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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-05-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 30, 2006
 Premier confers with FM Bakoyannis on foreign policy issues
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday met with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, with whom he discussed foreign policy issues.
Responding to press questions on former president of the republic Kostis Stephanopoulos’ proposal to refer all problems with Turkey to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Bakoyannis said that the government's foreign policy was firm, and the newspaper article in question signed by the former president contained concerns, with interesting points.
Bakoyannis stated that foreign policy is a complex issue, adding that she does not wish to be called on to give a "black or white" response.
Responding to another question concerning a Sunday newspaper report according to which a set of ideas on the Cyprus issue is being processed, Bakoyannis cited the statements made by foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos.
The foreign ministry spokesman on Sunday flatly dismissed a same-day front-page headline in an Athens daily regarding the Cyprus issue.
"The contentions in the said article are untrue," spokesman George Koumoutsakos said in reference to a press question focusing on a report in the Sunday edition of "Eleftherotypia", entitled "Athens’ Plan for Cyprus".
Among others, the paper claimed that Athens was promoting a "set of ideas" to be conveyed to the Cypriot government and then to the European Union, including a proposal for "high supervision" by Brussels of economic relations in occupied areas and a special status for occupied Famagusta.
 Political reactions to Stephanopoulos proposal for Turkey
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's opposition parties on Monday largely echoed concerns over Turkey's behavior expressed by former Greek president Kostis Stephanopoulos, who proposed a change in Greek policy toward Turkey and referral of outstanding problems to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Speaking for the government, meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis underlined that Athens had a steady policy toward Turkey.
In an article appearing in a Sunday newspaper, Stephanopoulos had said that Greece should now take recourse to the International Court at The Hague for all outstanding differences with Turkey - and not just that of delineating the Aegean continental shelf - in accordance with the Helsinki decisions, noting that attempts to reach a solution with Turkey via other means had failed.
According to Bakoyannis, the former president's article contained some "interesting points". When pressed regarding the government's next move in relation to Turkey, however, she stressed the complexity of foreign policy issues and refused to be drawn into an answer "along simplistic lines of black-and-white".
Asked to comment on the Stephanopoulos proposal and the statements on the issue by Bakoyannis and Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed on Monday that there was no differentiation between the views expressed by the two ministers.
"Both their positions were on the same wavelength," he underlined.
The leader of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party Alekos Alavanos took broadly the same line as Stephanopoulos in comments to the press on Monday, saying that Greece and Turkey were in "an extended phase of mock war".
"Mock dogfights are mock war, but one which intervenes and has repercussion on reality itself. Our airmen that are lost cannot come back," he stressed, referring to the tragic mid-air collision between a Greek and Turkish fighter jet above the Aegean the previous week, in which the Greek pilot lost his life.
"We cannot agree to just stay here, we cannot accept war, we cannot accept an American arbitration whose conclusion we already know. We have right on our side and, therefore, we are in favor of a resolution through the process of implementing international law and via making use of the Court at The Hague," Alavanos said.
According to the leader of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party George Karatzaferis, Stephanopoulos' proposal marked a sea change in Greek policy toward Turkey. LAOS's leader, however, asserted that Turkey was the side that stood to gain from taking matters to The Hague court, since all the issues had been raised by Turkey unilaterally and no issue had been raised by Greece.
During a press conference on Monday, the LAOS party also announced that five of its members had filed a suit against Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over its standing 'casus belli' threat against Greece, which they said was a violation of the treaty of human rights.
"Nowhere else in Europe are there citizens that live under the constant threat of a casus belli, except in Greece and Cyprus," one of the signatories of the suit stressed.
Turkey has threatened to go to war against Greece if Athens decides to extend its territorial waters beyond the present six miles. Based on maritime law, countries have the right to extend their territorial waters by up to 12 miles from their coast.
In statements regarding the Stephanopoulos proposal on Sunday, meanwhile, senior members of main opposition PASOK noted that recourse to The Hague was the next step agreed under the Helsinki resolutions and accused the government of abandoning the process initiated at Helsinki without replacing it by another policy.
