|Tuesday, 12 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-12-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 4 December 2008 Issue No: 3063
 Karamanlis, Obama hold telephone conversationPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis held a telephone conversation with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday night, congratulating him on his election, wishing him success in tackling the challenges that he will be facing in the years to come and stressing that he is looking forward to meeting him in the near future.
Karamanlis reassured Obama that Greece will provide full support for the fulfillment of the great hopes that his election has created.
He further said that the greatest challenge today is the economic crisis whose handling constitutes a top priority for all, since the international economy is being faced with great and multidimensional adjustments.
On his part, Obama thanked the prime minister for his wishes and underlined the great appreciation that he feels for the role of the Greek American society which, as he said, he knows well, having good friends in its ranks.
Obama also noted that he has special appreciation for Greece's role in Europe and the wider region, expressing the wish that he will be having the opportunity in the near future of visiting the country about which he knows a great deal but without, however, having visited it so far.
 Inner Cabinet focuses on financial crisis"Greece has not yet seen any major consequences from the global financial crisis and I hope we will not see them," Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday following an Inner Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Alogoskoufis said he briefed the premier and other Cabinet ministers over the results of recent Eurogroup and Ecofin council meetings.
"Europe is moving in a coordinated manner and we are positively examining proposals made by the European Commission for a more flexible implementation of the EU's Stability and Growth Pact, to be able through fiscal measures and liquidity boosting actions to deal with this unprecedented crisis," he said.
Many European countries have already fallen into a recession, with unemployment rising and of course a coordinated answer was needed.
The minister underlined that the fact that Greece was suffering less, compared with other countries, was attributed to the efficiency of the government's policy, while he stressed that the government will continue taking initiatives to deal with any future problems, within the limitation of a fiscal consolidation policy.
Alogoskoufis reiterated that a government-sponsored plan to boost liquidity in the economy was one of the first such programmes in Europe and noted that the plan would significantly help economic growth next year.
He said that the programme was currently implemented and added that the government was examining ways to help lower incomes, unemployed people or anyone facing problems in repaying their bank debt.
 FM on NATO-Russia ties; refers to fYRoM prospectsBrussels (ANA-MPA)
NATO-Russia relations, the status of Georgia and Ukraine's course towards the Alliance as well as the situation vis-a-vis the NATO operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan dominated the agenda of talks here on Wednesday at a two-day NATO foreign ministers' meeting.
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis represented Greece.
The Greek minister said afterwards that the Alliance is moving towards a substantive resumption of the political dialogue with Russia within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council. In fact, she termed the decision for the resumption of talks "positive and realistic", saying it is based on the view that cooperation and sincere dialogue are necessary and mutually beneficial.
In reference to Georgia and Ukraine, Bakoyannis referred to "careful steps", taking into consideration that both countries must be encouraged to continue necessary policies and fulfillment of NATO membership criteria. However, she added that "not all the conditions exist yet for the immediate commencement of an accession action plan."
Regarding Kosovo, Bakoyannis said acceptance of the UN chief's "six-point proposal" is positive, a development that accelerates the full deployment of the EU force, EULEX, in the region.
"I believe that KFOR and EULEX will have a coordinated and substantial contribution to the region's stability and the safety of all of Kosovo's residents," she said.
Comments on fYRoM 'name issue'
Turning to an issue of increased Greek interest of late, the still simmering "name issue" involving Athens and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), Bakoyannis said a joint communiquÚ of NATO's foreign ministers will include a paragraph reiterating the unanimous Bucharest Summit (April 2008) decision regarding fYRoM's coveted NATO prospects.
Bakoyannis pointed directly to the Bucharest NATO Summit decision to extend an invitation to fYRoM once a mutually acceptable solution to the "name issue" is found within the UN framework.
On its part, the Alliance stressed that it will continue to support the Skopje government's reform efforts.
According to Bakoyannis, reference to the "name issue" was made by her counterparts from Turkey, Hungary and the United States, all three of whom expressed a hope for finding a mutually acceptable solution. In particular, Bakoyannis said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice touched on the issue by repeating conclusions of the Bucharest Summit.
Finally, she said negotiations over a long-sought solution to the thorny and often obscure dispute -- in terms of international exposure -- will continue, including a face-to-face meeting this month between Greece's negotiator, Amb. Adamantios Vassilakis, and the new envoy appointed by the Skopje government, Amb. Zoran Jolevski, the one-time Yugoslav republic's envoy to Washington over the past two years.
