|Thursday, 18 October 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-01-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>January 28, 2006
 SEECP transport ministers sign rail cooperation memorandum
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)Transport ministers of the SE Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) signed a landmark memorandum of cooperation for the establishment of a new high-specifications rail network linking the major hubs of SE Europe, during a meeting in Athens on Thursday chaired by current SEECP chairman Greece's transport and communications minister Michalis Liapis.
SE Europe may be situated in the periphery of the European Union, but it should not find itself in the periphery of development, Liapis told the meeting, adding that the goal of the current Greek presidency of the group (for the period 2005-2006) was to boost the competitiveness of the region's rail transports, which in turn would attract more passengers and cargoes.
He welcomed the agreement as a "bold venture for upgrading the transport infra-structures in SE Europe, the promotion of the railway as an environment-friendly means of transport, the promotion of tourism, and also the sustainable economic development of the region, as well as rendering Greece a protagonist in developments in the region.
The in-principle agreement, which was signed by the transportation ministers of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, FYROM, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro and Turkey, ushers in a new era in rail connection among the countries of the region, with the goal being to boost the competitiveness of rail transports in SE Europe, improve the quality of services offered, and substantially reduce travel time along the strategic sections of the region's rail network.
The first stage of the ambitious scheme, which covers a network of 14 rail axes, is slated for completion in 2013, while the second stage is envisaged to be completed in 2020.
According to the memorandum, "mild" interventions will be made in the first stage aimed at increasing the speed of passenger trains to 130 kilometers per hour, with the prospect of speed reaching 160 and even 220 kilometers per hour along certain stretches of the network, while the speeds of the cargo trains will also be accordingly adjusted.
The memorandum further foresees the limitation or elimination of obstacles at cross-border crossings, and the simplification procedures, coordination of the timetable of the projects currently underway or being planned at bilateral and multilateral level, and seeking new funding vehicles (EU, international financial institutions), etc.
Greece was selected during the conference to chair the Steering Committee that will promote the implementation of the agreement, and also the Technical Secretariat that will undertake the technical support of the project.
Addressing the meeting earlier, Liapis and deputy foreign minister Evripides Stylianidis said that SE Europe was situated in the periphery of the EU, but it must not find itself in the "periphery of development".
The goal of the Greek presidency (of the SEECP) was to boost the competitiveness of rail transports in SE Europe, which would attract more passengers and goods, Liapis said.
To achieve that goal, it is necessary to increase the speed of rain transports (from 60 kilometers per hour today to 160 kilometers per hour in the intermediate term), reduce delays, particularly at the cross-border crossings, and upgrade the quality of services provided to passengers, Liapis said, adding that all these elements were contained in the memorandum that would be signed at the end of the conference.
Regarding the financing of the networks, the memorandum provided for investigating the prospects of national and international, public and private resources.
Addressing the conference in turn, Stylianidis said that the modernization of the region's road and rail axes was expected to contribute substantially to improving the economies of SE Europe, and he cited recent activities aiming at opening up new cross-border axes and crossings with neighboring countries and the materialization of major road projects of European-wide interest.
He noted the recent inauguration of the Greek-Bulgarian Friendship Tunnel, and the plans for two additional border crossings with Bulgaria, progress in works on the new Komotini-Nymfaia-GrecoBulgarian border highway, and the plans for a new highway linking Xanthi with Bulgaria.
Greek prime minister Karolos Papoulias and his Bulgarian counterpart Georgi Purvanov in early December inaugurated a tunnel constructed to facilitate the opening of the new border crossing between the two countries at Exochi, in Drama. The new Ilinden-Exochi border crossing links Drama with the neighboring Bulgarian city of Goce Delcev. The initial agreement for the opening of the new border crossing was signed in 1995. It is the first of three new border checkpoints between Greece and Bulgaria provided for in the bilateral agreement, aimed at alleviating congestion at the other busy border posts between the two countries. The other two future border crossings will connect Komotini with Kurdzhali, and Xanthi with Rudozem.
He also said that upgrading was being advanced of the Trans-European Corridor 4 (Thessaloniki-Sofia).
Regarding Turkey, Stylianidis said that at the latest meeting of the joint interministerial economic cooperation committee, it had been decided to proceed with the establishment of a second bridge in the Kipi-Ipsala region, with Greek funding, aimed at decongesting the existing crossing, while a new coastal link was being examined in the northern part of the Aegean.
