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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-03-21

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Friday, 21 March 2008 Issue No: 2848


  • [01] FM Bakoyannis holds talks with Albanian political leadership
  • [02] FM Bakoyannis to meet with FYROM counterpart in Brussels on Friday
  • [03] State department on upcoming Greece-FYROM Brussels meeting
  • [04] US president 'concerned' over unresolved FYROM name issue
  • [05] Rising number of Congresspersons co-signing Resolution 356 condemning FYROM propaganda against Greece
  • [06] Greek, Serbian FMs stress need for Western Balkans' accession to EU
  • [07] Employment minister on social security draft law
  • [08] Gov't on social security reform
  • [09] Papandreou on social security bill
  • [10] PASOK votes for motherhood articles in social security bill
  • [11] Alavanos calls for referendum on social security reform
  • [12] Employment minister deplores Alavanos' statements in Parliament
  • [13] Labour confederation favours referendum over social security issue
  • [14] Nationwide strike, mass demonstrations staged Wednesday against social security reforms bill
  • [15] U.S. President Bush signs proclamation on Greek Independence Day
  • [16] President Papoulias receives defence ministry leadership
  • [17] PM Karamanis confers with ND secretary
  • [18] Deputy defence minister meets Ukrainian government offiicial
  • [19] Dep. FM in Moscow
  • [20] U.S. presidential candidate McCain meets Environment Commissioner Dimas
  • [21] Tourism minister, Moscow mayor agree to sign cooperation memorandum
  • [22] Govt, Deutsche Telekom discuss OTE's equity stake
  • [23] EAB delivers first upgraded F-16 warplane to U.S. Air Force
  • [24] Finmin, education minister discuss ministry budget
  • [25] Development minister, US ambassador discuss energy cooperation
  • [26] US's Bryza confident Azeri natgas will fill TGI, launch Nabucco pipeline
  • [27] Bank of Greece to hold new 24-hour strike on Friday
  • [28] PPC employees end strike
  • [29] Sanitation workers end strike
  • [30] Cosmote reports improved 2007 results
  • [31] Intralot reports improved 2007 results
  • [32] OTE says profits up 15.3% in 2007
  • [33] Aspis Bank says after tax profits 7.1 mln euros in 2007
  • [34] Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling to pay 0.25 euros per share dividend
  • [35] ASE presents Alternative Market to northern Greece executives
  • [36] Greek stocks fell 1.68 pct on Thurs.
  • [37] ADEX closing report
  • [38] Greek bond market closing report
  • [39] Rapid growth of broadband services in Greece
  • [40] French firefighters honored by Greece
  • [41] Meeting on the political culture in Europe
  • [42] Osteoarthritis shows preference to women
  • [43] Culture ministry employees clash with police
  • [44] Man arrested for throwing captive woman off balcony
  • [45] Cloudy with scattered showers on Friday
  • [46] President Christofias says Cyprus should become a modern federal state
  • [47] British diplomat:There is not a big gap bettwen the two leaders
  • [48] Russia supports efforts for a just solution of Cyprus issue Politics

  • [01] FM Bakoyannis holds talks with Albanian political leadership

    TIRANA (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis held talks here with Albania's political leadership on Thursday, resulting in tangible results on bilateral issues, particularly the delineation of the continental shelf and the arrangement of the operation of Greek cemeteries.

    Bakoyannis was received with words of gratitude for the "solidarity" and the "immediate and generous aid" offered by the Greek government following the tragedy in the region of Gerdec, near the Albanian capital.

    During a brief working visit to the Albanian capital, Bakoyannis held talks with her counterpart Lulzim Basha, Prime Minister Sali Berisha and President Bamir Topi and confirmed Greece's strategic option in favour of the Euroatlantic prospects of its neighbouring countries.

    The Greek foreign minister expressed her support for Albania's accession to NATO, saying that "you are aware that Greece has made a strategic option which concerns the future of the entire region. It supports sincerely and firmly the European and Euroatlantic prospects of its neighbouring countries. Albania is also included in this strategy, of course. We back you and we support you."

    She added that "as regards your invitation to join NATO, the position of my country is known. We believe that Albania has made substantive steps of progress for the fulfillment of this target. It is participating actively in regional cooperation and it believes in practice in relations of good neighbourliness. It has every reason to expect an invitation to become a member of the alliance at the forthcoming NATO summit in Bucharest. The same applies to Croatia."

    Referring to the similar issue for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), she said "I cannot say the same about FYROM," due to the "17-year deadlock in negotiations on the serious issue of the name."

    The Albanian side thanked the minister for Greek support, through both Basha and Berisha, who welcomed her saying that "it is a crucial moment, a historic moment for Albania".

    On the question of the name of FYROM, Berisha told the minister that he encourages the country's leadership to get involved in serious negotiations on the finding of a mutually acceptable solution.

    As regards bilateral issues, Bakoyannis said that "we agreed that a meeting of experts from the two sides will take place in early April on the delineation of the continental shelf between Greece and Albania."

    She also expressed "special satisfaction" over the decision taken on Thursday "to settle an issue of a humanitarian and moral character that concerns the cemeteries of Greek soldiers killed during World War 2."

    Focusing on pending bilateral issues regarding the Greek minority, Basha said that the issue of the use of the Greek language in public administration was discussed as welle as conditions in the educational sector, while ways of strengthening economic cooperation and the investing presence of the Greek business community were sought with the minister.

    "Greece is one of the most important partners of Albania, both in the sector of investments and in commercial exchanges," Basha said.

    Bakoyannis termed the Albanian community in Greece and the Greek minority in Albania the strongest bridges of friendship between the two peoples.

    The foreign minister visited the Tirana Town Hall at noon, where she was received by the mayor and the leader of the Socialist Party Edvin Rama, who honoured with the golden key of the city and who expressed his gratitude for Greece's immediate response to the recent tragedy experienced by Albania.

    [02] FM Bakoyannis to meet with FYROM counterpart in Brussels on Friday

    Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet with her FYROM counterpart Antonio Milososki in Brussels on Friday, in the framework of the ongoing UN-brokered effort for finding a mutually acceptable solution to the FYROM name issue as per the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, a foreign ministry announcement said Thursday.

    The meeting, which will also be attended by US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried, aims at assisting the developing negotiations process under the UN secretary general's personal envoy on the name issue, Matthew Nimetz, being held in the framework of the UN, the ministry announcement added.

    [03] State department on upcoming Greece-FYROM Brussels meeting


    U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Thursday that Washington continued to support UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz's efforts for the finding of a solution to the "name issue" dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    Referring to Friday's meeting in Brussels between Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and her FYROM counterpart with U.S. participation, McCormack said: "U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried is in Brussels. He will be having some meetings, supportive to international efforts, particularly UN efforts, for the finding of a solution to the name issue. We continue to support Ambassador Nimetz's efforts. We have at times met with each side."

    He said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has met separately with the Greek and FYROM foreign ministers "to encourage them towards finding a solution to this issue."

    "I think that one should view these meetings with both sides as part of this ongoing effort under the prism of UN support," the spokesman said.