"We cannot put all our money on Turkey's European course, which might be interrupted for reasons that have nothing to do with Greece or Cyprus," PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos noted.
PASOK's Papoutsis on Greek-Turkish relations: Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputy Christos Papoutsis, commenting on Monday on proposals made by former president of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos regarding Greek-Turkish relations, as well as on relevant statements made by Foreign Minister Dora Bacoyannis and National Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, said "Mr. Stephanopoulos' proposal for the International Court at The Hague and the issue of the continental shelf is a responsible proposal."
Papoutsis said that the proposal "is worthy of being evaluated by the government and for it to take a position with a clear manner."
The PASOK deputy added, "not like today when we have two different messages by two ministers, the defense minister and the foreign minister, a fact which creates and intensifies confusion and mainly weakens the Greek position."
KKE leader Papariga on former president Stephanopoulos' proposal: Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, responding to reporters' questions on Monday regarding Sunday's article by former president of the republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, said "the issue is very, very serious and cannot be treated in haste."
The KKE leader said "the matter does not only concern the settlement of relations between Greece and Turkey," adding that "let us not forget that the Aegean at this moment is literally under the boot and arbitration of NATO. Furthermore, it is completely incorporated to the American plans in the Middle East."
"Consequently, the matter is very complex and naturally there is no international justice which could be rendered with objective criteria." She added that "we (KKE) have processed a specific proposal, I say, however, that at this moment things are very difficult and very complex," Papariga concluded.
Constantopoulos calls on PM to brief Parliament over Aegean incident: Former Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party president Nikos Constantopoulos on Monday called on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to brief Parliament over the recent incident in the Aegean, referring to a mid-air collision of Turkish and Greek military aircraft last week.
Constantopoulos, a top Synaspismos deputy, tabled a Parliament question asking about the government's foreign policy, referring to "dead-end" tactics, among others.
He also asks if the government will take recourse to the International Court at The Hague over Turkey's claims.
 Deputy FM Valinakis holds consultations in Berlin on EU, Balkans, Turkey & Cyprus
BERLIN, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis began here since Monday morning consultations regarding the European Union's course, the tackling of the problem of the European Constitution during the next EU presidencies and the prospects of the EU's enlargement to the countries of the Western Balkans, as well as towards Turkey.
In a statement to state-run NET television station, Valinakis summed up the contents of a meeting he had with German Deputy Foreign Minister Guenther Gloser.
Valinakis said that on the issue of the "Euroconstitution", the Greek side "supports the continuation of the process of the ratifications by the EU member-states" despite the "No" in the referendums of France and The Netherlands.
On the further enlargement of the EU, the Greek deputy foreign minister said "deepening and enlargement, are the two sides of the same coin," adding that "the aim of the Greek government is for the broader region of the Western Balkans to be converted into a 'European family'."
Regarding Turkey, Valinakis said he briefed his interlocutors on the recent "unpleasant developments" in the Aegean, but reiterated that "our support to Turkey is steadfast and a given fact, providing that Turkey is aware that it must proceed in the right direction. He added that "our support has to do with a framework of principles and specific conditions which have been set in the European texts and in which Turkey must adjust in order for there to be further progress."
On the Cyprus issue, Valinakis referred to "all the spectrum of the obligations which Turkey has assumed for steps which it must take towards the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus" and which constitute "the known prerequisites which have been set by the European Union." He added:” Naturally, it is our position that all these must be respected by Turkey, if it wishes to proceed in its course towards the EU."
 Deputy FM Kassimis meets Chinese Minister Chen Yunlin
30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis met in Athens on Monday with Chinese Minister for Taiwan affairs Chen Yunlin.
The Chinese senior official thanked Kassimis on Greece's steadfast position on important issues which concern China and particularly the principles of a unified China.
Chen briefed the deputy foreign minister on Taiwan's leadership to proceed to a constitutional revision "with emphasis on strengthening the secessionist trends" and noted that "such a thing would create a dangerous tension at the Straits of Taiwan and would constitute a back-tracking to the efforts for the reunification of China."