On the Trans-European Corridors, he said the Greek government's priority was the upgrading of Corridor 10 into a high-specifications highway, which would ensure the speedy and safe link of Thessaloniki, Skopje and Belgrade, and from there to the European markets. The project, he added, would be funded by Greek resources and by international financial institutions (i.e. the European Investment Bank).
Stylianidis noted that Greek premier Costas Karamanlis was running a strong "economic diplomacy" campaign, adding that during his recent visits to the US, China and Japan, the Greek effort had focused on the Balkan region, with the aim of encouraging investments in the region and assisting the development of entrepreneurship through the projection of Greece as a part of the whole called SE Europe.
"Our proposal is the establishment of headquarters of international business groups in Greece, with production units in the Balkans, thus encouraging cooperation among our countries and growth," Stylianidis concluded.
 Deputy FM meets separately with Serbian, Bosnian ministers
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Evripides Stylianidis on Friday met here separately with Serbia's minister for international economic relations, Milan Parivodic, as well as Bosnian Transport and Communications Minister Branko Dokic, for discussions focusing on Athens' Balkan reconstruction plan.
Talks with the former centered on implementation of a major Pan-European highway axis and the possibility of Belgrade requesting EIB financing. Athens has also expressed an interest in offering financing the scheme
Exploiting Greek funding available via the plan, and especially the course of ongoing work on a government building in Sarajevo, aptly renamed the Greece-Bosnia Herzegovina Friendship Building, was discussed in the Stylianidis-Dokic meeting.
 President Karolos Papoulias to meet Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on Saturday
ROME, 28/1/2006 (ANA-MPA)Visiting President Karolos Papoulias will meet in Rome on Saturday morning with Pope Benedict XVI.
President Papoulias met with representatives of the Greek community in Venice on Friday morning and afterwards he attended a church service at the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George.
The president visited the Greek Institute in Venice and was given a guided tour of the premises, where the old archives of the Greek community, dating back to the 15th century, are kept.
The Greek Institute of Byzantine and post-Byzantine studies of Venice was established in 1951, following a cultural agreement between Greece and Italy, while in 1953 the historic Greek Orthodox brotherhood of Venice decided to offer the management of its property to the Institute.
The Greek Orthodox brotherhood was the most important Greek community abroad and 1498 was a considerable milestone in its history, when the Republic of Venice gave the Greeks in the city permission to establish the brotherhood of the Orthodox Greeks.
In the mid-17th century, the brotherhood utilized a bequest made by Corfu lawyer Thomas Flanginis and established one of the most important foundations, the Flanginio School.
On Friday evening, President Papoulias also toured the Institute's Museum of Icons.
 PASOK leader briefs British foreign sec. Straw on rejection of Turkey's Cyprus proposal
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)Greece's main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Friday briefed visiting British foreign secretary Jack Straw on his party's negative position on the recent Turkish proposal on the Cyprus issue, while he also expressed disagreement with visits such as that by Straw in Cyprus. He was referring to Straw's meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat at the so-called 'presidential mansion' in the Turkish-occupied section of the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, which the Cyprus government has strongly objected.
Straw arrived in Athens on Thursday afternoon on the final leg of a brief visit to new EU member Cyprus, Turkey and Greece.
In statements to the press after the 45-minute meeting, Papandreou stressed that Turkey must fulfill its obligations to the European Union and to the EU member states without exception or divergence.
"This is the main reason for the rejection of the Turkish initiative, given that we cannot accept that exchanges be given to Turkey in return for (fulfillment of) its obligations, and especially when the exchanges concern, in essence, recognition of the (self-styled Turkish Cypriot pseudo-state, which is recognized only by Ankara, in the) occupied sector," Papandreou explained.
The Turkish proposals, unveiled earlier this week by Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul, have been rejected by the Greek and Cyprus governments as a rehashing of inconclusive proposals that had been tabled in May.
Papandreou further stressed that there must be great caution in visitis made to Cyprus, particularly to the Turkish-occupied sector, so as to avoid polarization. He said the way in which Straw's visit had been organized "did not help" in a climate of cooperation and understanding between the two sides on Cyprus.
Papandreou cast blame on prime minister Costas Karamanlis personally, for the fact that "we have reached the position where Greece is on the defense and Turkey has the initiative". This, he continued, resulted from "the government having missed two huge opportunities", while "its policy is characterized by timidity and lack of initiatives".
