|Saturday, 25 May 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-07-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 21 July 2007 Issue No: 2650
 Karamanlis, Merkel confer over Euro constitution, regional issues; both leaders cite 'excellent bilateral ties'Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis concluded a meeting in Athens early Friday afternoon with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with both leaders fielding questions afterwards on issues ranging from the European constitution to Kosovo, climate change and, expectedly, bilateral ties, including defence contracts.
Regarding the former, Karamanlis congratulated the German chancellor for her efforts, which he called "decisive", at achieving a breakthrough on the European constitution issue at a recent summit in Berlin.
In response, Merkel referred to Karamanlis as a "political friend" and praised the Greek government's "productive efforts" on the thorny constitution issue, whereas she lauded Greece's euro zone-leading economic growth, in the neighbourhood of 4 percent annually. Both leaders, in fact, repeatedly called bilateral ties excellent.
Merkel, in Athens for a day-long visit including talks with Greek leadership, later departed with the Greek premier for a downtown Athens hotel, where she addressed an event hosted by the Greek-German chamber of commerce.
On his part, Karamanlis emphasised that Germany is by far Greece's largest trading partner, while expressing satisfaction over the fact that the east Mediterranean country is among the top destinations for German tourists.
"Cultural ties are particularly strong, and there are strong cultural bonds between our two peoples," Karamanlis said, while also noting the vigorous presence in Germany of expatriate Greek communities.
Turning to the western Balkans, the German chancellor echoed Athens' standing policy of supporting the EU prospects of countries in the region, stressing that this helps the peace process throughout the region.
Finally, in her opening comments, Merkel expressed her government's support for the current Portuguese EU presidency's focus on promoting the Union's maritime policy, citing protection of the marine environment.
Regarding the draft European constitution, which has emerged as a distinct priority in German foreign policy, Merkel reminded - in answer to a press question - that the Sarkozy government has promised to back a new inter-governmental constitutional conference that will ostensibly lead to a new draft constitution or major reform initiative.
"I do not know anything about changes," Merkel said in reference to reported comments out of Paris, before citing what she called a "courageous act" by Nicholas Sarkozy not to broach the issue during the recent French presidential election.
Moreover, Merkel reiterated her view that the European Central Bank's (ECB) independence should be maintained and that the Union should works harder towards achieving a common economic policy to better deal with international challenges.
"Some, us included, want more of Europe. Others are more guarded," Karamanlis noted, while adding that Athens held similar views with Berlin, as it does with Paris as well.
Regarding the issue of Kosovo, Karamanlis outlined Greece's position that more time is necessary for a mutually acceptable solution, "without any side feeling humiliated ... we must not be hasty," he emphasised.
On her part, Merkel said no solution can be found if each side insists on maintaining its positions, while reiterating that a solution must now be found under the auspices of a contact group.
Regarding the always timely issue of Turkey's European prospects - and with general elections in the country on Sunday - Karamanlis once again detailed Greece's standing position on the matter, namely, "absolute fulfilment (of criteria and conditions) means absolute (EU) membership".
Karamanlis said criteria definitely includes respect for human rights and religious freedoms in Turkey, the latter being an indirect reference to incessant obstacles thrown up by Turkish bureaucracy and the judiciary against the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Asked about the elections in Turkey, Karamanlis merely said he hoped that any new government arising will proceed with rapid steps towards a European prospect, reforms and improved relations with Greece.
Merkel declined to comment on the elections directly, stressing however, that Turkey's failure to implement the Ankara protocol is a problem.
In answer to questions regarding armaments, given that Germany is one of Greece's major suppliers of defence equipment, Karamanlis said provisions of a high-profile defence contract will be fulfilled after "problems" were resolved.
In answer to a question on Greece's volition to purchase fourth-generation warplanes, and given that the Eurofighter consortium's "Typhoon" will surely be amongst the primary candidates, Karamanlis said any such procurement will be implemented in the most transparent manner. Additionally, he said Athens wants the largest participation possible for its domestic defence industry in any future deal for a new fighter plane.
The German chancellor was scheduled to be received by Greek President Karolos Papoulias at 7 p.m. (17.00 GMT) before attending a dinner hosted in her honor at the prime minister's private Rafina area home.
 Merkel praised robust Greek-German trade ties during chamber addressGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday roundly praised the booming trade relations between EU partners Greece and Germany, during a high-profile address in Athens immediately after talks with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
The Greek prime minister, in fact, introduced Merkel at the event, which was also attended by EU Commissioner Stavros Dimas, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and PASOK deputy and former EU Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou.
