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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-03-25

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Tuesday, 25 March 2008 Issue No: 2851

CONTENTS

  • [01] Olympic Flame begins journey for Beijing Games
  • [02] Four arrested during Olympic Flame ceremony
  • [03] Greek President Papoulias' March 25 message
  • [04] Development minister Folias attends national anniversary event in Washington
  • [05] Student parade in Athens for March 25 anniversary
  • [06] PM to chair ND central committee meeting Thursday on course of reforms
  • [07] Euro-Med Parliamentary assembly to meet in Athens
  • [08] Ragoussis assumes PASOK sec't post
  • [09] KKE holds event in Thessaloniki on 9th anniversary of NATO's Yugoslavia bombings
  • [10] Delegation to meet President over pension reforms
  • [11] PASOK MPs table question in parliament on OTE
  • [12] The top 10 best workplaces in Greece
  • [13] Athens to host poverty forum this week
  • [14] Business delegation from Jordan to visit Athens
  • [15] Deputy Minister of Merchant Marine meets with local government officials on Rhodes
  • [16] Another 24-hour strike declared at BoG
  • [17] Nikas ABEE company announces subsidiary in Nicosia
  • [18] President attends Kalamata liberation anniversary events
  • [19] Inter-city train derailment due to human error, probe finds
  • [20] Drug arrests in northwest Greece
  • [21] Two armed robberies at Thessaloniki banks
  • [22] 2 wildfires reported in Achaia prefecture
  • [23] Rain, windy on Tuesday
  • [24] Cyprus presidential commissioner Iacovou: Turkish side not ready for Ledra crossing point
  • [25] UNFICYP to start demining at Ledra Street
  • [26] UN Secretary General congratulates leaders in Cyprus
  • [27] US: the future of Cyprus is a reunited country
  • [28] Danish FM to pay a working visit to Cyprus Politics

  • [01] Olympic Flame begins journey for Beijing Games

    The Olympic Flame departed on Monday from ancient Olympia for the months-long torch relay to Beijing, host of the XXIX Olympic Games in 2008, following the now customary torch-lighting ceremony that was attended by Greek leadership, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge and IOC honorary president Juan Antonio Samaranch as well as by a bevy of IOC members, in addition to Greek and Chinese officials and athletes.

    The 'high priestess' for the 2008 ceremony was Greek actress Maria Nafpliotou, who led a ceremony choreographed by Artemis Ignatiou. The latter took over the task for the first time ever from Maria Hors, following the latter's departure after 50 years of choreographing the Olympic torch-lighting ceremonies.

    Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed a brief message, stressing the principles of noble competition, "ekecheiria" (the Olympic Truce) and peaceful coexistence and understanding that the Games have stood for since their birth in antiquity.

    As ancient as the Games themselves, the concept of Olympic Truce, "Ekecheiria" in Greek, dates to the 11th century B.C., when all hostilities ceased to allow those attending or participating in the Games to travel to Olympia in safety.

    The first torch-bearer was Greece's Olympic silver medallist in Tae Kwon Do (2004 Athens Games) Alexandros Nikolaidis, who relayed the torch to China's Luo Xuejuan, an Olympic gold medallist in the 100m breastroke event.

    A seven-day torch relay within Greece will follow until March 30, when the Olympic torch arrives at the Panathinaiko Stadium (Kallimarmaro) in central Athens, the venue of the first modern version of the Olympic Games in 1896. At 3 pm on that day it will be handed over to the organisers of the Chinese Olympic Games in Beijing by Greek silver medallist in the women's triple jump, Pigi Devetzi.

    The torch will travel 1,528 kilometres in Greece, relayed by 605 Torch-bearers. It will travel through 43 municipalities and four communities in 16 prefectures throughout the country on the first leg of its journey to Athens, while 29 flame-lighting ceremonies will be held along the way in as many cities.

    In a related development that served as the only blemish during the ceremony, a couple unsuccessfully attempted to interrupt the ceremony at the Olympia archaeological site during the address by the president of the Beijing Olympic Games organising committee (BOCOG), Liu Qi, possibly pro-Tibetan activists. An unidentified man, who unfurled a banner, was quickly whisked away by police officers, while the BOCOG chief remained unfazed and continued his address during the internationally broadcast event.