He called for the support of Greece, and through the framework of the European Union, for the "avoidance of such an eventuality which would add tension to a crucial region of northeast Asia."
Kassimis reiterated that Greece and the European Union firmly support "The Principle of One China".
Kassimis said "we believe that the issue of Taiwan can be solved only through a peaceful way."
 PASOK leader Papandreou attends ESP Conference in Sofia
30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader and Socialist International (SI) President George Papandreou visited Sofia on Monday, at the invitation of Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev.
Papandreou delivered an address on the Balkans during a dinner held in honor of the leaders attending the Conference of the European Socialist Party (ESP).
According to a PASOK press release, Papandreou said in statements afterwards:” All the socialist leaders of the Balkans are here in Sofia. It is our first meeting following the recent referendum in Montenegro and we all declare our dedication to the goal of the Balkans' European course, for us to create a Balkan peninsula of peace, respect of human rights and growth. A Balkan peninsula in which we will invest in the individual, in the citizen."
"PASOK and myself personally, and on behalf of Socialist International but also as leader of PASOK, we are preparing initiatives and working systematically for this prospect. The prospect of the accession of the Balkan countries in a common family of values," Papandreou added.
 Cypriot FM Iakovou gives exclusive interview to ANA-MPA in Vienna
VIENNA, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iakovou, in an exclusive interview to ANA-MPA in Vienna on Monday, said that "Turkey's evaluation of its European course will start very soon, including the commitments it has assumed regarding Cyprus, while on the other hand, Ankara is stalling and has not as yet replied to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's proposal made in Paris on a series of matters of major importance to the Cyprus issue."
Foreign Minister Iakovou said "the European Union has decided that within 2006, Turkey will be called on for an evaluation of its European course, that is, of the many commitments which it has undertaken towards the '25', a part of which directly concerns Cyprus, and this evaluation will start very soon, even though some document which measures Turkey's behavior has not yet been prepared by the European Commission or by the EU presidency."
Iakovou cited as an example that there will be an EU-Turkey Association Council meeting on June 13, which is an element of evaluation, and this will be decided either at the Permanent Representatives Committee a week earlier, or at the Council of Foreign Ministers on June 12, at which, in any case, issues of Turkey's abidance to its obligations will be discussed.
 Cyprus DESY leader has phone contact with Greek FM BakoyannisNICOSIA, 30/5/2006 ANA/MPA)
Democratic Rally (DESY) party president Nikos Anastasiades on Monday had a telephone conversation with Greece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis who denied the contents of an article in the Sunday edition of "Eleftherotypia" newsaper that there was a package of Greek proposals for a new impetus in efforts for a solution to the Cyprus issue.
The DHSY leader said "Mrs. Bakoyannis neither spoke of a plan nor did she adopt the contents" of the article.
Anastasiades added that "what Mrs. Bakoyannis said is that they (the Greek government) are in continuous consultation with the Cypriot government to see how they confront the problems which are presented, or we will confront, either through initiatives which are expected to be taken, so that Turkey overcomes the difficult hours which it is expected to confront, either and how we utilize exactly the possibility we have to the benefit of the broader good."
 Polydoras stands by statements vis-a-vis alleged abductions
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The public order minister on Monday adamantly reiterated that his statements vis-à-vis the alleged abduction and terrorism-related interrogation of several Pakistani men in Athens -- following the July 2005 London bombings -- still stand.
The government, including the former and current public order ministers as well as the justice minister, has repeatedly dismissed claims that Greek intelligence cadres illegally picked up, detained and interrogated nearly a score of Pakistani nationals regarding their possible connections to the London underground attacks.
"What Ministers (Anastasis) Papaligouras (the justice minister) and (George) Voulgarakis (the former public order and current culture minister) said about the case of the Pakistanis still stands. I stand by those (statements) as well..." Minister Vyron Polydoras told reporters, adding that if evidence proves otherwise, he will resign.
