|Sunday, 8 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-03-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 4 March 2008 Issue No: 2835
 Bakoyannis meets NATO chief; reiterates Athens position on FYROMA NATO invitation to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) would not be forthcoming unless its differences with Greece over the name issue are first resolved, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis signaled through her statements on Monday, after a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Athens.
"An inescapable prerequisite for the expansion of any Alliance, for creating and building any bond of allied solidarity, is the unswerving observance of the principles, values and rules that govern the smooth operation of every Alliance," Bakoyannis said.
"I believe that a fundamental principle of any alliance is that when member-states actively give their support, they justifiably expect this to be reciprocated by partners and allies in their relations with third countries," she added at another point, highlighting Greece's 55-year history and contribution within NATO.
Another inescapable prerequisite was "that there not be between a member-state and a candidate-state open issues, matters that negatively affect relations between them," she underlined.
The Greek foreign minister reiterated Greece's conviction that problems should not be allowed to perpetuate but should be solved in ways that were mutually acceptable, final, practical and immediately enforcable.
"The absence of such solution in crucial issues of good neighbor relations does not allow the creation of relations of alliance," Bakoyannis stressed.
The minister pointed out that Greece had been a strong ally in NATO for 55 years, one of the oldest of the organization's allies in this sensitive region of Europe, and repeated Athens' concern about the prospect of destabilization of the region if problems of a nationalist and irredentist nature remained unresolved.
"The time for a solution that is mutually acceptable is now," she said.
Regarding two other issues that are expected to dominate the agenda of the upcoming NATO summit due to take place in Bucharest in April - the two NATO missions to Kosovo and Afghanistan - she said that Greece had sent a contingent of 2,000 troops to the two missions in 2007.
"This is active proof of Greece's support in its 55-year participation of the overall effort of the Alliance. In this, our contribution to the distribution of Alliance costs has a special place, with defense spending that amounts to 3 percent of our GDP," she pointed out.
On his part, the head of the Alliance said that NATO's doors were open but that the procedure for joining was based on the performance of each candidate-country and an invitation was only extended if all the 26 member-states of the Alliance agreed.
Regarding the talks underway between Greece and FYROM over the name dispute, Scheffer said that NATO was directly involved in the process, which was being handled by the United Nations and the UN Secretary-General's special envoy Matthew Nimetz, but was very interested in its outcome and would very much like an agreement to be reached before NATO's summit in April.
"This agreement must be possible, however," he stressed and repeated that "performance" was the key word regarding the issue of FYROM's name, as well.
"There is a difference between being a member and not being a member. I hope that a solution is found, it would be a great advantage," he said.
Asked whether the issue of a name was a violation of good-neighbor relations by Skopje, Scheffer underlined that good neighbor relations were a fundamental principle for NATO, as they were for the UN and the EU. He also stressed that "candidate-states are not members" and that there was a difference between a strong member-state and a non-member.
The NATO chief was also questioned about whether he had pressed Greece to increase its contribution to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. He replied that he was asking all member-states for greater participation, not Greece in particular.
 PM Karamanlis meets with visiting NATO Secretary GeneralPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis met Monday morning with visiting NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
No statements were made after the meeting.
Karamanlis was also due to meet later with visiting Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, followed by statements to the press ahead of a working dinner.
The prime minister is further scheduled to meet on Wednesday with the new Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, who will be on an official visit to Greece on March 4-6. The two leaders will hold a joint press conference after their meeting, followed by a working dinner.
 President meets NATO Secretary GeneralPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Monday had a meeting with visiting NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, during which he underlined that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had expressed a very clear position on the issue of the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and the prospect of extending FYROM an invitation to join NATO in the Greek Parliament.
Papoulias expressed hope that the problems would be overcome, while adding that the question of FYROM, while a problem for NATO, was a greater problem for Greece.
"I must also say that I have experience of this affair as foreign minister and I can summarize it in two words: the intransigence I met with then, as minister, the political leadership of Skopje continues to demonstrate today," he added.
 DM Meimarakis, NATO secretary general discuss Alliance issuesDefence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer discussed issues related to the Alliance during a meeting held at the defense ministry on Monday afternoon, according to a relevant ministry announcement.
 NATO chief hopes solution will be found to FYROM name issue before April summitNATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, speaking at a press conference on Monday evening on the sidelines of his contacts with the Greek government, said that the basis for the Alliance's enlargement is the performances of countries desiring to join NATO.
Scheffer reiterated that NATO functions on the basis of consent, clarifying that every candidate country is considered separately and expressing the wish that a solution will be found on the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) before the Alliance's summit in April, while pointing out that it is different for one country to be already a member-state and different to wish to join it.
As regards NATO's forces in Afghanistan, the secretary general said that "it is important that NATO's member-states respond to their pledges. For this reason and here in Athens I requested from the Greek government to examine the possibilities of doing more in the framework of NATO's mission in Afghanistan."