    Prime minister's address

    "With sentiments of joy and pride, we deliver the Olympic torch today to the organisers of the Beijing Olympic Games, and of course to the friendly Chinese people, and wish them every success," prime minister Karamanlis said in a brief address at the ceremony.

    "Today, from Olympia, together with the Olympic Flame, we are also handing down the principles of noble competition and fair play, the Greek and human-wide messages of 'ekecheiria' (truce), peaceful coexistence, understanding and cooperation, which today are more timely than ever," the prime minister said.

    "All the Greeks hope that the Olympic Flame's journey throughout the world will strengthen the movement of the people who embrace these principles and are fighting for these ideals," Karamanlis concluded.

    Other speakers

    IOC President Jacques Rogge wished the Torch relay great success and thanked BOCOG for its efforts in preparing for the Beijing Olympics.

    Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) President Minos Kyriakou expressed hope that the Flame of the 2008 Olympic Games will spread the Olympic spirit and shine its light on the Beijing Games. He also wished the 29th Olympiad success.

    BOCOG President Liu Qi said the Torch will convey peace, friendship and hopes and dreams to the people of China and all over the world. Its flame will light up the sky during the Beijing Olympic Games, he said, and expressed hope that the Olympic Flame will light the way to peace, friendship and progress.

    PASOK leader comments on Olympic Flame ceremony

    The lighting of the Olympic Flame in the historic surroundings of ancient Olympia was a reminder of "a Greece with prestige, a Greece that could," main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said on Monday after the Olympic Flame ceremony.

    He stressed, however, that there was also a dark side to the country that had to be fought:

    "There are also the flames that burnt Olympia, which remind us of resignation, of selfishness, of a 'client-oriented' state that is incapable of meeting the needs of the time. We must today be inspired once more by the Greece that can hope, that knows it can build a different future. Today, we are inspired toward this by the ceremony for lighting the Olympic Flame here at Olympia," he said.

    [02] Four arrested during Olympic Flame ceremony

    Four people were arrested and at least another four detained at Ancient Olympia on Monday for attempting to disrupt the ceremony for the lighting of the Olympic Flame and the Olympic Torch relay, in order to demonstrate against the violence in Tibet.

    Three of those taken into custody were French reporters and members of the organization "Journalists without Frontiers" - accredited to the event by the magazine "Media" - who were taken into custody during the event for trying to interrupt a speech being delivered by the president of the Beijing Olympic Games organizing committee (BOCOG) Liu Qi.

    One of them unfurled a black banner with five interlocked handcuffs, in the manner of the Olympic rings, and tried to approach the BOCOG president as he began to speak shouting slogans against the abuse of human rights by the Chinese government in Tibet, before he was stopped by police. The man and his two colleagues were taken to the local police station and will later appear before a public prosecutor in the nearby city of Pyrgos, where they will be charged with misdemeanor level offences.

    A little further away, at the start of the Torch relay, a Swiss national of Tibetan descent was also placed under arrest for staging a protest against the situation in Tibet, covering her body with ketchup and lying down in the middle of the road where the first Olympic Torch bearer would pass. In addition to the woman, police also detained a German national that tried to prevent her arrest, who was later released. The Swiss woman will also be led before a public prosecutor to be charged.

    The other three people detained and later released included a Japanese man who tried to enter the site of Ancient Olympic carrying a small pocket-knife, an U.S. citizen of Indian descent and a Greek who were considered suspicious because of their earlier participation in a group that tried to organize a "alternative" Torch relay on March 10 in support of Tibet that was prevented by Greek authorities.

    [03] Greek President Papoulias' March 25 message

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias stressed in his message to Greeks abroad, on the occasion of the March 25 Independence Day, that the 1821 Revolution is among the greatest legacies the Greek people created.

    "The rigorous defense of freedom, self-determination, democracy, dignity and justice was a way of life for the Greek revolutionary fighters, and Greeks today have a historical duty to reciprocate," the president stressed. "We have to preserve our dignity with deeds and not only with words against any foreign design and protect and utilize this highly prized legacy".