Merkel, in Athens for a one-day lightning visit and talks with Greek leadership, spoke to the Greek-German chamber of commerce, where she highlighted the fact that bilateral trade has increased by 40 percent over the past five years. The German chancellor also stressed that some two million German citizens choose Greece as a holiday destination every year, a country she said serves as SE Europe's gateway.
Among others, Merkel expressed satisfaction over her first visit to Athens, calling Greece the "cradle of Europe", before again citing the excellent cooperation with the Greek side during the recent Berlin summit.
Regarding the energy sector, a field that has seen considerable Greek activity over the recent period, Merkel said the wider goal is to ensure the triptych of "competitiveness, secure sources and environmental protection".
In preceding Merkel's keynote address, Karamanlis pointed directly to what he called significant progress in the Greek economy in recent years, noting, for instance, that imports have increased by 18 percent. In also touching on the all-important energy sector, Karamanlis listed off the recently completed Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline agreement and the Turkey-Greece-Italy natgas project.
Finally, Sioufas welcomed Merkel by noting that "in your person we see modern Germany, modern Europe and modern politics Germany's success will be the success of all of Europe".
 Alavanos on the Karamanlis-Merkel meetingCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) president Alekos Alavanos on Friday charged that a new arms race was being advanced with the United States' missile shield in Europe, commenting on the meeting of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Alavanos said that the Greek prime minister had no right to consent to a renewed arms race but, on the contrary, measures should be taken in the opposite direction. Alavanos also called for the shutting down of the US Base in Souda on the island of Crete.
The SYN president said that no prime minister has the authority to agree to a European Constitution draft plan, underlining that his party backs the option of a referendum.
 PM Karamanlis confers with FM BakoyannisForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis met with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at noon on Friday.
No statements were made after the meeting.
 Karamanlis-Barroso to meet on Sat.Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will meet with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on Saturday in the seaside district of Vouliagmeni, southeast of Athens, where he will host a working luncheon for the visiting EU leader, it was announced here on Friday afternoon.
 PM Karamanlis to visit Sarajevo on MondayPrime minister Costas Karamanlis leaves Monday for Sarajevo for a 24-hour visit, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced on Friday.
Roussopoulos said that Karamanlis was due to arrive in Sarajevo at 9:30 a.m. local time, and an official welcoming ceremony would be held for the Greek premier at the Council of Ministers building, followed by a private meeting with Council of Ministers chairman Nikola Spiric at 10:45 a.m.
At 11:00, the prime minister will have talks with the and sign bilateral agreements, followed by statements to the press and a visit to the three-member presidium of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
At 1:00 p.m., Karamanlis will attend the inauguration ceremony of the Greece-Bosnia-Herzegovina Friendship Building, followed by an official luncheon with Spiric, after which Karamanlis will visit Camp Butmir, the headquarters of the European Union Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR).
Karamanlis is slated to depart early Tuesday for his return to Athens.
 Foreign Ministry on 33rd anniversary of Turkish invasion of CyprusThe Foreign Ministry in an announcement on Friday referred to the 33rd anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
"Today are concluded 33 years since the day of the illegal Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Thirty-three years of division and occupation of more than one third of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, contrary to every meaning of law, without political or ethical basis. In defiance of the times, a wall, the last in Europe, continues to separate the Cypriot people, depriving them of the possibility of co-existing peacefully in the European family," a Foreign Ministry press release said.
"Thirty-three years later, the Republic of Cyprus, member of the European Union, proceeds with self-confidence in the building of a better future for all of the island's inhabitants. The need for finding a solution for the reunification of Cyprus is however imperative. A just, viable and operational solution, based on the UN Security Council resolutions and the principles and values of the European Union.
"The basis for us to be led to a well planned resumption of the effort for reaching a solution exists. It is the agreement of July 8, 2006. This basis can be implemented, providing the Turkish Cypriot side adopts the necessary, constructive for it stance," the press release concluded.
 Fire-fighting forces more efficient now, Roussopoulos saysIn a statement on Friday, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos told reporters that the efficiency of the fire brigade and other forces combatting fires was improved compared to the past. He had been asked whether the government was satisfied with the way that hundreds of fires around the country were being dealt with.
"We have an average of about 100 fires a day in the last weeks, an effort is being made by thousands of fire-fighters, a superhuman effort is being made by all state mechanisms that in the majority of cases brings swift results. There are fires covering large areas in inaccessible spots and in difficult weather conditions that are also being dealt with, in some cases very quickly and in others not so quickly, but in every case the performance of the participants in the fire brigade and other forces is improved relative to the past," he said.
