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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-08-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>August 30, 2006
 Inner cabinet approves two draft legislations
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)An inner cabinet meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, approved two draft legislations for the creation of an innovation zone in Thessaloniki and a National Public Administration Center in the country.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said the draft bill envisaged a regular inspection of source of wealth statements of all officials in the Finance ministry and Town Planning agencies by a Public Administration inspector. Pavlopoulos said this was a significant regulation to promoting transparency in the public sector.
The Greek minister also said the draft bill envisaged the creation of a national commission on equality, based on the Lisbon strategy, and final regulations for the operation of a National Public Administration Center. The draft bill will be tabled to parliament on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said a draft bill on creating an innovation zone in Thessaloniki fulfilled a commitment taken by the Prime Minister and stressed that private and other investors would promote innovation and technology. Together with two more poles of innovation, created in central and western Macedonia, Northern Greece would become a center for the promotion of innovation and technology in the wider region, the Greek minister said.
 Government to place greater emphasis on prevention of forest fires, public order minister says
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras, replying on Tuesday to a question by an opposition party deputy on the adjustment of Political Planning for handling large-scale forest fires, said that the government will place greater emphasis on prevention and planning regarding the issue of forest fires.
The minister also announced the creation of water reservoirs in inland regions where access for firefighting aircraft is difficult.
Polydoras further said that the 13 old firefighting aircraft of the Canadair type will be renewed and replaced, while the hiring of 600 new firefighters has been scheduled this year.
 Gov't dismisses criticism following PM's meeting with GSEE reps
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Tuesday dismissed same-day criticism in some quarters of the press following a meeting on Monday between the prime minister, top ministers and a delegation from the country's largest trade union umbrella, GSEE.
"Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is probably the only premier that meets regularly with all the interested parties ahead of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) so that he can include their views in his address there (at the inauguration of TIF on the second weekend of September annually)," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said.
The spokesman deflected a handful of press questions during his regular briefing citing the premier's suggestion a day earlier to new GSEE president Yiannis Panagopoulos to "condense" his presentation.
"The meeting lasted for an hour and a half ... How much longer should a meeting to outline the views of institutional entities last?" Roussopoulos asked.
 Municipal association head wants gradual implementation of minimum college entrance measure
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)The head of the country's association of municipalities and communities (KEDKE) on Tuesday reiterated his call for gradual implementation of a sweeping measure by the education ministry to institute a minimum average grade for entrance to universities and technological institutes (TEI), a development that has left nearly 20,000 vacant spots around the nation - mostly in provincial TEIs, and especially in fields that apparently generate minimal interest by would-be students.
The measure - mandating a minimum average score of 10 out of a perfect 20 in a handful of subjects for university or college entrance - was announced last year for implementation in the 2006-2007 academic year. While hailed by the government and education reform advocates as absolutely necessary to ensure a basic level of academic competence on the part college freshmen, it has nevertheless caused reactions by officials in several provincial cities - Florina, Preveza, Messolonghi, Trikala, Kozani etc. - whose districts will lose revenue from dwindling student populations.
"We're asking for changes in the operational structure of universities and TEIs so that unfavorable financial consequences are avoided in provincial cities," KEDKE president and Kozani Mayor Paris Koukoulopoulos said, adding that he will table the proposal during a meeting on Wednesday with Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou.
"We, as mayors, do not enter into the substance of the measure, namely, if it should be implemented and if it is fair or not, because this is an issue that will be judged, primary, by the education community..." he added.
Despite opposition criticism and vociferous reactions by business and local government officials in many of the affected towns, most opinion polls show overwhelming support for the measure, according to the government.
Deputy minister: Meanwhile, Deputy Education Minister Spyros Taliadouros on Tuesday met with the presidents of various TEIs as well as faculty, where he reiterated that the minimum pass measure aims to increase the quality of students at higher education institutes.
"TEIs will have problems only if they do not ensure the highest level of studies and degrees," he said, adding that all of the departments will function normally this academic year no matter how many new students enroll, even if the number is in the single digit range.
TEI heads echoed the last statement, saying all of their departments will open, as students from previous semesters still must make up courses.
Finally, the president of the association representing TEI-level instructors, G. Tsaknis, said a comprehensive picture will only emerge in October, when the total number of students that registered and actually signed up for courses is known.
 Athens strenuously condemns bombings in Turkey
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek government on Tuesday expressed its unequivocal condemnation of Monday’s bombings in several sites frequented by tourists in neighboring Turkey.
"Greece consistently condemns every cowardly and blindly violent act..." government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said, while expressing a hope that Turkey’s EU course is not affected by the development.
 Athens condemns provocation at F1 race in Istanbul
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)Athens on Tuesday denounced an incident during the recent Formula 1 race in Istanbul, where the leader of the so-called Turkish Cypriot pseudo-state handed out awards to race winners.
"Such practices obviously do not overturn international law," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos merely said when asked about the incident during a regular press briefing.
The T/C entity on the divided east Mediterranean island is not recognized internationally by any country or organization sans Turkey, which continues to occupy one-third of the island republic.
 PASOK's Parliamentary Group coordinators convene
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Coordinators of the Parliamentary Group of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), under the chairmanship of party leader George Papandreou, convened on Tuesday and focused on the government's economic policy and its repercussions on the citizens' income as well as on the country's economic course.
According to PASOK's Economy Department, "the (ruling) New Democracy caused , with its fiscal audit, international doubt of the effort of an entire people to participate on equal terms in the euro-zone and placed the country under the status of fiscal supervision."
PASOK criticized the government of "adopting the practice of scandal-mongering, which it is continuing."
The main opposition party also accused the government of "weakening public administration."
 Liapis on official visit to Singapore, China this week
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis will depart Singapore and China on Wednesday. Specifically, Liapis is due to meet with Singapore Transport Minister Raymond Lim on Thursday.
On Friday, Liapis will travel to Beijing, where he will be received by China's Minister for Communications Li Shenglin, among other top officials in the Chinese capital.
 President meets SAE chief
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday met with visiting president of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) Andrew Athens.
Athens was accompanied by Hellenic Coordination Committee chairman Andrew Manatos.
 71st Thessaloniki Trade Fair to focus on innovation
30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)The 71st Thessaloniki International Trade Fair will focus on innovation and will have a stronger business and international nature.
The trade fair will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday, Sept. 8 and will remain open to the public until Sept. 17.
Helexpo, the organizer of the fair, plans a variety of parallel events aiming to establish TIF as a "festival for the city, the country, attracting the world and particularly young people".
Presenting this year's program, Helexpo president Aristotelis Thomopoulos on Tuesday said visitors would be able to visit the refurbished turning fourth floor of the telecommunications tower "a symbol of the city and of the trade fair". Helexpo has signed a lease contract with Hellenic Telecommunications Organization and plans to launch a tender for the management of the tower.
This year's theme is innovation with TIF - in cooperation with the general secretariat of Research and Technology - presenting a series of innovative products and services, such as hydrogen cars, subwater archaeology, renewable energy source technologies.
Helexpo also plans to organize a 2nd Business Forum, focusing on innovation.
OPAP, the state-run lottery and football pools organization, is the grand sponsor of this year's trade fair, which will include more than 1,009 exhibitors from Greece and other 32 countries. Helexpo said 14 percent of exhibitors were public agencies and 86 percent private companies.
Karamanlis is expected to present the government's economic policy directions for next year during his traditional speech on Sept. 9, with all political party leaders expected to visit the trade fair in the following days.
 Greek gov’t publishes improved figures for social budget
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek government on Tuesday unveiled figures for its social budget with Labor and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis expressing his satisfaction over the picture showed by the budget.
Tsitouridis said employment was rising, unemployment falling and social cohesion strengthening in the country.
Social protection spending totaled 43.3 billion euros this year, up 9.13 pct from 2005, or 22.28 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product, up from 21.92 pct in the previous year.
Spending on pensions totaled 24.5 billion euros, up 8.19 pct from last year, while spending on healthcare rose 10.37 pct to 18.8 billion euros.
The number of insured people totaled 3,931,891, with people eligible for supplementary social insurance totaling 2,749,498 and a total of 5,923,338 for healthcare services.
The ratio between insured people and pensioners was 1.77 this year, down from 1.79 in 2005, a decline of 1.12 pct, the Greek minister said. The report said that the balance of all social insurance funds showed a surplus this year, following a trend prevailing in the last decade, with revenues totaling 29.3 billion euros and expenses totaling 27.9 billion euros. Tsitouridis, noted, however, that the country's social insurance funds' balance was dramatic and urged for a more efficient management of funds.
 Greek producer's price index up 7.2 pct in July, yr/yr
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's producer price index rose 7.2 pct in July compared with the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.
The index was up 0.7 pct in July from June. The producer price index for the domestic market jumped 8.3 pct in July, from the same month in 2005, reflecting a 18.2 pct jump in oil product production, an 8.3 pct increase in food and beverage prices, a 72.8 pct increase in electric machines and appliances, a 10.1 pct rise in base metals and a 2.5 pct increase in electricity and natural gas prices. Production prices for radio, television and communication equipment, however, eased 1.4 pct.
The producer price index for the external market rose 4.3 pct in July, reflecting increases of 13 pct in oil products, 7.4 pct in base metals, 12.3 pct in electric machines, 2.4 pct in chemicals and 4.0 pct in non-mineral products.
The average producer price index in the 12-month period from August 2005 to July 2006 rose 7.5 pct, up from 4.3 pct and 2.7 pct in the two previous 12-month periods, respectively.
Tourism revenue up: National revenue from tourism has shown a 10.3% rise so far in 2006 to total 11 billion euros, or 6.1% of gross domestic product, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday.
The minister attributed the sharp increase to timely preparation of a national publicity campaign for the sector coupled with improvement of services.
He was speaking to reporters with Tourism Minister Fani Palli Petralia, who underlined that great emphasis had been laid on the campaign as a means of attracting visitors.
In addition, a major rise in tourist arrivals was reported in the first half of the year, Petralia noted.
Tourism withstanding oil crisis: Greece's tourism economy has showing staying power in the face of global surges in oil prices, a market survey said on Tuesday.
Despite the pressure from oil prices, tourism rose by about 8.5% in January-July 2006 against the same period a year earlier, said the report by the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises and Athens University's Sector Research and Analysis Workshop.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Athens share index closed at 3,828.48 points, showing a rise of 0.25%. Turnover was 245.9 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.49% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 0.20% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.42% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 167 to 93 with 55 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 4.21%
Foreign Exchange Rates
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.291
 Rhodes to activate procedures to become 2018 European Cultural Capital
30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)The municipality of Rhodes has decided to activate procedures to be proclaimed Cultural Capital of Europe for the year 2018. Scores of personalities from the country's cultural and political sectors have already been mobilized to assist the effort.
The presentation of the effort was made in the Municipal Council's auditorium on Tuesday, while reference was made to the efforts that have been made until now.
What was underlined during the presentation, both by the mayor and by other speakers, was that the target is for Rhodes to acquire its past splendor again.
 Group claims home-made bomb at lingerie plant
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)A group calling itself the Revolutionary Brigade assumed responsibility Tuesday morning for a home-made bomb that exploded outside a lingerie plant late Monday night in the Ilio district of Athens, causing damage to a trash bin, in telephone calls to three private television stations and an Athens daily newspaper.
A makeshift bomb comprising two large propane canisters and a can of flammable liquid placed outside the SEX FORM lingerie plant, on the sidewalk between the factory's fence and a trash bin, exploded at 10:04 Monday night.
Police said only one of the two propane canisters exploded, while the explosion deformed the trash bin and the second propane canister which, however, did not explode.
Police bomb-disposal experts were carrying out a laboratory examination on the remnants of the homemade bomb.
Police said they found several flyers at the scene, containing anarchist material, but which were nearly illegible.
An anonymous caller or callers telephoned the Mega, Star and Alter private television stations and Eleftherotypia daily at about 9:50 a.m. and claimed responsibility for the explosion on behalf of the Revolutionary Brigade group, saying it was an act of support for the dismissed workers.
Some 170 people were made redundant at Athens-quoted Sex Form after the recent closure of one of its plants.
The Revolutionary Brigade has also in the past claimed responsibility for similar propane canister attacks at an Emporiki Bank branch on central Korai street in July, the Tax Bureau office at Peristeri, at a canteen outside the military conscription office at Rouf, on the fence wall at the Korydallos prison in June shortly after the escape by helicopter of convict Vassilis Paleokostas and Albanian inmate Alket Rizai, a police van outside the police station in Kolonos in April, and a US-based McDonald's multinational fast-food chain outlet in the Holargos suburb of Athens.
 Mild earthquake jolts Cephalonia
30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)A mild earthquake measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale jolted the island of Cephalonia in the Ionian Sea early Tuesday, but no damage was reported, and seismologists said it was a usual phenomenon for the region.
According to the Athens National Observatory's Geodynamics Institute and the Thessaloniki Aristotelion University's Geophysics Laboratory, the earthquake was recorded at 1:49 a.m. at a distance of 300 kilometers west of Athens, with its epicenter in the sea off the southwestern coast of Cephalonia.
Geophysics Laboratory seismologists said it was a usual earthquake for the Ionian Islands region, adding that several weak aftershocks, with magnitudes of less than 3R, had been recorded up to 9:00 a.m.
Aristotelion University seismologist Manolis Skordilis told ANA-MPA that it was not possible to say whether the region presented seismic exacerbation with only one event, adding also that there were no indications pointing in that direction.
 Six forest fires reported throughout country
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)Six forest fires were reported in various parts of the country at noon on Tuesday.
The most serious fire broke out in Mani, in southern Greece, in the region of Ano Tombra, near the town of Githio. The fire spread rapidly due to strong winds blowing in the area and was close to the villages of Konakia, Myrsini, Ligereas and Pilala late in the afternoon.
Another fire broke out at Agia Triada, near the town of Psachna in the east of the country, but was placed under partial control by 6 in the evening. Yet another fire reported at Kassandrino in Halkidiki at 16.45 was also under partial control, while other fires were still raging at Dragouteli in Halkidiki and Cape Arapis on Mount Athos.
