|Saturday, 18 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-01-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 26 January 2008 Issue No: 2804
 PM in Turkey: European principles the basis for Greek-Turkish relationsISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Panagopoulos)
European values and principles must henceforth govern relations between Greece and Turkey, with an end to actions that caused friction or raised tension, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in an address to business people from both countries on Friday.
"Greece's steadfast aim, always, is the full normalization of Greek-Turkish relations. And in order for our relations to proceed substantively, actions that contravene international law or cause tension must cease. The basis of our relations must be the European values, the principles of the European Union," Karamanlis said.
He also emphasised that Investment and the development of economic and trade relations laid the foundations for more wide-ranging, mutually beneficial cooperation between Greece and Turkey and their peoples. Karamanlis was addressing a Turkish-Greek Business Forum in Istanbul - also attended by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan - on the final day of his groundbreaking three-day official visit to Turkey, the first by a Greek premier in nearly 50 years.
Addressing the Forum, Karamanlis said that the value of such meetings was not limited to the purely economic level.
"I believe that our economic collaborations pave the way for greater rapprochement between us and highlight in the most eloquent way the lost profits that tension and friction cost us. In that sense, they lay the groundwork for constant deepening of our bilateral relations," Karamanlis said.
The prime minister said that a more-or-less complete legal framework for cooperation has already been formed, but added that he looked forward to its expansion to all sectors of mutual interest, so that there will be no ambiguity or uncertainty over the laws governing bilateral economic relations.
He called for unceasing dialogue on advancing the economic relations between the two countries and referred to the Greek side's proposal that the 11th conference of the Greek-Turkish Cooperation Group on Trade and Economic Cooperation be convened in Athens in early February. He also noted that the 4th conference of the Greek-Turkish ministerial economic committee was due to be held in Turkey in the first quarter of 2008.
Karamanlis said that the volume of trade between the two countries reached 2.7 billion dollars in 2006, and expressed hope that the various obstacles faced by Greek exports to Turkey would soon be eliminated in the framework of a display of a spirit of harmonious cooperation between the two countries.
He also said that a substantial improvement has been observed in the field of investments, with the Greek capital invested in Turkey having reached 5.5 billion dollars.
Karamanlis made specific note of the investments by Greek banks in Turkish banks, and described as interesting the investment initiative of Turkey's Ziraat Bank to operate branches in Greece.
He also referred to the example of the cooperation between Greek and Turkish construction firms in Amman, noting that similar actions could follow in such sectors as tourism and renewable energy sources.
Karamanlis placed particular emphasis on cooperation in the tourism sector, adding that he looked forward to an increase in tourism from Turkey to Greece.
On land-based transports, Karamanlis noted that the relevant interministerial committee's 14th conference would take place in end-January, and described as a positive development the annual issue of transit passes exchanged between the two countries.
Karamanlis further noted the jointly agreed construction of a second bridge at the Kipoi-Ipsala border crossing between Greece and Turkey and the need for additional air transport connections between the two countries.
The Greek prime minister also made special reference to bilateral cooperation in the energy sector, noting in particular the natural gas pipeline and the imminent completion of the electricity grids of the two countries.
In closing, Karamanlis stressed that the prospects for Greek-Turkish cooperation were positive, and the results to date were substantial, but added that "relations among states progress, in essence, only from within a stable and friendly political framework".
In this framework, he announced that Greece will support a bid by the coastal city of Izmir, on Turkey's Mediterranean shores, to host the EXPO 2015 trade fair.
Karamanlis winds up his visit in the early afternoon on Friday, departing for Athens soon afterwards.
 Turkish prime minister ErdoganTurkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that the Greek prime minister's visit to Turkey was "historic for Greek-Turkish relations", adding that peace, stability and development required commercial and economic cooperation, speaking at the Forum after Karamanlis.
Erdogan said that the two peoples had much in common from the past in many sectors, and urged that "we must resolve our differences, which we have been discussing for a century".
The two sides could continue to discuss but Turkey was anxious to see some progress from these talks, he indicated. "A just and legal solution must be found in the framework of the law," he said.
Erdogan said that the two countries want the support of institutions and foundations in the effort to improve their relations, and called on the mass media to "not cause problems to these steps of improvement".
Elaborating that he was referring to both the Turkish and the Greek media, Erdogan said that they should "see the glass as half-full, rather than half-empty", and noted that meetings were taking place "even at family level", because "we want to overcome the problems between us".
Erdogan stressed that the problems "must not overshadow the opportunities opening up ahead of us" but instead "we must find peaceful ways to peacefully build the future together".