Asked about demands, mostly by certain newspapers and attorneys representing the foreign workers, that Greek Intelligence Service (EYP) agents confirm their whereabouts and provide an alibi for the dates in question, Polydoras reminded that the law requires the exact opposite, namely, that accusers provide evidence implicating alleged culprits.
 Justice minister meets European committee for women's rights
30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras met at the Justice Ministry in Athens on Monday with a delegation of the European Parliament's Committee for the Rights of Women and the Equality of the Genders, which is currently on an official visit to Greece.
Also taking part in the delegation were Greek Eurodeputies Rodi Kratsa, Maria Panagiotopoulou-Kassiotou and Katerina Batzeli.
During the meeting, Papaligouras said "violence in the family, human trafficking and sexual exploitation are hideous phenomena of our times, with women being mainly the victims."
He noted that "it is a reality which justifiably concerns the European Parliament."
 Archbishop Christodoulos visits seat of WCC in Geneva
30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, on the occasion of Monday's anniversary of the fall of Constantinople, gave a sermon at the chapel of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva. He has been on an official visit to the seat of the WCC since Saturday.
In view of the anniversary, the Archbishop called on the Council's leadership and members to recall "the since then continuous attacks against Christianity," advising them "to remember the past and persecutions which they (Christians) suffered."
On his part, WCC Secretary General Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia hailed the contribution of Archbishop Christodoulos and the activity of the Orthodox Church in strengthening Christianity. Kobia stressed that "the Church of Greece is becoming a valuable partner, and sometimes also a 'pioneer'."
 Patriarch of Alexandria meets with labor minister
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Visiting Patriarch of Alexandria and All Egypt Theodoros II was received here on Monday by Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis, as discussions focused on the Greek state's assistance, and in particular the specific ministry, as well as the charitable works undertaken by the Patriarchate throughout Africa.
 Turks caught for photographing Souda Bay
30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Three Turks were led to the police station of Souda in Crete on Monday following charges that one of them was taking photographs of Souda Bay where there are military installations of NATO and of the Greek Navy and where the taking of photographs is forbidden.
Found in possession of the three persons were a videocamera and a camera where there was material from the installations as well as photographs from the city of Hania.
Of the three who were led to the police station, one was arrested but later released on orders of the Hania Public Prosecutor after giving testimony.
The three Turks were members of a private crew who were conducting maintenance work to the electronic systems of two ships, a Russian and British vessel, who sailed into Souda Bay.
 Greek exports up 22.8 pct in Jan-March, yr/yr
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek exports jumped 22.8 percent to 3.841 billion euros in the first three months of 2006, up from 3.126 billion euros in the corresponding period last year, the Hellenic Export Promotion Organization said on Monday.
In an analysis of trade figures released by National Statistics Service, the Organization said of the 714 million euros increase in exports in the first quarter, 176 million euros accounted for exports of oil products, 194 mln in exports of food and 171.6 mln euros in industrial goods.
The organization said a widening trade deficit (up 2.4 pct in Jan-March) exclusively reflected higher fuel costs and noted that the country's trade deficit, excluding oil, fell 7.5 pct over the same period.
Export activity to EU countries rose 12.3 pct in January-March to 1.98 billion euros, with Italy recording a 37.9-pct increase to maintain its top position, while exports to Turkey jumped 57.2 pct.
Exports to third countries totaled 1.859 billion euros, up 36.6 percent, with Balkan states ranked high in the list of top Greek export destinations. Bulgaria was fourth, Romania 10th, Albania 13th and FYROM 14th.
Greek exports soared 1,074 pct to Algeria, 175 pct to India, 59.6 pct to China, 53 pct to Romania, 44.4 pct to Egypt and 31.15 pct to Russia.
Exports to Japan also soared by 125 pct in the first quarter of 2006, after three years of steady decline.
Exports of steel pipes jumped 224.8 pct, heating machinery rose 151 pct, virgin olive oil was up 108 pct, power distribution materials rose 65.76 pct, cheeses rose 37.9 pct and cotton was up 59 pct.