Questioned on the outcome of the Palestinian elections, which he also discussed with Straw, Papandreou said he does not consider it a negative development.
"The international community must acknowledge, first of all, that the elections were democratic ones," the PASOK leader said, adding that "Hamas must be given the opportunity to show its true intentions on the peace process, democratic operation, and the non use of violence".
He opined that if the international community moved in that direction, "perhaps there will be positive developments".
Also attending the Papandreou-Straw meeting were PASOK officer for foreign affairs and defense Christos Papoutsis, the corresponding coordinator of the party's parliamentary group Michalis Chryssohoidis, the head of Papandreou's diplomatic office Dimitris Droutsas, and Papandreou's press spokesman Nikos Ziogas.
 Turkish PM says he respects Greece's decision to reject Turkish proposal on Cyprus
ISTANBUL, 28/1/2006 (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday avoided any comment on Greece's rejection of the plan of action on Cyprus, presented by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, saying that "it is its view, we respect it."
Replying to questions by the Turkish press, accompanying him to Davos in Switzerland, Erdogan said "we must not forget, however, that we secured support from many regions" and reminded of "support by Italy and Spain."
Lastly, the Turkish prime minister said that "the EU's commissioner responsible for enlargement Mr. (Olli) Rehn made a positive statement. There is the announcement by Britain" and that "we are now awaiting the completion of the work of the UN secretary general on the issue."
 PM meets with alternate culture minister, top ND Euro-MP
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday received Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, with discussions focusing on the premier's recent state visit to China and a relevant bilateral cultural agreement signed during his trip to the Far East country.
Karamanlis, in fact, holds the culture ministry portfolio.
Afterwards, the minister told reporters that the premier briefed her over the agreement's implementation, while she informed him of an ongoing process to grant permanent status to nearly 3,000 employees at various ministry-affiliated services and bureaus who over the previous decade or so worked with hourly contracts.
Along those lines, Palli-Petralia said a proposed constitutional revision to grant permanent status employees in the wider public sector the right to advance and achieve promotions is extremely significant.
In an unrelated development, the premier also met on Friday with veteran New Democracy cadre and former minister Yiannis Varvitsiotis at his office, as the latter heads the ruling party's Euro-deputies group in the European Parliament.
EU issues and constitutional revision were reportedly discussed.
 Palestinian election result respected, violence to be rejected
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)The electoral process in Palestine was carried out with respect for democratic processes and its result is respected, Greece's alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Friday.
He stressed, however, that the winning party Hamas must adhere to the fundamental democratic principle of rejecting violence.
"This is a principle that will contribute to a solution of the problem," he said.
 Main opposition leader addresses Socialist International Women's conference
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou said that 40% of the cabinet should his party be elected into office will be comprised of women, during his address at the Socialist International Women's conference in Athens on Friday.
He said that one of the key changes he made as president of PASOK was to establish that women constitute 40% of the party's elected bodies.
"Women promote global values in a world with diverse cultural realities. This issue confirms women's importance, the added value they offer, the policy and the capacity to build new channels of communication and hope" he said, adding that "our Movement became synonymous with drastic institutional changes in Greece regarding [gender] equality."
Papandreou provided conference attendees with various data regarding women all over the world, such as the fact that of the 750 million illiterate people in the world, two-thirds are women, while of the 1.3 billion people living below the poverty level, 900 million are women.
"I believe that if more women held positions of responsibility and power we would not have such phenomena," he said.
"It is only with new concepts regarding a woman's role can we begin to talk about a different social model, a different model of power, a different model of human relations, a different model of governance - democratic, humane and just," he concluded.
Earlier on Friday, PASOK Secretary Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou stressed during a joint press conference with the organization's President Pia Locatelli, that great changes were brought about within the party thanks to Papandreou's strong support and initiative.
 SI's Ayala calls on Hamas to continue Mideast peace process
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)Socialist International Secretary General Luis Ayala on Friday said that the election of Hamas in Palestine was a message to be respected as the result of a free and democratic election, while calling on the government that would emerge to continue the peace process in the Middle East along the lines of the Oslo agreement and the "Road Map".
Ayala made the statements during a press conference in Athens that was held in view of an upcoming two-day SI Council meeting that will take place here on January 30-31.
