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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-11-12

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

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

Wednesday, 12 November 2008 Issue No: 3044

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM issues stern warning for banks
  • [02] Karamanlis receives Serbian counterpart Cvetkovic
  • [03] President receives Serb PM
  • [04] PM briefed by interior minister
  • [05] PASOK leader meets heads of Greek banks
  • [06] PASOK spokesman on meeting with bankers
  • [07] SYRIZA to propose off-the-agenda debate on jobs
  • [08] SYN leader visits state ambulance service
  • [09] Greek, Montenegrin deputy DMs meet in Athens
  • [10] Prisons council unveils proposals to justice minister
  • [11] Thessaloniki prefect wraps up visit to Australia
  • [12] FinMin addresses EIB conference in Athens
  • [13] EIB to channel loans to Greek SMEs, industry
  • [14] Hellenic Aerospace signs MoC with Russia's Irkut over BE-200
  • [15] Tourist development minister visiting Britain
  • [16] SW Bulgarian tourist resort project presented in Thessaloniki
  • [17] PASOK MPs table question on Larco
  • [18] Motor Oil Hellas announces dividend
  • [19] IASO bond loan worth 18.5 mln euros
  • [20] Stocks slip 6.42% on Tuesday
  • [21] Foreign Exchange Rates: Wednesday
  • [22] Parliament honours WWII resistance heroes Glezos and Santas
  • [23] 90th WWI Armistice Day commemorated in Thessaloniki
  • [24] Gang of hooded assailants attack political party offices in central Athens
  • [25] Cloudy on Wednesday
  • [26] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [27] President: final give and take on conclusion of discussions Politics

  • [01] PM issues stern warning for banks

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday issued a stern warning to banks and noted that, while their participation in the government package to support market liquidity was voluntary, "no one can heedlessly say no to the common effort."

    Responding to reporters' questions after a meeting with visiting Serb premier Mirko Cvetkovic, Karamanlis said that some financial institutions had begun to understand that it was not acceptable to pass the cost of the crisis on to consumers and were responding to the demand for fair treatment.

    At the same time, Karamanlis stressed these were not enough and incomplete, and that the government would not allow some banks to retain terms or interests rates that were worse than those of countries in the European Union.

    "They have an obligation to display social sensitivity," the prime minister underlined and said the government would not deviate from this target.

    Regarding the unfolding economic crisis, Karamanlis said the government's primary goal was to support the real economy and especially those having the greatest need.

    "Without delay, we have worked out a plan that has three goals: first the reduction of interest rates; second, ensuring liquidity for small and medium-sized enterprises; and third, to support the economic activity of the country," the premier said.

    He repeated once again that this plan would not burden the budget and that not a single euro would be "given" to banks.

    According to Karamanlis, the supervisory board that will be appointed by the state will monitor whether the 28 billion euros available under bank-liquidity package was being used for the purpose intended. This body, which will be chaired by the Finance Minister and include the Bank of Greece governor among its members, will meet once a month to monitor the implementation of the package, he added.

    [02] Karamanlis receives Serbian counterpart Cvetkovic

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday received visiting Serbian Premier Mirko Cvetkovic at his Maximos Mansion office, prior to the signing of a bilateral protocol on the avoidance of double taxation.

    On his part, Karamanlis praised the excellent level of relations between Athens and Belgrade, while emphasising the long-standing friendship between the two peoples. In fact, the Greek prime minister referred to Serbia as a "strategic partner" for Athens.

    Among others, the premier said Greece continuously placed amongst the biggest foreign investors in Serbia, although the goal is an even greater increase in bilateral trade and investment.

    Karamanlis cited Greek state funding, to the tune of 100 million euros, for Corridor X, a pan-European road axis passing through Serbia, while underling that the European Union's integration is "incomplete as long as it does not include Serbia and other countries in the western Balkans, when, of course, they first meet EU criteria."

    Along those lines, Karamanlis said Greece sternly believes in the European course of its neighbours, cautioning that this goal must be linked with the efforts and volition of the candidate states themselves, a clear reference to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    Referring to Kosovo, Karamanlis noted that Greece is following developments and giving priority to stability in tandem with a rise in the living standards of residents in the region.