 Deputy Development Minister Nerantzis attends meeting on sustainable growth
BRUSSELS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The re-examination of the European Union's strategy for sustainable growth, in view of the EU Summit on June 15-16, was studied at the meeting of the Council of Competitiveness Ministers which was held in Brussels on Monday. Greece's positions were expounded by Deputy Development Minister Anastasios Nerantzis.
Nerantzis stressed that the European Commission's proposals "are deemed sufficient and there is no incompatibility between the Lisbon Strategy and the strategy for sustainable growth."
He further underlined the need for "the adoption of a balanced evaluation of probable repercussions (economic, social and environmental)," a process which, as he said, will constitute "an important means for the completion of policies, so that external repercussions to be also incorporated in the EU's decisions."
 IFC to buy into Finansbank
30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank group, said on Monday that it intended to acquire a minority stake in Finansbank of Turkey.
Athens-quoted National Bank of Greece is due to acquire a majority stake in the bank.
"The acquisition of Finansbank by National is a positive development in economic ties between Greece and Turkey. It is one of the largest cross-border investments in the Mediterranean area, strengthening the confidence of the investment community and easing investment in the wider region," the statement said.
 Post Savings Bank's public offering 5.4 times oversubscribed
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A public offer for the flotation of Post Savings Bank in the Athens Stock Exchange attracted a record number of bids, with the offering 5.4 times oversubscribed, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Monday.
The Greek minister said a total of 124,000 private investors participated in the public offering procedure, almost double compared with 63,000 in a public offering by OPAP, Greece's state lottery organization.
The offer price was set at 12.5 euros per share. Alogoskoufis said that together with a combined offering Post Savings Bank sold a total of 49,080,000 shares and raised a total of 612 million euros.
The Greek minister said proceeds from a flotation of Post Savings Bank covered 81 percent of a privatization program for 2006 and added that the government was moving forwards with a plan and determination for growth, employment and social cohesion.
 ATEbank to buy majority stake in Romania's MindBank
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)ATEbank on Monday announced the signing of a pre-agreement for the purchase of a majority equity stake in Romania's MindBank as part of a strategic plan to expand in the Balkans, Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean countries.
ATEbank said it was immediately starting a due diligence control of the Romanian bank and noted it aimed to complete the transaction within a month.
 Minister says Aegean issue will not affect tourism
LARNACA, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek Tourism Minister Fanny Palli Petralia said on Monday she was sure the situation in the Aegean will not affect tourism in Greece and Cyprus.
Greece handled the situation in an excellent manner and can guarantee the safety of all planes and ships, as well as its sovereign rights which are not negotiable, Petralia said in reply to a reporter's question on arrival in Cyprus.
She also noted that tourism is a comparative advantage both in Cyprus and Greece, and stressed that both countries have mutual aims and strong bonds.
Petralia is due to hold talks with the chairman of the Cyprus Tourism Organization (CTO) Fotis Fotiou, and will also be received by President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos.
Welcoming Petralia, Fotiou said that Cyprus relations with Greece in tourism are strong, adding that through close cooperation in the tourism sector, both countries can benefit.
He reported that the two countries will make an effort to attract markets from distant countries such as China, Japan and India.
Petralia praised the hotel industry in Paphos, which she visited, and its infrastructure, noting that in the recent years, Paphos has increased its influx of tourism and has improved its tourism product.
 Aegean Airlines begins daily flights to Samos
30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Aegean Airlines on Monday announced the beginning of daily flights from Athens to the eastern Aegean island of Samos, further expanding its domestic flight schedule.
The ambitious Greek airline will begin servicing two daily flights to Samos as of Tuesday. Flight time will be approximately 50 minutes and the airline will use its AVRO RJ 100 aircraft.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise in across-the-board trade
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Athens share index closed at 3,826.10 points, showing a rise of 0.98%. Turnover was 180.1 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.78% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.50% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.61% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 132 to 121 with 55 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Buyers outpace sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Tuesday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.286
 PM inaugurates state broadcaster's 3rd digital channel 'Sport+'
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday inaugurated the new digital channel Sport+, the third digital channel established by Greece's state broadcaster ERT.
