|Saturday, 15 August 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-02-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 12, 2005
 FinMin says pay rises to exceed inflation
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)The Greek government will unveil its incomes policy for 2005 next week, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters, after a two-hour meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Alogoskoufis stressed that wage pay rises would exceed the inflation rate (it ended at 2.9 percent last year), while he noted that pension pay rises would be slightly higher. The Greek minister underlined that supplementary pension pay increases would be double the inflation figure.
Alogoskoufis stressed that the government was committed to its strategy of a mild fiscal adjustment and emphasized to economic growth and exports, saying that the government would unfold its initiatives soon.
Replying to questions over the sale of Olympic Airlines, Alogoskoufis said that a deadline to submit bids in the tender has expired and said that there were several Greek and foreign investors, as well as other airlines, and added that procedures would move on as scheduled.
The Greek minister said he was in full cooperation with Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos in a dialogue over the banking sector's pension system and noted that the government was not submitting any proposals in the dialogue between employers and employees in the sector. Alogoskoufis said that the dialogue would continue next week.
 Premier Karamanlis confers with FM Molyviatis
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday conferred with foreign minister Petros Molyviatis on foreign policy matters.
No statements were made after the hour-long meeting.
 FM ministry spokesman comments on Annan's statement on Cyprus
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)Greece is seeking the reunification of Cyprus and believes in a viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of the Annan plan, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and European principles and values, Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Friday.
Koumoutsakos' statement came in the wake of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's statement Thursday in London, in which he urged Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos ''to really put his views on paper the changes he would want to have,'' on the Annan settlement plan, indicating ''it would be helpful for anyone who is going to begin discussions or resumption of talks.''
The full statement by Koumoutsakos is as follows: ''Yesterday's (Thursday) statements by UN Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan fall under the framework of positions that himself has expressed at various instances after the holding of the two referenda in Cyprus. Our position is known. We steadfastly seek the reunification of the island. We believe in a viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of the Annan plan, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and European principles and values. In this framework, every action that can contribute substantially to the achievement of a solution, which of course needs to be acceptable by all Cypriots, is deemed positive.''
 The Russian stance on the Cyprus issue remains the sameNEW YORK 2/12/2005, (ANA/P. Panagioutou)
The Russian stance in the Cyprus issue remains the same. According to a reliable diplomatic source at the seat of the United Nations, despite the attempts by the United States and Britain to submit again at the UN Security Council the report by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, with which is proposed the economic upgrading of the Turkish Cypriot side, Russia made known that the issue of "isolation" of the Turkish Cypriots should be solved through the framework of a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue.
Russia's position was conveyed in separate meetings which the permanent representative of Russia at the international organization had at the seat of the United Nations with his British and Turkish counterpart, as well as with UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Sir Kiren Prendergast.
U.S., British and UN officials, meanwhile, insist in suggesting that the Greek Cypriot side should submit the changes it wishes to see in the Annan plan, meaning that the undertaking of a new initiative on the Cyprus problem depended on the Greek Cypriots.
According to diplomatic assessments, however, at the seat of the international organization there seems to be no intention or movement at this moment for the undertaking of an initiative or even the holding of exploratory contacts on the part of the UN.
Without there being anything specific, it is assessed however that it is probable that any initiative may be taken towards the end of spring and early summer. Until then, contacts will proceed by American and British officials with government officials in Nicosia, Athens, Ankara and Brussels, with the objective of returning the two sides to the negotiating table. The mediators will seek in advance the coding of changes and the observations which each side proposes.
 Justice Minister says Turkish government reforms will succeed, during interview with ANA
ISTANBUL, 12/2/2005 (ANA-A. Kourkoulas)Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras on Friday expressed confidence that reforms initiated by the Turkish government will succeed, in an interview given to the ANA correspondent in Istanbul.
Papaligouras, who has just completed an official visit to Ankara, said the Turkish side had "persistently highlighted its will to adapt to European law", while adding that the Turkish State had proved that it was both strong-willed and systematic over time.
His visit had given him the opportunity to stress the need for decisive steps and brave measures in order to achieve harmonization between Turkish and European law, the minister added.
"The legal framework of a country directly reflects its political culture, its historical origins and the dominant social relations. Changing legislation means, to a great extent, changing society," he said.