    McCormack also reiterated that the U.S. wanted a solution, pointing out that NATO functions on the basis of unanimous decisions.

    Greece has repeatedly declared that it would object to a NATO invitation extended to FYROM for joining the Alliance.

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet with her FYROM counterpart Antonio Milososki in Brussels on Friday, in the framework of the ongoing UN-brokered effort for finding a mutually acceptable solution to the FYROM name issue.

    [04] US president 'concerned' over unresolved FYROM name issue


    US president George Bush was concerned over the FYROM name issue, but believes that it can and must te solved, White House press secretary Dana Perino said during a regular press briefing, in reply to questions.

    "Sure," Perino said, when asked whether Bush was concerned over the unresolved name issue between Greece and FYROM, adding that the US president "is hoping that they will come to an agreement before we get to the NATO summit (in Bucharest at the beginning of April), because he thinks that this is an issue that is solvable, and something that they should get done before we head out there (Bucharest) at the end of the month".

    Asked whether Bush intended to take any last-minute initiative, Perino said that "the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has been talking with them", adding that she was sure that the upcoming NATO summit would also be discussed at Rice's imminent meeting with the US president to brief him on her Russia trip.

    [05] Rising number of Congresspersons co-signing Resolution 356 condemning FYROM propaganda against Greece


    As the NATO summit meeting in Bucharest approaches, a rising number of US Congresspersons have been co-signing the House of Representatives' Resolution 356 condemning "hostile propaganda" by FYROM against Greece and calling on Skopje to find a mutually acceptable solution with Athens on the FYROM name issue.

    The number of signatories has now exceeded 115, more than one-fourth of the 435-member House of Representatives.

    The number of signatories rose sharply following the recent completion of hearings in House of Representatives and Senate subcommittees on the situation in the Balkans and NATO enlargement.

    The resolution condemns the irredentist propaganda against Greece, and calls on FYROM to seek a mutually acceptable solution based on UN Security Council Resolutions 817 and 845.

    [06] Greek, Serbian FMs stress need for Western Balkans' accession to EU

    Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis met on Wednesday with her Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic, who was on a working visit to Athens, for an in-depth discussion on regional issues.

    In joint statements after the meeting, Bakoyannis expressed great pleasure in receiving Jeremic, "an old and good friend", in Athens once again, adding that they had "a long and very useful in-depth discussion on all the serious issues our region is facing".

    Bakoyannis said she briefed Jeremic on the recent talks at the latest EU Council of Ministers' meeting on General Affairs and External Relations, and "passed on to him once again the view of all the members of the Council -- that is, of all of Europe and its governments -- regarding their will to have close, constructive and useful relations with Serbia".

    "Neither the European Union, nor, of course Greece -- which plays a leading role in the stance -- can imagine the stability required for the development of the whole Balkan region without the participation of Serbia in Europe", she said.

    She said she reaffirmed to Jermic that Greece "will not stop leading the effort towards full and substantial relations between the EU and Serbia", adding that "the future in the Balkans is one future, a common future and a European future for all of us".

    Bakoyannis said that Jeremic had briefed her in detail on his country's positions and concerns over the Kosovo issue, and that they naturally discussed "the recent, very unpleasant incidents in Mitrovica", which "Greece, like all the members of the EU, condemns, calling for self-restraint".

    "Our region is currently at a difficult turning point. Great composure, seriousness, responsibility and close cooperation among all of the countries will be needed in order for us to confront the problems, our own goal being stability and prosperity in the region," Bakoyannis said.

    She explained that this was the strategic pursuit of Greece's policy, and the reason "we do everything we can to support the European and Euro-Atlantic perspectives of all of the countries of the Western Balkans".

    Bakoyannis said that she further briefed Jeremic on the course of the efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution to the FYROM name issue. "As it has done so far, Greece will continue to participate in the UN-mediated negotiation process with clear positions, in a constructive spirit, and in good faith," she stressed.

    "We would like to hope that -- even at this late date -- the other side will be able to extricate itself from the intransigence that unfortunately characterises its stance," the Greek foreign minister continued.

    "And I would like to hope that yesterday's (Tuesday's) statements by the Skopje political leadership were made in view of the upcoming elections, because otherwise they of great concern all those -- friends and allies -- who want to see this problem resolved. And this is a problem that will, in its turn, impact the stability and good neighborly relations of our fragile region," she added.

    Bakoyannis further assured Jeremic that "Greece is a good and firm friend of Serbia".

    Speaking in turn, Jeremic expressed great pleasure in being in Athens: "I feel -- I knew it and now I feel it -- that Serbia has always hada sincere friend in these difficult moments".

    "This really is a difficult time for us. This is a major historical turning point for Serbia, and that's why the decisions that have to be taken regarding the future -- our future and that of the coming generations -- are of such great importantance," he said.

    "For me, there is only one path: one path that leads towards peace, towards stability, towards the country's accession to the European Union. That is why I was so happy to hear from Ms. Bakoyannis that Greece is doing everything in its power to open the way to the European Union for my country," Jeremic continued.

    He said that "we also talked about strategy, we talked about the path, we talked about the prospects of the coming months -- I would say the coming weeks -- abut tactics and steps we will take towards integration into the European Union".

    "We have a common goal, we have common positions: the accession of the Western Balkans to the European Union. But before that we will definitely have to resolve the issue of establishing security in the Balkan peninsula," he said.

    "And of course when we talk about this, there is the principal, burning issue of Kosovo which, along with all of the other problems, will have to be resolved. What is very incriminating evidence is the fact that recently we had precisely Kosovo's self-declaration of independence, which creates major problems in the region," Jeremic continued, and charged that "violating all international norms, all the international rules, the current government in Pristina cancelled out UN Security Council Resolution 1244 in a single stroke; it rendered void the Helsinki Final Act and established a state arbitrarily".

    He said that Serbia "does not, and will never, accept the illegal abrogation of its ownership and territorial integrity and sovereignty. And Serbia will fight by all means -- legal, political, diplomatic -- for there not to be legal recognition of this stae internationally and by international organisations", adding that the last thing one could want right now is for "recognition to come at this time from the international community for a state that declared its independence in this manner".

    This was why Serbia appreciates the stance of Greece "which has not recognised Kosovo as a state and will not do so in the coming time, fighting instead -- with all means -- for justice to prevail generally in our region," he said.

    Jeremic noted that Serbia was making efforts towards a compromise solution for the future status of Kosovo. "Under the UN flag, with the help of our European friends, we are prepared for this compromise solution -- we are prepared to find such a compromise solution".

    He said this was not iimpossible, but added that there was only one obstacle: "If a major wave of countries recognises the existence of this state -- as some countries have done -- then an effort will not be made to create a new reality. it will be a state of affairs that is incompatible with international law; a state of afffairs that will not reflect the real situation in the region".

    "Serbia will fight against the creation of such a state of affaris and to find a solution that will help stability and the development of good neighborly relations to prevail in the region," Jeremic said.

