|Sunday, 9 August 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-01-25
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 25 January 2008 Issue No: 2803
 PM in Ankara: Peace requires the strength to endure itGreek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis continued his ground-breaking trip to Ankara on Thursday at the head of a high-ranking Greek delegation, which was received at the presidential mansion by Turkish President Abdullah Gul. Hours earlier the Greek premier laid a wreath at the Ataturk Mausoleum (Anitkabir) in the Turkish capital.
In a dedication in the visitors' book at the mausoleum, Karamanlis wrote: "Kemal Ataturk with Eleftherios Venizelos had the political courage, volition and foresight not to allow conflicts and tragedies of the past to become obstacles to efforts at building a better future of peace and cooperation, towards the benefit of both our peoples."
Karamanlis also met with Turkey's main opposition leader (CHP) and veteran politician Deniz Baykal in the Turkish capital.
At noon, Karamanlis delivered an address at Ankara's Bilkent University, where he noted that the world is changing at an unprecedented speed, bringing a plethora of new opportunities and challenges, but also threats, the most worrisome of which was, perhaps, the blatant abuse of political power.
Speaking during the second day of his official visit to the neighbouring country, Karamanlis said Greeks and Turks, as neighbours, are faced with similar challenges.
"In this new world, Greeks and Turks, as neighbours, face common challenges. Issues, which geography and modern-day reality, demand that we face jointly. This requires frankness, confidence and commitment," Karamanlis said, citing the EU as an example, and particularly France's and Germany's rapprochement after World War II.
Karamanlis also referred to Turkey's European prospect, reaffirming Greece's support, and stressing that "the European family is defined by our collective desire for democracy and respect, and full adoption of the fundamental principles and values, which are: human rights, such as freedom of speech and religion; minority rights; peaceful resolution of differences, denouncement of the use, or threat of use of violence; respect of the territorial integrity of states, and devotion to International Law and International Treaties".
The Greek premier explained that the target was "to give Turkey the opportunity to prove its volition and preparedness to adopt and fully apply the European principles and values, the European way", because "we are convinced that a European Turkey will prove to be to the benefit of its own people, first of all, of the region, and of the entire continent".
Greek-Turkish economic relations have improved, Karamanlis said, noting that the total volume of trade between the two countries was rising steadily, reaching 2.3 billion dollars in the first nine months of 2007 alone.
Problems in the relations between the two countries, however, remain, he continued, "problems that we cannot underestimate", but "which are up to us to resolve".
"In that direction, and wanting to believe that both countries manifest true volition to turn to the future, we have a powerful ally, which is the only means that the modern-day peaceful societies employ: International Law," Karamanlis said.
On the Cyprus issue, Karamanlis stressed that "the time has come to tear down, in Nicosia, the last remaining wall of division in Europe".
"Greece and Turkey have the duty to try, together with the people of Cyprus, to restore its (Cyprus') independence, sovereignty and unity. To reach a solution that is just, viable and functional, founded on the Resolutions of the UN Security Council and the acquis of the European Union, of which Cyprus is a member," the Greek premier stressed.
"We have a difficult past behind us; a past known to all of us. History, however, cannot be rewritten. But what can be written from here on are the pages of the future; and inspired leadership is needed to draw lessons from the past and forge a brighter future," he said.
"I know very well that the road ahead of us is long and difficult. But the cost of not moving forward, and the lost benefit from not forging ahead, will be immense. And this, precisely, is the strongest incentive for keeping our eyes turned to the future," Karamanlis continued.
"Greece and Turkey are at a strategic crossroad. We have much to gain from moving forward, together. But we have even more to lose by following the path of tension and enmity," he said.
As for Greece, the prime minister said, "I can assure you that our commitment is to move forward".
History, he concluded, "has taught us that everything depends on the choices. On our choices. Now is the time to turn the words into action ... Peace requires the strength to endure it," Karamanlis said, citing a verse by Greek Nobel laureate poet Odysseas Elytis from his celebrated "Axion Esti" collection.