Commenting on ways in which the Greek government could assist Turkey's effort to adapt its law to European legislation, Papaligouras said he had discussed a series of specific possibilities with his counterpart in Ankara. These included the provision of consultants and training in Greece's National School of Judges and use of the European Centre of Public Law based in Athens in order to promote necessary institutional changes to Turkey's Constitution and administrative laws.
"Adapting the national legislations of EU member-states to Community Regulations that jointly form the broader body of European law is a non-stop process and one that has given us the necessary legal know-how that Turkey needs," the minister said.
He also ventured the view that helping Turkey harmonize with the requirements of EU law would assist in improving and developing Greek-Turkish relations, stressing a recent move by the Turkish justice ministry to appoint the Greek Ombudsman as a key Community partner in setting up the equivalent authority in Turkey.
Papaligouras underlined that the Greek official had been chosen over his counterparts in other European countries that possessed experience in institutional issues and close historical ties with Turkey, such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain and Hungary.
Commenting on the reaction of European public opinion to Turkey's accession to the EU, Papaligouras said the process underway would in itself provide a solution to the problem.
"A democratic Turkey, governed by the rule of law and an institutional framework that protects the free expression of ideas and differences, will in essence be a European Turkey that will not prompt negative reactions from European public opinion," he said.
Accession to Europe self-evidently leads to accession to a specific cultural entity, made up of different nations with a common historic basis, common values and common specifications. Turkey is called on to persuade European public opinion on a wider basis than the purely economic, political or geostrategic," the minister added.
While in Ankara, the Greek minister had lengthy talks with his Turkish counterpart Cemil Cicek and Turkey's senior judicial leadership during his visit.
 Greek Justice Minister Papaligouras meets Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos
ISTANBUL, 12/2/2005 (ANA/A Kourkoulas)"We do not involve ourselves in the domestic affairs of other churches. It is a firm principle and practice of the Ecumenical Patriarchate not to be involved in issues of brother churches. Every church has its own organs which will deal with the situations," Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos said at the Fanar on Friday after meeting Greek Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras.
The Greek minister, who is on an official visit to Turkey at the invitation of his Turkish counterpart, met with Patriarch Vartholomeos during a period in which the image of the Church of Greece is being tried from the greatest crisis of the past decades.
"The Greek state is ready to help the self-governed Church in any way it is asked for, provided it is asked, so as to overcome this crisis before it irreparably wounds the Church's relations with the ordinary faithful," the Greek minister said.
 Briefing letter by FM Molyviatis on Greek aid to SE Asia to be delivered to Annan on Monday
Athens, 12/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)A letter by Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis will be delivered to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday.
With this letter Molyviatis will brief Annan on the humanitarian aid which Greece offers to quake-stricken regions of Southeast Asia.
Along with the letter, Greece's Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Ambassador Adamantios Th. Vassilakis will hand over a cheque of 10 million euros, which constitutes the first installment of the Greek people's contribution for the relief of those affected from the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis which struck the region on December 26, according to a foreign ministry announcement on Friday.
 Main opposition PASOK leader departs for conference on Euro-Atlantic ties in Paris
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou departed for Paris on Friday, where he is to take part in a conference entitled "The future of Euro-Atlantic ties". On his return from France on Sunday, Papandreou will travel to the city of Agrinio in western Greece to speak at a party event.
 Government and main opposition cross swords over state of public finances
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas and main opposition PASOK MPs had a heated exchange in Parliament on Friday, in response to a question on the state of public finances and the government's borrowing policy.
Doukas accused the previous PASOK government of leaving a 'fiscal tsunami' as its legacy to the present New Democracy (ND) government, due to its irresponsible and dangerous policy of uncontrolled borrowing.
PASOK MPs countered with accusations that the government had no policy on borrowing at all and accused Doukas of taking out an emergency loan with questionable procedures and extremely unfavorable terms that cost the state up to eight million euros a month.
"The messages from the economy are dark and dismal. The Greek people are in no mood to hear a monotonous litany with references to the past," PASOK MP Pangalos said.
Replying, Doukas said the fact that the available funds in government coffers were below one billion euros was not a cause to panic and noted that a number of banks had put forward interesting proposals with exceptionally favorable terms.
 Archbishop's popularity on decline, VPRC opinion poll shows
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece's popularity appeared to be on the decline, according to the results of an opinion poll conducted by VPRC on behalf of private SKAI radio station, which were released on Friday.
The poll was conducted by telephone in the first 10 days of February, among a sampling of 941 people throughout the country.