According to the spokesman, fires were a sad phenomenon that all Mediterranean forests were subjected to and which Greece had to endure every year, sometimes more intensely as this year and others less so.
The spokesman also announced that Friday's press briefing would be the last this month and that the next press briefing will take place on August 20.
 PASOK leader visits fire-stricken CorinthMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou concluded a visit to fire-stricken villages in Corinth on Friday, following an earlier visit to the island of Gyaros.
Papandreou arrived in a helicopter and was able to survey the damage inflicted by the fire on Akrokorinthos, Solomos, Mapsos and Hiliomodi in Tenea on his approach.
He also spoke with local residents that had lost property to the blaze and met with the mayors of Corinth and Tenea.
In statements after the visit, Papandreou said the area had suffered a huge catastrophe and expressed his support for the stricken residents of the region, while claiming that there was a lack of coordination of fire-fighting services.
"This is a time of responsibility," Papandreou stressed. "We don't want any more words from the government, we want action," he added.
 Papandreou visits former exile island of YiarosMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou visited the former prison island of Yiaros on Friday and paid homage to the Greek citizens detained there as political prisoners during the seven-year colonels' dictatorship in Greece between 1967-1974.
"Here, in the place of their exile and torture, we pay tribute to our compatriots who resisted authoritarianism and fascism against those who wanted to strike a blow against the democratic institutions," Papandreou said, adding that all those people were fighters for democracy and for Greece. "We, today, are fighting for a just society and do not forget their struggles and sacrifices," he said.
Papandreou also referred to Friday's 33rd anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and to those who fought and died or went missing in the struggle for a free Cyprus, stressing that the efforts for a free and independent Cyprus should continue.
Based on varous martial courts' rulings during the military junta, a total of 22,000 people were detained on Yiaros, which also served as a place of exile after the civil war in Greece following WWII.
In 2001 the island was declared a historical monument.
 Sessions of Symi Symosium endThe sessions of the 10th Symi Symposium ended on Friday evening on the island of Paros with a speech given by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou who said that "Greece must be a frontrunner in the green economy and this is why PASOK has the environment as its top priority."
The PASOK leader said that "Greece these days is living through a national trial," adding that "Greeks must know that PASOK is working with a plan and with determination for Greece's future."
He further noted that "we shall create a decisive state and we shall have a government which will serve the common interest."
Papandreou also referred to Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos and to his efforts for the protection of the environment.
 Papariga visits Perama shipyards, urges vote for KKEIn a visit to the shipyard repair zone at Perama on Friday, in the wake of a fatal accident that claimed the lives of two workers earlier in the week, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga urged workers to cast their vote for the KKE and "punish" the two larger parties.
"You need to take them down a peg, make them realise that they don't hold workers in the palm of their hand and cannot fool them all the time," she said.
Referring to workplace accidents over the past few days that claimed the lives of seven workers, she stressed that this was "a great tragedy, equal to that we are subjected to these days with the forest [fires]".
She accused both main opposition PASOK and ruling New Democracy of failing to take steps that provided essential protection to the workforce.
 Papariga to visit Ikaria at the weekendCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga is to carry out a two-day visit to the Aegean island of Ikaria at the weekend, accompanied by members of KKE's Central Committee.
She is to speak at a gathering at Evdilos Square in the island's capital on Saturday evening at 21:30, while on Sunday she will attend meetings with local government bodies arranged by KKE's local branch at the old town hall at Aghios Kirikos.
 KKE angered, worried over 'methodisation' of Kosovo independenceCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga on Friday expressed her party's anger, displeasure and worry that "the immediate independence of Kosovo and the imposition on Serbia of renunciation of its territorial integrity are being methodised", following a meeting with Serbian ambassador in Athens Liliana Bacevic.
Papariga charged that the US was "unscrupulously advancing this measure", which she said would have serious consequences not only in Serbia domestically but also in the entire Balkan region, and would touch Greece itself.
She further accused the EU of hypocrisy and of acceptance of the "American recipe in the Balkans", given that EU officials "have decided that even if there is no UN Security Council resolution on Kosovo forthcoming, the EU will send representatives to Kosovo for the negotiations".
Papariga called on the two mainstream parties - the ruling New Democracy (ND) party and main opposition PASOK - to take a clear position on whether they consider the development being methodises as a negative one or not.
 Education ministers of Cyprus, Greece, hold talksNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A. Viketos)
The Education Ministers of Greece and Cyprus, Marietta Yianakkou and Akis Cleanthous, termed their bilateral talks here on Friday as "constructive." The talks, which ended on Friday, took place with the participation of delegations from both the sides.