"We welcome the holding of free and democratic elections, which were carried out with great order and are an excellent example," he said.
"The Socialist International expects the government that will arise to continue the peace processes in the direction of the Oslo agreements and the "Road Map". Violence is not a means of progress; we are in favor of the existence of two states with mutual recognition," he added.
Concerning the agenda of the SI Council meeting, Ayala said that peace, democracy and solidarity between people and cultures would be its central theme, while issues concerning the Balkans, the Middle East and 'new poor' would be high on the agenda.
He said that 250 delegates representing 100 parties throughout the world will be attending the meeting in Athens, while among the highlights will be the election of Greece's main opposition party leader, PASOK President George Papandreou, as the president of the Socialist International.
Papandreou is now the sole candidate for this office.
Also speaking at the press conference was PASOK National Council Secretary Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou, who said that the Council meeting was occurring at a time when the world's biggest international political organization was currently facing a major challenge and was called on to answer with an alternative, progressive plan.
Press conference with PASOK's Xenoyiannakopoulou: Socialist International secretary Luis Ayala expressed satisfaction on Friday over the Palestinian election process. He was speaking at a press conference he gave together with the secretary of the main opposition PASOK party's National Council Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou and the International Relations Sector chief Paulina Lampsa, in light of the beginning of the Socialist International Women's session.
Replying to questions by the press, Ayala "hailed with enthusiasm the holding of the elections in Palestine, in which there were also observers of the international community, as an excellent example and a positive development as regards the process."
Referring to the outcome of the elections in particular, the Socialist International's secretary said that the world community must register it, receive the message and respect it as the result of democratic elections.
"We look forward to the new government of Palestine supporting, as it has committed itself, the peace process, continuing the same path of negotiations for peace," he said.
 Efforts focus on resuming power supply to Cephallonia, Ithaca
28/1/2006 (ANA)The government on Friday announced a series of measures for the islands of Cephallonia and Ithaca, as residents continued to suffer from a power outage caused by severe weather earlier in the week. Measures included an extension on social security contributions and tax payments, as well as the dispatch of more power generators to the two islands.
The alternate government spokesman also noted that the two islands can only be declared in a state of emergency following a request by the prefect of Cephallonia, something that has not been requested.
As if Friday, spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said 40 percent of residents had the electricity turned back on, whereas the Public Power Corp. was sending more repair crews to the islands.
On her part, Communist Party (KKE) head Aleka Papariga called on the government to declare the two islands in a state of emergency.
 SYN delegation meets with Iranian embassy attaché
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)Secretary of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) Nikos Hountis and Panos Trigazis, member of the party's Political Secretariat on Friday discussed Greek-Iranian relations and the situation in the Middle East during their meeting with Hosein Farahi, attaché to the Iranian Embassy in Athens.
According to a SYN statement, Hountis stressed that a dialogue based on international law is the only way to resolve problems in the Middle East.
He reiterated the position of SYN and the European Left, according to which an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital must be created.
According to Hountis, for this to be achieved negotiations must resume with the new Palestinian government recognized as an equal negotiator by all sides.
On his part, Farahi said he supported further strengthening of Greek-Iranian ties and assured Hountis and Trigazis that the Iranian government strongly supports strict compliance with the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons agreement and the charter of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Finally, he said that Iran does not doubt the Holocaust and is opposed to genocide.
 Greece needs to reform its pension system, FinMin says
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)The pension system is a time bomb ready to be exploded unless reforms were made, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Friday.
Addressing a seminar organized by the non-governmental organization "Citizens for the Future", Alogoskoufis said that in 10, 15 or 20 years from now "no one knows right now, there will be a problem unless we take the initiatives needed to defuse this time bomb and to transform the pension system into an opportunity for the country".
The Greek minister noted that a dialogue over the pension system should proceed this year and referred to the three pylons of the government's economic policy, tax reform, a new investment law on growth and regional convergence, and joint ventures between public and private sectors.
Alogoskoufis said the government was promoting a series of legislative initiatives aimed to improve economic performance and solve past problems.
These initiatives are:
-setting up an agency of fiscal auditors to ensure public spending and better management of existing funds,
-making a better use of public sector's real estate assets,
-reforming a law on Community Support Framework and promoting a National Support Framework and,
-supporting the role of a National Council of Exports.