    He said that the May 11 parliamentary elections in Serbia will be historic not only for the country, but for the entire region, and noted that there were large differences of opinion in the country on many issues, such as the the economic problems, and on social issues, as well as a "great chasm between those who believe that Serbia should find its way with the European Union and those who believe that we will find our way through isolation".

    "On May 11, the citizens of Serbia will decide whether they want to take the pat to European integration. But whoever wins, there is one thing that will not change: Serbia's policy on Kosovo and Metohija. Whoever wins on May 11 will continue to implement the policy on Kosovo and Metohija as it stands now. And of course, this is an unyeilding struggle to maintain the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country. This was a priority for this government. It will be a priority of the future government, whoever wins the elections," Jeremic stressed.

    [07] Employment minister on social security draft law

    Employment and Social Protection Minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Thursday described the social security draft law as "a great social security reform," stating that she was proud of being the relevant minister of "this great reform in the social security sector."

    "The objective of the draft law is to correct the distortions which exist and to bring about equality," the employment minister said.

    Addressing Parliament during the ongoing debate on the bill, she gave emphasis to "the favourable adjustments which concern the support of maternity, for which women struggled for years and gave battles for changes."

    [08] Gov't on social security reform

    The government's position on the issue of social security reform has been reiterated numerous times, stated alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday. He was responding to questions by reporters on the likelihood of the controversial social security draft law being changed, considering that the leaders of the opposition parties call for its withdrawal.

    Antonaros also added that the debate on the imperative social security reform has entered its final stage.

    "It's our responsibility to collaborate and reach joint decisions on the necessary changes that will guarantee the future generations' right to decent pensions, allowing all Greek families to lead dignified lives," he concluded.

    [09] Papandreou on social security bill

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, speaking in Parliament on Thursday during the discussion on the social security bill, accused the government of "autho-ritarian logic" and of "slipping towards undemocratic means against working people," while promising that his party will abolish this law when it comes to power.

    Papandreou spoke of a "minority government" and reiterated his party's proposal for the withdrawal of the social security bill which, as he said, "is a mine in the foundations of social cohesion."

    The PASOK leader further predicted that there will be reactions, while speaking of the "progressive patriotic front of the opposition that can inspire the Greek people."

    Lastly, Papandreou said that the proposal by Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos for a referendum on the social security bill "is very positive", adding that PASOK will stand up to the government which has been left alone.

    [10] PASOK votes for motherhood articles in social security bill

    The main opposition PASOK party on Thursday voted in favour of three articles in the governmemnt's social security bill concerning arrangements in support of motherhood.

    More specifically, article 140 on parents having disabled children. It anticipates that "the pensioning right can be exercised by the father as well if the insured mother does not exercise it or has passed away, or if he has custody of the children." The other two articles, 141 and 142, also contain mother care rights.

    In another development, the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) held a protest outside Parliament on Thursday night, calling for the bill on social security reform not to be ratified.

    The demonstrators expressed their disagreement with the social security reform and declared their determination to continue their struggle until the law is abolished in practice.

    The rally was attended by a delegation of the main opposition PASOK party, headed by Parliamentary Deputy Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou, and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), headed by its Parliamentary group president Alekos Alavanos.

    However, the event was marred shortly before it ended by small-scale incidents that occurred when a small group of extremists attacked police with stones and bottles. The police responded with the use of tear gas on a limited scale.

    [11] Alavanos calls for referendum on social security reform

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos on Thursday called for a referendum on social security reform, a proposal that was later backed by main opposition PASOK and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party.

    Addressing Parliament during a debate on the draft bill, Alavanos suggested that opposition parties should jointly activate Article 44 of the Constitution, providing for a referendum in the case of draft laws regulating major social issues.

    PASOK parliamentary spokesman Christos Papoutsis said the proposal was very important, adding that his party accepts its rationale. He also called on SYRIZA to accept PASOK leader George Papandreou's proposal for an immediate meeting of political parties represented in Parliament to press forward with specific proposals.

    A statement accepting the referendum proposal was later issued by LA.OS as well.

    [12] Employment minister deplores Alavanos' statements in Parliament

    Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia reacted strongly on Thursday to statements made by Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos' in parliament, particularly his assertion that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was a "ghost" and a "puppet in the hands of communication specialists."

    Replying to Alavanos, who stated that a draft law promoted as the focal point of the ruling New Democracy (ND) reforms is being discussed in the prime minister's absence, Petralia stressed that the office of the prime minister has to be respected and expressed regret for the SYRIZA leader's "slip".

    Petralia also accused Alavanos of employing communication tricks.

    [13] Labour confederation favours referendum over social security issue

    The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) supports the proposal "for the holding of a legislative referendum in which the unions will play a leading role, to enable the Greek people to express themselves on this extremely crucial social issue, the social security issue."

    GSEE called in an announcement on all the deputies of all parties to support this proposal, as well as on the government to accept it. GSEE stressed that "the struggle of working people will continue in various forms, even if this (the bill) is ratified by Parliament."

    [14] Nationwide strike, mass demonstrations staged Wednesday against social security reforms bill

    Workers and employees in the public and private sectors, joined by professional groups and journalists, staged a mass nationwide 24-hour strike on Wednesday, with demonstrations throughout the country, in protest of the bill on social security reforms that is due to be voted on in parliament on Thursday.

    The strike was called by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), to demand withdrawal of the new social security draft law.

    Addressing a main protest rally in downtown Athens, at the Pedion tou Areos park, GSEE president Yannis Panagopoulos accused the government of deceiving the Greek people, charging that it was not abiding by the three fundamental commitments the prime minister had assumed pre-electorally, and also accused the government of attempting to penalise the working people's struggles, warning that the trade unions would not back down.

    He called the draft law a "shame" for social security, charging that it negatively affected "everyone and everything". Particularly regarding the planned unification of the social security funds into a handful of larger funds, he said it was a "concoction in the imaginations of its writers" that lacked prospect, and which would soon collapse.

    Panagopoulos charged that the government was following an undemocratic path for imposition of the social security bill, which was a path without dialogue, without consensus, and through summary procedures that snub the parliament, and warned that even if the ruling New Democracy (ND) party passed the bill in parliament, the government would be defeated "because the working people are many, the right is on their side, and they have a memory".

    Speaking to reporters earlier, the GSEE leader said that the bill had "stepped on the toe" of society, and that in such cases the social reactions could be uncontrollable. He called on the government to withdraw the bill, warning that the trade unions would continue with their struggle even if the bill was passed in parliament.

    ADEDY president Spyros Papaspyros, addressing the same rally, accused the government of de-constructing the public system of social security in order to pave the way to a "three-pylon system", and namely to the "mass entry of the private sector" to social insurance, predicting that the attempt would not succeed, and called on the working people to wage their fight united.

    GSEE secretary general Costas Poupakis (from the ND-affiliated trade union organisation DAKE) said that DAKE was also taking part in the mobilisations, resisting the "mistaken policies" regardless of which party was in government, and trying to isolate the political expediencies.

