|Thursday, 24 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-03-08
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 8 March 2008 Issue No: 2839
 PM meets ND Parliamentary group secretaryPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday met the secretary of ruling New Democracy's Parliamentary Group, Yiannis Tragakis, for talks mainly dominated by the social insurance reform bill.
"We discussed many issues and the chief among them was, of course, the social insurance bill. You know that this is a top priority issue for the government, for the government's reforms. I do not believe that there will be any ND MP that will not support it," Tragakis said afterward.
Asked about the fact that the government's reforms required all citizens to make sacrifices while parliamentary deputies continued to enjoy a privileged relationship, in which they could qualify for a pension with just eight years in Parliament, Tragakis pointed out that the time needed to qualify for a pension had been doubled for four years to eight.
"I will remind you that since 1952, it required 48 months of full Parliamentary incumbency in order to acquire pension rights. Now the 48 months have doubled and become 96. And do not forget that this concerns establishing the right to a pension. Because in order to receive a pension, an MP must first turn 65.
 Bakoyannis in Turkey on Fri., Sat.Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will pay a two-day working visit to neighboring Turkey on Friday and Saturday.
Bakoyannis will meet with her Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan and will be also received by Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.
On the occasion, Bakoyannis will also participate at the 4th "Women in Local Government Congress", being held in Turkey.
 Government on strike by power utility employeesGovernment spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Friday said there were no plans to force striking Public Power Corporation (PPC) employees to return to work through a "civil mobilisation", such as that used to end a strike by dock workers that had cut off communication with the Greek islands in previous years.
He also rejected a claim by the PPC staff union GENOP-DEH that there was sufficient power to cover the country's requirements, saying that there would be no need for power cuts if that were true.
The spokesman pointed out that 16 power station were currently offline because of the strike action, even though the union had an obligation to provide skeleton staff.
"They are handling a social asset that must in no case be used in a way that turns against society," he stressed.
Roussopoulos also noted that the strikers were "coming up against common sense" and were faced with a situation quite different from the impression that some people were attempting to through statements and interviews.
He stressed that the main basic change introduced was that the PPC workers' pension fund would be part of a larger fund with a single management, instead of each fund having its own administrations as at present.
 PPC workers to continue strike actionPower cuts throughout the country continued on Friday as Public Power Corporation (PPC) employees refused to call off strike action while managing to avoid a court hearing of the management's case to have their strike declared illegal and excessive.
Their national union GENOP-DEH called off the six rolling strikes that were due to begin on Friday so that there would be no court hearing. In the meantime, however, the local employee associations that made up GENOP-DEH around the country voted to stay o n strike.
The PPC management has issued an announcement expressing hope that the unions will at least provide the skeleton staff needed to keep the power plants running if the strike continued in the following week.
It also strenuously denied rumours that PPC CEO Takis Athanassopoulos was about to hand in his resignation, as well as a trade unionist's claim that the power cuts were unnecessary and a deliberate ruse to undermine public support for the strike.
 PASOK blames government for strikeAn announcement by main opposition PASOK, meanwhile, said the main responsibility for the major social and economic ramifications of the strike by PPC employees belonged to the government.
Stressing that the government's "anti-popular and autocratic" choices on social insurance reform were inconveniencing shops, businesses and households, the party said the New Democracy government had an obligation to provide an immediate solution.
"It should withdraw the measures that it is arbitrarily attempting to pass, which contradict the position it adopted in voting for bill 2773/1999 that regulated the social insurance regime for PPC staff and was backed by PASOK, the Coalition of the Radica l Left (SYRIZA) and ND.
 Zachopoulos asks to give testimony to magistrateFormer culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos has expressed a desire to testify to the second special magistrate investigating an case of alleged blackmail in which he was the victim, his lawyer Alexandros Lykourezos revealed on Friday.
Speaking during a press conference with his partner Petros Mahas, Lykourezos announced that he had seen Zachopoulos, that the former general secretary's health was visibly improved and that he expressed a desire to file a civil suit in the case against al l the suspects that might arise during the magistrate's investigation and to exercise all his legal rights.
According to Lykourezos, Zachopoulos had followed developments in the case, had no problems communicating and was able to testify to the magistrate, while there were no objections from the psychologist treating him.
The magistrate has already been informed and will consult with the doctors treating Zachopoulos in order to take his testimony within the hospital.