    He also stressed that in today's unstable geo-political environment challenges can be effectively tackled through unity amongst Greeks all over the world.

    Referring to Greeks abroad, he underlined that they continue to serve Greek ideals, managing to excel even in the most adverse conditions.

    "You have preserved and passed on Greek tradition and identity to the next generations while highlighting the values that unite us: history, culture and religion. Your service is priceless and we are all grateful to you for your valuable contribution to promoting ecumenical Hellenism worldwide," the president stressed.

    PM Karamanlis' message on March 25 nat'l anniversary

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, in his message on the occasion of the March 25 Independence Day anniversary, underlined that even though today's challenges with which Greece and Hellenism are faced have changed, the common goal is still a strong and proud nation, a fair society, one that is supportive and prosperous within an international neighborhood of peace, cooperation, mutual respect and progress.

    "The high principles and ideals of freedom, dignity, justice and progress that inspired Greeks in the long struggle for independence are highlighted by the twofold celebration of Orthodoxy and Hellenism," he underlined.

    "Greek men and women of the 21st century, both at home and abroad, feel the need to continue to honor, in practice, all those who sacrificed their lives, allowing us today to be free to create and prosperous." the PM stressed in his message.

    "This solidarity of generations based on timeless values and ideals is a necessary precondition for the survival of a people in the course of history", he concluded.

    Parliament President's message for March 25 anniversary

    The two-fold celebration of Hellenism and Orthodoxy, the National Rebirth and Annunciation of the Mother of Christ, revives principles, values and ideals born in Greece and appreciated globally, said Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas in his message on the occasion of the March 25 Independence Day.

    "The March 25 message, always timeless and up-to-date, concerns our duty to work and cooperate for a better future" and "serve principles and values that guarantee growth, progress and the uplifting of our country," Sioufas stressed.

    Papandreou address for March 25 nat'l anniversary

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Monday issued his address on the occasion of the 187th anniversary of the March 25 Independence Day, celebrated on Tuesday.

    "Today, Hellenism is celebrating its national uprising, the anniversary of a major struggle for the nation's independence. We are celebrating Greece's national liberation struggle, which will eternally symbolize the efforts of each individual, each people's effort to fight for freedom and dignity, to dream and fight for a better future..."

    "After 187 years of constant effort and struggle, the Greek people feel satisfaction and pride in their gains; for the freedom they established and the democracy they built Today, however, Greeks are troubled because as a country we retain more means and resources, as well as the comparative advantages, than ever before, yet they feel that conservative policies and views keep them bound and marginalized"

    KKE's message for March 25 anniversary

    "The greatest lesson taught by the 1821 Revolution is that the path of struggle and unrelenting confrontation is timely and constitutes a one-way street for the people," Greek Communist Party (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga stressed in her message on the March 25 Independence Day anniversary.

    Synaspismos message on March 25 anniversary

    The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party, on the occasion of the March 25 Independence Day anniversary, said March 25 "is a day of memory and of honor rendered to the struggle of the Greek people for self-determination and independence. It constitutes a point of reference and an example - through time - of the capacity shown by peoples, regardless of any balance of power, to impose their will."

    This year's anniversary "coincides with the struggles of working people and youth for the defense of elementary rights, such as social insurance. The moments we are experiencing today demand, yet again, mobilization and responsibility to halt the collapse of the social state and fight against the violent shrinking of incomes, the environment's destruction and the shrinking of rights and democracy," the message noted.

    LA.OS leader Karatzaferis on March 25 anniversary

    "One hundred and eighty seven years after the March 25, 1821 Revolution it is up to us to continue to exist as an independent and proud nation or be reduced again into a marginalized province of the European Union or Turkey," Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) President George Karatzaferis said in his message.

    [04] Development minister Folias attends national anniversary event in Washington

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)

    Development Minister Christos Folias attended an event held here, on the occasion of the March 25 national anniversary, referring to unresolved national issues and social challenges.

    "We have before us unresolved national issues, social challenges and a complex and competitive international environment. The reunification of Cyprus in a fair and workable way, as well as a solution to the problem of the name of Skopje are crucial issues that require national understanding, consensus and a positive contribution," he said.