Greece's Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Yianakou stated that the main matters dealt with were the strategic planning for the future through globalization, the investment in human resources, the observation of developments, particularly in the European area of higher education, the changes which must ne made and the exchange of experience both between Cyprus and Greece as well as with third countries.
 Archbishop Chistodoulos leaves hospitalArchbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece was released from the Aretaio Hospital in Athens on Friday, 42 days after his admission.
A frail and emotional Archbishop told reporters while leaving the hospital that he is thankful to all those who prayed for his recovery and expressed certainty that the people will continue to be on his side.
The Archbishop will depart for the United States after August 10 to undergo liver transplant operation.
 Athens court gives suspended sentences in stock manipulation caseA court in Athens sentenced three stockbrokers and a businessman to two years imprisonment, with a three-year suspension, after finding them guilty of stock manipulation committed in August and September 1999.
Another businessman was acquitted and charges against a third one were dismissed based on the statute of limitations.
The case was retried in court following a Supreme Court ruling concerning the specific defendants.
 Greek employment rate at 61% in 2006, EurostatBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
The employment rate in Greece reached 61 percent among people aged 15-64 last year, Eurostat said on Friday, compared with 64.4 percent in the EU-27.
The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report, said that working Greek men, aged 15-64, totaled 74.6 percent, while working women of the same age totaled 47.4 percent. The gap between working me=n and women was the second highest in the EU, after Malta.
In the EU-27, working men totaled 71.6 pct, while working women 57.2 pct, with Denmark (77.4 pct) and Holland (74.3 pct) recording the biggest employment rates, while Romania (58.8 pct) and Slovakia (59.4 pct) the lowest rates.
The employment rate between people aged 55-64 in Greece was 42.3 pct in 2006 (43.5 pct in the EU-27), with employment among men at 59.2 pct and women 26.6 pct.
Greeks work an average 40.7 hours per week, slightly up compared with an average 40.5 hous in the EU-27, with workers in Holland (38.9), Belgium (39) and France (39.1) working less, while Austrians and Britons worked more (42.4 hours per week).
Part-time job remained not so popular in Greece compared with the rest of Europe, with part-time jobs only at 5.7 pct in Greece, compared with an 18.8 pct average in the EU-27. Part-time is more popular among women (10.2 pct) than men (2.9 pct), compared with 32.7 pct and 7.7 pct in the rest of Europe, respectively.
In Greece, 12 pct of workers were in the farm sector (4.7 pct in the EU-27), 22.1 pct in the manufacturing sector (27.4) and 65.9 pct in the services sector (67.9 pct in the EU-27).
Greek unemployment totaled 434,000 last year, Eurostat said.
 FinMin confers with tourism minister, culture deputy ministerNational economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis on Friday had separate meetings with tourism development minister Fani Palli-Petralia and with deputy culture minister for sports George Orfanos.
Petralia briefed Alogoskoufis on tourism-related issues, including arrivals of foreign visitors to Greece, foreign exchange inflows from tourism, and the course of the denationalisations programme in the tourism sector and the operation of the Tourism Development Agency (ETA). Petralia said that following the recent changes in the composition of the ETA administration, the Agency was now proceeding at a rapid pace.
Alogoskoufis also met with Orfanos to discuss matters concerning the sector of sports.
 Transport minister visits Rhodes, Kassos and KarpathosTransport Minister Mihalis Liapis on Friday paid a visit to the Aegean islands of Rhodes, Kassos and Karpathos in the Dodecanese island group, where he was briefed on the progress of projects at the airports on all three. Liapis was accompanied by Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis.
The first stop was on Rhodes, where the terminal is being expanded and is expected to double the airport's capacity to handle passenger traffic from current levels of 3.5 million passengers a year and greatly improve the quality of its services.
Work is also underway to increase parking spaces for aircraft from 13 at present to 17 next year.
On Kassos, the minister visited the worksite for the construction of a new terminal on the island, whose total budget is 2.9 million euros, and new parking space for aircraft costing six million euros.
Work to extend the terminal is also underway on Karpathos, as well as the construction of a new air traffic control tower and other airport facilities costing a total of 24 million euros, which are set to be completed by next June.
Completing his inspection, Liapis stressed that improve access to the Dodecanese islands from the air was vital to improving the quality of life for the islands' inhabitants and would help ensure the prosperity of areas that were largely dependent on tourism.
 Greece's current accounts deficit up 16.3% in Jan-May, yr/yrGreece's current accounts deficit widened by 16.3 percent to 14.2 billion euros in the January-May period, the Bank of Greece announced on Friday.