Lastly, a forest fire in the region of Prouso in Evrytania, in central Greece, was also under partial control early in the evening.
Forest fire in Sithonia abating: The forest fire in an inaccessible location above the "Zografou" camping site in the region of Sithonia, in northern Greece, is abating, according to a statement made to the ANA-MPA by the Civil Protection chief of the Central Macedonia Region, Costas Kokolakis, adding that the effort to extinguish the fire at Cape Arapis on Mounth Athos is satisfactory.
Kokolakis expressed scepticism over the fact that fires broke out within a period of a few minutes in all three "legs", in the prefecture of Halkidiki, and revealed that the forest fire at Kassandrino is under control and had broken out in a region that had not been laid waste by the recent fire.
Referring to the forest fire on Mount Athos, Kokolakis stressed that it is not threatening monasteries.
 Belgian national arrested after holding-up cab driver
ATHENS, 30/8/2006 (ANA/MPA)A Belgian national was arrested early Tuesday morning for holding up a taxi driver, together with an accomplice who escaped arrest.
Police said two young men boarded the taxi at central Omonia Square, and when they reached the Aghia Varvara district, they threatened the cab driver, from whom they took 20 euros and fled.
The driver immediately alerted the police who succeeded in locating and arresting one of the two culprits, a Belgian national.
The detainee was due to be taken before a public prosecutor later in the day.
 UN Security Council calls for full implementation of July 8 agreement
NICOSIA, 30/8/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)The UN Security Council has called for the full implementation of the July 8 agreement regarding the Cyprus question without further delay and urged that work begin quickly.
In a statement to the press, agreed by the Security Council, which met on Tuesday and focused mainly on the Cyprus problem, its president said "the members of the Security Council express support for the Secretary-General's continued efforts aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem."
"In this context, they welcome the Agreement that was reached on July 8 during the mission of the Under Secretary General Ibrahim Gambari to the region," UN Security Council President, Ghana's ambassador Nana Effah-Apenteng said.
He added that the members of the Security Council "call for full implementation of the July 8 Agreement without further delay, and urge that work begin quickly."
In statements Apenteng said that the technical committees should have started work before the end of July and they haven't, adding that this was the reason they put the last paragraph in the statement to the press.
''We also recognize that this Friday a little progress has been made,'' the Security Council president said, adding however, that ''there is still much more to be done and the assessment of the Council is that until we are sure of concrete and tangible progress it would not be advisable to launch full scale negotiations because there are still some differences as to how to tackle the problem.''
Apenteng noted that ''we hope that the SG and especially the USG will also continue to engage the parties and try to see how soon they could launch full scale negotiations but that a lot of course will depend upon the parties and we signaled that the parties should recognize that eventually it is only through peaceful coexistence that the Cyprus problem can be resolved.''
Replying to a question on what active role can the UN play to the Cyprus problem, Apenteng said that the UN still has a role to play and a positive one in that, and pointed out the fact that USG Gambari got the parties talking for the first time since 2004, which ''in itself shows that the UN has a role to play and the UN has been the only independent broker and that is the most independent body that we can get to encourage the parties.''
''Some of them don't want this issue to be discussed in the European Union so if the EU is out the only viable organization that I can see playing a positive role in this area would be the UN,'' he added.
Asked whether he knows how the situation of the Turkish Cypriots, who accepted the Annan plan but still remain under ''isolation'' will improve, Apenteng said that he has ''no idea how to solve this situation,'' adding that ''I wish I had a magic one but I don't.''
''And I think that is the course of the matter and the SG and the UN officials who are responsible for this will continue to engage the parties and to encourage them to be talking to each-other. "You cannot resolve a conflict if the parties are not talking to each-other,'' Apeneng said.
''It takes two to tango and therefore our best option is that we continue to engage the parties,'' he concluded.
On July 8 Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos met Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in the presence of Gambari. The two leaders agreed the commencement of meetings between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots on a technical level on issues that affect the day to day life of people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 FIA to investigate Talat's presence at Grand Prix
NICOSIA, 30/8/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)The International Automobile Federation (FIA) has launched a full investigation into the circumstances in which the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat was invited to present the winner's trophy at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix.
According to a FIA press release "political neutrality is fundamental to the FIA's role as the governing body of international motor sport. No compromise or violation of this neutrality is acceptable."
The results of the investigation will be presented to the FIA World Motor Sport Council, it adds.
The Cyprus government, the Cyprus Automobile Association and a number of Greek Cypriots have protested the incident in Turkey on Sunday, during which Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat presented the first prize to the Formula 1 winner. Talat was presented at the ceremony as "president'' of the illegal regime of Cyprus' Turkish-occupied north.
UN resolution 541, issued after a unilateral declaration of independence in November 1983 by the regime, deplored the declaration, considered it as legally invalid and called for its withdrawal.