Referring to NATO's impending enlargement, Scheffer said "if an invitation will be extended to them to join depends on their 'performances'. It is not a question of an automatic process or of a guaranteed result" and stressed that it is important that the Western Balkans are handled as a wider region in its entirety.
"We must see NATO's relation with Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as with Serbia, since apart from the current problems with Kosovo, the relation with Serbia must remain open. And I consider this relation very important," he said.
On the question of FYROM's name, Scheffer expressed hope that a solution will be found before the NATO Bucharest summit is held, saying that "despite the fact that NATO and its secretary general have no direct role to play in the issue of the name, they have an interest in the issue, given that it is my job to have consent shaped, since NATO functions on the basis of consent."
He further said that "all 26 members of NATO must agree on whatever invitation is extended for new members in Bucharest. It is self-evident that in this process there are members of the Alliance and would-be members. And they are not in the same position. The members are inside NATO, while the would-be members are still outside. The issue of the name is an issue between a strong member of the Alliance for decades and a country wishing to join. I believe that all must take note of this."
Lastly, replying to a question on whether the election of Dmitri Medvedev to Russia's Presidency will affect Russian foreign policy, Scheffer said that it is too early for him to judge such a thing and stressed that both he and NATO are only interested in the relation and the cooperation between Russia and NATO.
 U.S. State Department on FYROM name issueWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey on Monday referred to the name issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
"Our message to both the sides is to continue to try," he said in reference to the U.S. stance.
Casey reminded that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice encouraged her counterparts Dora Bakoyannis and Antonio Milososki when she met them at the State Department two weeks ago "to continue working with (UN mediator on FYROM Matthew) Mr. Nimetz so as to conclude a mutually acceptable agreement."
The spokesman noted that he did not know whether Rice plans to meet her counterparts from Greece and FYROM on the sidelines of the informal NATO Foreign Ministers meeting, which will be held in Brussels on Thursday.
 Greece, Slovakia reaffirm good relationsPrime minister Costas Karamanlis and his Slovakian counterpart Robert Fico reaffirmed the good climate in relations between the two countries, in joint statements to the press after a meeting between the two premiers in Athens.
Karamanlis referred to Greece's relations with Slovakia in the EU and NATO, adding that the prospects for further development of bilateral economic relations between the two countries were also discussed during the meeting with Fico.
The Greek premier also said that there were margins for further advancing economic relations, and for greater cooperation in the areas of culture, tourism, research and technology, and energy.
Greece, Karamanlis continued, placed great importance on ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, adding that he and Fico also discussed developments in the Balkans, while emphasis was placed on stability in the wider region and on its European prospect.
Fico, who was earlier received by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, called for closer cooperation with Greece and an increase in the number of Greek investors in Slovakia, while he also invited Karamanlis to pay an official visit to Slovakia, accompanied by a delegation of Greek entrepreneurs.
The Slovakian prime minister said that the discussions with Karamanlis focused on mainly two sectors: state assistance, on the part of Slovakia, for investments in the tourism sector, and cooperation in the defence industry sector.
Fico announced that a memorandum on cooperation in the defense industry sector would be signed between the two countries in the immediate future.
Turning to Kosovo, Fico said his country's positions were similar to those of Greece.
He said that the creation of an independent Kosovo was a violation of international law, and added that it would be very difficult for his country to recognize Kosovo.
The Slovakian prime minister further pledged that his country will ratify the Lisbon Treaty.
Earlier, Fico was received by President Papoulias who said, on greeting the Slovakian prime minister, that the two countries shared common interests and common problems, particularly that of Kosovo, "which we believe requires particular caution so that there will not be reactions".
Karamanlis message to FYROM
Karamanlis also sent a new message to FYROM, replying to press questions after his meeting with the Slovakian prime minister.
The Greek prime minister reiterated that no solution to the FYROM name problem meant no invitation to join NATO.
"We are seeking a mutually acceptable solution, as mandated by the UN Security Council, as well as the European way of resolving differences," Karamanlis said.
"We have taken steps forward, and await FYROM to also take steps forward," the Greek premier stressed.
"We have direct interest in the Balkans, and support the Euro-Atlantic course of the Balkan countries. But stability depends on the relations of good neighborhood, and this is also set out as a criterion of assessment by NATO as well," he said, adding that "Greece cannot consider that these criteria have been met so long as FYROM persists in its stance".
"Our position is clear: no solution means no invitation to NATO," Karamanlis stressed.
On Kosovo developments, Karamanlis stressed that a KFOR presence must be ensured, and that the primary goal was peace and stability.