    Poupakis conceded that changes were necessary to the social security system, "but with consensus and social dialogue", and called on the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) to enter the negotiations on the collective labor agreements with acceptance of the union's demand for real salary and wage increases.

    GSEE alternate president Alekos Kalyvis called on the trade unions to continue their fight beyond Thursday, so as to render the "Petralia law" (employment minister Fani Palli-Petralia) inactive.

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Progress (SYN) leader Alexis Tsipras, addressing the protestors, called the strike and demonstrations "a battle for dignity, a battle for life", and stressed that the government had only two solutions left: to back down with dignity, or to "pack its bags".

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and PAME trade union organisation held a separate demonstration, simultaneous with the GSEE-ADEDY rally, at Omonia Square.

    [15] U.S. President Bush signs proclamation on Greek Independence Day


    U.S. President George W. Bush signed a proclamation Thursday on the occasion of the Greek Independence Day, celebrated on March 25.

    The proclamation, titled "Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy, 2008", is as follows:

    "On Greek Independence Day, we recognize the important contributions Greek Americans have made to our national character, celebrate the deep friendship between our two countries, and honor the anniversary of the Greek call for independence.

    "The United States and Greece share a close relationship based on our common belief in the power of freedom. The ancient Athenians gave birth to the principles of democracy, and America's Founding Fathers were inspired by Greek ideals that honored and respected human dignity and rights. When the people of Greece claimed their independence in 1821, they had the strong support of the United States. Greek patriots risked their lives because they knew freedom and democracy were both their proud legacy and their ultimate destiny. Today, our nations remain allies in the cause of freedom and are working to lay the foundations of peace and spread the blessings of liberty around the world.

    "In celebrating Greek Independence Day, we commemorate the heritage of freedom our countries hold dear, and we remember the Greek Americans whose strong spirit, resolve, and courage helped shape America.

    "NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 25, 2008, as Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities."

    [16] President Papoulias receives defence ministry leadership

    Hellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias received at the Presidential Mansion Thursday the political and military leadership of the Ministry of National Defence and the Lieutenant Generals and Vice Admirals newly promoted in the military hierarchy.

    After congratulating them on their promotion, President Papoulias pointed out the several international issues pending and added that the Armed Forces guarantee the diplomatic successes sought after by the political leadership in the ministries of defence and foreign affairs, stressing that the Greek people want the solution of lingering issues.

    Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis underlined that the Armed Forces are well-trained and highly disciplined, stressing that they guarantee national independence by single-mindedly observing their democratic duties and social mission, pointing to their contribution to firefighting efforts and other social issues.

    [17] PM Karamanis confers with ND secretary

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met on Thursday with ruling New Democracy (ND) secretary Lefteris Zagoritis at the Maximos Mansion (government headquarters).

    No statements were made after the meeting.

    Karamanlis and Zagoritis departed afterwards for parliament, where the debate on the employment and social protection ministry's bill on social security reforms was continuing, with the vote on the draft law scheduled for Thursday night.

    [18] Deputy defence minister meets Ukrainian government offiicial

    Deputy Defence Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis on Thursday met Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Kupchyshyn for talks focusing on bilateral defence cooperation, which is seen to be at a good level, and the possibility of deepening this further.They also discussed matters concerning the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest.

    Plakiotakis conveyed the government's condolences for the death of a Ukrainian police officer that lost his life during events in Mitrovica.

    [19] Dep. FM in Moscow

    Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis will meet with Russian officials in Moscow this week during his official visit to the Russian capital, including talks with Russia's First Deputy of Foreign Affairs, Andrey Denisov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (UN, OSCE, EU, NATO and other international organisations), as well as the Deputy Foreign Minister responsible for Greek-Russian relations, Vladimir Titov.

    Bilateral ties, EU-Russia relations and the prospects for greater cooperation in the economic, commercial, energy and cultural fields are expected to dominate talks.

    Given Russia's assumption of the rotating UNSC presidency this month, developments in SE Europe and the wider Black Sea region will also be discussed.

    [20] U.S. presidential candidate McCain meets Environment Commissioner Dimas

    LONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)

    The Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency, John McCain, met here on Thursday, at his own initiative, with Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas and discussed the issue of climate change.

    The Greek commissioner said that discussed during the meeting was how the United States and the European Union will unite their forces for the achievement of an international agreement which is necessary for dealing with climate change.

    Financial News

    [21] Tourism minister, Moscow mayor agree to sign cooperation memorandum

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)

    Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos and the governor of the Russian capital's metropolitan municipality Yuri Luzhkov held talks on Thursday and agreed to sign a tourism cooperation memorandum between the tourism ministry and the local government in Moscow during the spring.

    The aim of this agreement, which working groups from both countries will begin to prepare immediately will be, according to statements made by the Greek minister, "the greater flow of visitors from Russia and specifically from Moscow to Greece," as well as the creation of joint business activities.

    A considerable increase in advertising expenditure for Russia, which will jump, according to the minister, from 350 thousand euros last year to one million euros this year, will contribute to the implementation of these goals.

    Moscow municipality governor Luzhkov praised Greece's successes, particularly the fact that over the past three years the number of Russian tourists heading to Greece has almost trebled, making special reference both to great Russian interest in the culture and history of Greece and to the organising and simplification of procedures required for entry visas to be issued at the Greek consulate in Moscow.

    Commenting on additional tourist cooperation, Spiliotopoulos spoke of the training of officials and the providing of Greek know-how and experience so that "the hotels in Moscow can have the most specialised staff potential possible."

    Luzhkov insisted on a proposal he had made in the past for direct flights from Greece to Moscow to increase, proposing as an ideal solution for the extension of existing flights "Vnukovo" airport, which has privileged relations with the city's municipality.

    Late in the afternoon, the Greek minister attended the traditional dinner hosted on the occasion of Orthodoxy Sunday at the Greek embassy in Moscow, with the Patriarch of Moscow Alexiy being the main guest.

    [22] Govt, Deutsche Telekom discuss OTE's equity stake

    Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Transport and Communications Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Thursday met with Deutsche Telekom's vice chairman Karl-Gerhard Eick for talks over an agreement reached between the German telecoms giant and Athens-based Marfin Investment Group (MIG) for the purchase of around 20 pct equity stake in state-run Hellenic Telecoms (OTE).

    [23] EAB delivers first upgraded F-16 warplane to U.S. Air Force

    The Greek Aerospace Industry (EAB) has successfully completed the structural upgrading of the first F-16 Block 50 D warplane for the U.S. Air Force, that was on its way to the squadron deployed in Spangdahlem in Germany on Thursday, making a stopover in Aviano in Italy on its way.

    The work is part of a seven-year agreement concluded between EAB and the U.S. Air Force to upgrade 94 aircraft of the F-16 Block 40 and F-16 Block 50 types that are deployed in Europe.

    Speaking during the delivery ceremony at Tanagra, the company's board president Kyriakos Linakis referred to the considerable commercial prospects being paved for EAB, through the implementation of the specific programme with the acquisition of know-how and additional infrastructures.

    The ceremony was attended by representatives of the defence ministry's civil and military leadership, as well as of the U.S. embassy in Athens.