The central bank, in a report, attributed the negative development to an increase in the country's trade deficit by 7.8 percent to 15.8 billion euros and decline in the current transfers surplus to 685 million euros this year from 1.5 billion euros in the corresponding period in 2006. The services surplus rose to 3.8 billion euros from 3.4 billion euros over the same period, respectively.
The widening of the trade deficit by 1.1 billion euros reflected mainly a bigger deficit in goods, excluding fuel and vessels (by 840 million euros) and net payments for the purchase of vessels (by 523 million euros), while net payments for fuel imports fell by 218 million euros. Proceeds from exports grew by 7.4 percent, while payments for imports rose by 8.3 percent in the five-month period.
The services surplus grew by 385 million euros reflecting mainly the rise of net proceeds from transport services and to a lower extent travel services (up 8.6 pct and 3.5 pct, respectively).
A lower surplus of the current transfers balance reflected higher net payments by the general government to the EU in February.
The capital transfers balance recorded a surplus of 2.2 billion euros, up 825 million euros compared with the same period last year, while in the financial transactions balance, direct investments recorded a net outflow of 2 billion euros in the January-May period.
In the portfolio investments category a net inflow of 13.9 billion euros was recorded, while in the other investments category a net inflow of 567 million euros was recorded.
 Building materials cost up 6.5% in June, yr/yrThe building materials cost index rose 6.5 percent in June from the same month last year, the National Statistical Service said on Friday, while the production price index rose by 3.4 percent in the second quarter of the year, compared with the corresponding period in 2006.
 New orders down 7.8% in the industrial sector in May, yr/yrThe new orders composite index in the industrial sector (measuring both domestic and foreign markets) fell by 7.8 percent in May compared with the same month last year, the National Statistical Service (NSS) said on Friday.
The service, in a report, also noted a 3.5-percent decline in the turnover composite index in the industrial sector.
NSS attributed the 7.8 percent drop of the index to a 10.8-pct decline in the capital goods orders index and a 10.3 percent fall in the intermediate goods orders index in May. The durable goods orders index fell 1.4 pct while the non-durable goods orders index rose 2.5 percent over the same month.
The decline in the turnover index reflected a 6.4 pct drop in the mining turnover index and a 3.5 pct fall in the manufacturing turnover index.
 Greece sells 2.1-bln-euro 10-year bond issueThe Greek state on Friday drained 2.1 billion euros from the market through the issuance of a 10-year benchmark bond, maturing on July 20, 2017.
The 10-year bond issue was initially valued 1.5 billion euros. Bids submitted totaled 7.596 billion euros, while the issue carries an interest rate of 4.41 percent.
 Greek stocks end 1.17% down on FridayGreek stocks fell sharply on Friday as investors took profits ahead of the weekend at the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index ended 1.17 pct lower at 5,058.86 points with turnover a strong 633.3 million euros.
Sector indices ended lower with the Utilities (2.49 pct), Banks (1.74 pct) and Industrial Products (1.63 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while the Media (6.67 pct), Commerce (1.75 pct) and Raw Materials (0.16 pct) scored gains.
The Big Cap index fell 1.58 pct, the Mid Cap index rose 0.08 pct and the Small Cap index eased 0.05 percent.
Pegasus (17.73 pct), Elbisco (9.90 pct) and Tria Alpha (9.47 pct) were top gainers, while Ippotour (9.78 pct), Perseus (9.6 pct) and Ideal (9.60 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 159 to 109 with another 37 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.28%
Personal & Household: +0.05%
Raw Materials: +0.16%
Travel & Leisure: -0.20%
Food & Beverages: -0.09%
Financial Services: +0.34%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Vivartia, National Bank, Elais and Marfin Investment Group.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 24.64
Public Power Corp (PPC): 22.78
HBC Coca Cola: 34.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.50
Emporiki Bank: 21.04
National Bank of Greece: 45.10
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 26.50
Titan Cement Company: 41.40
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.76 billion euros on Friday, of which 1.25 billion euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.51 billion euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.365 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.22 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.72 pct and the German Bund 4.50 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overight rate was 4.08 pct, the two-day rate 4.08 pct, the one-month rate 4.10 percent and the 12-month rate 4.58 pct.
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices ended the last trading session in the Athens Derivatives Exchange with a discount, while turnover rose to 188.13 million euros on Friday.
The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.52 percent, while the August contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.28 percent.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 9,834 contracts worth 132.082 million euros, with 41,705 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 1,228 contracts worth 42.154 million euros, with 1,954 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 9,046 contracts worth 13.894 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Intracom's contracts (1,627), followed by PPC (402), OPAP (526), Piraeus Bank (294), National Bank (501), Alpha Bank (820), Marfin Popular Bank (943), Attica Bank (470) and ATEbank (1,029).
