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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-03-27

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Thursday, 27 March 2008 Issue No: 2853


  • [01] PM Karamanlis briefed on new Nimetz proposal on FYROM name
  • [02] FM spokesman on new Nimetz proposal - Archbishop of America calls on Bush to exercise his influence on FYROM issue
  • [03] Gov't on the FYROM name issue
  • [04] President Papoulias meets FM Bakoyannis
  • [05] FM Bakoyannis briefs KKE leader on FYROM name issue
  • [06] UN mediator Nimetz's complete statement following Monday's meeting
  • [07] PASOK tables motion of censure against gov't, suspending final debate and vote on social security reforms bill
  • [08] Gov't welcomes PASOK challenge in Parliament, minister says
  • [09] Opposition parties comment on PASOK censure motion
  • [10] Parliament discusses censure motion tabled by PASOK
  • [11] KKE's Papariga denounces censure motion
  • [12] Papoulias receives leftist leader Alavanos
  • [13] Government replies to Alavanos
  • [14] Israeli Dep. FM begins Athens visit, meetings with counterparts
  • [15] Greek Independence Day celebrated at White House
  • [16] Minister denies government interference in justice
  • [17] FM Bakoyannis to meet Libanese House Speaker Berry
  • [18] Greek economy in good shape to deal with international credit crisis, FinMin says
  • [19] Labor unions, employers reach two-year labour agreement
  • [20] KKE, Coalition on new collective labour agreement
  • [21] SYRIZA leader on social security, referendum
  • [22] General Assembly of Balkan Chambers of Commerce Union
  • [23] Bank Union Federation decides continuation of Bank of Greece strike
  • [24] Starwood Hotels to operate two new luxury hotels in Messinia
  • [25] Mytilineos Group says net profit up 34 in 2007
  • [26] FG Europe reports spectacular 2007 results
  • [27] Greek stocks end 1.29 pct higher
  • [28] ADEX closing report
  • [29] Greek bond market closing report
  • [30] President opens 6th WACAP Forum in Athens
  • [31] ACCI president, Athens Mayor address forum
  • [32] Greece's longest road tunnel opens in April
  • [33] ESHEA and POESY delegation visits Cyprus
  • [34] President contacts Archbishop Ieronymos in hospital
  • [35] Archbishop Ieronymos exits hospital
  • [36] Man accused of involvement in Zachopoulos case to be remanded in custody
  • [37] Two individuals arrested for murder of foreigner in Trikala
  • [38] Skopelos wildfire under control
  • [39] Bomb scare in Athens Metro
  • [40] Iacovou and Nami agree on the Working Groups and Technical Committees
  • [41] UN begin demining works in Ledra Street area
  • [42] UN completes safety check in Ledra Street area
  • [43] EP Committee calls for comprehensive Cyprus settlement Politics

  • [01] PM Karamanlis briefed on new Nimetz proposal on FYROM name

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed by foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday on UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz's new proposal on the FYROM name issue unveiled to the Greek and FYROM negotiators during talks in New York the previous day.

    Bakoyannis, who also briefed the Inner Cabinet on the proposal, said afterwards that the new proposal "is far from the goals sought by Greece".

    She added that the negotiation would continue, and announced that in the next 48 hours she would brief President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and the leaders of the political parties on the new development.

    Asked by reporters whether the prospect of Greece vetoing FYROM membership in NATO continued to stand, Bakoyannis replied: "Greece's position is clear, and I don't need to repeat it. However, I will say it again: If there is no mutually acceptable solution on the name, Greece cannot constent to allied relations with Skopje".

    Asked whether Tuesday's proposal had been Nimetz's final proposal, Bakoyannis replied that "there are no final proposals in negotiations".

    [02] FM spokesman on new Nimetz proposal - Archbishop of America calls on Bush to exercise his influence on FYROM issue

    A new proposal put forward on Tuesday by UN special mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz to the Greek and FYROM negotiators during a crucial meeting in New York "is being assessed", foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Wednesday.

    According to a foreign ministry announcement on the new round of UN-brokered talks aimed at finding a mutually acceptable solution to the FYROM name issue, Koumoutsakos made the following statement:

    "Mr. Nimetz, in the framework of the ongoing efforts in the framework of the United Nations, has submitted another proposal. The proposal is being assessed. The initial conclusion is that we are far from a mutually acceptable solution. The effort is continuing."

    Meanwhile, US White House spokeswoman Dana Perino replying to questions on Tuesday, during a press briefing, on whether US president George Bush had in mind "any other way" for Athens and Skopje to reach an agreement prior to the NATO summit (at the beginning of April in Bucharest), said: "We ccontinue to encourage Greece and 'Macedonia' to reach an agreement before we get to Bucharest so that we can deal with this issue prior to getting there. But if it's going to take all the way -- take all the time up to the NATO conference, then that decision will be made there. But certainly the President believes that they should be able to work this out."

    Asked whether NATO would be asked to "grant a kind of extension of three or six months" for FYROM's accession in the event of failure of the New York talks, Perino replied: "We should take first things first, before we get ahead of ourselves. Let's let them continue to work together. I think that the time factor is a forcing event, and that they should be coming together to work this out before we get to NATO."

    At the same time, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios of America called on President Bush to use his influence to back "a faithful ally, as is Greece", on the FYROM name issue, and also on the Cyprus issue, in his address during a special ceremony held at the White House celebrating the March 25th Greek Independence Day, the 187th anniversary of the commencement of the 1821 Greek Revolution against Ottoman rule.

    After outlining the values and principles that the Greek nation has stood and fought for since antiquity to the present, the Archbishop underlined that Greece in our days "constitutes a strong factor for stability, progress and peace in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean basin".

    He stressed, however, that this very same Greek nation, "in a series of sensitive national issues, receives by some nations treatment which is unjust, by any standards. The issues of the reunification of Cyprus, and of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, for instance, are two characteristic examples of this."

    "Speaking rather boldly, on this solemn day, we express our firm conviction that you will certainly exercise your unique authority and leadership in order to facilitate a course of action that will treat sensitive issues related to Greece in a fair and dignified way," the Archbishop continued, stressing that "Greece is not seeking special favors or unreasonable deference".