Alogoskoufis said the government was poised to proceed with its reform program this year and stressed that the public sector was gradually limiting its participation in the country's economy.
 Opposition party raps gov't over social insurance
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology on Friday sharply criticized the government for its policy on social insurance reform.
"Using social dialogue as a pretext, Finance Minister Alogoskoufis has stated the need for reform of the social insurance system, which simply means collapse of the social insurance and pension rights of workers, primarily the young," economic and social spokesman Panayiotis Lafazanis said.
"When the government announces reform of any sector, this can only mean one thing - that it will pillage workers rights," Lafazanis told a seminar.
 PM briefed over tourism policy issues
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday was briefed by Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos over tourism policy issue.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Avramopoulos said he briefed the premier over current tourism issues and progress of an advertising campaign abroad. The Greek minister noted the ministry has drafted a 10-year strategy on tourism.
 Quality of service definitive factor in tourism development, Minister says
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)The quality of services provided has become the definitive factor in terms of strengthening the tourism sector, Minister of Tourism Development Dimitris Avramopoulos said, inaugurating the 37th Xenia trade exhibit in Athens on Friday.
He also highlighted the sector's importance within the Greek economy and praised Greek tourism professionals for their efforts to upgrade their product.
Deputy Minister of Tourism Development Anastasios Liaskos agreed with Avramopoulos, saying that for Greece to successfully compete internationally its tourism product must be upgraded and embellished with alternative forms of tourism.
On his part, Panagiotis Sgouridis, main opposition PASOK MP and responsible for tourism, asked Avramopoulos to focus more on the domestic market, noting that according to a recent Eurostat survey, one in two Greeks do not go on holiday.
Finally, according to data gathered by the exhibit's organizers, 1,120 tourism investment projects totaling ¬ 1.3 billion have been approved between 1998 and November 2005 under the old and new development law.
 Tourism equipment trade fair opens
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)Expro 2006, a professional and tourism equipment trade fair, opened in Athens on Friday.
The exhibition was inaugurated by Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who laid emphasis on the importance of conference tourism.
The event backed by the tourism ministry and Greek National Tourism Organization, ends on January 30.
 Deputy FM Evripides Stylianidis outlines extroversion steps planned by Greek economic diplomacy
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Evripides Stylianidis on Friday out-lined the steps of extroversion being planned for 2006 by Greek economic diplomacy and the targeting of new markets.
Stylianidis was speaking in the framework of the conference titled "The difficult 2006:A year of challenges for the Greek economy", organized by the "Citizens for the future."
The deputy foreign minister pointed out that Japan, China, India and, of course, the Arab world, are among the new markets whose targeting has been determined in cooperation with business agencies.
He also underlined the distinguished position that the energy sector has for economic diplomacy and for whose management a separate department is being created at the foreign ministry.
Stylianidis also said that "we are aiming at Greek and foreign businesses having their 'headquarters' in Greece and their branches in neighboring countries, taking advantage of the low labor cost. In Greece, they will benefit from our country's comparative advantages which are security, developed infrastructure networks and specialized human potential."
 Greek investors seek real estate assets in Bulgaria
28/1/2006 (ANA)Greek investors are buying real estate assets in Bulgaria seeking to benefit from higher returns in regions such as Goce Delchev, near the Greek-Bulgarian borders, Dr Dimitris Zomas, a consultant of economic and trade affairs at the Greek embassy in Sofia told ANA-MPA on Friday.
Dr Zomas said the opening of a new customs station in Exohi Drama in December 2005 has certainly boosted Greek businessmen's interest for the region.
He said Greek businessmen were seeking to buy large real estate assets, currently farmlands, to be used as commercial assets in the future for the building of hotels or shopping centers.
"Fia Corporation", a Greek company, is launching a double project, budgeted at 20 million euros, on April 1, 2006. The project includes the creation of a technological park and a tourist settlement of 100 houses, covering an area of 123,000 square meters in southwestern Bulgaria.
Fia Corporation's officials told ANA-MPA that a joint venture with the municipality of Hadjidimovo, named "United Construction and Development", would take over the development of the real estate asset in the area.
Annual average real estate returns in Bulgaria reach 12-13 pct, from 6.8-10 pct in Western Europe, although informal statistics raised this percentage to 50-60 percent.