He reiterated that Greece was interested in the European prospects of the countries of the region, and particularly Serbia, "a prospect that we are working for", while, to a question on a prospective recognition of Kosovo by Greece, Karamalnis said that "Greece feels no pressure" and will take its decisions based on the national interests.
Fico, in turn, said he knew of no other region in which one ethnicity had two states. "It is a violation of International Law that can lead other countries with minorities to imbalance as well".
 Papandreou comments on FYROM name issueMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, speaking at his party's regional conference of eastern Macedonia and Thrace in the northern city of Alexandroupolis on Monday, said that PASOK was first in setting the "national red line" on the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) name that consists of a "mutually acceptable name with a geographic determination, no double name and a veto in the event of a deadlock."
Papandreou further said that "we shall support the government if it strongly supports in the negotiations what Mr. (Prime Minister Costas) Karamanlis said, we shall contribute to see that the message is also sent to Washington: no pressures on Athens but on Skopje," while calling on FYROM's government, at the same time, to consider its historic responsibilities.
"They must also make compromises so that we can shake hands tomorrow," he said, "since we are neighbours as peoples and we are living in the same region."
Papandreou also called on the government to undertake initiatives in the direction of the UN, the European Union and the United States on finding a solution.
 Papandreou focuses on foreign policy issues at PASOK regional conferenceMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, addressing his party's regional conference of eastern Macedonia and Thrace in the northern city of Alexandroupoli on Monday night, focused primarily on foreign policy issues, stressing with regard to the Balkans that instead of peoples being in conflict with each other and even worse, being the pawns of others, they could live together peacefully and with growth.
On the question of Kosovo, the PASOK leader said that with the unilateral proclamation of independence "we accepted the opposite of what was necessary for the Balkans and Europe," while for the Balkans he said that there is no country that is nationally and religiously pure.
Papandreou stressed that there should be "respect for borders and for human and minority rights," adding that his party does not believe in dividing lines.
Referring to the question of Cyprus as well, Papandreou said that "we said yes to the accession of Cyprus to the EU, we say yes to the accession of Turkey on condition, however, that it will respect all its commitments towards the EU, the territorial integrity of Greece and of Cyprus and human rights in Turkey itself."
 FM Bakoyannis receives U.S. AmbassadorForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis received U.S. Ambassador to Athens Daniel Speckhard on Monday evening, at the latter's request.
Speaking after the meeting, Speckhard said that the purpose of his visit was "cooperation with the ally Greece on preparation for NATO's Summit."
Speckhard also said that he listened with particular interest to the minister's views following the negotiations concerning the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that took place in New York over the weekend and before the informal summit of the foreign ministers of the Alliance's member-states in Brussels on Thursday.
 Russian Ambassador Vdovin discusses Kosovo developments at foreign ministryRussian Ambassador Andrei Vdovin visited the foreign ministry on Monday evening and held talks with the ministry's secretary general Ambassador Aristidis Agathoklis.
Speaking during his departure from the ministry, Vdovin said that the discussion focused on developments in Kosovo a problem which, as he said, entails "great risks not only for the stability of the region, but also of the world."
 PM sends congratulations to new Russian presidentPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis has sent a letter of congratulations to the newly-elected Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros announced on Monday.
Antonaros said that the premier had expressed his conviction that the strategic relations between Greece and Russia, based on strong historic ties and friendship, will be further cultivated in all areas in which political, economic and strategic cooperation has begun.
Karamanlis also stressed the close cooperation between Greece and Russia in the energy sector, so that they contributed to ensuring energy resources for all Europe, and expressed conviction that these ties will continue and become even deeper, as under the presidency of Vladimir Putin.
 PM Karamanlis congratulates new Russian presidentMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday sent a telegram of congratulations to newly elected Russian President Dimitri Medvedev.
Karamanlis expressed his conviction that the strategic relations between Greece and Russia will continue with tangible results in the future as well.
 New EL.AS chief assumes postPolice Lt.-Gen. Vassilios Tsiatouras was sworn on Monday as the new chief of Greek Police (EL.AS). Outgoing chief Anastassios Dimoschakis handed over the helm of EL.AS during a ceremony held at the Interior Ministry in the presence of Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and other officials
 ANA-MPA exclusive interview with new Cyprus PresidentNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A. Viketos)
Coordinating the efforts of Athens and Nicosia during upcoming developments linked to the Cyprus issue will be the main goal of the talks he will have with Greece's leadership during a visit beginning on Tuesday, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said in an exclusive interview with the ANA-MPA on Monday.
Christofias will be meeting President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis during his first official visit to Greece after being elected Cyprus' president.
Question: Apart from the self-evident symbolism of your visit to Athens, what will be the aim of your talks with the Greek government?
Christofias: "The election of a new president has of itself triggered a new activity. I will meet with Mr. (Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali) Talat. The first meeting will be exploratory. From there on there are issues that are linked to Confidence Building Measures, opening Ledra Street and the road block at Limnitis.
