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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-01-15

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Thursday, 15 January 2009 Issue No: 3096


  • [01] PM chairs Inner Cabinet meeting
  • [02] Gov't spokesman on Inner Cabinet meeting
  • [03] Govt on election speculation, state utilities, OA
  • [04] FM Bakoyannis on Greek OSCE presidency
  • [05] FM spokesman on aid-laden vessel heading for Gaza
  • [06] Greek parliament president calls for Mideast peace initiative
  • [07] PASOK positions on economic crisis
  • [08] ND sec't criticism of PASOK
  • [09] Interior ministry reply to PASOK rapporteur
  • [10] Papariga: KKE wants to cancel ammo trans-shipment
  • [11] Former top prosecutor testifies in Vatopedi affair
  • [12] PASOK resubmits proposal on Vatopedi issue probe
  • [13] Terrorist group assumes responsibility for riot police attack
  • [14] Albania-EU Stabilisation and Association Pact ratified
  • [15] FinMin defends economic policy
  • [16] OTE 'optimistic' over '09 course
  • [17] Hotels: 'stable' Oct-Nov period
  • [18] Athens metro strike called off
  • [19] Greek closed-end investment funds' discount -41.33 pct, report
  • [20] Greek stocks drop 5.47% on Wed.
  • [21] ADEX closing report
  • [22] Greek bond market closing report
  • [23] Foreign Exchange rates: Thursday
  • [24] Ecumenical Patriarch briefs distinguished Open Society group
  • [25] Archbishop Ieronymos calls on abductors to release shipowner
  • [26] Mt Olympus qualified to the second phase of the New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign
  • [27] Youth groups' environmental initiative
  • [28] Psarantonis in the Nick Cave Festival at Mt Buller
  • [29] Papoulias receives SOS children villages' board
  • [30] Illegals rescued in southern Aegean
  • [31] Cloudy on Thursday
  • [32] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM chairs Inner Cabinet meeting

    The Inner Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, convened on Wednesday focusing on Interior Ministry issues.

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos told reporters afterwards that the discussion centered on administrative reforms and the advancement of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) targeting the curtailment of bureaucracy and its cost, and also progress in the implementation of the program in 2009.

    Pavlopoulos also referred to the implementation of the Prime Minister's circular on better legislation, noting that the laws should be evaluated on the basis of their targets, but also that surveys must be carried out on their implementation. He also spoke about upgrading the citizens' everyday life in all sectors, while further underlining that measures will be taken for small and medium sized enterprises so as to reduce the time and cost required for their establishment.

    The Inner Cabinet also discussed matters concerning Civil Protection in view of the dangers entailed by extreme natural phenomena.

    Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis stated that "we want to make enterprises' lives easier" adding that a bill on the modernisation of corporate and market legislation was being advanced.

    Hatzidakis said that the Chambers of Commerce, which will be fortified, will shoulder the burden adding that to avoid time being lost the entire process will begin via the Citizens' Facilitation Offices (KEP) so that enterprises may be established in 'one stop offices'.

    [02] Gov't spokesman on Inner Cabinet meeting

    The Inner Cabinet meeting on Wednesday focused on interior and development ministry issues.

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stated that the primary issue was modernisation of public administration, while he cited relevant statements made by ministers of interior and development, Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Costis Hatzidakis, respectively.

    On the development minister's comment as regards to small-and-medium-sized companies employing people in the hundreds, Antonaros stressed that procedures for their establishment and operation will have to be simplified, pointing out that this was the issue discussed at the Inner Cabinet meeting.

    [03] Govt on election speculation, state utilities, OA

    The government spokesman on Wednesday reiterated that he does not comment on issues raised by Parliament deputies, when asked about the criticism launched by ruling New Democracy (ND) MPs regarding so-called "golden boys", a recently coined euphemism for lavishly paid executives in public utility companies or state-affiliated corporations.

    Regarding statements by ND parliamentary spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos targeting Public Power Corporation S.A. (PPC) President Takis Athanassopoulos, the government spokesman said he will make a comment when he has something to say regarding public utilities.

    In answer to the ubiquitous early election question, Antonaros said those responsible are trying to pull attention away from their own political dead-end and are not members of the government.

    Referring to the imminent dialogue on education, the government spokesman stressed that it will be open and all sides are invited to present their positions.