 Foreign Exchange Rates - Saturday-MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.391
Pound sterling 0.677
Danish kroner 7.500
Swedish kroner 9.241
Japanese yen 169.81
Swiss franc 1.675
Norwegian kroner 7.965
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.452
Australian dollar 1.580
 Remains of lost American divers identified through DNA testThe remains found in Lake Vouliagmeni in 2006 belong to three American citizens who disappeared while diving on September 9, 1978, the United States Embassy in Athens announced on Friday.
The remains were positively identified as those of Sargent Donald Michaud, Airman Jan Granroth and her brother Mark Granroth through mitochondrial DNA sequencing tests carried out by a Department of Defense Armed Forces Medical Examiner, an embassy announcement said.
The families of the lost divers have been contacted, while funeral services with full military honours will be provided for all three over the coming weeks.
The Embassy announcement thanked the "extraordinarily helpful and unselfish Greeks" that took part in the recovery, which took several months, stressing that the volunteer divers that brought up the remains were "heroic in their efforts, at risk to their own lives and safety".
It also offered thanks to the Port Police of Vouliagmeni under Chief Konstantinos Petridis, the civilian volunteer divers Kostas Lazanas, Thanasis Liosis, Zaharias Vivilakis and Makis Themelis.
"On behalf of the government, and especially the families of the three divers, we are enormously grateful to Mr. Lazanas and his colleagues," the announcement added.
Thanks were also offered to the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology of the Athens University Medical School, which carried out an exhaustive examination of the remains, as well as the justice ministry and a number of Greek officials and private individuals that assisted the recovery in various ways.
"Without all these efforts, the families of the lost divers would still be living in uncertainty and unresolved grief," the announcement concluded.
 Fire at Elekistra near Patras, placed under controlA wildfire which broke out at 17:00 on Friday afternoon at Elekistra, a few kilometres from the port city of Patras on Greece's west Peloponnesian coast, was placed under control on Friday evening.
A strong fire-fighting force with 10 fire-engines was sent to tackle the blaze, assisted by two fire-fighting aircraft and one helicopter from the air.
Burnt in the blaze were arable and forest expanses, as well as a shed in which fortunately there were no animals.
 Firefighting efforts continue nationwideThe unprecedented devastation caused by hundreds of fires continued throughout the country on Friday, while main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou is expected to travel in a helicopter to the village of Hiliomodi in Corinth, in the north Peloponnese, to visit the most seriously affected regions.
The situation in Corinth has improved compared to last night but a strong firefighting force is still in the area battling the flames. The fire in Mani, southern Greece, has been placed under partial control and is continuing to burn forestland in south Mt. Taigetos.
The fire in Chrisokelaria, Koroni, also in the Peloponnese, was rekindled, while the PZL firefighting aircraft remain grounded because they have reached the allowed flight time limit and are undergoing maintenance.
A wildfire continues to burn for a third day in a remote area in Mt. Grammos, in the prefecture of Kastoria, northwestern Greece. Participaing in the firefighting effort, which is hampered by the existence of several minefields in the region, are 13 firemen, 4 fire engines and a helicopter.
Meanwhile, the fire that erupted at dawn in a farm area in Nikiti, Halkidiki was placed under control by 12 firemen and 5 fire engines.
A third fire that broke out in a forest area in Petrokerasa, Thessaloniki, on Thursday was quickly extinguished by fire-fighters.
The latest fires reported were in the old army camp near Malakasa, north of Athens, where fire-fighting efforts are hampered by the existence of unexploded munitions, and in the Mandalos shooting range in Mt. Paiko, in the prefecture of Pella, northern Greece, which was being battled by land and airborne forces and was reported to be under control.
Fire at old army camp in Malakasa, north of Athens
A fire broke out at 14:20 in the afternoon near the old army camp in Malakasa, an area with dense woodland to the north of Athens.
The fire is buring land designated as forest and dry grassland but the fire brigade is alarmed because it has entered the area of the army camp, where there are unexploded munitions and there is a danger of explosions that prevents the 21 firemen on the scene from approaching.
The fire is currently being combatted by a fire-fighting helicopter from above.
Fire at Dervenaki, Achaia, rekindles
Hundreds of acres of pine forest and arable expanses were burnt at Dervenaki, Daikoptos, Achaia, in the Peloponnese, while also destroyed was a country house, an old cars compound, old warehouses and barns.