    The main speaker at the event, organized by the cultural society "Promitheas" and other Greek American organizations in the region of Washington, was ambassador Alexandros Mallias who focused on national issues, while underlining the contribution of the Greek American community.

    "Overseas Hellenism is our great national comparative advantage. It has proved that it can play an important role at all levels. The overseas Greek, who maintains his great love for the motherland intact and who struggles to preserve his Greek identity, is always present in the struggle for the defense of our national issues," Folias further said.

    Before leaving for Athens, the development minister is also expected to attend a reception on the national anniversary that will be organized by the Greek embassy for American officials, diplomats and the mass media.

    [05] Student parade in Athens for March 25 anniversary

    A student parade was held in Athens on Monday to mark the anniversary of the March 25, 1821 uprising of Greeks against the Ottoman rule.

    Attending the parade, which was headed by the Kalavryta Lyceum students holding the 1821 Revolution Banner, was Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis.

    In statements he made afterwards, the minister stressed that "today we draw lessons from all those who proved in practice their dedication and faith to the principle of freedom".

    Earlier, Stylianidis and representatives of political parties and local government authorities laid wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

    [06] PM to chair ND central committee meeting Thursday on course of reforms

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis will chair a meeting of his ruling New Democracy (ND) party's Central Committee on Thursday morning.

    The agenda for the meeting is "the course of the changes and reforms in the new four-year term" in government, according to an ND announcement.

    [07] Euro-Med Parliamentary assembly to meet in Athens

    The 4th Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly Plenary session will take place in Athens on Thursday and Friday, chaired by Greek Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas. It will be attended by delegations from 37 member-states of the EMPA, including the 27 member-states of the EU Parliament.

    The aim of the Greek presidency and the 300-odd delegates, which include parliament presidents, MPs and experts, is that the 4th EMPA plenary session will be a major milestone toward boosting Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.

    The central theme of the session, which will inaugurated on Friday morning by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, will be "Energy and the Environment".

    Addresses will also be delivered by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering, Egyptian Parliament President Ahmed Fathy Sorour, Tunisian Parliament president Fouad Mebazaâ, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President Lluís Maria de Puig and Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis.

    The central speakers on the "Energy and Environment" will be Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas - formerly development minister of Greece - and European Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas, as well as the head of Greece's Regulatory Authority for Energy Mihalis Karamanis.

    [08] Ragoussis assumes PASOK sec't post

    Á handover ceremony at the main opposition PASOK party was held on Monday at the party's headquarters, where departing secretary Nikos Athanassakis handed over the post to newly elected secretary Yiannis Ragoussis, until recently PASOK's spokesman.

    [09] KKE holds event in Thessaloniki on 9th anniversary of NATO's Yugoslavia bombings

    The Communist Party of Greece's (KKE) local organization in Thessaloniki, Macedonia organized an event on Monday night on the occasion of the 9th anniversary of the beginning of NATO's bombings in Yugoslavia. The event was held outside the building housing the U.S. consulate and was addressed by actor and KKE State Deputy Costas Kazakos.

    Kazakos criticized Greek governments because, as he said, they are taking part in the policy and the solutions of the imperialist forces, while calling on the working class to wake up and to resist, since it is the only one having the strength and being able to achieve this.

    During the event, the participants held banners and shouted slogans of an anti-imperialist content.

    Financial News

    [10] Delegation to meet President over pension reforms

    A delegation representing the various freelance professional groups whose pension funds are to be merged under the government's social insurance system reforms will meet President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday to present its views on the government measures and their impact on society.

    According to an announcement issued on Monday by the various professional associations concerned, the team will next confer with a team of professors in law on how to take up legal action petitioning for the bill's annulment within Greece and at the European courts.

    The announcement was signed by the Greek dentists' federation, the journalists' union, the Athens Medical Association, bar associations throughout Greece, the federation of court bailiffs, the nationwide federations of journalists' unions, the national medical association, the Athens association of notaries, the technical chamber of Greece representing civil engineers and related disciplines and the Athens pharmacists association.

