|Friday, 22 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-09-17
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>September 17, 2006
 Bakoyannis attends EU foreign ministers council
BRUSSELS 17/9/2006 (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)The European Union Council of Foreign Ministers convened here on Friday, in the presence of Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, and examined developments in the western Balkans, the situation in the Middle East, Iran and Sudan and the prospect of lifting the economic embargo against the Palestinian government in the prospect of the forming of a national unity government.
As regards developments in the western Balkans, the Greek foreign minister briefed the Council on her contacts in Pristina and Belgrade on Thursday, while making special reference to the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.
On the question of Serbia in particular, Bakoyannis told reporters that a wide-spread agreement was reached in the framework of the Council for sup-porting Serbia. Positive messages must be sent to Serbia which is one of the biggest Balkan countries, as she said.
Referring to Kosovo, she said that progress has been achieved in some sectors, particularly regarding protection for monuments of great cultural importance. On the other hand, she added, the decentralization process being promoted is continuing to be problematic.
On the question of the Middle East, the foreign minister said that the situation in Lebanon was developing positively and at the moment the international military force numbered 6,000 troops.
However, Bakoyannis noted that serious problems continue to exist on the internal front in Lebanon and support for the government and the Prime Minister of Lebanon Fuad Siniora was necessary. She also said that the account of Greece's participation in the peacekeeping process so far is positive.
With regard to Iran, Bakoyannis said that diplomatic consultations are continuing, but pointed out that two options exist. The one is the implementation of the Security Council's decision in the event that Iran does not show a constructive stance and the other is the continuation of diplomatic initiatives.
Commenting on the Palestinian issue, the foreign minister said that the EU supports the efforts of President Mahmoud Abbas for the forming of a national unity government.
She further said that the EU would support the Palestinian people, but underlined that the possibilities of the EU budget were now limited and that other countries should take initiatives in the economic sector, particularly Arab countries.
Meeting with Rehn: Bakoyannis met on the sidelines of the Council with Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and discussed Turkey's European prospects, also in light of the report that the European Commission will be presenting in October.
The foreign minister noted that Ankara's government must promote the process of reforms, while on the issue of the implementation of the customs union protocol, Bakoyannis reiterated once again that Turkey must honor its signature.
She stressed that the implementation of the protocol is an "autonomous commitment" for Turkey and made it clear that in no way can there be a linking of the protocol's implementation with the promotion of the regulation on the trade status of the Turkish Cypriots.
 Employment minister releases list of alleged media inaccuracies in MEVGAL case
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)Employment Minister Savvas Tsitouridis on Friday released a list of what he described as "24 lies and inaccuracies" contained in media reports concerning the MEVGAL scandal, which point to links between the minister and the three suspects in the case.
The minister sent copies of the list in two letters to the National Broadcasting Council ESR and the Athens journalists' union ESHEA, asking ESR to take all action allowed under the law if it finds that the points listed are in breach of laws governing ethical reporting.
He said that the other people whose reputation was compromised would also be sending similar complaints to ESHEA and the ESR.