 Karamanlis visits 'Great School of the Nation' in TurkeyISTANBUL (ANA-MPA - A. Panagopoulos, A. Kourkoulas) Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis concluded a three-day official visit to Turkey on Friday at the "Great School of the Nation". Here, the Greek premier was met by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, students at the school and members of Istanbul's Greek community.
In a brief address, Karamanlis said that the 'Great School of the Nation' represented in the thoughts of Greek people, since its foundation in the 15th century up until today, the archetypal image of a Greek place of education.
He also emphasised that, after 500 years of uninterrupted operation, it was also the oldest educational establishment in the world.
"It is, without question, an authentic ark of knowledge about Hellenism, through the teaching of the Greek language and Greek culture," he added.
Karamanlis emphasised the School's position within Istanbul and said that its presence in Turkey's largest city was an asset for wealth and power, in the same way as the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
"For Turkey's European course, the presence of these ecumenical symbols on its territory can be a very strong advantage. All of you are, in any case, a powerful advantage. Not just for the progress of Turkey's European course but for the improvement of Greek-Turkish ties - for which we are continuing to work on a bilateral level," Karamanlis said as he addressed the Istanbul Greeks gathered at the school.
"The presence of the Greek minority, its thriving and progress, can be a truly stable bridge of friendship and cooperation between the two countries in our efforts to build a future of peace and friendship," he underlined.
Stressing the need for a "creative synthesis of cultures", Karamanlis said that the hopes for this rested chiefly with young people. He called for dialogue and reconciliation of cultures for the continual progress of humanity in conditions of peace and prosperity.
Ending his speech, Karamanlis said he felt greatly honoured to be the first Greek and the first European prime minister of his century to speak from the podium of the "School of Schools" and address the young people that will live in the city in the future.
In brief remarks as he saw off the Greek premier, Patriarch Bartholomew appealed to Karamanlis "not to forget" the Greeks of Istanbul and the "spiritual womb of the nation".
"The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek community surrounding it want to live, have to live. They can withstand. It is their historic duty," he stressed.
He emphasised the "historic importance" of Karamanlis' visit to Turkey and said that the Greek citizens of Turkey anticipated historic decisions would arise from it, while he praised the Greek premier and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan for launching a new period in the relations of the two countries.
"Our troubled world needs leaders that respect the vision of Kemal Ataturk and Eleftherios Venizelos," he added.
 Turkish FM on ecumenical status issue vis-a-vis PatriarchateISTANBUL (ANA-MPA)
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babaçan on Friday was again asked about the status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey, given Ankara's official opposition to the ancient Orthodox Christian Church's "ecumenical status", merely noting that his government "must see the issue differently and rethink it".
Babaçan added that Ankara will take into consideration the "pros and cons" of the issue, "we must think about this very carefully", he merely said before departing for Davos, Switzerland.
Speaking during a three-day official visit by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to the country this past week, Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said the "ecumenical issue" was an exclusively "Orthodox Christian" issue.
Erdogan added that the issue of the reopening of the Halki Seminary - closed by the Turkish government in 1971 - was under review by the Turkish government.
 Tourism minister meets spokesman of French presidencyPARIS (ANA-MPA/K. Halkiadakis)
Greek Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos, on the second day of his official visit to the French capital on Friday, met with the press spokesman of the Presidency of the French Republic, David Martinon.
After the meeting, Spiliotopoulos underlined that "what unites us, over and above the long-term friendship, is the fact that between us there is an identity of views. We both know that we must rid ourselves of traditional dilemmas, prejudices and dogmatism of the past. We know that in the problems of our era, we are obliged to answer with practices and solutions which can be implemented, solutions which can have any ideological or political colour."
On his part, Martinon said that he often visits Greece as a tourist and ascertains that "the Greeks have technical know-how and experience in the tourism sector, maybe the best in the world," adding that "there are excellent sites and hotels in Greece."
 US State Dept. on FYROM name talksWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
The US on Thursday urged Greece and FYROM to continue working towards a resolutin of the FYROM name issue.
US state department deputy spokesman Tom Casey, asked to comment on the continuing impasse in the FYROM name talks, said during a press briefing on Thursday:
"We understand that this is a very sensitive issue in Greece and in 'Macedonia'. That's why we think it's important that there be a compromise between the parties and a mutual understanding arrived at under UN auspices on the issue of the name. Certainly, we wish it would have been resolved earlier, but we want to continue to encourage both countries to continue to work at it because I think it's important that they do achieve a resolution that can satisfy both parties."
 Slovenian envoy outlines EU presidency's prioritiesSlovenian ambassador to Athens Vladimir Kolmanic presented, during an event on Friday, the European Union presidency's priorities, which include the EU Reform Treaty, environment and climatic change, the dialogue between cultures and energy.
Slovenia holds the six-month rotating presidency as of January 1.