    Regarding debt-burdened national carrier Olympic Airlines (OA), Antonaros stressed that Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis -- up until recently the transport minister -- has accumulated knowledge and experience on the issue, however, it now falls under the jurisdiction of the new Transport Minister Evripides Stylianidis.

    [04] FM Bakoyannis on Greek OSCE presidency

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis inaugurated the offices of Greece's Permanent Delegation at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) here on Wednesday night, stressing the significance of Greece exercising the presidency of the OSCE that provides the country with the opportunity of highlighting the policy of principles that it is applying in its international relations.

    Bakoyannis, who arrived in the Austrian capital at noon and who will be presenting the priorities of the Greek presidency of the Organisation in 2009 at the OSCE's Permanent Council plenum on Thursday morning, said that Greece is prepared absolutely to respond fully to the great demands of the mission that it is assuming.

    The foreign minister also termed the assumption of the Organisation's presidency as a considerable opportunity for Greece to further underline the positive role that it can and desires to play in the international security environment as a solvent international interlocutor and a reliable partner of the international community, the role of an active regional force and a strong pole of stability and development.

    [05] FM spokesman on aid-laden vessel heading for Gaza

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA / D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Wednesday said here, in reference to the Gaza-bound "Arion" vessel loaded with humanitarian aid, that every legal activity by NGOs must be unhindered.

    "At the same time, the Greek government has briefed, comprehensively and in a timely manner, before the sailing of the 'Arion', and cautioned those in charge and all who are participating in this initiative over the serious security risks entailed in their planned action, which means passing through the closed sea military zone determined by Israel..." the spokesman said.

    "We have also taken at the same time and we are continuing to take all the necessary diplomatic actions towards the Israeli side, underlining the purely humanitarian character of this effort and calling on Israeli authorities to handle the situation with the necessary sensitivity and special care, so that the security of those on board the vessel will not be jeopardised," Koumoutsakos added.


    Meanwhile, a main opposition PASOK party spokesman stressed the party's condemnation of Israel's intention to strike the vessel.

    Spokesman George Papaconstantinou called on the Israeli foreign ministry not to obstruct the vessel and on the Greek government to do all that is necessary and possible to safeguard the security of those on board the vessel.

    [06] Greek parliament president calls for Mideast peace initiative

    A proposal by Greek Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas to take coordinated action aimed at ending the escalating violence in the Middle East, namely, a meeting within the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, EMPA, was positively received by 10 national parliament presidents.

    The presidents of the national parliaments and assemblies of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Cyprus, Serbia, Czech Republic and Turkey expressed their support to the initiative, while the president of the Palestinian national authority was positive. Additionally, Israel's Knesset president expressed her appreciation for the proposal, while calling for the manners that will lead to a political solution via Parliamentary diplomacy.

    [07] PASOK positions on economic crisis

    Main opposition PASOK party economy sector officials Louka Katseli, Dimitris Kouselas and E. Koutmeridis charged during a press conference on Wednesday, revolving on the theme of PASOK's positions on managing the economic crisis, that "the government's options are undermining the Greek economy. (Prime Minister) Mr. Karamanlis is not addressing the rescue of the economy, but the rescue of his New Democracy party."

    Katseli "sounded the alarm" for a coming recesssion in the economy and a wave of mass dismissals, as she said. She also referred to a feeling of "fear and insecurity in society," adding that PASOK has already submitted a realistic and integrated salvation and development perspective programme for the economy that is based on four axes, and has presented proposals for a short-term programme to exit from the crisis with support for small and medium-size businesses, the weaker classes and the unemployed.

    [08] ND sec't criticism of PASOK

    Ruling New Democracy party secretary Lefteris Zagoritis, speaking after the joint session of the party's affiliated youth group, the International Relations Secretariat and the Overseas Hellenism Secretariat on Wednesday, criticised the main opposition PASOK party, saying that it is in a state of complete confusion.

    The sessions focused on the party's preparations for the Euroelections, while the relevant secretariats discussed organisational issues related to the programme of the European People's Party (EPP) and its activities in Greece, given that an EPP conference will be held in Warsaw on April 29-30.

    Referring to PASOK, Zagoritis said that PASOK is claiming officially that it does not wish to get involved in the issue of the President of the Republic with untimely and petty-partisan discussions, addingf that "in this way the official PASOK is pulling the rug from under the feet of its senior officials, who started the relevant discussion. ND will not join petty-partisan games. We leave them to PASOK that is in complete confusion."