    [11] PASOK MPs table question in parliament on OTE

    Fifty-four MPs of the main opposition PASOK party on Monday signed a question tabled in parliament referring to the "sellout and waning participation of Greek investors in OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organization)".

    The PASOK MPs stressed that Deutsche Telecom (DT) was aware since 2006 of the government's intention to find a strategic partner for OTE but it did not purchase the utility's 20 percent share directly form the Greek state, preferring instead to buy the entire package of shares from an intermediary.

    According to the opposition MPs, the government's alleged concern to protect OTE from a supposed hostile takeover by Marfin Investment Group (MIG) was just a ruse for achieving its true goals, which was to allow in DT using MIG as a middleman.

    [12] The top 10 best workplaces in Greece

    Piscines Ideales, Microsoft Hellas, Procter & Gamble Hellas are the top three best workplaces in Greece, according to an annual report by Great Place to Work Institute Hellas.

    In its report for 2008, the Institute said Genesis Pharma, Cadbury Hellas, Aeon, Kraft Foods Hellas, Exodus, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Praktiker Hellas completed the top 10 list of the best workplaces in the country.

    Hellenic Aviation Industry, Mellon Financial Services, UCB, Tasty Foods, AIG Greece, Aldemar Hotels, Hewlett-Packard Hellas, Piraeus Direct Services, Eagles Palace Hotel and Hellenic Textiles completed the top 20 list.

    Autonomia Expo, the largest exhibition of products and services for the disabled, will take place in Athens on May 16-18

    The largest exhibition of products and services for the disabled, rehabilitation, special education, independent living and culture will open at Athens' Stadium of Peace and Friendship, the most accessible place in Greece, on May 16.

    Autonomia Expo is much more than the usual exhibition of products and services constituting a great celebration of disability seen as an experience defined by living terms and conditions different than the ordinary. It offers a unique opportunity to thousands of people to present or be informed on new and traditional technologies and accessible ways of life.

    Conferences and seminars will also be held to present latest scientific developments on multiple sclerosis and paralysis in general.

    The Autonomy Expo (www.autonomiaexpo.org <http://www.autonomiaexpo.org>) is organized by DISABILITY NOW, a not-for-profit support company publishing the 136-page DISABILITY NOW magazine distributed to 14,000 subscribers. It also operates www.disabled.gr <http://www.disabled.gr>, the most popular website for the disabled in the world with the largest online forum www.disabled.gr/forum/ <http://www.disabled.gr/forum/> numbering over 3,500 members.

    [13] Athens to host poverty forum this week

    Athens will host more than 1,000 representatives of municipal authorities that are expected to attend the sixth forum of the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty (WACAP), from Wednesday to Friday at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron).

    Delegates from 300 cities from around the world will gather for the forum, co-organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the City of Athens, making it one of the largest conferences of its kind.

    Greek President Karolos Papoulias will inaugurate the conference, which coincides with the anniversary of the 2,500 years since the birth of democracy in ancient Athens. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is scheduled to address conference participants along with numerous members of the government.

    The forum will place special emphasis on the role of local democracy and participatory processes in efforts to eradicate poverty considering that, according to the United Nations, some 600 million of the world's poorest reside in cities.

    [14] Business delegation from Jordan to visit Athens

    A business delegation from Jordan is expected to visit Athens on Monday 14, April to meet with Greek enterprises in an event organized by the Jordan Europe Business Association (JEBA) at the premises of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

    Enterprises from the two countries will have private meetings in search of investment opportunities in Jordan.

    [15] Deputy Minister of Merchant Marine meets with local government officials on Rhodes

    The implementation of a new water transport system to the dry islands of the Aegean Sea that seeks to improve existing water management and cut expenses in view of the summer months was announced in a meeting held between Deputy Minister of Merchant Marine-Aegean and Island Policy Panos Kammenos and local government officials on Rhodes, southeast Aegean.

    Among the issues discussed in the meeting were also routes and infrastructures.

    On Sunday, deputy minister Kammenos accompanied by Deputy FM Yannis Valinakis had toured all the municipalities on the island of Rhodes and were briefed on issues of local concern.