The event was organised by the European Parliament's representation in Athens in cooperation with the "European Movement".
Kolmanic said the Slovenian presidency attributed particular importance to the issue of Kosovo.
"We are working as hard as possible to achieve a convergence of positions among EU member-states on this issue," he added, noting the complexity of the issue as regards the positions of member-states. He also said that the Slovenian presidency would handle the issue "as softly as possible."
The Slovenian envoy also said that the western Balkans fell within the top priorities of the presidency. He further underlined the "very good relations" the European Union has with Russia, saying that the latter is a major partner of the Union, to which it attributes particular importance.
During the debate, Kolmanic insinuated that the Slovenian presidency would work towards a closer cooperation of the two sides.
 Interior minister chairs meeting in DelphiInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Friday chaired a meeting of regional prefects in Delphi and the main theme was the procedures for the coordination of all the regions on issues which are related to the next programme period.
"By the end of the first quarter of 2008, the required preparatory work will have been completed for the start of 13 operational and sector programmes, while by the end of February 2008, the ministerial decisions will be ready for the establishment of the Special Management Services for every programme," said Pavlopoulos at the Delphi European Cultural Centre.
The minister added "the government's decision is to achieve the best possible management of the 4th Community Support Framework (CSF), implementing to the fullest the opportunities offered for the strengthening of employment, the substantial promotion of regional development and the upgrading of the quality of life of the citizens."
 Journalists testify on the Zachopoulos caseThe investigation into the Zachopoulos case continued Friday with testimonies by journalists and the co-owners and publishers of the Proto Thema newspaper Makis Triantafyllopoulos, who has now bowed out of the paper, and Themos Anastassiadis.
Triantafyllopoulos gave an additional testimony on the Zachopoulos blackmailing case before the special examining magistrate and commented afterwards that the investigation continues in all directions.
A Special Audit Service employee had testified earlier regarding an investigation into the large amount of money deposited into one of Anastassiadis' bank accounts.
Meanwhile, Anastassiadis testified that he has no knowledge of an alleged meeting between Triantafyllopoulos and a ruling New Democracy parliament deputy.
Anastassiadis was called to testify before First Instance Court Prosecutor Maria Gane conducting a preliminary investigation on allegations made by Triantafyllopoulos according to which, an ND deputy had approached him to ask the newspaper to stop connecting Special Audit Service head Spyros Kladas to the Zachopoulos case in return for dropping the probe into the journalist's bank account.
Meanwhile, two Proto Thema newspaper journalists, Antonis Schreuter and Giorgos Christoforidis, were summoned to testify before First Instance Court prosecutor Panagiotis Athanasiou engaged in the preliminary investigation on Zachopoulos' conduct while being the culture ministry general secretary.
The two testified concerning a newspaper report according to which Athens' Megaron Music Hall had received state subsidies of millions of euros.
Leaving the prosecutor's office, Schreuter stated that the news report was prompted from the fact that the initial building license for the land plot where Megaron was eventually built allowed for the construction of underground parking space to be later turned into a licence for the construction of a conference centre before ending up as an opera house with state budget subsidies of 110 million euros.
 DEPA, Edison sign agreement for Greek-Italian gas pipeline co.ROME (ANA-MPA)
A Greek and an Italian firm on Friday signed a letter of intent to establish "Poseidon SA", the parent company of the underwater section of a Greek-Italian gas pipeline that will transport natural gas from Azerbaijan to Greece and Italy.
The agreement, between DEPA and Edison, was signed on the sidelines of a meeting between Italian Minister for Economic Development Pierluigi Bersani and Greek Development Minister Christos Folias, who is on an official visit to Rome.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the Greek minister said DEPA and Edison will hold a 50 percent stake each in Poseidon SA and that the new company will be based in Athens.
"It is a first major step to begin all procedures for the implementation of an ambitious energy interconnection plan, to transport natural gas from Greece to Italy," Folias said.
The Greek-Italian pipeline project is an extension of the Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline project that was inaugurated late last year.
The Greek-Italian pipeline will have a ground section with a length of 590 km and a diameter of 42 inches, extending from Komotini to Igoumenitsa. The underwater section will have a length of 212 km and a diameter of 32 inches, linking Igoumenitsa with Otranto, Italy.
The Greek minister said the project was part of a strategic plan by the Greek government to turn the country as an energy hub in southeastern Europe.
Folias met with the management of ENEL, a partner of Public Power Corp. (PPC).
 Exclusive interview with ESEE President ArmenakisNational Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) President Dimitris Armenakis, in an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA, called for more National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) 2007-2013 funds to be allocated to the trade sector and for intensification of the government's reforms. He also referred to the serious problems faced as a result of the illegal street trade, while on the social security system he stressed that ESEE calls for guarantees to ensure the financial viability of the confederation's social security fund (OAEE).