Zachopoulos has been hospitalised since Christmas following his attempted suicide, when he jumped off a four-storey building.
 Gov't on 4-year anniversary of March 7 election victoryThe government on Friday dismissed statements a day earlier by main opposition leader George Papandreou, who charged that the ND government is not inclined to cooperate with the opposition on a handful of major issues.
Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos referred directly to major foreign policy issues as well revision of controversial Article 16 - the provision that forbids all but state universities in the country - which he said should have proceeded by now.
"…as you know, a lot of things can be said. But when it came to actions we had a specific position on Article 16, which differed very little, in substance, from the position espoused by Mr. George Papandreou. We didn't take a step back, he did," Roussopou los said.
Asked about the four-year anniversary of a New Democracy (ND) election victory in March 7, 2004, Roussopoulos noted, among others, that "we have achieved much. Perfection is the desired goal, despite the fact that this is considered utopian. We speak the truth, however, just as we have spoken the truth about social security reform…"
 DM meets separately with US, Italian ambassadorsDefence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis on Friday met separately in Athens with the Italian and US ambassadors to Greece, Gianpaolo Scarante and David Speckhard, respectively, following requests by the envoys.
Mutual defense cooperation dominated the meeting with the Italian ambassador, with Amb. Scarante voicing support for a full solution to the FYROM "name issue" as soon as possible, while reminding that Rome's positions were very close to Athens'.
In talks afterwards with the American ambassador, issues affecting the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest along with timely developments in the Balkans and Afghanistan were expectedly discussed, as the increasingly pressing FYROM "name issue" has dominated the country's foreign policy agenda in recent days.
Asked if Greece's current and outspoken opposition to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) bid to join NATO was discussed, Speckhard merely noted "we talked in general about the importance of stability in the region. I am very respectful of Greece's views and opinions on this. I think we all agree that the best thing is to find a mutually acceptable solution to this. I think everybody is interested in seeing that happen, and we're hopeful, still, that some solution can be found that satisfi es Greece."
In terms of Afghanistan, the US envoy said he cited the "importance of Afghanistan to security in the international community, the importance that it has to Europe, in the context of the flow of narcotics, of extremism, and other problems, the illegal imm igration that can come if it's not stable there."
 Congresswoman Maloney honored by Ambassador MalliasWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
Greece's appreciation for her service in the promotion of the Greek-US relations and consistent support to issues of Greek interest in the US House of Representatives was conveyed to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), co-chair of the Congressional Cauc us on Hellenic Issues, by Greek Ambassador in Washington Alexandros Mallias during a meeting at her office on Capitol Hill.
In a symbolic gesture, Ambassador Mallias presented her with an artistically made copy of the US House resolution 356 that urges FYROM to cease "hostile actions and propaganda" against Greece, in the adoption of which she had played a decisive role. Ambas sador Mallias underlined that the resolution was signed by 112 House Representatives, an achievement highly appreciated by Greece and the 3 million-strong Greek-American community.
Responding, Congresswoman Maloney underlined the "need to protect the Greekness of the Macedonian culture and history" and condemned the "provocative actions by FYROM that kindle irredentism against Greece". She expressed "strong support to the constructi ve efforts made by Greece aimed at finding a solution to the FYROM name issue," and stressed that "a necessary precondition for FYROM's accession to NATO is a change of stance by Skopje".
Maloney also criticised as awrong and unfair move the recognition of FYROM under the name 'Macedonia' by the US government soon after the 2004 elections, pointing out that it will have to be corrected, and expressed her determination to continue her legis lative initiatives toward this direction.
 Discussion on Cyprus at UN Human Rights CouncilGENEVA (ANA-MPA)
Greece's permanent representative in Geneva, addressing the Human Rights Council on Friday, said that the Turkish invasion and the military occupation of the northern part of Cyprus are the causes for the continuing violation of the human rights of the Cy priots.
Ambassador Verros reminded of the repeated condemnations of Turkey by the Security Council and the UN General Assembly, as well as by the European Human Rights Council and stressed that a solution to the problem of Cyprus would decisively improve conditio ns for all Cypriots, including the Turkish Cypriots.
 38th round of Greek-Turkish exploratory talks endThe 38th round of exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey ended on Friday at the foreign ministry in Athens.
The Greek side was represented by Ambassador Vassilios Pispinis and the Turkish side by Turkey's Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan.
