He noted ''the international forensic centre INFORCE, conducting the excavations had to make a great effort without results''.
Speaking to CNA G/C member of CMP, Elias Georgiades said that following the failed attempt at Trahonas, the responsibility to restore the climate at CMP lies with the Turkish side.
''The meetings should not take place for the sake of meetings, they must be productive and lead to results'', said Georgiades noting that otherwise time goes by without giving answers to the relatives and causing confusion.
Asked what kind of gestures he would expect from the T/C side to restore the climate, Georgiades said the T/C side should ''present convincing evidence for investigations they promised they would present as regards to the fate of G/C missing persons''.
He added that the T/C side should also indicate alternative burial sites, to correspond with the UN Secretary-General's appeal for progress in the procedure of exhumations.
Georgiades explained that from all three places indicated by the T/C side since 1998, one proved to be wrong, the second had nothing to do
with the missing persons and the third is located on the side of a mountain without a specific area to begin excavations.
The third party to the CMP Pierre Guberan was asked to use this period to consult with the sides in an effort to improve the climate, he said.
If the Turkish side really wants the CMP meetings to continue, it will have to respond positively to all efforts and make the necessary gestures, Georgiades concluded.