    "The Hellenic nation is a proud and honorable nation, a faithful ally of the USA for generations, which throughout its long history has established as a fact that it does not depend on favors, but on justice and respect," Demetrios said.

    Expressing appreciation for the Bush administration's support on such matters as the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Archbishop stressed that the same resoluteness was needed on the two outstanding issues of Cyprus and FYROM, which were "vital for the Greek nation and its beneficial role in promoting peace, justice and freedom in Southeastern Europe".

    [03] Gov't on the FYROM name issue

    Negotiations are still in progress, commented alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros responding to a question on the government position regarding the alleged "Macedonia-Skopje" name suggested for FYROM by UN mediator Matthew Nimetz.

    He cited a relative statement made by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and added that Greece enters negotiations in a constructive spirit and positive attitude seeking a mutually acceptable solution. Antonaros also said that for as long as negotiations are in progress, he will not make detailed comments pointing out that the government and the Greek diplomacy are well-prepared for any eventuality.

    [04] President Papoulias meets FM Bakoyannis

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias had a meeting of about 25 minutes with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis who briefed him on developments regarding the "name issue" of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    After the meeting at the Presidential Mansion, Bakoyannis made no statements to reporters.

    [05] FM Bakoyannis briefs KKE leader on FYROM name issue

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis received Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga on Wednesday evening, whom she briefed on developments regarding the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) name.

    Speaking after the meeting, Papariga said that "it is our assessment that there is no substantive development on the issue and consequently it remains open."

    Papariga further said that "a name should be sought that, which, while comprising the term Macedonia-Macedonian, should secure that it is exclusively a geographical term," adding that "it must be followed by the other parameters as well which are first, the removal of irredentist clauses from where they exist, and second the fact that there is no Macedonian ethnic entity. These are strong enough elements for us in comparison with the A or B formulation of the name."

    Bakoyannis is also scheduled to meet on Thursday with the leaders of main opposition PASOK, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) and Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) party.

    [06] UN mediator Nimetz's complete statement following Monday's meeting


    UN mediator for the 'name issue' Matthew Nimetz's statements immediately after a meeting here with the negotiators of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Monday afternoon (local time) were as follows:

    "Ladies and gentlemen we had a meeting, in a series of meetings we had for quite a few years, under the UN mandate on the name issue and Amb. (Adamantios) Vassilakis and Amb. (Nikola) Dimitrov presented additional views based on follow up from our Vienna meeting, and also the high level meeting, as you know, in Brussels. We reviewed all the alternatives. Both governments have very strong desire to resolve this issue. Both see the very strong positives that they would come out if a solution and I think both governments recognise the risks involved of not resolving it. And both representatives stated their positions.

    "The positions of the two governments are still different. There isn't meeting of the minds on what a name would be that it constitute complete satisfaction for both sites. Giving the fact that this is gone on so long. We had a lot of intense efforts in the last few months. As you know, I was in Skopje twice and in Athens twice. We met in Vienna, we met here. We have been in touch regularly and then of course before that we had several years in doing this. I have started in 1994. How many years is that? That's 14 years on the subject.

    "So, we have explored lots and lots of options on what is a very difficult issue and politically a very important and important to the national interest of both countries. I don't think we should dismiss the importance of the issue.

    "Giving the fact that there wasn't a meeting on the minds of the two sides, I used the opportunity to give my views to the parties and outlined what I thought a reasonable solution will be, a reasonable settlement of the issue. As I said, some months ago, I think a solution that works has to be a compromise, so it is not a 100 percent what either Athens or Skopje would like. But I think what I suggested the parties is fair, I think it is honorable, I think it has a geographic dimension and I think that, and I very much hope that both governments looking at it seriously, take some time and consider it in a positive way and hopefully it can be a basis of the settlement of this longstanding debate. It's up to the two parties it's not up to me anymore. Thank you.

    Question.: Mr. Ambassador can you tell us actually why this is for you, you just told us and why we hearing from you from almost 14 years as you mentioned, a little bit mysterious I would say. Where is the problem, what's the problem' I know that is not easy but you mentioned a geographical issue and who is far away from the solution who is closer' Can you tell us a little bit' Just put a little more light in that mystery?

    Answer.: I am wondering whether I should give you my 1-hour lecture on the Macedonian issue or my three hour lecture on the Macedonian issue. I don't think that I can answer that question fairly in a few words. I would say it's not a trivial issue and it is not as some people who hear about it say boy! This is a strange issue, I think it's a very important question for the region. I think it affects the people of both countries and has a deep history and I wouldn't want to characterize it, in any way, because any simple characterization would be unfair. Someday, if we get together, I can give you my views, off the record, but it's a very deep issue and a serious issue.

    Question: Mr. Ambassador, you said that you had given a proposal to both sides. Is this a new proposal that you gave them today, is there a period of time you have asked them to consider this and are you planning another meeting, because there is some time pressure to try and resolve this issue?

    Answer: It's a new proposal, it has a lot of elements of prior proposals, it's not out of the blue, it has elements of prior proposals that I think, having listened to both sides and heard all the things that they say, what they can, what they feel they can, what they can't accept, how far they are from here, I tried to pull together something that I thought was a reasonable compromise. There is no time limit on this process. I know there are other issues in the world that are pressing and I'm very aware of that and sensitive to it, but this UN process has no time element. I don't believe in giving people deadlines, I don't think that is a useful thing to do and I'm around and I'm in constant touch with the two representatives and if there were a reason for a meeting I'm always available for a meeting.

    Question: Mr. Ambassador, because the clock is ticking, are you available until, any time, until the Bucharest meeting to meet with the parties and solve the issue?

    Answer: My colleagues here know that I'm always available and I sleep only about five hours at night, otherwise I'm available. Thank you.

    Question: What is the next step?

    Answer: The next step is: I gave the two representatives my suggestion for resolving this. They will consult with their governments and they will take it from there, depending on their points of view. Thank you.

    Question: How long can you wait?

    Answer: I, personally, can wait for ever ... This is a process under the UN mandate and with two countries, important countries, they are both old civilizations and they have been around for a long time, they will be around for a long time and the time is up to them.

    Question: Did any of the two sides asked for specific guarantees for the implementation of the new formula?