The fire, which started on Thursday afternoon, began to ease on Friday morning. However, shortly after 7 p.m. on Friday, the fire rekindled in an inaccessible point, near the Patras-Corinth national highway and rescue squad teams intervened to place it under control.
 Three people to blame for Proastiakos accident, inquiry findsA fact-finding inquiry into last week's collision between a goods train and a passenger train of the suburban railway Proastiakos on Friday blamed the accident on human error and said that responsibility was divided among three people.
Fifty people suffered light injuries as a result of the accident.
The report submitted by the fact-finding committee that was commissioned by Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis and the management of Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE), which was finished in record time, said that the Lykotripa station master was most to blame for the accident, followed by the engine driver of the Proastiakos train and then the station master in Athens.
An OSE report did not list the reasons why the three were considered to blame for the accident, saying only that it was based on the records in the tachograph of the two trains, the telegraph book of the Athens and Lykotripa railway stations, interviews with staff on duty and witness accounts.
The findings of the report will be forwarded to the appropriate OSE services, which will launch disciplinary proceedings.
 Kissavos mountaintop accessible by carThe new 12km-long road expected to be completed by the end of August will allow easy access to Kissavos mountaintop where the Kanalos Refuge is situated.
The road project is fully harmonized with the environment and is expected to boost investments and tourist flow in the region.
 Hot on SaturdayHot weather and light to moderate northerly, northeasterly winds are forecast throughout the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 4-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 19C and 41C. Sunny weather in Athens, with winds reaching 3-4 beaufort and temperatures ranging from 25C to 39C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 24C to 40C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe large number of wildfires, the political confrontation over their causes and the fire-fighting plan, the main opposition PASOK party ballots, Archbishop Christodoulos' release from hospital, and the new draft law on taxation were the main front-page items in Friday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Greece is being burned down by Greeks - Who are the arsonists".
APOGEVMATINI: "Tax cuts between 2,320 and 3,200 euros - Draft law with 18 measures against tax evasion".
AVGHI: "Fires fanned by the land grabbers' expectations - 180 fire fronts in two days".
AVRIANI: "PASOK turns into volcano over the exclusion of party cadres - The shunned candidates and the prefectural party organizations launch resistance".
CHORA: "Waves of fire destroy the country - Burning questions - Were all 200 fires set by private interests? - Arson insinuated".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Only the sea is not threatened by fire - Private houses, churches were destroyed by fire, villages were evacuated and citizens' lives were put at risk".
ELEFTHEROS: "Simitis' PASOK turned to ashes - (PASOK leader George) Papandreou cleans up the party ballots".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Five fires per hour - Successive fire fronts in Corinth, Nafpaktos, Diakofto, Kefallonia, Mani, Lavrio, Grammos, Kavala".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Nightmare in the land of fire - The battle with the flames is out of control on many fire fronts".
ESTIA: "Fire fronts throughout the country - The work of arsonists according to the Fire Brigade".
ETHNOS: "Spectators in endless tragedy - Half of Greece turned to ashes - Rage over the government inefficiency".
KATHIMERINI: "Endless tragedy - Panic and desperation".
LOGOS: "Unending inferno - Corinth declared in state of emergency".
NIKI: "Rage and desperation - Tens of houses devoured by flames".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The forest-killing policy continues while the guilty ND-PASOK legislation is in effect - The (Greek Communist Party) KKE launches attack in parliament".
TA NEA: "Burned down by the Fire Brigade - Accused of inefficiency".
TO VIMA: "The 18 changes in taxation - The entire draft law".
VRADYNI: "Nightmare - The country in unprecedented inferno - Well-orchestrated plan prepared by arsonists".
 Papadopoulos: We pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in 1974NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Today our mind and our heart must be with those who lost their lives defending and saving our national dignity, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos stressed here Friday on the occasion of the 33rd anniversary of the Turkish invasion against Cyprus, which took place on July 20th, 1974.
"I believe that today, our mind and our heart should be with those who sacrificed their lives, defending with their sacrifice, our national and human dignity", President Papadopoulos said.
His statement came after an official memorial service at Faneromeni Church in Nicosia, for those who lost their lives during the Turkish invasion, in the summer of 1974.
Present at the memorial service were also, among others, President of the House of Representatives Demetris Christofias, members of the Council of Ministers, political party leaders, MPs, Greece's Ambassador to Cyprus Demetris Rallis, the National Guard and Police leaderships, war veteran associations, relatives of those who died during the invasion, as well as an all-party delegation of the Greek Parliament.
The Greek government was represented at the memorial service by Greek Minister of National Education and Religious Affairs Marietta Őiannakou.