"There is more generally activity from the United Nations, the Security Council. I want to inform the president of the Republic and the Greek government and to exchange views on imminent developments. There will be a friendly exchange of views and I am sure that Greece will be on our side in the effort to revive a dialogue on implementing the July 8 Agreement.
"Also before us is the EU Summit, on which we will exchange views. Of course, I am interested in finding out about developments related to Skopje. I am not going to Athens to build relations. There was flawless cooperation with the former president [Tassos Papadopoulos] but I myself, as Cyprus House Speaker, had very good ties with all of Greece's political leadership."
Question: Will some guidelines be laid down about how Athens and Nicosia will proceed from now on?
Christofias: "I think guidelines exist. What's needed is coordination and briefing."
Question: Will your meeting with Mr. Talat take place after your return from Brussels in mid-March?
Question: What is the obstacle to setting the agreement of July 8, 2006 into operation?
Christofias: "This is what I will ask Mr. Talat. That is why I said that the first meeting would have an exploratory nature. After all, there is no other agreement that has been adopted by the Security Council. This agreement bears the signatures of Mr. Talat and Mr. Papadopoulos. I honor the signature of Mr. Papadopoulos, let him (Talat) also honor his own signature. I hope that in a climate of good will and mutual understanding we will see what the problems are, where the Turkish-Cypriot side considers there are problems so that this agreement can go ahead."
Question: "Should the opening of Ledra Street, Limnitis occur before or after the meeting?"
Christofias: "I shouldn't want to prejudice any outcome."
Question: Does Mr. Talat's letter to the UN Secretary-General prejudice some matters?
Christofias: "If everything said about its contents is true, then it is obviously prejudicial concerning some matters. These are issues that I will discuss with Mr. Talat."
Question: Have you asked to meet the UN Secretary General?
Christofias: "At the present stage, I don't want to burden the issues with new demands. Of course I want to meet the Secretary General, but priority in the agenda, for the present, goes to the meetings with (the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Cyprus Issue) Moller in view of the meeting with Mr. Talat."
Question: Given that you have friendly relations with Mr. Talat, could there not be direct dialogue between you without the intervention of mediators for a solution of the Cyprus problem?
Christofias: "The Cyprus issue is within the sphere of the United Nations. I consider that the UN is a safety valve. There is an occupation. The General Assembly and the Security Council have approved a succession of resolutions. Also, our position is that all five permanent members of the Security Council should take an active interest in a solution of the Cyprus problem. Consequently, it is my view that it would be a grave mistake to take the Cyprus issue outside its base, which is the United Nations."
Question: You have stressed that the key to a solution lies in Ankara. Will you seek a direct meeting with (Turkish Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan?
Christofias: "We will see this in due course. I do not rule it out at all, but Erdogan does rule it out."
Question: If negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem begin, should Famagusta be handed over by the Turkish side to the UN?
Christofias: "I think that we are pre-empting several things. I would not like to say anything before the first meeting with Mr. Talat takes place and before the National Council convenes. Consequently, I want to be restrained at this time in order for us to do as well as possible."
 FM Bakoyannis to receive new Turkish envoy on TuesdayForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will receive on Tuesday new Turkish Ambassador to Greece Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, a ministry press release said on Monday.
In another development, Bakoyannis sent a message of congratulations to new South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung Hwan, wishing him every succes to his new post and expressing her confidence that the "traditional excellent relations between Greece and South Korea will be further strengthened."
 US State Department report on narcotics in GreeceWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA - A. Ellis)
Greece is not a major country for the movement of drugs destined for the United States, according to the section on Greece in the U.S. State Department's annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released on March 1.
As the use of drugs increases, the illegal trade in narcotics remains an important issue for Greece in its battle against organized crime, the report underlines, while it highlights Greek-U.S. cooperation in making arrests, confiscating narcotic substances and in relation to dismantling criminal organizations.
"Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has raised the fight against corruption to a central element of his party's programme and the government has taken steps to implement measures against corruption," the report said.
It also notes that Greece neither encourages nor facilitates the illegal production and distribution of drugs or other controlled substances, nor the laundering of income from the drug-trade, while no high-ranking government officials appear to be involved in such activities.
 Greek participation in Washington International Conference on renewable energy sourcesWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
A Greek delegation headed by Deputy Development Minister Stavros Kalafatis will be participating in Washington's International Conference on Renewable Energy Sources (WIREC 2008), that will be taking place in the American capital's Convention Centre from Tuesday to Thursday.
The deputy minister will be accompanied by the ministry's secretary general Constantine Mousouroulis and the Environment and Town Planning secretary general Evangelos Baltas.