    [16] Another 24-hour strike declared at BoG

    The bank employees' union (OTOE) on Monday announced another 24-year strike at the Bank of Greece (BoG) for Wednesday, part of continuing industrial actions at the country's central bank by staff opposing reforms for the specific BoG pension fund.

    The strike is aimed to coincide with a final Parliament vote on the government recently tabled social security draft bill.

    OTOE is also collecting signatures demanding a national referendum be held on the closely watched reforms.

    [17] Nikas ABEE company announces subsidiary in Nicosia

    The P.G. Nikas ABEE company announced on Monday the founding of a subsidiary in Nicosia. The new company, Nikas Group Limited, will belong 100 percent to P.G. Nikas ABEE and will constitute, according to an announcement, the group's flagship for the expansion of its activities in southeastern Europe.

    The founding of this company is absolutely compatible with the group's strategy that aims at the development of activity beyond Greek borders, the announcement by Nikas ABEE said.

    General News

    [18] President attends Kalamata liberation anniversary events

    Celebrations in Kalamata marking the 187th anniversary of the city's liberation from Ottoman rule culminated Sunday night with an official dinner in honor of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias hosted by Kalamata mayor Panagiotis Nikas, which was also attended by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, agricultural development minister Alexandros Kontols representing the government, deputy employment and social solidarity minister Sophia Kalantzakou, MPs from the prefecture, Messinia prefect Dimitris Drakos, and local municipal and prefectural authorities.

    Addressing the President, Nikas and Drakos thanked him for honoring the event with his presence, stressing that Kalamata's liberation meant a lot for the liberation struggle, as Kalamata was the first city to rid itself of the Turkish yoke.

    In his return address, Papoulias said that the anniversary celebration "fills our hearts with strength and passion for the safeguarding and preservation of our freedom".

    In honoring all those heroes who fought for the national dignity and independence, one must draw from their sacrifices the necessary teachings to carry on, in these difficult times, on the steadfast national course, Papoulias added.

    The President said that a catalytical factor in the 1821 Revolution was "the faith in the sacredness of the struggle, and the power of the passion inspired by the justness of that struggle".

    "It is our obligation to safeguard and make use of this precious heritage. It is our obligation to be prepared for sacrifices, individual and collective, to face the difficult circumstances today, and to prove that we are conscious of our country's great and historical responsibility to the future," Papoulias concluded.

    [19] Inter-city train derailment due to human error, probe finds

    The derailment of the Inter City 74 train near Larissa on March 8 was the result of human error, according to report submitted on Monday by the fact-finding committee set up to determine the cause of the accident.

    The Greek Railways Organization (OSE) accident investigation committee attributed the incident to omissions in handling train traffic by the station masters at the Paleofarsalos and Mezourlos stations. The first had given a mistaken order to the engine driver of the Inter City 74, while the second had failed to use the signal system at Mezourlos station in the indicated way, which would have also have caused the train to switch tracks, even though it was working properly.

    An announcement said that the Mezourlos station master had been suspended from duty immediately after the accident, while the Paleofarsalo station master will appear before an OSE disciplinary committee as soon as the report into the accident is completed.

    The Inter City 74 was on the route from Athens to Alexandroupolis when it came off the tracks at the entrance of the Mezourlos railway station, injuring four passengers on board, while another 22 had to be taken to hospital for precautionary tests.

    [20] Drug arrests in northwest Greece

    Two foreign nationals, a 26-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman, were arrested by Grevena Police in a wooded region in Konitsa, northwestern Greece. They are accused of being members of a ring trafficking large quantities of drugs from Albania to Larissa, central Greece.

    The two were riding a reconnaissance car to warn a second vehicle carrying 44,879 grams of hashish of police roadblocks ahead. Its driver managed to escape arrest.

    In a separate incident in Kostarazi, Kastoria Prefecture in northwestern Greece, a foreign national was arrested after police found in his car a total of 7,020 grams of cannabis hidden in a spare tire.

    [21] Two armed robberies at Thessaloniki banks

    Two armed robberies involving a total haul of 26,130 euros took place within a period of 10 minutes in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Monday morning. The robberies occurred at National Bank branch offices.