    [09] Interior ministry reply to PASOK rapporteur

    The interior ministry, replying on Wednesday to statements by main opposition PASOK party rapporteur for domestic affairs Haris Kastanidis, said that PASOK's representative is applying himself to criticism and indeed on issues that he is not familiar with.

    Kastanidis had referred to the "abandoning of a proclamation on administrative reform" and the "inadequacy of the police".

    The ministry said that during the planning of the 3rd Community Support Framework "PASOK governments did not even think of organising the urgently necessary Special Operational Programme on Administrative Reform, but preferred to play around with amateurish balances between ministries and ministers."

    On the question of the police, the ministry announcement stated that PASOK's representative "is aware that, always in the framework of legality and with the criterion of the protection of the rights of man, its members are struggling with consistency and self-denial to serve society in its entirety, rid of the dissoluting partisanship of the PASOK era."

    [10] Papariga: KKE wants to cancel ammo trans-shipment

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga, on a visit to Messolonghi, western Greece, stressed that her party is fighting for the cancellation and not the postponement of a transport of US munitions, which she decried as "destined to be used in the massacre of the Palestinian people".

    Papariga, who is visiting the area within the framework of the KKE opposition to the use of the port of Astakos for the alleged trans-shipment of ammunition to a US military stockpile in Ashdod, Israel, pointed out that "the Palestinians have the right to fight for their freedom and for a sovereign and independent homeland".

    [11] Former top prosecutor testifies in Vatopedi affair

    The former head of the independent authority against money-laundering, George Zorbas, on Wednesday appeared before a supreme court deputy prosecutor, within the framework of a preliminary investigation into the heated Vatopedi Monastery affair involving controversial land swaps with the state.

    The investigation commenced following a lawsuit by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) President George Karatzaferis, who accused Supreme Court Chief Prosecutor George Sanidas and the former justice minister of "high treason", claiming that they had not forwarded the Vatopedi case file to Parliament as mandated.

    [12] PASOK resubmits proposal on Vatopedi issue probe

    The Parliamentary Group of the main opposition PASOK party resubmitted a proposal on Wednesday on the creation of a Special Parliamentary Committee to carry out a preliminary investigation on the Vatopedi issue, with PASOK leader George Papandreou being the first signatory.

    PASOK's 101 Parliamentary deputies are calling for the creation of a Special Parliamentary Committee to carry out the preliminary investigation regarding the "Penal Responsibilities of Ministers" and articles of the Parliamentary Regulation (a) on the possible perpetration of the offence of breach of faith against the state to a felonious degree by the then ministers and deputy ministers Evangelos Basiakos, Petros Doukas, Alexandros Kontos and George Voulgarakis and (b) the possible moral complicity of the then Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos.

    [13] Terrorist group assumes responsibility for riot police attack

    An Athens weekly on Wednesday announced that it had a received a voluminous -- 11 pages -- proclamation from a shadowy ultra-leftist terrorist group claiming responsibility for the early morning attack on Jan. 5, 2009, against three riot police officers guarding the culture ministry in central Athens.

    One police officer, 21, was seriously injured in the ambush.

    According to reports, the "Revolutionary Struggle" group also assumed responsibility for a Dec. 23, 2008 shooting against a bus carrying riot police in the Athens district of Goudi and for an attack against a petroleum multinational's offices in the Paleo Faliro district of southern Athens on Oct. 24, 2008.

    The weekly, "Pontiki", is expected to publish the proclamation in its Thursday edition.

    [14] Albania-EU Stabilisation and Association Pact ratified

    The stabilisation and association pact between Albania and the European Union was ratified in Parliament on Wednesday, with backing by the ruling New Democracy party and the main opposition PASOK party.

    The development was strongly criticised by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valynakis said that by this agreement, that signals the beginning of Albania's pre-accession process, the neighbouring country is committed to carrying out an entire series of radical reforms in the economy, justice, legislation and human rights, with visible benefits for Greek-Albanian relations and the Greek minority.

    Financial News

    [15] FinMin defends economic policy

    Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou on Wednesday defended the government's economic policy, saying it remained focused on gradually cutting a fiscal deficit below 3.0 pct but not at the expense of social cohesion in the country.

