|Monday, 20 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-06-13
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 13 June 2007 Issue No: 2617
 Reforms a national issue, PM says at Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry eventPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis, addressing an event organised on Tuesday evening by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) and appealing to the business world, said that reforms are a national issue and a "development process that is advancing far from inflexibilities and unrealistic ideas."
Karamanlis also underlined once again the importance of creative dialogue for the achievement of the government's reformist policy.
The EBEA gave awards for the 12th consecutive year to a group of able businessmen and firms who displayed remarkable business activity during the past year. The ceremony for the "Business Awards 2007" took place during an event held at the Athens Concert Hall.
Karamanlis stressed that reforms are a process which is proceeding with the support of the "social alliance of changes."
The prime minister added that "during the three years that we have had the responsibility of governance we have been exercising a responsible policy with the double aim of sustainable fiscal adjustment and sustainable strong development. We are restructuring public finances and we are creating new development tools."
He also stressed that the goverment's top priority is continuing and speeding up reforms for the further improvement of the economy's competitiveness and the further decrease in unemployment, for new opportunities in entrepreneurship and, lastly, to upgrade the citizens' standard of living.
Karamanlis further said that the National Strategic Framework for the new 2007-2013 programming period places particular emphasis on strengthening entrepreneurship, competitiveness, research and innovation, as well as on investing in human capital.
Addressing the same event, Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis appealed to businesses to follow an "aggressive" step to achieve their development and stressed that the government's policy is helping firms in this direction with the implementation of the goals it has set.
The minister also reiterated the government's position that it is not remaining complaisant as regards the target of unemployment to enable social cohesion to improve.
He further said that Greece is leaving behind the "state-focused model that accumulated deficits for the economy and debts for the generations to come. We are decreasing the state's participation in the GDP. From 48 percent in 2004 to 44.4 percent in 2006 and to 43.9 percent this year."
Announcing the names of those receiving the awards, EBEA President Constantine Mihalos said that a great deal has been done for the business climate in past years but, as he said, "there is still a great deal to be done to enable positive trends to be stabilised and strengthened."
Primarily, a rational, just and viable Social Insurance System, opening secluded markets and secluded professions, increasing investments in research and innovation, adopting new technologies and a reliable educational system, improving Public Administration and cracking down on bureaucracy, the multiplicity of laws, partisanship and the poor quality of services.
 President Papoulias meets with Moldovan counterpart Voronin, three cooperation accords signedPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday met with his visiting counterpart from Moldova, President Vladimir Voronin, at the presidential mansion.
Voronin arrived in Athens on Tuesday on a two-day state visit at Papoulias' invitation.
Papoulias expressed pleasure at the Moldovan president's visit to Greece, stressing that historic bonds between the two countries, given that many Greek leaders had lived and governed in Moldova.
"Ypsilantis had his headquarters there, and I am certain that there will be a gift from Moldova to Greece: The return of the home where Ypsilantis lived and acted from," Papoulias said.
Turning to bilateral relations, Papoulis said they were "cloudless and problem-free", noting that there was an extensive legal framework that facilitated cooperation in all sectors, a cooperation that was "friendly and cordial", while the signing earlier in the day of cooperation agreements between the two countries contributed to further strengthening of those relations.
Noting that the desire for that has been expressed by both sides, Papoulias expressed his certanty that there will be a multi-faced development of the bilateral relations,
Papoulias further thanked Voronin for his invitation to the Greek president to visit Moldova soon, accepting the invitation.
The Moldovan President, in turn, noted that, from the very first moment, when he and Papoulias had planted two plane trees in the town of Milies (in Pelion, in October 2005), their relations have been cordial and friendly.
"History has proved that countries with historic bonds do not necesssarily have friendly relations. But our case is different. Our long relationship is founded on friendship, and was strengthened by the common struggles for independence," Voronin said, adding his hope that "the present-day people of Greece and Moldova will continue developing these relations".
Turning to internal affairs in Modova, Voronin said his country was in a period of reforms, adding that it was very important to have Greece at its side along the hard road to accession to the European structures.
"Also important to us is Greece's genuine stance by our side so that we, too, will join the European family at some point," he continued.
Voronin also reaffirmed Modova's desire for the best prospects in its relations with Greece.
Earlier, Papoulias welcomed Voronin on his arrival at the presidential mansion with an official ceremony that was also atteded by parliament's first vice-president George Sourlas, interior minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, and the leaderships of the Armed Forces and the Security Corps.
After the discussion between the two Presidents, an expanded meeting took place with the participation of delegations between the two countries, during which three bilateral cooperation accords were signed, in the presence of Papoulias and Voronin.
A Memorandum of Cooperation in the sectors of public administration, personnel management and organisation was signed by Pavlopoulos and Moldova's deputy prime minister and minister of local public administration Vitalie Vrabie. A cooperation agreement in the sectors of culture, education and science was signed by education minister Marietta Yannakou and Vrabie, and an agreement for mutual assistance between the customs authorities of the two countries was signed by deputy national economy and finance minister Antonis Bezas and the director general of Moldova's customs service Feodosia Furculita.
Visiting Moldova President meets prime minister, Psarouda-Benaki
Visiting Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on Tuesday met Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, at the prime minister's offices. No statements were made after the meeting.
Voronin also met Greek Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki, who said that his visit to Greece was "an important indication of the very good relations between Greece and Moldova".
Psarouda-Benaki noted that many Moldovan nationals were currently in Greece, where they were "surrounded by love and protection", while many Greeks visited Moldova, "where there are many monuments to Greek culture, that we support and maintain in good cooperation with the state".
Moldova's president confirmed the very good cooperation between Greece and Moldova, which was strengthened through bilateral contacts and referred to the possibility of extending this cooperation to new areas of activity.
President Papoulias hosts official dinner
President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias hosted an official dinner in honor of visiting Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, at the Presidential Mansion on Tuesday evening.
In his address, Papoulias reffered to "the historic bonds of friendship between the two countries, bonds which can be traced back to the era of the struggles of the Greek people for independence."
President Papoulias recalled that "one of the most important personalities of our freedom struggle, Alexandros Ypsilantis, had Moldova as a headquarters for his action. It was the era when Moldova hosted important Greeks of the diaspora, many of whom had distinguished themselves for their commercial but also spiritual activities."
Papoulias noted that "Moldova today is an independent country which has a clear European orientation and constructs its future on the potential offered it by its natural wealth and the dynamism of its people."