    Answer: Over the course of discussions of the years, we sometimes talked about issues. I wouldn't use the word guarantees, I don't like that word, it's a formal word of a guarantee, but issues of implementation. In this meeting we did not spend a lot of time on that issue. In my proposal I do deal with some terms of the issue, of effective implementation.

    [07] PASOK tables motion of censure against gov't, suspending final debate and vote on social security reforms bill

    Main opposition PASOK on Wednesday tabled a motion of censure against prime minister Costas Karamanlis and his New Democracy government over the planned reforms in the social security system, just hours before a final debate on the relevant bill was due to begin in parliament that would have been concluded at midnight on Friday with a roll-call vote.

    As such, all discussions are suspended in parliament until completion of the debate on the no-confidence motion and the ensuing vote of confidence in the House plenary, which will begin immediately, to be concluded at midnight Friday followed by a vote after the three-day discussion, in accordance with the Rules of Parliament.

    Tabling the "no-confidence" motion in the parliament plenary on Wednesday, PASOK leader George Papandreou said that only six months after the general elections in which ND was re-elected to power, the government has "betrayed the trust of the Greek people", and criticised all aspects of government policy, with the "undermining" of the "fundamental right to dignified pensions" at the crux.

    He charged that the government, "under the false title of reform, is selling off even the very last assets of the state, which are not just 'silverware', but vital corporations that ensure basic national tools of planning and which guarantee the basic commodietes in energy and telecoms".

    "We say, simply: Enough is enough," Papandreou said, concluding: "I am tabling a motion of no-confidence against the prime minister and the government, under the provisions of Article 142 of the Rules of Parliament, which (proposal) is fully in line with the conviction of the citizens. I am tabling the motion of no-confidence on behalf of all of PASOK, in the certainty that we are thus expressing the overwhelming majority of the Greek people."

    Speaking on behalf of the government, culture minister Michalis Liapis, who was in attenance at the time, said that the government wanted the relevant debate to commence "here and now".

    He thanked PASOK for tabling the motion "because it provides the government with a unique opportunity to project its immense work accomplished and to highlight the major reforms".

    Liapis also charged that expediency of PASOK's motion was to 'outdo the impressions' of the SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left parliamentary alliance) initiative calling for a referendum on the social security reforms.

    "You are not protagonists in parliament. You come after the small parties of the minor opposition," Liapis said, addressing himself to PASOK.

    Replying to Liapis, the PASOK leader charged that the government "does not realise the severity of the moment".

    "We don't care if you consider us the 'tail' of anyone. The problem for the country is that Greece will not be the tail in the EU, regarding the economy and social policy," Papandreou added.

    Parliament president Dimitris Sioufas announced that the debate on the motion will be conducted over a three-day period, concluding at midnight on Friday with a roll-call vote.

    To be carried, an absolute majority of the parliament's 300 MPs (150+1) must vote in favor of the motion of no-confidence.

    [08] Gov't welcomes PASOK challenge in Parliament, minister says

    A motion of censure against the government tabled in Parliament by main opposition PASOK party is welcome, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said on Wednesday after exiting the Maximos Mansion government headquarters following an Inner Cabinet meeting.

    The government will turn the spotlight on its work, he said, adding that the leadership of PASOK "is making an effort to solve internal problems and to react to the fact that (other) opposition initiatives are not in the hands of the main opposition party (PASOK)."

    The latter was a reference to a proposal by the leftist SYRIZA parliamentary group for a referendum on social security reform.

    [09] Opposition parties comment on PASOK censure motion

    Opposition parties in the Greek Parliament were critical on Wednesday of a censure motion against the government tabled by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou over planned social security reforms.

    According to Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga, instead of really fighting ruling New Democracy's policies, PASOK and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party were "engaged in a competition over who would make the best impression in a fake opposition within and outside Parliament".

    Neither party was in a position to truly oppose ND's policies because their own policies were the same, she added.

    The leader of the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, George Karatzaferis, claimed that the censure motion suited Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his government in the best possible way, since it avoided confrontation over the more awkward developments in the dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the name issue.

    "Now that [UN mediator for the name issue Matthew] Nimetz has proposed the - insulting for Greece - name of 'Macedonia-Skopje', Mr. Papandreou has essentially put [the prime minister] in the clear. For the social insurance issue, we have the repeatedly expressed opinion of ND MPs in roll-call votes. On the issue of Macedonia, where Mr. Karamanlis would be put in a very difficult position by Macedonian MPs, Mr. Papandreou has decided to spare him this ordeal," LAOS's leader noted, adding that the "game appears to be rigged".

    [10] Parliament discusses censure motion tabled by PASOK

    Government ministers and opposition party MPs traded criticisms and cross-accusations in all directions on Wednesday, during the debate held in Parliament on a censure motion tabled by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou over the social security reforms planned by the government.

    Speaking on behalf of PASOK, high-profile MP Evangelos Venizelos attacked the proposed reforms and the draft bill that was originally due to be discussed and voted on in Parliament that day, saying it did nothing to improve pension fund finances but instead targeted the lower and middle strata of society for "harsh, class-based reasons".

    "PASOK provides assurances that it will not touch social insurance rights as a government because there is no need to do so. The social insurance problem is one of revenues and not of benefits," Venizelos stressed.

    The MP also targeted the government's policies in the privatisation of basic public utilities, such as recent agreement for the sale of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) shares to Deutsche Telecom via MIG, which Venizelos denounced as "illegal and untransparent".

    According to PASOK's second speaker Theodoros Pangalos, the government reforms sought to usher in further measures of a similar "content and quality" after the pension system reforms. He denounced these as "phoney reforms that sought to maximise the profits of those that control the economy and the large mass media enterprises".

    Replying to PASOK criticism, Employment and Social Protection Minister Fani Palli-Petralia - who had tabled the contested bill in Parliament - described the main opposition's censure motion as a "gift, which allows us to communicate with and convey to Greek citizens our great work".

    She also echoed sentiments earlier voiced by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga, describing the censure motion as a "competition to create impressions" between PASOK and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party.

    "I would say that it is a sort of internal referendum, in other words a yes or a no about which is the main opposition and which the smaller," she added.

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said the only 'censure' that would arise from the meeting would a greater lack of confidence within Parliament and among voters in the reliability of PASOK and its role.