More specifically, with respect to Christodoulos' popularity, 29 percent of the respondents replied 'positive', 14 percent responded 'rather positive', 13 percent responded 'rather negative', and 34 percent responded 'negative' -- meaning that 43 percent have a positive opinion today, and 47 percent have a negative opinion -- while 10 percent did not respond.
In a similar poll by VPRC in May 2004, 68 percent of the respondents had a positive opinion of the Archbishop while only 27 percent had a negative opinion.
To a question on the proportion of corruption among the following categories, 70 percent of the respondents picked the category of 'politicians' as having the highest proportion of corruption, followed by 67 percent for 'lawyers', 'doctors' with 64 percent, the 'clergy' with 63 percent, 'judges' with 62 percent, 'civil servants' also with 62 percent, 'police' with 54 percent, 'journalists' with 50 percent, and 'trade unionists' with 48 percent.
More specifically, with respect to the clergy, 32 percent said that there were very many corrupt clerics, 31 percent said there were 'quite a few' corrupt clerics, 27 percent said there were 'few' corrupt clerics, while only 2 percent said there were no corrupt clerics.
Regarding the popularity of the two mainstream political party leaders, ruling New Democracy (ND) leader and prime minister Costas Karamanlis enjoyed a 70 percent "positive opinion", compared with 55 percent for main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou.
Finally, 69 percent of the respondents were "satisfied" with the election of former foreign minister (PASOK) Karolos Papoulias as the new President of the Republic, while 16 percent were "dissatisfied".
 Press reports are not evidence, gov't says on alleged Vavilis-Church scandal
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)The Church was an institution "deep in the hearts of Greek Orthodox Christians," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Friday in response to questions about the close ties between ruling New Democracy and the Orthodox Church of Greece.
The spokesman also commented on a series of press reports alleging clandestine relations between high-ranking members of the clergy and a known drug dealer named Apostolos Vavilis, pointing out that press reports were not evidence.
"The government has operated properly on all levels," he said, noting that the affair was still unfolding and that the government expected the Church "to take the bold steps required to cleanse itself".
Regarding a series of false identity cards issued to Vavilis, meanwhile, Antonaros referred reporters to the relevant ministry.
Asked if Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece enjoyed the confidence of the government, the spokesman simply noted that the Archbishop "is the head of the Church of Greece".
In statements from Thessaloniki, meanwhile, Environment Minister George Souflias said the Church should be allowed to "proceed with a brave self-clean up on its own" and that the debate on separating Church and State should be held at some other time, when things were calmer.
"Appropriate solutions to such major and sensitive issues are not found when they are tackled in a highly-charged climate," said the minister, a senior member of the cabinet who had once served as minister for education and religious affairs.
 Statements by Archbishop Christodoulos on developments in the ranks of the Church
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, facing a wave of developments which are not positive neither for the Holy Synod or himself, came out of his office on Friday, shortly before a meeting he had with members of the clergy, and said that "I was the first to proclaim to all the Greeks my firm decision to be the guarantor of this cleansing."
He added:"I have already recommended the first measures to the Holy Synod which unanimously accepted them. A whole batch of such measures are being implemented which are moving in the same direction and which I intend to recommend to the Holy Synod which I will convene.
 Government denies plans to legislate for change to treatment of blank votes
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Friday strenuously denied reports that the government planned to legislate so that blank ballots count toward the total votes in a general election in order to add one more seat to those held by ruling New Democracy in Parliament.
The minister was responded to questions raised by main opposition PASOK in Parliament, according to which an upcoming decision by an election court in Pellas, northern Greece will overturn existing laws concerning the treatment of blank ballots and change the relative strength of the parties in Parliament by giving a seat to candidate Achilleas Karamanlis.
Pavlopoulos said that the reports on the issue were "too laughable to even need denying".
He refused to comment on further developments on the issue, noting that objections had already been lodged with the Supreme Special Court and that any intervention by the government would be a "unprecedented and unacceptable intervention in the internal workings of justice".
According to PASOK Parliamentary spokesman Haris Kastanidis, however, the consequences of the decision if upheld would be immense for the electoral system of the country and therefore demanded intervention by the government.
"You are interior minister, not Pontius Pilate," Kastanidis said, demanding that the government take a clear stand on the issue and stressing that such a decision might alter the constitution of the present Parliament in a number of constituencies, affecting several MPs that had not taken part in the specific court case.