Specifically, Tsitouridis claims media reports on the MEVGAL issue contained a number of points presented without qualification, which he described as "huge lies". According to the minister:
The accused customs official Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos had at no time been his advisor at the Agriculture and Foods ministry;
Anagnostopoulos had been accused but never convicted for sugar smuggling and the minister had been unaware of any criminal record when appointing him to the Social Insurances Foundation (IKA);
Control of the Greek Sugar Industry is exercised by the company's legal, institutional organs;
Employment ministry special secretary Evgenios Papadopoulos was never stationed in Brussels and was therefore never brought from there by Tsitouridis;
General secretary Tsoutsoplidis acted only within the framework of the laws, so the claim that he had a "EU funds assembly line" was a lie;
The minister's brother Yiannis Tsitouridis and Anagnostopoulos have never had any business or other dealings together;
There has never been a "Brussels group" to which the minister's brother belonged, neither was he ever in Brussels with either Anagnostopoulos or Panagiotis Adamopoulos, a second man accused in the MEVGAL case;
It was not true that the minister had opened the social insurance issue on his own initiative, going over the prime minister's head, so that Tsitouridis could avoid the whiff of scandal;
There was no intervention, either official or otherwise, by Tsitouridis for the appointment of Adamopoulos at the Competition Commission;
Evgenios Papadopoulos at no time contacted the accused in the MEVGAL case Constantinidis and had no telephone conversation with him, since the call made to his phone was never answered;
At no time did Anagnostopoulos, Costas Tsoutsoplidis and Yiannis Tsitouridis - either all together or in groups of two - have any form of professional relations or other cooperation;
Neither Tsitouridis' brother, nor general secretary Tsoutsoplidis, have any legal or other powers to "make arrangements" as the "Brussels group";
From 2004 onwards there has been no case of smuggling at the Greek Sugar Industry, nor was Tsoutsoplidis involved in any sugar smuggling case;
There is no official or unofficial "Tsitouridis system" that acts in an untransparent way and is involved in any state activity;
Neither did the minister himself ever coincide or know Adamopoulos from 1994. He was informed of Adamopoulos' existence as a member of the European Commission when he was told that he had been chosen as general director of the Competition Commission;
At no time did Tsoutsoplidis, Yiannis Tsitouridis and the accused Anagnostopoulos take part in any business, social or any other 'triplet';
The accused Anagnostopoulos was appointed to IKA's board as an elected member of the Thessaloniki Chamber of Business and Commerce;
Evgenios Papadopoulos was never recalled from Brussels by Tsitouridis, because he was never stationed there, while he carried out specific institutional tasks within the framework of the law;
The minister's brother Yiannis Tsitouridis is not among any of the general secretaries of the development ministry;
The accused Anagnostopoulos was not chosen as the customs broker for the Greek Sugar Industry through Tsitouridis' intervention;
Tsoutsoplidis at no time awarded vocational training programs to vocational training centers in which Anagnostopoulos was a member;
Since taking over the ministry in February 2006, the minister had not made personnel changes or made proposals to control vocational training program competitions;
Tsitouridis had no social ties with the accused Adamopoulos;
Papadopoulos held no other position that created problems of incompatibility or conflict of interests with his position at the employment ministry.
Government spokesman: Employment Minister Savvas Tsitouridis refutes media reports concerning his alleged connection with the three accused in the MEVGAL blackmail case, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told reporters on Friday.
"[The minister] is sending two letters entitled '24 lies' - one to the National Broadcasting Council and one to the Athens Journalists' Union ESHEA - pointing out several inaccuracies that were said and written in the past few days by the mass media regarding the MEVGAL case," the spokesman announced.
The spokesman repeated that the government had already adopted a position on the issue of political responsibility and that these responsibilities are not collective but individual.
Antonaros against stressed that the present government did not tolerate phenomena of corruption and that anyone arrested, whatever position he might occupy and wherever he may belong, will suffer the consequences of the law. The government's tolerance is zero, he repeated.
Questioned about political responsibilities that may arise for Tsitouridis through the possible involvement of Evgenios Papadopoulos in the MEVGAL case, Antonaros said that the government will take all phenomena of corruption to justice and there will be no cover-ups.
To questions regarding the operation of the Competition Commission and whether there was a dairy industry cartel, Antonaros said the existence of a cartel was the subject of an ongoing investigation.
Regarding the Competition Commission, he said that the law-breaking behavior of one individual did not stop the operation of the entire Commission, which had several members. He said the democratic system had rules and principles that work and lead to conclusions.
Where delinquent behavior exists the regulations provided are applied and measures and penalties are imposed. "We must let the institutions do their work," Antonaros said.
Thessaloniki Prefect on his links to MEVGAL blackmail case suspect: Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis stressed his full agreement with the prime minister's stance of zero tolerance for corruption on Friday when asked about his known ties with customs officer Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos, one of three men accused of trying to blackmail the northern Greek dairy industry MEVGAL with the threat of a Competition Commission fine.
Psomiadis said that he was personally unaware of any evidence before September 10 that implicated Anagnostopoulos in any way, stressing that the case was now before justice and that Anagnostopoulos would be punished if he had done wrong.
Asked why he had not made any comment on the first day that the scandal was revealed, the prefect claimed to have been in a state of shock. He also urged anyone to having evidence of wrongdoing linked to the prefecture or anyone to give this to justice.