 Souflias on social security reformsEnviroment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias described the changes unveiled on Thursday in the social security sector as "mild and necessary", speaking to reporters after a two-hour meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on F riday at the Maximos mansion (government headquarters).
Souflias also stressed that "everyone must manifest responsibility and produce on this major issue for the entire social whole, and to nog forget that their actions, from the posts they hold, should serve the social whole and not be turned against it".
Furthermore, the Minister said, everyone acknowledges that the country's social security system faces major problems which, if not confronted, will in a very few years become impasses.
"And I imagine that everyone agrees that tackling these problems is never pleasant. I am speaking from personal experience. In the major reform carried out in 1990, I was forced to take very painful measures in order to save the social security system fro m collapse," he added.
Asked whether the social security issue could lead to early elections, he emphatically said "no".
 Tsipras meets with GENOP-DEH union leadersCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras accused the government on Friday of employing aggressive policies that destroyed social cohesion and plunged the country into darkness. He made the comments after meeting with the GENOP-DEH unio n leaders, the Public Power Corporation (PPC) employee union.
Referring to the strike action called by the PPC labor union, Tsipras said that their struggle aims to ensure social cohesion, protect public wealth and defend social security rights.
The SYRIZA leader also called for an inquiry to determine if the PPC management proceeds with power cuts to cause consumer discontent and turn the public against the strikers.
 ADEDY calls nationwide strike on March 19The supreme administration of Greek civil servants trade unions, ADEDY, called a joint strike action on March 19 with the General Confederation of Workers of Greece, GSEE, expressing opposition to the tabling in parliament of the social security reform dr aft law.
ADEDY mentions that the draft law constitutes a new attack on the workers' rights and does not guarantee the viability of social security funds.
 Envitec debuts in Alternative MarketEnvitec began trading its shares in the Alternative Market of the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday, with a total capitalisation of 26.3 million euros, the largest listed company in the market so far.
The company was founded in 1992 and focuses on the construction of technical projects, including renewable energy sources. Envitec offered 72,891 shares through a private placement, at a price of 5.30 euros per share. Circle Securities is the consultant t o the listing.
 Vivartia, L.Freris in joint bid to buy Everest, Olympic CateringVivartia on Friday announced it has reached a strategic agreement with businessman Lavrentios Freris for the creation of a joint venture, named Alkmene Investments, in which Vivartia will hold a majority stake of 51 pct and Freris the remaining 49 pct.
The two shareholders plan to submit a public bid for the acquisition of Everest Holdings. Lavrentios Freris, a shareholder in Everest, will transfer its 26 percent equity stake in the company. The public offer was set at 3.5 euro per share. Everest Group owns six strong brand names (Everest, La Pasteria, Kuzina, Olympus Plaza, Papagallino, Gloria Jeans) and a workforce of 3,000. Its consolidated turnover totaled 91 million euros last year, while EBITDA was 15.9 million euros.
Vivartia said Alkmene Investments will submit a public bid for the acquisition of Olympic Catering SA at a price of 2.65 euros per share. Olympic Catering employs around 350 workers. Its turnover totaled 45 million euros and its EBITDA 5.1 million euros l ast year.
Following the announcement by Vivartia, the Athens Stock Exchange announced it was withdrawing a suspension of trading in the shares of Vivartia, Everest and Olympic Catering.
 Building activity down 5.5 pct in 2007Building activity fell by 5.5 pct (in permits) and by 5.7 pct in volume last year, compared with 2006, the National Statistics Service said on Friday.
The statistics service, in a report, said the Ionian islands (10.1 pct), Central Macedonia (15.5 pct), Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (8.8 pct) and the Peloponese (6.1 pct) recorded the biggest drop in permits last year, while Crete (5.1 pct) was the only r egion of the country to register an increase in permits in 2007.
 Greek stocks end 1.83 pct lowerGreek stocks fell 1.83 percent on Friday, following a similar trend in other European markets. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange ended at 3,926.19 points with turnover a moderate 476.7 million euros, of which 58.9 million euros were block t rades.
Most sectors moved lower with the Technology (4.0 pct), Travel (3.48 pct) and Personal/Home Products (2.98 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Media (0.20 pct) and Chemicals (0.06 pct) scored gains.