Ministers from over 100 countries and leading members of non-governmental organizations and of the private sector are expected to participate in the international conference, that is being organized by the American foreign affairs, energy, agriculture, trade and interior ministries and other services.
The meeting in Washington will be the third international conference at ministerial level on issues concerning renewable energy sources, following the meetings that took place in Beijing in 2005 and Bonn in 2004. A trade fair, a business meeting and other parallel events will also be taking place.
 EOMMEX president to visit UkraineEOMMEX organization president G. Souflias will be making an official visit to Kiev, Ukraine, to assume the coordination of the Work Group for Small and Medium-Size Enterprises (SMEs), that operates in the framework of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization.
He will be heading a delegation composed of members of the organization and of the Fur Centre from Tuesday until March 7.
Meetings will also be taking place during which the possibilities of promoting cooperation between Greek and Ukrainian SMEs will be examined.
The programme of EOMMEX's president also includes a meeting with the Greek Ambassador in the Ukraine Dimitriou, while prospects of increasing the exports of a series of products of Greek SMEs to the Ukrainian market, such as fur products, will also be examined.
 Greek PMI up in FebruaryGreece's seasonally adjusted Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 52.4 points in February, from 51.4 in January, reflecting a steady improvement of operating conditions in the manufacturing sector.
Greek manufacturers continued raising production capacity in February, supported by a further increase of new orders, with the rate of growth the highest in three months. Employment levels in the manufacturing sector grew in February, for the fourth consecutive month, although slightly, while inflow prices growth slowed slightly in February.
The Purchasing Managers' Index measures business activity in the manufacturing sector. Readings above 50 signal a growing sector while readings below 50 a shrinking sector.
 MIG acquires majority stakes in Korasidis and ElephantMarfin Investment Group (MIG) on Monday announced it has completed the transfer of the majority of shares in "Radio A.Korasidis" and "Elephant" from "V.Net". MIG said that following the transaction it holds a majority stake of 55.79 pct in "Radio A.Korasidis" and a 58.78 pct stake in "Elephant SA". Both companies are electronic and home appliance retailers.
 Envitec to debut in Alternative Market on TuesdayThe debut of Envitec in the Alternative Market of the Athens Stock Exchange will be delayed for one day because of a technical glitch that halted trading in the Greek capital market on Monday.
Envitec will debut on Tuesday with a starting price of 5.30 euros per share.
 Greek exports up 4.0 pct in 2007Greek exports grew by 4.0 percent in 2007, compared with the previous year, totaling 17.1 billion euros, Hellenic Export Promotion Organisation said on Monday. HEPO said the increase covered almost all categories of exporting goods and noted that Greek exports grew 38.9 percent in the period 2004-2007.
The value of exports, excluding oil products and ships, grew by 5.0 pct to 14.980 billion euros in 2007, up from 14.265 billion in 2006. The organization, in an analysis of official trade figures, said exports of industrial products grew by 310 million euros, exports of machinery and transport equipment grew 222 million euros and exports of food/beverage grew 39 million euros. The country's trade deficit grew 13.3 percent last year.
Exports to the EU grew 24.5 percent, accounting for 65 pct of total exports, totaling 11.138 billion euros, with Germany the top Greek export market. Romania (30 pct) and Poland (24.5 pct) recording the biggest annual growth rates.
Exports to the 18 target-states, selected by the Economy and Finance ministry and HEPO, grew slightly 0.5 pct accounting for 58 pct of total Greek exports, while exports to third countries totaled 6.010 billion euros, down 20.3 pct from 2006, accounting for 35 pct of total exports.
Exports of building materials grew 7.9 pct to 2.61 billion euros, accounting for 15.2 percent of total exports, while exports of pharmaceuticals grew around 4.0 pct to 919.3 million euros, of fresh farm produce grew 4.1 pct to 457.3 million euros and exports of fresh and frozen fish grew 6.8 pct to 363.9 million euros.
 Indian envoy visits Patras Scientific ParkIndian Ambassador to Greece Delip Sinha visited on Monday the Scientific Park of Patras (PSP), western Greece.
During his visit, the Indian envoy discussed prospects of cooperation between the two countries on two levels, cooperation between the PSP with Indian scientific and technological parks and cooperation between Greek and Indian companies active in the new technologies sector.
 Selonda cuts equity stake in Fjord Marin TurkeySelonda, a Greek-listed fish farming company, on Monday said it has cut its equity stake in Fjord Marin Turkey (FMT) to 38.5 percent (from 46 pct), following completion of a share capital increase plan, worth 14 million euros. Selonda covered the share capital increase plan with 4.0 million euros, Fjord Marin AS (Norway) covered another 2.5 million euros, while Saudi Arabian companies Jazzan Development and Tabuk Fisheries covered the remaining 7.5 million euros.