Accused in MEVGAL case before magistrate; Competition Commission head gives evidence: Two of the three men accused of attempting to blackmail the dairy industry MEVGAL asked and received a postponement of their hearing before an examining magistrate on Friday.
Earlier that morning, meanwhile, the magistrate had a lengthy audience with Competition Commission President Spiros Zisimopoulos, who was asked to submit all the documents connected to the case as evidence.
A similar request was made on Thursday by the lawyer representing one of the accused, Costas Constantinidis.
Constantinidis was given until Saturday morning in order to prepare for his appearance before the magistrate, while suspended Competition Commission general director Panagiotis Adamopoulos is to appear on Sunday morning.
The two asked for additional time to prepare, in order to be briefed on the evidence collected so far and Friday's testimony before the magistrate by Zisimopoulos.
Competition Commission on review of cases due to MEVGAL scandal:The Competition Commission on Friday outlined the procedure to be used by the three-member committee assigned to review the outstanding cases before it, due to the investigation being carried out into a corruption case involving the Commission's suspended general director Panagiotis Adamopoulos.
In an announcement, the Commission said that its plenum and the sections of the Commission will continue to work on these cases as soon as this review is complete. If the review by the three-member committee is not completed on the day set for discussion of the case, then a new date will be set as soon as possible.
Customs official held in custody: Customs official Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos was held in custody on Friday after testifying before an Athens court. He is charged in the issue of the blackmailing of Mevgal dairy company.
Anagnostopoulos began his testimony at 12:30 p.m. and concluded around 6 p.m.
On the Mevgal issue, the charges against him include blackmail and bribery.
 PASOK deputies table question on 'mistaken handling of foreign policy'
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)A question was tabled in Parliament by 28 deputies of the main opposition PASOK party on Friday, headed by Athens second constituency Deputy Andreas Loverdos, for Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis regarding the "mistaken handling of foreign policy."
"The government is watching as an ordinary spectator developments in Euro-Turkish relations and the issue of Cyprus, the two-year period of our tenure at the UN Security Council is being exhausted without initiatives and specific activities, while on the question of the Middle East Greece activated itself in a way that was delayed, fragmental and sometimes mistaken as well, as was proved by the avoidance of a meeting between the minister and the leadership of Syria, during her recent tour of the Middle East," the PASOK deputies said in their question.
The deputies also criticized the government for distancing itself from developments in the western Balkans and for Greece's "absolute absence" from developments in the European Union.
 Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas meets local administration candidates
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Deputy Ministers Yiannis Papathanasiou and Anastasios Nerantzis and Secretary General Nikos Stefanou met on Friday with the candidate for the Athens-Piraeus supraprefecture Fofi Gennimata and the candidates for the Athens and Piraeus prefectures Yiannis Sgouros and Yiannis Michas.
Speaking after the meeting, Sioufas said that cooperation between the development ministry and prefectural and local administration can produce appropriate results for both the citizens and businesses, adding that a number of duties in sectors supervised by the development ministry are being carried out by the prefectures and primarily concern checks in the market and development services for licensing businesses.
"The development ministry, following a policy of principles, aims at close cooperation with all, apart from party options and preferences," the minister said.
 Economic and Social Council of Greece delegation to visit Romania
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)A delegation from the Economic and Social Council (O.K.E.) of Greece will visit the corresponding council of Romania in Bucharest from September 18-19.
The five-member delegation, headed by O.K.E.'s president Nikolaos Analytis, will meet with the president, vice-president and the presidents of the committees of Romania's corresponding council.
During the meetings, Analytis will stress the importance of the institutionalised social dialogue in European and international developments and on the importance of cooperation between Greece and Romania in the European Union (EU).
Romania is expected to join the EU on January 1, 2007.
 Balkan communist parties meet in Thessaloniki
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)Representatives of communist parties from the Balkan countries were meeting Friday in Thessaloniki, at the invitation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).
The purpose of the meeting is an exchange of views, experiences, concerns and proposals based on the developments in the region, and "the assumption of specific initiatives to strengthen the anti-imperialism struggle and the class struggle, and coordination at regional and international level", according to the organisers.