On the sidelines of the council meeting, Bakoyannis met with her French counterpart Bernard Kouchner and German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
 Greek, Russian Presidents on Greece-Russia Friendship FederationMoscow (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
President Karolos Papoulias said the Friendship Federation of Greece and Russia, which celebrated its 50th anniversary at an event held here on Wednesday night, was a valuable helper in the effort to promote, strengthen and deepen the historically friendly ties between the Greek and the Russian people.
"The Federation constitutes one more pedestal of a bridge that is bringing us even closer, strengthening the strategic development of our relations in all sectors with the Greeks living and creating in the Russian state being valuable helpers," the President of the Republic stressed in his message, pointing out that "between Hellenism snd the Russian people there have always been strong ties, in their collective historical memory the echo of the Byzantine empire and Orthodox Christian tradition have always been points of reference."
The President of the Republic further said that "in the conscience of the Russian people, Greek spiritual tradition stands high. On the other hand, the Russians were for the Greeks the people with whom they shared the same religion and common spiritual and historical roots," while congratulating the members of the Federation for "productive action and valuable contribution as a binding link between Greece and Russia."
Russian Federation President Dmitri Medvedev said in his own message, read by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ribkov, that "the ties of friendship, respect and confidence, that traditionally link the peoples of Russia and Greece, are based on firm spiritual-historical foundations and constitute a reliable beginning for the further widening of our strategic cooperation."
The Russian President underlined that "multifaceted dialogue is developing actively between the two countries, plans in the trade-economic sector that are mutually beneficial and of a large size are being implemented with success, cultural-humanitarian relations are being strengthened, cooperation on the international stage is developing" and expressed the conviction that the activity of the Friendship Federation "that has the ardent support of wide circles among public opinion in Russia and Greece" will continue its contribution to the multifaceted development of the constructive and fruitful cooperation between the two countries.
Messages of greetings were also sent by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luskov, while Ribkov observed that "starting from Cyril and Methodius, Sofia Paleologina, who introduced the Byzantine emblem to Russia, the double-headed eagle, and reaching the South Stream pipeline, there are no other countries in Europe that are closer spiritually than Russia and Greece."
 Bill against prison overcrowding, child sex abuse passedA justice ministry bill for relieving overcrowding in prisons and the protection of children from sexual abuse, also including an amendment setting the maximum allowable quantities for the more common illegal drugs that could be considered to be for personal use, was passed by Parliament on Wednesday.
The justice ministry also accepted three amendments to articles proposed by main opposition PASOK and the Coalition of the Radical Left.
Under the bill passed into law on Wednesday, maximum quantities that are considered to be for the holder's personal use, even if the person is a known addict, are 1.5 grammes of heroin and cocaine, 20 grammes unprocessed cannabis, and 2.5 grammes processed cannabis, including the packaging.
Other changes were to the terms for the conditional release of inmates suffering from serious illness, with the measure now applying to those suffering from AIDS, chronic kidney failure requiring regular dialysis treatment, quadriplegics, those with drug-resistant tuberculosis, those with advanced liver cirrhosis and 67 percent disability, people over 80 suffering from senile dementia and those suffering from final-stage malignant tumours.
Among the proposed amendments accepted was one that recognised the successful completion of a state-approved drug rehabilitation programme as a mitigating circumstance in the sentencing of drug users.
 Justice minister on new laws for adoption proceduresThe new measures governing adoption procedures that were passed by Parliament will significantly improve the entire system of adoptions, Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis said on Wednesday.
"They are marked by judicial guarantees, a speeding up of procedures and fighting trafficking in babies and children," he said.
Under the revised laws, courts can step in and give consent for an adoption when this cannot be obtained from their parents or when it is wrongfully withheld by parents.
This includes cases when the parents are unknown and the child a foundling, where parents do not have rights of custody or are unable to give informed consent concerning the adoption of their child, when the parents have no known address, when the child is protected by a recognised social organisation and custody of parents has been removed while they refused to agree to adoption and when the child has been given to a family by its parents for the purposes of adoption and has been living with them for the space of at least a year, while parents withhold consent.
The measures additionally give courts the power to decide whether to change the surname held by an adopted child prior to adoption.
Hatzigakis described the measures as a first step for a radical overhaul of the entire system of adoption and he announced that a special committee would soon be set up to revise the relevant sections of the civil code, taking into account all proposals made by political parties and social bodies.