The Big Cap index fell 1.46 pct, the Mid Cap index dropped 2.32 pct and the Small Cap index ended 1.15 pct lower. Envitec (69.81 pct), Everest (11.26 pct) and Interinvest (8.15 pct) were top gainers, while Klonatex (12.50 pct), Altius (11.11 pct) and Kekr ops (9.94 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 209 to 52 with another 30 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.35%
Personal & Household: -2.98%
Raw Materials: -0.37%
Travel & Leisure: -3.48%
Food & Beverages: -2.52%
Financial Services: -0.06%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank and Bank of Cyprus.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 19.00
Public Power Corp (PPC): 27.54
HBC Coca Cola: 29.20
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.60
National Bank of Greece: 35.64
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 17.52
Bank of Cyprus: 7.50
Titan Cement Company: 26.60
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended mixed in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover rising to 178.114 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a premium of 0.65 pct, while the February contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.91 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 15,001 contracts worth 150.192 million euros, with 29,531 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 123 contracts worth 2.901 million euros, with 514 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 17,788 contracts, worth 20.766 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Postal Savings Bank (2,391 contracts), followed by Eurobank (569), Marfin Investment Group (1,460), Piraeus Bank (648), Nati onal Bank (1,793), Alpha Bank (526), Intracom (760), Marfin Popular Bank (1,129), Mytilineos (1,010), GEK (1,036) and ATEbank (1,700).
 Greek bond market clsoing reportThe yield spread between the Greek and the German 10-year benchmark bonds widened sharply on Friday, following a trend in other Eurozone's regional markets, such as Italy and Portugal. Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 495 mil lion euros, of which 230 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 265 million were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 370 million euros. The yield spread jumped to 0.75 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.49 pct and the German Bund 3.74 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved slightly higher. National Bank's overnight rate rose to 4.06 pct from 4.05 pct on Thursday, the two-day rate was 4.05 pct, the one-month rate 4.24 pct and the 12-month rate 4.50 pct from 4.46 pct.
 Pope extends two invitations to Ecumenical PatriarchISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)
Pope Benedict XVI extended two new invitations to the Ecumenical Patriarch to visit Rome again, during their meeting on Thursday at the Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI invited Ecumenical Patrarch Bartholomew to take part in the celebrations of the Feast Day of Saints (Apostles) Peter and Paul on June 29, so that they could together inaugurate the Year dedicated to the Apostle Paul.
He also invited the Ecumenical Patriarch to also jointly preside in the official opening of the World Meeting of Catholic Bishops.
These overtures reaffirm the priority set by the new Pontiff on healing the wounds that for centuries have separated the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
Speaking on Thursday at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Vartholomeos described the two Churches as the "lungs" of Christianity, urging that "the two lungs must function in harmony", and adding that "neither of the two lungs should take provocative init iatives".
He also called on the Pontifical Oriental Institutue, which is celebrating the 90th anniversary of its founding, to contribute to the rapprochement between East and West.
The Ecumenical Patriarch also presided over the academic events marking the 90th anniversary of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, of which Bartholomew is an alumnus, and will hold the Institute's "The Sir Daniel and Countess Bernardien Murphy Donoue Chai r in Oriental Theology" this year.
 Interior minister's message on International Women's DayThe interior ministry's work on gender equality was assessed by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos in a message Friday on the occasion of the International Women's Day.
Pavlopoulos stated that the new Employee Code guarantees the adoption of an institutional framework against domestic violence and the establishment of a National Committee on Equality while, at the same time, bolstering the role of women in the job market and the decision-making centers and adopting measures to assist working mothers.
Special measures have been adopted for vulnerable groups of women who need additional support such as mothers of three or more children, mothers of children with disabilities, victims of violence or exploitation, women farmers, women immigrants and others .
He also referred to the new election law and the measures taken encouraging the participation of women candidates by introducing a 1/3 gender quota.
Pavlopoulos pointed out that efforts will intensify further to create even more favorable prospects for women.
 Messages by interior minister, opposition parties on Women's DayInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and opposition parties issued messages on Friday on the occasion of International Women's Day on Saturday.
Pavlopoulos said in his message that "the International Day for Women's Rights, apart from being a day of honour for women's longstanding contribution, constitutes an important opportunity for the appraisal and assessment of our performances so far in the sector of consolidating equality of opportunities between women and men, as well as an incentive and starting point for new, creative and more effective commitments and efforts for the future."