Armenakis stated that the immediate government priorities for 2008 should be the acceleration of reforms, solution of lingering problems such as the social security and education reform that have a negative effect on consumers, promotion of the country's comparative advantages, such as trade, and implementation of reform measures to combat red tape.
He also stressed that the commerce sector needs state funding and called for equal treatment with other economic sectors included in the 2007-2013 National Strategic Reference Framework.
On the social security issue, Armenakis commented that ESEE calls for a socially fair and long-term viable social security system, suggesting that the sector's pension fund should receive funding from the state budget based on the GDP rate. He called for improved health services, measures in support of working mothers and use of computerized systems to avoid overspending and mismanagement practices in pension funds.
On the occasion of the winter sales period launched on January 15, he called on retailers to be friendly with consumers who in turn should stay within their budget limits and engage in market research before buying.
He pinpointed illegal street trade and the attempted market oligopoly as the biggest problems faced by small and medium sized businesses.
On the retail stores' business hours, he said that businesses can be open from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm adding that there are factors that determine whether they will be closed or not at noon stressing, however, that the Sunday day off is non-negotiable.
 Greek current accounts deficit up 31% in Jan-Nov 2007Greece's current accounts deficit reached 12 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product in the 11-month period from January to November 2007, the Bank of Greece announced on Friday.
The central bank, in a report, said the current accounts deficit jumped by 31 percent compared with the corresponding period in 2006, to 27.3 billion euros, reflecting a 16.4-percent increase in the trade deficit and a widening of the incomes balance, by 27 percent over the same period.
The country's trade deficit widened by 5.2 billion euros, reflecting a worsening vessels' balance by 1.8 billion euros and a 3.2 billion euros increase in the other categories deficit. Receipts from exports rose by 518 million euros, or 4.9 pct, while payments on imports jumped 11.9 pct or by 3.7 billion euros in the January-November period.
The services surplus rose by 1.2 billion euros, reflecting a 16.6 pct rise in proceeds from transportation services -mainly shipping. Net proceeds from tourism were almost unchanged.
The 27 pct increase in the incomes' deficit reflected a 28 percent rise in interest payments, while a fall in the current transfers surplus reflected lower net revenues from the EU. The capital transfer balance showed a surplus of 2.9 billion euros in the 2007 period, for a total surplus of 4.9 billion euros, compared with a surplus of 5.2 billion euros in 2006.
Foreign direct investments fell in the January-November period to 990 million euros, from 4 billion euros in the corresponding period in 2006. Portfolio investments recorded a net inflow of 13.3 billion euros in the 11-month period, while the "other" investments category recorded a net inflow of 13.136 billion euros.
 PASOK, SYN on Greek current account deficitMain opposition PASOK deputy Louka Katseli stated on Friday that "the significant increase by 5.6% in the trade deficit in November shows that the serious productive deficit of the Greek economy is widening. The statements by the Economy and Finance Minister of so-called developmental reserves, shows that he is not aware of the magnitude of the problem."
"Today's data on the development of the current account confirm yet again the crisis of competitiveness of the Greek economy, which the government is unable to deal with through its economic policy," she added. Katseli noted that "the current account deficit has dangerously widened by 3.4 billion euros in November, touching 14% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the eleven-month period January-November 2007."
On his part, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) deputy Panagiotis Lafazanis noted that "the current account deficit which in the eleven-month period reached the unprecedented 13.7% of the GDP and claims first place in the world, is not only maintainable, but in combination with the developing international financial and economic crisis, will have tragic consequences, particularly in salaries, employment and the handing over of the country to profiteering capital and multi-national companies."
 Trade balance deficit posts rise in Nov. 2007 yr/yrGreece's trade balance deficit rose by 5.6 percent in November 2007 year on year, according to figures released Friday by the National Statistics Service (ESYE), reaching 2,955 million euro against 2,798.1 million euro in November 2006.
According to ESYE, the overall value of imports-arrivals in November 2007 rose to 4,514 million euro in November 2007 from 4,308.6 million euro in November 2006, marking a 4.8 percent increase, while the overall value of exports-dispatches in November 2007 rose to 1,559 million euro from 1,510.5 million euro in November 2006, marking a 3.2 percent increase.
In the 11-month period of January-November 2007, the trade balance deficit rose to 33,048.7 from 29,145.3 million euro in the corresponding period in 2006, marking an increase of 13.4 percent.
ESYE said the deficit resulted from the difference between the overall value of imports-arrivals and the overall value of exports-dispatches.
 PPC dismisses 'nuclear' press reportsPublic Power Corp. SA (PPC), Greece's power utility, on Friday categorically dismissed press reports that it was considering building a nuclear energy station in the country.