    The first took place in the region of Kalamaria, with two armed robbers taking 14,980 euros from cash desks and fleeing on a motorcycle. Ten minutes later, again two armed men snatched 11,150 euros from a branch office in the village of Agios Athanasios and made their getaway on a motorcycle.

    [22] 2 wildfires reported in Achaia prefecture

    Two wildfires were reported on Monday in Achaia prefecture in northwest Peloponnese province of southern Greece, hours after an Olympic flame-lighting ceremony took place further south in ancient Olympia.

    A total of 6.5 hectares of forestland were destroyed in both blazes, which were extinguished without the need for fire-fighting planes to operate in gusty conditions prevailing in the region.

    Western Peloponnese was ravaged by wildfires last August.

    Weather forecast

    [23] Rain, windy on Tuesday

    Rainy and windy weather with westerly, southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 7-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 3C and 21C. Cloudy with the possibility of light rain in the morning in Athens, with westerly, southwesterly 5-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 11C to 15C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 7C to 15C.

    Cyprus Affairs

    [24] Cyprus presidential commissioner Iacovou: Turkish side not ready for Ledra crossing point

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou said Monday evening that due to an issue brought up by the Turkish side the opening of a crossing point at Ledra street, at the centre of Nicosia, has not moved ahead.

    Asked after a meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader's aid Ozdil Nami why the UN demining team had not entered Ledra street to begin work,

    Iacovou said he had raised this issue during the meeting.

    "I have said in the past that certain issues sometimes come up and do not allow us to get results. Something like that has obviously happened. He (Nami) promised that this issue will be overcome," he added.

    Asked if the Turkish side has reneged on the issue of the demarcation of the buffer zone, Iacovou said he could not comment on this.

    Invited to say if there was any reaction from the Turkish occupation army, Iacovou said "I cannot tell you. Moller (UN Special Representative) has also asked repeatedly about this issue. I will follow it. That is what I can say at the moment."

    As regards the technical committees and the working groups which will prepare the ground for substantive negotiations, Iacovou said that "there is full identity of views that the working groups and the technical committees will cover all issues that will be on the agenda of the negotiations between the President of the Republic and Mr. Talat."

    "We discussed the issues the committees will deal with. We have made great progress towards the right direction and I believe that at our next meeting on Wednesday we will reach an agreed basis," he added.

    Asked how many technical committees and working groups will be set up, Iacovou said there will be 5-7. He said they will also have to decide on the composition of the committees.

    Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed on Friday to ask their respective advisers, George Iacovou and Ozdil Nami, to meet this week in order to set up a number of working groups and technical committees, establish their agendas and also in the most expeditious way possible.

    They also decided to meet again in three months to review the work of the committees dealing with aspects of the Cyprus problem, the results of which will be used to start negotiations under UN auspices for a solution.

    They have also agreed that Ledra Street will, as soon as technically possible, open and function in accordance to the established practices at other crossings. The crossing point at Ledra street will facilitate movement to and from the northern Turkish occupied part of the island.

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

    [25] UNFICYP to start demining at Ledra Street

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) will begin soon demining work at Ledra Street, to enable the opening of the crossing point.

    Jose Luis Diaz, spokesperson for UNFICYP told CNA on Monday that "we expect to start very soon with the demining team to go in and make sure there are no unexploded ammunitions".

    President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat during their first meeting last Friday at the residence of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus Michael Moller, agreed Ledra Street will, as soon as technically possible, open and function in accordance with the established practices at other crossings.

    Ledra Street is one of the capital's main commercial streets, in the heart of the city.

    Diaz said that the demining work "would be very short, a matter of one or two days".

    Asked why UNFICYP has not entered the area yet, he said this was due to "technical things need to be worked out but we expect that will happen soon".

    To a question whether UNFICYP or the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot side were responsible for the technical reasons, Diaz replied, "I think just everybody".

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island's northern third.

    Since the Turkish Cypriot illegal regime has lifted partially restrictions on the freedom of movement, in April 2003, several crossing points have been opened along the 180-kilometre long ceasefire line.