    Commenting on a decision by Standard & Poor's to downgrade Greece's credit rating to A-/A-2 from A-/A-1, the Greek minister said:

    "The main reason why Standard & Poor's downgraded the country is that Greece faces an international financial crisis with high public debt and fiscal deficit. I would like to note, however, that the public debt has fallen to 93 pct of GDP, down from 100 pct in 2004, and that the fiscal deficit has been cut significantly from 7.5 pct of GDP in 2004.

    "It remains, however, at high levels because of the government's decision to put the real economy and supporting weaker classes as a top priority. In a difficult international conjuncture, currently prevailing, minimising deficits by ignoring social consequences cannot be a target. After all, several Eurozone member-states will exceed the 3.0 pct target. We are a country with a high public debt and it is to our benefit -and not because it is imposed by a Stability and Growth Pact- to gradually cut the deficit below 3.0 pct. And this will happen with a plan without leaving behind the need for social cohesion. That's exactly what we will seek with our updated Stability and Growth Program which we will present by the end of month".

    S&P downgraded the country's credit rating because of a decline in competitiveness and higher fiscal deficits. However, S&P maintained the Greek economy's outlook as stable.

    [16] OTE 'optimistic' over '09 course

    Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation's (OTE) chairman and chief executive, Panagis Vourloumis, on Wednesday expressed optimism over the group's course, both domestic and abroad, despite an international financial crisis currently underway.

    Speaking to reporters, Vourloumis said his cooperation with Deutsche Telekom (DT) was good, reiterated that Cosmote remained the group's "strong card" and criticised the market regulator's policy, especially towards OTE.

    Vourloumis announced that there would be a new round of voluntary retirement of employees in the group, although he noted that it would cover a limited number of staff. He confirmed that the group would hire specialised staff (probably around 700) and said that state organisations and ministries owed around 70 million euros to the group.

    He said a financial crisis would not hit hard the telecommunications sector and announced that an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting would be held February 6. Vourloumis said he intended to remain at his post as head of the organization by next June, "unless" he was forced to leave earlier. The climate of cooperation with Deutsche Telekok was good, he said, adding that cooperation would begin this year in certain sectors, such as procurement.

    Vourloumis said binding offers in the sale of Cosmofon, Cosmote's subsidiary in FYROM, were expected to be submitted in February and noted that there were currently six candidates in the tender.

    [17] Hotels: 'stable' Oct-Nov period

    The Greek tourism sector was stable during the October-November 2008 period, with hotels reporting higher occupancy rates and lower occupancy rates equally distributed, while most hotel enterprises reported higher turnover and employment levels in the same period.

    A survey published by the Institute for Touristic Research and Forecasts (ITEP), conducted among the country's 3,000 largest hotel enterprises, said that despite uncertainty prevailing over the future of tourism in the country, more than half of hotel enterprises said they had scheduled investments during the winter season.

    The survey showed that large hotels (more than 100 beds) performed better compared with medium-sized enterprises in the two-month period last year.

    Large hotels reported that average room stay was 6.5 nights, up from 4.4 nights for medium-sized hotels, while average room occupancy rate was 67 pct for medium-sized and 73 pct for large hotel enterprises.

    [18] Athens metro strike called off

    The Athens metro will function normally on Thursday after the 24-hour strike initially called with economic and institutional demands was called off on Wednesday afternoon.

    The decision was taken after a delegation of employees met with the administration and an agreement was reached on demands made by the employees' union, ones related to the terms contained in the collective labour agreement covering the 2008-2009 period.

    [19] Greek closed-end investment funds' discount -41.33 pct, report

    Greek-listed closed-end investment funds ended 2008 with an average weighed discount of -41.33 percent, while their assets totaled 236.6 million euros, official figures showed on Wednesday.

    A report by the Association of Institutional Investors noted, however, it was encouraging that in the last quarter of 2008, closed-end investment funds managed to improve their performance, with assets falling by only 1.6 pct in December.

    Average numerical return of the sector in 2008 was better compared with the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange (-65.50 pct).

    [20] Greek stocks drop 5.47% on Wed.

    Greek stocks plunged at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, hit by a wave of negative domestic and international news. The composite index of the market fell 5.47 pct to end at 1,743.47 points, with turnover at 133.5 million euros, of which 3.5 million euros were block trades.

    All sectors moved lower, with the Financial Services (7.95 pct), Industrial Products (7.24 pct), Banks (6.24 pct), Telecommunications (5.92 pct), Raw Materials (5.84 pct) and Healthcare (5.73 pct).