    Referring to the recent general elections in Greece, Pavlopoulos stressed that the Greek electorate had made its decision six months ago and chosen whom it wanted to be governed by. He said PASOK's failure to wait for the result of a roll-call vote on the social insurance reform bill and also the result of a discussion on whether to hold a nationwide referendum on the issue was a "proposal of confusion and an attempt to prove that it is the main opposition party".

    [11] KKE's Papariga denounces censure motion

    KKE leader Aleka Papariga denounced the censure motion as a "fake confrontation within Parliament" in which KKE refused to participate, during her own address to the house. Describing the move as an "impressions game with an eye on the elections" in which SYN was taking part through its Parliamentary group SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left), she stressed that KKE was not interested in "who made the first move" but where the dividing lines lay in society.

    She underlined that her party's radical opposition to both the European Union and to NATO was a major point that differentiated KKE from the other political parties.

    [12] Papoulias receives leftist leader Alavanos

    Greek President Karolos Papoulias met on Wednesday with the parliamentary group leader of the Coalition of Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alekos Alavanos, following the latter's controversial demand for a referendum over the government's proposed social security reforms.

    Alavanos, accompanied by SYRIZA parliamentary spokesmen Yiannis Dragasakis and Fotis Kouvelis, called on Papoulias to examine the draft law's constitutionality within the framework of his authority -- a move that also came under severe criticism by the government over the past few days given the ceremonial nature of the post of president of the republic.

    The leftist leader claimed that the draft law targets established worker and pensioner rights, while he welcomed a main opposition PASOK party initiative to table a motion of censure against the government.

    [13] Government replies to Alavanos

    Replying to Alavanos' claims that the draft bill was unconstitutional, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday said that the government had stated its position on the need for social insurance reform with absolute clarity and had announced its intention to proceed with the reforms during the current term during its previous four-year term.

    He underlined that the reforms were for the benefit of society, of Greece as a whole and of every individual in particular. He also pointed out that the reforms followed extensive dialogue on all levels, with social groups and political parties, in addition to an off-the-agenda debate held in Parliament the previous week.

    "The reforms are continuing and the efforts being made, in the framework of the Constitution, by certain parties are delaying tactics that will not succeed, because the mandate and majority given the present government by the citizens of Greece is still fresh," Antonaros stressed.

    The leftist leader claimed that the draft law targets established worker and pensioner rights, while he welcomed a main opposition PASOK party initiative to table a motion of censure against the government.

    [14] Israeli Dep. FM begins Athens visit, meetings with counterparts

    Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Majalli Wahabi met here separately on Wednesday with his Greek counterparts Theodoros Kassimis as well as with Petros Doukas, with talks focusing on further enhancing Greek-Israeli business and trade ties.

    Wahabi, who arrived in the Greek capital to attend this week's Euro-Med parliamentary conference, also referred in detail to the situation in the strife-plagued Gaza Strip, noting after his meeting with Kassimis that his country is willing to proceed with a comprehensive resolution of the Mideast problem as long as certain conditions are met.

    In a later press briefing for local journalists at the Israeli embassy in Athens, Wahabi emphasised that one of these conditions is the re-establishment of Palestinian Authority rule over now Hamas-administered Gaza.

    On his part, Kassimis, who holds the expatriate Greek portfolio in the foreign ministry as well as relations involving the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, underlined that Athens is also willing to offer its good services towards the involved parties in the Mideast, all within the framework of the European Union's policy on the substance of the matter.

    During the briefing at the embassy following his meetings with the two Greek ministers, Wahabi focused a large part of his comments on the threat of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. "This a problem of the whole region and the whole international community," the Israeli minister said, adding that "the world should not act militarily, economic sanctions are enough"

    Moreover, Wahabi essentially said Iran was using Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon to fight proxy wars against Israel.

    Turning away from the intricate Middle East problems to Greek-Israeli relations, Wahabi said his country is keenly interested in expanding trade in all sectors, pointing to IT, agri-business, environmental systems and renewal energy as fields where Israeli firms have an international presence.

    In response to a press question, meanwhile, Wahabi flatly dismissed rumours of a liaison office or any type of bureau run by the internationally shunned Turkish Cypriot pseudo-state being opened in Israel, saying the government must approve of even a private sector initiative involving such a prospect.

    "There is no change in our policy on Cyprus ... we are not involved (in any such initiative)," he said.

    [15] Greek Independence Day celebrated at White House


    The March 25 Greek Independence Day, marking the 187th anniversary of the 1821 Greek Revolution against Ottoman rule, was celebrated on Tuesday at the White House at a special ceremony hosted by US president George Bush and attended by Archbishop Demetrios of America, Greek development minister Christos Folias representing the Greek government, the Greek and Cypriot ambassadors to the US Alexandros Mallias and Andreas Kakouris, respectively, and other officials.

    Noting that he was "always open to a few suggestions" in reply to an address by the Archbishop -- who called for US backing to Greece on its national issues, with particular reference to the Cyprus and FYROM issues -- Bush said that "all free people stand on the shoulders of Greece", adding that "in the ancient world where political power usually came from the sword, the people of Athens came together around a radical and untried idea that men were firt to govern themselves", adding that "it was this freedom that allowed them to create one of the most vibrant societies in history, and that society deeply influenced America's founding fathers when they sought to establish a free state centuries later".

    "Throughout their history, the people of Greece have been committed to liberty. They've also been committed to the important principle that liberty only survives when brave men and women are ready to come to its defense. In the years leading up to Greece's war for independence, one of the rallying cries of the Greek people was that it was better to be free for an hour than to be a slave for 40 years. Those are the kind of folks who had their priorities straight, "Bush said.

    He said that "The United States was by Greece's side from the very beginning of the struggle for independence. In those early days, some Americans volunteered to serve in the Greek army, and many more contributed the funds that were necessary to keep the fight alive. Former Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison all spoke in favor of the Greek people's right to self-determination. And after many long years, Greece emerged victorious and free. And that's what we're celebrating today."

    "And from that time forward, the United States and Greece have been strong allies in the cause of freedom. Today, we continue to work to spread the hope of liberty. Our countries are working together in Afghanistan where Greek troops are an important part of the NATO forces that are restoring hope to that country. We're also partners in promoting stability in the Balkans and in the Middle East, where Greece provides peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo and Lebanon," the US president continued.

