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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-08-25

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

August 25, 2006

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM briefed by FinMin on economic policy; deficit dips
  • [02] UN resolution a 'necessary step' for Middle East peace, Bakoyannis says
  • [03] India's external affairs minister due on Sunday for official visit
  • [04] PASOK leader reiterates criticism of government
  • [05] Opposition MPs request more testimony in Vodafone phone bugging case
  • [06] PM hosts dinner for defense ministry's civil and military leadership
  • [07] PM planning round of meetings to prepare for TIF
  • [08] Alogoskoufis meets with PASOK mayoral candidate Skandalidis
  • [09] Gov't on response to Kassandra fire
  • [10] Alavanos meets with Palestinian envoy to Athens
  • [11] Anti-war demonstration held in Syntagma Square in Athens
  • [12] Gov't, industry focus on stable retail market prices
  • [13] Cosmote posts higher H1 profit
  • [14] Katselis Group reports lower 1st half results
  • [15] Emporiki reports H1 profit rise
  • [16] New management at Emporiki Bank
  • [17] Aspis Group buys majority stake of Cyprus-based MFS Holdings
  • [18] Duty Free Shops shows rise in H1 earnings
  • [19] OPAP posts H1 earnings rise
  • [20] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks flat
  • [21] Chalkidiki fire under control, life returning to normal
  • [22] British Ambassador thanks Chalkidiki fire service, local authorities
  • [23] Search for missing German continues with aid of dog
  • [24] Volley of shots heard during drug raid on Crete
  • [25] Greece beats Turkey 76-69 in World Basketball Cup match
  • [26] AEK and Olympiakos drawn with tough rivals in Champions League
  • [27] FM Lillikas says Cyprus to put facilities at UN and EU disposal for Lebanon
  • [28] Lillikas: Technical committees the only procedure to move forward

  • [01] PM briefed by FinMin on economic policy; deficit dips

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday conferred with Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on the government's economic policy for 2007 and the drafting of the new budget for the coming year.

    After the meeting, Alogoskoufis told reporters that the "messages" on the course of the economy were generally positive, as the employment rate was falling, while the growth rate was above the government economic staff's forecasts despite the adverse international situation created by the high oil prices.

    Alogoskoufis said that the government's intention was not to spring surprises but to fulfill the expectations that have been already created.

    Meanwhile, in a related development, the economy ministry on Thursday announced that Greece's budget deficit fell by 28.3 pct to 5.826 billion euros in the first seven months of 2006, from 8.131 billion euros in the same period last year.

    The ministry, in a report, said the state budget showed significant improvement in the seven-month period from January to July, compared with the corresponding period last year, and was moving within set budget targets for the year.

    [02] UN resolution a 'necessary step' for Middle East peace, Bakoyannis says

    TEL AVIV, 25/8/2004 (ANA-MPA - Ch. Poulidou)

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis urged all sides in the Middle East crisis to implement United Nations resolution 1701 as a necessary step toward peace, as she departed from the Jordanian capital Amman for Tel Aviv on Thursday.

    "Of course the Security Council decision is not perfect. It is the result of a compromise. It is, however, a necessary step for a forward movement, in order to give peace a chance," she told reporters at Amman airport, in response to questions about the resolution's weaknesses.

    Bakoyannis also pointed out that a condition for the success of the truce agreed was that it be promptly observed.

    According to the Greek foreign minister, meanwhile, a solution to the Palestinian problem was the key to building up peace in the region and that the present fragile truce was a crucial turning point for the Middle East problem.

    "This was, is and will be - until it is solved - the catalytic problem for the wider region," she said.

    During her visit to Jordan, which was the third stop in her three-day tour of the Middle East after Cyprus and Lebanon, Bakoyannis met visiting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and attended a dinner hosted by her Jordanian counterpart Abdelelah Al-Khatib, while in the morning she was received by Jordan's King Abdullah II and Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit.

    Athens' emphasis on the Palestinian problem as a key to a solution in the Middle East crisis was received with approval in Amman - especially by the Palestinian president - with Jordanian officials generally expecting Greece to play a positive role when it takes over the rotating UN Security Council monthly presidency on September 1.