"There is no plan or recommendation of generating power production from nuclear energy. PPC's strategic plan does not include the use of nuclear energy," a statement read.
 Halcor buys 50.1% in Turkey's Sega BakirHalcor SA on Friday signed an agreement to buy 50.1 pct of Sega Bakir SA, a Turkish copper pipe manufacturer. The Greek-listed company said the acquisition will be made through a share capital increase plan by Sega Bakir, and will not exceed 1.0 billion euros.
The purchase is part of Halcor's plans to expand in Turkey and other Near East and Middle East markets. Sega Bakir SA is based in Istanbul and operates a production unit in Izmir.
 Greek stocks end 2.04 pct higherGreek stocks ended the last trading session of a highly volatile week with strong gains at the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday. The composite index rose 2.04 to end at 4,516.81 points with turnover a strong 645.8 million euros, of which 184.45 million were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher with the Raw Materials (5.45 pct), Chemicals (4.69 pct), Financial Services (4.55 pct) and Telecommunications (4.19 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Constructions (0.91 pct) and Travel (0.11 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index rose 2.16 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 3.19 pct higher and the Small Cap index ended 1.50 percent up. Kreka (19.86 pct), Cardico (18.64 pct) and Unibrain (17.11 pct) were top gainers, while Tria Alpha (9.81 pct), Ideal (9.15 pct) and Tsoukaridis (9.09 pct) were top losers. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 209 to 61 with another 30 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.38%
Personal & Household: +1.53%
Raw Materials: +5.45%
Travel & Leisure: -0.11%
Food & Beverages: +2.13%
Financial Services: +4.55%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Minoan Lines, National Bank, ANEK and Bank of Piraeus.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 22.78
Public Power Corp (PPC): 30.00
HBC Coca Cola: 28.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.40
National Bank of Greece: 42.96
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 19.56
Titan Cement Company: 31.00
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover a strong 243.294 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.91 pct and the February contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.74 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 16,240 contracts worth 192.833 million euros with 26,755 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 424 contracts worth 11.182 million euros with 396 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 13,898 contracts worth 21.541 million euros, with investment interest fosucing on Postal Savings Bank's contracts (2,555), followed by Eurobank (483), Marfin Investment Group (1,248), OTE (937), Hellenic Exchanges (609), National Bank (1,430), Intracom (552), Marfin Popular Bank (1,004), Mytilineos (803) and ATEbank (479).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.056 billion euros on Friday, of which 961 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.095 billion were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security of the day with a turnover of 385 million euros, followed by the five-year bond with 350 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was 0.41 percent with the Greek bond yielding 4.41 pct and the German Bund 4.00 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.05 pct, the two-day rate 4.05 pct, the one-month rate 4.21 pct and the 12-month rate 4.43 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - Saturday - MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.482
Pound sterling 0.748
Danish kroner 7.511
Swedish kroner 9.536
Japanese yen 159.62
Swiss franc 1.626
Norwegian kroner 8.088
Canadian dollar 1.493
Australian dollar 1.678
 Remote corner of Turkey banks on 'Ark find' to end isolationDOUBAYAZIT, Turkey (ANA-MPA/H. Tzanis)
Whereas Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' milestone visit to Turkey late this week may have dominated much of the weightier news coming out of the closely watched EU candidate country, a distinctly overlooked press conference -- replete with Biblical connotations -- took place last week in a remote and snow-covered far-east corner of Turkey that nevertheless offered glimpses of modern Turkey's unrelenting desire for development and international recognition.
Located on a dry, elevated plain towered over by imposing Mt. Ararat and Lesser Ararat, the dusty border town of Doubeyazit played host to the off-beat press conference, where a disparate panel of Hong Kong media executives-cum-Christian evangelists, a handful of Turkish academics and scientists along with officials of the host province (Ari) enthusiastically unveiled "material evidence" of the existence of the Biblical Noah's Ark.
The "evidence", resembling a small bolder of a greyish color, was reportedly tested by a Hong Kong lab and deemed to be petrified wood, according to the two men behind Hong Kong-based Noah Ark Ministries International, Media Evangelism Ltd. founder Andrew Yuen and HK documentary maker Yeung Wing-Cheung.
Both men, who joined local mountain guides for a grueling expedition atop Mt. Ararat last February, said the object was taken from a 11.5-metre-long chunk of the same material -- called a "large wooden structure" in press releases -- which was found in a cave located at an elevation of roughly 4,000 metres atop Mt. Ararat. The fabled mountain dominates the landscape in the rugged triangle where the modern states of Turkey, Iran and Armenia converge -- geographically, but certainly not politically. A military presence is easily discernable in the area, as the town hosts a well-equipped army garrison and there are gendarmerie checkpoints on all roads in the province, although locals appear unfazed by the activity.