"This is the peace that is worth fighting for," the Greek prime minister concluded.
In answer to a handful of questions, Karamanlis said the best answer to obvious euro-sceptism over Turkey's European course is complete fulfilment of criteria, prerequisites and reforms for full accession.
"Trust your friends," was Karamanlis' laconic answer to a question on whether Athens' support for Ankara's EU prospects is merely a pretext in order to achieve Turkey's compliance with Greece's demands.
Finally, asked whether he would consider visiting, along with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, "both sides of Cyprus" -- i.e. the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish-occupied northern third of the isle -- Karamanlis emphasised that the Cyprus problem was not an issue of symbolism, but of substance.
"We have expressed our political volition to find a fair and viable solution with a final goal of leading to the island's reunification," he said, adding that the basis for such a framework lies in international law, treaties and the July 8 agreement.
 PM Karamanlis holds talks with Ecumenical Patriarch VartholomeosISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Panagopoulos)
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, currently on an official three-day visit to Turkey, held talks with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Thursday, stressing that the reopening of the Halki School of Theology is a top priority.
"In the struggle to defend the just causes of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the values that it stands for, in the struggle that is taking place with the weapons of logic and persuasion as well as of common interest I assure you that we shall not waver and we shall not back down. You can consider as a foregone conclusion the active and continuous support of the Greek state in this effort. In this spirit, the reopening of the Halki School of Theology is a top priority for us. We shall work with determination and consistency, together with all those who share our values in Greece, Turkey, and all over the world, to enable you to continue unimpeded the work that you are carrying out, and which is liked by God, for the fulfilment of the major mission of the Patriarchate," the prime minister said, addressing the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Karamanlis said he was deeply moved to be visiting the Fanar, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, an institution that, as he said, has constituted the religious cradle of the nation for 17 centuries.
The prime minister praised the role played by the Ecumenical Patriarch, stressing that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with the inspired guidance of Vartholomeos has assumed a substantive role in the face of international challenges.
"You have been the first international leader to embrace the message of saving the environment and you have proclaimed its importance. Your initiatives have met with international acceptance and they highlight the modern-day role of the Patriarchal throne in absolute agreement with your theological mission. There is no doubt that through such initiatives the universality of the institution is underlined in the strongest of ways and its international presence is boosted," the prime minister said.
He also referred to the defending of human rights and institutions through the initiatives assumed by Vartholomeos, noting that the Ecumenical Patriarch's views have a universal appeal.
Karamanlis further pointed out that Vartholomeos is the voice of eastern Christianity, being the first among equals on the firmament of Orthodox Churches, in the effort to defend these values, adding that the western Church has also been mobilised in this effort.
Lastly, the prime minister said that Vartholomeos remains in a longstanding sense the firm European voice in Turkey, despite whatever adversities and disappointments.
Welcoming Karamanlis, the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed his satisfaction for his visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's seat, terming his visit to Turkey and to Istanbul as being of historic significance, since hopes are being created for the promotion of relations of friendship and cooperation between the neighbouring countries.
He also expressed satisfaction because the prime ministers of Greece and Turkey are struggling with all their strength for greater rapprochement between the two peoples and for their closer cooperation on the basis of all elements that unite them.
"We congratulate you wholeheartedly for this effort of yours since the Ecumenical Patriarchate always aims at the building of harmonious and peaceful relations between those living in the same geopolitical area, the peoples of Turkey and of Greece and believes that both can always live peacefully and fraternally under the same sky which we hope will never be overshadowed by clouds of conflicts," he said.
The Patriarch further said that the Patriarchate is working for unity and peaceful cooperation among all Christians and people regardless of gender, race and religion.
"Therefore, strengthening the role and the work of the Patriarchate is in the interests of all, which is a source of blessing for Turkey, as well as for the whole world," Vartholomeos said.
The prime minister and his wife Natasha were to attend a private dinner later on in the evening with his Turkish counterpart and his wife Emine. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos and the rest of the official Greek delegation were to attend a dinner hosted by Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan.