    Asked about the role Greece intends to play when it takes over the presidency, Bakoyannis said that Greece offered its good services and tried to promote ideas that support peace and cooperation in the region.

    On her arrival in Tel Aviv early on Thursday afternoon where she will end her Middle East tour, Bakoyannis met Israeli defense minister Amir Peretz and Jerusalem Patriarch Theophilos, while she is scheduled to attend a dinner given in her honor by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres on Thursday night.

    [03] India's external affairs minister due on Sunday for official visit

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    India's minister of state for external affairs Anand Sharma is due to arrive in Athens on Sunday, at the head of a delegation, on a three-day official visit for talks with the Greek government on bilateral relations and current international issues of interest to both sides, it was announced on Thursday.

    A press release by the Indian Embassy to Greece said that Sharma will be making an official visit to Greece on August 27-29, leading a delegation, and was scheduled to meet with foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis and tourism development minister Fani Palli-Petralia.

    According to the Embassy announcement, Greek-India bilateral relations have progressed in various fields, such as trade, investment, information technology (IT), tourism and cultural exchanges.

    Indian exports to Greece have risen considerably in recent years, nearly tripling from 113.5 million dollars in the 200-2001 period to 306.3 million dollars in the 2004-2005 period, and were expected to grow to 480 million dollars in the 2005-2006 period, according to the announcement.

    In the period of January-May 2006 alone, Indian exports to Greece jumped to 350 million dollars, registering an 80 percent increase over the corresponding period in 2005, it said.

    The announcement said that Indian IT companies such as Infosys, i-Flex and TCS have secured IT service contracts with Greek banks, noting that investment flows are also increasing.

    It further said that there is good potential for increasing tourism flows in both directions, with Indian outgoing tourism already at 7 million per year and growing.

    Some 12,000 Indian migrants, mostly from Punjab State, were currently in Greece, working in the agricultural sector, the announcement concluded.

    [04] PASOK leader reiterates criticism of government

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Thursday reiterated a scathing criticism on the government delivered the preceding day, addressing a meeting of his party's Political Council, which the government spokesman later rejected, accusing Papandreou of slinging insults which, he warned, were like quicksand, in which "the more you move around, the more you sink".

    Opening the Political Council meeting, Papandreou repeated criticism of the government he voiced on Wednesday during a meeting of the coordinators of his party's parliamentary group, accusing the government of a "summer raid with taxes and price increases".

    He called the government a "hazard to the citizens' income".

    Papandreou said the citizens were facing a reduction of their buying power, unprecedented high prices and over borrowing from banks, opining that "anything the government gives, it has already taken back multifold with its economic policy".

    He said the government was characterized by "total insensitivity, social analgesia and incompetence in management".

    The PASOK leader further accused the government of being incapable of protecting the natural environment, and the ministers of not shouldering their responsibilities, while personally criticizing prime minister Costas Karamanlis of "hiding every time he faces difficulties", as in the current spate of destructive forest fires.

    He said PASOK was formulating its own proposal for development with a just distribution of the wealth, adding that "every day we are winning the confidence of the citizens, in order to confront the consequences of ND's policy, and for our victorious course in the electoral battles and to pave a new path, as the country can do and deserves the best".

    Later, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that "Mr. Papandreou reiterated yesterday's insults", adding that "the insults resemble quicksand: the more you move around, the more you sink".

    [05] Opposition MPs request more testimony in Vodafone phone bugging case

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    A handful of opposition MPs on Thursday requested the testimony of family members of a one-time Vodafone executive who committed suicide and by the head of Greek police's anti-terrorism service investigating the mobile phone tapping furor involving the same mobile telephony provider.

    The opposition deputies are all members of Parliament's institutions and transparency committee assigned with an inquiry into the affair, in which more than 100 Vodafone mobile phone numbers - including ones used by the premier and top military leaders - were bugged.

    [06] PM hosts dinner for defense ministry's civil and military leadership

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his wife Natasha hosted a dinner on Thursday night for the defense ministry's civil and military leadership at the Greek Navy officers' resort at Agia Marina in the Attica prefecture.