Deputy Interior Minister Christos Zois mentioned that the Day "is a day of awakening as well as of making an account for all the positive steps that have been taken to date on the position of women in society, as well as in the sector of equality of the t wo genders. Equality is now a right that has been achieved, safeguarded constitutionally and accepted socially."
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) addressed "a message of optimism to the women of the working class, of the poor popular classes, unemployed women, young women, women farmers, housewives and immigrant women" on the occasion, adding that "they must clai m social measures that are directed against inequality and discriminations against them, modern rights in social security, employment, income and in life in general."
The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) said in an announcement that "this year, March 8 coincides with the great mobilisations of working people, both women and men, against the consequences of the storm of neo-liberalism" and poin ted out that all over Europe, "the refusal and abolition of women's consolidated rights is being attempted."
Lastly, the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party said that "the role of women in social affairs is equal to say the least," adding "not only must we love women, but we must honour, respect and trust them as well, while their sentiment and spirit prevail in most cases."
 KKE's Papariga visits "Alexandra" HospitalThe social security draft law is unacceptable and condemnable in the conscience of workers stated Greek Communist party, KKE, general secretary Aleka Papariga addressing Athens' "Alexandra" Hospital employees on Friday.
Papariga stated that she chose to visit the "Alexandra" Hospital on the occasion of the International Women's Day celebrated on March 8 to emphasize the problems of working women who also have to face social and gender discrimination.
 Report by ND Eurodeputy on women prison inmates in EURuling New Democracy (ND) party Eurodeputy Maria Panagiotopoulou-Kassiotou presented a report at the offices of the European Parliament in Greece on Friday, concerning the position of women prison inmates in European Union member-states.
Her report has already been ratified and adopted by the Women and Gender Equality Committee of the European Parliament, while it will be discussed at its plenum in Strasbourg next week, where it is expected to be approved.
The report stresses, among other things, that in many European prisons necessary conditions for the inmates' dignified and safe living are not secured and the EU's member-states are called on to take the special needs of women into serious consideration, during the modernisation of their prison systems.
It was pointed out during the event that there are countries in which better practices are applied for women inmates, such as in France where mothers are allowed to go home to visit their children and then return to prison. In other words, prison systems can exist which will be governed by some sort of flexibility. The event was preceded by a briefing for interested relevant agencies by Panagiotopoulou.
 Athens mayor tours regeneration works on LycabettusAthens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Friday toured forested Lycabettus Hill, located in the heart of the congested Greek capital and overlooking the Acropolis, to review regeneration works in important green space.
The municipality is carrying out nearly 700,000 euros worth of regeneration works on Lycabettus Hill, part of efforts to upgrade the metropolis' overall natural environment.
Some 500 trees and 34,000 bushes have so far been planted in the area.
"The trees were specifically chosen for their ability to withstand the city's climatic conditions, and I personally was enthused to see that almond trees, which are in bloom, have been planted at two sites ... infrastructure works are also being conducted at Lycabettus. This endeavour, initiated by the previous municipal administration, is now complete ... I am certain that Athenians will notice the difference when they come up to Lycabettus on Clean Monday (Kathara Deftera)," Kaklamanis said, in referenc e to the religious holiday on Monday.
 Dodecanese annexation anniversary eventsThe 60th anniversary of the annexation of the Dodecanese islands in the southeastern Aegean with Greece was celebrated on Friday with a traditional parade through the city of Rhodes, while similar events took in several municipalities on the eponymous hol iday island.
The government was represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Yannis Valinakis, who election district is in the Dodecanese, while Merchant Marine & Island Policy Deputy Minister Panayotis Kammenos attended events on the island of Kos.
In touching on the most topical foreign policy matter at the moment, namely the FYROM "name issue", Valinakis emphasised that Athens has sent a message of national unity and determination to the neighbouring country's leadership and to the NATO Alliance.
"We want a mutually acceptable solution and we are determined to continue our efforts in order to achieve this," he reiterated. "The Skopje government should end its intransigent policy ... they should realise that without a mutually acceptable solution t here is no place for them in NATO and the EU".
 Archbishop, deputy foreign minister discuss Muslim cemeteryThe Church of Greece has given three hectares of land for creating a Muslim cemetery in Attica, Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis said on Friday after a meeting with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos.