Referring to his talks with Voronin, Papoulias stressed that "these confirmed the high level of our bilateral relations, which are characterized by a climate of mutual esteem and trust and underlined our common intention for the further promotion of our bilateral cooperation in all sectors."
Papoulias also noted that Moldova "constitutes a country of strategic interest for the Greek policy of developmental cooperation" and said that "only for the period 2003-2005, our country allotted more than four million euros to developmental programs in Moldova, such as in the sectors of training, public administration, the promotion of trade and employment."
Eralier on Tuesday, President Voronin had successive meetings with main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga and Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos.
FinMin hosts lunceon for Moldovan president
National Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Tuesday hosted a luncheon in honour of visiting Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and the delegation accompanying him.
The economic relations between the two countries were discussed during the luncheon, a finance ministry press release said.
 Bakoyannis discusses Middle East, bilateral relations with Syrian PresidentDAMASCUS (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)
Greece's foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis met Tuesday in Damascus with Syrian president Bashar al-Asad, on the second leg of her tour of the Middle East.
A 90-minute meeting between delegations of the two countries was followed by a half-hour private discussion between Bakoyannis and President al-Asad.
In statements afterwards, Bakoyannis said that Athens hoped to convey a message of moderation and cooperation to leaders in the region as the nearest European country and one that fully appreciated the dangers:
"Greece has a steady and active interest in the region. It is accepted as a reliable and unbiased interlocutor. Our goal is to pass a substantive message, a message of moderation, a message of dialogue, a message of cooperation," Bakoyannis told reporters after the meeting.
She said that this was the main goal of her talks with government officials in Syria and Israel, while emphasising that the dangers were great and that bringing peace close was in the interests of all sides.
"Europe must be present. It must realise that the issues of the Middle East concern us all directly. Greece is the European country nearest to the region. It fully appreciates the dangers and we are making an active effort to find a serious and permanent solution," she added.
During an earlier press briefing, Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, who is accompanying Bakoyannis, said the two sides had an overall discussion on the situation in the Middle East, with emphasis on Lebanon, the Palestinian issue, and Iraq.
Koumoutsakos declined comment on a front-page report in an Israeli newspaper that Bakoyannis was conveying a message to al-Asad from the Israeli prime minister. "Greece does not function as an envoy of another country, but conveys its own message, which is a message of dialogue without exclusions," he said in response to questions.
The spokesman described as "exceptionally constructive" a later meeting between Bakoyannis and Syrian deputy prime minister for economic affairs Abdallah al-Dardari, adding that the two sides had agreed on the need to further develop bilateral economic cooperation, with emphasis on the sectors of construction, shipping, transfer of knowhow, energy, tourism and agriculture.
The next step regarding economic cooperation will be a visit by Greek deputy foreign minister Evripides Stylianidis to Syria, heading a business delegation, in the near future, Koumoutsakos said.
Bakoyannis was also due to have separate meetings later with Syrian vice-president Farouk al-Shara and with foreign minister Walid Mualem.
In the afternoon, before departing for Amman, the capital of Jordan, Bakoyannis will also meet with Patriarch Ignatios of Antioch.
 FM supports involvement of all Middle East countries in peace dialogueDAMASCUS (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis expressed support for the involvement of all Middle East countries, without exclusions, in a peace dialogue and for Syria's closer cooperation with the international community, during talks with the Syrian political and state leadership on Tuesday.
Briefing reporters before departing for Amman, Jordan, Bakoyannis said "we must encourage all sides for a new peace process in the Middle East. We are encouraging and embracing all the efforts that have taken place until now and we believe that only through dialogue and not force can we achieve what the entire region desires and what children in the Middle East deserve:a permanent peace. This is the strong and clear message that I bring."
At a time when visits by European officials to Syria are increasing, visits recently took place by Italian Foreign Minister Massimo d'Alema, his Portuguese counterpart Amada and the European Union's High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Javier Solana, the foreign minister called for the EU's even greater involvement in the region.
Lastly, referring to Greece, Bakoyannis said that it is fully aware of the great dangers that are lurking and being the European country closest to the Middle East and an EU member-state "we shall not spare efforts to achieve the goal of peace."
As regards bilateral relations with Syria, the foreign minister said that they are "extremely good", while the next steps are being prepared to strengthen political and economic cooperation.
Bakoyannis met with Antioch Patriarch Ignatios in the afternoon. She will be meeting Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit in Jordan on Wednesday, as well as Foreign Minister Abdelilah Al Khatib.
 PM, Al Gore to speak on climate change on WednesdayPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis is to speak at an event organised by the "Constantine Karamanlis" Institute for Democracy on Wednesday on "Climate change: active citizens for the future of the citizen".
Also speaking at the same event will be former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore.
 Greece to persist with UN talks over FYROM name issue, government saysAlternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Tuesday said that Greece would persist with efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution to its dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over that republic's adopted name through the process mediated by the United Nations.
"The search for a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the name of FYROM is taking place in the framework of a specific process under the United Nations, with Matthew Nimetz as the mediator. The Greek side has come to this process in a very constructive way and expects the other side to reciprocate this behaviour. We are staying with this process," he told reporters.
Antonaros made the statement in response to questions about whether Greece was considering the possibility of talks on a bilateral level on this issue. The spokesman also said he was unaware of any proposal for such bilateral talks made during a visit by U.S. Undersecretary of State for political affairs Nicholas Burns.
 PASOK party spokesman accuses government of tension and dissension tacticsMain opposition PASOK party spokesman Petros Efthymiou on Tuesday accused the government of employing tension and dissension tactics, attributing these tactics to "the lack of policy" on the part of the government.
The spokesman said that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis "himself is heading these tactics" and noted that "he chose these tactics from 1997, when he assumed the leadership of the New Democracy party, until 2004 because he lacked political proposals when in the opposition."
"Slander and abuse are traditional tactics of the Right," Efthymiou said, adding that PASOK will not follow such tactics.
Replying to relevant questions, the PASOK party spokesman rejected specific expressions attributed to PASOK leader George Papandreou, stressing that Papandreou never used such characterisations.
Efthymiou conceded that PASOK used the expression "the result of the action of a gang," adding that this expression is milder than the expression used by a prosecutor, who spoke of "the creation of a criminal organisation."
Responding later to Efthymiou, Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that PASOK "is the party which, after agreeing to a revision of the constitution, and particularly of Article 16, it withdrew from this supreme institutional procedure for petty party reasons."
"The next time he (Efthymiou) wishes to speak about tension, polarisation and dissension, let him look out for these practices in his own party, where they belong by nature," Roussopoulos added.