The inauguration took place at the ERT Radio Building, in the presence of Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, who is in charge of media issues.
Shortly before the new channel officially began broadcasting, the prime minister noted that ERT was capitalizing on the gains made during the Olympic Games in Athens and was making progress, investing in media diversity, objectivity and quality.
"It is entering the new digital age with the broadcast of a land-based digital signal in portal form. It's making use of modern technology to make television accessible to people with special needs, to promote Greek culture and tourism worldwide and to become a bridge of communication between Greece, the surrounding region and the rest of the world," he said.
Karamanlis was afterwards shown around the digital TV facilities by ERT President Christos Panagopoulos.
Sport+ will be dedicated mainly to sports, covering all the official Olympic sports events but also others that are less widely known. It will also broadcast sports and general information content from Greece and abroad, news programs and a daily half-hour news program in English.
 Premier inaugurates art exhibition
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday evening inaugurated an exhibition on "Artists of the 20th century and the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean" at the Museum of Cycladic Art, in central Athens.
Addressing the event, Karamanlis underlined the role of the museum in the preservation, the study and the projection of Greek culture in the country and throughout the world.
Referring to the theme of the exhibition, the prime minister noted its symbolic content "as it showcases the basic belief that Culture is the unbroken thread which links the present to the past and the future...and the conviction that Culture is the road which links peoples with bonds of peace, mutual respect an cooperation."
 Official: No safety issue with Rion-Antirion bridge
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)There is no safety problem with the Rion-Antirion Bridge, a high-ranking government official said on Monday in reply to press claims regarding findings of a team of experts on the causes that led to a bridge cable being severed a year ago.
The experts had previously dismissed assessments by the main construction contractor and management company, Gefyra SA, according to which the cable was severed by a lightning bolt. Instead, the team of experts pointed to material failure. At the same time, however, they stressed that there is no problem for commuters or the structure itself.
The general secretary for co-funded projects, Athanasios Kouloubis, also pointed to experts' findings that the bridge is safe, while adding that necessary maintenance work will be performed.
Gefyra SA officials earlier on Monday insisted on the lightning strike scenario, stressing that the team of experts did not consider a May 8 report drawn up by the consortium's engineers.
The Rion-Antirion bridge, which links the Peloponnese with the western Greece mainland, is the world's longest cable-stayed bridge.
Souflias on safety of the Rion-Antirion Bridge, diesel cars: Environment, Land Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias stated after a meeting with the prime minister on Monday that there was no immediate safety problem with the Rion-Antirion Bridge, based on the findings of a team of experts formed at his orders.
Souflias added that the team of experts did not accept that the severing of one of the bridge cables a year ago was caused by a direct lightning strike and believed that it was the result of materials failure. For this reason, a careful investigation will be held, he said.
Responding to a question on lifting a ban on the use of diesel-powered cars in Athens and Thessaloniki, Souflias said he was due to receive a report on the issue in two weeks.
He stressed that diesel-powered cars will be allowed in Thessaloniki and Athens only if this report was positive, pointing to the high level of air pollution and stressing the need to protect public health.
 Doctors of the World team headed to quake-stricken Java
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A Doctors of the World team comprised of physicians and auxiliary personnel has left for quake-stricken Java, following a massive 6.2 on the Richter scale tremor that hit the Indonesian archipelagos on Saturday.
The Athens-based branch of the international organization has fielded an EU-funded presence in the Aceh region of western Sumatra since January 2005.
 Exhibition of Mt. Athos treasures opens in Thessaloniki
30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The exhibition of Protatos monastery treasures was inaugurated on Sunday in the Mt. Athos Estia cultural centre in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, attended by local government representatives and a 20-member delegation of Mount Athos monks.
The majority of the 92 items displayed --icons, manuscripts and documents from the Protatos monastery, the oldest monastery in the all-male monastic community-- have never been seen before by the public.
This is the second exhibition of Mount Athos treasures held outside the monastic community, situated in Chalkidiki, northern Greece. The previous major exhibition of Mount Athos Treasures was held in Thessaloniki in 1997 and attracted an estimated 700,000 visitors.