"His Beatitude was already prepared and told me to go ahead with carrying out the plans," Kassimis said, adding that the meeting was held to plan the next moves that need to be made. The minister appeared confident that the implementation of the project w ould proceed very quickly within the framework of the Greek state.
He also highlighted the Church's decision "to embrance all residents of this country, regardless of their religion".
Apart from the Muslim cemetery, Kassimis and the Archbishop held talks on issues related to the Church of Greece but also the Patriarchates, especially the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
 Illegals arrested in three separate instancesA total of 15 illegal immigrants were arrested on the eastern Aegean island of Samos on Friday by local coast guard authorities, including 10 men, two women and three minors.
According to reports, the illegals said they had set off from the opposite Turkish coast in an inflatable dinghy, which they destroyed upon reaching Greek and EU territory - increasingly the "modus operandi" of mostly Third World migrants attempting to cr oss onto Greek isles from Turkey.
In an unrelated incident, two undocumented foreign nationals were apprehended at the port of Corfu on Thursday night, whereas on the mainland, and specifically at the opposite port of Igoumenitsa, a 38-year-old truck driver was arrested the same day when four illegal immigrants were discovered in his lorry's trailer.
The truck was headed to Italy via ferry boat.
 Cloudy with scattered showers on SaturdayCloudy weather and scattered showers with westerly, southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 6-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 4C and 19C. Partly cloudy in Athens, with southwesterl y 4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 17C. Possibility of rain in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 15C.
 Cyprus President fully satisfied with his visit to GreeceLARNACA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias returned home Thursday evening fully satisfied with his visit to Greece, expressing the belief that his meetings with the Greek political leadership will contribute to the tightening of the already excellent relations between Cyprus and Greece.
Referring to his forthcoming meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, to take place 17 to 24 of March, Christofias said that before this meeting Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou will meet with Talat's advisor Ozdil Nami to ascertain w hether all issues are settled with a view to move forward with the meeting with Talat.
Christofias described his meetings in Greece as "very important", noting that he exchanged views with the Greek political leadership on the current developments on the Cyprus question and coordination between the two governments as well as coordination wi thin the EU framework.
Asked whether the issues concerning the Turkish occupation army and the status which the buffer zone will have to enable the opening of Ledra Street, have been solved, the President of the Republic said that "we are in consultations".
Invited to comment on statements which the Turkish Cypriot leader made in Ankara on the Annan plan, Christofias said that "we will look into all these."
"Our position is explicit and it is the UN position as well. The UN Security Council has endorsed the 8 July Agreement as the starting point for further negotiations," he said, and added that Talat's signature is under this agreement "which is the only va lid agreement for the process and the substance right now."
He recalled that there are also the High Level Agreements, but noted that the 8 July Agreement is the most recent Agreement which has the signature of the leaders of both communities.
"I will honour the signature of my predecessor, Mr (Tassos) Papadopoulos, and I expect from him (Talat) who has his signature on this text to honour it," he added.
Furthermore he noted that "we are not discussing the Annan plan, nor does the UN Security Council or any other international organization".
Invited to say how optimistic he is that Talat will respond to the obligations deriving from his signature on the 8 July Agreement, President Christofias expressed hope that he will respond.
He noted that if the Turkish Cypriot community considers itself isolated then the Turkish Cypriots must consider how this stalemate can be terminated, with respect to the High Level Agreements, the 8 July Agreement, the independence of the Republic of Cyp rus, to which they are partners according to the 1960 agreements and how this partnership will evolve from a united to a federal state.
Responding to another question, Christofias said the he is planning to meet with Cypriot political party leaders and call for a meeting of the National Council to examine developments.
The Cypriot President also congratulated the new House President Marios Karoyian who was elected Thursday by majority at the plenary session.
The July 8 Agreement is a UN-brokered accord between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities, providing for preparatory discussions leading to substantive negotiations towards a settlement.
 France encourages spirit of dialogue for Cyprus settlementNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
French Ambassador to Cyprus Nicolas Galey on Friday assured that his country encourages the spirit of dialogue for a Cyprus settlement, which has been expressed on the island.
Speaking after a meeting with President Demetris Christofias, Galey said he handed the president the original copy of a letter by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who expresses the country's commitment to continue its particularly close relation with Cyp rus, and renewed Sarkozy's invitation to President Christofias to visit Paris.