On Friday morning, the prime minister will be addressing a business forum in Istanbul, together with his Turkish counterpart, and he will be concluding his visit with a meeting with expatriates at the High School.
 ND retains voter preference lead in Metron Analysis pollThe ruling New Democracy (ND) maintained its lead in voter preference, according to an opinion poll conducted by Metron Analysis polling company on behalf of the weekly To Pontiki, the results of which appeared in the newspaper on Thursday.
According to the results, ND remained steady at 27.6 percent of the voter preference among respondents, retaining the same proportion as in the preceding poll conducted by the same company earlier in January.
PASOK, with 26.1 percent, was just 0.2 percentage points short of its previous posting and retained its place in the second slot, while the Coalition of the Radical Left parliamentary grouping rose to third place with 7.8 percent of the respondents' preference (up .1 percent from its posting of 7.7 percentage points in the previous poll), and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) fell to fourth place with 7.3 percent (down 1.1 percent from its 8.4 percent showing in the previous poll).
The Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party retained its place in the fifth slot, although it improved its showing to 4.1 percent from 3.9 percent in the previous poll, followed by the Ecologists-Greens party with 1.6 percent.
Finally, 7.3 percent of the respondents said they were "undecided".
The opinion poll was conducted betwen January 16 to 20.
 Education minister visits Thesprotia, northwest GreeceEducation and Religious Affairs Minister Evripidis Stylianidis continued a tour of Epirus in on Thursday, visiting the prefecture of Thesprotia.
Stylianidis arrived in the town of Paramythia in the morning and met the Paramythia and Filiata metropolitan Titos, after which he inspected the site of a primary school now under construction and a special professional education and training workshop.
During his visit, the minister also came across a group of local residents protesting against the creation of a landfill site at Karvounari. After a brief conversation with the group, he promised to convey their demands to the appropriate minister.
After Paramythia, Stylianidis paid visits to schools in the port city of Igoumenitsa and then chaired a meeting of local bodies at the prefecture headquarters to discuss all issues concerning the region.
He announced that Igoumenitsa, like Ioannina, will soon acquire its own modern schools as part of the "smart schools" programme.
After his return to Ioannina in the evening, the minister will meet the president and heads of department at the Epirus Technological Educational Institute and then attend an event where he will present high-school children that came top of their class in 2005-2006 a free computer to reward their efforts.
He is due to continue his tour in Preveza prefecture on Friday.
 PASOK's Venizelos meets with party leader PapandreouProminent main opposition PASOK deputy and recent leadership contender in the November 11 inner-party elections Evangelos Venizelos met on Thursday with leader George Papandreou.
"I have asked for this meeting, which, unfortunately, has not taken place for two-and-a-half months after November 11, because we must at any cost avoid PASOK's introspection in a particularly crucial conjuncture for the country due to a collapsing government," Venizelos told reporters after the meeting.
"The citizens demand a lot of things from PASOK and we must respond. I was and I will remain a guarantor of the party's unity," he added in an indirect response to press speculation regarding a split in the party.
"All those who try to invent so-called internal enemies are seriously harming PASOK and its prospects," he added.
In statements later to the press, PASOK Spokesman Yiannis Ragoussis said that for leader George Papandreou and the party "the only opponents are the problems and the inadmissible, anti-popular and counter-development policy of this government."
"PASOK should advance forward united and powerful," Ragoussis said adding that one "assumes his responsibilities through his statements and mainly through his actions."
 KKE leader meets employees at Drug Prevention CentresCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga on Thursday accused the government that the aim of its policy on the problem of drugs is either to curb the public sector related to prevention and rehabilitation or have it pass into the hands of private persons, "considering to have unhappy working class families facing the big problem of drug addiction and rehabilitation as their clientele."
The statements were made after her meeting with the Employees Union at the Drug Prevention Centers, stressing that what is the criterion for KKE is "the widening of the sector of prevention."
Papariga further said that employees in the prevention sector are owed over six million by the health ministry and over one million by the interior ministry.