Promises to give samples of the "object" to researchers and labs around the world for independent testing, ahead of another "Noah Ark" summit in Doubeyazit in August, and unimpeded access to the cave on the northwest side of the mount were uttered and repeated, as Yuen casually informed reporters that at least one piece of the material found in the cave will be returned to Hong Kong for display in a future "Noah's Ark theme park". He quickly clarified that "theme park" means a cultural and "inspirational" centre on a Hong Kong waterfront, with construction to come via local government funding and support by a major land developer in the former British colony.
Asked to calculate the costs for his organisation's quest to find and prove that a wooden structure was still somewhere atop Turkey's highest peak, Yuen said "several hundreds of thousands of dollars" since 2004.
For local residents, predominately ethnic Kurds, and central government-appointed officials, Ararat's potential as a draw for "Indiana Jones"-like pilgrims -- all three major monotheistic faiths cite the story of Noah, the Flood and Ark -- and adventurous tourists wishing to step-off the "beaten path" appeared incalculable. The last time the area attracted international attention it was of a decidedly negative flavour, namely, a series of deaths in January 2006 attributed to the H5N1 virus during the height of the "Bird Flu" scare around the world.
A new three-star hotel in Doubeyazit is testament to local hopes that the venerated mountain will again lure travelers to the remote Ari and Idir provinces, which host the Ararat chain, by the thousands. The deep-pocketed Hong Kong Chinese executives also promised to build a museum in the town, a pronouncement that was met with applause in the cold auditorium where the presentation was held.
"(The discovery) supports the thesis of the Ark resting on Ararat," was the way the city's governor, Cemalettin Demirciolu, diplomatically opened the press conference, with a trio of out-of-town Turkish professors merely adding their belief that the Ark rests on Mt. Ararat, ' but that more substantiated evidence (of its existence) is necessary' .
Indicative of the type of visitor local officials hope will help end the isolation of this under-developed and often turbulent part of the Near East, self-described "Ark researcher" Gerrit Aalten recounts several stories related to his repeated visits to the area and friendship with local people.
Asked if he believes there are remains of a wooden ark atop Ararat, the Dutchman responds, "yes, definitely."
 Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow declared professor emeritus at the Western Macedonia TEIPatriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia will be declared a professor emeritus at the Technological Educational Institution (TEI) of Western Macedonia on January 29, within the framework of festivities celebrating the Three Hierarchs feast day in Kozani, northwestern Greece.
According to a TEI announcement, the proposal was met with the Patriarch's positive response after considering the fact that the Russian language is being officially taught at the TEI.
A special event will be held with the attendance of a representative of the Patriarch, while the professor emeritus title will be delivered to him personally in the near future.
 NTOG participates in tourism event in New YorkNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The new Acropolis museum was presented at an event by the European Tourism Committee for the projection of this year's advertising campaign.
The presentation was made on the cruise ship "Queen Mary 2" and taking part was the office in New York of the National Tourism Organisation of Greece (NTOG).
NTOG was the sponsor for the event's musical section.
Twenty-one countries, including Cyprus, were proclaimed "Giants of Culture and Tourism for 2008".
Meanwhile, NTOG New York office deputy director Chrysanthos Petsilas said that there was a 30% increase of American tourists to Greece in 2007. The total number of travelers from America to Greece, including Greek-Americans, exceeded 500,000.
 Mt Athos exhibition opens in ThessalonikiThe "Mount Athos Monuments: an audiovisual guided tour" exhibition, organized by the Centre for the Preservation of Mt Athos Heritage (KEDAK) in cooperation with the Bank of Piraeus, was inaugurated Thursday evening in Thessaloniki by Macedonia-Thrace Minister Margaritis Tzimas.
The exhibition on the all-male monastic community will through March 31 and is a follow-up to a similar event held in Granada, Spain. It features a composition of digital photographs, simulations and scale models of monasteries, accompanied by audiovisual material, in an effort to bring the Mt Athos tradition and daily life closer to the wider public.
 Etchings by Picasso on display in ThessalonikiThree hundred and forty-seven etchings by Pablo Picasso, depicting persons and events of 1968, will be on display in Greece for the time, beginning on Friday at Thessaloniki's Telloglio Arts Foundation.
The exhibition, entitled "Suite 347", includes 347 works made by the renowned Spanish artist during the period from March 16 to Oct. 5 1968.
In these works, which belong to the Bancaja foundation, Picasso etches events inspired by the May 68 protests in Paris, and the political protagonists of the events, as Charles De Gaulle and Georges Pompidou. Other works involved Picasso's beloved themes of women and the female body.
The exhibition will remain open until April 16.