 Antonaros attacks PASOK leader over finmin commentAlternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Tuesday attacked main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou for his pejorative comment about Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, whom PASOK's leader had called the "political pet of domestic and international establishment".
"It is clear who is being abusive and who is seeking to exacerbate the situation. It is Mr. Papandreou, who is trying in this way to emerge from his own dead-ends and is doing what he is doing in the hope of some petty party-political benefits".
While stressing that the government did not intend to answer Papandreou "in the same tones", Antonaros noted that it would not fail to answer "claims and phrases that did not contribute to preserving a climate of calm."
 PASOK leader meets representatives of nurses, hospital doctorsSpeaking in Parliament on Tuesday, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou promised "decent wages" for hospital staff and an increase in funding for the National Health System equal to 1 percent of GDP, after meeting representatives of nurses and doctors at Greece's hospitals.
Meeting the leadership of their national unions, Papandreou criticised the government for promising one thing and doing another in the sensitive sector of healthcare.
"The government is choosing to hire rural police instead of staff for hospitals. Party bigwig rural police in the countryside. In this way, it is managing the money of the Greek people as a party affair," he said.
Papandreou said his party made a commitment to create a new, modernised National Health System (ESY) and guaranteed its upgrading. He also made promises to hire 3,000 nursing staff a year, over and above those replaced due to retirement and stressed that there must be transparency and evaluation in order to end untransparency in procurements.
 Papoulias briefed by health minister, meets AlavanosPresident of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias was briefed on health ministry issues by Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos during a meeting on Tuesday.
Afterwards, Avramopoulos said that he briefed the president on all initiatives taken by the government to "at last impose some order on what we found from the past, which was a disordered, untransparent, anarchic and corrupted scene, especially in procurements".
He said a new law would establish transparency and proper management in the health sector, stressing that Greece "is turning a new page" in the health sector.
The minister also commented on the increasing polarisation of the political climate, accusing the main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou of "taking a bad path".
"In these hours and when, in good time, the pre-election period begins, we must all rise to the occasion. We must support, in every way, with our behaviour and our words those things that all Greeks have won together, which is our democratic civilisation, and leave aside the small, petty and unimportant," Avramopoulos said.
Following his meeting with the health minister, Papoulias met the leader of the Coalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology party Alekos Alavanos, who raised the issue of allowing free public access to the beaches of Attica and the struggle over this being waged by Elliniko Mayor Christos Kortzidis, noting that even decisions of the Council of State were being flouted in this affair.
The president was also scheduled to have a meeting on Tuesday with the mayor of the Cypriot town of Morphou, Haralambos Pittas.
 PASOK deputy responds to health minister's statementsMain opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputy Christos Protopapas on Tuesday evening commented on statements made earlier in the day by Health and Social Solidarity Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.
"The personal attacks launched by Mr. Avramopoulos are aimed at covering up his own failure, the failure of the policy which is tearing apart the National Health System, the proclamations which are never put into practice, the tolerance of waste and corruption which bloom in the state hospitals," Protopapas, who is the head of the party's Health and Welfare Department, said.
 Development Minister Sioufas meets US's BurnsDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas met in Athens on Tuesday with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and discussed US-Greece economic relations, the prospects of developmental cooperation, investments by American companies in Greece and matters related to the energy situation in all of the region.
Present at the meeting were outgoing US Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries and Development Ministry Secretary General Nikos Stefanou.
Referring to the talks on energy matters, Burns said he was "particularly impressed with the minister's and his government's strategic insight on these issues and I think that the minister has an absolutely clear and broad view of his country's interests."
"We look forward to an immediate and good cooperation between our two countries and when the United States have in any way the possibility of supporting Greece, we will respond without hesitation according to the long standing friendly relations that link us with the Greek government and the Greek people," Burns added.
 KKE criticizes Mitsotakis, Burns speeches on Marshall planThe Greek Communist Party (KKE) on Tuesday issued a statement criticizing the content of speeches delivered by ruling New Democracy party honorary president Constantine Mitsotakis and US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns during an event in Athens commemorating the 60th anniversary of America's Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe after WWII.
The provocative statements made by Mitsotakis are equally revealing as to the role played by the Marshall Plan and the so-called American aid. The political parties of the Greek plutocracy would have been unable to suppress the Greek people without the American military and economic support, the KKE statement said, adding that this was the role of all imperialist aid and programmes.
The KKE stressed that plutocracy and its political parties are justified to feel benefited by the British and American imperialism, adding that at the same time they fear the memory of the Greek people who have suffered greatly.
According to the KKE statement, Burns rightfully congratulated former prime ministers Mitsotakis and Simitis for clashing with the feelings of the Greek people and for supporting the armed interventions and the imperialist plans in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, while nobody is impressed by the fact that both Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou avoided to make any comments after their meetings with Burns. This stance reflects the fact that New Democracy and PASOK share the same views on foreign policy issues, stresses the Greek Communist Party.
 KKE on cooperation memorandum between Greek State and 'Stavros Niarchos' FoundationThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in an announcement on Tuesday evening referred to the memorandum of cooperation between the Greek State and the "Stavros Niarchos" Foundation, which was co-signed by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and representatives of the foundation on Monday.
It noted that the memorandum "puts into track the act of a new double crime at the expense of the environment and culture."
The KKE views that "their claims that it concerns a free contribution by the 'Stavros Niarchos' foundation for the housing of the National Opera and the National Library are groundless and misleading."
"In practice, the government is handing over to the Niarchos foundation an expanse which is worth millions, of priceless environmental value and gives it the National Opera and the National Library, continuing the policy of the delivery of public property and the sector of culture to capital, as occurred with the Concert Hall of the Lambrakis Foundation," the KKE announcement added.
 U.S. State Department report on trafficking in personsWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)
Greece is a transit and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor, the 7th annual US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report said on Tuesday.
"Greece is a transit and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor. Women are trafficked mostly from Russia, the Balkans, Romania, Bulgaria, and Nigeria for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Women are also trafficked from Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus. Some Albanian men are trafficked to Greece for forced labor. Most children trafficked from Albania to Greece are trafficked for forced labor, including forced begging and petty crimes; some are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The number of identified trafficked Albanian children declined in 2006," the report stressed.
"The Government of Greece does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. In 2006, Greece allocated more than $1 million for victim assistance and trafficking prevention programs both domestically and in source countries. The government also significantly increased trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions," it added.