The delegates were examining "the action of the communist parties against imperialism and the capitalistic exploitation of the Balkans".
In a greeting to the meeting, KKE political bureau member Dimitris Koutsoumbas stressed the need to strengthen cooperation among the Balkan communist parties through joint actions and initiatives for reactivation of the Balkan Anti-NATO Centre, strengthening the struggle "against the imperialistic military presence in the Balkans, the foreign bases and troops", and against the "so-called Balkan Brigade and the participation of military corps from the Balkan countries in NATO and EU missions to other countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere".
He called for the return of the troops from the Balkan countries that were currently outside their countries, and the non-involvement of the countries of the region "in the new imperialistic wars and the threats being launched against the peoples of Iran, Syria and other peoples".
Koutsoumbas called on the communist parties to "reinforce, with their presence, the solidarity delegations with the people of Lebanon and Palestine" and to take active part in the anti-NATO demonstrations being prepared to take place during the NATO conference in Riga, Latvia, in November.
Taking part in the conference were representatives of the communist parties of Albania, Bulgaria, FYROM and Turkey, and the socialist and/or labor parties of Croatia, Romania and Turkey. Greetings and written interventions have also bee sent by the Bosnia-Herzegovina communist labor party, the socialist alliance party of Romania, and the communist party of Romania.
The KKE is represented at the conference by MP Aggelos Tzekis, Koutsoumbas, political bureau member Theodosis Constantinidis, members of the KKE central committee, and Thessaloniki Prefect candidate Yannis Ziogas.
 Interior minister inaugurates cultural centre in Megara
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos inaugurated the cultural centre of the municipality of Megara on Friday night and outlined government cultural policy at a local level.
"Culture and its promotion at a local level is one of the basic axes of our policy in the sector of local administration, as it is also formulated in the new Municipalities and Communities Code," he said.
Pavlopoulos further said that local administration is provided with the possibility of building, maintaining and managing sports installations, while its decisive participation in the development of local cultural tourism is also anticipated.
 Primary school teachers' union meets left-wing party leaders
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)The Primary School Teachers Union of Greece (DOE) held successive meetings on Friday with the leaders of the left-wing parties in Parliament, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga and Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party leader Alekos Alavanos, in view of the five-day teachers' strike beginning on Monday.
DOE said that it presented all the union's demands and asked the parties to support the struggle of the 72,000 teachers in its ranks. Both Alavanos and Papariga described the union's demands as just and pledged their support.
Primary school and kindergarten teachers will strike throughout next week, while the union also plans a meeting outside the education ministry on Monday morning and a student-teacher rally outside the gates of Athens university at noon on Wednesday.
The union blamed the government for the disruption to the country's schools and stressed that a general assembly of local teacher union presidents will be held on Saturday week to decide what the next steps should be.
 Serbian President to visit Mt. Athos, Thessaloniki
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)Serbian President Vojislav Kostunica will pay an unofficial visit to the Mt. Athos all-male monastic community over the weekend, it was announced on Friday.
Kostunica is due to visit the historic 10th century Hilandarion Monastery, where some 25 monks of Serb origin live.
At noon on Monday, Kostunica is due to visit the Thessaloniki City Hall, where he will meet with mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos.
The visit coincides with the inauguration of an exhibition of paintings by 28 Serbian artists at the Municipal Gallery, titled "Visit to the Mount", as part of this year's Dimitria Festival program.
The Monastery, which was built in 1188, suffered serious damage in a fire in March 2004, and restoration works are still underway. Fortunately, the fire caused damage only to the structure, as the monks and firefighers managed to remove the priceless relics from the blazing building.
Hilandarion Monastery was founded by Hilandarios (or Helandarios) Ratskos, the son of Serbian King Stephen Nemania, who went to Athens where he became a monk at the St. Panteleimonos Monastery, under the name Savvas. He was followed by his father, who also became a monk under the name of Simeon, and the two men built the Monastery. Savvas later became the archbishop of Serbia. When the two monks died, they were proclaimed saints, and their graves are located to the northeast of the main temple.
The monastery is dedicated to the Presentation of the Vrigin Mary, which is celebrated on November 12.