 Communist party' s new central committee members to be elected Saturday
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)Speeches by delegates at the Communist Party of Greece's (KKE) 17th congress came to an end on Friday evening, while on Saturday the new central committee members will be elected.
The political decisions on the party's duties until the next congress as well as on the situation prevailing in the international communist movement were also passed on Friday and will be released soon, according to a KKE press release.
The announcement also said that the report of the outgoing central committee and the report by the central committee of financial control were unanimously approved.
 PM, Farm minister discuss sector's prospects
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday met with Agriculture Minister Evangelos Basiakos to discuss the farm sector's prospects after 2006.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Basiakos said that the government aimed to ensure community support to the farm sector, to highlight the country's comparative advantages and to offer to Greek farmers the prospect they deserved.
The Greek minister said he would soon table to parliament a draft law envisaging the restructuring of the ministry's services while he added that it was necessary to support, through national and EU policies, the farm sector's competitiveness.
He also noted that the government should promote the country's comparative advantages and of its farm sector to a highly competitive environment after 2006.
Basiakos said the ministry has achieved high absorption rates of EU funds and has managed to simplify ministry procedures.
 Ecofin minister Alogoskoufis, transport minister Liapis discuss Olympic Airlines
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)Economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis and transport minister Michalis Liapis held a meeting Friday at the national economy ministry to discuss the national carrier Olympic Airlines.
Although no statements were made after the meeting, sources said the two ministers discussed a current international tender for the sale of a majority stake in the national carrier.
The sources said that "more than five" tenders have been submitted by interested buyers from both Greece and abroad.
The more attractive tenders for the purchase of OA would be discussed in the near future, the sources added.
 Thessaloniki metro project "in its final stages", minister says
Thessaloniki, 12/2/2005 (ANA)The Thessaloniki metro project is entering its final stages and the government hopes to install the contractor of the project in September, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis and Thessaloniki prefecture and municipal authorities, Souflias said that the city's metro would be named "Macedonian Metro". The Greek minister added that bids would be submitted by April 15 and that the underwriter of the project would be selected in July.
Souflias said that the Thessaloniki metro would be the largest project to be build in Greece in the next four years. The first phase, budgeted at 1.5 billion euros, will cover a line of 9.6 kilometers with 13 stations and will be ready in six to six-and-a-half years.
"We took every precaution to avoid any problems with the construction of the metro system," Souflias said, adding it would be more sophisticated compared with the Athens metro since trains will run in their own tunnel, they will be fully automatic and equipped with air conditioning.
The Greek minister stressed that an undersea road project would cost 450 million euros, that the underwriter of the project was expected to be selected by the end of April and that works could begin in July for the project to be completed in 48 months.
Souflias said that a tender for expanding Thessaloniki's airport's runway, budgeted at 250 million euros, would auctioned in March with construction works expected to begin in July. He noted that construction of a new airport terminal would begin in January 2007.
The Greek minister said that Egnatia Road was expected to be fully operational in 2008 and that the ministry was expected to select the contractor of two road tunnels in Tempi and Platamona (central and northern Greece) -included in the Athens-Thessaloniki national road network- by the end of the year.
Gov't on bank sector pension talks
The government on Friday again clarified its position vis-a-vis the ongoing and often tenuous dialogue between bank managements and the union (OTOE) representing bank employees regarding pension reforms and prospects for establishing a unified fund in the sector.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros reiterated that the government will wait for the closely watched negotiations to end with some sort of conclusion, which in turn will be submitted to the government for its opinion.
Moreover, he also noted -- in response to press questions -- that a document called into question and criticized by the union's representatives on Thursday does not include any government proposals on the matter but merely lists what has been discussed so far. The possibility of raising the retirement age
"The government does not intend to dictate to trade unions what they should do. Every interested party has its role (to play)," Antonaros told reporters at his regular press briefing.
Charge of 'creative accounting' again aired:
On another matter, Antonaros repeated the government's sharp criticism of the previous two Simitis governments' performance on the economic front, particularly in terms of the budget deficit and public debt, and once again leveling the charge of "creative accounting".
"The Greek people learned about economy's real condition because of the government's boldness, sincerity and decisiveness. 'Creative accounting' was ended in 'cooking the books' and creating virtual images. This was appreciated not only by Greek citizens but by our partners as well -- it should be noted that although we had requested one year to adjust, we were given two," Antonaros said in reference to a Commission decision giving Athens two years to meet the deficit deadline.