A company statement said Fjord Marin Turkey now has a capital structure which enables it to develop its production capacity and to play a significant role in Turkey's fish farming market, currently in a consolidation trend.
 Interview: ASE president KapralosThe corporate results of the first quarter of the year will be indicative of the course of the stock market, Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) president Spyros Kapralos opined, in an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA, adding that abolition of the tax on transactions was urgently needed so that liquidity will not be lost on the market.
To a question on whether the ASE could comprise an acquisition target, Kapralos noted that all prospects were possible, particularly given the substantial change in its stock composition and the fact that the proportion of foreign institutional investors in its share capital currently exceeds 64 percent.
To a comment on the strong fluctuations in money markets internationally following a positive year in 2007, Kapralos said that the spiraling oil prices, the US sub-primes crisis, the devaluation of the dollar parity against the euro, and the prospect of a recession in the US economy in recent months have composed a picture that creates strong insecurity among capital managers and a decline in the disposition to take on risks.
This, he explained, immediately sparked a wave of liquidations on the stock markets globally.
The Greek stock market operates in an internationalized environment and has for some time been linked with the "charriot" of the developed markets, he continued, explaining that this, on the one hand brought a series of advantages to the ASE, such as an increase in the market's liquidity in the past years, but on the other hand it marked a direct correlation of the course of the Greek market with the international markets, a phenomenon that has been strongly observed since the beginning of the year.
It must be understood, therefore, that with globalization, the markets operate like "connecting vessels" and that the ASE will be affected by the problems in the international economies, he said.
Kapralos opined that the problem is larger than initially believed by investors, did not know whether the banks have yet revealed the total losses suffered from sub-prime mortgages, while on the other side the issue that arose with Societe Generale and the 5 billion euros 'black hole' gave rise to strong concern over the "collateral losses" of the credit institutions from the correction of the stock markets.
However, the message for the Greek economy and businesses was one of "contained optimism" for the current year, Kapralos said, opining that the corporate results of the first quarter will be indicative for the course of the markets.
As soon as things settled down internationally and the uncertainty eased, liquidity would return to the financial markets and the stock markets will recover, Kapralos predicted.
Given statements of his in the past that the Greek money market must become more competitive, and asked what the ASE management's plans were in that direction, Kapralos said he considered that this was the last opportunity for abolition of the tax on stockmarket transactions.
He said this tax was a Greek 'novelty' and comprised a substantial proportion of the overall cost of transactions. Consequently, the existence of this tax gives substantial incentive to the Greek market's competitors to begin making transactions on Greek stocks abroad, where they do not have to pay that tax.
Kapralos expressed fear that if this happened, all liquidity would be lost by the Greek market, and that it will be exceptionally difficult to gain it back, even if the tax is abolished later. This was why the ASE management insisted on immediate abolition of the tax.
Regarding the competitiveness of the Greek money market in other sectors, Kapralos opined that it was proceeding at a satisfactory pace. In the past few years, substantial work has bee accomplished in that direction, both with respect to the institutional framework governing the Greek market and with respect to the trading hours, the provision of new products and services, and in the reduction of cost of transactions.
Greece was currently at a stage of enlargement, with the introduction of new, modern financial tools on the Greek market, which he said would attract the interest of Greek and foreign investors alike.
 Greek stocks end limited trading session 1.93 pct downGreek stocks ended Monday's session with sharp losses in the Athens Stock Exchange. The Greek market remained closed for most part of the day, due to a technical glitch that hit the electronic trading platform and reopened for the last hour of trading. The composite index ended 1.93 pct lower at 4,053.06 points with turnover at 297.97 million euros, of which 7.6 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with the Oil (4.31 pct), Personal/Home Products (3.79 pct), Financial Services (3.76 pct) and Technology (3.61 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Telecommuncations (0.97 pct), Utilities (0.93 pct) and Food/Beverage (0.70 pct) scored gains.
The Big Cap index fell 2.58 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.64 pct down and the Small Cap index eased 0.91 pct.
Maxim (8.33 pct), FG Europe (8.22 pct) and Sfakianakis (7.43 pct) were top gainers, while Nikas (9.68 pct), CPI (9.23 pct) and Varagis (8.33 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 184 to 37 with another 40 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -4.31%
Personal & Household: -3.79%
Raw Materials: -3.48%
Travel & Leisure: -2.23%
Food & Beverages: +0.70%
Financial Services: -3.76%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Bank of Cyprus, Alpha Bank and Marfin Popular Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 19.32
Public Power Corp (PPC): 28.70
HBC Coca Cola: 29.34
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.90
National Bank of Greece: 35.70
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 18.38
Bank of Cyprus: 7.42
Titan Cement Company: 28.00
 Olympia ready for Olympic Torch ceremony, minister saysDuring a visit to ancient Olympia to inspect restoration work carried out on the site on Monday, Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis declared Olympia ready for the ceremony to light the Olympic Flame on March 24 and said restorers had "achieved a small miracle". The site and especially the surrounding vegetation had suffered extensive damage during the mega-fires that raged across the Peloponnese last August.