    The FTSE 20 index fell 5.55 pct, the FTSE 40 index dropped 6.27 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 2.63 pct lower. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 185 to 36 with another 32 issues unchanged.

    [21] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices ended with a sharply widened discount at the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 52.745 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 3.15 pct, with volume of 8.937 contracts worth 40.803 million euros.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 14,117 contracts worth 11.555 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,609), followed by Eurobank (589), MIG (580), OTE (877), PPC (1,032), OPAP (560), Piraeus Bank (767), GEK (961), Alpha Bank (1,393) and Marfin Popular Bank (771).

    [22] Greek bond market closing report

    News that Standard & Poor's has cut the credit rating of the country hit the Greek electronic secondary bond market, sending the yield spread to new record highs on Wednesday. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German state bonds widened to 248 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.40 pct and the German Bund 2.92 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 545 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower, with the 12-month Euribor rate at 2.70 pct, the six-month rate 2.63 pct, the three-month rate 2.57 pct and the one-month rate 2.27 pct.

    [23] Foreign Exchange rates: Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.327

    Pound sterling 0.915

    Danish kroner 7.510

    Swedish kroner 11.035

    Japanese yen 118.60

    Swiss franc 1.487

    Norwegian kroner 9.506

    Canadian dollar 1.627

    Australian dollar 1.992

    General News

    [24] Ecumenical Patriarch briefs distinguished Open Society group

    ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA / A. Kourkoulas)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (Vartholomeos) raised issues concerning the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the ethnic Greek community in the Bosporus metropolis at a working lunch with European politicians here on Wednesday.

    The meeting was organised at a downtown hotel by the "Open Society" Foundation, with the participation of Marcelino Oreja Aguirre, former Spanish foreign minister, Italian Minister Emma Bonino, Albert Rohan, the former Austrian deputy foreign minister, and Hans van den Broek, the former Dutch foreign minister.

    Also participating in the Foundation are Michel Rocard, the former French prime minister, Kurt Bidenkopf, former PM of Saxony in Germany and other politicians.

    After an address was made by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, a discussion followed, with the Patriarch saying that the reopening of the Halki School of Theology is an urgent priority, while stressing that an Orthodox Christian seminary at whatever local university is no solution.

    The European leaders were also briefed by the Patriarch on the situation at present.

    [25] Archbishop Ieronymos calls on abductors to release shipowner

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, speaking in an interview with the ET-3 television channel in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Wednesday, called on the abductors of shipowner Periklis Panagopoulos to set him free.

    Archbishop Ieronymos, who termed the abduction a token of the crisis of our times, said that "my message is for these people to rise above the circumstances that led them to this act. I beg them to let the man return to his home."

    [26] Mt Olympus qualified to the second phase of the New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign

    Mt Olympus, the mountain of the 12 Gods of ancient Greek mythology, is the only Greek "monument of nature" that made it to the second phase of the New7Wonders of Nature ( <>) online campaign, being among the 261 national and multinational nominations that qualified and are now competing for a place among the top 77.

    The Greek nominees included the Meteora Rock Mountains, the island of Santorini and the Petrified Forest on the island of Lesvos.

    In the first phase of the campaign roughly 100 million people voted worldwide.

    Larissa Prefecture, in central Greece, on the occasion of the second vote that will last until July 7, 2009 called on all the people of Larissa and its expatriates to mobilize and support the Mt Olympus nomination.

    The top-voted nominees will be considered by the New 7 Wonders Panel of Experts. A shortlist of 21 selected candidates will be announced in July 2009 and will go forward to the next stage of voting. Voting for the New 7 Wonders of Nature as chosen by popular vote from the 21 finalist candidates will continue throughout 2010 and into 2011 when the official New 7 Wonders of Nature will be declared.

    [27] Youth groups' environmental initiative

    A large-scale nationwide initiative for the environment will be launched by the national council of Hellenic youth organisations (ESYN).

    The "SMS of Youth 2009 - Actions for the environment" undertaking is supported by 1,040 municipalities, 840 local youth councils, NGOs, chambers of commerce, higher education institutions as well as enterprises wishing to participate in social partnership programmes.

    The initiative aspires to raise public awareness through special events aimed at tackling issues such as water management and recycling.