The Mt. Athos Estia building, where the exhibition is being held, is heavily guarded, while the exhibited items have been insured for the sum of 4.8 million euros.
The most important of the treasures on display is a replica of the goatskin parchment signed and sealed by the Byzantine Emperor Ioannis Tsimiskis in 972 AD establishing Mt. Athos’ “self-ruled monastic state” status.
The exhibition will run until October.
 Derveni Papyrus' text finally read
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A philosophical treatise on the nature of the gods, cosmogony, the theory of the soul and the nature of religious rituals, mainly in the form of an interpretation of an earlier Orphic hymn, forms the text on a charred scroll illegible for nearly two and a half millennia.
Greek and foreign researchers were finally able to entirely read the so-called Derveni Papyrus -- the place-name of the site northwest of modern-day Thessaloniki where it was found -- by using state-of-the-art technology.
The papyrus, blackened by time and fire, was discovered in 1962 with other noted artifacts from the Derveni site. According to archaeologists, it survived a funeral pyre in the mid 4th century BC, which would place it in the Macedonian sphere of Classical Greece.
Professors from Oxford, the University of Patra and Brigham Young University participated in the project and will give a press conference in Thessaloniki on Tuesday.
 Search operation mounted for FYROM fisherman on Axios river
30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A search and rescue operation was in progress Monday morning in the area of Axioupolis, Kilkis prefecture, to locate a 52-year-old amateur fisherman from FYROM, who was swept away by the waters of the Axios river.
According to police, the man, who was legally in Greece, had been fishing together with two other FYROM nationals near the river's bridge along the Axioupolis-Polykastros road.
The man's two friends said the missing fishermen left the bridge and went into the river, but was swept away by the river's waters, which are rapid in the specific area.
A team of EKAM emergency rescuers, firemen, police and local residents are taking part in the operation.
 One in two Greek children a smoker by age 18, scientists report
ATHENS, 30/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)One in two Greek teenagers becomes a regular smoker by the age of 18 and at least half of teenagers had tried cigarettes by age 14, while many Greek children have their first cigarette as young as age 10, according to figures announced on Monday in view of World Day Against Smoking on May 31.
Speaking at a press conference given by the Greek Anti-Cancer Society, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said his ministry was taking action to beef up the monitoring of measures against smoking, as well as introducing new measures to protect young people.
He said the government was preparing legislation, expected to be ready by the autumn, that forbid the sale of tobacco products to the underaged and displayed this ban on the products themselves, while there would be penalties for those that sold tobacco to children.
Surveys showed that 89 percent of school children claim to be aware that smoking is harmful to health but that the majority that attempt to stop smoking do not succeed. Only 3 percent of middle school pupils (aged 11-15 years old) and 11 percent of senior school (15-18 year olds) succeed in giving up after having been regular smokers.
Stressing the dangers involved, the president of the Greek Anti-Cancer Society S. Besbeas warned that the lungs needed 15 years to fully recover after smoking and pointed to the latest statistics showing that the number of smokers in Greece had increased by 10 percent since 1996, alongside the number of deaths through lung cancer that had now reached more than 6,000 a year.
In addition to a general rise in smokers, the figures also show an increase in young women smokers and the number of women who fail to stop smoking during pregnancy and breast-feeding, which was accompanied by a higher incidence of heart attacks among women in recent years.
 Nicosia says reports about Greek proposal imprecise
NICOSIA, 30/5/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Cypriot Government Spokesman George Lillikas said Monday that there is no information on behalf of Athens regarding a Greek proposal to push forward efforts for a Cyprus settlement, as described in the Greek press, noting that the Cypriot government has frequent contacts with the Greek government on all issues.
He added that what still stands is the proposal made by President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos for the return of Famagusta to its legal owners and the opening of the port of the Turkish occupied area, as well as all that was agreed in Paris with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. ''These are the two directions we work on with the cooperation of the government of Greece,'' he said.