 Report concerning building owned by Gennimata untrue, IKA governor says
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)Social Insurances Foundation (IKA) governor Yiannis Vartholomeos on Friday said that an IKA investigation had cleared Athens-Piraeus Super-Prefect Fofi Gennimata of allegations that she was part-owner of a hotel being built on the island of Aigina using uninsured workers.
In an reply to Gennimata, Vartholomeos said that IKA investigated all reports that workers were employed on building sites or businesses without payment of social insurance contributions, especially when the reports referred to multiple employers.
"No construction of a building owned by yourself was found by the investigation," Vartholomeos said and expressed his regret that "an inaccurate and malicious allegation against you was made public".
He said that IKA had already publicly denied the statement made by Piraeus IKA-TEAM department.
 Spanish frigate due in Piraeus to take part in SNMG-2
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)The Spanish frigate "Queen Sophia (F-84)" was due to arrive at the port of Piraeus on Friday, to take part in the SNMG-2 (Standing NATO Maritime Group-2), NATO's permanent force in the Mediterranean.
According to an announcement by the military department of the Embassy of Spain, the frigate is the fourth of the type "Santa Maria", based on the American model "Oliver Hazard Perry". The frigate was delivered to the Spanish armada in October 1990.
The frigate will remain in Piraeus until Monday, when it will sail with the other NATO forces.
 Inaugural Arab-Hellenic economic forum in Athens
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)The first-ever Arab-Hellenic economic forum was held in Athens on Friday, with the primary focus on expanding tourism markets, both ways.
Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, among others, noted that private investments in the greater Athens area's hotel sector alone -- renovations and new construction -- have reached 500 million euros.
Lebanese Tourism Minister Joseph Sakris also addressed the forum, where he detailed the catastrophic consequences, as he said, that recent warfare inflicted on his country's tourism sector and infrastructure.
Finally, the president of the association of Greek tourism and travel agents (HATTA), Yiannis Evangelou, said the number of Greek tourists to Syria, for instance, doubled in 2006.
On the sidelines of the event, representatives of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) signed a memorandum of cooperation with the corresponding chamber in the UAE city of Sharjah.
 Greek, UAE trade chambers in cooperation
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)The Athens Chamber of Trade and Industry on Friday signed a memorandum of cooperation with its counterpart in the city of Sharjah of the United Arab Emirates for an exchange of market data and information on the tax and legislation of the two countries, as well as a move to promote alliances among companies.
The memorandum was signed on the sidelines of an Arab-Greek economic forum held in Athens, the first of its kind.
 PASOK's V. Papandreou criticizes FinMin Alogoskoufis over 3rd CSF
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputy Vasso Papandreou, who is head of the party's economic section, on Friday criticized statements made by Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis the day before.
"Mr. Alogoskoufis declares that there has been great progress in the absorption of funds from the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF) under New Democracy (ND) party governance. However, the data dispute what he said. They show the ND government's responsibility and incompetency to manage the existing funds," the PASOK deputy said.
 Eurostat: Inflation dips in Greece to 3.4% in August
BRUSSELS 17/9/2006 (ANA-MPA)The annual inflation rate in Greece fell to 3.4 percent in August 2006 from 3.9 percent in July 2006, according to the latest figures released here by Eurostat on Friday.
The lowest inflation rates in the EU for August were recorded in Finland (1.3 percent), Sweden (1.6 percent) and Poland (1.7 percent). The highest were recorded in Latvia (6.8 percent), Slovakia and Estonia (5 percent).
 Employment up in retail sector
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)Employment in the retail sector jumped 2.5 percent in the second quarter of 2006 in comparison to the same period of 2005, whereas the difference between the first and second quarters of the year was a 3.4-percent increase in the latter.
According to the national statistical service (ESYE), the increase in the number of employees in the sector is due to more hiring in supermarkets and food outlets.
 Hellenic Aerospace in new deal with Alenia
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) said on Friday that it had signed a new 27.5 million euro contract in Rome with Alenia Aeronautica of Italy, expanding commercial links between the two firms already totalling 97 million euros.
The deal involves participation by the Greek state-run defense and aviation contractor in construction and assembly of parts of the C-130J military transport airplane between 2007 and 2013, HAI said in a statement.