''I remitted to the President the original copy of the letter of President Sarkozy, transmitted to him on 25 February, the day after the second round of the election. This letter expresses France's commitment to continue the particularly close relation we have with Cyprus,'' Galey said.
He added that in his letter, Sarkozy ''also assures Mr. Christofias of the friendship and support of France, in particular for efforts aiming at finding a solution to the Cyprus problem.''
''As a friend of Cyprus, as an EU member and as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, France obviously encourages the spirit of dialogue, which has been expressed on the island these last three weeks,'' he said.
Galey noted that, ''as the Security Council stresses in its resolutions, the solution of the Cyprus problem will come firstly from the Cypriots themselves, therefore this spirit of dialogue and the coming meeting between the two leaders are certainly posi tive news.''
The French Ambassador said he was ''grateful to President Christofias for his kind words to my country and the importance he attaches to Cyprus' relation with France.''
Concluding his remarks, Galey said he renewed to President Christofias the invitation extended by Sarkozy ''to come to Paris mid-July, when a summit will be held as the French EU presidency will be starting.''
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Syrian President confirms excellent relations with CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a message to Cypriot President Demetris Christofias has confirmed the need to maintain the excellent relations between the two countries.
In his message, conveyed here Friday by Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad, President Assad also expresses wishes to newly elected President Christofias for success, as well as for cooperation regarding "the problems our region is facing nowadays".
Responding to question regarding the illegal sea routes between Latakia and the closed port of Famagusta in the Turkish occupied north the Syrian official said that his Government knows that "this is an issue dear to the Cypriot people", noting that "ther e are a lot of ways to solve all these controversies".
"We hope that not only on this but on many other issues this will never separate the spirit of friendship between the countries," Makdad said concluding "there are solutions for everything."
Famagusta has been declared by the government of Cyprus a closed port following the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island. The UN has branded the illegal regime in occupied Cyprus "legally invalid" and called on all states not to recognise or facilitate it in any way.
The Republic of Cyprus entered the EU in May 2004. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe changes contained in the new social security draft law, unveiled on Thursday by Employment Minister Fani Palli - Petralia, and Greece's veto against FYROM's accession to NATO that was put forward and explained on Thursday by Foreign Minister Dora Bako yannis during the NATO Foreign Ministers' meeting in Brussels, dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Social security: What will be applied for parents (mothers and fathers)".
APOGEVMATINI: "Greece's first veto against FYROM's accession to NATO - More vetos will follow until FYROM realises where its interest lies".
AVGHI: "Uprising and indignation over the social security 'monstrous' draft law - Governmental attack on society and social security funds".
AVRIANI:"Dora's veto radically changes the landscape - It isolates FYROM and puts NATO and Americans face to face with their responsibilities, and also represents Greek people's will".
CHORA: "Veto at Bucharest (NATO summit in early April) - Greece made clear its positions in Brussels".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Bakoyannis reiterated on Thursday to her counterparts in Brussels that FYROM and NATO can't be 'served in the same dish' ".
ELEFTHEROS: "Major changes contained in the new social security draft law - The ten main aspects of the first substantial reform since 2004".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "(Main opposition PASOK leader George) Papandreou sends message: I am determined to succeed, as long as it may take".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "All the articles of the new social security 'predatory' draft law".
ESTIA: The newspaper celebrates its 115th anniversary and re-publishes its second edition released on March 7, 1894.
ETHNOS: "Women and 50 year-olds in a mousetrap - Social security bill: Harsher amendments for 2 million workers".
KATHIMERINI: "The clash over the social security funds escalates - New mobilisations - Problems in banks operational system".
LOGOS: "1.5 insured are affected - Shocking changes for mothers with minors and insured between 1982 - 1992".
NIKI: "Five bombs in social security - Karamanlis' reassurances were a fairy tale".
TA NEA: "Guillotine - 1.5 citizens targeted".
TO VIMA: "The new social security draft law - The changes in pensions and retirement ages".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Mass uprising against the anti-social security draft law - Not a single hour should be lost in the face of the new atack by the plutocracy".
VRADYNI: "Social security: Changes that include sacrifices - The regulations of the new law ignites fires".
We wish to inform the readers of the English Daily News Bulletin that the bulletin will not be published on Monday, March 10, on the occasion of the Clean Monday public holiday. The next edition of the bulletin will appear on Tuesday, March 11.
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