In his statement, the President of the House of Representatives urged all Cypriots to be united with a view to avert a new fait accompli in Cyprus.
"Today's message should be our common struggle to avert any new fait accompli in Cyprus, to free our country from the Turkish occupation and from the illegal settlers, so that better days come for us", he said.
On behalf of the Greek government, Minister of National Education and Religion said that the achievement of a just and viable solution of the Cyprus problem is the common goal of the Greek and Cypriot governments.
"Cyprus has made much progress, Cyprus is a member of the EU. What is pending now is the achievement of a just solution and the reunification of Cyprus, based on the EU principles", she added.
In his speech at the memorial service, Cypriot Minister of Defense Christodoulos Pashiardes said that although time is working against the Greek Cypriot side, "we must achieve a functional and viable solution" and not just any solution for the sake of closing the Cyprus problem.
He also noted that while Greek Cypriots "commemorate their dead and count again with a lot of pain their missing, their enclaved people and the thousands of refugees, right beside us the Turks celebrate their crime against Cyprus".
In the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus many events are being held Friday to "celebrate" the Turkish invasion of 1974, in the presence of Turkish political and military officials.
Turkish troops invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974, occupying 37% of the island's territory, killing thousands of people, forcibly uprooting some 200,000 Greek Cypriots, making one third of the island's population, from their homes and properties while hundreds of people are still missing.
The Republic of Cyprus became a full EU member state in May 2004.
 Papadopoulos: Talat avoids a meeting for the promotion of 8 July agreementNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said here Friday that Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat continues to avoid having a meeting with him, with a view to promote the implementation of the July 8 agreement.
In statements on the sidelines of an official memorial service in Nicosia, for those who lost their lives during the Turkish invasion, in the summer of 1974, and asked whether a date has been set for a meeting between him and Talat, Papadopoulos recalled Talat's statement on Thursday that he will respond to Papadopoulos' invitation for a meeting when the time is right.
Invited to interpret this statement, Papadopoulos said that Talat ''continues his policy to avoid having any meetings until he manages to arrange a meeting that will not fall within the Gambari process.''
President Papadopoulos and Talat agreed on 8 July 2006, during a meeting in Nicosia in the presence of the then UN Under-secretary General Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, to begin a process of bicommunal discussions on issues that affect the day-to-day life of the people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues, both contributing to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
Papadopoulos sent recently a letter to Talat asking for a meeting with him, with a view to promote the implementation of the 8 July agreement.
 Government denounces provocations by Turkish and Turkish CypriotsNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Government Spokesman Vassilis Palmas denounced provocations by Turks and Turkish Cypriots, during an event organised Thursday evening at Ledra Palace, next to the buffer zone, by centre-right Democratic Party to condemn the Turkish invasion of 1974.
''These are problems we are facing and are stemming from the invasion and the occupation,'' he added.
Some Turkish settlers and Turkish Cypriots carrying ''flags'' of the pseudostate and flags of Turkey, gathered at the occupied areas, near the buffer zone, and hooted at those who attended the event, among which was Cyprus President and former DIKO President Tassos Papadopoulos.
''Such attitudes are unacceptable and of course they do not contribute to the creation of a climate of trust between the two communities and of preconditions for the achievement of a solution to the Cyprus problem,'' Palmas said replying to questions.
''These are unacceptable actions which contribute to the division and to the creation of conditions that maintain the status quo,'' he added.
Palmas said that the presence of foreign deputies at celebrations staged by the illegal regime in the Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, on the occassion of the 33rd anniversary of the Turkish invasion of the island, is the result of efforts by the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey to upgrade the pseudostate in the occupied areas and of the non-solution of the Cyprus problem.
 Cyprus government says US Undersecretary most welcome to visit CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns is most welcome to visit Cyprus, Government Spokesman Vassilis Palmas said here Friday, refraining from commenting statements by Burns, who expressed hope that UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon will undertake a renewed effort to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Cyprus problem.
Burns told CNA that he looks forward to visiting Cyprus, ''hopefully in September.'' He also noted that ''we hope that the Secretary General of the UN will support a renewed effort by the UN to launch negotiations,'' clarifying that he does not mean the July 8 2006 agreement signed between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
''Mr Burns is most welcome to visit Cyprus,'' Palmas said, adding that the schedule and the agenda of his visit will be discussed between the US and the Cypriot government.
Asked about Burns' statement that his hope for a renewed effort by the UN Chief did not concern the July 8 agreement, Palmas said ''it would be meaningless to interpret some statements made by Mr Burns.''
''It would be wiser for the government to comment when the details of his visit are finalized,'' he added.
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