    [24] Finmin, education minister discuss ministry budget

    Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday received Education and Religious Affairs Minister Evripides Stylianidis to discuss the implementation of the education ministry budget.

    The meeting was also attended by Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Legas and Deputy Education Minister Spiros Taliadouros, as well as the general secretaries of the two ministries.

    [25] Development minister, US ambassador discuss energy cooperation

    Development Minister Christos Folias met U.S. Ambassador to Greece Daniel Speckhard on Thursday for talks concerning the energy, trade and enterprise sectors, while they confirmed the excellent level of bilateral relations between Greece and the United States.

    According to a ministry press release, they looked into promoting bilateral cooperation through the exchange of knowhow in alternative energy sources. They also agreed to further support the business presence of Greek and US firms in Greece and the United States, respectively, and discussed the key position that Greece has now occupies on the international energy map, as well as upgrading the country's geopolitical role.

    [26] US's Bryza confident Azeri natgas will fill TGI, launch Nabucco pipeline

    Ensuring western Europe's, and by extension, Greece's "multiple options for buying natural gas" was the leitmotif expressed by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Matthew J. Bryza on Tuesday, who spoke to local reporters via a tele-conference link from Washington D.C.

    "The goal is not to hurt Russia or Gazprom, it is to help the countries that either export the gas or buy the gas to position themselves to have more negotiating leverage by relying on the force of competition, so that over the course of time Gazprom becomes a more market-based competitor rather than a monopolistic competitor that uses its monopolistic power to influence gas prices to keep the price high that is not a criticism of Gazprom, that's a fact " Bryza said during the course of a Q&A session at the US embassy in Athens.

    The top US diplomat on energy issues and policy also flatly dismissed any notion of "displeasure" by Washington with expanding Greek-Russian ties in the energy sector - i.e. the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline that bypasses the Bosporus.

    "That view does not reflect reality as I see it," he said, adding that other foreign policy matters are in no way linked to energy security policy. Along those lines, he said he was confident that Greece, just as other European countries, is keenly interested in achieving the best possible price for natgas imports, regardless of whatever historical relationship the two countries (Russia and Greece) may share.

    Regarding the capacity of Azerbaijan gas fields to supply TGI -- in light of Greek Development Minister Christos Folias' talks in Baku on Tuesday -- Bryza expressed a view that industry data and "our careful analysis" shows that "Azerbaijan has plenty of gas to realise the Turkey-Greece-Italy pipeline, and not just that, it has plenty of gas to launch the Nabucco pipeline after TGI, and probably has enough gas to fill Nabucco, but I said probably"

    Bryza said this was an official US administration position regarding the capacity of Azeri gas fields.

    He also stressed that both TGI and Nabucco enjoy a clear-cut commercial advantage over other current or proposed competitors.

    The US official also reiterated that Washington "does not seek to disrupt" Turkmenistan's long-standing contractual arrangements with Gazprom when asked about the possibility of funneling the land-locked ex-Soviet republic's gas production to western Europe. However, he said Russia was, in fact, looking to Turkmenistan gas to fill its proposed Southstream pipeline, which he characterised as a "vague notion" with no cost estimate.

    Twice during the briefing Bryza reiterated that Washington's goal was to assist its European allies in developing a mutually beneficial energy relationship with Russia.

    Finally, Bryza called on Turkey to join the SE Europe Energy Community initiative, while noting -- when queried on a recent eye-brow-raising Iran-Switzerland energy deal -- that "TGI and Nabucco will be realised without Iranian gas."

    [27] Bank of Greece to hold new 24-hour strike on Friday

    The Federation of Bank Employee Unions (OTOE) on Thursday announced the holding of a new 24-hour strike at the Bank of Greece on Friday, reacting to the social security bill.

    According to a relevant announcement, OTOE will continue strike action with the aim of "annuling the anti-social security policy of the government in practice and a unified solution to the social security issue at banks with the safeguarding of social security rights."

    OTOE stressed that it "supports the proposal for the carrying out of a referendum to enable the people to express themselves on this crucial social issue."

    [28] PPC employees end strike

    The Public Power Corporation trade union (GENOP-DEH) decided on Thursday to stop its strike in protest of a government bill on reforming the country's social insurance system, currently debated in Parliament.

    GENOP, however, decided to continue labour action "through other forms" as well as resorting to court against the bill after its voting by the Parliament.

    Electricity cuts therefore are to cease as of midnight Thursday.

    [29] Sanitation workers end strike

    Collection of garbage that has been piling up for more than a week in the streets of Athens will begin at midnight Thursday, following a decision taken Wednesday by the general council of the Federation of Municipal Santitation Workers (POE-OTA) to end their strike.

    The sanitation workers announced that they will take part in a protest demonstration called by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) on Thursday outside the parliament building, where the debate on the employment ministry's social security reforms bill is due to end with a vote on Thursday night.

    [30] Cosmote reports improved 2007 results

    Cosmote on Thursday reported a 28.5-percent increase in consolidated turnover to 3.060 billion euros last year, adding that its pre-tax, interest and amortisation earnings rose 12.5 pct to 985.9 million euros, while net profits rose 0.2 pct to 361.3 million euros.

    The Group reported a 39.1-percent growth rate in its customer base to 15,546,032 in 2007.

    Cosmote Hellas accounted for 49 pct of net new connections in the Greek mobile telephony market last year. Turnover totaled 1.736 billion euros, up 6.5 pct from 2006, EBITDA rose 3.2 pct to 724.4 million euros and net profits fell 1.6 pct to 339.2 million euros.

    In Albania, its subsidiary AMC reported a 16.7-pct increase in turnover to 176.2 million euros. EBITDA was up 22.1 pct and net profits totaled 60.9 million euros, up 22.1 pct.

    In Bulgaria, Globul said turnover rose 20.4 pct to 412.1 million euros, EBITDA rose 28 pct to 161.5 million euros and profits jumped 63.9 pct to 53.2 million euros.

    In FYROM, Cosmofon reported its first net year of profit. Turnover rose 15.8 pct to 62.2 million euros, EBITDA jumped 107.1 pct to 19.3 million euros and profits totaled 100,000 euros, after losses of 8.0 million euros in 2006.

    Cosmote Romania reported a 255.5-pct jump in turnover to 155.6 million euros, although the company reported a loss of 118.4 million euros.

    Germanos reported a turnover of 992 million euros, with EBITDA totaling 31.7 million euros, while net profits totaled 14.2 million euros.

    Greece's Capital Markets Commission approved an Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation's (OTE) demand following the purchase of Cosmote's shares. The market watchdog said Cosmote's shares will stop trading in the Greek market in April 1, 2008.

    [31] Intralot reports improved 2007 results

    Intralot on Wednesday reported a 5.6-pct increase in its consolidated turnover last year to 835.5 million euros, saying pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) totaled 262.9 million euros up 4.2 pct over the same period.