Lastly, she stressed that her party considers it an obligation to inform the Greek people in a wider sense to facilitate coordinated and immediate actions to prevent the worse.
 Coalition leader Alavanos on Zachopoulos caseCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Alekos Alavanos said on Thursday that he is expecting the prime minister to reply in relation to "rumours and discussions" on the role of a New Democracy party deputy "in the various efforts for deals and extortions."
Referring to the mass media, Alavanos said that it is a major issue "not only of vested interests of the mass media and of political power, but of the forms that these vested interests are taking on, which are leading the country's entire political life to pathology."
Lastly, Alavanos said that "the Coalition has made proposals and is expecting from ESHEA (the Athens Journalists Union) radical measures for the handling of this matter. We must ultimately wonder if the mass media are for supporting shipowners or for supporting political extortions or whether they should be placed at the service of society."
 Deputy FM Kassimis visits Greek community in Cape TownCAPE TOWN (ANA-MPA/S.Aravopoulou)
Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis continued on Thursday his tour of South Africa by meeting here third generation Greek youths.
The minister was welcomed at the Greek communal school of the St. George Metropolitan Church, during a ceremony officiated by Metropolitan of Cape of Good Hope Sergios.
Around 5,000 Greeks live and work in this South African city, forming a community with a century-long life.
 New Turkish ambassador in AthensANKARA (ANA-MPA)
Turkey on Thursday announced the name of its new ambassador to Greece, with the up-until-now Turkish special representative to Iraq, Ouz Çelikkol, appointed to the diplomatic post.
A day earlier, Çelikkol had participated in a Turkish delegation's talks with a visiting Greek delegation in Ankara, a session chaired by Turkish Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan and Greek Premier Costas Karamanlis.
The Turkish envoy's position in Athens had remained vacant since last September, when former ambassador Tahsin Burcuoglu was appointed secretary general of Turkey's powerful national security council.
 FinMin meets U.S. envoyEconomy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis received on Thursday U.S. Ambassador in Athens Daniel Speckhard. Talks focused on bilateral issues.
 Parliament VP in EgyptParliament Vice-President Elsa Papadimitriou, a ruling ND deputy, is due to arrive on Thursday in Cairo, Egypt. On Friday, Papadimitriou will meet with the president of the Egyptian Assembly (parliament) Ahmet Fahti Sorur.
 FinMin addresses 1st meeting of Nat'l Council on tax evasionEconomy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday called on all agencies concerned to submit proposals on combating tax evasion, in his opening address to the first meeting of the National Council on fighting Tax Evasion.
Alogoskoufis said that everyone perceived that the Council was "not a vehicle for producing conflict" but, rather, its purpose was to collate the views that are expressed in the context of the Council. Nor was it for television consumption purposes. "This Council will operate responsibly," he stressed.
The minister outlined the efforts that have been made to curb tax evasion, through cross-checking of data in order to pinpoint inconsistencies.
He further noted the application of VAT on newly-constructed residences, and the simplification of the Customs Code, as well as the Code on Ledgers and Bookkeeping.
Alogoskoufis also said that the TAXIS (tax authority office) system has been upgraded, while the Special Audits Service has been reorganized, while he further referred to the steps taken to clamp down on fuel smuggling, and to the incentives offered to professionals to cooperate with the tax authorities and report transgressions.
The minister called on the Council members to submit their own proposals, adding that these would be taken into consideration in planning the steps aimed at combating tax evasion.
Economy and finance deputy minister Antonis Bezas told the Council that wiping out tax evasion was a fundamental priority of the government, stressing that tax evasion deprived society also of precious resources.
He also noted the initiatives taken by the government to curb tax evasion, stressing that it was a problem that needed to be confronted in cooperation with all sides concerned, and adding that "we have a long way ahead of us", urging the Council members to submit proposals.
 Parliament ratifies Greece-Microsoft agreementThe Greek Parliament on Thursday ratified a cooperation agreement between the Greek State and Microsoft Corporation. The agreement was passed by majority vote, with all the opposition parties voting against it.