 Swifter procedures planned for foreign investments
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)Swifter approval procedures are being planned for foreign investments, the head of the Hellenic Investment Centre (ELKE), Yiannis Anastasopoulos, said on Friday.
"An immediate target for ELKE is to speed up (approval) for foreign business plans in order to achieve timely implementation....in terms of investment and exports," Anastasopoulos said.
Investments evaluated by ELKE in 2005 were 668 million euros. Of the total, 214 million euros were self-financed, of which 44 million euros, or 21%, came from abroad.
Foreign placement in renewable energy backed by ELKE totaled 453 million euros, and the projects were either completed or in progress, Anastasopoulos added.
 Northern Greece Exporters Federation signs cooperation memorandum with Israel's Institute of Exports
28/1/2006 (ANA)The Federation of Exporters of Northern Greece (SEBE) has signed a cooperation memorandum with Israel's Institute of Exports and International Cooperation.
The signing ceremony took place during a business mission jointly organized in Israel by SEBE and the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB).
The memorandum aims at developing trade between Greece and Israel through better cooperation of companies in the two countries. Activities to be facilitated by the memorandum anticipate, among other things, mutual briefing between firms in the two countries on business opportunities and support for the creation of joint ventures.
An announcement by SEBE said that over 80 scheduled meetings between Greek and Israeli companies took place during the business mission to Israel, from which cooperation is expected to begin.
SEBE Deputy President Athanassios Archontis urged Israeli firms to invest in Greece and to cooperate with similar Greek ones which can secure for them more direct access to the Balkans.
 Wine-tasting evening held at Greek Embassy in Washington
WASHINGTON, 27/1/2006 (ANA - A. Ellis)Greek wines were the protagonists at a wine-tasting evening held at the Greek Embassy in Washington, which was organized in collaboration with the U.S. Wine Tasting Association and prominent importers of Greek wines.
The event was held on Thursday night and was funded by the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board (HEPO) as part of the "Kerasma" program that aims to promote Greek gastronomy abroad.
More than 200 Americans sampled Greek wines and food and had high praise for the quality of Greek wines.
U.S. Ambassador Alexandros Mallias spoke about Greece's four-thousand-year tradition in wine-making, the varieties of Greek products and their dietary value and promised to organize more such presentations of Greek foodstuffs at the Embassy.
Among those attending the event were representatives of hotels, Washington restaurants, importers of Greek foods and journalists.
 State hospital procurement system in need of overhaul, Ombudsman says
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)The state hospital procurement system needs to be examined and overhauled the Ombudsman announced on Friday after reviewing a series of relevant complaints.
Specifically, the Ombudsman found that clarification is needed regarding terms of bidding, product specifications, tender procedures, and better organizing a system for payments to vendors and the payments hospitals receive from insurance funds.
According to the Ombudsman, its findings call for a review of the existing procurement system, which the health ministry has responded to by publicizing a related bill last week.
"With this bill the state hospitals' procurement system is completely overhauled," the Ombudsman said in a statement.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks drop in short-term profit-taking
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)The Athens share index closed at 3,958.70 points, showing a decline of 0.87%. Turnover was 534.0 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.95% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.41% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.27% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 177 to 97 with 49 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Monday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.226
 Noted virologist calls for European strategy for bird flu pandemic
BRUSSELS, 28/1/2006 (ANA - M. Aroni)One of the Belgium's most highly respected scientists specializing in virology, Prof. Patrick Goubau from the Université Catholique de Louvain, has called for a single European strategy against a possible bird flu pandemic while criticizing the European Union's policy with respect to pharmaceutical firms, hinting that it tended to work in favor of specific companies.
In statements to the ANA on Friday, Goubau also appealed for the creation of a strategic mobile reserve of anti-viral medication.
The Belgium scientist pointed out that every EU member-state was stockpiling reserves of drugs that were able to protect a certain percentage of its population, usually not more than 30 percent. But a pandemic will usually start in one area and then spread to the rest, making a mobile reserve of anti-viral drugs necessary.
"If we have the first signs of a pandemic in Hungary, for example, we ought to cover all of Hungary's population with drugs in order to construct a ring of protection that will prevent the disease spreading to the rest of Europe," he said.
He also pointed out that it would be both cheaper and more effective to create a European stockpile since individual countries should not build up huge reserves that would then have to be thrown away once the drugs went past their date of expiry.