The EU Commission this week recommended an extension -- end of 2006 - of a deadline to bring Greece's budget deficit below the 3-percent benchmark. The deficit was re-calculated at an estimated 5.5 percent of GDP in 2004, with the Commission forecasting 3.6 percent this year and with Greece expected to meet the limit of 3 percent in 2006.
The Karamanlis government's decision to proceed with its fiscal audit has been publicly backed, beginning in late December, successively by Eurostat, the EU Commission and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Conversely, it was bitterly opposed by the main opposition PASOK party, which was in power during the 2000-2002 period, the focus of the recent deficit revisions.
 Greece seeks improved business presence in south Mediterranean
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)The Greek government would like to see the country's business presence in the south Mediterranean increase over the next few years, Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said Friday.
Addressing a regular general meeting of the Euro-Med TDS, organized by the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE) in Athens, Papathanasiou said the Greek business presence in the southern states of the Mediterranean is not satisfactory. "It is still limited," he added.
The Greek minister attributed this negative development to a lack of infrastructure, bureaucracy, vague legislation, state monopolies, lack of information and protective measures in the region.
"Greece is steadily promoting, through economic diplomacy - and not only mechanisms to boost growth prospects of the Euro-Med Partnership," he noted.
The minister presented the government's main goals towards this direction: strengthening the regulatory framework of the partnership, enhancing a political dialogue on security, association agreements with the EU, promoting economic reforms aimed to boost competitiveness, supporting employment and boosting living standards in the region.
Also, moves to support infrastructure in transport, telecommunications and energy, linking infrastructure with Trans-European Networks, promoting investments and financial cooperation.
Foreign Deputy Minister Ioannis Valinakis, in his address, said the EU was cooperating with 10 Mediterranean countries to create a free trade zone by 2010 and within in this framework it has created a "mechanism for investments and association relation between Europe and Mediterranean, a financial agency within the European Investment Bank which offered loans worth 2.2 billion euros last year with a total portfolio of more than 12 billion euros, or two-thirds of total financial support offered by the EU to the region".
Entrepreneurs and company executives world noted that Greek firms could secure money from community funds to finance their investments in other Mediterranean countries.
The general assembly of Euro-Med TDS brings together heads of federations, unions, chambers and employers' unions from 35 countries in the region
EU may freeze cash for Greek operational programs
The European Union is mulling whether to freeze funding for Greek regional growth operational programs due to flaws in management and control systems and a resulting failure to provide guarantees of sound fiscal handling, according to an EU commissioner quoted by the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology.
The bloc's commissioner for regional policy, Danuta Huebner, was replying to a question on regional funding for Greece posed by a Coalition eurodeputy, Dimitris Papadimoulis.
According to the Coalition's statement, Huebner said the EU's Commission was considering the freeze on more than 300 measures contained in tens of operational programs.
In addition, certain co-financed measures were not eligible for financing, she noted.
Finally, the government has until February 28 to explain the situation, the commissioner added.
 Gov't blames its predecessor
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)Later in the day, the finance ministry said in a statement that the previous Panhellenic Socialist Movement government was responsible for years of mismanagement of the programs.
The statement added that the problem of regional development programs had already been brought to the attention of authorities in 2001-2003, again in the previous government's term.
The current government would reply by the EU deadline, the statement added.
Hellas-Sat 2 satellite will be present in the celebration of Space Week which begins in Brussels on Saturday
The Hellas-Sat 2 satellite will be present for the first time in the celebration of Space Week which will be held in Brussels from Saturday to February 20.
During the celebration, members and associates of the company will present to the European Space Community, to representatives of universities and research centers, as well as to the mass media, the potential of the first Greek satellite.
The presentation of Hellas-Sat 2 in this major event offers the possibility to Greece to participate on an equal footing with the other European countries, proving its dynamic entry in the satellite telecommunications as well as the use of space technology.
Stocks rise, led by Public Power Corp
Stocks finished higher with buying in Public Power Corporation spurring placements in other high capitalization paper, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,930.27 points, posting a rise of 0.95%. Turnover was 172.7 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.22% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.06% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.01% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 145 to 138 with 74 remaining unchanged.
On a weekly basis, the market gained 0.65%.
 Ancient Macedonian tomb discovered in Imathia
Thessaloniki, 12/2/2005 (ANA)Another ancient Macedonian tomb dated around the 3rd or early 4th century B.C. has been discovered in the Lefkadion area in the prefecture of Imathia, it was announced on Friday.