    ESYN, a non-governmental, not-for-profit federation of youth organizations, was founded in 1998 being the culmination of a long effort by political party youth movements and social organisations in Greece. It serves as social partner of the government and relevant decision-making bodies on youth issues.

    [28] Psarantonis in the Nick Cave Festival at Mt Buller

    MELBOURNE (ANA-MPA / S. Hatzimanolis)

    A memorable performance was given by Antonis Xylouris, nicknamed Psarantonis, a lyrist from the south Aegean island of Crete, who appeared in the rock music festival "All tomorrow's Parties" hosted by Australian musician Nick Cave at Melbourne's Mt Buller resort.

    He made such an impression that the tickets of his solo appearance scheduled for Wednesday in Melbourne were sold out. On Saturday, he will perform in Sydney.

    Psarantonis, a composer, singer and lyre player (stringed musical instrument), comes from the village of Anoghia on the island of Crete and is the younger brother of another notable Cretan musician, Nikos Xylouris. Psarantonis is known for the special timbre of his voice and his lyre playing style. Apart from the lyre, he plays various traditional instruments. He has released many recordings and has represented Greece many times in festivals abroad.

    [29] Papoulias receives SOS children villages' board

    President of Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received memberd of the Children's Villages SOS at the presidential mansion.

    Papoulias accepted a proposal to inaugurate the new SOS village in Alexandroupolis, northeastern Greece. He also agreed to take under his auspices performances of the national symphonic orchestra of Russia, whose proceeds will be donated to the SOS children's villages.

    The group's leadership briefed Papoulias on work for the new SOS childrens' village in Ioannina, northwestern Greece.

    [30] Illegals rescued in southern Aegean

    The coast guard, together with the air force and navy, launched an operation on Tuesday evening to rescue 56 illegal immigrants on board a 10-metre boat sailing in the sea region between the islands of Crete and Milos.

    The operation began at about 8 p.m. when an emergency call was received by the 112 international distress number, notifying that a boat with illegal immigrants on board was in danger in the specific region.

    Later on, a pilot of a C-130 cargo aircraft announced that he had spotted the vessel, and that coast guard and naval vessels would be necessary to rescue those on board, while not ruling out the possibility of their rescue by air.

    In total, 53 Illegal migrants who were rescued and transported to the port city of Irakleio in Crete by Panamanian-flagged cargo ship with a Russian crew.

    According to initial reports, the illegals boarded the vessel at a Turkish port -- a favorite starting point for migrant smugglers plying the east Mediterranean -- and were headed for Italy, when rough seas interrupted the vessel's clandestine journey.

    Weather Forecast

    [31] Cloudy on Thursday

    Cloudy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 2C and 19C. Cloudy in Athens, with southerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 16C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 7C.

    [32] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Reforms in Education, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' contact with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, and the abduction of shipowner Pericles Panagopoulos dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "New Education Minister to abolish natiowide university entry exams after an open dialogue with everyone concerned...".

    APOGEVMATINI: "12,263 job opportunities (in wider public sector- Seasonal and permanent job positions".

    AVGHI: "Government confesses involvement in the Gaza conflict - Astakos port has been used as transit for weapons to Israel".

    AVRIANI: "Government's initiatives on general elections track".

    CHORA: "Athens-Moscow hot line - Karamanlis, Putin discussed 4 issues".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "The government uncovered after a US announcement on the annulment of weapons supply trasport for Astakos port, western Greece, to Israel".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Former PASOK government Foreign Minister claimed that Turkey was planning to invade Lesvos island in 1986".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The test result was positive: The 2 million euros interest-bearing state bonds issue was oversubscribed 6 times up".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The dialogue on Education reopens".

    ESTIA: "The tolerance and loose climate was the reason for the increase in crimes".

    ETHNOS: "All-night thriller for the ransom - Abducted shipowner's son came back urgently from USA".

    KATHIMERINI: "No end in sight for Russia-Ukraine dispute over the natural gas".

    LOGOS: "Dialogue on Education to begin from zero point - Government pre-announces reforms in Education".

    TA NEA: "Ministers and MPs forecast general elections by the end of spring - They point at 2010 but they are getting prepared for spring".

    NIKI: "The banks bought the state bonds with borrowed money".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The people will obstruct the support of the Palestinian people's murderers".

    TO VIMA: "Full speed ahead to general elections - The scenarios, the plans, the dates".

    VRADYNI: "Retroactive payments in public sector going back 5 years."

    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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