Regarding plans for dealing with a possible pandemic, Goubau again stressed that a single European strategy that was implemented by all countries would be more effective. The existence of individual national strategies for coping with a pandemic was chiefly due to "national pride" than a need to deal with the dangers more efficiently, he said.
With regard to pharmaceutical firms, Goubau said EU authorities were being "shortsighted" in that they were not supporting new discoveries.
"We have two choices: one is to accept that a specific drug is our weapon and to invest in one specific company; the other is to look if there are other companies with products that have similar potential that are now being developed. We must also support these if we want satisfactory results," the Belgian scientist said.
Present reserves were more than enough to cover those at risk from the current form of bird flu, which were chiefly those employed in poultry farming and trade. In the case of a mutation that led to a human pandemic, more and different drugs would be needed, Goubau said.
"We must start from now, however, looking into those drugs that may go on the market that we don't know about because the relevant scientific papers have not yet been published. This is a problem, because industrial and national interests play a major role in this."
 'Hidden Children in Occupied Greece' exhibition debuts at American Sephardi Federation
NEW YORK, 28/1/2006 (ANA - P. Panayiotou)The New York City-based American Sephardi Federation on Thursday evening hosted the exhibition "Hidden Children in Occupied Greece" ahead of Friday's (Jan. 27) Remembrance Day for the Greek Jews killed during the Holocaust.
The event also honored several noted Greek officials that led efforts to save members of the Greek Jewish community during the Nazi occupation, 1941-1944, including then Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Damaskinos, the police chief of Athens at the time, Angelos Evert, Metropolitan of Zakynthos Chrysostomos I as well as the mayor of the island of Zakynthos during the occupation, Loukas Karrer.
The exhibition was co-sponsored by the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece, the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce and the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. The entire event was held under the auspices of the consulate general of Greece in New York.
On her part, Greece's consul general, Ekaterini Boura, noted that "Greece is distinguished by the fact that it hosts the longest continuous Jewish presence in Europe ... the Jewish community was an active and dynamic part of Greek society, with extensive and significant contributions to the social, economic and cultural life of the country".
Sadly, she said the east Mediterranean country experienced the greatest loss, percentage wise, of its Jewish community during the war of all occupied countries.
 N17 appeals trial continues
ATHENS, 28/1/2006 (ANA)The appellate-level trial of nearly two dozen "November 17" convicted terrorists continued on Friday after a three-day delay due to adverse weather conditions.
The five-judge tribunal heard more defense motions and defendants' statements requesting that numerous pre-trial confessions and statements be thrown out because they were allegedly obtained under duress.
 Cyprus President says UN chief to send envoy to Cyprus after elections
NICOSIA, 28/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said Friday he had received a letter sent on December 29 by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, informing the president that he will send an envoy to Cyprus after the May 2006 parliamentary elections.
President Papadopoulos also said he was not surprised that the US had welcomed the Turkish proposals on the Cyprus problem and noted that the Greek Cypriot side had sent its views to the UN Secretary General on Thursday and that all the Republic's ambassadors abroad had been instructed to send these views to their respective hosts.
Replying to questions about a letter he received from Annan, President Papadopoulos said it was sent ''on December 29 when (the UN chief's Special Representative in Cyprus Michael) Moller came to announce his appointment.''
''He wishes me a good year, because it was before the New Year, and says that he intends, after the parliamentary elections, to send his representative Mr. Gambari. It has nothing to do with the latest proposals of Mr. Gul, or his statements, or do they have anything to do with each other,'' he added.
To a remark that the US welcomed the Turkish proposals, President Papadopoulos said, ''I am not surprised.''
Asked if he was looking into the possibility of sending a message to Annan, taking into consideration the climate the Turkish are trying to create, the president said ''we have written our views, we have conveyed them to the Secretary General, yesterday (Thursday) and earlier, and all our ambassadors in all the countries they are accredited have instructions to convey our views.''
Invited to say if Annan had received the Greek Cypriot side's positions before meeting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday in Davos, President Papadopoulos said, ''He was away, in Switzerland. We gave our views to the UN. I suppose his offices will send them to him.''
 Erdogan - Annan discuss Cyprus problem
NICOSIA, 28/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus problem and the most recent Turkish proposal on Cyprus were discussed during a meeting Friday in Davos between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.
