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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-12-02

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Tuesday, 2 December 2008 Issue No: 3061


  • [01] PM reviews progress in farm sector
  • [02] Dutch European Affairs minister meets Bakoyannis, Valinakis
  • [03] FM Bakoyannis addresses event on poverty-social exclusion
  • [04] Gov't: Greeks in Thailand not at risk
  • [05] European Socialists adopt manifesto for 2009 Euro-elections
  • [06] FYROM President says resorting to International Court 'loss of valuable time'
  • [07] Interior minister addresses provincial press awards event
  • [08] Justice minister on 'European Supervision Order'
  • [09] KKE query on health sector
  • [10] Alavanos on correctional system
  • [11] Replacement for Vatopedi Abbot
  • [12] Focused measures needed for Greek economy, FinMin
  • [13] PASOK on draft budget, taxes
  • [14] Greek liaison office at World Bank
  • [15] Greek PMI dropped to record low in November
  • [16] Listed firms' profits down 19.6% in Q3
  • [17] MIG buys 49.9% of German executive jet operator for 15 mln euros
  • [18] J&P Avax reports lower nine-month profits
  • [19] New national park created at Axios River wetlands
  • [20] ASE suspends trading in SheetSteel SA
  • [21] Greek stocks end 2.78% down
  • [22] Greek bond market closing report
  • [23] Foreign Exchange rates: Tuesday
  • [24] Detainee found hanged in police jail
  • [25] Robbers attack ELTA vehicle, flee with 60,000 euros
  • [26] Drunken passenger attempts hijack to get to Greece
  • [27] Elderly junta protagonist indirectly requests release
  • [28] Cloudy on Tuesday
  • [29] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [30] Direct talks are moving ahead well, says the UN Secretary General

  • [01] PM reviews progress in farm sector

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis visited the agricultural development ministry on Monday morning, where he discussed progress in the government's programme in the farm sector with minister Alexandros Kontos and Deputy Minister Costas Kiltidis.

    "Implementation of a specific strategy has borne tangible results, but the government is not complacent," Karamanlis said after the visit, warning again that "populism and demagogy do not solve problems".

    The country, the provinces and the farmers require seriousness and responsible action, the premier said, adding that the government has "made its choices and we are acting with seriousness, responsibility and the disposition for contribution".

    Karamanlis said the international financial crisis demands constant vigilance, and stressed that the first measures have already been taken to fortify the farmers and the provinces. He noted that 170 million euros in indemnities have already been paid out, while 150 million euros in interest-free loans are being advanced to agricultural cooperatives to be allocated as down payments to farmers producing cereals.

    He further said that the best possible agreement had been made in the vineyard/wine production sector, while incentives were being given to young farmers with simplified and decentralized procedures. Tenders for the relevant programs have already been issues, while at Greece's initiative the EU decided to increase the support ceiling for young farmers to 75,000 euros per land exploitation, the premier continued.

    Karamanlis also stressed that infrastructure projects budgeted at 6 billion euros were currently under construction in the periphery, aimed at boosting competitiveness, exploitation of the water resources, environmental protection, forest protection, fortification of the farmers, and the production of competitive, quality products with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), while actions were being developed for the promotion and projection of Greek products.

    The premier underlined that the government has undertaken specific initiatives for supporting stockbreeding, adding that the law was recently passed contains 31 measures and actions in that direction.

    Production in Greece's countryside was increasing, Karamanlis said, noting that the target was for the farmers to become modern-day entrepreneurs on their own land.

    PASOK reaction

    In a later reaction to the PM's visit, a main opposition PASOK spokesman noted that the government is "merely continuing to parade the premier around on tours of no substance."

    [02] Dutch European Affairs minister meets Bakoyannis, Valinakis

    Dutch European Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans held talks on issues concerning the Lisbon Treaty, European Union enlargement and the international financial crisis during meetings with the leadership of Greece's foreign ministry on Monday. The visiting Dutch minister was received by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and held talks with Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis.