    The American nation, he said, "has been inspired by Greek ideals and we have been enriched by Greek immigrants. Today, more than 1.3 million Americans trace their ancestry back to Greece, and we're better for having them here. America is a richer place, a better place. Our two countries also share ties of faith. The Greek Orthodox Church has well over one million members in the United States, under the leadership of this fine man. The Church is a source of strength and inspiration for a lot of our citizens. It's a proud part of our country's tradition of religious diversity and religious tolerance."

    "For nearly two centuries, the bonds between the United States and Greece have continued to strengthen, and during the earliest days of our friendship, one Greek leader told the American people: "It is in your land that liberty has fixed her abode. In imitating you, we shall imitate our ancestors," Bush said.

    "Today I know that both our countries are making these ancestors proud through our commitment to freedom, and I'm confident that this tradition of friendship between the United States and Greece will continue for many years to come. And so I ask God's blessings on the people of Greece and the people of America," the US president concluded.

    In his address earlier, Archbishop Demetrios thanked Bush for the celebration honoring Greek Independence Day, organised at the White House of the 22nd consecutive year, and referred to the sensitive Greek national issues such as Cyprus and the FYROM name, as well as to the long Greek history and civilization, and the heroes of the 1821 Revolution, who, with the grace of God, decided to forge their own history.

    Stressing Greece's role as a factor for stability, peace and progress in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean basin, the Archbishop thanked the US president for his support in matters of religious freedom and human rights, particularly regarding the Ecumenical Patrarchate, adding that the same resoluteness was needed regarding the Greek national issues.

    The Greek people desire justice and respect he stressed, noting that Greece is a proud and honorable nation and a faithful ally of the US for generations.

    [16] Minister denies government interference in justice

    Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Wednesday denied accusations that the government had tried to influence the course of justice, in his reply to main opposition PASOK MP Dinos Rovlias in Parliament.

    "Justice has never been more accessible, more independent or more objective than in our day," the minister stressed before Parliament's Justice Committee.

    Rovlias had cited 14 occasions when the government allegedly intervened through statements and in other ways to ensure that the outcome of court cases was in its favour.

    "Only someone naive could believe that justice is independent when cases continually have a favourable outcome for the government," Rovlias said.

    [17] FM Bakoyannis to meet Libanese House Speaker Berry

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet Thursday at the foreign ministry with the President of the Libanese Parliament Nabih Berry.

    Berry is in Athens to participate in the 4th session of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, which begins on Thursday.

    Financial News

    [18] Greek economy in good shape to deal with international credit crisis, FinMin says

    The Greek economy was in a good position because of large infrastructure projects, joint ventures between public and private sector enterprises and a tax reform boosting households' incomes, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.

    Speaking to reporters, after an inner cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to discuss latest developments in global economy, Alogoskoufis said the impact from a credit crisis on the country's budget would be insignificant. The Greek minister noted that the US economy faced a serious problem from a credit crisis and prospects of a recession and stressed that the impact on Europe could be limited.

    Alogoskoufis said rising international inflation was a major cause of concern but underlined that the Greek economy was in a very good shape to deal with any external impact. He acknowledged, however, there were inflationary pressures in the country and said that the government was making every effort to deal with this phenomenon. The Greek minister said the government would continue efforts to strengthen the economy, to boosting employment and supporting growth process.

    [19] Labor unions, employers reach two-year labour agreement

    GSEE, Greece's largest trade union umbrella, on Wednesday said it has reached an agreement with employers' union for a two-year national general collective labor agreement, covering the period 2008-2009.

    Under the agreement, low wages and salaries will be raised by 3.45 pct from January 1, 2008, by 3.0 pct from September 1, 2008 and by 5.5 pct from May 1, 2009. The lowest wages in the country will be raise to 739 euros per month, from 679 euros currently.

    Commenting on the deal, GSEE's president Yiannis Panagopoulos said it was a "good deal", noting the pay increases were above the inflation rate. Representatives of left parties in the labour unions disagreed with the content of the agreement, which is subject to approval by GSSE's assembly.

    Dimitris Daskalopoulos, president of the Federation of Hellenic Industries, said the agreement was a modern pact of labour peace over the next two years.

    [20] KKE, Coalition on new collective labour agreement

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) criticized the content of the agreement reached on the new two-year national collective labor agreement.

    "Men and women workers must not accept the deception. This is the majority of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) which supposedly cares about labor interests: It again signed with the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) this year the disgrace of 1.15 euros as an increase in the basic salary for 2008 and 1 euro for 2009," KKE said in an announcement.

    "Look who are 'shouting' about the anti-social security policy of the (ruling) New Democracy party. They are the same who, together with SEB, are condemning working people to starvation salaries, while they are also determining the amount of pensions. This is the policy of ND and of PASOK that is being implemented by the majority of GSEE," KKE added.

    The Coalition said in an announcement on the same issue that "the increases being given to the salaries of working people with this year's agreement between employers and GSEE are shamefully low in relation to the needs of working people, the increase in inflation and the provocative profit-making of businesses," adding that "the minimum salaries of working people in our country will remain much lower than the corresponding European ones and far below the official poverty limits over the next two years as well."

    [21] SYRIZA leader on social security, referendum

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos called on the people to contribute to the collection of millions of signatures in support of holding a referendum on the government-sponsored social security reforms.

    During a press conference Wednesday, Alavanos referred to the motion of censure tabled earlier in the day by main opposition PASOK against the government, stressing that any initiative in line with the SYRIZA rationale is positive, allowing for a longer parliamentary debate and continuation of the workers' mobilizations.

    [22] General Assembly of Balkan Chambers of Commerce Union


    Central Union of Greek Chambers of Commerce (KEEE) President George Kasimatis, addressing the 1st General Assembly of the Balkan Chambers of Commerce Union here on Wednesday, outlined the special role played by tourism in the development of regional cooperation.

    Kasimatis said that the tourist sector registers a growth rate of 3-4 percent annually and contributes to the countries' balance of payments.

    "5.5 percent of the GDP of all of Europe comes from tourism," he said, predicting that tourism will provide the Balkans with a leading role, not only in Europe but all over the world.