 Ministers testify in Parliament's Vatopedi probeDeputy Agricultural Development minister Costas Kiltidis on Wednesday maintained that the recommendation prepared by the ministry's legal adviser Christodoulos Botsios that characterized a region in Uranoupolis, Chalkidiki as 'forest land' was invalid and should have never reached the forestry agencies.
Testifying before the parliamentary fact-finding committee, Kiltidis stated that the recommendation in question was accepted by the Legal Council of the State and it was used to draw up the controversial land exchange contracts between the Greek State and the Vatopedi Monastery.
"No one gave instructions to anyone," Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Alexandros Kontos told members of a Parliamentary fact-finding committee probing the politically charged Vatopedi Monastery land exchanges.
Testifying before the committee late Tuesday evening, he told MPs that the political decision for the land swaps belongs to former agriculture minister Evangelos Basiakos while National Public Real Estate Corp. (KED) is responsible for their materialization.
Kontos was at the forefront of the efforts made by the local society in Xanthi against the claims of Vatopedi Monastery on Lake Vistonida in the Xanthi Prefecture, Thrace Province. Responding to pressing questions by the MPs he stressed that Lake Vistonida was handed over to Vatopedi Monastery in 2003 by the government of PASOK according to the legal advisers consulted.
Kontos also stated that in January 2005 he was informed by Evangelos Basiakos on the land exchange, stressing that the political responsibility belongs to the latter because he undertook the initiative to consult on the issue with the Legal Council of the State.
 Dimas named 'Commissioner of the Year' by European VoiceEuropean Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas was on Wednesday named "Commissioner of the Year" by European Voice, the weekly newspaper for the European Union published by the Economist group. The Greek commissioner was awarded for his efforts in steering Community policy against climate change and received the award during a ceremony held in the Brussels stock exchange.
 State, political leaders meet confederation for disabledPresident of Republic Karolos Papoulias, on Wednesday received members of the National Confederation of Persons with Disabilities (ESAMEA) at the Presidential Mansion, on the occasion of the World Day for the Disabled.
Papoulias said that this day is very important and expressed hope that it would become the starting point for the solution of problems faced by disabled people, which, as Papoulias said, "most of which are unsolved".
On his part, the president of the Confederation Yannis Vardakastanis submitted to the President the conclusions of the Confederation's annual report on the disabled.
ESAMEA also sent memorandums to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the political parties, asking for measures to protect the disabled from the repercussions of the financial crisis, and delivered the group's annual report on the state of the disabled in Greece to Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas.
A delegation from the organisation was also received by main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou, who deplored the erosion of the welfare state in Greece that put disabled people, in particular, in a very difficult position.
He pledged that PASOK, if voted into government, would strengthen the structures of the welfare state in terms of protecting the disabled.
 Education Minister on World Day of the DisabledEducation Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Wednesday,at an event held at the ministry on the occasion of the national and World Day of the Disabled, stressed that " The only disability in life is to have a bad attitude on life" .
"Education, culture and life-long learning form the right view of life over disabilities, that is, respect of human rights and respect of the diversity of the human race," stressed Stylianidis
Tsipras visits school for the hearing impaired in Argyroupolis
The need for greater solidarity toward the people with disabilities on behalf of the public and the State and the facilitation of their social integration was underlined Wednesday by Coalition of the Left of Movements and Ecology (SYN) President Alexis Tsipras during his visit to the Elementary School for the Hearing Impaired in Argyroupolis, Athens.
The visit was made on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
 FinMin Alogoskoufis on 2009 state budgetFinance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, speaking in Parliament on Wednesday during an examination of the 2009 state budget by the relevant Parliamentary Committee, said that monetary adjustment is entering a "period of rest" to enable the problems of the real economy to be tackled and the financially weaker to be supported.
At this stage of the international crisis "we can only have a period of rest in relation to monetary adjustment," the minister said. Monetary adjustment that took place over the 2004-7 period and which constituted one of the main targets of economic policy "can only come second in relation to the problems of the real economy, this year," Alogoskoufis said, adding that "this is also the meaning of the flexible implementation of the stability and development pact."
However, the minister pointed out that "it is unfortunate" that the international crisis found us in the middle of the scheduled restructuring course of the country's public finances.