Commenting on the deal, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis described it as "balanced" and said it brought important benefits and favourable terms for Greece but was not binding for the country and did not make the Greek public sector in any way "dependent".
"The agreement with Microsoft combines immediate economic benefits while it is not binding for our country in cases where higher costs arise. The procurement of software will be carried out through open international tenders, in accordance with European and Greek legislation, and any other company is free to participate, without any commitment to buy [Microsoft] products," Alogoskoufis said.
The finance minister also pointed to "major benefits for the public, particularly school children and students, small and middle-sized enterprises and the public sector" and said the deal was part of the government's digital strategy of forging closer cooperation between the public sector and private-sector companies on IT issues. He also particularly emphasised the provision under the deal for creating a Microsoft Innovation Centre in Greece and for centres for learning about technology in regional areas.
Opposition MPs, by contrast, slammed the deal as "leonine, inequitable and colonial" while main opposition PASOK claimed that it concealed other "secret" deals.
 Greek Tourism minister inaugurates 'Les Thermalies 2008'PARIS (ANA-MPA - K. Halkiadakis)
Greece's Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos on Thursday inaugurated the 'water and wellness' trade fair "Les Thermalies 2008" at the Louvre Museum in Paris, where he had just begun a five-day official visit.
The Greek minister also inaugurated a pavilion set up by the Greek Tourism Organisation EOT at the trade fair, noting that Greece was a much more prominent presence in this year's international exhibition for "water, wellness, thermalism and thalassotherapy," featuring all kinds of spa resorts and water therapy services.
Spiliotopoulos underlined that the trade fair was a first-rate opportunity for Greece to publicise the 800-plus locations in the country offering spa tourism services of various kinds.
Earlier, the minister held talks with a former French culture minister, Jack Lang, a member of a committee discussing institutional reforms in France. The French politician agreed to a proposal by Spiliotopoulos to chair a symposium on culture to be organised in Athens.
During his first day in Paris, the minister also dined with acclaimed Greek director Costas Gavras.
 Civitas to merge with Global Tanitim of TurkeyThe Greek strategy and communications company Civitas on Thursday announced a merger deal with Turkey's largest communications and public relations firm, Global Tanitim.
According to the announcement, the two companies with join forces in a bid to dominate their two markets and jointly develop a strong network in southeastern Europe and the Black Sea countries.
The merger will create the largest and most powerful company in the field in both Greece and Turkey, with a combined turnover exceeding 16 million euros, more than 120 specialised staff and more than 50 multinational and local clients.
The merger agreement provides for two stages, beginning with a share swap in which each will acquire a stake in the other's share capital and then followed by the creation of a joint holding company.
 Town planning surveys to be financed with 18 million eurosOver 28 thousand acres of land will be included in town planning by decision of Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias for town planning projects, surveys and implementation rulings that have been pending for up to 25 years to be financed by his ministry with 18 million euros.
"Today, we are giving a final solution for a very important issue, a pending issue lasting for many years, that we received from previous governments," Souflias said.
 Greek stocks rebound, up 8% on Thurs.Greek stocks significantly rebounded during Thursday's session, with the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) gaining 8 percent to push the composite index to 4,426.53 points. Turnover was a heavy 595.2 million euros, of which 56.6 million were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher, with Utilities (12.53 pct), Personal/Households items (10.99 pct), Banks (9.13 pct) and Oil&Gas (7.67 pct) posting the biggest percentage gains of the day.
The Big Cap index was up 8.17 pct, the Mid Cap index gained 7.39 pct and the Small Cap index ended 4.24 pct higher.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 256 to 28 with another 15 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +7.67%
Personal & Household: +10.99%
Raw Materials: +7.66%
Travel & Leisure: +6.88%
Food & Beverages: +2.75%
Financial Services: +6.84%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 22.18
Public Power Corp (PPC): 30.10
HBC Coca Cola: 27.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.16
National Bank of Greece: 41.78
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 19.54
Titan Cement Company: 31.88
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover falling to 232.901 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.00 pct and the February contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.46 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 16,231 contracts worth 185.778 million euros, with 26,755 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 361 contracts worth 9.135 million euros with 396 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 22.413 contracts worth 27.617 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Investment Group's contracts (3,212) followed by GEK (2,846), OTE (2,347), Postal Savings Bank (1,592), Marfin Popular Bank (1,551), National Bank (1,394), Intracom (1,394), and ATEbank (1,031.