    Pre-tax earnings totaled 217.8 million euros, while profits after tax and minorities totaled 121.6 million euros, up 7.4 pct from 2006. Intralot Group said revenues from international activities totaled 69 million euros, accounting for 82.8 percent of total consolidated turnover in 2007, up from 75.2 percent in 2006.

    Parent turnover totaled 176 million euros, EBITDA totaled 44.3 million euros and pre-tax earnings totaled 78.9 million euros, down from 97.7 million in 2006.

    [32] OTE says profits up 15.3% in 2007

    Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Thrusday reported a 7.3 pct-increase in 2007 turnover to 6.32 billion euros, noting that operating expenses rose 9.8 pct to 5.273 billion euros over the same year.

    Net profits jumped 15.3 pct to 662.6 million euros, while EBITDA rose 3.4 pct in 2007. Parent turnover totaled 2.657 billion euros, down 2.1 pct from the previous year, while operating expenses fell 2.3 pct and net profits rose 8.5 pct to 576.5 million euros.

    Cosmote Group reported a 28.5-pct increase in its turnover and 0.2 pct rise in net profits last year, while Romtelecom reported a 2.6-pct decline in turnover to 879.1 million euros, EBITDA fell 11.2 pct and the company reported a loss of 21.1 million euros in 2007.

    Hellenic Telecoms plans to pay a 0.75-euro per share dividend to shareholders.

    [33] Aspis Bank says after tax profits 7.1 mln euros in 2007

    Aspis Bank on Thursday said its pre-tax profits totaled 17.5 million euros, while after tax earnings totaled 7.1 million euros in 2007. Assets rose 17 pct to 2.9 billion euros, with saving deposits up 13 pct to 2.2 billion euros.

    Operating income rose 8.0 pct to 97.3 million euros, while operating expenses rose 13 pct to 78.2 million euros. The bank's capital adequacy rate rose to 16.2 pct.

    Aspis Bank said its results were affected by an extra tax burden of 5.6 million euros and by the higher cost of servicing lower-tier capital and securities worth 140 million euros.

    Constantinos Karatzas, the bank's chairman and chief executive, commenting on the results said the main source of income was from banking services and noted that the bank's adequate liquidity, strong capital adequacy, high lending portfolio quality and zero exposure to high risk products, strengthened the bank against any negative conditions in the international credit markets. Karatzas said Aspis Bank was in a position to proceed to the next phase of its strategy, its organic and geographical expansion.

    [34] Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling to pay 0.25 euros per share dividend

    Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling on Thursday said its board will seek shareholders' approval to a plan to pay a 0.25 euros per share dividend. The company said its shares will be traded in the Athens Stock Exchange ex-dividend from Wednesday 25 June 2008.

    [35] ASE presents Alternative Market to northern Greece executives

    More than 150 business leaders from northern Greece participated in an event organised by Hellenic Exchanges and the Thessaloniki Exchange Centre to present an alternative market.

    Addressing the event, Spyros Kapralos, president of the Athens Stock Exchange, said the Alternative Market was a new, flexible market aimed to cover the needs of small-&-medium-sized enterprises for easy, fast and low-cost listing in the country's stock market environment.

    He stressed that Alternative Market was a market with significant performance outlook, but underlined there were also high risks involved.

    Kapralos urged closer cooperation with listing consultants in order to list companies at fair valuations.

    [36] Greek stocks fell 1.68 pct on Thurs.

    Greek stocks fell on Thursday, with the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange losing 1.68 pct to end at 3,760.79 points. Turnover was a moderate 437.1 million euros, of which 117.6 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower, with the Raw Materials (4.09 pct), Oil (4.08 pct) and Banks (2.97pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Insurance (1.64 pct), Utilities (1.07 pct) and Food/Beverage (0.38 pct) scored gains.

    The Big Cap index fell 2.20 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.46 pct lower and the Small Cap index eased 0.92 pct. AEGEK (16.67 pct), Ideal (9.55 pct) and Elbisco (7.50 pct) were top gainers, while Livanis Publications (15.96 pct), Ippotour (14.29 pct) and Maxim (14.29 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 189 to 60 with another 44 issues unchanged.

    The Athens Stock Exchange will open again on Wednesday, March 26, following public and market holidays in major western markets due to Catholic Easter and because of a national holiday in Greece on March 25.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.64%

    Industrials: -0.56%

    Commercial: +0.27%

    Construction: -1.00%

    Media: -1.91%

    Oil & Gas: -0.08%

    Personal & Household: -0.67%

    Raw Materials: -4.09%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.39%

    Technology: -2.77%

    Telecoms: -1.65%

    Banks: -2.97%

    Food & Beverages: +0.38%

    Health: +0.28%

    Utilities: +1.07%

    Chemicals: -2.00%

    Financial Services: -2.37%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, National Bank, Piraeus Bank and Alpha Bank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 19.64

    ATEbank: 2.70

    VIOHALCO: 6.70

    ELTEX: 7.72

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 24.44

    HBC Coca Cola: 28.78

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.42

    National Bank of Greece: 31.88

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 18.50

    Bank of Cyprus: 7.40

    Intralot: 10.48

    OPAP: 19.90

    OTE: 17.90

    Piraeus Bank: 16.50

    Titan Cement Company: 26.08

    [37] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices ended with a significant discount the first trading session of the June contract, with turnover rising to 198.126 million euros in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday.

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 4.47 pct and the April contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 1.35 pct.

    Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 15,162 contracts, worth 143.311 million euros, with 30,141 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 196 contracts worth 4.479 million euros, with 529 open positions.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 48,124 contracts worth 44.746 million euros with investment interest focusing on Intracom's contracts (5,916), followed by Eurobank (1,028), Marfin Investment Group (5,476), OTE (3,015), OPAP (1,192), National Bank (2,789), Alpha Bank (1,111), GEK (2,331), Marfin Popular Bank (3,389), Viohalco (1,091), Intralot (1,017), Mytilineos (1,086) and Hellenic Postbank (3,905).

    [38] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 300 million euros on Thursday, of which 190 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 110 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2012) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 65 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.70 pct with the Greek bond yielding 4.37 pct and the German Bund 3.97 pct.

    In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.30 pct, the two-day rate rose to 4.32 pct from 4.30 pct the previous day, the one-month rate was 4.37 pct and the 12-month rate 4.73 pct.

    General News

    [39] Rapid growth of broadband services in Greece

    The significant progress achieved in Greece in the sector of electronic communication is noted in the European Commission's 13th report which evaluates the course of the European market of electronic communication for 2007.

    According to the report, this progress is the result of the passing of the new telecommunications law.

    Regarding the Greek broadband market, the report refers to the speedy growth which was marked in 2007.

    The growth of broadband services is certified by the fact that Greece further improved its position in the chart of broadband infiltration (27th in the end of 2006, 25th in June 2007 and 24th in December 2007.

    However, the great distance must be signaled, which separates Greece from the European average (9.1% against 20%).

    Concerning the rate of increase of broadband infiltration in 2007 in 2007, Greece is significantly above the European average (about 4.7% against 3.7%).