"We had said that our first goal was to reach the levels of 3 percent and below them. The second goal, meaning reaching the point of zero deficits, must be postponed," he said, since "we cannot pursue monetary adjustment at the same rate in a period of crisis."
 Gov't is not planning further cuts in incomes tax factors, FinMin saysThe government has already announced a cut in the main incomes tax factor from 27 pct to 25 pct in 2009 and this measure is expected to support available incomes and demand in the economy, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, he said that there was no decision taken to speed up a cut in the main incomes tax factor to 24 pct, scheduled for 2010.
Alogoskoufis stressed, however, that the government will act according to next year's budget limitations and added that the government will present its decision on standard of living indicators in the next few days. Commenting on recent calls for lower VAT factors on tourist enterprises, the Greek minister stressed that VAT factor on tourism services was at the lower permitable level.
 PASOK criticises gov't economic policyMain opposition PASOK deputy and economy rapporteur Louka Katseli on Wednesday strongly criticised the government's economic policy, referring to an inner cabinet meeting focusing on the economy.
"Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis lives in his own virtual reality. He has lost all critical capacity of real problems; the capacity of credibly administrating the crisis and taking the necessary measures for an exit from the crisis," Katseli said in a statement.
"At a moment when the market has frozen, economic activity is slowing at a fast pace and the danger of mass dismissals is visible, he declares that purchasing demand is being sufficiently supported ... It is obvious that the government either has no intention or is unable to prepare and table in Parliament and the European Commission a revised and updated Stability and Development Programme for the 2008-2011 period, as it is obliged to," Katseli charged.
 Greek PMI drops to record low in Nov.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 do not seem to affect the Greek manufacturing sector yet, the recent cut in interest rates by the European Central Bank was decided at the right time.
Production and new orders fell for the second consecutive month, while sentiment in the sector has not improved despite lower interest rates and a government-sponsored 28 billion euros rescue plan.
 Prospects of SMEs in GreeceThe EOMMEX organisation called on Wednesday for clear targets to be set for each action to support small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and, as far as possible, the results of actions to be undertaken by the government should be measurable.
EOMMEX made its call on the occasion of the summary of the Annual Report for 2007 which concerns "the situation and the prospects of small and medium-size enterprises in Greece" that was presented by the organisation's relevant department, the National Watch for SMEs.
The report stresses that in the intensely competitive environment of globalised markets, questions are unavoidably raised regarding the prospects of Greek enterprises and their ability to claim their presence and safeguard a competitive advantage and success in the national and international business field.
 Athens Chamber calls for flexible working week to avoid lay-offsThe president of the Athens Chamber for Commerce and Industry (EBEA) on Wednesday called for a full flexibility of working time and proposed the introduction of a reduced working week, of three or four days work, with a corresponding cut in wages and social insurance contributions.
EBEA's head, Constantinos Mihalos, addressing a meeting between the Social Insurance Fund (IKA) with employers' unions and chambers, said the proposals were aiming to avoid any round of mass lay-offs because of an expanding financial crisis.
Responding to EBEA's proposals, Employment and Social Protection Minister Fani Palli-Petralia said the government would not allow this crisis to undermine labour relations and stressed that the government would persist with a policy for full and quality employment.
The confederation of commerce unions expressed its reservations to the proposals while the confederation of small- and medium-sized enterprises categorically dismissed the proposals. GSEE -Greece's largest trade union umbrella- said the proposal was unfair and anti-societal and noted that workers would climax their mobilizations in the next few days, ahead of a 24-hour Panhellenic strike on December 10.
 Arab-Hellenic Economic Forum a success, participants sayMore than 300 business meeting was made during the two-day 2nd Arab-Hellenic Economic Forum, held November 19-20 in Athens.
Commenting on the results of the forum which were presented by the Arab-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Development Minister Christos Folias said that Greece maintained traditionally friendly relations with the Arab world and stressed that the government was placing significant importance to the promotion of actions aimed at strengthening trade transactions between the two sides.
The Arab-Hellenic Chamber said the around 700 participants said the forum was a success and noted that the visa issue and direct shipping with Arab ports were important steps to boosting bilateral relations.
 Hellaktor signs 69-mln-euro bond loanHellaktor on Wednesday announced that its subsidiary Hellenic Technodomiki Anemos SA, signed a bond loan worth 69 million euros. The new money will be used to refinance its existing bank debt and fund its investment program. The bond loan has a duration of 12 years and was signed in cooperation with National Bank and National Bank (Cyprus) Ltd.