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market icreased 1.396 billion euros on Thursday of which 580 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 816 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 465 million euros, followed by the 5-year bond (234 million euros). The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds stood at 0.40 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.37 pct and the German Bund 3.97 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.02 pct, the two-day rate 4.02 pct, the one-month rate 4.21 pct and the 12-month rate 4.31 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.478
Pound sterling 0.752
Danish kroner 7.512
Swedish kroner 9.561
Japanese yen 157.55
Swiss franc 1.610
Norwegian kroner 8.100
Canadian dollar 1.501
Australian dollar 1.689
 Hellenic Foundation for Culture to establish Centre in MelbourneMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/S. Hatzimanolis)
Procedures are underway for the operation of a Hellenic Foundation for Culture (HFC) Centre in Melbourne, Australia, following a decision by the foundation's board, which is chaired by Athens University former rector, Professor George Babiniotis.
The HFC Centre will be housed in the Hellenic Museum premises, located in downtown Melbourne, and all facilities used, namely, office spaces, conference rooms and exhibition hall, as well as the services offered by the La Trobe University's National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research (NCHSR) will be provided for free.
The Foundation's objective is culturally oriented, directed at the Australian community with the purpose of projecting Greek culture elements through sophisticated events that will highlight the timeless quality of Greek culture and its contribution to the shaping of European culture.
The HFC falls under the authority of the Greek ministry of culture and operates in close cooperation with the foreign ministry, aspiring to promote the Greek culture in Europe, the United States and Australia.
According to HFC chairman Babiniotis, the foundation's goal is to organize high level cultural events that will convey cultural messages to Australians regarding Greece, its history and contribution to the world. Future plans include the hosting of an exhibition with books referring to the work of Homer, whose writings constitute the oldest text of the European culture. Homer's verses will be recited in the English language, performed by famous Australian actors, while a luxurious and impressive publication on Homer will also be available.
 'Mt. Athos in Greek Art' exhibition in AthensA National Bank of Greece's Cultural Foundation exhibition entitled "Mt Athos in the Greek Art" opened Thursday in downtown Athens, an event held in cooperation with the Mount Athos community.
A total of 180 works (paintings, etchings and books) by 43 artists, the majority of whom belong to private and public collections, will be on display until March 23.
 Mubarak visits Greek pavilion at Cairo book fairCAIRO (ANA-MPA/N. Katsikas)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak visited the Greek pavilion at the 40th Cairo International Book Fair on Wednesday, where he expressed his satisfaction at the large number of works by Egyptian authors that have been ttranslated into Greek.
Mubarak, accompanied by Prime Minister Ahmed Mohamed Nazif and government ministers, was received by Greece's ambassador to Egypt Ioannis-Alexios Zepos.
The Greek pavilion was organized by the National Book Centre of Greece, which was participating in the fair for a second year in a row.
 Baby monk seal back to the wild - with mobile!Victoria, an orphan baby seal rescued from angry seas near the island of Tinos just hours after she was born, will be returning to the wild and a natural life in the sea on Saturday. She won't be shunning civilisation entirely, however, since she goes forth equipped with her very own mobile!
Named after the woman who dived in and rescued her, Victoria Drouga, the little seal was raised by staff and volunteers at the Society for the Study and Protection of the Mediterranean Seal (MOm), who not only kept her alive but also taught her survival skills that she will need in the open sea. As a result, three and a half months after she was rescued, she is now ready to return to her natural environment and was transferred to the National Marine Park of Alonissos.
"To begin with MOm's Nursing Team and volunteers had to force feed the baby seal with fish paste in order to replace the mother seal," explained MOm's communications officer Pepi Lagonika.
