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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-10-04

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Saturday, 4 October 2008 Issue No: 3012


  • [01] PM briefed on 2009 budget by FinMin
  • [02] PASOK on state of economy
  • [03] Alavanos on economic measures
  • [04] PM Karamanlis receives Segolene Royal
  • [05] FM spokesman on FYROM PM's announcement
  • [06] FYROM 'name issue' contacts in NYC
  • [07] Greek DM at SEDM meeting in Ohrid next week
  • [08] Gov't to repeal land exchanges with Vatopedi, points to PASOK culpability
  • [09] Greek envoy to US briefs Congressional staff members
  • [10] Ousted deputy apologizes, seeks return to ND parliamentary group
  • [11] Message on 34th anniversary of ND's founding
  • [12] ND Parliamentary group convenes on Monday
  • [13] KKE leader visits Ikaria
  • [14] Greek economic sentiment index fell to 83.3 in September
  • [15] Tourism industry to be investigated
  • [16] Hellenic Postbank, Hellenic Post inaugurate bankassurance arm
  • [17] Market watchdog imposes 11-mln-euro fine to Hellenic Telecoms
  • [18] Car registrations down 3.3 pct in Jan-Sept
  • [19] ASE successfully completes roadshow in London
  • [20] Greek authorities ready to take further action, ASE head says
  • [21] Greek stocks end 0.85 pct lower
  • [22] ADEX closing report
  • [23] Greek bond market closing report
  • [24] Foreign Exchange rates: Saturday/Monday
  • [25] Culture minister inaugurates castle projects in Mythimna, Mytilene
  • [26] Athens municipality sends humanitarian aid to Afghan region
  • [27] Focus on Greece's, Europe's biodiversity
  • [28] Two National Bank branches held up in Thessaloniki
  • [29] Cloud, local showers on Saturday
  • [30] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [31] President briefs National Council on course of Cyprus negotiations
  • [32] UN believes Cyprus settlement process moving slowly
  • [33] Archbishop of Albania received by President Christofias Politics

  • [01] PM briefed on 2009 budget by FinMin

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis conferred with Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Friday, in view of a presentation of the draft state budget in Parliament on Monday.

    Alogoskoufis said a Parliament plenary session gets underway on Monday while the Eurogroup and ECOFIN will also convene early next week. He pointed out that this is a tough period for international economy with far reaching implications on all European economies, adding that more details will be given on Monday.

    Regarding the Vatopedi Monastery furor involving the exchange of state land for monastic property, Alogoskoufis said that all pending transactions have been frozen, while public agencies have been advised to facilitate a prosecutor investigating the case.

    Gov't spokesman

    "The country maintains political and economic stability," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stated earlier during a regular press briefing in the Greek capital, rejecting views that the government is preparing ground for early elections.

    "The government has the majority in parliament and continues its reform programme," Antonaros stressed.

    Regarding the international credit crisis, he reminded that the prime minister and the economy minister had referred to the issue several months ago outlining its likely consequences, while stressing, however, that the Greek banking system remains secure and stable.

    Responding to a question on whether the social security system is also guaranteed by the government, he said all pension and relevant bonuses are guaranteed.

    [02] PASOK on state of economy

    Main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papacon-stantinou, referring on Friday to the report by the IOBE institute on the state of the economy, said "Greek society has different problems with which it would want the government to deal with, but the latter is dealing with other issues."

    IOBE's report mentions that "a worsening is being recorded in all sectors of the economy" and refers in particular to industry, services, retail trade, public works, consumer confidence that is recording a new record low and the financial state of the household.

    Commenting on a statement by Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis on the guaranteeing of all bank deposits, Papaconstantinou said that the European Commission replied that it is not aware of any such thing, while noting that the government clarified on Friday that it concerns the increase in the ceiling for deposit guaranteeing from the current 20,000 euros to 30,000 euros.