    He clarified that one of the targets of the Balkan Chambers of Commerce Union is an increase in the number of tourists visiting the region and, for this to be achieved, there should be a differentiation in the tourist product being promoted.

    The Istanbul meeting is being attended by Chambers of Commerce presidents from Turkey, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus and Albania.

    [23] Bank Union Federation decides continuation of Bank of Greece strike

    The Bank Union Federation (OTOE) decided on Wednesday on the continuation of the strike at the Bank of Greece, announcing a new 24-hour strike on Thursday, March 27, "in the framework of reactions by bank employees against the government's anti-social security policy," it said in an announcement.

    In another development, the board of the Athens Bar Association decided, according to an announcement issued on Wednesday, that Athens lawyers will abstain from their duties on Monday, March 31, 2008, and Tuesday, April 1, 2008, in protest for the social security bill.

    [24] Starwood Hotels to operate two new luxury hotels in Messinia

    Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide on Wednesday announced the signing of a long-term partnership agreement with Temes SA for the operation of two new luxury resort hotels in Messinia, southwestern Peloponese.

    The agreement covers the Romanos Navarino Dunes Resort, The Luxury Collection, and the Westin Navarino Dunes Resort, located in the Costa Navarino complex in the region.

    Costa Navarino is a new luxury destination in the Mediterranean, a region of hills and mountains covered with green, with wind-protected bays, sandy beaches and valleys of olive trees and vineyards. Navarino Dunes covers an area of 1,300 stremmata (one stremma=1,000 sq.m.). Romanos Navarino Dunes Resort, The Luxury Collection, will have 321 luxury rooms and suites with 142 private pools, while Westin Navarino Dunes Resort will have 445 luxury rooms and suites and 123 private pools.

    Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc, operates eigh hotel units in Greece: Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens, Astir Palace Vouliagmeni, Blue Palace Resort & Spa in Elounda, Crete, Santa Marina Resort in Myconos and Vedema Resort and Mystique in Santorini.

    [25] Mytilineos Group says net profit up 34 in 2007

    Mytilineos Group on Wednesday reported an 8.2 pct increase in its consolidated turnover to 912.6 million euros in 2007, compared with the previous year. The Group said higher sales was a very significant development because it was achieved in a period of negative trend in the US dollar/euro currency rate which negatively affected the group's turnover by 55 million euros.

    Consolidated net profits, after taxes, rose 34 percent to 210.7 million euros. Net earnings, after tax and minorities, totaled 193.6 million euros last year, from 105.6 million euros in 2006, for an increase of 83.2 percent, while operating pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) totaled 153.7 million euros, down from 188.2 million euros in 2006.

    Assets surpassed 1.65 billion euros in 2007, from 1.37 billion in 2006. The management plans to pay a 0.51 euros per share dividend to shareholders, up 132 percent from the previous year, for a dividend return of more than 7.0 percent based on the company's closing share price of March 20th.

    [26] FG Europe reports spectacular 2007 results

    FG Europe on Wednesday reported a spectacular 381 pct jump in its after tax and minorities earnings to 13.23 million euros last year and said its pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings soared 268 pct to 21.8 million euros over the same period. The company said its 2007 results were the best in the last decades and announced an increase in its dividend return to more than 10 pct.

    FG Europe expects this year's sales to move slightly higher, with a 50 pct increase in sales in its activities in Turkey. The company plans to invest around 250 million euros in the energy sector in the next three years in Southeastern Europe and expanding its activities in the Romanian market.

    [27] Greek stocks end 1.29 pct higher

    Greek stocks ended higher on Wednesday on the reopening of the market after a five-day holiday in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index rose 1.29 pct to end at 3,809.13 points, with turnover a moderate 497.4 million euros, of which 113.7 million were block trades.

    Most sectors ended higher with the Raw Materials (4.87 pct), Financial Services (3.63 pct), Media (2.81 pct) and Personal/Home Products (2.76 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Food/Beverage (2.34 pct), Telecommunications (1.68 pct) and Insurance (0.71 pct) suffered losses.

    The Big Cap index rose 1.54 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.44 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 1.69 pct.

    AEGEK (17.86 pct), Mesohoritis (16.67 pct) and Vivere (15 pct) were top gainers, while Boutaris (9.59 pct), Katselis (7.01 pct) and Ippotour (6.25 pct) were top losers. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 209 to 58 with another 32 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -0.71%

    Industrials: +1.69%

    Commercial: +1.95%

    Construction: +0.55%

    Media: +2.81%

    Oil & Gas: +1.51%

    Personal & Household: +2.76%

    Raw Materials: +4.87%

    Travel & Leisure: +1.40%

    Technology: +2.43%

    Telecoms: -1.68%

    Banks: +2.17%

    Food & Beverages: -2.34%

    Health: +2.39%

    Utilities: +2.60%

    Chemicals: +1.32%

    Financial Services: +3.63%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Public Power Corp (PPC), OTE and Alpha Bank.

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

    Alpha Bank: 20.00

    ATEbank: 2.76

    VIOHALCO: 6.54

    ELTEX: 7.82

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 24.90

    HBC Coca Cola: 28.02

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.52

    National Bank of Greece: 32.60

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 18.70

    Bank of Cyprus: 7.40

    Intralot: 11.00

    OPAP: 20.00

    OTE: 17.60

    Piraeus Bank: 17.42

    Titan Cement Company: 25.92

    [28] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices ended with a large discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover a low 74.657 million euros. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 4.54 pct, while the April contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 1.62 pct.

    Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 5,996 contracts worth 56.816 million euros with 21,316 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 30 contracts worth 701,000 euros with 316 open positions.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,588 contracts worth 15.7 million euros with investment interest focusing on Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation's contracts (2,490), followed by Marfin Investment Group (639), OPAP (1,532), National Bank (1,089), Intracom (650), Marfin Popular Bank (1,197) and Hellenic Postbank (427).

    [29] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 845 million euros on Wednesday, of which 487 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 360 million were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond (August 20, 2013) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 189 million euros. The yield spread between the Greek and German bonds fell to 0.60 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.47 pct and the German Bund 3.87 pct.

    In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overninght rate was 4.25 pct, the two-day rate fell to 4.25 pct from 4.30 pct, the one-month rate rose to 4.39 pct from 4.37 pct and the 12-month rate rose to 4.75 pct from 4.73 pct.