 Aspis Group unveils 340-mln-euro share capital increase planAspis Group on Wednesday announced three share capital increase plans, worth a total 340 million euros, in Aspis Bank, Aspis Life and Aspis General Insurance, next year.
Presenting the plans in Thessaloniki, the group's chairman Pavlos Psomiadis, said the group was continuing cooperation talks with large Greek banks, while it was examining the purchase of an insurance company in Finland.
Psomiadis said Aspis Group will present much improved results in 2009 and predicted that the global financial crisis would begin evaporating in the second half of 2009.
He said that the group's board will meet at the end of December to approve a share capital increase plan for Aspis Bank, worth 210 million euros. The plan is expected to be completed by the end of March next year.
Psomiadis said talks so far with other banks have not reached any conclusion, but stressed that the group was continuing contacts with Alpha Bank, National Bank and Eurobank. He said that Greek insurance companies were not in any danger because of the crisis and that they were "in a very good condition".
Aspis Group expects premium production from insurance activities to surpass 500 million euros this year.
 Loulis Mills sells Romanian and Bulgarian activities for 26.1 million eurosLoulis Mills on Wednesday announced the signing of a contract to sell the remaining stakes in its subsidiary in Romania and Bulgaria to LLI Euromills GmbH for 26.1 million euros.
Under the contract, Loulis Mills will sell its remainings stakes of 29.5 pct in its Romanian subsidiary and 35.3 pct in its Bulgarian subsidiary to the Austrian group. The transfer of shares will be made through the stock markets of Romania and Bulgaria this week.
 Greek stocks end slightly lowerGreek stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with the composite index of the market falling 0.20 pct to end at 1,834.31 points. Turnover was a low 127.1 million euros, of which 1.7 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with the Chemicals (2.26 pct), Food/Beverage (2.18 pct) and Raw Materials (1.84 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Insurance (7.05 pct), Healthcare (3.43 pct) and Commerce (3.01 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index fell 0.31 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.75 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index rose 1.17 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 109 to 101 with another 47 issues unchanged.
Hellaktor recorded the biggest percentage gains of the day (2.35 pct), followed by PPC (2.13 pct) and Hellenic Telecoms (1.93 pct) among blue chip stocks, while Intralot (4.74 pct), Piraeus Bank (3.49 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (2.55 pct) and Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (2.44 pct) recorded the biggest declines.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Insurance: 2,477.50 +7.05%
Industrial Products and Services: 3,051.89 +0.25%
Commerce: 3,152.23 +3.01%
Constructions: 2,127.97 +0.98%
╠edia: 3,313.51 +0.18%
Oil/Natural Gas: 2,192.43 -1.40%
Personal/Home Products: 2,333.88 +2.43%
Raw Materials: 2,281.79 -1.84%
Travel: 3,319.49 -1.03%
ďechnology: 974.36 -0.91%
ďelecommunications: 3,192.98 +1.93%
Banks: 2,037.59 -0.45%
Food/Beverage: 3,766.37 -2.18%
Healthcare: 6,802.90 +3.43%
Utilities: 3,299.23 +1.39%
Chemicals: 7,203.94 -2.26%
Financial Services: 4,633.99 -1.26%
Neorio (16.36 pct), Cardico (16.33 pct), Hellenic Fish Farming (11.11 pct), Vivere (9.33 pct) and Hellenic Duty Free (8.85 pct) were top gainers, while Elfico (16.18 pct), Betanet (11.11 pct), Imako (10.28 pct), Selman (10.0 pct), Medicon (9.76 pct) and Xylemporia (9.09 pct) were top losers.
Cyprus Bank, Alapis, National Bank and Marfin Popular Bank were the most heavily traded securities. The market's capitalization totaled 70.157 billion euros.
Stock shares in the blue chip stocks ended as follows:
ALPHA BANK: 7.46
COCA COLA: 11.20
HELLENIC PETROLEUM: 5.34
NATIONAL BANK: 13.90
CYPRUS BANK: 2.85
HELLENIC POSTBANK: 5.16
MOTOR OIL: 8.20
PIRAEUS BANK: 7.20
ď╔ď┴═ GROUP: 12.32
MARFIN POPULAR BANK: 2P00
MARFIN INVESTMENT GROUP: 2P72
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover shrinking to 36.490 million euros. The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.47 pct, while volume was 5,614 contracts worth 30.739 million euros, with 30,739 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,635 contracts worth 10.002 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (1,198), followed by PPC (1,137), Marfin Investnment Group (974), Marfin Popular Bank (868), OTE (769), Cyprus Bank (695), GEK (657) and Eurobank (527).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market eased to 344 million euros on Wednesday, of which 187 million were buy orders and the remaining 157 million euros were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 35 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 162 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 4.66 pct and the German Bund 3.04 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 3.85 pct, the six-month rate 3.78 pct, the three-month rate 3.74 pct and the one-month rate 3.41 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates: ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.272
Pound sterling 0.861
Danish kroner 7.510
Swedish kroner 10.538
Japanese yen 118.33
Swiss franc 1.545
Norwegian kroner 8.976
Canadian dollar 1.598
Australian dollar 1.978
 Arson attack outside French News Agency's Athens officesA makeshift explosive device composed of gas cannisters exploded outside the entrance to the offices of the French News Agency (AFP) in the Athens district of Kolonaki at 17:50 on Wednesday.
Two employees in the offices at the time of the attack attempted to extinguish the ensuing fire, while firemen arrived at the scene shortly afterwards and quelled the blaze in about half an hour.
Damage caused by the fire was mainly limited to the entrance to the offices.
 Concert held in memory of composer George KazasoglouVienna (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
A concert held on Monday night at the Hoffmanstahl Cultural Centre in the Austrian capital was dedicated to Greek composer George Kazasoglou on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth, on December 1, 1908, and during which four distinguished Greek artists presented works of his.
 Special event in memory of Maria CallasNew York (ANA-MPA / P. Panagiotou)
An event in memory of Maria Callas was held at Terence Cardinal Cooke Hospital in Manhattan where the world renowned soprano was born 85 years ago on Dec. 2, 1923. A marble plaque was unveiled during the event, an initiative by the Maria Callas Cultural Association in Italy.
Speaking at the event, hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute of New York with the support of the General Consulates of Greece and Italy and "Athenaeum ICC - Grand Prix Maria Callas", association president Bruno Tosi referred to the unique qualities of one of the greatest opera singers.
In attendance was also Archbishop Demetrios of America who praised the initiative and referred to the "divine element" in the life of Maria Callas.
 London presentation of the New Acropolis MuseumLondon (ANA-MPA / L. Tsirigotakis)
The specifications and mission of the New Acropolis Museum were presented by Professor Dimitrios Pandermalis, President of the Project Authority, the Organisation for Construction of the New Acropolis Museum and by Swiss-born Bernard Tschumi, the New Acropolis Museum chief architect, at an event held at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London.
Addressing an audience of archaeologists, architects, academics and members of the Greek ÚmigrÚ community on Tuesday, Bernard Tschumi said that when he undertook the project he was faced with three challenges; designing the museum in front of the Parthenon (a monument that had a major effect on Western Civilization), the peculiarity of the surrounding area with loads of ancient monuments and the museum's future mission which is to house the Parthenon Marbles.
Professor Pandermalis pointed out that the New Acropolis Museum already has made an impact fuelling a debate abroad referring to a recent article posted in The Financial Times.
Professor Pandermalis and New York-based architect Bernard Tschumi will be again the guests in an event at RIBA to respond to questions by students of architecture as regards the New Acropolis Museum.
 Digitizing of Greek Film ArchiveInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos launched Wednesday the opening of the event "National Film Archive: Digitizing and distribution of audiovisual material" hosted by the National Audiovisual Archive in cooperation with the General Secretariat of Communication and the General Secretariat of Information.
Pavlopoulos stressed that a total of 600 hours of audiovisual material that has been preserved can become easily accessible to the public through the use of digital technology. The interior minister also thanked the former minister of state Theodoros Roussopoulos for his initiative to proceed with the digitization of the national film archive.
The digitized material includes footage from the Balkan Wars, WWI, the Asia Minor campaign, the dictatorship of Metaxas, the launch of WWII, the 1950s and 1960s, the colonels' coup, and the period after the restoration of democracy until 1996.
 New programme for learning GreekA new Modern Greek learning programme for high school students and also for individual Greeks and foreigners who already have a basic knowledge of the Ancient Greek language is the aim of the project "Courses from Ancient to Modern Greek language".
The project has been financed in the framework of the Programme Socrates-Lingua II and refers to the first level A and consists 24 educational sections.
The project's results will be presented in an event held in Athens on 13 December by the Greek-British Educational and Development company, in collaboration with Liceo Classico Statale "G. Mazzini" (Italy), the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), the Instituto de E. Secundaria "Carlos III" (Spain), the BG Hartberg (Austria), the National Highschool for Ancient Languages and Cultures "St. Constantine Cyril the Philosopher" (Bulgaria) and ELEA informatics systems company(Greece).
 Icons stolen from church near KozaniSix icons, reportedly valuable ones, were stolen from a church near the town of Neapolis, in Kozani prefecture in northwest Greece. The theft took place between Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 and local police have launched an investigation for the arrest of the culprits.
 Cloud, rain on ThursdayCloudy weather with the possibility of local showers and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 7-10 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 8C and 22C. Partly cloudy in Athens with possibility of local showers, with southerly 7-9 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 15C to 20C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 13C to 16C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe explosive atmosphere on Tuesday during testimonies before parliament's fact finding commission on the Vatopedi monastery affair mainly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Halt to early pensions - Social security reforms to begin in 2009".
APOGEVMATINI: "15,340 hirings in public sector - Permanent and seasonal staff".
AVGHI: "Tax rates above the salary raises - Further burdening in 2009 with the new tax law".
AVRIANI: "special examiner maginstrate into the Siemens slush funds Nikolaos Zagorianos will meet on Wednesday with Swiss and German judges".
CHORA: "Savvas (former minister Tsitouridis) takes revenge for the in-party back-stabbings stating: They were convening behind my back".
ELEFTHEROS: "13 changes to retirement ages - Cutbacks in pensions from January 2009".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Frost in the economy - Ecofin scissors Barroso's rescue package".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Vatopedi fact finding commission: Ministers accusing each other and washing their hands of the case".
ESTIA: "The government on the verge of collapse - Reshuffle anticipated".
ETHNOS: "Ministers clash over Vatopedi - Blue (ruling new Democracy's colour) knives unsheathed before fact finding commission".
KATHIMERINI: "European Union orders fiscal discipline - Greece will borrow 53 billion euros although the State Budget foresees a 40 billion euros loan".
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 President Christofias protests continuation of Turkish harassmentsUNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has sent a second letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in which he protests the continuation of Turkish harassments against research vessels within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Cyprus.
In his letter to the UNSG, dated 25 November 2008, President Christofias notes that "subsequent to my letter of 14 November 2008, at least three serious incidents took place involving the harassment of research vessels by Turkish warships in the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Cyprus".
"I find myself in the unpleasant position of expressing my dismay over the continuation of such aggressive actions", the Cypriot President says.
In his letter, President Christofias explains that on 19 November, two vessels, Harrier Explorer and Marja, were performing oceanographic work within the EEZ south of the coast of Cyprus but after being harassed by the Turkish corvette Bandirma they were obliged to change location.
On 21 November, two Turkish warships harassed the cargo ship Aquarius G, which is involved in the research, by repeatedly blocking its course until it was forced to return to Cypriot territorial waters.
Furthermore, on 24 November, the Turkish frigate Gemlik approached Harrier Explorer and Aqarius G and repeated the harassment by blocking the exploratory vessels' route, forcing them into dangerous manoeuvres.
President Christofias adds that despite several attempts by the captain of Harrier Explorer to contact the Turkish captain over the radio, there was no response.
He notes that the Turkish naval force is constantly stationed within a short distance from the research vessels observing their actions and movements.
"The continuation of these incidents, I am sad to observe, unavoidably impacts negatively on our efforts to reach a negotiated solution to the Cyprus problem. On my part, I am doing everything in my power to protect the process of negotiations and to bring it to a positive conclusion", President Christofias stresses.
He concludes his letter by underlining the importance he attaches to the international community's support.
"It is important, at the same time, that the United Nations and the international community support these efforts through effective solidarity", President Christofias notes.
The Cypriot President's letter is accompanied by a letter from the Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the United Nations Minas Hadjimichael addressed to the UNSG.
''Following the serious incident against which President Christofias protested, through his letter of 14 November 2008, and despite bringing this incident to your attention and that of the Security Council, as well as of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, the harassment of vessels by Turkish warships within the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Cyprus has continued unabated, in a systematic and persistent manner, in complete disregard of Cyprus' sovereign rights'', Hadjimichael notes in his letter.
The Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state since 2004, is divided by Turkish troops, which invaded against Cyprus in 1974, and since then occupy one third of Cyprus' territory.
 Spokesman says Turkey violates international lawNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said on Wednesday that Turkey is called upon to respect the international law and regulations but unfortunately has violated them.
Asked about a letter the Turkish Cypriot leader has sent to the UN, in which he describes as slander remarks by President Demetris Christofias regarding a violation of the Republic's sea, Stephanou wondered if the fact that a Turkish warship and Turkey, with its military forces, have harassed vessels carrying out research for the Republic, in its exclusive economic zone, are also slander.
''This behaviour of Turkey is a violation of international law and is in this sense an illegal action,'' Stephanou pointed out in his remarks after Wednesday's Cabinet meeting, noting that the Republic of Cyprus has every right to defend its sovereign rights and is doing so.
He added that it was for this reason that ''when Turkey violated international law with its specific actions, the President of the Republic made representations, twice, to the UN and the EU.''
Commenting on remarks by Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat about ''virgin birth'' of a new state in Cyprus and the non recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, Stephanou stressed that the Republic of Cyprus is the only internationally recognised state, is a UN member since 1960, an EU member since 2004, and a member of many other international organisations.
Regarding Talat's reference to "two peoples" on the island, Stephanou said it is well known that there is only one people in Cyprus which, according to the 1960 constitution, comprises two communities, the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot.
Referring to the ongoing direct negotiations on the Cyprus problem between Christofias and Talat, Stephanou said that President Christofias and Talat have met eleven times so far and are still discussing the first chapter, which needs time due to its complexity.
He added that President Christofias' presence is constructive and is based on the principles of a Cyprus settlement, for a bizonal, bicommunal federation, with political equality, as defined by the UN, and a single sovereignty, one international identity and a single citizenship.
Replying to questions, Stephanou said both sides wanted a solution.
''Even Turkey says it wants a solution. The question is what solution we want and what solution we are working for, and that is why we underline the fact that, regarding the basis of a solution, we have agreed on it, we have clarified it and everyone is judged by his behaviour and the positions submitted at the table, as to whether it serves the bizonal bicommunal federation solution or some other solution,'' he explained.
Asked about the climate at the talks, Stephanou said President Christofias has proven that he wishes to maintain a good atmosphere, adding that ''unfortunately Turkey is causing itself problems and with this behaviour is destroying the good climate and is possibly creating problems in the negotiating process.''
Invited to say if this was the Turkish side's objective, Stephanou said he could not rule out anything. ''However, the best response for us to such notions is to maintain the same goodwill in the direct negotiations with a view to finding a solution that will be fair, viable and functional and in the interests of the people of Cyprus,'' he added.
The spokesman recalled that this current process of negotiations began following initiatives by the President of the Republic.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
President Christofias and Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since early September, under UN auspices, with an aim to reunite the island.
 UN spokesperson refers to the UNSG report and to the direct talksNEW YORK (CNA/ANA-MPA)
UN spokesperson Michelle Montas has referred to the UN Secretary General's report on the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus and to Tuesday's meeting in Nicosia between the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot community, as part of the UN process to find a negotiated settlement in Cyprus.
Speaking during a press briefing, Montas said that "the Secretary-General's latest report on the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus says that the formal negotiations towards a comprehensive solution are moving ahead well", adding that Ban Ki Moun has noted that "both parties are engaging with each other in a constructive and open manner".
Montas also referred to the UN Secretary General's point "that the establishment of economic, social and cultural ties will have a positive impact on the ongoing efforts on Cyprus".
"Such contacts nurture a sentiment of trust between the communities and help ease the tension and sense of isolation felt by the Turkish Cypriots, Secretary General adds. In the meantime he says and in the absence of a comprehensive settlement, UNFICYP continues to play a vital role on the island both as a stabilizing factor on the ground and as a source of critical support for his Good Offices Mission. He therefore, recommends that the Security Council extend the mandate of UNFICYP by a further period of six months until 15 June 2009", Montas pointed out.
Speaking on the meeting between the two leaders, held in the UN protected area Tuesday, Montas referred to the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Cyprus Taye Brook Zerihoon statement, that during the discussions on the Federal Public Service "there were several areas of convergence".
"Zerihoun said the leaders will meet again on 16 December to take up the issue of External Relations and for his part the Secretary-General's Special Adviser Alexander Downer will be back on the island on 11 DecemberÍ, Montas concluded.
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