    [03] Alavanos on economic measures

    SYRIZA Parliamentary group head Alekos Alavanos on Friday accused the government of not being in touch with the current situation and rejected as inadequate measures announced by the Greek government in response to the international economic crisis.

    Alavanos suggested measures that will boost the purchasing power of wage-earners and pensioners, as well as better protection of deposits and borrowers.

    [04] PM Karamanlis receives Segolene Royal

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday received French socialist MP and former presidential candidate Segolene Royal at the Maximos ̀ansion government house in Athens.

    No statements were made after the meeting.

    Afterwards, Royal met with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis at the foreign ministry.

    In brief comments to local reporters, the French parliamentarian stressed the need for solidarity and the formulation of a common policy by the EU in the face of the international credit crisis. Moreover, she warned against "panicky moves" and unilateral initiatives, an apparent jibe at an Irish government decision over bank guarantees.

    [05] FM spokesman on FYROM PM's announcement

    Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Friday responded to statements made the previous day by Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

    "Yesterday's statements by Mr. Gruevski lack yet again seriousness. The conscious distortion of reality, the cultivation of hatred with groundless claims and nationalistic crowns, reveal to the entire international community the real intentions of Mr. Gruevski and undermine the effort for finding a mutually acceptable solution within the framework of the UN. The Greek government has no intention of observing him on the slippery road which he himself has chosen," Koumoutsakos said.

    [06] FYROM 'name issue' contacts in NYC

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA / P. Panayiotou)

    UN Secretary General's special envoy on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) "name issue", Matthew Nimetz will be meeting here on Tuesday, October 7, the delegations of Greece and FYROM in the framework of UN-sponsored talks over solving the issue.

    According to an announcement by the UN's secretariat, it has not yet been clarified whether these meetings would be separate or jointly held with the two countries' representatives. A joint meeting, however, has been scheduled for Wednesday morning.

    Greece objects to the use by the landlocked republic of the name "Macedonia", arguing that it conceals irredentist designs against the northern Greek province of Macedonia.

    [07] Greek DM at SEDM meeting in Ohrid next week

    SKOPJE (ANA-MPA / N. Frangopoulos)

    Defence ministers from Southeastern European countries will meet in the lakeside city of Ohrid, in the southwestern part of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Oct. 7-9, the country's defence ministry announced here on Friday.

    Defence ministers and representatives from countries participating in the Southeastern Europe Defence Ministerial/SEDM will be taking part in the regional meeting.

    Greece will be represented by Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis.

    According to the announcement, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will also take part in the meeting, while he will hold talks with the country's leadership.

    Twelve countries are participating as full members in SEDM: Albania, Bulgaria, FYROM, Greece, Italy, Romania, Turkey, Slovenia, the United States, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Ukraine, while four other countries, Georgia, Moldova, Serbia and Montenegro, are participating as observers.

    [08] Gov't to repeal land exchanges with Vatopedi, points to PASOK culpability

    The government on Friday officially moved to repeal earlier ministerial decisions recognising Vatopedi Monastery land ownership titles, following the signing of a relevant ministerial decision on Friday, Deputy Finance Minister Antonis Bezas announced in Parliament in response to a tabled question by the SYRIZA grouping.

    On his part, SYRIZA parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos accused the ruling New Democracy (ND) party and main opposition PASOK of involvement in what he called a "systematic, continuous and bipartisan scandal", calling for an investigation by a special committee of inquiry.

    PASOK accused ND of being consciously involved in the case, while the Communist Party (KKE) and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) blamed both major parties.

    Meanwhile, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, responding to a request by PASOK for a Parliamentary inquiry into the Vatopedi affair, emphasised that current developments are the outcome of three ministerial decisions issued before 2003 by two PASOK deputy ministers, who recognised specific ownership rights.

    He also added that a protocol for the exchange of land between the State and Vatopedi Monastery was signed in June 2003, finalising the transaction.


    In a later reaction, a main opposition PASOK party spokesman called Bezas' statements as no more than mere "fireworks", while adding that the intent to retroactively void past decisions was legally shaky.