"We are ready to receive the Chinese delegation that will pick up the Flame with a minimalist and modest ceremony, as befits the spirit of the Olympic Games," he said.
Commenting on the work done to restore the site's vegetation, Liapis said the ministry had not wanted to "create a virtual reality for the sake of TV cameras" or change the natural balance of the area.
"We wanted to boost the natural regeneration of the environment, respecting the history of the site, and we have achieved this. The work done at ancient Olympia was unprecedented but we have succeeded and, in a few years, the natural environment will be fully restored," he said.
He expressed the government's thanks to all the bodies and state services involved in the effort, and also the donors and sponsors that had supported the effort financially.
 'Armed Revolutionary Action' behind dawn bomb attackThe group 'Armed Revolutionary Action' has claimed responsibility for a failed bomb attack against the Attica Region Forest Directorate on Messogion Avenue at dawn on Monday, police said.
A warning phone call was made to the newspaper "Eleftherotypia" 20 minutes before the attack, in which the group's name was mentioned, but had not at first been made out because the message was recorded.
During a later hearing of the recording, police realised that the name had been mentioned but that the explosion did not occur at the spot given as its target, possibly due to a mistake by the bombers.
The warning said that the bomb would go off in 20 minutes at the East Attica Forest Directorate on Messogion Street in Neo Psychiko. In fact, the bomb had been set in a nearby building that belonged to the Attica Region Forests Directorate and did not explode at all. The noise heard at the time was caused by the explosion of the mechanism's detonator, which failed to set off the explosives contained in the bomb and caused no damage.
The device contained half a kilo of gel dynamite, a detonator, battery and clock. The dynamite did not go off because it had become damp. The mechanism is now being examined at the forensics service laboratories.
The last attack by the same group was on January 23, 2007 when they set a similar bomb at the Argyroupolis tax office, which had again failed to explode.
An investigation is being carried out by the Anti-terrorism squad.
 City of Athens takes to the streetsThe City of Athens Mobile Information Booth is ready to hit the city's neighbourhoods and document the problems and concerns of citizens, as well as inform them on municipal works, the City of Athens press office announced on Monday.
This month the booth - a super-modern van with full electronic equipment including screens and projectors - makes its first stop at Votanikos and Alexandras Avenue, the two neighbourhoods targeted in the City's twin regeneration project.
Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Monday launched the City of Athens Mobile Information Booth at Kotzia Square, where he thanked sponsor company Saracakis for assisting in the van's acquisition and singer Zack Stefanou, who provided the lyrics which appear on the sides of the vehicle. Stefanou's lyrics describe a grey city which is transformed into a colourful, happy one.
"The new mobile information booth is the first of its kind in Greece and will operate as a tool for consultation and dialogue with Athenians. I never hid the fact that I would appeal to private companies that would like to assist the municipality and, in that sense, I turned to Mr Saracakis," Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis said.
Between April and June the City of Athens Mobile Information Booth will visit the seven City Districts and inform citizens on the City's new Greenery Charter and the school competition "Regeneration of my Neighbourhood". The mobile information booth will tour the municipality to raise awareness of issues that concern citizens in all of the City's 129 neighbourhoods.
The booth was wholly built by sponsor company Saracakis.
 Patriarch Bartholomew visiting TriesteISTANBUL (ANA-MPA - A. Kourkoulas)
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I embarked on a visit to the historic community of Trieste on Monday, departing on a flight from Istanbul to Venice. He was accompanied on the visit by Ilioupolis Metropolitan Athanasios.
 IRS tax assistance for U.S. citizens resident in GreeceAn American tax assistor from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will be in Athens on March 17 to March 21, 2008, to answer tax questions for U.S. citizens at the U.S. Embassy from 8:30 to 15:30, according to a U.S. Embassy press release on Monday.
The tax assistor will see the public on an appointment-only basis, in the American Citizen Services Section.
The rate of exchange for 2008 tax returns is $1.00 to Euro 0.7308.
Most individual forms will be available at the Embassy. All other information is available on-line.
To download tax forms and instructions, and to file electronically, one can visit the following web-sites: www.irs.gov or www.firstgov.gov.
 Partly cloudy on TuesdayPartly cloudy weather with southerly, southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 7-8 beaufort. Fog in the morning. Temperatures will range between 2C and 24C.
Mostly fair in Athens, with southwesterly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 11C to 23C. Overcast in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 22C.
 Christofias reaffirms his will to work for Cyprus settlementNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
New Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou has said that President Demetris Christofias reassured the UN on Monday of his will to work for a just, viable and functional solution of the Cyprus problem the soonest possible.