Speaking at Larnaca Airport on departure for Brussels, Lillikas, commenting on reports, said that the story printed in ''Eleftherotypia'' has caused a lot of discussion in Cyprus, noting that ''the government is in constant cooperation and communication with the Greek government not only by telephone, but also through exchanges of representatives for elaboration of common positions.''
The Cypriot government, he added, ''has not been informed over any such proposal on behalf of the Greek government and therefore we judge that this story, as far as we know, does not respond to reality.''
 Russian FM reaffirms positions for a fair Cyprus solution
MOSCOW, 30/5/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Russia reaffirmed its position for a solution to the Cyprus problem ''in the direction of the relevant UN resolutions and with the organization’s leading role.''
The position is outlined in a statement issued by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs summing up the recent visit to Nicosia, Athens and Ankara of the Ministry's Special Representative for Cyprus Leonid Abramov.
The statement said Abramov had detailed discussions in Ankara, Athens and Nicosia. ''In an atmosphere of constructive exchange of views on the current situation for a Cyprus settlement,'' special attention was given to achieving the necessary dynamic in the procedure to prepare and hold the bicommunal discussions on a whole series of issues, it notes.
It stressed the significance of firm efforts to achieve compromise in the approach of the two Cypriot communities, with the aim to get a speedy and full resumption of the intercommunal dialogue.
According to the Russian ministry of foreign affairs, during discussions ''Russia's consistent principles towards achieving a comprehensive and viable solution to the Cyprus problem, in the interest of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, within the UN framework, was reaffirmed.''
It added that ''what is extremely important in this case is the coordination of efforts within the framework of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, on the part of the international community, with the aim to help towards a fair solution to the Cyprus problem.''
 CoE Congress President: division is harmful to Cypriots' quality of life
NICOSIA, 30/5/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)President of the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities Giovanni di Stasi said after paying an official visit to Cyprus that ''we can no longer accept situations in Europe where divided towns or ghost towns exist,'' adding that ''the state of division is harmful to the quality of life of Cypriot citizens, whichever community they belong to''.
A CoE press release said that the visit ''was devoted to discussions concerning possibilities of lasting and permanent involvement of local representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community in the work of the Congress.''
During his meeting with the President of the Republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos, ''the President of the Congress also raised the question of stronger involvement of Cypriot citizens and local authorities in resolving the situation there,'' the press release added.
''Our fellow citizens and the municipalities should perform a more active, constructive and complementary part in this process, thereby allowing us to rebuilt in time the necessary mutual confidence between the island's Greek and Turkish communities'', the President of the Congress concluded.
''I should like all parties to enter into a constructive dialogue'', he added.
On 25 May Giovanni di Stasi also met the Minister of the Interior, the country's delegation to the Congress, the representatives of the Unions of Cyprus Municipalities and Communities, and the political leaders of the Turkish Cypriot community.
The question of the latter's representation in the Congress will be on the agenda of the 13th plenary session in connection with the resolution on the credentials of national delegations.
 Cypriot FM meets OSCE Secretary General
NICOSIA, 30/5/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iakovou met in Austria on Monday with Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Secretary-General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut at the organization’s headquarters in Vienna.
An official statement said Iakovou stated that he invited de Brichambaut to represent the OSCE at the Inter-Religious Dialogue meeting that will be held in Larnaca, Cyprus from 3-5 June.
"Cyprus, as a member of the OSCE, has had a great and important contribution during the course and work of the organization. Cyprus' activities in the past were part of the framework of non-aligned and neutral European countries which are now mostly members of the EU", he said.
"Today we are called to assume once again an important role in the organization’s work. Cyprus will become part of the OSCE presidency from September 2006 and will undertake the presidency for the first trimester of 2007. During my meeting with Mr. de Brichambaut I had the opportunity to put forward the general pursuits of the Cypriot presidency".
Iakovou also said they discussed the OSCE's activities and generally the work that the organization carries out in the field of tolerance and discrimination and in consolidating human rights and the rule of law in the areas it covers.
From Austria, Iakovou went to Germany for a two-day working visit.