    General News

    [30] President opens 6th WACAP Forum in Athens

    The 6th Forum of the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty (WACAP) was officially opened in Athens on Wednesday by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, who said the two-day forum addressed a "reality that was much worse than that reflected in official figures".

    According to Greece's head of state, the free movement of capital, people and services had led to "the globalized environment in which we live, where the excluded of the First World, the collateral damage of asymmetric development and the further degradation of the Third World confirm the most pessimistic predictions". He also stressed that poverty was not inevitable but a symptom of the failures of the economic and social framework.

    In the opening address of the forum, the director of the United Nations Development Programme office in Europe Cecile Molinier stressed that a child dies every three seconds of hunger or a preventable illness around the world and stressed that nothing is today more urgent than fighting world poverty.

    She stressed that the Millenium Targets that called for reducing the percentage of the population living before the poverty line by 50 percent could not be achieved by 2015 unless there was action on a local level.

    Greece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said that poverty was a challenge to human dignity but also global security and a problem that did not just concern the developing world but also the 10 percent of people in the cities of the developed world that lived below the poverty line. She also underlined the role that local government could play in alleviating poverty, since it was in direct and daily contact with people and was aware of local problems.

    She referred to theGreek foreign ministry's developmental cooperation and aid policy, noting that it had given more than 500 million dollars in 2007 to provide aid to countries in the western Balkans, Black Sea, Middle East, Mediterranean and in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2010, she added, Greece would give 0.51 percent of its GDP for developmental aid.

    [31] ACCI president, Athens Mayor address forum

    Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ACCI, President Konstantinos Michalos said that poverty could be tackled through the activation of society as a whole.

    "Adopting a policy of benefits is not enough to solve the poverty problem. What's necessary is to pinpoint its causes and tackle them with the necessary interventions at a financial and social level," he stressed.

    He announced that ACCI, the largest chamber in the country numbering 80,000 members, will establish "Stiriksi", a non governmental organization against poverty, to mobilize the business sector and coordinate its efforts.

    Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, on his part, referred to measures taken by the City of Athens to deal with poverty, such as the "Social Grocery" providing over 2,000 kinds of goods to 200 families without means, and an Athens hostel for elderly homeless people that will soon go into operation.

    [32] Greece's longest road tunnel opens in April

    A 4.8km-long road tunnel, the longest in Greece, will open to traffic in April. The Egnatia Motorway's two-way tunnel at Driskos, Ioannina north-western Greece that took seven years to complete, cuts through Mt. Mitsikeli linking the Ioannina plateau with the Arachthos River valley.

    Meanwhile, the 9km-long road tunnels in the Tempi Valley, central Greece, are expected to be ready five years after their construction gets underway.

    A total of 76 two-way road tunnels have been constructed within the framework of the Egnatia Motorway network, most of them along the Igumenitsa-Veria section.

    [33] ESHEA and POESY delegation visits Cyprus

    A joint delegation of the Athens Journalists' Union (ESHEA) and Panhellenic Federation of Journalists' Unions (POESY), headed by their presidents, Panos Sobolos and Dimitris Tsalapatis respectively, is in Cyprus for a four-day visit within the framework of their close cooperation with the Union of Cyprus Journalists.

    The delegation will be received by Cyprus Republic President Demetris Christofias and meet with government officials and local mass media representatives before visiting Rizokarpaso in the Turkish occupied northern Cyprus to deliver supplies to schoolchildren.

    The schools in Rizokarpaso and Farmaka have been adopted by Greek journalist unions.

    [34] President contacts Archbishop Ieronymos in hospital

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday contacted Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece in hospital, where the archbishop is receiving treatment after undergoing surgery for a broken ankle. The president inquired about the Archbishop's health and conveyed his best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    [35] Archbishop Ieronymos exits hospital

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos left hospital shortly after 9 p.m. on Wednesday where he was treated for two days following a leg fracture.

    The Archbishop thanked the doctors and the faithful l for their interest in his health and departed for his home town Inofita where he will remain for a few days to recuperate.

    [36] Man accused of involvement in Zachopoulos case to be remanded in custody

    A labour expert accused of involvement in the case of former culture ministry secretary general Christos Zachopoulos will be remanded in custody, following a 12-hour testimony he made before a special investigator on Wednesday.

    He was summoned to testify in relation to charges of attempted extortion, the violation of the personal data law and participation in attempted suicide.

    At the end of his testimnony and after the investigator and the public prosecutor reached their unanimous decision on his being remanded in custody, his lawyers said that he continues to trust justice and he will carry on his effort since he is innocent.

    Asked what the defendant is claiming regarding the charge of attempted extortion, the lawyers reiterated that he is innocent and stressed that the extortion had taken place much earlier than November 20, when he had met the 35-year-old woman (who has already been remanded in custody).

    The defendant will be taken to the security police's headquarters on Wednesday night and then to the Korydallos prison on Thursday morning where, according to his lawyers, he will ask to be taken to the prison's infirmary.

    [37] Two individuals arrested for murder of foreigner in Trikala

    Larissa border guards by coincidence located two individuals who are accused of murdering a 24-year-old foreign national in the prefecture of Trikala, central Greece. He was found dead with a bullet in his head on the Trikala-Ioannina National Motorway in the municipal district of Korydallos.

    The dead man was located at 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday. A few hours later, the border guards at the Moschorio tolls stopped a car to check it. However, before the car stopped, one of the passengers, got out of the car and raced towards the fields, finally escaping arrest. It was ascertained later that he was a Greek national.

    There were two other foreigners in the car who were arrested.

    During the investigation that was conducted, a gun was found which was identified as the weapon of the Trikala crime.

    The arrested were led to the Larissa Police Department and confessed that they were the culprits of the crime.

    [38] Skopelos wildfire under control

    Firemen and local people have put under control minor fire outbreaks burning in the region of Agnonta on the northern Aegean island of Skopelos since Monday.

    According to initial estimates, roughly 2,500 stremma of pinewood have been destroyed by the major wildfire that broke out on Monday and quickly fanned out of control by the strong winds sweeping across the region.

    Local fire-fighters were reinforced by firemen from the town of Volos on the mainland, assisted by six water-bombing aircraft.