The report further noted that despite these improvements, serious concerns remain with regard to current victim identification and protection. Some victims were reportedly prosecuted and incarcerated in detention centers.
Greece, the report went on to say, significantly increased its law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Greek law 3064, adopted in 2002, prohibits trafficking for both sexual exploitation and forced labor.
As regards protection, the report said that Greece demonstrated modest progress in its overall efforts to protect trafficking victims.
Lastly, the report said that the Government of Greece continued its significant efforts to prevent trafficking and raise awareness. The Secretariat General for Gender Equality completed a national awareness campaign targeting commercial sex procurers, trafficking victims, and citizens.
 US State Department officialWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
The United States look forward to the continuation of cooperation with the government of Greece for the confrontation of the phenomenon of human trafficking, a State Department senior official told reporters on Tuesday.
Speaking immediately after the publication of the State Department's annual report on human trafficking, the American official said that "the existing Greek legislation against trafficking is sufficient, but there are weaknesses in the location of the victims of the phenomenon, while there is restricted use of existing spaces for the acceptance and protection of the victims."
He also noted "the need for the victims not to be regarded as criminals," noting the willingness of the US to help Greece in the effort to locate, arrest and sentence those responsible in human trafficking.
 Amnesty International report on human trafficking in GreeceAmnesty International, in a report made public on Tuesday and titled "Greece: Defence of the rights of women and girls, victims of human trafficking with the aim of sexual exploitation", noted that there was "a serious void" between Greece's official position and what is really going on regarding the confrontation of human trafficking in Greece.
According to the organization's data, human trafficking for forced prostitution has increased ten-fold in Greece over the past decade. According to data of the non-governmental organization "Nea Zoi" (New Life), in 2007, 40% of those led into prostitution in central Athens come from Nigeria, 25% Greek women, 15% from Albania, 10% from Romania and 10% from countries of the former Soviet Union.
The Committee for the Eradication of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2007 expressed its concern "over the continuation of the trafficking of women and girls and the inadequate imposition of legislation on trafficking" in Greece.
Amnesty International ascertains gaps in Greek legislation, but mainly in the practices being implemented, which undermine the efforts for women and girls, who have become objects of human trafficking, of being helped.
The organization also evaluates "the failure of respect and protection" of the rights of these women who are victims of human trafficking.
 Al Gore visits Ecumenical PatriarchateISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A.Kourkoulas)
Former U.S. vice president Al Gore visited Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos at the Fanar on Tuesday. Gore is in Turkey to participate in a press conference on "Live Earth" concerts that will be held all over the world to sensitise people on the phenomenon of the planet's overheating.
"I am very proud to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos. As you know, the Ecumenical Patriarch is known all over the world as the 'green Patriarch' and with his moral teaching he is placing importance on whatever was created by God and is showing his sensitivity on environmental issues," Gore said in addressing the Patriarch.
Vartholomeos expressed "his great pleasure over the visit by Mr. Al Gore to the Fanar," adding that "we thank you very much for your visit to our city."
The Patriarch also referred to the 7th Ecological Symposium that will be held in Greenland in September and invited Gore to participate in the symposium.
 Washington's special envoy for Darful Natsios details US policy over crisisThe Bush administration's special envoy for Darfur, former USAID administrator Andrew Natsios, reiterated in Athens on Tuesday that while the United States wants an end to the massive humanitarian crisis in the western Sudanese province it is against the break-up of Africa's largest country.
Natsios detailed the situation in the strife-plagued province since an insurrection began there several years ago, pointing out that US intelligence services collected and then publicised aerial surveillance showing up to 2,000 villages erased from the map in the exclusively Muslim province of the vast country.
In a particularly cautious outline, however, of US policy vis-à-vis the Darfur crisis and Sudan in general, Natsios said the displacement of millions in the province and armed clashes between ethnic Arab militias and rebels also has a destabilising effect on neighboring countries (Chad, Central African Republic), all in the backdrop of a decades-old civil war in southern Sudan and even recent uprisings by northern Arab and Arabised tribes.
In short, he said the Darfur crisis was caused by the province's lengthy political marginalisation and neglect by the central Khartoum government; desertification, running from north to south, a phenomenon exacerbating the "perennial clash" between herdsmen and farmers, as well as a so-called "Arab supremacist movement" in the country's north targeting the country's African populations. He called the latter particularly 'troubling'.
The US official said Washington's standing position is for a UN peacekeeping force, similar to units already active in southern Sudan, to be deployed in Darfur, while cautioning:
"We do not want the break-up of Sudan, which will lead to another failed state ... this would be a catastrophe. Democratic elections are the solution."
Natsios, an eminent Greek-American public servant from Massachusetts, arrived in Athens on the occasion of events marking the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan for war-ravaged Europe.
The event was organised by the Athens-based Constantine Karamanlis Institute for Democracy at a downtown Athens hotel.
 Draft law on AE (SA) companies discussed by inner cabinetA draft law aiming to reform and update legislation governing Societe Anonyme companies (in Greek Anonimes Etairia or AE) was approved by the inner cabinet during a meeting held at Maximos Mansion on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas commented after the meeting that Greek legislation is being harmonized with the European directives and modern state standards.
He stressed that AE companies are leading business units and the new draft law helps to put aside past inflexibilities, allowing them to grow further for the benefit of society.
The Corporate Law-related interventions, aimed at contributing to the further growth of the economy and business activities, are being completed with the reformed Bankruptcy Code submitted in Parliament on Tuesday, stated the minister of development.
Deputy Development Minister Yannis Papathanasiou underlined that the new draft law and the new Bankruptcy Code will have positive effects on the economy and private businesses.
Before the inner cabinet meeting, the prime minister had a separate meeting with Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias.
 Tourism minister addresses City Break 2007 expo in AthensThe importance of the new form of tourism called "City Break tourism" was underlined by Greece's tourism development minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Tuesday, at the inauguration of the annual international travel trade exhibition City Break 2007, which is being hosted by the City of Athens at the Olympic Tae Kwon Do facilities, attended by Greek and foreign exhibitors.
She noted that Tae Kwon Do facilities at the Olympic complex in Faliron, following the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, were being transformed into a modern conference centre that was anticipated to increase overnight stays in the Greek capital's hotels by an average 280,000 annually, while also yielding revenues of approximately 85 million euro annually.
Regarding the ministry's cooperation with the City of Athens, she said that the aim was to render Athens an autonomous tourism destination.