    [40] French firefighters honored by Greece

    PARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)

    Ninety-nine 99 French firefighter who participated in the to extinguish last summer's devastating wildfires in southern Greece were awarded the Hellenic Republic presidential medal and diplomas on Thursday, in recognition of valuable assistance.

    In a special ceremony at the Greek embassy here, held in the presence of representatives of the French interior and foreign ministries, Amb. Dimitris Paraskevopoulos stressed that French Civil Protection Agency personnel were being honored by the Greek state as a show of recognition and gratitude.

    "France was the first country to respond, offering its assistance to Greece in last August's firefighting efforts, after a quick decision was personally made by President Nicolas Sarkozy," the ambassador said.

    The head of the Canadair firefighting fleet in Marignane, Olivier Le Chevalier, pointed out the difficulties that French firefighters faced, while making a special reference to the warm reception they enjoyed from the Greek government and people.

    [41] Meeting on the political culture in Europe

    A meeting on the political culture in Europe was jointly organized on Thursday by the European Parliament Office in Athens and the Student Association for International Affairs.

    The meeting held at the Old Parliament building was inaugurated by Slovenian Ambassador to Athens Vladimir Kolmanic and Euro-MPs Rodi Kratsa and Katerina Batzeli.

    Ambassador Kolmanic underlined that 2007 was a successful year in terms of developments concerning the treaties of Schengen and Lisbon. Citing the Slovenian EU Presidency slogan "SI.nergy for Europe", he underlined the significance of this year's developments in Kosovo.

    European Parliament vice-president Rodi Kratsa (New Democracy) and Euro-MP Katerina Batzeli referred to the multifaceted role of the EU.

    [42] Osteoarthritis shows preference to women

    Osteoarthritis is a joint degenerative disease that mostly attacks women.

    At the age of 50, roughly 20 percent of the population has osteoarthritis symptoms increasing to 30-40 percent at 65 and reaching as high as 75 percent at the age of 80, according to data presented during a seminar on Progress in the Treatment of Osteoarthritis held at Thessaloniki's Papageorgiou Hospital.

    Over 2 million women in Greece suffer from progressing or advanced osteoarthritis if added to degenerative diseases of the spinal cord, neck and hip.

    The high percentage of osteoarthritis incidents among women can be attributed to menopause, or weak muscle system that favors minor joint injuries leading to their gradual destruction.

    Pharmaceutical treatment uses non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs while surgery is advanced producing more precise and direct results.

    [43] Culture ministry employees clash with police

    Culture Minister Michalis Liapis will meet with ministry employees on Friday to discuss the ministry's relocation, to which they are opposed.

    Culture ministry employees clashed Thursday with riot police (MAT) outside the culture ministry building in downtown Athens, and managed to briefly occupy the minister's office demanding to have a meeting with him on the issue.

    [44] Man arrested for throwing captive woman off balcony

    A 53-year-old Greek man was arrested and charged after he threw a 44-year-old woman from Belarus off a first-floor balcony, causing a multiple fracture in her right leg. According to the findings of a police investigation, he had been holding the woman against her will for about 18 months and had intended to kill her as a punishment for trying to escape.

    The incident happened on Tuesday afternoon in the Athens district of Patissia, at which time the man was placed under arrest and turned over to the organised crime squad's human-trafficking team.

    According to statements taken by police, the 53-year-old Greek had been keeping the woman captive since the summer of 2006 in his home and was also guilty of repeated rape, during which he had restrained her using tag tape.

    She had attempted to escape on other occasions but had been tracked down by her captor with the aid of an Albanian man.

    About three days ago, the 53-year-old had also attacked a 38-year-old Russian woman that was friends with the victim, hitting her on the head and then throwing her into the yard at the back of the apartment building where he lived. Though the woman was slightly injured, she had not reported the incident to authorities because she was too frightened.

    The woman from Belarus is now being treated at an Athens hospital for her injuries and the man was led before a public prosecutor on Wednesday, who charged him with attempted homicide, rape, abduction and illegal confinement and ordered that he remain in custody until his appearance before an examining magistrate.

    Authorities also issued a warrant for the arrest of his Albanian accomplice, who was caught on Thursday morning.

    Weather forecast

    [45] Cloudy with scattered showers on Friday

    Cloudy weather and scattered showers with westerly, southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 4-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 5C and 20C. Cloudy with scattered showers in Athens, with southwesterly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 20C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 7C to 13C.

    Cyprus Affairs

    [46] President Christofias says Cyprus should become a modern federal state


    Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said on Wednesday that Cyprus should at last become a modern state, under the umbrella of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, where all the human rights of every citizen of the federal Republic of Cyprus will be restored and an end will be given to any dependence from outside, either they are guarantor power or motherlands.

    Replying to questions during a press conference at the Presidential Palace for Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot and foreign media, President Christofias said he will request from Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, during their meeting on Friday, to implement a moratorium on statements.

    Asked in which spirit he would be approaching the problems raised by Talat, President Christofias said he did not wish to go into details in public, adding that he would be conveying to the Turkish Cypriot leader the view that there should be a moratorium in public statements, which may be conceived as provocative to the other side.

    Asked what would happen if Talat avoided the implementation of the 8 July 2006 agreement, President Christofias said the two sides should honour their signatures otherwise there was no point in meeting. President Christofias said problems could be overcome, adding that various issues would be raised during Friday's meeting. ''However, if there is good will and we honour that agreement, we will move forward,'' he noted.

    Invited to comment on the role of the EU in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, President Christofias said the Union could play ''a significant and helpful role,'' noting that this was his plea to the European leaders and the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Parliament he met in Brussels.

    The president noted that the Cyprus problem would be solved at the UN and expressed hope that the Turkish leadership would show good will.

    Referring to the opening of the Ledra Street crossing point in Nicosia, President Christofias said it would not result in immediate commercial activity but would ease the pain of division and would send out a message that the leaders of the two communities want to move forward.

    Referring to the relations of AKEL, of which he is General Secretary, with the Republican Turkish Party (RTP), President Christofias said his party has been in favour of rapprochement for years and the RTP was one of the main contributors to this effort.

    He pointed out, however, that the parties on either side had common positions in the past but now their views differ. ''These issues will be discussed in an effort to convince each other on where this country should be heading,'' so that the problems of both communities could be solved, he added.

    ''We want the common homeland of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to be truly united, under the roof of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, to restore all the human rights of every citizen of the united federal Republic of Cyprus, to put an end to any dependence from outside, either they are guarantor powers or motherlands,'' he said, adding that ''Cyprus needs to become at last a modern state.''

    Asked why his party, AKEL, remained communist in an era in which communism has been abandoned in other parts of the world, President Christofias said ''we are concerned about what will happen to our divided homeland, not communism, not liberal capitalism, not the reign over humanity.''

    Replying to questions, President Christofias said he was ready to discuss with the leadership of Turkey but noted that the question was if the Turkish leadership was willing to talk with him.

    Referring to developments in Turkey, President Christofias said he was saddened to hear that the Attorney General was sending the political party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the Supreme Court with a proposal to ban the party. The president said Cyprus wanted democracy to prevail in Turkey, adding that ''we will welcome an even more democratic and modern Turkey.''