He added that President Christofias conveyed to the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus Michael Moller, whom he met Monday morning, his wish to take initiatives in order to cultivate the necessary atmosphere for the resumption of talks on the Cyprus problem, starting from a UN agreement clinched in July 2006, and noted that efforts were being made for the president to meet with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat before the end of March.
Speaking at his first briefing of journalists, after he took over the post earlier on Monday, and referring to the meeting between President Christofias and Moller, Stephanou said ''the President of the Republic reaffirmed his will to work for a just, viable and functional solution of the Cyprus problem the soonest possible.''
''The President of the Republic underlined that for the Greek Cypriot side the basis of a solution is formed by the high level agreements of 1977 and 1979, which provide for a bizonal bicommunal federation, UN resolutions on Cyprus, and the principles of international and European law,'' he added.
Stephanou said that the president ''reiterated that the Greek Cypriot side is seeking a solution that will terminate the occupation and reunite the land, the people, the institutions and the economy of the country,'' and that ''the solution should restore and guarantee the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people as a whole.''
''Having all this in mind, the President of the Republic conveyed to Mr. Moller his will to take initiatives and act in a way that would help create the appropriate climate for the resumption of talks on the Cyprus problem, beginning with the July 8 agreement,'' he said.
Stephanou noted that President Christofias reiterated his will for a meeting with Talat and his readiness to cooperate for the opening of the Ledra Street and Limnitis crossing points between the northern Turkish occupied areas and the southern government controlled part of the country.
Asked about the meeting between President Christofias and Talat, Stephanou said ''the effort is for this meeting to take place before the end of the month.''
Replying to other questions, Stephanou said the Greek Cypriot side would be working towards the opening of the Ledra Street crossing point and that this was a priority of the government, along with the Limnitis crossing point.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
Efforts to open a crossing point at Ledra street have so far failed. The government insists that safe passage is secured with the withdrawal from the area of the Turkish occupation troops. The Turkish military have so far refused to move back from their positions.
The July 2006 agreement was clinched between former President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, during a meeting in Nicosia in the presence of then UN Undersecretary for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari. It provides for 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.
Leaders to meet end of March, says UN
Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Cyprus, Michael Moller, has said that a meeting between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus will probably take place towards the end of the second half of March.
Moller, who was received Monday by President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias, said that during the meeting they also talked about the opening of a crossing point, to and from the northern Turkish occupied areas, at Ledra street, one of the capital's main commercial streets.
"I had a very good meeting with President Christofias and he has told me that he is very keen and ready to meet with Mr Talat as soon as possible. He has asked me to continue working on that. Now, we will start the preparations for that meeting, probably towards to the end of the second half of this month", he said.
Asked whether a UN agreement, of July 2006, should be the starting point for the meeting between the two leaders, Moller declined to comment on that but he said that "both leaders have been very clear of their eagerness to start".
"They both think there is a good chance for them to do some very good work together and I share their optimism", he continued.
Regarding the context of the leaders' meeting and whether it should be the July agreement, he said that "it is not for me to discuss", adding: "everybody knows the positions of Mr Christofias and Mr Talat and they will have to discuss how they can reconcile those positions. That is the whole point of sitting down and having a good discussion".
Moller said that during Monday's meeting they also talked about the opening of Ledra Street and said that President Christofias "is equally eager for that to happen".
"We are also going to continue our preparation work for that and hopefully we will be a able to give you some good news very soon", he said.
Invited to say when exactly Ledra Street will open, he said "hopefully during this year certainly, as soon as possible".
He pointed out that this "is something which has to be discussed between Talat and Christofias when they meet and I am trying to make sure that this can happen before the end of the month".
 New Foreign Minister expects developments in CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Developments in the Cyprus problem are expected soon, according to new Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou who took over, Monday, his office from Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, saying that he starts "hard work right away."
The outgoing minister said that "difficult times" are in sight, adding that "now we are at the beginning (of developments) and as the new FM stressed his first priority is the Cyprus issue and he expects developments soon."
The new Foreign Minister thanked President Demetris Christofias for his trust and the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barosso as well as former President Tassos Papadopoulos who appointed him as Finance Minister and recommended him to become the EU Commissioner for Health, a post he held until Monday.
Referring to his predecessor, he noted the openings she had made to the Arab countries, which make things easier for him as he said, adding that Cyprus, an EU member state has a significant role to play because of its geographical proximity to the Arab world.
On a more personal note, Kyprianou referred to his late father, Spyros Kyprianou, former President and first Foreign Minister of the Republic, noting that as a child he used to visit the ministry, which makes him part of the "old staff."
Kozakou-Marcoullis expressed her gratitude to former President Tassos Papadopoulos who appointed her as the first woman Foreign Minister.
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana-mpa.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS