|Sunday, 20 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-05-08
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 8, 2006
 Prime minister welcomes deficit reduction
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Saturday welcomed a decline in the fiscal deficit that is due to fall below 3% of gross domestic product by the end of 2006, meeting the European Union's ceiling.
"In the mildest possible manner, we have achieved a major decline in the deficit, taking it below the 3% limit by the end of the year," Karamanlis told trade representatives during a tour of Messinia in the Peloponnese.
"The government has opted for the hard road of change and reform, and it finds itself in the middle of a tough but hopeful course of action," he noted.
Despite a legacy of extravagance, low productivity and deficits from the previous government, the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement, the government was moving ahead.
"They left the public with problems that affect everyday life, including unemployment, high consumer prices and social and regional inequality," the premier complained.
"We have even attained one of the highest rates of growth in the eurozone coupled with a decline in joblessness despite the end of the era of the Athens 2004 Olympics. We have also achieved a major rise in exports, especially farm products," he reported.
In addition, the government had also set priority on regional policy, including wide coverage under the next EU Community Support Framework package of funds.
"Of the 20 billion euros available, 80% will be allocated to growth for the regions," Karamanlis said.
He added that the government had offered practical backing for farmers, who had previously been left to fend for themselves.
Measures included amendment of a harsh law on overdue loan penalty rates in favor of debtors, favorable terms until 2013 for Mediterranean farm products, and 22 billion euros for the same period allocated to infrastructure and agricultural development.
 Main opposition raps gov't over regional policy
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The leader of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Saturday accused Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of neglecting regional growth.
"Mr. Karamanlis has forgotten the regions, and he and his government are also incapable of crisis management," PASOK head George Papandreou told supporters during a visit to the Ionian island of Cefallonia.
"The government's handling of power outages in Cefallonia was only for show, aimed solely at the mass media," Papandreou noted.
He charged the government with focusing on narrow party political interests and retaining power, to the exclusion of policy and planning.
On the contrary, PASOK attached great importance to regional policy and the decentralization of power, the party leader said.
"For us, local elections (in October) are not only to showcase able candidates or renew our slates. They are mainly for us to offer society a new outlook," he added.
 Main opposition chief lauds internal party democracy
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The leader of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Sunday praised its internal democracy in allowing communities around the country to pick candidates for local elections later this year that the party will back.
"These election procedures are a celebration of democracy," Papandreou told supporters in Megara.
"This is the first time a political party has opened its doors as we promised, and I want to stress that what we say is what we do, unlike the government, which says one thing and does another," he said.
The process, which gave power to local communities and local government, would become a permanent institution for use in major issues in each area.
"Taking part in this procedure are citizens who are supporters of other parties, beyond the members and friends of PASOK," Papandreou added.
 Greece backs UN office for Timor-Leste
NEW YORK, 8/5/2006 (ANA-MPA/P Panayiotou)Greece supports the creation of a United Nations Office in strife-torn Timor-Leste.
"Greece has carefully examined the (UN) Secretary-General's proposals and believes that they are well structured and tailored, not only to the challenges of organizing and holding Timor-Leste's first national elections, but also to the need for further strengthening the state institutions and the human resource capacity of the country. The latter is indispensable to the viability of a new democratic state," Greece's Permanent Representative at the UN, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, told a public UN Security Council meeting on May 5.
"Having considered every aspect of the needs in Timor-Leste under the present circumstances, Greece fully supports the establishment of an Integrated United Nations Office along the lines proposed by the Secretary-General. My delegation looks forward to working with the other members of the Council towards achieving consensus," Vassilakis noted.
Greece's position is in line with the European Union.
 Thousands stage anti-war march
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Thousands of demonstrators marched through Athens to parliament on Saturday in an anti-war protest organized by the European Social Forum that passed the US and British embassies.
Joining at least 10,000 visitors to the Forum's meeting in Athens that culminated in the peaceful protest were Athens residents, political parties, trade unions, non-governmental organizations, and migrant workers. Demonstrators shouted anti-American slogans to a backdrop of Latin American music and red flags.
Amid tight security, the march passed the US and British embassies, marred by sporadic firebomb attacks near the two embassies after self-styled anarchists who held a separate demonstration later skirted the main protest, hurling stones at police, slightly injuring one. Firebombs were also thrown near the French and Italian missions. Damaged were a branch of ATEbank and a police transport van near parliament.
Riot police used tear gas to disperse the roaming gangs of youths, who retreated towards the Monastiraki district, smashing shop windows. About fifteen people were held for questioning. Officials of the Forum stated that the attackers were not part of the main march.
Many main thoroughfares and embassy side streets had already been sealed to traffic and parking banned from early morning. Eight thousand police were deployed around the city centre.
"This was a major event for the entire Left, Europe and social movements....No more Iraq, no more war, and no return to Hiroshima," said Alekos Alavanos, head of the parliamentary Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, who took part in the Forum's march.
Earlier, Alavanos told a Forum meeting that left-wing political parties and other social movements should seek to unite in a bid to create an alternative Europe.
European Social Forum renews anti-war pledge: The European Social Forum on Sunday renewed its pledge to mobilize for a complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afganistan and to avert a new war in Iran.
At the end of a four-day meeting in Athens, the anti-globalization Forum repeated its opposition to the occupation of the Palestinian territories and its backing for nuclear disarmament, also calling for the elimination of military bases in Europe.
"The current situation is full of opportunities but also dramatic dangers. Opposition and resistance to the war and occupation of Iraq have exposed the British and US strategy as a failure. The world is facing the nightmare of a new war in Iran. The arbitrary decision of the EU to cut funds to the National Palestinian Authority is unacceptable and exacerbates the whole situation. The oppression of Kurdish people has still not come to an end," the group said in a declaration.
The Forum announced a week of action from 23 to 30 September 2006 and appealed for an international day of action on October 7, 2006 in Europe and Africa.
Among other demands are unconditional legalization and equal rights for all migrants in Europe and the closure of all detention centers on the continent.
"This year has been significant in that a number of social struggles and campaigns have been successful in stopping neoliberal projects such as the proposed European Constitution Treaty, EU Ports Directive, and CPE in France. Opposition movements to neoliberalism are growing and clashing with the power of trans-national corporations, the G8 and organizations such as the WTO, IMF and World Bank, and neo-liberal policies of the USA and European Union," the declaration said.
 Criminal charges filed in firebomb attacks
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A public prosecutor on Sunday brought criminal explosives, arson and robbery charges against seventeen people over firebomb attacks and vandalism on the sidelines of a peaceful anti-war march through Athens by thousands of demonstrators from Greece and abroad.
Misdemeanor charges filed against the seventeen, who included a non-Greek national and a juvenile, were resisting authority, vandalism, grievous bodily harm, and illegal weapons use.
Joining an estimated 10,000 visitors to the European Social Forum's anti-globalization meeting that culminated in the protest on Saturday were domestic political parties, trade unions, environmental groups, non-governmental organizations and migrant workers. Demonstrators shouted anti-American slogans to a backdrop of global ethnic music and red flags.
Public Order Minister: Commenting on the incidents, Public Order Minister Byron Polydoras said authorities had achieved their targets of welcoming foreign visitors to the Forum's events while cracking down on sidelines violence.
Amid tight security, the march passed parliament and the US and British embassies, marred by sporadic firebomb attacks near the two embassies after self-styled anarchists who held a separate demonstration skirmished around the main protest, hurling stones at police, slightly injuring one.
Firebombs were also thrown near the French and Italian missions. Damaged were a branch of ATEbank and a police transport van near parliament.
Riot police used tear gas to disperse the roaming gangs of youths, who retreated to the central Monastiraki district, smashing shop windows. Officials of the Forum stated that the attackers were not part of the main march.
Many central thoroughfares and embassy sidestreets were sealed to traffic and pedestrians, and parking was banned from early morning. Eight thousand police were deployed around the city centre.
"This (the Forum's march) was a major event for the entire Left, for Europe and for social movements....No more Iraq, no more war, and no return to Hiroshima," Alekos Alavanos, head of the parliamentary Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, told a rally before the main march.
Earlier, Alavanos called on left-wing political parties and other social movements to unite in a bid to create an alternative Europe.
 Main opposition leader in peace initiative
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The leader of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), George Papandreou, on Saturday called on socialist parties and other movements around the world to join an anti-war drive in the hope of avoiding "a new Iraq in Iran".
Papandreou, who is also president of the Socialist International, made the initiative to a visiting member of the Social Forum's international committee, Leo Gabriel.
The two officials met in PASOK party headquarters during Gabriel's visit to Athens for a meeting of the European Social Forum.
 Greek, Turkish parties join in anti-war stand
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Two Greek and Turkish political parties on Saturday took a joint stand against use of their countries' territory for war, and against the deployment of nuclear weapons.
Signing the declaration were the leaders of the parliamentary opposition Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, Alekos Alavanos, and of the neighboring country's Freedom and Solidarity Party, Hairi Kozanoglu.
"At a time when a new war by the Bush government is threatening our region, this time against Iran, in which the use of nuclear weapons has not been ruled out, we believe that the top priority is to strive for peace, and we are committed to make every effort to promote this at all levels - regional, European and global," the parties said.
"Our countries' territories must not be used to facilitate the war, and we call on the UN Security Council to reject pressure by the US and rule out any option to use violence in the crisis around Iran's nuclear program," they added.
 Gov't backs training for civil servants
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Public Administration Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said on Sunday that he backed training for civil servants.
"This is inextricably linked to upgrading public administration and the quality of services offered to the public," the minister told an inauguration ceremony for a regional training centre in the island of Corfu.
 Hellenes Abroad welcome enabling law
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The president of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, Andrew Athens, on Saturday welcomed the draft of an enabling law presented by the government that will aid the maintenance of Hellenism.
"I believe that with the new law, the SAE will be able to meet the challenges faced by Hellenism of the Diaspora, chiefly the maintenance of the Greek language and culture, the promotion of national issues, and support from the centers of Orthodoxy, mainly the Ecumenical Patriarchate," Athens noted.
He was speaking after a meeting of the SAE in the northern port city of Thessaloniki about a foreign ministry bill that is destined for parliament.
 Greece, Egypt to cooperate in natgas, oil
CAIRO, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece and Egypt on Sunday sealed a cooperation agreement in the natural gas and oil sectors that lays emphasis on research and exploration.
"This is a historic agreement. The two countries, which are laying the foundations for a new era and opening new avenues in their energy ties, have high expectations of it," visiting Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas told the signing ceremony.
Under the terms of the two-year pact, a joint committee will be set up to assess the viability of selling and transporting Egyptian natural gas to Greece by means of a pipeline; and from there, to other European countries.
The committee would also assess the terms and conditions for the purchase of Egyptian liquified gas on a competitive basis.
Signing for Egypt was the minister of petroleum, Sameh Fahmi, who said that opportunities for cooperation with Greece in the two sectors were now unlimited.
Sioufas noted that relations between the two countries had gained fresh impetus after recent visits to Egypt by President Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
"The memorandum of cooperation further strengthens excellent relations between the two countries, which are lost in the mists of time," he stated.
With Egypt evolving into a powerful production and exports force in natural gas, the minister welcomed Greece's accompanying rise in status.
"Our country is being transformed into a natural gas transportation channel from output countries in the wider region to major European consumption centers," Sioufas said.
Accompanying Sioufas in Egypt are top management of Hellenic Petroleum and Public Power Corporation, both quoted on the Athens bourse; and the managing director of Public Gas Company.
Meetings with Greek community: Earlier in the weekend, the minister met Orthodox Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria and All Africa, relaying Karamanlis' greetings.
During a visit to Alexandria on Saturday, Sioufas met members of the city's Greek community and visited the Greek quarter, which houses schools, a retirement home, a theatre and a stadium.
 Gov't announces marine tourism plan
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Tourism Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia on Sunday announced a new program to boost marine tourism.
Under the plan, a map will be drawn up linking areas of historical and cultural value that will be provided with yachting access, the minister told a meeting of the National Tourism Council held on the island of Poros.
She noted that priority would be given to 16 sites classified by UNESCO as world heritage, including Mycenae and the old city of Rhodes.
In addition, a specialized publicity campaign for marine tourism would be slotted into the ministry's overall drive to promote Greece abroad, the minister added.
According to ministry data, Greece holds a 5% share of the cruise market in Europe, which the government hopes to increase.
Finally, funds would be earmarked under the European Union's Third Community Support Framework for the creation of eight anchorages aimed at attracting tourists.
Also attending the meeting was Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis, who reported that he was working to gain EU funding to help modernize the country's cruise ship fleet.
 South Africa calls off shipwreck search
8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)South African maritime rescuers have suspended a search for 26 crew members missing since their Greek-owned bulk carrier sank off the eastern coast last week, authorities said on Sunday.
Crew abandoned the Alexandros T on Wednesday after it took in water and sank in open waters off Port Alfred. The vessel was crewed by four Greeks, four Romanians, one Ukraine and 24 Filipinos.
Rescuers, who called off the search on Saturday until new evidence emerges, had initially reported finding empty life jackets.
Seven members of the 33-member crew have been rescued. No survivors or bodies have been found since Thursday, when a seaman wearing a life-jacket was spotted by an air force aircraft. The captain is missing.
Hopes of finding the crew alive were high initially as all appeared to have life jackets and sea temperatures were 16C-18C; but weather conditions later took a turn for the worse.
Built in 1989, the 171,875-dwt Alexandros T was carrying 155,000 tones of iron ore from Brazil to China.
 Albania approves Greek school
TIRANA, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Albanian government has formally approved operation of a Greek school in the country's southwest.
On Friday, the cabinet rubber stamped an operating license for Omiros School, which was funded by the Greek government and inaugurated in February by Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis.
 Unesco youth awards
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Unesco on Saturday presented 30 young people from Greece and around the world with awards in a prose and poetry contest on ecumenical values in democracy.
The ceremony was held in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
 Thessaloniki's French Institute celebrates 100th birthday
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The French Institute in Thessaloniki is to celebrate its 100th birthday in the northern port city with a week of events on May 25-June 4.
Entitled "Celebration of the Year", the program includes a gala dinner hosted by the French Ambassador to Greece, Bruno Delaye with part of proceeds to be donated to Storgi, a charity of friends of child cancer patients.
Addressing the dinner will be philosopher Edgar Morin, who is descended from Thessaloniki.
Other celebrations include three days of Claude Lelouch films, accompanied by a round-table discussion with the director; and an exhibition of 92 works by leading Greek painters who studied at the Paris School of Fine Art.
 One in ten gas stations sells adulterated fuel
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)One in ten gas stations in the country's two largest cities sell adulterated leadless petrol, according to a survey released on Saturday.
"This is a low level of adulteration," noted the head of the Federation of Gas Station Owners of Greece, which commissioned the survey.
The spot checks were carried out by Inspectorate Hellas in 200 outlets - 140 in Attica, where Athens is located, and 60 in the northern port city of Thessaloniki. Of randomly selected gas stations, 18% declined to take part in the test.
 Memorial to Pontian genocide
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A memorial to the genocide of Pontian Greeks was unveiled in the northern port city of Thessaloniki on Sunday.
The project was initiated by the borough of Thessaloniki, working with Pontian associations.
Attending the ceremony was the minister for Macedonia-Thrace, George Kalantzis.
 Anniversary of Armenian genocide
ATHENS, 8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Armenians in the northern port city of Thessaloniki on Sunday marked the anniversary of the genocide by Turkey of 1.5 million of their people on April 24, 1915 and the destruction of their monuments.
"Whoever seeks to level out national identity cannot belong to the civilized world," the secretary general of the culture ministry, Christos Zahopoulos, told the anniversary event.
 Greece wins gold in European gymnastics meet
8/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Vlasios Maras of Greece on Sunday won the gold medal for horizontal bar in the men's European gymnastics championships held in Volos.
Maras' routine gained the top mark of 15.725.
Taking the silver was Russian Sergei Khorokhordan and the bronze, Christoph Schaerrer of Switzerland.
 Cyprus welcomes ties with EgyptCAIRO, (ANA/MPA)
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos on Saturday welcomed ties with Egypt and the country's lasting support of efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue.
"Egypt is a steady friend," Papadopoulos told the ANA-MPA in an interview after a meeting with President Hosni Mubarak.
"In the Cyprus issue, Egypt is unlikely to change policy, as it supports matters of principle and it's unlikely to change positions for political expediency. There is full support," Papadopoulos noted.
He is the first president of Cyprus to visit the Arab country since Archbishop Makarios traveled to Cairo in 1966.
"Friendly relations between Cyprus and Egypt have gone very well since Makarios' era, and all these years Egypt has been a steady supporter," Papadopoulos said.
"My visit aims to strengthen and revive this good climate between the two countries, and various joint commercial and economic activities," he added.