The tomb was discovered by accident during work to alter the access-way to the nearby 'Tomb of Judgement'. It has two chambers and measures 6.5 by 4.1 metres, with an arched roof and a facade with Ionian-style columns.
Archaeologist said the tomb had been raided by grave robbers in the past but contained a few archaeological remains that indicate that it may have been the tomb of a woman. Among these are gold beads, clay vessels and perfume pots and a box decorated with shells that was probably used as a jewelery case.
Also in the same area, archaeologists have found evidence of later graves and tombs that go right up to the time of Greece's occupation by the Ottoman Empire.
The new find increases the number of known Macedonian tombs with an Ionian facade, while the current find predates other tombs of the same style.
A presentation of the find was made by archaeologist Maria Akamati during the 18th Symposium on archaeological work in Macedonia and Thrace over the past year, being held in Thessaloniki.
 Cargo ferry runs aground off Chios, all 35 people on board well and safe
Chios Island, 12/2/2005 (ANA)A cargo ferry ran aground on the northwest coast of Chios island Friday after developing problems in its rudder, but all 35 people on board were well and safe.
The "Arion", which was carrying out the Piraeus-Chios-Lesvos route, ran aground some 25 metres off the coast of Chios, as it was transporting trucks.
After running aground, the ro-ro (roll on, roll off) ferry started taking on water in its engine room, causing the captain to radio for help.
All 35 people on board were reported safe and well.
Two Super Puma helicopters dispatched to the area picked up 20 persons -- 12 truck drivers, four persons accompanying the drivers, and four f the 19 crew members -- while 15 crew members remained on board.
The crew in the meantime managed to stabilize the inflow of water by isolating the engine room.
Coast Guard patrol boats and a tugboat were also rushed to the ferry's aid.
 Police report 551 arrested during 'crime sweep' operation in four major cities
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)The Greek police on Friday reported 551 arrests for serious offences during a 'crime sweep' operation conducted simultaneously in four major Greek cities the night before.
The coordinated operation was carried out in Athens, Thessaloniki, Larissa and Iraklio as part of the new anti-crime policy recently announced by the public order ministry, they said.
Taking part in the operation code-named 'Polis' were 2,100 police officers, of which 1,700 were in Attica.
Thousands of people were stopped for inspection, which led to the arrest of 449 persons in Attica, 76 in Thessaloniki, 10 in Larissa and 16 in Iraklio.
Of those arrested in Attica, 50 are being held in connection with drug offences, 125 are fugitives from the law, 35 for vice-related offences, two for illegal gambling, eight for theft, seven on weapons charges, three for flouting laws for the protection of minors, six for forgery and 213 for various other offences.
Among those detained was a 50-year-old Albanian national wanted by Albanian authorities for murder and injuring a police officer and a Greek national that had been reported missing in Stuttgart and had been found in Athens using a fake ID.
According to Greek Police (ELAS) Chief George Aggelakos, the nationwide crime sweep was carried out based on a plan drawn up by mapping high-crime areas and would be followed by similar operations in other cities around Greece.
 High court considers dismissal of another first instance judge
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)One of several first instance judges recently referred to the Supreme Court's plenum for dismissal appeared before the high court justices on Friday to face charges that, among others, he was bribed to rule in favor of a defendant in a traffic accident trial.
Judge Leonidas Stathis denied any wrongdoing in the case and vis-à-vis other charges. Testimony will continue next week.
Meanwhile, eight attorneys appeared before a Supreme Court prosecutor on the same day to provide explanations on why they had deposited money into a bank account kept in Judge Stathis' name.
In another case related to the ongoing Church-judiciary corruption furor, several individuals appeared before a Supreme Court justice investigating a long-standing antiquities smuggling case on the island of Kythira -- the same on-again, off-again investigation that has landed controversial cleric Ioakovos Yiosakis in jail pending trial.
 String of firebombings reported around Athens
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)Four bank branches and two neighborhood offices belonging to the ruling New Democracy party were firebombed in separate parts of greater Athens in the early morning hours of Friday, police said.
The targeted bank branches, all belonging to the EFG Eurobank group, are located in the Exarchia, Petralona, Glyfada and Acropolis districts, whereas the political party's offices are located in northeast Athens.