The City of Athens and the Athens Tourism and Economic Development Agency (ATEDA), in cooperation with the tourism development ministry and the National Tourism Organisation of Greece (NTOG) won the bid for organising the 2007 expo in June 2006, with a view of maximum capitalisation of the international projection of the exhibition and its importance to the specialised market of city tourism -- city break tourism -- which is of direct interest to Athens. It also won the bid to organise the European Cities Marketing annual conference, which opens Wednesday at a central Athens hotel, running through Saturday.
City Break belongs to the so-called new generation of exhibitions, is strictly profession-oriented and addressed to a targetted audience for the purpose of providing an opportunity for business agreements, strategic collaborations and networking among professionals in the field.
Approximately 200 of the most important tour operators of the international tourism market are attending the exhibition.
According to a City of Athens press release, the high-profile exhibition and conference offer a first-class opportunity for the international promotion of Athens. The exhibition plays a significant role in the specialized city break tourism market, which concerns the Greek capital directly, while Tourism Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia's personal initiative played a definitive role in the bidding process, with the Ministry of Tourism and NTOG supporting the event's organisation on all levels.
City Break 2007 is being staged in cooperation with Europe's biggest tourism exhibition organiser, Britain's Reed Travel Exhibitions (the organiser of London's World Travel Market and Barcelona's EIBTM, among others), which guarantees the event's success as well as the realization of significant, immediate benefits for the local tourism industry. This specific event counts among the so-called new generation exhibitions, which are strictly geared to tourism industry professionals and aim to facilitate agreements and strategic cooperation between buyers and exhibitors. Athens' hosting of the event and 200 of the world's most important tour operators offers a rare occasion for the promotion of the city's new image, while it also lays the foundation for Athens' classification as one of Europe's leading urban destinations, the pres release said.
European Cities Marketing, the European network of city tourist offices and convention bureaus, is also staging its annual conference in Athens, whose theme will be e-tourism and destination management systems. Some 75 delegates will focus on successful methods employed in the United States and Europe, and engage in technological know-how transfer.
Fifty selected media organizations from within Greece and abroad are expected to provide extensive coverage of the exhibition and conference. A large-scale social activity programme has also been arranged, with the aim of providing participants with the best possible hospitality as well as highlighting the advantages of Athens as a tourist destination in comparison with its European competitors. Additionally, other urban Greek destinations are taking part in the exhibition either individually or with the support of NTOG.
City break travel is one of the fastest-growing forms of tourism, with significant increases in visitor numbers compared to traditional longer stays. City Break is the only travel trade exhibition dedicated to this specialised form of tourism and Greece's hosting of the event marks the start of a new, coordinated effort to promote Athens and other Greek cities in the international tourism market.
ATEDA, the City of Athens' official tourism board, is responsible for the development, management and promotion of Athens as a tourist destination.
 EU farm ministers agree on reform in fruit and vegetables sectorLUXEMBOURG (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
The European Union's Agriculture Ministers, after lengthy talks, reached agreement here on Tuesday on reform in the fruit and vegetables sector.
Greece's Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos expressed his satisfaction over the content of the agreement, stressing that "it secures the interests of the Greek farmers."
In general terms, Tuesday's decision moves in the spirit of the overall reshaping of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), foreseeing the grant of compensation to producers of fruit and vegetables, in accordance with the expanse which they are cultivating and not to the bulk of their production.
 First electrical/electronic appliance recycling plant opens in GreeceThe first electrical and electronic appliance recycling plant in Greece was inaugurated in Aghii Theodori township, west of Athens, by Environment Minister George Souflias on Tuesday.
"The opening of the electronic waste recycling plant constitutes an important step toward making the recycling of electrical and electronic appliances an everyday reality, he stressed.
The plant can process large household appliances (ovens, refrigerators etc.), small household appliances (toasters, vacuum cleaners etc.), office & communication equipment (PCs, printers, phones, faxes etc.), entertainment appliances electronics (televisions, stereos, portable CD players etc.), lighting equipment (mainly fluorescent lights), electric-powered tools, toys, fitness machines, medical appliances and instruments, surveillance equipment and even automatic issuing systems.
Souflias said the manufacturing sector gets most of its raw materials from the recycling industry, stressing that in Europe 50 percent of paper and steel, 43 percent of glass and 40 percent of non-ferrous metals come from recycling.
The minister also stated that the goal for 2007 is to recycle 23 percent of all waste produced in Greece, compared to 3 percent in 2003.
Currently, a total of 10 certified systems for alternative waste management are in operation in Greece for packaging, lubricants, electronic waste, cars, tires, portable electric devices and batteries.
 More Greeks are positive towards stock investing, surveyMore Greeks are having a positive view of the Athens Stock Exchange, although the majority of Greeks still have a negative view, a survey conducted by Hellenic Exchanges showed on Tuesday.
The survey showed that 42 pct of respondents have a positive view of the market, up from 33 pct in a similar survey in 2005, although 58 pct of respondents said they still had a negative view.
A 76 pct acknowledged the significant contribution of the stock exchange in creating the country's economic environment, while a 68 pct also acknowledged efforts made in the last two years to improve operations and the role of the market. The survey said that 48 pct of respondents would not invest in the stock market, down from a 54 pct figure two years ago.
The survey said that most Greeks had a negative view of the stock exchange not because they did not have enough money (2.0 pct), but mainly because they were still affected by lack of credibility in the past (20 pct) or because they lost money in the past (19 pct).
A 30 pct of respondents said they could invest in the stock market if the composite index continued going up, combined with the introduction of stricter measures to boost transparency and credibility, along with an influx of large enterprises in the market.
A 66 pct said they blamed lack of state controls and the listing companies that failed to meet necessary preconditions in the Athens Stock Exchange for burst of the 1999 bubble in the market, while 85 pct said they needed more information.
The survey was conducted by Tradelink in the April-May period in a sample of 800 persons.
Hellenic Exchanges also unveiled its vision to create a large common trading platform "XNET" to bring together the platforms of various markets in Southeastern Europe and the Middle East, setting up a large virtual common market in the area.
The Economy ministry is funding part of the project, budgeted at 3.7 million euros. The plan includes the participation of the stock markets from Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt, FYROM, Jordan and Serbia.
 Thessaloniki Port must immediately find strategic investor, CEO saysA privatisation procedure for the cargo terminal of the Thessaloniki port must be completed within the next four months if Greece does not wish to see foreign shipping companies turning to its competitors, Dr Ioannis Tsaras, chief executive in Thessaloniki Port Organisation said on Tuesday.
Addressing a 2nd symposium on sustainable growth, organised by the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tsaras said it was important to strengthen the institutional role of the Organisation to be able to autonomously draft its strategic plan to the benefit of the local and national economy. He noted that the Thessaloniki port accounted for 30 pct of the region's Gross Domestic Product, with an average volume of 370,000 TEUs per year, servicing around 200,000 passengers and docking 3,000 vessels.
The cargo terminal currently operates at its maximum capacity, while construction of a sixth dock would be completed by 2011. "We must find a strategic investor to complete the necessary works and simultaneously ensure labour rights," Tsaras said urging that this process must begin immediately.
He stressed that the Port Organisation was examining a plan to build two marinas in the harbour and to complete facilities for hydroplanes.
Tsaras said the Thessaloniki port has the potential to triple its cargo volume by 2020.
 AIA-TCCI seminar in ThessalonikiAmerican Importers Association (AIA) General Director Philip W. Byrd will present the US legislation and outline to Greek exporters the most effective ways to approach US importers and sell them their products, during a seminar co-organized with the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry, TCCI.
The seminar will take place on Wednesday and aspires to boost Greek exports to the United States.
 Athens hotels' occupancy rates up 3.1 pct in April, yr/yrAthens hotels reported improved occupancy rates in April this year, with four-star hotels recording the biggest percentage growth compared with the same period in 2006, the Association of Athens Hoteliers said on Tuesday.
In a montly report, the Association said occupancy rates rose 3.1 pct in April, from the same month last year, with four-star hotels' occupancy rates up 9.0 pct, five-star hotels up 3.5 pct and three-star hotels up 0.7 pct. Two-star hotels reported an 1.0 pct decline in occupancy rates in April.
The association said London (76.3 pct), Amsterdam (74.8 pct) and Paris (69 pct) recorded the best occupancy rates in April, while Athens reported a rate of 62 pct, ranking at the bottom of a European list.
Meanwhile, the association, in a statement issued on the occasion of the City Break Export 2007 and the European Cities Marketing international fairs held in Athens, underlined a delay in organizing the "Attica" travel destination programme aimed at promoting the city of Athens as a popular city break destination.
 Industrial import price index up 0.8 pct in April, yr/yrGreece's import price index in the industrial sector rose by 0.8 pct in April compared with the same month last year, after increases of 7.4 pct and 8.4 pct in the same months in 2006 and 2005, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.
The statistics service said the 12-month average index (May 2006-April 2007) was up 1.9 pct in April, down from 8.6 pct and 5.7 pct in the previous two 12-month periods.
The 0.8 pct increase in April was attributed to a 3.8 pct rise in the import price index from Eurozone countries and a 3.2 pct rise in the import price index from other countries.
 Listed Drukfarben Hellas company buys out firmThe listed Drukfarben Hellas AEBE company has proceeded with the buyout of all the shares (100 percent) of the Evrochroma ABEE firm, together with its main shareholder G. Karavassilis (with a 60 percent and 40 percent stake respectively). The total price for the exchange amounted to 2,699,380 euros.
According to a relevant announcement, the Evrochroma company, that is based at Inofyta in the prefecture of Viotia, where its production installations are also located, produces and possesses industrial paints and industrial glues.
 Provision of reference broadband and interconnection offersThe National Telecommunications and Post Committee (EETT) has approved reference offers by the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) concerning what are known as Reference Broadband Offer (RBO) and Reference Interconnection Offer (RIO) respectively.
An announcement by EETT said that the two new reference offers are aimed at contributing to the creation of a clear field of business activity for both suppliers and OTE to develop and widen the electronic communications market, increase competition and secure the greatest possible benefit for the consumer.
The announcement added that the decisions are adjusted to European legislation and cover the modern-day needs of the Greek electronic communications market for the benefit of competition and of the consumer.
 Elgeka buys LSH for 44 million eurosElgeka SA on Tuesday announced the acquisition of Diakinisis SA-Logistics for 44 million euros through its subsidiary Logistics Service Hellas SA (LSH SA).
A company statement said the transaction was due for approval by the country's Competition Commission.
 Multirama announces 20-mln-euro investment to expand retail networkMultirama on Tuesday announced plans to invest 20 million euros over the next five years to create 25 new large retail shops around the country.
Stephane Wagner, Multirama's general manager, presenting the plan said the first such shop has opened in Piraeus, while he noted that Multirama operates a retail network of 79 shops around Greece and two shops in Bulgaria, while the number of its retail units was expected surpass 100 after the investment plan was completed.
Two large shops will soon open in Patras and Kalamata, while the management plans to open five large shops each year over the next five years, focusing more in regional markes.
The management expects this year's sales to rise by 20 pct. First quarter consolidated turnover was up 17.4 pct to 31.8 million euros, consolidated pre-tax profits totaled 400,000 euros after a loss of 2.15 million euros in 2006, while parent turnover rose to 30.7 million euros in the January-March period, from 25.4 million last year and pre-tax profits totaled 390,000 euros, up from 210,000 in 2006.
 Greek stocks end 0.52 pct lowerGreek stocks ended 0.52 pct lower on Tuesday, following a similar trend in other European markets. The composite index ended at 4,841.86 points with turnover a moderate 347.6 million euros.
Sector indices were mixed. The Insurance (0.86 pct), Oil (0.84 pct) and Media (0.72 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Telecoms (0.94 pct), Banks (0.92 pct) and Food/Beverage (0.40 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index eased 0.62 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.08 pct lower and the Small Cap index moved 0.78 pct up.
Mesohoritis (12.86 pct) and Euroholdings (12.70 pct) were top gainers, while Gevka (5.37 pct), Korres (4.38 pct) and Elgeka (4.35 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 139 to 122 with another 45 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.84%
Personal & Household: +0.01%
Raw Materials: -0.17%
Travel & Leisure: +0.35%
Food & Beverages: -0.40%
Financial Services: +0.37%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 22.62
Public Power Corp (PPC): 21.66
HBC Coca Cola: 33.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.40
Emporiki Bank: 21.18
National Bank of Greece: 41.50
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 26.20
Titan Cement Company: 43.40
 ADEX closing reportVolume in the Athens Derivatives Exchange soared to 535.336 million euros on Tuesday reflecting a significant roll-over of contracts to future months ahead of a triple-witching in the market on Friday.
The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a premium of 0.06 pct and on the FTSE 40 at a premium of 0.38 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 35,197 contracts worth 450.980 million euros, with 41,010 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 579 contracts worth 18.092 million euros with 1,309 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 43,446 contracts worth 66.263 million euros, with investment interest focusing on ATEbank's contracts (9,345), followed Hellenic Telecoms (1,964), PPC (3,496), OPAP (1,348), Piraeus Bank (1,668), National Bank (3,149), Alpha Bank (1,906), Titan (846), Intracom (7,552), GEK (1,892), Intralot (1,006) and Hellenic Petroleum (1,310).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market rose to 2.966 billion euros on Tuesday, of which 1.249 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.717 billion euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 774 million euros, with the Greek bond yielding 4.81 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate was 3.85 pct, the two-day rate 4.08 pct, the one-week rate 4.08 pct, the one-month 4.10 pct, the three-month 4.13 pct, the six-month 4.26 pct and the 12-month 4.49 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.345
Pound sterling 0.681
Danish kroner 7.507
Swedish kroner 9.467
Japanese yen 163.86
Swiss franc 1.668
Norwegian kroner 8.176
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.428
Australian dollar 1.597
 Culture minister on maintenance work at Tatoi estateCulture Minister George Voulgarakis inspected his ministry's workshops at Tatoi on Tuesday, where work is taking place concerning the registration and maintenance of paintings and ancient items, pointing out that the historic location of Tatoi will be able to be visited in five years.
The culture minister proposed the creation of a maintenance organisation for the former royal estate at Tatoi by the finance, interior, agriculture and culture ministries that will manage all sectors, including the forest.
Work currently being carried out concerns the culture ministry's competence, meaning the location and maintenance of items that are packed in the palace and the stables and that require immediate maintenance.
Voulgarakis said that it is the first systematic and scientific registration of items of the former royal family.
The main palace building will remain closed and maintenace work on it will not begin before its contents are removed.
 NASA scientists at international conference in VolosLeading NASA scientists are in the central Greek city of Volos within the framework of an international conference on the Juno spacecraft mission to the giant planet Jupiter.
The Juno spacecraft will be placed in a polar orbit around Jupiter. This will allow it to perform detailed gravitational measurements that could detect whether or not Jupiter has an ice-rock core beneath its clouds of hydrogen and helium. The mission will also study the composition of Jupiter's atmosphere, determining the amounts of water and ammonia present. Another investigation will be a study of convection within Jupiter's atmosphere and the profiles of deep winds. In addition, Juno will explore Jupiter's magnetosphere, especially in the unmapped polar regions, and attempt to determine the origin of the jovian magnetic field.
The mission is expected to be launched in 2016 and cost roughly 1 billion USD.
 Russian RIA Novosti news agency photo exhibition in TrikalaThe Clock Tower at the Trikala Castle, central Greece, is hosting a significant exhibition of Russian news agency RIA Novosti photographs titled "Russia-folk traditions and customs".
The Russian nation's rich historical tradition and old folk customs that are still being observed are depicted in roughly 40 photographs that belong to the RIA Novosti archives and are being displayed for the first time in Greece.
Addressing the exhibition's opening ceremony on behalf of RIA Novosti, journalist and Byzantine History scholar Alexei Bogdanovski stressed that the people of Greece and Russia have much in common.
The exhibition is scheduled to remain open to the public until June 15.
 German assets confiscated in Italy to compensate Distomo massacre victimsBERLIN (ANA-MPA/P. Stangos)
Compensation for the relatives of victims of the Distomo massacre in Greece, during World War II, may be activated through Italy, following a decision taken by a court in Florence.
In early May, the court accepted a demand made by plaintiffs for the confiscation of assets belonging to the German state on Italian soil, following the registration of a mortgage on June 8 calling for the confiscation of building facilities belonging to the German-Italian convention centre in Como, northern Italy, the famous "Vila Vigoni."
The purpose of the mortgage was to have it auctioned to enable beneficiaries to be paid part of the compensation that, according to a Greek court ruling, amounts to about 27 million euros.
The German government does not appear prepared to accept this turn of events and, according to a foreign ministry spokesman, it has already appealed the decision taken by the court in Florence at the supreme court in Rome.
 Christodoulos to undergo surgery on WednesdayArchbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos will undergo intestinal surgery on Wednesday morning at the Areteion Hospital of Athens, the facility's president announced on Tuesday.
Physicians said the surgery is expected to last about three hours.
Christodoulos on Tuesday received Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki and Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou, among others.
 House president meets Turkish occupied Cyprus town's mayorParliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki on Tuesday received visiting Mayor of the Turkish occupied town of Morphou, Cyprus, Charalambos Pittas.
Psarouda-Benaki reiterated the steadfast support of the Greek Parliament to the rights of the Cypriot people, while Pittas briefed her on the systematic sell out of the area by the occupation regime through the illegal selling of Greek Cypriot properties to foreign buyers.
The House speaker termed the issue as "extremely serious and a practice which undermines efforts for resolving the Cyprus problem."
 Satchel with hashish washed ashore at Balos, CreteA satchel containing 34 kilos of hashish, wrapped in 15 individual packages, was spotted by Coastguard officers on Sunday while on patrol in the sea region of Balos Kisamou on the southern Aegean island of Crete.
The drugs were damaged due to the fact of being exposed to the water for a long period of time.
Lately, satchels of hashish are being washed ashore in different parts of the country's coastline on a regular basis and according to the Coastguard they belong to a single haul of drugs that was probably dumped into the sea by traffickers.
 Locals suspend mobilizations at SES Aghios Dimitrios power plantLocal residents from the village of Akrini in the Kozani Prefecture's Ellispontos municipality, northwestern Greece, on Tuesday decided to suspend their ongoing mobilizations blocking the operation of SES Aghios Dimitrios steam-electric power plant conveyor belts used to transport cinder and lignite.
The mobilizations were launched on June 3 with the local population demanding the relocation of their village, citing heightened pollution in the area from the Public Power Corporation SA (DEH) power plant.
In a general assembly meeting held on Monday, local residents decided to end mobilizations to avoid causing electric power supply problems to DEH and also in a show of goodwill in view of next week's meeting with development ministry officials in Athens, during which they will present their demands.
 Drug arrests in ThessalonikiTwo foreign nationals have been arrested in Thessaloniki on drug posession charges, police said on Tuesday.
A 36-year-old was arrested downtown after police found on him two kilos of heroin, while a 32-year-old was detained after police found a hand pistol, 8 bullets and 1 kilo of cannabis in his house. A search in his car revealed a total of 13 stolen CD players and two wooden bats.
 Five-year-old boy dies after diving into swimming pool in CreteThe holidays of a four-member Norwegian family ended up in tragedy when their five-year-old son died after diving into a hotel's swimming pool in the region between Aghia Marina and Platania, in Hania, Crete, on Tuesday.
The incident occurred shortly before 5 p.m. The boy had dived into the pool along with his parents, a few minutes after having had a small lunch.
When he got out of the pool, he felt unwell and lost consciousness in his mother's arms.
He was immediately taken to Hania Hospital, where, despite efforts by doctors to revive him, he died.
The boy was in Hania with his parents and his younger sister.
 Two injured in workplace accident by falling craneTwo young workmen at the Perama shipyards were taken to Thriasio Hospital with serious injuries on Tuesday, after a section of a lifting crane came loose for unknown reasons and fell on them while they were sitting in their parked cars.
The crane operator and the head of shipyard safety have been detained and are being questioned by the coastguard.
 Incendiary device explodes at building entrance in ThessalonikiThe main entrance of an apartment building near Antigonidon Square in Thessaloniki was slightly damaged by a makeshift incendiary device that exploded at dawn on Tuesday.
The fire that resulted from the explosion was quickly put out by firefighters.
 Weak earthquake reported south of LesvosAn earthquake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale occured at 4:13 p.m. (local time) on Tuesday near the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos.
According to the Geophysics Laboratory of the Thessaloniki University, the quake's epicentre was located in the sea region south of the island and 350 kilometres southeast of Thessaloniki.
Seismologists said the specific quake was an isolated incident.
 Overcast on WednesdayOvercast weather is forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with scattered showers in central Macedonia, Thrace, western and central Greece and the eastern Peloponnese. Temperatures will range between 16C and 33C. Winds westerly, northwesterly, light to moderate. Mostly fair in Athens with temperatures ranging between 18C and 32C. Partly cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 17C to 31C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe rise in the political thermometer, to the backdrop of the high-risk structured funds/social insurance Funds' reserves affair, US undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns' meetings in Athens and his statements on Greece and FYROM, the six cases (two of which resulted in death) of the lethal fungus 'mucor' at the Attikon Hospital, and a mammoth donation by the Niarchos Foundation to the Greek state for the construction of new facilities to house the National Library and the National Opera House (Lyriki Skini) at the Faliron Delta or elsewhere in Athens, were the main front-page items in Tuesday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Harsh counterattack by leading members of the ruling (New Democracy-ND) party".
APOGEVMATINI: "Full counterattack by the government - Harsh criticism of George Papandreou (main opposition PASOK leader) by ministers and Costas Mitsotakis (ND honourary president and former prime minister)".
AVGHI: "Dress rehearsal of pre-electoral acrimony - Elections in the autumn 'announced' by Mitsotakis", referring to his statement in reply to press questions after meeting with prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday that 'when we enter the final half-year (before the expiration of the current four-year term in office), elections are no longer early elections'.
AVRIANI: "George's (PASOK leader) defeat (in the next elections) also anticipated by his brother (Andreas Papandreou Jr.)".
CHORA: "14,533 unemployed from vulnerable social groups to be appointed to the public sector and the municipalities".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Government and opposition aggravating the (political) climate, without general elections having been declared, and mutually slander each other - They're playing football without a ball".
ELEFTHEROS: "Hot money in our pockets - Which social groups will benefit from the government's measures/breathers".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The documentation on the deadly fungus at the 'Attikon' - Six cases, two deaths, from vascular thromboses caused by the mucor fungal infection".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Government opts for polarisation, targets George (Papandreou)".
ESTIA: "Post-electoral cooperations - Who is advancing the relevant scenaria".
ETHNOS: "US ultimatum on FYROM issue - Burns says in Athens what Bush (US President) did not say in Tirana (on his visit there earlier this week".
KATHIMERINI: "Mammoth donation changes Athens".
LOGOS: "The pre-electoral thermometer skyrockets - Alogoskoufis (national economy and finance minister) scathing attack on Papandreou".
NIKI: "Unwonted attack on Papandreou by Alogoskoufis, Roussopoulos (government spokesman) and Mitsotakis".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Strengthening of the KKE (Communist Party of Greece ) and reduction of the two-party system the criterion".
TA NEA: "Bond of mudslinging, by order of Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) - Organised attack against George (Papandreou)".
TO VIMA: "The road to elections is being paved with insults - September is approaching".
VRADYNI: "Increases to salaries, pensions, benefits inside the summer".
 Foreign Minister to have talks in ParisNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus Foreign Minister Yiorgos Lillikas is in Paris for talks with his recently appointed French counterpart Bernard Kouchner.
Lillikas flew to Paris earlier Tuesday for Wednesday's discussions which will focus on bilateral relations, cooperation between the two ministries in the framework of a structured dialogue and Turkey's European Union accession course.
"I shall have the chance to discuss developments in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem and issues that concern the European Union," he added.
The minister will also meet with Secretary of State for European Affairs Jean Pierre Jouyet. Lillikas returns to Cyprus Thursday.
 Archbishop to have an audience with Pope Benedict XVILARNACA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Primate of the Church of Cyprus Archbishop Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of Nova Justina and All Cyprus, flew to Rome Tuesday for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday.
Speaking before departure at Larnaca airport, he said this is the third visit by the head of the autocephalous church of Cyprus to the Holy See, the first took place in the 16th century when the then Archbishop went to protest intellectual pressure the church was under and the second took place in 1967 when Archbishop Makarios III visited the Vatican.
Chrysostomos, who is accompanied by members of the church highest decision-making body the Holy Synod, said he would raise the issue of the destruction and pillage of Greek Orthodox churches in Cyprus' northern Turkish occupied areas.
He said he would seek the Pope's assistance on the specific matter, adding that they will also discuss church matters and ways for better understanding and rapprochement between them.
"We enjoy very good relations, the Church of Cyprus has very good and brotherly relations with all the churches and I hope this will continue because the will of God is to see love and peace prevail among people," he added.
The Archbishop said that the Turkish Cypriot side does not respond to suggestions by the Church to restore and repair the occupied churches.
The Archbishop met in February this year with the head of religious affairs of the Turkish Cypriots Ahmet Yonluer to discuss this idea but Yonluer is reluctant to help in this direction.
"The Turkish Cypriot side is not willing to facilitate the restoration of our occupied churches, there is no response from them, in spite of my meeting with Yonluer," he added.
Chrysostomos II was elected to the most senior post in the church of Cyprus last year to replace the ailing Archbishop Chrysostomos I.
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