    On his part, Cvetkovic said Greek-Serbian relations are excellent, recognising that Athens has stood by Belgrade in difficult times while thanking the Greek people for the support and aid given to the Serbian people.

    "We agreed with Mr. Karamanlis to intensify our cooperation," the Serbian PM stressed, while calling on Greek investors to invest in his country.

    [03] President receives Serb PM

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday received visiting Serb prime minister Mirko Cvetkovic, to whome he expressed his personal interest in the development of Greek-Serb relations, which he described as historical.

    "I have a tradition in the efforts for promotion of Greek-Serb relations," Papoulias, a former foreign minister, stressed, adding that he remained today personally interested in the development of those relations.

    He stressed that Greece supports Serbia's efforts for its European and Atlantic propsects, adding that "we want you to be strong, and we want Serbia to find the path to growth and stability".

    Papoulias described the bilateral relations as excellent, and noted in particular the economic cooperation between the two countries, stressing that Greece was on the front line of foreign investors in Serbia.

    Turning to finance minister Diana Dragutinovic, who is accompanying Cvetkovic on his Athens visit, Papoulias noted that "every finance minister is the firm backbone of the efforts made by the government".

    Cvetkovic, in turn, stressed that the relations between the two countries were friendly and long-lasting.

    [04] PM briefed by interior minister

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed by interior minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Tuesday on the ministry's planning for more efficient combating of crime and on the recently agreed EU pact on immigration and asylum.

    Pavlopoulos told reporters after the meeting that a new plan on curbing crime has entered into effect, adding that the improvement was visible with regard to case solving by the Greek Police.

    The minister said that he was not underestimating the problem, especially in specific neighborhoods, adding that the ministry would continue its efforts, while he also noted that the Greek Police has made significant steps as regarded organized crime.

    Regarding the migration pact, Pavlopoulos said that two crucial meetings would be held in November, at the initiative of the Italian EU presidency, concerning implementation of the Pact, keeping in mind human rights, and added that Greece has taken initiatives on that issue, which have been acknowledged by the EU.

    Pavlopoulos said that Greece would put forward at those meetings the matter of implementation of the Pact mainly by non-EU countries or countries wishing to join the EU, so that they would abide by their obligations in combating people trafficking.

    [05] PASOK leader meets heads of Greek banks

    Main opposition PASOK president George Papandreou on Tuesday had a succession of meetings with the heads of Greek commercial banks, including National Bank of Greece (NBG) governor Takis Arapoglou, Eurobank Chairman Nikos Nanopoulos, Piraeus Bank governor Michalis Sallas and Marfin Bank governor Andreas Vgenopoulos.

    Emerging from the two-hour meeting, Vgenopoulos said his talks with PASOK's president had not touched on an outstanding lawsuit for slander that he brought against Papandreou earlier in the year, when asked whether he had withdrawn his lawsuit.

    "No such issue was raised. Papandreou invited me to hear my views at this crucial period. This required, given the many problems that exist, that it be discussed in such a way so that the main opposition leader could learn of my positions. No other issue was discussed," Vgenopoulos said.

    The head of Marfin Bank said that his bank would not participate in the programme announced by the government but refused to comment on the positions expressed by PASOK either.

    The slander suit concerned statements made by Papandreou about Vgenopoulos and Marfin Investment Group (MIG) in connection with the further privatisation of Greece's main telecoms provider Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) to German-based Deutsche Telekom.

    [06] PASOK spokesman on meeting with bankers

    Main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papacon-stantinou termed the round of consultations with social partners party leader George Papandreou began on Monday as "extremely productive".

    Papandreou met on Tuesday with National Bank governor Takis Arapoglou, Eurobank managing director Nikos Nanopoulos, Bank of Piraeus President Mihalis Sallas and Marfin Investment Group vice president Andreas Vgenopoulos.

    According to Papaconstantinou, the PASOK leader wished to listen to the views of the heads of the banks on the economic crisis and to be briefed on the state of their banks, while also wanting their views on the government bill to support the monetary system and on PASOK's proposals.

    Papandreou also called on the banks to exhaust all ground to enable liquidity to pass to the real economy.

    Papaconstantinou also said that Papandreou raised with the bankers the issue of the refinancing of loans with the prolongation of their paying off time, the freezing of loans until the end of 2009, the abolition of abusive terms for cards and loans and the issue of high interest rates for cards and loans.

    Papaconstantinou said that everything possible must be done to protect the Greek family and the Greek business.

    [07] SYRIZA to propose off-the-agenda debate on jobs

    The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) has announced that it will table a proposal on Wednesday for an off-the-agenda debate between the party leaders in Parliament to discuss jobs, support for labour relations and support for purchasing power in order to deal with high prices and poverty.

    [08] SYN leader visits state ambulance service

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) leader Alexis Tsipras was briefed Tuesday on the problems faced by the State Emergency Ambulance Service (EKAB) personnel during a visit to the EKAB headquarters.

    After meeting with employee representatives at the EKAB facilities in Athens, Tsipras stated that he had an up close look at the personnel and ambulance shortage problems and charged that the National Health System (ESY) is being downgraded.

    Tsipras blamed the current and the previous governments for the state the EKAB,n accusing them of depreciating the health system to attract private investors to the hospital sector, while suggesting that radical policy change and fundamental reconstruction of ESY is required.

    [09] Greek, Montenegrin deputy DMs meet in Athens

    Bilateral relations between Greece and Montenegro were reviewed on Tuesday in talks between the Deputy Defence Ministers of the two countries, Yiannis Plakiotakis and Rajko Novisevic.

    The meeting confirmed once again the good level of bilateral relations, while prospects of further developing them were also examined.

    Plakiotakis pointed out that the ratification of the military cooperation agreement by the Greek Parliament "signals the beginning of the further development and strengthening of our bilateral relations."

    Novisevic praised Greece's stabilising role in southeastern Europe and thanked Greece for its support for the Montenegrin government's priority for its country's accession to Euro-Atlantic institutions.

    [10] Prisons council unveils proposals to justice minister

    The Central Scientific Council of Prisons convened on Tuesday to examine the demands of protesting inmates throughout the country, thousands of whom have joined an ongoing hunger strike that began in 21 prisons last week to demand improved conditions in Greek jails.

    After the end of the meeting, it unveiled a number of recommendations that it made to Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis in order to improve conditions and relieve overcrowding in Greek jails. These included a reduction in the maximum period for detaining a prisoner on remand from 18 months to one year, an increase of annual prison leave from 36 days to 48 days, giving prisoners the the option to buy off prison sentences of up to five years and allowing greater leeway for releasing prisoners suffering from serious health problems.

    The Greek justice ministry, meanwhile, has issued an announcement saying that it has been considering improvements to prison conditions for some time, as well as a series of favourable measures for certain categories of inmates, following a round of meetings and cooperation with the appropriate social bodies and officials in the justice sector.

    According to the announcement, the proposed measures will soon be announced and will be have specific targets and implementation deadlines.

    The prisoners' demands were presented by Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis last Thursday by the Initiative for the Rights of Prisoners and are also supported by the coordinating committee of Greek Bar Association presidents, the Hellenic Union for Human Rights and other bodies.

    Justice ministry on Council recommendations

    After meeting members of the prisons' council, Hatzigakis assured them that he would make every effort to carry out their proposals. According to the justice ministry, the measures proposed by the prisons' council would lead to the release from jail of some 1,500 prisoners.

    The minister on Tuesday also issued instructions to include a European directive concerning the modern framework of penalties for drugs cases in a bill dealing the coroners' service.

    Meanwhile, the ministry has sent out two circulars to prison wardens throughout Greece that ask them to ensure that parole boards fully explain why they turn down applications for prison leave and that inmates wishing to be included in prison work schemes get equal treatment.

    [11] Thessaloniki prefect wraps up visit to Australia

    MELBOURNE (ANA-MPA / S. Hatzimanolis)

    Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis concluded his five-day visit to Australia, held on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the twinning of Melbourne with Thessaloniki, and departed on Tuesday for his return to Greece.

    During his visit, Psomiadis met with the political leadership of the State of Victoria and visited major Greek expatriate community organizations.

    While in Melbourne, he attended the unveiling of a marble stele on Lonsdale Street, at the centre of the Greek quarters, donated by the Thessaloniki Prefecture with the figure of Alexander the Great carved on one side and Thessaloniki's patron Saint Demetrios on the other.

    Psomiadis attended the inauguration of a billboard exhibition at the premises of the Pan-Macedonian Association of Victoria, while he was also present in the inauguration of the Hellenic Museum of Melbourne launched with a special exhibition that focuses on Australians who fought and fell in Greece.

    Financial News

    [12] FinMin addresses EIB conference in Athens

    The Greek government's initiatives for ameliorating the impact of the international credit crisis have already yielded the first results, as the banks operating in the country were proceeding with relief measures for the financially weaker strata, economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday, addressing a European Investment Bank (EIB) conference in Athens marking the EIB's 50th anniversary.

    Alogoskoufis spoke in detail on the measures taken by the government to confront the crisis, and particularly its plan for boosting the liquidity of the Greek economy through support of banks, noting that vigilance was required since uncertainties continued to exist in the Greek economy as well despite the fact that it has shown much greater resilience than other economies.

    Turning to the EIB's activities in Greece, Alogoskoufis noted that of particular interest was its collaboration with commercial banks active in Greece regarding the enhancement of the cash flow of SMEs.

    He also noted that four more banks -- in addition to those four are already collaborating with the EIB -- have manifested strong interest in collaboration with the EIB.

    In that way, he said, the SME's would be ensured the ability of financing with beneficial terms and lower interest rates.

    In the last five years, EIB lending in Greece has exceeded 5.4 billion euros, while it is estimated at 1.2 billion euros for 2008.

    [13] EIB to channel loans to Greek SMEs, industry

    European Investment Bank Vice-president Plutarchos Sake-llaris on Tuesday outlined the EIB Group's plans to support Greece's real economy through cooperation with commercial banks to give low-cost loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) but also to finance industry, technology and infrastructure. He made the statements in Athens, after the conclusion of an EIB 50th anniversary conference.

    "The activity of the EIB will include financing SMEs but also large enterprises, as well as public-private sector partnerships (PPPs) and other types of concession partnerships. In order to boost the efficiency of the EIB we are complementing our existing range of tools with yet more means of allocating risk and other financing products," Sakellaris said.

    The Greek EIB vice-president said the bank's target was to double the number of commercial banks with which it cooperates in order to give loans to SMEs from the current four, in addition to doubling the available funds (600 million euros) so that these increased to 1.2 billion euros in a year.

    Sakellaris announced that the EIB was currently in negotiations with six banks operating in Greece, including some of the larger banks in the country.

    The head of the EIB financing department in Greece Themistocles Kouvarakis, on his part, estimated that the EIB could participate in some 40 selectable PPP projects currently underway in Greece, whose combined budget came to 4.5 billion euros.

    According to an EIB announcement published on its web-page, the bank seeks to mark its 50th year anniversary by "aiming at adjusting its activities to the current model of economic growth for Greece. The aim is to balance lending between private and public sector, through larger sector diversification and the support of the rapidly expanding services sector."

    It notes the need for "solid cooperation" with commercial banks in Greece and South-East Europe in the present general economic context, adding that this cooperation will be reinforced with new financing structures, which will enable better access to SMEs as well as to major Greek industrial groups with presence in the neighbouring countries.

    The EIB, whose primary role is to promote regional development and European integration by its long-term lending, is giving special emphasis to the development and support of PPP's as an additional financial instrument to support capital investment in economic and social infrastructure.

    The EIB's role is two-fold in this process of developing and financing PPPs. First, as the major specialist infrastructure financing institution within the European Union, it has a strong policy interest to facilitate greater investment in infrastructure by the private sector so as to meet the needs of the economy. Secondly, EIB is prepared to use its own considerable financial resources to expand, in co-operation with commercial banks, capital markets as well as private equity the resources available for infrastructure investment as well as social health, education and urban regeneration.

    [14] Hellenic Aerospace signs MoC with Russia's Irkut over BE-200

    Prospects of greater cooperation between Russia and Greece in the hi-tech sector were highlighted on Tuesday with the signing of MoC between the e Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) and Irkut Corp., a leading Russian aviation firm.

    The agreement will become operation if Greece decides to purchase the Beriev "Be-200" amphibian fire-fighting airplane.

    A relevant signing ceremony was attended Development Minister Christos Folias, Russian Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Borisovich Khristenko, Russia's ambassador to Athens and the president of the Russian company.

    Folias referred to the friendly ties between Athens and Moscow, underlining that Greece is a "valuable partner for Russia in the sector of energy and now we are called on to prove that we are equally appropriate partners in the sector of high technology as well."

    The Russian minister pointed out that his country has ambitious plans and is seeking out trustworthy international partners.

    According to the MoC, HAI will be assigned a portion of the construction of various aircrafts' compartments and electronic subsystems.

    In addition, HAI would be designated as a certified maintenance centre for the specific aircraft type, serving the international market and would participate in the designing and construction of the Russian passenger plane "MC-21", which is currently under development.

    [15] Tourist development minister visiting Britain

    LONDON (ANA-MPA/K.Halkiadakis)

    Tourist Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos visited the renovated Greek Tourist Organisation's (EOT) office in the heart of London on Tuesday in the framework of his visit to Britain.

    The renovated office will be operating officially in about a month.

    In carrying out a series of contacts, the tourism ministry's leadership hopes, in the midst of the global economic crisis, to maintain Greek tourism's shares in 2009 at last year's levels. Special reference must also be made to the fact that the major travel agents TUI and Thomas Cook predict an increase in tourists visiting Greece through them.

    The Greek side, in order to facilitate the tourist wave, is examining the possibility of approaching the low-cost company Ryanair at regional airports, while the contacts held revealed that the vacuum created in flights to Greece by the bankruptcy of the British XL tourist organisation has already been filled.

    The climate of optimism for a bloodless exit from the crisis is substantiated by the fact that international tourist industry officials are stressing that European destinations in the south will not be affected by the wave of cancellations for distant and costly destinations.

    Greece is insisting again this year in the tourist campaign titled Greece the true experience, with advertising posters being placed at main locations in the streets of London. The ministry's campaign this year will amount to about 40 million euros, 3.5 million euros of which will be directed to Britain's market.

    [16] SW Bulgarian tourist resort project presented in Thessaloniki

    A major resort project in Bansko, Bulgaria, was presented in Thessaloniki by the investors' exclusive representative in Greece and Cyprus on Tuesday.

    Christened the Pirin Golf & Country Club, representatives of the firm, Parthenon Real Estate, dubbed the endeavour as the largest tourist investment in SE Europe, while announced an estimated construction budget of 300 million euros.

    The planned resort, occupying 200 hectares, features two golf courses, private residents, a five-star hotel with a capacity of 320 beds, is expected to be ready this summer. Additionally, it will host an upscale spa.

    According to representatives at a press conference given in the northern Greece port city, 50 percent of the project is ready -- the emphasis now apparently centres on attracting foreign investments and commercial interest in the project.

    The wider Bansko ski resort region, 220 kilometres northeast of Thessaloniki, has emerged as a tourist destination during the past few years.

    [17] PASOK MPs table question on Larco

    Forty-six main opposition PASOK party MPs tabled a question in Parliament addressed to the ministers of finance and development, in which they allege mismanagement at Larco, the General Mining and Metallurgical Company (GMMSA).

    The opposition MPs maintain that both the "dismissed" and the new board of Larco, amongst the largest ferronickel producers in the world, are responsible for mismanagement and decreased corporate losses.

    [18] Motor Oil Hellas announces dividend

    The Motor Oil Hellas board of directors announced a dividend of 0.20 euros per share as an interim dividend for the 2008.

    The interim dividend will be paid at least 20days after the fulfilment of the publications and formalities.

    [19] IASO bond loan worth 18.5 mln euros

    The Athens-based maternity ward and healthcare group IASO S.A. announced that it will receive a bond loan worth 18.5 million as part of its bond revolving efforts.

    The loan is of a three-year duration with the option of a one-year extension.

    [20] Stocks slip 6.42% on Tuesday

    Greek stocks suffered heavy losses at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, mirroring a similar trend on international markets. The composite index plunged 6.42 pct to end at 2,050.31 points, with turnover a low 172.3 million euros, of which 9.2 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower, with Food-Beverages (8.64 pct), Banks (8.15 pct), Financial Services (7.75 pct), Constructions (7.74 pct) and Chemicals (7.10 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    The FTSE 20 index plunged 7.28 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 3.55 pct down and the FTSE 80 index dropped 3.36 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 214 to 26 with another 17 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -6.05%

    Industrials: -4.86%

    Commercial: -2.84%

    Construction: -7.74%

    Media: -2.98%

    Oil & Gas: -3.82%

    Personal & Household: -2.65%

    Raw Materials: -5.70%

    Travel & Leisure: -4.49%

    Technology: -2.42%

    Telecoms: -4.60%

    Banks: -8.15%

    Food & Beverages: -8.64%

    Health: -1.94%

    Utilities: -2.77%

    Chemicals: -7.10%

    Financial Services: -7.75%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 10.52

    ATEbank: 1.74

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 9.50

    HBC Coca Cola: 11.08

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.08

    National Bank of Greece: 17.62

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.94

    Intralot: 4.64

    OPAP: 18.62

    OTE: 11.20

    Bank of Piraeus: 9.60

    Titan Cement Company: 12.50

    [21] Foreign Exchange Rates: Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.284

    Pound sterling 0.821

    Danish kroner 7.502

    Swedish kroner 10.119

    Japanese yen 125.77

    Swiss franc 1.509

    Norwegian kroner 8.814

    Canadian dollar 1.528

    Australian dollar 1.918

    General News

    [22] Parliament honours WWII resistance heroes Glezos and Santas

    The Hellenic Parliament on Tuesday awarded silver medals to the WWII resistance fighters Manolis Glezos and Apostolos Santas for their heroic actions on May 30, 1941, when they lowered the Nazi flag then flying over the Acropolis.

    "Parliament honours two of the most important fighters and patriots, two great Greeks. And the honour is still greater because it is delayed. Because 67 years afterwards, their action has survived the stream of great events that has intervened and is still unique, historic and timely," said Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas in an address at the event.

    He stressed that the lowering the Nazi Swastika from the Athens Acropolis was a source of "strength and an example for the people struggling for freedom and democracy" and that no other single action had managed to raise the morale of the beleaguered Greek nation as much that one.

    At a special ceremony organised by Sioufas, the two resistance heroes were also offered a papyrus scroll and a copy of the two-volume work by MP Constantinos Gioulekas on the 1940-41 Greek war against the Axis forces, which includes all Greek press publications of that time.

    [23] 90th WWI Armistice Day commemorated in Thessaloniki

    Greek officials and foreign diplomats on Tuesday commemo-rated the 90th anniversary since the cessation of hostilities at the end of World War I on November 11, 1918. Those present observed a minute of silence in honour of the fallen, followed by wreath-laying ceremonies in the five sectors of the Allied Cemetery of Zejtinlik (Serb, Russian, French, Italian and British) and at the III Army Corps Monument in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, a major hub in the Balkan theatre of operations during WWI.

    The Macedonia-Thrace ministry was represented by its general secretary Loukas Ananikas, while the ceremony was also attended by representatives of Thessaloniki's local government bodies, church and military and a number of foreign envoys representing Serbia, Russia, Cyprus, Ukraine, Germany, the U.S., Georgia, Italy, Croatia, Malta and the United Kingdom.

    [24] Gang of hooded assailants attack political party offices in central Athens

    The new offices of main opposition PASOK party in downtown Athens were attacked on Tuesday by a group of roughly 15 hooded individuals at around noon, with the assailants throwing stones, wooden sticks and paint "bombs" at the office building's facade.

    Immediately afterwards they turned against the political office of former merchant marine minister George Voulgarakis, located across the street.

    The group, reportedly self-styled anarchist and anti-state activists, threw paint at Voulgarakis' office and caused damage to the vehicle belonging to his security detail, as well as to another three parked cars.

    Finally, the assailants caused limited damage to a Eurobank bank branch and to a bookstore owned by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) MP Adonis Georgiadis before fleeing toward Exarchia square, a long-reputed reputed hub of anarchist activity in central Athens.

    Weather Forecast

    [25] Cloudy on Wednesday

    Slightly cloudy weather with northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 5C and 22C. Fair in Athens, with 3-4 beaufort northwesterly winds and temperatures ranging from 12C to 19C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 9C to 18C.

    [26] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The dismissal of ruling New Democracy MP Petros Tatoulis from the party and the Greek bankers' decision to back government plan on the international credit crisis dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Government left with 151 deputies - Petros Tatoulis dismissed from the party".

    APOGEVMATINI: "PM considered Tatoulis' statements to a Sunday newspaper as the straw that broke the camel's back".

    AVGHI: "4,800 cries from prisons - The largest prisoners' hunger strike".

    AVRIANI: "After Tatoulis' removal, Americans and 'pimps' (of the country's political life) ......in search of a renegade to bring down the government".

    CHORA: "Who will take the largest portion of the pie - The bankers agree to enter to the government's plan, but without monitoring".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Dismissal-ultimatum to ND's parliament members".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The government on a tightrope - Tatoulis' dismissal was a quandary for Karamanlis".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "ND at stake, the parliament group is left again with a marginal majority".

    ESTIA: "Tatoulis' removal was delayed - The political damage has already been done".

    ETHNOS: "The nightmare of ND parliamentary group's 151 marginal majority returns".

    KATHIMERINI: "The government with marginal majority - The Prime Minister ousted Tatoulis".

    LOGOS: "Tatoulis left but the rebels remain -Government majority is marginal".

    NIKI: "ND hanging on a thread - Effort to govern with 151 deputies".

    RIZOSPASTIS: Communist Party of Greece leader Aleka Papariga states: The hospitals are not shops to function as enterprises.

    TA NEA: "Full speed ahead towards general elections - Countdown for Karamanlis".

    TO VIMA : "The Tatoulis enigma - Prevailing rumours and scenarios of a new party".

    VRADYNI: "End to undermining - Karamanlis' message via Tatoulis' dismissal".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [27] President: final give and take on conclusion of discussions

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The final give and take in the ongoing direct talks on the question of Cyprus will take place once discussion on all aspects of the problem is concluded, President Demetris Christofias said here Tuesday.

    Speaking after his seventh meeting with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat, he explained that in a difficult negotiating process there is convergence of views but also differences.

    "Consequently, it is no coincidence that we have authorized our aides to meet again on Friday to discuss issues on which final convergence can be reached," he told the press on his return to the presidential palace.

    The two aides to the community leaders, George Iacovou and Ozdil Nami, meet regularly to assist the work of the leaders in their effort to find a negotiated settlement, that will reunite Cyprus, which has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    Asked about the outcome of Tuesday's meeting with Talat, the president said there is always convergence and disagreement but refrained from any further comment.

    "If we had the same positions right from the start, the problem would have been solved before we began," he pointed out.

    Christofias said that "there must be convergence on the philosophy of the kind of state we want, on how unified, firm and functional this state will be and this is a topic we shall be discussing until the end."

    Replying to questions, he explained that concluding discussion on one aspect of the Cyprus problem does not necessarily mean agreement on everything before another topic is discussed.

    "When we talk about conclusion of a discussion on governance, we must not expect that we shall agree on everything and then we shall move on to the chapter on property," he noted.

    At some stage, he went on to add, the two leaders will agree on the points of convergence, the common views and positions, where points of agreement and disagreement.

    "All these will be put aside. Once we conclude the discussions on all the aspects of the Cyprus issue, then we shall go back to see what give and take we can achieve, where and how," he said.

    President Christofias stressed that "this is the technique of the negotiation, as we have proposed it and there was no objection to this."

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