According to Anadolu news agency, Erdogan told journalists ''we have discussed Turkey's new Cyprus Action Plan, and Mr. Annan has welcomed it.''
"The Secretary General is still examining our new Cyprus plan and I will meet him again after he finishes it," noted Erdogan.
He also said that they discussed elections held in Palestine.
The proposals are a revival of previously presented ideas aimed to allow Turkey to get away with meeting its obligations to the European Union, with regard to Cyprus, in exchange for the lifting of what it calls the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.
The Cyprus government has rejected the proposals saying they were a repetition of May's suggestions, which led nowhere as far as the resumption of negotiations is concerned for a political settlement.
 Cyprus-France relations meeting takes place in Limassol
LIMASSOL, 28/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias told a gathering of French delegates Friday that the large majority of the Greek Cypriot community did not reject a solution of the Cyprus problem but the specific settlement plan proposed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Addressing a meeting in Limassol on the relations of Cyprus and France titled ''Cyprus as a centre of international business activities and a bridge of cooperation to the countries of the Middle East and Eastern Europe'', Christofias assured that the Greek Cypriot side was committed to a bicommunal, bizonal federal solution, and was ready to resume well-prepared talks without arbitration and suffocating timeframes.
''We look forward to a new initiative on behalf of the UN Secretary General within the year 2006, with the understanding of course that the Turkish side will abandon its arrogant tactic and will concede to discussing changes to the Annan plan that would not harm the rights of our Turkish Cypriot compatriots and will make the plan more functional and viable,'' he added.
Christofias noted that ''Turkey must also abandon its tactic of avoiding to meet its commitments towards the EU and the upgrading of the illegal pseudostate under the pretext of the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, and we demand that the international community shows due respect to a sovereign state, as imposed by international law, and we deplore any efforts to circumvent it.''
Referring to the relations between France and Cyprus, Christofias said the two countries are focused on common European values and principles, and that the structured dialogue agreed on covers a wide range of sectors, including the economy, commerce, tourism, maritime and science.
He pointed out however that there was room for improvement regarding economic, trade and business relations.
Addressing the meeting, Senator and Chairman of the France-Cyprus Friendship Group in the French Senate Andre Rouviere noted the importance of improving relations between the two countries, adding that they could help each other in a wide range of sectors.
Cypriot Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism George Lillikas and French Minister of Industry Francois Loos presented the figures of the Cypriot and French economy.
Lillikas said there were many prospects for investment in Cyprus, noting that Cyprus' investment environment was the most favorable in the EU.
Loos said the strength of an economy is based on innovation and this was pursued for the industry of the country. ''Our aim is, through our action, to make innovations in the industry and benefit from the prospects offered by globalization,'' he added.
 Archbishop Demetrios continues visit to Cyprus
NICOSIA, 28/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)A pontifical liturgy was held Friday morning at the Soteras (savior) Metropolitan Church in Larnaca for the feast of the translation of relics of Saint John Chrysostomos and the name day of Kition Bishop Chrysostomos, who later on hosted a lunch for his guests, among whom visiting Archbishop of America Demetrios.
Archbishop Demetrios said, ''Our heart is full of love and appreciation for the Kition Bishop. We wish him many happy returns, long and blessed with much health and the continuation of his fruitful work.''
The Archbishop also visited the graves of fighters of the 1955-59 EOKA struggle against the British colonial rule and laid a wreath.
After touring the cells where EOKA fighters were held before being hanged, the Archbishop signed the visitors' book.
He was welcomed at the tombs, within the Central Prison premises, by Minister of Justice and Social Order Doros Theodorou and Deputy Director of the Central Prison Michalis Hadjidemetriou.
Archbishop Demetrios also visited the Pancyprian Gymnasium in Nicosia, the most historical school in the capital, from which the late Archbishop Makarios III graduated in 1936.
The Archbishop of All America expressed hope that education on the island would continue to develop, live and breathe an air of freedom and justice.
Addressing the students, Archbishop Demetrios said the Pancyprian Gymnasium was one of the best education institutions in the world and expressed the wishes of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the teachers and pupils for progress and well-being.
Referring to Cypriot tennis player Marcos Baghdatis, who will be playing in the Australian Open finals on Sunday, Arch-bishop Demetrios urged him ''to continue having faith in God, intensify his effort, and know that we are with him with many prayers and much love, and we expect him to be a winner.''