    In statements afterwards, Valinakis said that he had outlined Greece's positions on European issues in view of the ECOFIN council on Monday and the European Council next week.

    "Our position is that the remaining countries must ratify the [Lisbon] Treaty and at the same time we will declare Greece's willingness to support the efforts of the Irish government to find a solution for the problem that arose with [the Treaty's] rejection in the referendum," Valinakis said.

    On the issue of enlargement, Valinakis underlined Greece's position that "all the criteria and prerequisites set by the European Union must be respected by candidate states in order for enlargement to take place".

    Such criteria included abiding by the rules for good neighbour relations, especially by countries that had failed to display such behaviour in the past. These had to realise that this was a very important condition for their further progress, he added.

    The minister said he had especially emphasised this point during the talks with Timmermans, who on Tuesday continues his tour with a visit to Cyprus.

    "It will be useful for him to be aware of these Greek positions exacty," Valinakis said.

    They also discussed other issues currently at the forefront in Europe, such as climate change, energy security and combating illegal migration, the minister told reporters.

    Their talks on the global financial crisis had focused on the need for cooperation and close coordination between all European countries as the only route leading to a "decisive reply to this crisis and to the danger that it will evolve into a crisis for the real economy".

    Valinakis stressed that European efforts against the crisis should continue, adding that there would be new developments during the ECOFIN council and next week's summit.

    [03] FM Bakoyannis addresses event on poverty-social exclusion

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, speaking at an event held at a downtown Athens hotel by the society of friends of the homeless foundation on Monday, said that the economic crisis must not be allowed to become a social one as well and harm sensitive groups of the population.

    Her address was based on the theme "poverty-social exclusion. The challenges of the 21st century."

    The foreign minister referred to the policy of the Karamanlis government, which "has defined a focused development policy for shielding the cohesion of Greek society."

    Bakoyannis further referred to the National Social Cohesion Fund, also known as the Fund against Poverty, and stressed the need for sensitisation by businesses on the development of partner social responsibility actions that will contribute to the difficult task of tackling poverty.

    The foreign minister spoke of Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis and praised him "for his considerable contribution to social cohesion actions and the expansion of the social solidarity network."

    She also underlined that "we must feel proud as a country and as a society because we have never experienced extreme phenomena and because humanity and solidarity are the strength of our society and the foundation stone for the development of actions to combat poverty and social exclusion."

    [04] Gov't: Greeks in Thailand not at risk

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Monday said that there was no reason to fear for the health or safety of Greek citizens currently trapped in Thailand, referring reporters to an announcement issued by the Greek foreign ministry regarding the actions taken to assist their return to Greece in a military C-130 transport plane.

    The Greek foreign ministry earlier issued an announcement regarding the situation in Thailand, where the country's two international airports have stopped operating after they were taken over by protestors:

    "Since the start of the events, the Greek Embassy in Thailand has been following the developments closely and is in constant communication with Thai authorities and working in coordination with other European Community embassies.

    According to on-the-spot assessments, the situation does engender concern for the safety of foreigners in the country. At this time, a limited number of commercial flights to nearby airports is taking place, leading to extensive delays and long waiting lists. In order to deal with this situation, the necessary preparations and procedures have begun to obtain the licences that will allow a C-130 aircraft to depart as soon as possible, in order to bring back Greek citizens in Thailand that wish to return to Greece."

    The foreign ministry also announced a 24-hour emergency phone line at the Greek Embassy in Bangkok (006684-0105060) where Greek citizens can communicate with the embassy and the number 210 3681730 at the Greek foreign ministry in Athens.

    [05] European Socialists adopt manifesto for 2009 Euro-elections

    MADRID (ANA-MPA / V. Mourtis)

    A "manifesto" for the upcoming European Parliament elections was approved at a European Socialist Party conference meeting held here on Monday.

    "The socialists will face the financial crisis united and provide answers through human-centered policies," main opposition PASOK party and Socialist International (SI) President George Papandreou stressed in comments he made afterwards.

    "The objective is to promote democracy, transparency and citizen participation, guarantee social policy and justice and invest in 'green development' and peace," he stressed, adding that the European Socialists hope that Obama's election to the US presidency will offer more opportunities for better understanding on major issues such as globalisation, climate change and poverty.

    The European Socialist Party manifesto stresses that Europe has to choose between two directions, progressive or conservative. The progressive Europe signals the collective and effective operation of European bodies on all major issues, whereas the conservative Europe is interested only in the uncontrollable operation of the market.

    According to the European Social-Democrats, the European Union can play a pivotal role in supporting its member-states, helping them deal with the global financial crisis.

    The manifesto stresses that the energy issue is of major importance and is associated with the European safety therefore, Europe should face the energy dependence problem effectively.

    The issue of legal immigration in the EU calls for better management through a common policy based on solidarity, respect and the right of each member state to decide on the flow of migration it will accept, according to the manifesto, which also stresses that terrorism, crime and extremism know no boundaries and Europe has to take action.

    The European Socialists' also point out the need for reform in the financial markets to deal with recession, create new jobs and increase growth rate.

    They suggest new control regulations for financial markets, adoption of new models of transparency and control in the European bodies, and creation of a European strategy for smart 'green development' which could generate up to 10 million new job positions by the year 2020.

    As regards the climate change, they suggest the drawing up a comprehensive environmental regulation for Europe as a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol, while on the issue of gender equality they proposed the adoption of a European charter boosting the rights of women.

    [06] FYROM President says resorting to International Court 'loss of valuable time'

    SKOPJE (ANA-MPA/N. Frangopoulos)

    Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) President Branko Crvenkovski said on Monday that his country resorting to the International Court at The Hague, accusing Greece of violating article 11 of the Interim Agreement signed between the two countries in 1995, was a "loss of valuable time."

    Speaking to a private Skopje-based television channel, President Crvenkovski reiterated the view that the completion of the process could last for many years, while even in the case that its outcome is favourable for FYROM the court lacks the apparatuses to implement its rulings.

    He also drew attention to the fact that the decision taken by NATO in Bucharest not to extend an invitation to FYROM had been unanimous and was the result of negotiations between all its member-states, while no reference was made to Greece anywhere.

    President Crvenkovski further assessed that accession to NATO and the European Union cannot be achieved with court rulings and a UN resolution, but "such a thing will take place with a unanimous decision by all the members of these two Organisations, including the positive stance of the Greek side."

    FYROM's government had resorted to the International Court on November 17, accusing Greece of violating article 11 of the Interim Agreement, due to Greece's veto at the NATO summit in Bucharest.

    [07] Interior minister addresses provincial press awards event

    The importance of provincial mass media was underlined on Monday by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, in his address at the 3rd annual provincial press awards ceremony.

    Pavlopoulos stressed that provincial newspapers promote the history of local societies and underlined that notable steps have been made over the past four and a half years to support the sector.

    The 2007 daily newspaper award was shared by "Proini Gnomi" (Patras) and "Cretan Journal" (Rethymno). In the same category, the newspaper "Thraki" in the prefecture of Xanthi received an honorary distinction.

    The awards have been instituted by the Secretariat General of Communication-Secretariat General of Information as part of attempts to highlight the contribution of provincial newspapers to local societies.

    [08] Justice minister on 'European Supervision Order'

    Greek Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Monday said that Greece was largely in favour of a proposed 'European Supervision Order' for use in pre-trial procedures. He was speaking during a meeting of the European justice ministers' council.

    Commenting on the proposed measure, Hatzigakis said that Greece was following its progress with interest and that it was broadly in line with recent measures taken by the Greek government that were designed to relieve overcrowding in Greek prisons.

    The proposed European framework decision seeks to avert the unnecessary detention pending trial of EU citizens normally resident in another EU member-state, simply to ensure their presence when their case came to trial. Instead, it proposes placing them under the supervision of their home state to be tried and thus avoiding the disruption to their social and professional ties in the country they live in.

    "Our aim is to achieve full equality before the law for citizens of EU member-states, since we are living at a time of constant movement of citizens within the boundaries of the EU as a very simple, daily affair," Hatzigakis noted.

    He said the proposal was of particular interest to Greece, since it was among the member-states that received a steady flow of visitors from all member-states throughout the year.

    The minister emphasised, however, that the measures in no way concerned what he called "habitual and hardened criminals".

    [09] KKE query on health sector

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MPs tabled a question in Parliament on Monday directed to the ministry of health regarding what the party deputies call the "unacceptable situation in the sector of health".

    In their tabled question, the communist MPs also pointed to the situation as emanating from the "results of a privatisation policy."

    The question, signed at the top by KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga, charges that a continuous deterioration of problems in the health sector is the result of political decisions made by the current government and by previous PASOK governments.

    The KKE MPs also blame their leftist rival in Parliament, the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), for "maintaining that controlled business activities and fulfilling people's needs can co-exist."

    [10] Alavanos on correctional system

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary head Alekos Alavanos on Monday spoke at a one-day seminar organised by the leftist grouping on the state of Greece's correctional system, days after a large-scale hunger strike by thousands of inmates in protest of better prison conditions ended.

    Alavanos also took the opportunity to comment on the ongoing Vatopedi Monastery land exchanges with the state, charging that the current ND government was merely intensifying the loss of public lands that the previous PASOK government had commenced.

    In response to a justice ministry draft law expected to alleviate overcrowding in Greece's prison system, Alavanos said it was insufficient, although it was important that it was heading in the right direction.

    [11] Replacement for Vatopedi Abbot

    The administrative responsibilities relinquished by Vatopedi Monastery Abbot Ephraim, following his closely watched meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul last week, will be turned over to Monk Germanos, according to a relevant decision by the Mount Athos monastery's eight-member monastic council on Monday.

    Ephraim will continue to be the eponymous monastery's Abbot and exercise his spiritual duties.

    The Mount Athos community, the supreme administrative body of the autonomous all-male Orthodox monastic community located on a promontory in northern Greece, will convene a joint meeting of all 20 monastery representatives and abbots on Tuesday to discuss the latest developments in the monastic community -- particularly the politically charged Vatopedi land swaps with the state.

    Financial News

    [12] Focused measures needed for Greek economy, FinMin

    Greece is not facing the intensity of problems linked to the ongoing global financial crisis compared to other countries, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Monday.

    Speaking to reporters during a radio interview, the minister stressed that the Greek economy grew by more than 3.0 pct in the third quarter of 2008, adding that forecasts for economic growth in 2009 are gloomier, but that developments are being closely monitored.

    Alogoskoufis underlined the need for specific measures to support the economy and social groups, while he added that figures change from day to day, week after week, month after month.

    "We must be constantly alert to take the necessary initiatives," he said.

    He said that EU member-states are able to announce a general cut of VAT rates without any permission by the European Commission, but that selective changes of VAT need approval by both the Commission and the ECOFIN Council.

    [13] PASOK on draft budget, taxes

    Main opposition PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Monday said the party would do its utmost to highlight the shortcomings of the budget tabled by the government and to outline a "alternative approach" that will be presented by PASOK leader George Papandreou during an off-the-agenda debate in Parliament at the end of the week.

    Papaconstantinou also stressed that any "benefits package" announced by the government would be more than compensated for by the new taxes on cars and houses that Greek citizens would find themselves paying in 2009.

    [14] Greek liaison office at World Bank

    The ministry of finance has opened a liaison office at the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C. to support Greek companies wishing to participate in World Bank projects.

    The Greek Business Liaison Office will provide information not immediately available to the public, thereby facilitating companies active in manufacturing and commerce as well as consulting firms, construction contractors and technical advisers.

    [15] Greek PMI dropped to record low in November

    Greece's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) dropped to an all-time low in November, reflecting a shrinking production, new orders and employment rates in the manufacturing sector of the country. The PMI index fell to 42.3 points, down from 48.1 in October.

    New orders fell for the second consecutive month in November, reflecting a further weakening of demand both from domestic and foreign markets. Lower production and new orders levels led to a decline in job positions in November, at record rates. Commenting on the figures of the Greek PMI, Gemma Wallace, Markit Economics' analyst said although the consequences of the global financial crisis don't seem to affect the Greek manufacturing sector, a recent decline in interest rates by the European Central Bank was decided at the right time. Production and news orders fell for the second consecutive month, while sentiment in the sector have not improved despite lower interest rates and government-sponsored plan to offer 28 billion euros in the economy.

    [16] Listed firms' profits down 19.6% in Q3

    Greek-listed enterprises reported a significant worsening of their results in the third quarter of the year, with negative results by companies in the commercial and industrial sectors pointing to a gloomy outlook for corporate profitability in the coming quarters.

    Two-thirds of listed companies reported losses or lower profits in the January-September period, while a total of 117 companies reported losses in the third quarter of the year.

    Based on financial reports published by 289 listed enterprises, turnover rose by 17.3 pct in the third quarter, while after tax profits fell 19.6 pct. Operating earnings fell 1.4 pct in the nine-month period and were down 14 pct in the third quarter.

    The Wholesale and Retail Commerce sectors reported a 30 percent increase in borrowing, while the IT sector's borrowing was up 77 pct and the Fish Farming Industry's debt rose 17 pct in the third quarter.

    A report by Pegasus Securities said a decline in building activity, record-high fuel prices, strike mobilizations in the countries major ports and public sector enterprises and a negative climate in stock markets were the main factors that negatively affected corporate profitability in the July-September period this year.

    [17] MIG buys 49.9% of German executive jet operator for 15 mln euros

    Marfin Investment Group on Monday announced the purchase of a 49.99-pct stake in Flight Ambulance International Rent - A - Jet Aktiengesellschaft (FAI), from Axtmann Beteiligungus GmbH, for 15 million euros. As part of the deal, MIG has the right to raise its stake to 51 pct for an additional 2.5 million euros in the next two years.

    FAI is one of the top three airlift companies in Europe and one of the top five in the sector globally.

    It is based in Nuremberg and owns a fleet of seven Lear jets along with privately owned management and maintenance facilities.

    The company expects a turnover of 26 million euros, EBITDA of 6.5 million euros and pre-tax profits of 4.6 million euros this year.

    [18] J&P Avax reports lower nine-month profits

    J&P Avax reported a 12.5 pct decine in its after tax and minorities profits to 17.272 million euros in the January-September period, from 19.742 million euros in the corresponding period last year.

    The construction company said group turnover jumped 50.14 pct to 670.896 million euros, from 452.765 million euros last year, while parent turnover soared 75.27 percent to 381.386 million euros. Net after tax profits, however, fell 47.13 pct to 4.645 million euros.

    [19] New national park created at Axios River wetlands

    The wetlands formed by the deltas of the Axios, Loudias, Gallikos and Aliakmonas rivers in northern Greece were on Monday declared a national park based on a joint ministerial decree signed by Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias.

    Included in the territory of the park are the areas of land, water and sea around the four rivers, the Kitrou Saltworks, the Kalohori lagoon and the surrounding region.

    Souflias said the park would cover an expanse of 33,800 hectares that comprised a habitat of global importance, one that was a home and breeding ground for several species of animals and plants. The area is also protected under the RAMSAR and Berne treaties.

    He also emphasised the region's major importance as a resting place on the central Mediterranean migration route for birds, as well as an area where several rare species of birds spent the winter. Souflias reported that 277 bird species have been recorded in the territory that will be included in the park, or roughly 63 percent of the total bird species observed in Greece. It is also home to 31 species of mammals.

    [20] ASE suspends trading in SheetSteel SA

    The Athens Stock Exchange on Monday announced a temporary suspension of trading in shares of SheetSteel SA after the listed companies failed to draft its nine-month results (January-September 2008) according to international accounting standards.

    [21] Greek stocks end 2.78% down

    Greek stocks ended significantly lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, following a similar trend on international markets. The composite index dropped 2.78 pct to end at 1,860.27 points, with turnover a low of 90.6 million euros, of which 2.8 million euros were block trades.

    All sectors moved lower, with the Healthcare (5.28 pct), Oils (4.41 pct), Food/Beverage (3.99 pct), Constructions (3.15 pct) and Banks (3.10 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 2.82 pct, the FTSE 40 index dropped 2.46 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 2.22 pct down. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 144 to 61 with another 51 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -0.19%

    Industrials: -1.28%

    Commercial: -2.97%

    Construction: -3.15%

    Media: -2.74%

    Oil & Gas: -4.41%

    Personal & Household: -1.09%

    Raw Materials: -2.47%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.30%

    Technology: -1.19%

    Telecoms: -2.48%

    Banks: -3.10%

    Food & Beverages: -3.99%

    Health: -5.28%

    Utilities: -0.17%

    Chemicals: -0.03%

    Financial Services: -2.03

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Public Power Corp (PPC), Bank of Cyprus and OPAP.

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

    Alpha Bank: 7.70

    ATEbank: 1.50

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.48

    HBC Coca Cola: 11.60

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.64

    National Bank of Greece: 13.98

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.50

    Intralot: 3.66

    OPAP: 18.86

    OTE: 11.00

    Bank of Piraeus: 7.76

    Titan Cement Company: 13.00

    [22] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 405 million euros on Monday, of which 150 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 255 million were sell orders.

    The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 210 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds jumped to a record 168 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 4.83 pct and the German Bund 3.15 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 3.92 pct, the six-month rate 3.85 pct, the three-month rate 3.82 pct and the one-month rate 3.52 pct.

    [23] Foreign Exchange rates: Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.270

    Pound sterling 0.848

    Danish kroner 7.509

    Swedish kroner 10.441

    Japanese yen 119.37

    Swiss franc 1.538

    Norwegian kroner 8.962

    Canadian dollar 1.585

    Australian dollar 1.980

    General News

    [24] Detainee found hanged in police jail

    A 32-year-old man detained in a police jail at Alexandria, Imathia was found hanged in his cell late on Sunday night. He had used material from a blanket as a noose.

    The man had been arrested a few hours earlier for theft and was due to appear before a Veria public prosecutor.

    A coroner has been brought in to examine the body and an inquiry launched into the affair.

    [25] Robbers attack ELTA vehicle, flee with 60,000 euros

    Three robbers got away with the sum of 60,000 euros after immobilizing a Hellenic Post (ELTA) vehicle on the Athens-Lamia motorway on Monday morning.

    The vehicle was stopped at the Malesina intersection, central Greece, and the assailants smashed its windows to get to its driver, who suffered severe injuries after being brutally beaten up.

    The escape car used by the robbers was found abandoned nearby and according to police, they perpetrators using a second car.

    The ELTA driver was taken to hospital in critical condition.

    [26] Drunken passenger attempts hijack to get to Greece

    An intoxicated man of Greek-Russian dual nationality was responsible for the most recent failed attempt by a drunken passenger to hijack a plane bound for Russia. The incident occurred over the weekend, on a Transaero flight that left Varadero, Cuba on Saturday for Domodedovo airport near Moscow.

    The drunken man, identified as Ilias Tsoulfas or Ilya Chulfa, made his way to the cockpit during the flight and attempted to force the captain to set a course for Greece, which he proclaimed to be his homeland. According to media reports, Chulfa was already drunk when he boarded the flight in Cuba, along with another 208 passengers and a crew of 11.

    He was subdued and restrained by the crew, who kept him strapped to his seat for the remainder of the flight. He was handed him over to Russian police as soon as the plane landed in Moscow on Sunday, who let him go after he had paid a fine.

    There have been at least three attempts by intoxicated passengers to hijack airliner's bound for Russia, the most recent involving a Turkish Airways plane in mid October.

    [27] Elderly junta protagonist indirectly requests release

    One of the last remaining ringleaders of the military junta that ruled Greece with an "iron fist" between 1967 and 1974, 86-year-old Dimitris Ioannidis, on Monday requested his inclusion in draft bill envisioning early release of inmates to alleviate overcrowding in Greek prisons.