    President Christofias also called on the people of Cyprus to give the government some time to make changes, since the new government has only been in power for 18 days.

    ''It is not possible for everything to be done at once in the socioeconomic sector, having in mind the problems faced by the world economy, and the everyday problems, and the Cyprus problem. My plea to the people is to give us some time,'' he concluded.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    'We have to look ahead for Cyprus'

    In his opening statement at the press conference, President Christofias expressed satisfaction that a meeting between the leaders of the island's two communities will take place on Friday, so soon after his election to the presidency in February this year.

    He also stressed that he will attend the meeting with goodwill and said he is ready for hard work.

    President Christofias said the meeting of March 21 will be of an exploratory nature, during which each community will state its fundamental positions and intentions with regard to the solution of the Cyprus problem.

    "We do not want to have delays. We do not have the time. At the same time, we believe that it is not productive to act in haste, without the necessary preparation that will allow progress to be achieved. This time we must succeed. A new failure will be devastating for the future of our people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots," the president stressed.

    He reiterated his readiness to proceed with the opening of a crossing point at Ledra street, in Nicosia, to and from the northern Turkish occupied areas, and noted at the same time that all necessary arrangements should be made to open another crossing point at Limnitis, on the north west, at the earliest possible date.

    Summing up the government's position, the president said a new Cyprus effort should have as its starting point the UN-brokered agreement of 8th July 2006, since this is the only agreement that exists between the two Cypriot communities, apart from the High Level Agreements of 1977 and 1979 and it enjoys the support of both the Security Council and the European Union.

    "We shall honour the signature of my predecessor, the former President of the Republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos," said the president, adding he expects and anticipates that Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will also honour his own signature on the agreement "so that we can move forward".

    Referring to the July agreement, aimed to prepare the ground for substantive negotiations, he expressed readiness to discuss with an open mind and work intensively toward its implementation at the earliest possible time and also to listen carefully what, according to Talat, are the obstacles and problems which have not allowed the implementation of the agreement so far.

    Describing the Cyprus problem as a complex and difficult one, President Christofias said that in order to resolve it, it is imperative to have the cooperation and good will of both sides, stressing that on the part of the Greek Cypriot side "we are ready and willing to work hard to reach, under the circumstances, a fair, viable and workable solution, soon".

    "The basis for a solution, on which we can and must work, does exist. It is the High Level Agreements which provide for a bizonal, bi-communal federation. It is the UN Security Council resolutions and the principles of international and European law," the president said, noting that adherence to positions which do not conform to this basis does not help to create the necessary political climate, in view of the fact that this is the first meeting between the leaders of the two Cypriot communities.

    "We have to look ahead and not constantly turn back to the past and to positions which are not constructive and productive," Christofias said, stressing that for a solution to be viable and fair it has to be agreed by the Cypriots themselves and added that he is gratified that, following the negative experience of recent years, the international community now states this position.

    He said that a partnership between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots has existed since 1960, as a result of the Zurich and London

    Agreements, noting that it has not worked, and both communities and foreign interventions, "are responsible for this".

    He declared the government's readiness to honour the compromise for the creation of a bizonal, bi-communal federation, which has become necessary in order to cope with the conditions created by Turkey's military intervention in Cyprus and the occupation by Turkey of a large part of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus.

    "We accept the renewal of the partnership and the evolution of the unitary bi-communal state of Cyprus, into a bizonal, bi-communal federal state, with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality, in which the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all the people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, will be respected and safeguarded. We accept the political equality, as this is defined in the relevant resolutions of the United Nations", he said.

    Concluding, he said he will attend the meeting of March 21 with goodwill and ready for hard work, noting that the continuation of the status quo is not to the benefit of either the Greek Cypriots or the Turkish Cypriots. "It is not to the benefit of anybody. We are convinced that if we act, first and foremost as Cypriots, and if we work for the benefit of our common homeland, the chances of reaching a solution that will be in the interest of the people of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike will be maximized", he said.

    He also said he is ready to proceed with the opening of Ledra Street and at the same time, it is also his position that all necessary arrangements should be made to open the Limnitis check-point at the earliest possible time.

    "Certainly, the opening of the crossing points does not constitute the solution to the Cyprus problem, but it does help to enhance communication between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and to strengthen the trust between them", the president concluded.

    [47] British diplomat:There is not a big gap bettwen the two leaders


    The views and approaches of the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus are slightly different but there is not a big gap and it will not be difficult for them to reach an agreement for a new process, British High Commissioner to Cyprus Peter Millet said after a meeting he had Thursday with right-wing Democratic Rally President Nicos Anastasiades.

    Responding to questions, Millet said that "we have to use the principles and methodology of the 8 July Agreement and I thing both of them recognize this."

    Asked if the leaders seem to say other things in public and other in private, Millet said "this is the impression I have from the discussions we've had."

    As regards his meeting with Anastasiades, Millet said they exchanged views with regard to the Cyprus question and the bilateral relations.

    "I have confirmed that Britain has the intention to play a positive role, support a new procedure for the settlement of the Cyprus question. The international community does not want to impose a solution. It is a solution the two communities must come to," he added.

    He expressed hope that there will be a positive outcome from the meeting on Friday between President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, and that they will move forward to a new momentum so that the new communities will look forward to progress.

    "And we have the intention to support this process," he added. Asked how he assesses the separate meetings of the Ambassadors of the five permanent Security Council members with President Christofias and the T/C leader, Millet said that "both leaders said they want a settlement, they want the reunification of the island and they have long-standing relations. The climate is different, and I think their view and approaches are slightly different but the gap is not so big and it will not be difficult for them to build bridges for an agreement for the new process. This is the message which the international community is waiting for and in particular in New York by the UN," he added.

    n his statements, Anastasiades described the meeting as very useful, adding that Millet reaffirmed Britain's interest in the efforts for the resumption of dialogue that will lead to a settlement accepted by all.

    He added that "Britain wants to play a positive role, urging the two sides" and wants to contribute to efforts for a settlement that will come by the Cypriots.

    "I am glad to ascertain that there is a joint effort by the five permanent members. Britain assumes a role to all sides that can influence so that the first meeting is positive and the UN are encouraged to be more actively engaged to have an initiative that will give a new prospect in efforts for a Cyprus settlement," he concluded.

    [48] Russia supports efforts for a just solution of Cyprus issue


    Russian Ambassador to Cyprus Andrey Nesterenko reiterated his country's support on Thursday regarding the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.

    According to an official press release, the Russian Ambassador was speaking during a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcos Kyprianou, with whom he discussed, inter alia, the latest developments on the Cyprus issue in view of the meeting between the President of the Republic and the Turkish-Cypriot leader to be held Friday, as well as issues of bilateral interest.

    The Russian Ambassador congratulated Kyprianou for his appointment and referred to the very good bilateral relations between Cyprus and Russia, reiterating his country's support to the efforts of the Cyprus Government for a just solution to the Cyprus problem.

    Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

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