    [26] UN Secretary General congratulates leaders in Cyprus

    NEW YORK (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday congratulated Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and the Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat "on the outcome of their meeting", which was hosted by his Special Representative, Michael Moler, on March 21.

    According to a statement read by his spokesperson Michele Montas, Ban "warmly welcomes the leaders' decisions to expeditiously set up a number of working groups and technical committees and to meet again in three months' time to review their work and start full-fledged negotiations under UN auspices."

    He also describes as a "positive step forward" their agreement on the opening of a Ledra Street crossing to and from the island's northern Turkish occupied areas, as soon as technically possible.

    Furthermore, he expresses United Nations' readiness "to lend its full support to the Cypriot people in their efforts to reach a settlement", adding that "the mission later this month of Under-Secretary-General B. Lynn Pascoe to Cyprus will help the United Nations to determine how it can be as helpful as possible to this process as it moves forward."

    Answering questions, Montas was unable to provide any further information as regards Moller's replacement and Pascoe's schedule of his visit in the region.

    "I don't have a date yet but we'll certainly get one for you as soon as possible and with regard to Mr. MollerÔs tasks they will be of course continuing until he is replaced," she said.

    [27] US: the future of Cyprus is a reunited country

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The US continues to back the renewed effort towards a negotiated political settlement in Cyprus, which would reunite the country, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion, according to the US Ambassador here Roland Schlicher.

    The ambassador expressed the hope that the positive spirit, displayed in the past several days, continues and that the negotiating process gets to the substance of the issue.

    "We deeply feel that the future of Cyprus is a reunited Cyprus and the sooner we get to that the better," the ambassador said, after his first meeting with the newly appointed Interior Minister Neoklis Sylikiotis.

    In his statement Sylikiotis said that he briefed the ambassador over issues of common interest, the new government's programme and especially the progress and intentions as regards the problems of illegal immigration and trafficking.

    "More specifically we discussed the problems Cyprus is facing relating to illegal immigration, the changes made, the issues we raise within the EU to put some pressure and have some sort of cooperation with Turkey so that the flow of illegal immigrants from the northern Turkish occupied areas to the southern government controlled part of the country is halted," said the minister.

    On trafficking he briefed the Ambassador about the steps already taken, such as the adoption of the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the information campaigns and related issues to be discussed at a ministerial committee in charge of such matters to find ways to contain the problem.

    Schlicher said he was pleased to have an early opportunity to discuss with him a range of issues the ministry deals with and are of great interest to the United States, noting that "today's meeting comes at a hopeful moment in diplomacy on the Cyprus question."

    "The Minister gave a good idea of the sort of demands the negotiation process might put on him and his staff. I told him what I told the community leaders and what I told the UN and that is that the US will look for opportunities to support those negotiations as the process continues and evolves", the American diplomat said.

    He further noted that the leaders of the two communities and the UN are very much to be commended for the efforts and the results that came out of the meeting on Friday.

    "We very much hope that the positive spirit continues and that the negotiation process gets up and running and gets to the substance of the issue because we deeply feel that the future of Cyprus is a reunited Cyprus and the sooner we get to that the better," the ambassador concluded.

    Responding to questions, he said he had nothing to announce with regard to an expected visit by senior American officials to Cyprus.

    Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed on Friday to ask their respective advisers to meet this week in order to set up a number of working groups and technical committees, establish their agendas and also in the most expeditious way possible.

    They also decided to meet again in three months to review the work of the committees dealing with aspects of the Cyprus problem, the results of which will be used to start negotiations under UN auspices for a solution.

    They have also agreed that Ledra Street will, as soon as technically possible, open and function in accordance to the established practices at other crossings.

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

    [28] Danish FM to pay a working visit to Cyprus

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Denmark's Minister of Foreign Affairs Per Stig Moller will pay a working visit to Cyprus on March 26-28.

    An official press release issued here Monday says that on Wednesday Moller will attend a ceremony for the naming of a street in Pafos, ïn the southwest coast of Cyprus, in honour of Denmark's King Eric I the Evergood.

    On Thursday Moller will hold meeting and official talks with his Cypriot counterpart Marcos Kyprianou and will be received by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias.

    He will leave the island on Friday, March 28.

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