    Conversely, he again said PASOK's proposal for a legaslative initiative was the best way to solve the issue.

    [09] Greek envoy to US briefs Congressional staff members


    The important international role played by Greece as a major force in international shipping, which is of strategic importance for the United States and the global economy, as well as the country's heightened economic presence in SE Europe, were underlined in the briefing made to US Congressional staff members on Thursday by the Greek ambassador to Washington.

    The briefing on Greek foreign policy issues, made in the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs Hall, focused on Greece's role as an energy hub with the construction of energy pipelines through Greek territory, namely, the Turkey-Greece-Italy pipeline carrying Caspian natural gas, the under-construction Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, the recently signed South Stream natural gas pipeline, along with the lesser-known but vital and operational Thessaloniki-Skopje pipeline.

    Amb. Alexandros Mallias thanked members of the US Congress for supporting the Greek positions on the FYROM "name issue", underlining the Greek government's will to reach a mutually acceptable solution that will open the door to Euro-Atlantic institutions for the landlocked one-time Yugoslav republic north of Greece.

    The veteran Greek diplomat, moreover, did not mince words in referring to FYROM. He warned that months-long intransigence by FYROM's leadership, in tandem with virulently irredentist and aggressive propaganda by pro-FYROM circles against Greece, was not behaviour inconsistent with a prospective member of Euro-Atlantic institutions.

    Mallias, a former Greek envoy to Tirana, also noted that the EU and NATO hopeful experienced shaky snap elections in June and that, most recently, domestic discord has erupted in Skopje as well.

    "Greek positions on the FYROM name issue are clear," Mallias said. He reiterated Athens' standing position to back a composite name with a geographic qualifier to be used in all instances, with a relevant reference in the country's constitution and on passports as well as ratification by the UN Security Council.

    Additionally, the Greek ambassador referred to the Cyprus issue and efforts of the Republic of Cyprus' political leadership for a solution based on UN Security Council resolutions and European rules and principles.

    Furthermore, he referred to the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, property and inheritance rights of the dwindling ethnic Greek minority in Turkey, as well as the issue of Imvros and Tenedos, two islands in the northeastern Aegean that were once predominately inhabited by ethnic Greeks before wholesale land appropriations by the Turkish state occurred.

    Finally, he lamented the fact that Greece has not yet been included in the US visa waiver programme, despite pledges made by Washington since August.

    [10] Ousted deputy apologizes, seeks return to ND parliamentary group

    Independent MP Stavros Dailakis, who was expelled earlier in the week by prime minister Costas Karamanlis from the ruling New Democracy (ND) party's parliamentary group, on Friday sent a letter to the premier essentially apologizing for his statements that prompted the expulsion, and placed his resignation as MP at Karamanlis' disposal.

    Karamanlis has removed ousted Dailakis from the ND parliamentary group on Tuesday after the Drama-elected deputy, in statements the previous evening, called inter alia, for the resignation of government spokesman and Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos and Yannis Angelou, the director of the prime minister's political office.

    According to an announcement from the prime minister's press office on Friday, Dailakis' letter said that his recent statements were motivated only by his support for Karamanlis, "Any other interpretation, and as to whether with those statements you are the persons I mentioned are offended, I wish to categorically assure you that I had no intention whatsoever of creating a problem to the party to which I have belonged, belong and will belong".

    Dailakis, in his letter, essentially apologizes and requests to return to the ranks of the ND parliamentary group and, if that does not occur, he places his resignation at the disposal of Karamanlis.

    "With this present statement, and beyond expressing my apology, I believe that I cannot exist politically outside ND. Please promptly re-examine my return to the parliamentary group, otherwise, if such is not the case, my resignation is at your disposal".

    Dailakis' expulsion narrowed ND's slim majority in the 300-member parliament to 151 seats. The majority will revert to the original 152 seats in either case: Dailakis' reinstatement to the ND parliamenary group, or his resignation of the post, in which case his post, which was won on the ND ticket, will be taken over by a cadre to be named by ND.

    Replying to questions later during a regular press briefing, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said that "we appreciate MP Dailakis' gesture, which will be examined", and declined comment on the content of the letter.

    Asked when a response would be forthcoming to Dailakis, Antonaros simply said: "I have nothing more to say".

    [11] Message on 34th anniversary of ND's founding

    A message on the 34th anniversary of the founding of the New Democracy (ND) party by late statesman Constantine Karamanlis was addressed to the party's cadres by Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis on Friday, stressing that the ruling party "is the party of great and vindicated options that found itself at the head of society, changes and reforms which the country had need of to forge ahead."

    Zagoritis also referred to the party's principles, as they were set out in October 1974 by its founder, Constantine Karamanlis, and "which were honoured by all the leaders of the party who succeeded him."

    He further said that "the founding of ND contributed to national consensus, to the bloodless restoration of the democratic form of government, to the smooth functioning of democratic institutions and to Greece's entry into the great European family, that secured the country's future for the coming generations and consolidated the hope for a better life" and concluded with "the quintessence of the policy" of ND which is "man, his interests, his rights."

    [12] ND Parliamentary group convenes on Monday

    The ruling New Democracy (ND) Parliamentary Group convenes Monday morning, chaired by Prime Minister and ND leader Costas Karamanlis.

    [13] KKE leader visits Ikaria

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, speaking on the eastern Aegean island of Ikaria on Friday, said that what is important is the outcome of elections, adding that if elections were to be held now because the political system is in a tight spot, why shouldn't there be elections that will be utilised by the people.

    "Of course, various games are taking place now. They want to know which the first party will be and which the second. On the one hand, there will be no absolute majority, as it appears, and for them it is important which party will come first in the next elections. In other words, if the (ruling) New Democracy (ND) party was certain that it was coming first, even without a majority government, it would hold elections," she said, adding that "the PASOK party is doing the same thing."

    Papariga further said that "they will bring the vote of immigrants now. They don't even speak Greek. (They are) Third and fourth generation and they are given the right to vote. The person from Australia and the United States votes, who has been living there fifty years and one hundred, and he will determine the vote in Greece and the deputies. These are not serious things. Of course they are Greeks, we have nothing against them. But we are speaking now of people who are also cut off from Greece."

    Lastly, she said "let them hold the elections whenever. We, at least, say that they are welcome, but we cannot stop action on popular problems in the name of lets say that we are heading for elections."

    Financial News

    [14] Greek economic sentiment index fell to 83.3 in September

    Economic sentiment index fell to the lowest level since June 2005 in September, following a trend in most other European countries, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Friday.

    IOBE, in its monthly report, said the economic sentiment index fell to 83.3 points in September, nearing the lowest level in the period 2001-2007 (82.3 points in April). IOBE, in its report, said uncertainty and unfavourable international developments, as a result of globlal credit crisis, have significantly affected consumers and business expectations.

    The manufacturing sector was mostly hit, with business expectations falling over new orders and rising over inventories. Demand in the services sector is subdued, sales are declining in the retail sector, while activity in the construction sector is steadily falling. Finally, consumer confidence fell significantly in September, to a new all-time low.

    [15] Tourism industry to be investigated

    Minister of Tourism Aris Spiliotopoulos has requested a full investigation of all complaints and the imposition of severe penalties for anti-professional conduct in the tourism industry.

    The Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) will conduct daily spot checks on hundreds of tourist businesses throughout the country. The main objective is to ensure the quality of tourism services and protect the professionalism that must be a benchmark for all those involved in the industry.

    The new measures were prompted by "Marousi Travel" following a series of complaints raised against the company. The EOT carried out an investigation in which numerous instances of non-compliance were discovered in the standards of operation.

    The owner of Marousi Travel was called upon to apologise within 15 days, as is required by law. The EOT carried out follow up check on Friday, where it was discovered that Marousi Travel had closed operations.

    The EOT will continue to respond promptly to investigate any complaint of unprofessional behaviour and punish those who operate outside the bounds of the law.

    [16] Hellenic Postbank, Hellenic Post inaugurate bankassurance arm

    Hellenic Postbank on Friday announced an agreement with Hellenic Post SA to begin activities in the bankassurance market, in cooperation with the biggest insurance companies in the Greek market.

    Hellenic Postbank and Hellenic Post will set up a subsidiary insurance brokerage company to expand branded bankassurance products.

    Hellenic Postbank also announced it had successfully completed the purchase of 9,680,000 new common, nominal shares of Bestline Cards Financial Services SA, at an offering price of 1.9525 euros per share, for a total of 18,900,200 euros, raising its equity stake in Bestline Cards to 50 pct.

    [17] Market watchdog imposes 11-mln-euro fine to Hellenic Telecoms

    Greece's telecoms and post markets watchdog on Friday announced it has imposed new, heavy, fines to Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation for breaching telecoms services regulations. The National Commission on Telecommunications and Posts said it had imposed a fine of around 11 million euros to OTE.

    [18] Car registrations down 3.3 pct in Jan-Sept

    Car registrations totaled 291,842 units (new or used) in the January-September period, down 3.3 percent compared with the corresponding period in 2007, the National Statistics Service said on Friday.

    The statistics service said car registrations were up 4.4 pct in the nine-month period in 2007, compared with the same period in 2006.

    New motorcycle registrations totaled 87,670 units in January-September, up 2.1 pct from last year.

    [19] ASE successfully completes roadshow in London

    A roadshow of 35 Greek-listed companies in the City of London was successfully completed on Friday. The third annual roadshow, held at the facilities of Bloomberg television channel, attracted 150 international fund managers despite the fact that it coincided with an international financial crisis.

    ASE president, Spyros Kapralos, commenting on the roadshow said: "In difficult times, such as the one currently underway, we must not hide, we must show our plans, our prospects, and that's what we do. We have very positive reactions over the presence of Greek enterprises here".

    Kapralos also commented on an international investment climate, saying: "Investors are freightened, they have lost their money, they are afraid of the international banking system, but Greek banks do not have these problems and Greek enterprises' prospects are good, especially now that they have established activities in neighbouring Southeastern Europe".

    Foreign Deputy Minister Petros Doukas, who attended the roadshow in London, said there was no reason for concern over Greek banks and added that savers must be rest assured that their money were not in danger.

    [20] Greek authorities ready to take further action, ASE head says


    Greek authorities are ready to take all necessary measures to ensure stability in the Greek market, Athens Stock Exchange president Spyros Kapralos told Bloomberg TV on Friday, after completion of the 3rd Roadshow of Greek-listed enterprises in London.

    Kapralos said he did not exclude additional measures to curb short selling activity, while he noted that both the Greek capital market and the country's banking system were secure.

    [21] Greek stocks end 0.85 pct lower

    Greek stocks ended lower on Friday as the Athens Stock Exchange failed to follow a recovery trend in other international markets. The composite index fell 0.85 pct to end at 2,804.95 points, off the day's lows, while turnover shrank to 228 million euros, of which 13.7 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower, with the Commerce (3.18 pct), Utilities (3.14 pct), Industrial Products (3.0 pct) and Banks (1.68 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Telecommunications (2.08 pct), Financial Services (1.52 pct) and Oil (1.68 pct) scored gains.

    The FTSE 20 index eased 0.97 pct, the FTSE 40 index fell 0.91 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.20 pct lower. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 148 to 73 with another 54 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -0.90%

    Industrials: -3.00%

    Commercial: -1.63%

    Construction: -1.63%

    Media: +0.44%

    Oil & Gas: +0.96%

    Personal & Household: -0.01%

    Raw Materials: +0.26%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.17%

    Technology: +0.07%

    Telecoms: +2.08%

    Banks: -1.68%

    Food & Beverages: -1.63%

    Health: +0.51%

    Utilities: -3.14%

    Chemicals: -0.19%

    Financial Services: +1.52%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Cyprus and HBC Coca Cola.

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

    Alpha Bank: 15.20

    ATEbank: 2.10

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.62

    HBC Coca Cola: 12.30

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.54

    National Bank of Greece: 29.00

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 12.66

    Intralot: 6.18

    OPAP: 21.00

    OTE: 12.76

    Piraeus Bank: 14.32

    Titan Cement Company: 23.98

    [22] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices ended with a small premium in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover shrinking to 98.690 million euros. The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a premium of 0.03 pct.

    Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 10,986 contracts worth 84.727 million euros, with 27,156 open positions in the market, while volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,760 contracts worth 12.061 million euros, with investment interest focusing Ellaktor's contracts (2,340), followed by Eurobank (857), Marfin Investment Group (777), National Bank (1,415), Alpha Bank (897), Marfin Popular Bank (1,104) and Hellenic Postbank (267).

    [23] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 330 million euros on Friday, of which 210 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 120 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (August 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 50 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds fell to 0.86 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.76 pct and the German Bund 3.90 pct.

    In money markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 5.49 pct, the six-month rate 5.41 pct, the three-month 5.33 pct and the one-month rate 5.13 pct.

    [24] Foreign Exchange rates: Saturday/Monday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.394

    Pound sterling 0.789

    Danish kroner 7.520

    Swedish kroner 9.779

    Japanese yen 146.25

    Swiss franc 1.577

    Norwegian kroner 8.358

    Canadian dollar 1.501

    Australian dollar 1.794

    General News

    [25] Culture minister inaugurates castle projects in Mythimna, Mytilene

    Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis inaugurated projects aimed at promoting and restoring castles in Mythimna and Mytilene, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos on Friday.

    Liapis said in Mythimna that the castle's promotion implements the ministry's philosophy of the past years, that is "the monuments for the citizens".

    "We want the castle to be a point of reference for you and to function as an attraction for even more visitors. We must revive the monuments of yesterday and include them in day-to-day life, and make them workable in the local societies," the culture minister added.

    The minister referred to the ministry's policy of backing projects in regions and said it is "a new development strategy that we are implementing in our cultural affairs. To signal from here that culture can, apart from all the rest, create development. To provide economically for local societies as well and to create jobs."

    The same setting was then transferred to island's capital Mytilene. Speaking during the ceremony, the minister praised those responsible for completing the project and expressed his conviction that soon the castle will constitute a modern cultural centre for the city.

    [26] Athens municipality sends humanitarian aid to Afghan region

    The city of Athens on Friday sent a humanitarian aid package to Afghanistan and specifically for residents of the Nouristan region in northeast of the strife-plagued country.

    A Greek state broadcaster television crew recently brought back images of squalid living conditions (lack of medical care, pharmaceuticals, clothing, food and education) faced by Nouristan inhabitants. According to reports, many Nouristanis consider themselves descendants of Alexander the Great and as a long-isolated enclave of Hellenism in Central Asia.

    The humanitarian aid, which is being delivered with the assistance of the ministries of foreign affairs, health, culture and education, consists of pharmaceuticals, writing materials and children's games.

    "I believe that we are obliged to assist these individuals to confirm their feelings of pride stemming from their link with Greece as well as consolidate our sense of the historic continuity of Hellenism. I wish the mission bon voyage," Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis said of the humanitarian mission

    [27] Focus on Greece's, Europe's biodiversity

    The future of the planet's animals and plants is gloomy, with scientists warning that tens of thousands of species will be extinct by 2020 if no measures are taken to reverse the pessimistic forecasts.

    In view of the observation of World Animal Day on Saturday, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, drawn up by 7,000 experts worldwide, sounded the alarm for 16,119 fauna and flora species on the endangered list.

    Based on the organisation's "Red List", endangered species of fauna in Europe correspond to 42 percent of endemic birds, 43 percent of butterflies, 30 percent of amphibians, 45 percent of reptiles and 52 percent of fish in lakes and rivers.

    The figures concerning Greece are equally alarming considering that it is regarded as a European country with one of the highest levels of biodiversity, hosting the habitats for endangered animal species such as the jackal, dolphin, Caretta caretta sea turtle, black vulture, wild goat, Mediterranean seal and brown bear.

    [28] Two National Bank branches held up in Thessaloniki

    Armed bandits held up two branches of the National Bank in Thessaloniki this morning, with the robberies occurring within minutes of each other.

    In both cases there were two perpetrators armed with pistols. The bandits had their faces covered and fled on motorbikes.

    The first robbery took place at 11.22am at a branch on Prophitis Elias in Pilea, while the second occurred shortly afterwards, at 11.30am, on Christos Vamvakis in central Thessaloniki.

    The perpetrators threatened employees and customers with pistols before securing the available funds.

    Police investigations are underway to identify and arrest the perpetrators. It is believed that the incidents were carried out by members of the same group.

    Weather Forecast

    [29] Cloud, local showers on Saturday

    Cloudy and showery weather with southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 10C and 28C. Cloudy and showery in Athens, with 3-5 beaufort southwesterly winds and temperatures ranging from 17C to 27C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 12C to 22C.

    [30] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' instructions for accelaration of reforms at the Inner Cabinet meeting on Thursday, the draft law for protection of borrowers and the international financial crisis dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Karamanlis orders goverment's cadres: "Open the ministries' doors to the citizens".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Halt to real estate property seizures - Government tabled bill in parliament for protection of bank borrowers".

    AVGHI: "Measure for protection of loans, interests and funds - SYRIZA party proposals on the financial crisis".

    AVRIANI: "Examining magistrate in the Siemens case, Nikos Zagorianos, will meet on Monday Siemens cadre Reinhard Sicatzek".

    CHORA: "The government guarantees up to the last euro - Immediate measures for borrowers protection".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "PM convened extraordinary Inner Cabinet meeting amidst rumors of early elections".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Karamanlis placed blame on his ministers for the corruption phenomena in ND and the party's decline".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The 'crash' staves off (early) general elections - Karamanlis now playing the 'stability and social face' card".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Karamanlis attempted to put order to the mess in a 20-minute monologue at the Inner Cabinet meeting".

    ESTIA: "The general elections scenarios".

    ETHNOS: "Performance with 'expired' announcements - Karamanlis, in 15 minutes, passed over the political and financial crisis"

    KATHIMERINI: "Karamanlis sends severe warnings to ministers".

    LOGOS: "Operation 'rescue forward'- The change of agenda was the PM's choice".

    NIKI: "Karamanlis -express - He completed his address in 20 minutes, setting a new record for the shortest Inner Cabinet meeting".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Working class' counter-attack over the immediate needs".

    TA NEA: "General elections 'rehearsal' with fireworks - The PM remembered the society and pampered the deputies".

    TO VIMA: "Operation 'image and spirit resoration; in New Democracy amidst venomous rumors, 'meetings' and 'dinners' - Karamanlis' warnings to his ministers".

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    Cyprus Affairs

    [31] President briefs National Council on course of Cyprus negotiations


    President of the Republic of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias, briefed Friday the members of the National Council on the course of the negotiations, which began in September between himself and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, aiming at reunifying Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974.

    The National Council, the top advisory body to the President regarding the handling of the Cyprus issue, convened for over four hours.

    In statements after the meeting, Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said that the members of the Council expressed views on the latest developments regarding the Cyprus issue "in a constructive climate".

    The National Council, chaired by President of the Republic of Cyprus, comprises two representatives of all parliamentary political parties.

    Former Presidents of the Republic also participate in the Council, as well as the Foreign Minister, the Government Spokesman and at times other officials.