 Tourist flow from Australia on the riseMelbourne (ANA-MPA/S. Hatzimanolis)
For the first time in two decades, the number of Australian tourists visiting foreign countries will exceed the number of foreign tourists visiting Australia, while according to official figures, the tourist flow to Greece will show an increase of 8 percent this year.
Based on the Australian Statistical Service, the number of tourists visiting Australia remained stable during the past two years, as opposed to the number of Australian tourists who choose to travel abroad.
Tourist arrivals were up 2 percent (5.65 million tourists) in 2007 and 0.6 percent in 2006 as opposed to departures that were up 11 percent with an overall increase of 60 percent during the past four years.
Most popular tourism destinations for Australians are Thailand, China, India, Japan, France and Latin America.
 Karpathos pines in danger (recasts)A significant problem has arisen over the past few months with the pine trees on the eastern Aegean island of Karpathos island, as trees have begun to dry out for no apparent reason, whereas up to 30 percent of the island's pine forests have been destroyed, according to local authorities.
Prefectural officials have requested assistance from the Aristotelion University of Thessaloniki, with a mission expected to arrive on the island in the next few days.
The prefect of Karpathos and Kassos, Michalis Erotokritos, warned that if immediate measures aren't taken, then all of the pine trees on the island will be destroyed.
 Local man accused of industrial espionage via hackingGreek Police's (EL.AS) electronic crime enforcement bureau has filed charges for a second time in two years against a 58-year-old local man accused of stealing and disseminating software that was the product of industrial espionage, with the victim being a large multinational company based in France.
According to complaints filed with Athens police by a representative of the company, the damage it suffered since 2002, when the 58-year-old's alleged activities were first reported, is estimated at 361 million US dollars.
The stolen software was reportedly sold online by a hacker using the code name "ASTRA", with prospective buyers being competitors in the auto industry, aeronautics and military equipment.
 Exhibition on antiquities smugglingA media exhibition entitled "The stealing of History", organised by the Hellenic Culture Foundation, will open its doors on Jan. 31 at the National Archaeology Museum in Lisbon, Portugal.
The exhibition aims to inform people on antiquities smuggling and its consequences in culture.
Lisbon is the second city that has hosted the exhibition, after a stop in Trieste, Italy.
The exhibition is part of Greece's efforts to boost the repatriation of illegally exported antiquities.
 Body of foreign road accident victim remains unclaimed in ThessalonikiThe body of a 54-year-old Russian national who was run over by a car while crossing a street in Thessaloniki on January 17 remains unclaimed at the AHEPA Hospital morgue in Thessaloniki, police said on Friday.
The victim has been identified as a homeless man named Cergeh Tahhaahc, of Hoakin and Anna, and police request that anyone with information regarding the victim to contact the Road Accident Office phone number in Thessaloniki: 2310-566 210, 566 204 and 566 206.
 Hooded individuals attack police stationHooded individuals riding motorbikes threw fire-bombs at the Pefki Police Station in Attica on Friday evening.
The culprits threw quite a few fire-bombs against the police station, which exploded and at least four patrol cars and private cars caught fire.
The fire brigade sped to the scene and extinguished the fires.
The assailants sped away and are being sought.
 Illegal immigrants arrestedA Turkish trafficker who transported a total of 96 illegal immigrants in his truck, was arrested on Friday by border guards in the region of Mandra, Evros, northern Greece.
The truck was impounded, while the trafficker and the illegal immigrants will be led before the Orestiada public prosecutor.
 Partly cloudy on SaturdayPartly cloudy weather with northerly, northeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 8-9 beaufort. Frost in the morning. Temperatures will range between -7C and 14C. Partly cloudy in Athens, with northeasterly 6-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 3C to 12C. Mostly fair in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -1C to 10C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glancePrime Minister Costas Karamanlis' visit to Istanbul, during a 3-day official visit to Turkey, and his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, the examining magistrate's decision on which individuals will be charged in connection with the Zachopoulos affair, due in February, main opposition PASOK's in-party developments and the perpetuation of the internal crisis following a meeting on Thursday between party leader George Papandreou and former leadership candidate Evangelos Venizelos, and the rise in the general index of the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Thousands of unlicenced buildings to be legalised - 112,000 stremma (28,000 acres) to be registered in the Town Plans".
APOGEVMATINI: "Pilgrim in Constantinople (the former capital of Byzantium, present-day Istanbul) - Emotion and contemplation during Karamanlis' visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Istanbul".
AVGHI: "Public Power Corporation (PPC) plans a nuclear plant - Development Minister's denial is belied".
AVRIANI: "Full steam ahead for (early) general elections in March - Prime Minister wants to avert the formation of a new political party (by a splinter group from PASOK headed by Venizelos)......and George (Papandreou) agrees".