Authorities are investigating whether the firebombings were caused by so-called 'Molotov cocktails' or makeshift incendiary devices comprised of camping gas canisters.
No group or groups claimed responsibility for the attacks, although self-styled anarchists have in the past claimed responsibility for similar incidents.
 Deputy Public Order Minister Markoyiannakis opens the sessions of the Conference of the Balkan Firebrigade Federation
Alexandroupolis, 12/2/2005 (ANA)"The Balkans which at one time was the powder-keg of Europe, must slowly become an area of peace and cooperation between the peoples," Deputy Public Order Minister Christos Markoyiannakis said on Friday in declaring the opening of the sessions of the Conference of the Balkan Firebrigade Federation which took place in Alexandroupoli, northern Greece.
Markoyiannakis also referred to the need for cooperation between the countries for the joint confrontation of problems arising from major disasters.
The cooperation between the fire brigade services of the Balkan countries and Turkey on issues of training, joint exercises, exchange of technical know-how as well as the support in cases of major incidents caused by natural and technical disasters was the topic of the conference of the Balkan Firebrigade Federation.
 Rogge calls for postponement of EOE general assembly
Athens, 12/2/2005 (ANA)IOC President Jacques Rogge on Friday called for a postponement of the Hellenic Olympic Committee's (EOE) general assembly, citing what he called a need to "ensure respect" vis-a-vis the Olympic and EOE charters.
Rogge's urging -- set forth in a letter -- followed a formal complaint by outgoing EOE president and permanent IOC delegate Lambis Nikolaou, who questioned the validity of a general assembly meeting scheduled for Feb. 14.
 UN SG's statement not objective, Cyprus President says
Nicosia, 12/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's statement on Cyprus was not objective, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said here Friday, adding that he intends to request clarifications from Annan as to whether the UN chief will launch a new initiative on Cyprus.
The Cypriot president's comments came in the wake of Annan's statement Thursday in London, urging Papadopoulos ''to really put his views on paper the changes he would want to have,'' on the Annan settlement plan, indicating ''it would be helpful for anyone who is going to begin discussions or resumption of talks.''.
''We must study very seriously the full text of the Annan statement. From a first assessment I consider that the Secretary-General's statements are not objective. I don't think it is objective on the one hand to refer to statements and declarations made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and on the other to ask our side to submit proposals and suggestions on paper,'' Papadopoulos said.
Noting that neither Erdogan has submitted proposals for changes on the Annan plan, the Cypriot President said ''I have not heard Annan to ask the Turkish side to do the same.''
President Papadopoulos said that the second issue that needs to be examined is the purpose of submitting proposals for changes on the plan and what would the Secretary General do after receiving these proposals.
He wondered whether Annan intends to undertake a new initiative on Cyprus and if this was the case what kind of initiative, adding that he believes that ''we must spare ourselves from the syndrome of arbitration and engage in substantive talks.''
''We cannot fail for a second time because that would be catastrophic for all and thus the need for substantive alterations to the Annan plan must be accepted'', the Cypriot President underlined.
Responding to a question if the letter he sent to the UN chief on 6 June 2004 included the Greek Cypriot side's suggested changes on the Annan plan, Papadopoulos said that the contents of that letter were known since it was sent to heads of state explaining the Greek Cypriot concerns and which in our view were the points bothering the Greek Cypriots that led them to vote against the Annan plan with such overwhelming majority.
''Therefore, whoever wants to learn which are the concerns that must be addressed in order to allow the Cypriot people to accept a peace plan based on the various proposals that have been submitted, can turn to this document,'' Papadopoulos said, adding that whoever says ''we do not know what it is you want'' has no excuse.
Asked if he intends to ask clarifications from Annan regarding Thursday's statements in London, Papadopoulos said ''we will examine what Annan exactly stated''.
''I believe it would not be right to reach conclusions only through press reports without having explanations from Annan himself on what he intends to do and what he means and especially if he accepts the principle that the plan requires substantive changes'', the Cypriot president noted.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.
 Greek Cypriots not presenting positions in unclear framework
Nicosia, 12/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said on Monday that the Greek Cypriot side would not be presenting the UN with its negotiating positions on the Cyprus problem before the framework of the negotiations was clear, adding that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan himself had clarified neither what he expected exactly nor what his intentions were.
Chrysostomides told his briefing that the Greek Cypriot side wanted an agreed solution between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, in the context and under the auspices of the UN, before anything was put to a referendum.