    The spokesman said that the members of the Council have not exchanged views on the second issue, which was on the agenda, regarding the way the National Council functions, since the discussion about the Cyprus problem took longer than expected.

    Stephanou said that the political parties have submitted their suggestions on the ways to improve the function of the National Council and the issue will be discussed during the next meeting of the body.

    Invited to comment on information that UN Secretary General's Special Representative Taye-Brook Zerihoun has intervened for the promotion of a new package of Confidence Building Measures among the two communities in Cyprus, Stephanou said that the Greek Cypriot side concentrates on the essence of the Cyprus issue, which can not be solved only by implementing confidence building measures.

    He added that there is an agreement, on the level of technical committees, for taking confidence building measures, but they have not been implemented yet.

    The spokesman was also invited to comment on press reports according to which the Turkish Cypriot side has employed an international house, which specializes on secessions.

    Replying to that, Stephanou noted that the Greek Cypriot side pursues the reunification of the island.

    "What we pursue, is through a solution of the Cyprus problem to achieve the reunification of our country. And we believe that on the negotiating table we will see what each side wants and pursues. The aim, of course, is the solution and the reunification of Cyprus", he said.

    When invited to comment on a press report according to which the natural environment in the Greek Cypriot village of Livera, now under Turkish occupation, is being destroyed for the sake of building houses for Turkish military officers, Stephanou said that "an environmental catastrophe is a very important aspect", noting that when a country is under occupation the legal state can unfortunately not exert power or control the occupied area.

    Regarding the Turkish foreign ministry's announcement about the resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the situation in Cyprus, the spokesman noted that Turkey's reactions have to do with the fact that Ankara pursues a policy on Cyprus, which is in conflict with the principles of the Council of Europe.

    [32] UN believes Cyprus settlement process moving slowly


    The UN Secretariat team dealing with the Cyprus problem has reached the conclusion that the process of direct negotiations to solve the island's political question is moving at a slow pace.

    The conclusion was reached after a briefing of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe by the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer.

    Downer has concluded the first phase of his contacts at UN headquarters on Thursday. After his meetings on Friday in Washington with State Department officials, he will return to New York to wrap up his meetings.

    His position was that the two sides in Cyprus have not shifted from their main points and views, which does not help the process move forward.

    He also spoke of fatigue, due to the exhausting negotiations between the leaders of the two communities, noting that if this continues, the rhythm will slow down.

    Despite the fact that neither Downer nor Ban with Pascoe have found any solutions to this, they are deliberating the possibility of bringing back bicommunal working groups to discuss the details of various aspects of the Cyprus problem, leaving political decisions up to the leaders.

    For the time being, Downer is meeting with all major players to hear their views on how to facilitate the process, within the parametres agreed on by the parties.

    After a meeting he is scheduled to have on Monday with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Downer will fly to Brussels to meet EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.

    On Wednesday he will be in Cyprus for the next meeting between President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, scheduled for October 10.

    Before returning to Australia, he will fly to London for meetings with the British government.

    President Christofias and Talat have been engaged in talks since early September, with a view to reach an agreement that will reunite Cyprus, which has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Technical committees and working groups, comprising experts from the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities, have been set up to help the work of the leaders by preparing the ground for the start of direct negotiations which began on 3 September.

    [33] Archbishop of Albania received by President Christofias


    Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania Anastasios who is visiting Cyprus, was received here Friday by President of the Republic Demetris Christofias.

    Archbishop Anastasios, who was accompanied by Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus Chrysostomos II, was briefed about the latest developments in the Cyprus issue and the latest effort to find a negotiated settlement that will reunite the country, which has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    Speaking to journalists after the meeting, held at the Presidential Palace, Archbishop Anastasios said he had the chance to be briefed by the president about the Cyprus question.

    He said he wished President Christofias that "God gives him wisdom, patience and determination to lead Cyprus the soonest possible, in this difficult period, to an overall solution."

    Archbishop Anastasios, who is on a visit to the island, will leave on October 8.

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