CHORA: " Let's follow a common path - Karamanlis stresses: We must not allow to past to hamper our future".
ELEFTHEROS: "Venizelos sends clear-cut message to Papandreou: I will not leave the party on my own volition, expel me".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Ultimatum before the rift - Impasse in Papandreou-Venizelos meeting - The formation of a Group by Venizelos a 'cause of war' for Papandreou".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The cohabitation hanging on a thread - The rift between Papandreou and Venizelos is unbridgeable".
ESTIA: "The future of the political landscape-The two mainstream parties (ND and PASOK) in a free-fall".
ETHNOS: "Postponement of 'divorce' in PASOK - Papandreou, Venizelos avoided the split at the last minute".
KATHIMERINI: "Crisis in PASOK widens- Papandreou sends ultimatum to Venizelos on Group foundation"
LOGOS: "In February the names of the individuals (to be charged) for implication in Zachopoulos affair"
NIKI: "Ideal suicide - PASOK falls into electoral void".
RIZOSPASTIS: " Primary healthcare tailor-made for profit".
TA NEA: "Last-minute truce - Venizelos-Papandreou relations on the edge".
TO VIMA: "Stockmarkets' ups and downs - 8% record-rise on Thursday on ASE- Specialists advise people to be cautious until June - Spectacular reversal in stockmarkets after the 3-day dive".
VRADYNI: "The mess in PASOK - On the verge of split, due to Venizelos' 'Think Group' ".
 President says no security without Palestinian state alongside IsraelNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos pointed out on Friday that ''we cannot have sustainable and regional security without the creation of a viable and territorially contiguous Palestinian state living in peace and prosperity, side by side with a secure Israel.''
In remarks during the international conference ''Peace Perspectives in the Middle East: A Focus on the Arab-Israeli Conflict'', organised in Nicosia by Daedalos Institute of Geopolitics and the Middle East Studies of the Nicosia University, President Papadopoulos said ''we cannot have a comprehensive peace in the Middle East without the peaceful resolution of the other tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict, namely the Lebanese and the Syrian tracks,'' adding that ''to this effect, engagement of regional actors is essential, and the cooperation of the European Union with the Arab League is also beneficial.''
''Almost two months after the Annapolis Conference and the reinvigoration of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, we have not witnessed any improvements on the ground. On the contrary, the security situation has deteriorated, with both Israeli and Palestinian civilians being the victims of spiraling violence,'' he said.
He added that ''at the same time, the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, exacerbated by the current blockage of Gaza from Israel, still remains a source of grave concern, not only for the short-term negative consequences to the peace process but also due to the potential growth of political and religious radicalism which flourishes in such conditions of political and economic stagnation.''
Referring to the role Cyprus can play towards a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional security in general, President Papadopoulos said that since it's accession to the EU, ''Cyprus has been transformed into the Union's external frontier in the Eastern Mediterranean and its potential to act as a political, economic and cultural bridge between the EU and the Middle East has been further enhanced.''
He added that ''in the endeavor to establish a coherent framework of principles and rules of justice and democracy throughout the region, Cyprus has a significant comparative advantage vis-a-vis other countries, which derives from the fact that it enjoys cordial bilateral relations with all its neighbors, both the Arab countries and Israel,'' adding that ''our objective is clear, namely peace and security in the Middle East.''
President Papadopoulos pointed out that ''the geostrategic importance of Cyprus was highlighted in practical terms during the crisis in Lebanon in the summer of 2006'' and that ''the expansion of the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon to include a naval component resulted in the use of the port of Limassol by the participating EU countries as a base of their fleet.''
''The successful establishment and functioning of such a comprehensive peacekeeping operation, through the vital assistance of an adjacent EU member state, proves that Cyprus is a strategic access strip for the speedy and secure deployment to the Middle East of UN or EU peacekeeping forces,'' he added.
Further to this, he said, Cyprus ''is assisting the modernisation of the civil service of Lebanon and of the Palestinian Authority.''
''It is my conviction that particularly on the Palestinian track, a well-trained, transparent and efficient civil service will reflect positively on the peace process. Through our government's Strategy for Development Cooperation we have allocated over 3 million US dollars for both Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority for capacity and institution-building projects for the period 2008-2010,'' the president said.
He added that, ''more importantly, and due to the geographical proximity of Cyprus to both Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, as well as our infrastructure, it becomes evident that Cyprus can be also utilised by EU member states, as well as governmental and non governmental international organisations, for such purposes of capacity and institution building.''
''Indeed, mutual and simultaneous steps, as prescribed by the Roadmap, need to be taken by both parties in order to build a political environment of cooperation and trust,'' he pointed out.
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