    Ioannidis, who with the rank of brigadier general commanded the dreaded ESA military police during the dictatorship and essentially held the behind-the-scenes power after a students' uprising in November 1973 until the junta collapsed in July 1974, asked that a relevant draft law be amended to afford him conditional release from prison, where he has been held since 1975.

    The letter was addressed to Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis.

    In a previous statement on the specific issue, the justice ministry's leadership made it clear that individuals incarcerated for their involvement in the 1967 coup are excluded from the new regulations allowing the release of elderly and debilitated inmates.

    Weather Forecast

    [28] Cloudy on Tuesday

    Cloudy weather with the possibility of local showers and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 5C and 23C. Partly cloudy in Athens, with southerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 11C to 21C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 9C to 16C.

    [29] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The Vatopedi Monastery affair and abbot Ephraim's resignation from his administrative duties, the upcoming appearances by politicians before the relevant parliamentary fact-finding commission, the government's planned package of measures for SMEs and the EU's measures for protecting borrowers were the main front-page items in Monday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Package of benefits will accompany the Budget - What the premier decided".

    APOGEVMATINI: "200,000 new jobs - Exclusive interview with OAED (manpower employment organization) governor Vernadakis".

    CHORA: "For whom the bell tolls - New Democracy being torn to pieces by the Vatopedi scandal".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Pensions: Heading towards equalization of retirement age for 200,000 women".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Week of ministerial martyrdom - Heavy climate for the government from the opinion polls and threat of parliamentary preliminary investigation committee (on Vatopedi affair)".

    ESTIA: "Redeployment of government necessary for reversal of negative climate".

    ETHNOS: "Terror of mutual backstabbing - Parliament: Zero hour with testimonies by 9 'blue' (color referring to the ruling New Democracy party) ministers".

    TA NEA: "Euro-breather of 480 euros from reduction of interest - 'Brussels measures' for borrowers".

    VRADYNI: "Fortification of SMEs - Government measures for employment and entrepreneurship".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [30] Direct talks are moving ahead well, says the UN Secretary General


    The direct negotiations, aimed at a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, "are moving ahead well, with both parties presenting their respective positions and engaging with each other in a constructive and open manner", Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General noted in his report on the United Nations operation in Cyprus, that was released on Monday.

    Ban pointed out that "nonetheless the issues to be addressed are difficult and differences along the way will naturally appear. Many issues cut across each other and cannot be considered in isolation but rather as areas for potential compromise. The nature of the process therefore demands a diligent and patient approach. I am confident that both leaders will remain engaged through regular meetings and committed to see the process through", he added.

    The UN Secretary General noted that during the reporting period, the situation in the buffer zone remained calm and stable, and he commended both sides for deciding to cancel their main annual military exercises, in line with the improved political atmosphere on the island.

    "The UNFICYP Force Commander will work with military commanders on both sides to extend this constructive approach to other military activities. In this context, I hope the Turkish Forces will lift their unwarranted restrictions on UNFICYP's movement", he stressed.

    Commenting on the report, a diplomatic source said that it is satisfactory. "It is noted that the solution will be based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality", he said, stressing that the issue of the so called isolation of the T/c, is exalted to an issue of isolation of the two communities, and not to an issue on the relations between the Turkish Cypriot community and third countries.

    The references that "the United Nations continues to hold the government of Turkey responsible for the status quo in Varosha, Laroujina and Strovilia, are also considered as positive" for the Republic of Cyprus, the diplomat noted.

    According to the report, the role of the UN is to assist and facilitate this Cypriot owned process as required. "In this I will spare no efforts. I am also fully prepared, at the parties' request, to offer more assistance", he noted.

    The report covers developments from 24 May to 23 November 2008 and brings up to date the record of activities carried out by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) pursuant to Security Council resolution 186 (1964) and subsequent Council resolutions, most recently resolution 1818 (2008).

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS

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