|Sunday, 25 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-01-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 16 January 2009 Issue No: 3097
 FM outlines Greek OSCE goalsVIENNA (ANA-MPA / D. Dimitrakoudis)
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Thursday outlined the ideas guiding the scope and goals of the Greek presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009.
The Greek foreign minister spoke at a press conference here.
Earlier, Bakoyannis presented the priorities of the Greek Presidency before the Organisation's Permanent Council, at the Hoffburg Palace in the Austrian capital.
The foreign minister pointed out that these ideas focus on pursuing cooperation between all the participating countries in promoting partner, undivided and intersectional security, pursuing a strategy on planning more effective ways of implementing common goals to guarantee stability, security and cooperation in the region of the OSCE, as well as caring for achieving symmetry in efforts to confront asymmetrical threats and past provocations.
Bakoyannis further referred to efforts being made to resolve the problem of the "name" under the auspices of the UN and expressed a hope that Greece's neighbors will realise that good-neighborly relations are important for both peoples.
The foreign minister also announced that she will be going to Moscow on Jan. 21 and will make every effort to have the OSCE's mission in Georgia maintained, as presently, no extension of the mandate has been obtained.
On the question of a Greek vessel carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, the foreign minister said it has been stressed in contacts between the Greek side and the Israeli government that it is purely a humanitarian effort, which has been decided by a non-governmental organisation.
Lastly, Bakoyannis said she hopes for support by the new US administration vis-à-vis OSCE's issues and that she will have a meeting in Washington as soon as possible, while noting that she does not expect cutbacks by the OSCE's 56 member-states in the organisation's budget, as a result of the economic crisis.
 FM outlines Greek OSCE priorities in inaugural address in ViennaVIENNA (ANA-MPA)
Greece on Thursday assured that it will act as an "honest broker" to advance dialogue and improve the mechanisms of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), in the inaugural address by Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Greece's assumption of the OSCE presidency, the priorities of which she outlined in her speech.
The full text of Bakoyannis' address follows below:
It is a pleasure to address the Permanent Council of the OSCE for the first time as Chairperson-in-Office.
Greece assumes the OSCE Chairmanship at a time when the quest for security in our region has become ever more complex, and when rapid, unpredictable change seems to be the only constant in international relations.
In these circumstances, I believe the OSCE remains a vital point of reference within the UN framework.
The OSCE is the only regional forum that encompasses the wider Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian regions. It is also rooted in a unique, ambitious concept of security based upon shared values, agreed commitments and the fundamental dignity of the individual.
The strength of the OSCE lies also in its extraordinary ability to adapt to Europe's changing needs and challenges. For over thirty years, our Organization has stood by the peoples of our region in their efforts to realize a vision of stability, democracy and progress for all.
Greece assumes the OSCE Chairmanship inspired by a sense of responsibility and driven by the determination to contribute to the security and stability of our continent and the prosperity of our peoples.
From the very beginning, let me say that I see in the crisis in Georgia both a challenge and an opportunity. This crisis has shaken us out of our complacency, and reminded us that our job is not done. It therefore provides us with the opportunity to look afresh at the mechanisms we have created, to re-dedicate ourselves to the full implementation of our agreed commitments, and to consider new ways to build indivisible security.
Situated at the very heart of Europe's security architecture, the OSCE is uniquely placed to act as a pivot of stability in relations between State, and within them. Lasting peace cannot be built on zero-sum calculations. The inclusiveness and the consensus decision-making of the OSCE, if they are matched with sustained political will, can be our greatest strengths. In 2009, Greece is committed to act as an "honest broker" in addressing some of the divisions that have opened among our participating States in recent years. Openness, transparency, and the will to build consensus will guide our efforts.
In Helsinki, OSCE Ministers had the opportunity to discuss frankly the challenges facing the OSCE area and the obstacles before us. This discussion showed once again that the OSCE is the place for such meaningful exchanges. Greece is committed to carry this dialogue forward, to improve existing structures and to work toward the implementation of all OSCE commitments.
Please allow me to make two remarks in this regard:
First, let us not forget the 'spirit of Helsinki.' This spirit reminds us that genuine security can only be built on two pillars: indivisibility -- where the security of all States is linked to that of others -- and comprehensiveness -- where the stability of States is tied to the rights of individuals, healthy economic governance and political-military transparency.