The new contract means that HAI has doubled its sales deals since the start of the year to top 317 million euros in comparison with turnover in 2005, the statement said.
The Greek firm's CEO, Tassos Filippakos, unveiled the pact with Alenia on the sidelines of the Thessaloniki international trade fair, where he inaugurated HAI's pavilion.
 Large Turkish business delegation visits Samos
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)A large Turkish business delegation comprising 120 entrepreneurs, accompanied by Greece's consul in Izmir, arrived on the island of Samos on Friday on a two-day visit for meetings with the chairman of the Samos Chamber of Commerce and Industry and local businessmen and merchant associations.
The delegation will also meet with the president of the local Union of Municipalities and Communities, as well as the Prefectural Tourism Projection Committee.
On the sidelines of their meetings, the Turkish entrepreneurs will tour the island's archaeological sites.
 Gov't eyes tourism-only curriculum at selected university
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)The government on Friday announced plans to create a university-level studies program entirely focused on tourism and tourism-related services.
The announcement came following a meeting between Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou and Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia.
According to the latter, the ministry has already sent interested universities the proposal.
 Greek scientists cultivate type of Chinese mushroom with anti-cancer qualities
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)Greek scientists have managed to cultivate in Greece a type of Chinese mushroom, the Lentinula Edodes, which is known for thousands of years and which has anti-cancer qualities and protects from heart illnesses.
They have secured a patent, as the scientists managed to grow the mushroom in less than five months, at the time when it takes two years for it to grow when the classical method is used.
The scientists are now seeking an investor so as to proceed in the mushroom's industrial cultivation in Greece.
This type of mushroom, which is considered a panacea in China from the Ming dynasty era (1300-1400) and is used for the cure of the common cold and the combating of microbes in the intestine, contains Lentinan, which has anti-cancer qualities.
The disclosure was made by the director of the Biotechnology Institute, Kleanthis Israilidis, during a conference on the theme Organic Cultivation/Nutrition, within the framework of the 71st Thessaloniki International Fair.
 Greece's National Theatre to perform 'The Persians' at NYNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P.Panagiotou)
Greece's National Theatre is currently on a U.S, tour during which it will present Aeschylus' "The Persians".
During a press conference at the Greek Press Office in New York on Friday, Lydia Koniordou, leading actress of the company, said that the tragedy is "a homage and a hymn to Democracy" as well as an anti-war masterpiece.
Koniordou, who directed and stars in "The Persians", underlined the everlasting values and messages of this ancient tragedy, noting the "errors committed by empires, wealth, greed and the hybris of power, which lead not only to their own destruction but also to ecological destruction."
"The Persians" will be performed at the "City Center" theatre from September 16-20.
 Trio carrying forged passports intercepted prior Copenhagen flight
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)Authorities at the airport in Hania, Crete arrested three foreign nationals, believed to be Iraqis, during passport screening for a flight between Hania and Copenhagen.
Police said the three men possessed the forged passports as part of an attempt to reach Denmark. All three said they purchased the passports from unknown suspects in Athens.
Additionally, a Palestinian man awaiting a flight to Athens was arrested at the same airport in possession of a forged Iraqi airport.
 Visa-related fine for Lebanese nationals axed
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)An amendment was tabled in Parliament on Friday, attached to an unrelated draft bill on land registry titles, to erase potential fines against Lebanese nationals who exceeded their legal residency duration in Greece, following recent warfare in the Mideast country and a related air and naval blockade between July 12 and Aug. 14.
A stipulation in the amendment adds that a departure date of no later than Sept. 14, 2006 is necessary for eligible Lebanese nationals.
 Arsonists target PAO office in Haidari
Athens 17/9/2006 (ANA)A Panathinaikos Pireaus Soccer Club office in Haidari was targeted by unidentified arsonists late Thursday night, resulting in minor material damage, police said.
They said unidentified persons threw three home-made fire-bombs (molotov cocktails) at the PAO Haidari office on Athinon Avenue, and the ensuing fire caused minor damage.