"Gradually, we tried to teach her to swim by putting her in a pool. She refused and didn't want to go in the water and we had to train her, like we do with a small baby," she added.
After she became accustomed to the water, Victoria then had to learn to eat on her own and hunt:
"After the fish paste, we started giving her fish fillets by hand but then we had to teach her to hunt for her own food. So MOm experts began by throwing dead fish into the water, which Victoria would play with and think they were toys, like the ones she had in her pool to keep her occupied. Once she discovered they could be eaten, they started to throw in live fish and also let her spend a lot of time on her own so that she would become 'wilder'. In the meantime, they watched her using cameras," Lagonika explained.
The young Monachus monachus seal that arrived at the centre weighing just 15 kilos has now grown to 50 kilos and is ready for life on her own.
To keep track of her, however, MOm will attach a transmitter similar to a mobile phone on the small seal that will send the team SMS messages at regular intervals.
"Through text messages that we will receive at regular time intervals we will be informed of the young seal's geographical location, the depth of her dives, the amount of time she spends in and out of the water and her swimming speed," Lagonika said.
According to MOm's PR officer, this method is considered more reliable than satellite monitoring that MOm used in 2004 on the seal 'Dimitris' that was also released into the wild.
"The young seal, equipped with the latest cutting-edge technology but also inoculated against dangerous viruses, is the 16th Monachus monachus that returns healthy to its natural environment after receiving care and is a double joy for MOm, since it highlights even more the 20 years of effort by the organisation for the survival of this rare species," she added.
Mediterranean or monk seals are currently threatened with extinction with only 500 individuals known to exist. Half of these are in Greece, which contains their most important habitats.
 Greek deputy elected president of CoE commission on MideastPARIS (ANA-MPA/O.Tsipira)
Ruling New Democracy (ND) deputy Aristotelis Pavlidis, head of the Greek parliamentary delegation at the Council of Europe (CoE), was elected president of the Middle East Commission, during the works of the 1st Parliamentary Session of the CoE taking place this week.
ND deputy Nikolaos Dendias was elected first vice-president of the Immigration Commission.
 Young expatriates visit ThessalonikiYoung expatriates from countries in the southern hemisphere, who have been visiting Greece since the beginning of January within the framework of the foreign ministry General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad "Greek Language and Culture" program, were received at the Thessaloniki City Hall by mayor Vasilis Papageorgopoulos on Thursday.
During their stay in Thessaloniki, the 130 young expatriates, aged between 18 and 25, visited museums, Byzantine churches and toured the Old City district.
Participating in the Greek Language and Culture program are young expatriates from Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay, Panama, Peru, Chile, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
 Baby trafficking ring arrests on CretePolice on Crete continued to investigate an alleged baby trafficking ring following the arrest of four women, all Bulgarian nationals, at the Irakleio University Hospital.
According to reports, the four attempted to sell a recently born baby boy to a childless couple for 3,000 euros. The infant's mother is reportedly amongst the four arrested suspects.
Two Bulgarian men were also arrested in connection with the case, while another man, the reputed ring leader, is wanted.
 Detainee escapes from Omonia police stationAn Albanian national arrested on petty theft charges managed to escape from the Omonia Police Station detention cell where he was held pending his appearance before a prosecutor.
According to a police statement on Thursday, the Albanian prisoner eluded the guards and escaped when he and another 7 detainees were taken out of the holding cell to be transferred to the examining magistrate's office.
 Escaped convict recapturedPolice in Nafplio on Thursday reported the capture of a convict that absconded after five-day home leave and was being sought. They said the man had failed to return to Tirynth Prison after the end of his leave, which was the second he had been given.
The convict was serving two sentences: one of six years, three months and 20 days and a second for one year, 10 months and 28 days.
He was caught in the Nafplio area on Wednesday night and taken before a public prosecutor.