Commenting on remarks by Annan, Chrysostomides said that ''if the Secretary General means there will be negotiations aiming at substantive changes'' to the solution plan he presented to the two sides, then ''that is welcome.''
He said that a letter sent to the UN Secretary General in June 2004 by President Tassos Papadopoulos ''contained our objections'' but noted that Annan in his remarks said he had not received any objections.
''Our objections have been submitted clearly'' in President Papadopoulos' letter with an attached document containing comments on the UN Secretary General's report, Chrysostomides pointed out.
Commenting on Annan's remarks Thursday in London that Turkey had indicated an intention to promote efforts for a Cyprus settlement, the spokesman said the UN Secretary General ''ignores the fact that it is the President of the Republic of Cyprus who on an almost daily basis reiterates that it is us who want a speedy solution and are ready at any stage to proceed with renegotiations on the changes we want to the Annan plan.''
Replying to questions, Chrysostomides said Annan ''has not clarified exactly what he expects and has not clarified yet his intentions, so no one should expect that our negotiating positions will be submitted beforehand, prior to the clarification of the negotiation framework.''
''We are seeking for an agreed solution between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots before anything is sent to a referendum, of course in the context and under the auspices of the UN,'' he added.
The spokesman noted President Papadopoulos' statement that an effort would be made to clarify Annan's remarks.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The most recent effort to reach a settlement was
the fifth Annan plan, which was rejected at a referendum by the Greek Cypriot community and accepted in a separate simultaneous one by the Turkish Cypriot community.
 Cypriot party leader meets EU Ambassadors in Ankara
Ankara, 12/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus problem, the concerns and expectations of the Greek Cypriots as well as the goals of a visit to Turkey by the main opposition party in Cyprus, the rightwing Democratic Rally (DISI), were the focus of discussions at a meeting Friday between a DISI delegation and ambassadors of European Union members here.
Speaking to Greek Cypriot journalists covering the visit, DISI leader Nikos Anastassiades said EU ambassadors expressed concern about the current stalemate in Cyprus and stressed the need for dialogue as a means of resolving problems.
The four-member DISI delegation is visiting Istanbul and Ankara at the invitation of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both parties are members of the European People's Party, DISI as a full member and AK party as an observer.
Noting that Friday's meeting took place at the initiative of the Dutch ambassador, representing current EU president Luxembourg, Anastassiades said ''we had a wide-ranging discussion on the question of Cyprus, the goals of our visit here.''
''The core of our discussion related mainly to the concerns and the worries that trouble the Greek Cypriots,'' he said, adding that he had the chance to outline in detail the concerns and the expectations of the Greek Cypriot side.
''We put forward the positions of the Greek Cypriot side and I believe it is important that we are talking about the EU ambassadors accredited in Ankara who were interested in being informed about our views.''
Asked by CNA on the assessment of the situation in Cyprus expressed by EU ambassadors, at the meeting, Anastassiades said that they congratulated DISI on the initiatives it undertakes.
''Being European citizens, they believe that through dialogue we can achieve mutual understanding and there can be progress but also express concern about what happens next because of the current stalemate in efforts to solve the problem,'' he added.
Present at the meeting were 22 EU ambassadors or their representatives. The three EU members that were not represented at the meeting were Luxembourg, Latvia and Cyprus which have no diplomatic representation here. Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, hence there is no Cyprus embassy here.
DISI delegation comprises, apart from the party leader, Acting President Averof Neofytou, Vice-President Sokratis Xasikos and Press Spokesman Tasos Mitsopoulos.
 US says Turkey better equipped now to solve outstanding issues
New York, 12/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Turkey at the beginning of 2005 should feel ''confident because it is more prosperous, and more democratic, with a bright future and a key place beside the United States and as part of Europe,'' US Undersecretary for Political Affairs Marc Grossman has said.
He said ''the self-confident Turkey of 2005 is much better equipped than it was in 1989 to resolve outstanding issues such as those involving Greece, Cyprus, human rights, and religious freedom.''
In remarks to the American Turkish Society in New York, Grossman described the Cyprus problem as ''another key matter'' and added that the US regrets that ''an historic opportunity for a viable, lasting peace was missed in last April's referendum.''
''We remain committed to seeing agreement reached. Given the vote by Turkish Cypriots in favor of peace and a future in Europe, we are taking some steps to reduce their isolation, including easing travel and trade restrictions, and to increase economic development,'' he said.