 Cypriot FM: Turkey must fulfill obligations to avoid train crash with EU
NICOSIA 17/9/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Turkey can avoid a "train crash" with the European Union, provided that Ankara meets its EU obligations, including the ones concerning the Republic of Cyprus, Cypriot Foreign Minister George Lillikas said here Friday, in statements on his arrival from Brussels, where he attended the EU General Affairs and Foreign Relations Council.
Lillikas expressed the view that Ankara has enough time to meet its EU commitments until the 24th of October, when the European Commission will publish its progress report on the EU-Turkey accession negotiations, and expressed the view that Ankara could even fulfill its obligations until the 15th of December when the European Council will take place.
The Cypriot minister said that in Brussels he met with EU Commissioner for Enlargement Oli Rehn with whom he discussed the implementation of the financial aid regulation for the Turkish Cypriots, adding that the Republic of Cyprus has the political will to contribute to the development of the Turkish Cypriots, in line with the laws of Cyprus.
During the meeting with Rehn, Lillikas conveyed the expectations of the government of Cyprus regarding the context of the Commission's progress report on Turkey.
The progress report, he said, should be objective and cover all Turkish commitments, in accordance with the 21 of September, 2005 EU counterstatement on Turkey's unilateral declaration that it does not recognize Cyprus.
The EU counterstatement urged Turkey to implement in full the Customs Union protocol, by opening its ports and airports to Cyprus and called upon Turkey to normalize its relations with the Republic of Cyprus.
"We expressed conviction that if Turkey wishes to avoid a crisis and a train crash with the EU, it has enough time, from now until October to respond positively to the commitments it voluntarily undertook. This is the only way to avoid a crisis in Turkey's accession course", the minister noted.
Lillikas said that for Cyprus, it constitutes a priority that Turkey fulfills its obligations, adding that "it is not an end-in-itself to create a crisis in Turkey's accession course".
"The government of Cyprus would be very happy if Turkey meets its commitments. But if this is not the case, then surely, it cannot continue unhindered its accession course," he stressed.
Meanwhile, in statements in Brussels after his meeting with Rehn, Lillikas said that the Cypriot government's position on Turkey's accession course remains a supportive one, but not without any preconditions.
"Provided that Turkey, not only refuses to meet its EU obligations, but it adopts extreme positions, the Republic of Cyprus will under no circumstances give its consent for the opening of crucial chapters," Lillkas stressed.
"The only way to avoid a crisis in this crucial time, until Turkey's progress report, is that the Commission and the Presidency avoid bringing in new negotiating chapters. This period cannot be used to facilitate Turkey by opening or closing new chapters," he said.
Regarding the EU-Turkey negotiating chapter on "education and culture", which opened some time ago, he said that some countries express disagreement on the possibility that this chapter closes.
The Cypriot minister also met with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden Jan Eliasson, whom he briefed on the recent developments on the Cyprus problem as well as on Cyprus' positions regarding Turkey's accession course.
In a speech he gave at the General Affairs and Foreign Relations Council in Brussels, Lillikas noted that the EU should support the government of Lebanon in its efforts now for reconstruction of the country and added that the EU should make more steps in helping resolve the Palestinian issue.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in May 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Turkey, a country aspiring to become an EU member state, does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus and refuses to implement the EU-Turkey Customs Union Protocol, by opening its ports and airports to Cyprus.
 Turkey must abide by its EU commitments, says Cyprus spokesman
NICOSIA 17/9/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Turkey has undertaken a commitment to meet, without terms or preconditions, all its obligations towards the European Union and the Republic of Cyprus, said here Friday Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardes.
Asked whether the government intends to abide by its position that it will not allow the opening of a new negotiating chapter with Turkey, unless Ankara meets its EU obligations, the Spokesman said that "this position is clear".
"We will not change our position based on any pressures exerted on us, which are against our interests or our rights", he added.
"Ankara undertook a commitment to meet, without any terms or preconditions, all its obligations towards the EU and the Republic of Cyprus", the spokesman noted.
Pashiardes was also invited to comment on Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul's statement that the negative stance of the Turkish people towards Turkey's accession to the EU emerges from the fact that Ankara gives promises on a higher level which it does not keep.
''If Gul does not feel comfortable with his country's refusal to meet its obligations, surely he has the time to change this", the spokesman said.
 French FM: Turkey must respect EU commitments
NICOSIA 17/9/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)French Minister of Foreign Affairs Philippe Douste Blazy said that the opening of Turkish ports and airports to the Republic of Cyprus is an important part of the process, noting that Ankara must meet EU obligations.
Speaking after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul in Paris and commenting on remarks that the Finnish Presidency referred to a crisis due to Ankara's ongoing refusal to implement the additional Protocol of the Ankara Agreement, the French minister said that Turkey has made certain commitments which have to be respected otherwise the necessary conclusions will be reached.
As regards the Cyprus issue, Douste Blazy underlined the French government's position that the UN is the framework in which the problem has to be resolved and expressed support towards the UN Secretary General's latest efforts.
 China continues to support fair Cyprus solution
NICOSIA 17/9/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)China continues to support the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus and the principles on which the solution of the Cyprus problem should be based, said here Friday Chen Rongshu who heads a visiting delegation of the Chinese Trade Union Federation.
Acting President of the Republic of Cyprus and House Speaker Demetris Christofias received the Chinese delegation, which is in Cyprus at the invitation of PEO trade union.
Christofias expressed the gratitude of the people of Cyprus for China's steadfast support at all international fora.
He added that the Cypriot people will continue their struggle for an island free from the Turkish occupation army and reunited in the framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
At the meeting they discussed the rapidly growing relations between Cyprus and China and agreed that they should be further enhanced in all areas.
Rongshu assured that China "supports the fair positions of Cyprus regarding the Cyprus problem, as well as the island's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity".
The Republic of Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, is divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.
 House President: Turkey avoids EU responsibilities
NICOSIA 17/9/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)House President Demetris Christofias has said that Turkey's cooperation towards productive negotiations on every day as well as substantial issues, relating to the question of Cyprus, would probably give the Greek Cypriot side a feeling of cautious optimism.
Speaking at the conference of the Commonwealth Partner for the Technology Partnership (CPTM), Christofias said that Turkey insists arrogantly on avoiding to fulfill its obligations towards the EU and pointed out that there is room for considerable pressure on Turkey, if Ankara is sincere about its European ambitions and is serious about meeting its obligations to all 25 EU members, as these relate to its accession course.
"The UN is and will remain the forum within which we must seek a solution to the Cyprus question," he stressed, adding that an agreed solution will surely meet the concerns of the Greek and the Turkish Cypriot communities and will guarantee the stability and the viability of any settlement.
A viable, if now a just solution, would reunify the country, divided since Turkish troops invaded in 1974, and will enable Greek and Turkish Cypriots live in peace within the European family, he added.
"We remain committed to a bizonal, bicommunal federation, based on UN resolutions and the principles of the EU," the House President concluded.
 US Ambassador: Cyprus a very important ally in the war on terror
NICOSIA 17/9/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)US Ambassador to Cyprus Ronald Schlicher donated on Friday to the Cypriot Fire Department a Mobile Mass Decontamination Unit, stressing that ''Cyprus is a very important ally of the United States in the global war on terror.''
''Today symbolizes the fact that Cyprus is a very important ally of the United States in the global war on terror and what capabilities that we put together to combat any possible terrorist attacks are enormously important,'' Schlicher said addressing a special ceremony at the Fire Department's Headquarters.
Once again, the US diplomat praised Cyprus offer during the 34-day war in Lebanon, in assisting the US government evacuating a total of 13,000 American citizens from the war-ravaged country.
''What our two governments accomplished together at that time in the past is a miracle and that miracle was made possible by the fact that we worked together so well,'' Schlicher said, expressing hope that ''today's occasion will create another capability if we work together then we can accomplish another miracle."
The US donation includes nine protective suits as well as chemical and biological test kits. The donation follows a week of training of 19 Fire Department, Police, Customs and Civil Defense on the use of Mass Decontamination Unit and on responding to the intentional or unintentional release of hazardous chemical or biological agents.
Fire Department's Chief Giorgos Papageorgiou said that his department maintains excellent relations with the US Embassy and has a close cooperation especially in the field of training.
''The training completed today is a continuation of the training made last year in combating intentional or unintentional release of chemical agents,'' Papageorgiou added.