 Chief of Police visits injured special guard in hospitalThe Chief of the Greek Police (ELAS) Anastasios Dimoschakis on Thursday paid yet another visit to the young special guard Stathis Lazaridis at Iraklio University Hospital on Crete, where he is being treated for life-threatening injuries sustained during an ambush set by drug traffickers near the village of Zoniana on November 5, 2007.
Dimoschakis expressed satisfaction with the young man's recovery, which doctors described as slow but steady, and stressed that the police would not stop taking care of him. According to doctors, the special guard is expected to have recovered sufficiently by February 10 for his transfer to the 401 military hospital, where he will continue his treatment.
 Light earthquake off Kos islandA light earthquake measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale was recorded in the early morning hours on Thursday in the sea region south of the island of Kos.
The trembler was recorded at 4:22 a.m., at a distance of 330 kilometers southeast of Athens.
 Athens airport offering know-how to Beijing in light of 2008 Olympic GamesAthens airport will offer to Bejing know-how, particularly its experience from the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, in light of the Chinese capital hosting the summer Olympic Games in 2008.
According to an announcement, Athens airport officials are having close cooperation with Beijing's Olympic Games Organizing Committee, providing for it support and know-how for a series of sectors, such as arrival and departure procedures, off-airport processing, the handling of luggage and equipment and a series of logistics and transportation procedures.
Relevant working meetings have taken place since November 2007, both in Beijing and at Athens airport, which was recently visited by a large delegation composed of Beijing airport, Chinese Civil Aviation Service and Air China officials.
 Palmas: Turkey wants Annan plan solution in CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Turkey maintains a consistent and steady policy on a Cyprus solution, which is based on the parameters of a UN-proposed plan, rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Greek Cypriots and approved by the Turkish Cypriots, Government Spokesman Vasilis Palmas said on Thursday.
Commenting on statements made Wednesday by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a meeting in Ankara with his Greek counterpart Costas Karamanlis, Palmas said "Although Erdogan said that the Annan plan belongs to the past, indirectly but clearly he said that the solution of the Cyprus problem should be based on that plan, which he did not name."
The spokesman said that when Erdogan refers to the need to adopt the essence and the content of the plan, he is clearly referring to a Cyprus solution based on the parameters of the Annan plan, which the people of Cyprus have rejected.
"The clear conclusion we draw is that Turkey is consistent and focuses on a Cyprus solution based on the Annan plan's content", he added.
Referring to statements by the Greek Prime Minister, Palmas pointed out that "Karamalis expressed clear, consistent and firm positions on the need to implement the July agreement, of 2006, an agreement signed by the UN and both communities in Cyprus, the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities".
The spokesman noted that the Turkish Cypriot community "agreed and signed the July agreement upon approval by Ankara and Erdogan himself".
The Turkish Cypriot side, he stressed, "agreed and signed an agreement which it is now questioning and once more violating, referring us again to a solution, contrary to the wishes of the people of Cyprus".
On the absence of any reference by Erdogan to two states in Cyprus, Palmas indicated that Ankara changes its views depending on who its interlocutor is.
"It would be right and constructive if Turkey were to state clearly its positions and views in order to help create those conditions that could lead to progress", he concluded.
In his statements Wednesday in Ankara Karamanlis reiterated the need for the full implementation of the July agreement.
"About the Cyprus problem: our aim is the full implementation of the July 8, 2006 agreement for a just, viable and functional solution that would lead to the reunification of Cyprus, so that all residents of the island, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots enjoy the benefits of the EU accession", he said.
He added that the Cyprus solution should be based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, EU principles and the July agreement.
In his remarks to the press, Erdogan said that the Cyprus solution should be solved under UN auspices and expressed his support for the Annan plan.
"The spirit and the substance of the Annan plan could be preserved. Our effort is to solve the issue at the negotiating table. We, as guarantor powers, will encourage the interested sides for a solution", he added.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
President Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed on 8 July 2006, during a meeting in Nicosia in the presence of then UN Undersecretary for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari, to begin a process of bicommunal discussions on issues that affect the day-to-day life of the people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues, both contributing to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
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