    Attending the dinner were Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, Deputy Ministers Vassilis Mihaloliakos and Yiannis Lambropoulos, National Defense General Staff chief Panayiotis Hinofotis, Air Force General Staff chief George Avlonitis, Navy General Staff chief Dimitris Gousis, Army General Staff chief Dimitris Grapsas and the wives of those present.

    [07] PM planning round of meetings to prepare for TIF

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is planning a series of meeting with social groups and organizations in the coming week in order to prepare for the Thessaloniki International Fair in September, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced on Thursday.

    He clarified that Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis would also be present at these meetings, in response to questions about the cancellation of a meeting between the minister and the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union group.

    [08] Alogoskoufis meets with PASOK mayoral candidate Skandalidis

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Main opposition PASOK's candidate for the City of Athens, former minister Costas Skandalidis, on Thursday continued his series of meetings with ministers and top officials ahead of the October elections by meeting with Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis.

    Among others, Skandalidis requested the direct participation of the municipality in the 4th CSF program and exploitation of the private sector/private sector partnership for preserving numerous neo-classical (19th century, early 20th century) buildings remaining in the Greek capital.

    [09] Gov't on response to Kassandra fire

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    The government on Thursday dismissed surging opposition and press criticism following the large-scale destruction in Kassandra peninsula, a popular tourist destination in northern Chalkidiki prefecture, caused by wildfires earlier in the week.

    In response to a flurry of questions during his regular briefing, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos fended off criticism dealing with an on-site inspection by a government delegation, saying that relevant ministers were not in the area "to extinguish the flames but to meet with local officials on dealing with the blaze's consequences and the 'day after'."

    [10] Alavanos meets with Palestinian envoy to Athens

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos on Thursday continued his recent meetings with ambassadors and envoys from the Middle East, sans Israel, by meeting with Palestinian Authority envoy Samir Abou Ghazale.

    In statements afterwards, Alavanos said his party will begin collecting signatures of Greek Parliament MPs -- Synaspismos fields six MPs in the 300-deputy legislature -- for the release of Palestinian house speaker from an Israeli jail.

    Additionally, he reiterated his small, leftist party's stance regarding Greek initiatives for an overall solution for the Middle East problem, namely, a solution based on an independent Palestinian state, withdrawal of Israeli forces to the pre-1967 border and recognition of the state of Israel's right to exist in peace and security.

    On his part, the Palestinian envoy noted that the next three months will be crucial for the region.

    [11] Anti-war demonstration held in Syntagma Square in Athens

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    The Stop the War Alliance organized an anti-war demonstration at Syntagma Square in downtown Athens on Thursday night. The demonstration was supported by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), the Athens Labor Centre (EKA), the Lebanese and Pakistani community and the Moslem Union of Greece.

    The demonstrators, whose main slogans were "Israel, out of Lebanon", "No participation in any occupation force" and "Disarm Israel and not Hezbollah", assembled in Amalias street, opposite the House of Parliament, marched round Syntagma Square and headed for the foreign ministry in Vassilisis Sophias avenue where they pasted an anti-war resolution. The same resolution was also pasted outside the European Commission's headquarters in Athens.

    The demonstrators started to disperse peacefully at the end of their march at about 9 in the evening.

    [12] Gov't, industry focus on stable retail market prices

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Greek foodstuffs enterprises have largely absorbed any cost increases from rising oil prices, while increasing domestic competition, whereas government measures to better regulate investment and business development can avert retail price increases in the future, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Thursday.

    Speaking to reporters after a series of meetings with representatives of the domestic retail and foodstuffs industry, the minister stressed that he did not see any intention by the industry and retail enterprises to raise supermarket prices. Sioufas reiterated that the government has never denied the fact the prices have risen in recent years but recommended that companies should not announce price increases.

    Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said that a large olive oil industry intends to lower its prices by 5-7 percent, while more reductions were expected in the future.

    Sioufas said there was optimism in the domestic retail market, a result of government initiatives to support business activity and to boost exports.

    Manousos Voloudakis, general secretary of the ministry said efforts to combat red tape were already recording results.