    [39] Bomb scare in Athens Metro

    A bomb scare disrupted the Athens Metro at 4:30 on Wednesday afternoon, when an unidentified informed the police that the Revolutionary Struggle group had planted a bomb at the Omonia Metro station in downtown Athens.

    The same person called the police again a few minutes later, saying "hurry up, this is not a hoax."

    The movement of trains from Omonia was halted and crews of the Explosive Device Defusion service are carrying out investigations to ascertain whether the call made to the police is real or a hoax.

    Cyprus Affairs

    [40] Iacovou and Nami agree on the Working Groups and Technical Committees


    Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou, and Ozdil Nami, adviser to the Turkish Cypriot leader, agreed Wednesday, in the context of the agreement reached by President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and T/c Leader Mehmet Ali Talat, to establish, as soon as possible, six working groups and seven technical committees.

    Specifically, as Iacovou stated after the meeting, "the two advisors have agreed to establish the following Working Groups: "Governance and power-sharing", "EU matters", "Security and guarantees", "Territory", "Property", and "Economic matters".

    Iacovou and Nami have also agreed to establish the following Technical Committees: "Crime/Criminal matters", "Economic and commercial matters", "Cultural heritage", "Crisis management", "Humanitarian matters", "Health", and "Environment".

    "Subject to need", Iacovou added, "both advisors agreed to establish further working groups and technical committees, as required, in order to ensure that their respective leaders may be able to negotiate as effectively as possible on the full spectrum of issues to be discussed".

    Replying to questions, Iacovou expressed hope the Technical Committees and Working Groups will begin discussions on the April 7.

    In addition, Iacovou said that the two advisers would continue to meet and discuss the content of the Working Groups and Technical Committees. Iacovou assured that the Greek Cypriot side "has already done a lot of work, regarding the subject of the discussions at the Working Groups and the Technical Committees".

    Iacovou also expressed hope that the Working Groups and the Technical Committees will conclude their mission until the two leaders meet again in three months time. "I am optimist that we will reach an agreement in some issues until the next meeting between the two leaders", he said. "However, on some other issues, a consensus is very difficult to be reached. On that case, the outcome of the Working Groups and the Technical Committees will be used during the direct negotiation between the two leaders," he added.

    Iacovou and Nami have agreed to meet again on Friday.

    The Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed to set up a number of working groups and technical committees, which they will deal with aspects of the Cyprus problem. They also agreed to meet again in three months to review the work those groups and committees. Their results will be used to start negotiations under UN auspices for a solution. Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    [41] UN begin demining works in Ledra Street area


    The UN have begun demining works on Wednesday in the buffer zone around Ledra Street, in the light of efforts to open a crossing point in this commercial street of the capital, Cypriot Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou has confirmed.

    Replying to questions, Stephanou noted that any problems that arose did not have to do with the Greek Cypriot side, which is continuously stressing the necessity to implement the agreement of March 21 between the leaders of the two communities and especially that Turkish troops are not present in the area.

    Furthermore, Stephanou expressed the government's regret over the illegal visit of the chief of the Turkish armed forces Yassar Buyukanit to the Turkish occupied areas of the Republic, noting that this development did not in the least serve the prospects for a Cyprus settlement.

    The spokesman said the illegal visit violated the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus and that all necessary representations would be made.

    ''Apart from the illegal and provocative nature of Mr. Buyukanit's visit to the occupied areas of Cyprus, we also want to underline that the visit is being held at a point in time when efforts and procedures are being made, which we hope will function in a positive manner towards the prospect of a solution of the Cyprus problem,'' Stephanou pointed out.

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

    On March 21, President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat met and agreed, inter alia, that Ledra Street would, as soon as technically possible, open and function in accordance to the established practices at other crossings.

    [42] UN completes safety check in Ledra Street area


    UN Spokeswoman Michelle Montas said on Wednesday that ''the UNDP, with the funds of the European Union,

    today completed a safety check of the area of the proposed Ledra Street crossing point in Nicosia.''

    ''The check for unexploded oldness was necessary to secure buildings before of the opening of the crossing point. A six-person action team conducted the search with support of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). No dangerous items were found,'' she added.

    Quoting UNFICYP, Montas said the advisors of the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus ''have agreed, in accordance with the agreement reached by the leaders, to establish as soon as possible several specific groups and technical committees.''

    ''Both advisors agreed to establish further working groups and technical committees as required, in order to ensure that their respective leaders may be able to negotiate as effectively as possible on the full spectrum of issues to be discussed in Cyprus,'' she noted.

    The advisors, she pointed out, have agreed to meet again on Friday under UN auspices.

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

    [43] EP Committee calls for comprehensive Cyprus settlement


    The draft report of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament on Turkey's EU accession course points out the need for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework and on the basis of principles on which the EU was established.

    Furthermore, the draft report by Dutch MEP Ria Oomen Ruijten notes that the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus would facilitate negotiations for a settlement.

    After the report is adopted by the Committee, it will be submitted to the European Parliament plenary for its final approval within the next few months.

    The references to Cyprus and its political problem are made in chapters ''Regional issues and external relations'' and ''EU-Turkey relations.''

    In the chapter ''Regional issues and external relations,'' the rapporteur refers to Turkey's commitment to maintain good neighbourly relations and points out the European Parliament's expectation that Ankara will avoid any provocation of its neighbours and will solve all pending differences in a peaceful manner, according to the UN Charter and other relevant international treaties.

    The draft report also notes the necessity for a Cyprus settlement and calls on both sides on the island to utilise the opportunity currently available, so that they can achieve a comprehensive settlement within the UN context, based on EU principles.

    Furthermore, it refers to previous resolutions, which note that the withdrawal of Turkish troops would facilitate negotiations for a settlement.

    The draft report also welcomes the creation of financial support means to encourage the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community, and calls on the European Commission to submit a report on the implementation and effectiveness of this measure.

    In the chapter ''EU-Turkey relations,'' the draft report calls on the Turkish government to fully implement, without delay, the clauses emanating from Turkey's Association Agreement and the additional protocol, which concerns the opening of Turkish ports and airports to ships and airplanes of the Republic of Cyprus.

    It furthermore reminds that failure to do so would continue to affect Turkey's accession negotiations.

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

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