    Greek supermarkets intend to lower prices: The Association of Super Market Enterprises of Greece on Thursday said they intended not only to restrain, but to lower their retail prices. The announcement was made during a meeting with Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Development Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou, as part of a round of talks with market representatives to discuss problems and contain inflationary pressures on prices.

    Ap. Alexakis, president of the Association of Super Market Enterprises of Greece, told reporters after the meeting, that announcements would be made in the next two weeks over measures to better organize and distribute consumer products with the aim to achieve scale economies.

    Alexakis said the members of the Association would contain and lower prices on their products but added that food industries should also lower their profit margins to the European average level. He said that price increases announced by the food industry was unacceptable and added that 10 multinational companies had the Greek market under control.

    [13] Cosmote posts higher H1 profit

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Athens-quoted Cosmote SA, a mobile telephone operator, on Thursday reported EBITDA of € 394.6 million in the first half of 2006, up 14% on the same period a year earlier.

    The EBITDA margin was 38%, with net income down 1% to €156.7 million and revenues totaling € 1,037.1 million, up 31% versus first-half 2005, management said in a statement.

    "During this period, COSMOTE continued its strong performance throughout its presence, extracting value both from the maturing Greek market as well as from the other SE Europe markets. The positive trend, already evident in the first quarter of the year continued strongly, led by increasing usage in Greece and improving market position in the international operations," the statement said.

    COSMOTE operates in five countries - Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, FYROM and Romania, through COSMOTE Greece,

    AMC, GLOBUL, COSMOFON and COSMOTE Romania respectively.

    "These developments vindicate the management's view that core mobile service growth in Greece has further potential, while the markets in Albania, Bulgaria, FYROM and Romania offer significant growth opportunities," the statement noted.

    Despite heavy investment in network rollout and in establishing the brand and gaining critical mass in Romania, the

    Group has demonstrated 31% turnover growth and 14% EBITDA growth, according to management.

    Group operating revenues for H1 2006 were € 1,037.1 million, up by 31.1% year on year. International assets accounted for about 25% of revenues.

    COSMOTE Greece's telecommunications revenues increased by 8.7% in comparison with the corresponding period of 2005.

    Following an agreement announced in May for the acquisition of a 42% stake in Athens-quoted Germanos S.A. has now been approved by regulatory authorities in Greece, Bulgaria, FYROM and Ukraine. The acquisition remains subject only to approval by Romanian authorities.

    [14] Katselis Group reports lower 1st half results

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Katselis Group on Thursday reported a 2.74-pct decline in its consolidated turnover to 27.46 million euros in the first half of 2006, from 28.24 million euros in the same period last year.

    Pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) fell to 5.02 million euros in the January-June period from 7.28 million in 2005.

    Pre-tax profits totaled 3.67 million euros in the first half from 4.89 million euros last year, while net group profits fell to 2.91 million euros from 3.80 million euros over the same period, respectively.

    Katselis announced the liquidation of La Frianderie, a baked goods supplier, as part of a plan to create a holding company.

    [15] Emporiki reports H1 profit rise

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Athens-quoted Emporiki Bank on Thursday reported net profit of €91.7m. in the first half of 2006, up 99.4% on the same period a year earlier.

    "The strong rebound in profitability is the outcome of the rigorous implementation of a restructuring plan based on transparency and a balance sheet clean up, strong growth in retail banking, and improvement in efficiency, and a group restructuring," management said in a statement.

    Emporiki had reported €104 million in losses in 2004 and €76 million in profits in 2005.

    "The rise in profit attributable to shareholders came as a result of a significant increase in operating income (+21.5%) and the containment noticed on the development of operating costs (+5.3%), while provisions grew at 25.5% higher than loans over the respective period (+20.6%)," the statement said.

    Net interest income stood at €355.1 million, up 15.7%, with net interest margin expanding to 3.37% vs. 3.25%. Net fee and commission income increased by 14.4% to total €80.5 million mainly as a result of growth in new disbursements and capital market related fees.

    Income from financial transactions stood at €4.4 million in 1H06 vs. €5.6 million in the same period of last year, and income from investment securities rose to €32.1 million mainly as a result of the disposal of a venture capital participation (€13.8 million), management reported.

    Operating costs rose by 5.3%. Efficiency ratio (operating costs to operating income) improved to 61.7% vs. 71.2% in 1H05 and 80.3% in the same period of 2004.

    Total loans increased to €16.9 billion as of 30 June 2006 vs. €14.3 billion over the same date a year earlier, showing an 18.3% increase. Mortgage and consumer loans represented 40.2% of the loan portfolio vs. 37.4% last year.

    Deposits stood at €15.1 billion, marginally up compared to the same period of 2005. Time deposits increased by 12.1% and sight deposits by 6.3%, offsetting a 3.6% decrease in savings deposits. Total mutual funds under management stood at €2 billion, lower than the 1H05 levels, whereby the decrease reflected slowed activity in money market funds, management noted.

    Shareholders’ equity stood at €1,169.8 million with Tier 1 ratio estimated at 8.1% and total capital adequacy ratio at 8.3%. It is noted that Emporiki has not issued any hybrid capital, the statement added.

    [16] New management at Emporiki Bank

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Athens-quoted Emporiki Bank announced on Thursday that Jean Frederic de Leusse, head of International Development of Crédit Agricole S.A, has been appointed interim president of Emporiki Bank, with Christian Jacques, Emporiki's deputy general manager and representative of Crédit Agricole in Greece, appointed temporary CEO.

    Credit Agricole, which is Emporiki's new owner, has a policy in all its subsidiaries of separating the posts of president and CEO, management said in a statement.

    De Leusse will become vice-president when a permanent president is appointed, and Jacques deputy CEO, the statement said.

    The decision was announced after George Provopoulos, a state appointee, resigned in the wake of the acquisition.

    [17] Aspis Group buys majority stake of Cyprus-based MFS Holdings

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Aspis group on Thursday announced the acquisition of 50 percent - plus one share - of MFS Holdings Public Co. Ltd. for 4.48 million Cyprus pounds (around 7.9 million euros) as part of a public offer which ended on Aug. 4.

    The public offer envisaged the acquisition of 50 percent - plus one share - of MFS or 14,946,451 shares at 0.3 pounds per share.

    With this acquisition, Aspis Group gains control of Cypriot-listed MFS, Liberty Life Insurance Public Co. and a series of subsidiaries in the real estate and financial services sectors. The deal does not cover the acquisition of MFS's subsidiaries in Greece.

    Aspis Group will seek shareholders' approval to a plan to merge Liberty Life with Aspis Insurance Ltd., a plan expected to be formally completed by October.

    [18] Duty Free Shops shows rise in H1 earnings

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Athens-quoted Hellenic Duty Free Shops on Thursday reported that consolidated earnings after tax increased by 18.6% for the first six months of 2006, reaching euro 18.4 million compared to euro 15.5 million in the same period of 2005.

    Consolidated sales (turnover) rose by 6.9% to total euro 109.9 million compared to euro 102.8 million in the first half of 2005, management said in a statement.

    Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) were euro 27.4 million from euro 23.8 million in the first half of 2005, posting an increase of 15.2%.

    Earnings before tax and after minority interests reached euro 26.1 million from euro 22.8 million, up 14.6%.

    Net earnings per share reached euro 0.349 from euro 0.295 (+18.6%).

    "In the first half of 2006 Management's cost containment efforts on an operational level continued successfully resulting to a further decrease of operating and administration expenses to 33.2% of consolidated sales compared to 34.0% for the respective period of 2005," the statement said.

    [19] OPAP posts H1 earnings rise

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Athens-quoted OPAP SA, a gaming operator, said on Thursday that EBITDA in the first half of 2006 amounted to €329.2m, up 4.5% on 2005.

    EBITDA margin in the first half decreased to 14.4% from 18.4% in the first half of 2005 mainly due to an increase in the payout ratio of the Stihima betting game and an increase in distribution costs. Net profit amounted to €228.2m, 12.5% up on 2005, management said in a statement.

    “We are pleased to announce continued solid growth in our revenue and bottom line. We are particularly pleased with the very strong performance in our fixed-odds sports betting game Stihima following very strong activity during the 2006 soccer World Cup event," Basile Neiadas, OPAP’s Managing Director, noted.

    "This growth also demonstrates the effectiveness of the rejuvenation measures we have been gradually implementing since last year. At the same time, we are encouraged by the steady performance of our second largest game KINO,” Neiadas added.

    Revenues for the period grew to €2,289.8m up 34.0% on 2005 primarily due to the success of Stihima, the company's flagship game, following the implementation of rejuvenation measures and coupled with performance of the game during the World Cup, the statement added.

    [20] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks flat

    ANS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    The Athens share index closed at 3,930.92 points, showing a rise of 0.04%. Turnover was 313.4 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.10% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 0.03% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.37% up.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 131 to 129 with 53 remaining unchanged. The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank of Greece, OPAP, OTE, Piraeus Bank, and Alpha Bank.

    Foreign Exchange Rates:

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.293

    [21] Chalkidiki fire under control, life returning to normal

    25/8/2006 (ANA)

    An immense forest fire raging in the Kassandra leg of Chalkidiki prefecture since Monday afternoon had been contained Thursday morning to an inaccessible forested area near the village of Kassandrino, but posed no threat to people or buildings, firefighters told ANA-MPA.

    The fire, blazing into its fourth day, has burned more than 50,000 stremmata (13,000 acres) of virgin fir and pine forest and olive groves, as well as tens of homes, tourism infrastructure, livestock and agricultural installations and machinery.

    Four canadair firefighting planes and a helicopter resumed efforts at dawn to extinguish the fire, which was now contained mainly in ravines, making the land forces' work more difficult. At the peak of the blaze on Tuesday, the fire had extended over a 30 kilometer front.

    The situation has improved significantly as of Thursday morning in relation to the preceding days, as high winds that had reached a near-storm velocity of 6-7 beaufort have diminished, and firefighters succeeded in containing the blaze to the thickly forested mountain expanse at Kassandrino, from Mola Kalyva to Aghia Paraskevi.

    "The situation is fully under control," Fire Brigade chief A. Kois told ANA-MPA on Thursday, "but there are many (minor) fronts in this difficult-to-access area, which are at risk of being rekindled at a moment's notice, consequently the firefighting forces will remain there for several more days".

    Meanwhile, life in the fire-stricken southeastern part of Kassandra was returning to normal, following the restoration of electricity and water supply, and a large majority of the local and foreign visitors have decided to carry on with their vacations there, while Macedonia-Thrace minister George Kalantzis -- who was on the fire front throughout the night at the peak of the blaze to assist in coordination of the firefighting operations -- said in an announcement on Thursday that new groups of tourists from abroad were expected to arrive in Kassandra in the next few days.

    Some forest fires in inaccessible regions in Chalkidiki rekindle: An increase in the intensity of winds blowing in Chalkidiki, northern Greece, has led to the rekindling on Thursday night of some of the forest fires located in inaccessible regions in Nea Skioni, Mola-Kalyva and Kassandrino. However, residential areas are in no danger.

    "The fire is fully contained, but firefighting forces are vigilant because we do not know what might happen during the night," Central Macedonia Regional Secretary General George Tsiotras said.

    Forest fires in Mani and Lykochia under control: The forest fires raging in Mani, in the prefecture of Laconia, and Lykochia, in the prefecture of Arcadia, were reported under control on Thursday, but firemen were still struggling on both fronts in an effort to extinguish the fires completely.

    However, another forest fire broke out at noon near the town of Molai and spread rapidly with the assistance of strong winds blowing in the region.

    An estimated 25 acres of forest land have already been laid waste, while firemen are being backed by five firefighting aircraft and a helicopter.

    [22] British Ambassador thanks Chalkidiki fire service, local authorities

    25/8/2006, (ANA)

    British Ambassador to Athens Simon Gass on Thursday expressed his gratitude toward local authorities and the fire service in Chalkidiki, during an interview with a local radio station, saying that they were doing an excellent job under very difficult conditions.

    Gass is visiting the area to assist some 2,000-odd Britons who were on holiday in the Chalkidiki peninsula when the massive fire broke out in Kassandra. He said that about 600 British tourists had been directly inconvenienced by the fire but none were seriously injured, while the situation had now stabilized.

    He said a team had been sent out from the foreign ministry consular section in London, which specialized in assisting British tourists during emergencies. These had now set up a small office at Thessaloniki's 'Macedonia' airport, in the district of Kallithea that was closer and at the Thessaloniki Consulate.

    The ambassador also stressed that Chalkidiki was a popular destination with British tourists and that the region's image in Britain would not be affected, pointing out that very few of those holidaying in the area had asked to leave and most had simply changed hotels and continued their holidays as planned.

    [23] Search for missing German continues with aid of dog

    SAMOS, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    The aid of a specially trained dog has been enlisted in the ongoing search for an elderly German tourist who went missing on the island of Samos on Sunday but had failed to uncover any clues to his whereabouts, rescue workers reported on Thursday.

    The 70-year-old rambler was last seen at a tavern/coffee shop in the Manolata area, when he set off on foot to follow the route toward Vourliotes.

    [24] Volley of shots heard during drug raid on Crete

    RN, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    A volley of 70-80 shots fired into the air was heard during the first phase of a major drug raid organized by the Greek Police in a remote region of Rethymno on Crete on Thursday, involving 80 officers and a police helicopter.

    Police said the shots were fired as a warning by unidentified persons while police forces were in the region between Livadia and Kalyvos but denied that any officer was endangered, or that police vehicles had been damaged or that the shots had targeted the helicopter.

    The raid uncovered eight plantations and a total of 439 cannabis plants in the mountainous areas of Mylopotamos.

    [25] Greece beats Turkey 76-69 in World Basketball Cup match

    JAPAN, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Greece beat Turkey 76-69 in a World Basketball Cup Group C match played in Japan on Thursday, winning all five of its matches and coming first in the group. The 10-minute intervals had the following results: 24-19, 37-42, 54-47 and 76-69.

    Greece will now be playing with China on Sunday in the next stage of the tournament, while Turkey will be playing with Slovenia, Lithuania with Italy and Australia with the United States.

    In the other matches played for the same group, Australia beat Qatar 93-46 and Lithuania beat Brazil 79-74.

    Final standings in Group C (the first four teams qualified for the next round): Greece 10 points, Turkey 9, Lithuania 8, Australia 7, Brazil 6 and Qatar 5.

    [26] AEK and Olympiakos drawn with tough rivals in Champions League

    MONACO, 25/8/2006 (ANA)

    Greek soccer champion Olympiakos Piraeus and runner-up AEK Athens were drawn to play against tough rivals during the draw held in Monaco on Thursday evening.

    Olympiakos will play in Group D against Valencia of Spain, Roma of Italy and Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine.

    AEK will play in Group H against Milan of Italy, Lille of France and Anderlecht of Belgium.

    Both teams will begin their matches in the Champions League on September 12 or 13 and play their last match on December 5 or 6.

    [27] FM Lillikas says Cyprus to put facilities at UN and EU disposal for Lebanon

    LARNACA, 25/8/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The Republic of Cyprus will put at the disposal of the UN and the EU its ports and the Andreas Papandreou military air base for the deployment of the UN peacekeeping force for Lebanon, Foreign Minister George Lillikas announced here on Thursday.

    He also said Cyprus will participate in the force with two National Guard officers and will continue to offer its services for the transfer of the humanitarian aid to the country.

    In statements at Larnaca Airport after his one-day visit to Lebanon at the invitation of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Lillikas said that he toured the devastated areas in the Beirut suburbs where ''we really came face-to-face with overwhelming pictures of pointless destruction.''

    He expressed the view that the destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure and the bombing of residential areas was uncalled for.

    ''I believe that those who witness these pictures believe even more that war does not solve problems, it creates problems and the only way to solve further problems is through dialogue and political means,'' the minister added.

    Referring to his meetings with Siniora, Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh as well as leader of the ''Future Movement Bloc'' Sa'ad Hariri, son of assassinated former Lebanese prime minister

    Rafic al Hariri, Lillikas said he conveyed the ''support of the government and people of Cyprus to the great effort underway for the country's reconstruction and to bring back peace and security on a long-term and stable basis.''

    He assured that the government of Cyprus will support Lebanon's efforts and will take part in various programs that will be launched, as well as the cooperation with European countries for reconstructing the country's infrastructure.

    Lillikas said that if Israel lifts the air blockade of the country, then Cyprus Airways, the island's national carrier, ''will be ready to restart direct flights between Larnaca and Beirut from 1st September.''

    The Cypriot minister said that Siniora ''conveyed his appreciation and the gratitude of the Lebanese government towards the government and people of Cyprus for the support and welcoming of Lebanese nationals received after they left their country.''

    He also said that Siniora asked him to convey to the EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Brussels on Friday ''the Lebanese government's appeal for a strict and full implementation of the Security Council resolution which means lifting restrictions and controls by Israel at the airport and Lebanon's ports.''

    Lillikas further said Siniora asked him to communicate to the EU an appeal for reinforcing and increasing the number of soldiers who will take part in the UN peacekeeping force and to also speed up procedures to develop this force in Lebanon.

    In addition, Siniora asked Lillikas to convey to the EU a request for the Union's economic and political support to speed up efforts for the country's reconstruction, something which the government of Cyprus is already working on.

    Replying to a question, Lillikas said that Cyprus will put at the disposal of the UN and the EU ''the infrastructure of the Republic of Cyprus, that is Larnaca and Limassol ports and the 'Andreas Papandreou' military air base for the force's deployment and at the same time Cyprus will continue to offer its services for the transfer of the humanitarian aid.''

    The minister said Cyprus will participate in the force with two National Guard officers, noting that due to the continued Turkish invasion and occupation of the island's northern third, ''it cannot spare more men.''

    ''Cyprus and Lebanon have never attacked a third country, yet they have one thing in common, they are victims of invasion by other countries,'' Lillikas remarked.

    ''This common history allows the government of Lebanon to understand the difficulty we are facing to send troops to Lebanon,'' he added.

    [28] Lillikas: Technical committees the only procedure to move forward

    LARNACA, 25/8/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cyprus Foreign Minister George Lillikas believes that any procedure leading to a political settlement, other than that of discussions at technical committees to prepare the ground for substantive talks, which will end in a deadlock.

    He said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had proposed the technical committees procedure. Lillikas also pointed out that following any other procedure would not serve either the goal for a Cyprus settlement or the interests of the Cypriot people.

    Replying to questions before his departure for Lebanon, Lillikas said "the speed with which the technical committees can work depends on the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities."

    He said the Greek Cypriot side is ready to begin work on the technical committees level, something it proved last February, adding that after Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos met in Paris in February with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan "we insisted that the procedure begins the soonest possible."

    "If there is the same political will on the part of the Turkish Cypriot side as well, the procedure can be a very rapid one," he noted.

    A joint statement issued after the meeting in Paris between Annan and the Cypriot president said that "the leaders of both communities (in Cyprus) have agreed that bicommunal discussions on a series of issues, agreement on which is needed for the benefit of all Cypriots, will be undertaken at the technical level."

    On July 8th Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed, during a meeting in Nicosia in the presence of UN Undersecretary General for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari, to begin a process of bicommunal discussions on issues that affect the day to day life of the people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues, both contributing to a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem.

    ''We don't see any other appropriate procedure, this procedure was recommended by the UN Secretary General to prepare the talks for a final and comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question," he stressed.

    He added that any other procedure such as the one proposed by Ankara and the Turkish Cypriot side - meaning direct talks without preparing the ground - will lead to a discussion of a UN-proposed solution plan (the Annan plan) which was rejected by the Greek Cypriots and approved by the Turkish Cypriots and it will reach a deadlock pretty soon.

    "I dont think that this serves the goal of a settlement or the interests of the Cyprus people," he noted.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island's northern third. In April 2004, the Greek Cypriot community rejected a UN settlement plan, as it deemed it did not meet its main legitimate concerns and it served the interests of others than the people of Cyprus.


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