Second, honest, good-faith dialogue remains our strongest confidence-building measure. Restoring trust and understanding is a precondition for co-operative security. This dialogue should start from the bottom-up, aiming to the top. The particularly fruitful discussions we held in Helsinki proved that Ministerial Meetings could give the necessary impetus to this dialogue. As I already stated in Helsinki, the Greek Chairmanship is ready and willing to explore the possibility to organize such a meeting, when the time is deemed as appropriate, so as to give to all the participating States the possibility to focus on our common security, with no strings attached as for the timeframes and the rules of procedure to be applied.
No international organization is perfect.
As with other international structures, we must continue to improve the efficiency of the OSCE. This involves the institutional evolution of the Organization as well as its legal personality. Participating States have agreed on the need to enhance the legal status of the OSCE. Now is the time to act on this, and Greece is committed to taking forward and finalizing this process.
It has become an unfortunate habit for our budget to be delayed. Such delay impacts negatively on the work and the reputation of the OSCE. The Greek Chairmanship appeals to all of you to reach agreement in the very near future. This is vital for the smooth and orderly planning of OSCE activities.
A priority of the Greek Chairmanship will be to undertake all necessary actions to promote the prevention and peaceful settlement of conflicts. This is OSCE core business, to which I will be dedicated, as will be my Special Representative, Ambassador Christopoulos.
The role of my Personal Representative for the conflict dealt with by the Minsk Conference, Ambassador Kasprzyk, also remains extremely important. In all cases, Greece is committed to working with all sides in a spirit of openness and driven by the desire for dialogue aiming at practical results.
We value the contribution of the OSCE Field Operations in the areas of democratic institution-building. During the Greek Chairmanship, this will remain a main priority and will require effective co-ordination with the host Governments and the Heads of Missions. I look forward to establishing close co-operation with all of them.
I consider the role of OSCE Operations in South Eastern Europe as pivotal for promoting democratic institution-building and regional stability. The OSCE role in Eastern Europe is no less important, and I am convinced that that the Organization's contribution to comprehensive security in Central Asia can be enhanced significantly. We will support all initiatives to this end, in a balanced and careful way, taking due account of the Organization's work in other regions.
The future of the OSCE presence in Georgia requires our special attention.
I regret that the tireless efforts of the Finnish Chairmanship to prolong the mandate of the OSCE Mission to Georgia did not reach consensus. As of January 1st, the Mission finds itself in a phase of technical closure. However, it is evident that the situation on the ground and throughout the region requires more OSCE presence, not less.
The Greek Chairmanship is committed to maintaining a meaningful OSCE presence in the region. We are striving for a consensus solution, based on OSCE principles and commitments. The OSCE has a long tradition of imaginative and flexible solutions, but these can only work if there is good will and political courage on all sides. I appeal to you today to show such will and courage.
The OSCE security dialogue remains a vital tool for early warning and crisis management.
In this respect, Greece will continue the practice of previous Chairs of enhancing co-ordination between the Permanent Council and the FSC, by organizing Joint Meetings on topics of common interest and by considering joint decision-making when appropriate.
Of course, the FSC does not operate in a vacuum. Greece is concerned by the continuing lack of clarity over the future of the CFE Treaty. This Treaty must remain a cornerstone of European security, and Greece will do all it can to retain and improve this most important foundation of military transparency and predictability.
I am convinced also that the OSCE has a key role to play in the fight against terrorism. In this respect, I am pleased to underline our intention to promote the implementation of OSCE counter-terrorism commitments, with full respect to the rule of law and human rights.
We will also work hard to support the implementation and further development of OSCE commitments in border security and policing. In this respect, we believe that deepening OSCE engagement with Afghanistan should remain a priority in 2009 and beyond.
Our States and societies face difficult challenges in the economic and environmental spheres. The OSCE's comprehensive approach to security provides a strong foundation for targeted co-operation.
This year's 17th Economic and Environmental Forum will examine the cross-dimensional aspects of the migration phenomenon. Uncontrolled migratory movements represent a significant challenge to participating States, and I look forward to a results-driven dialogue as we proceed to the meeting in Athens in May.
Desertification, water scarcity, soil contamination, and environmental degradation -- these challenges also affect us all. If not dealt with appropriately, they can lead to conflict and forced migratory flows. Greece will seek to raise awareness on the possible impact of these issues on the security of the OSCE area.
Climate change constitutes the most serious long-term environmental threat to our region and beyond. I believe that the OSCE can play an important role in this area by focusing on the security implications of this complex phenomenon. We will initiate a multi-level dialogue on this issue, keeping in mind the need to avoid duplication of effort. Our aim will be to underpin and empower the UN.
The Greek Chairmanship will develop the idea of "Greening the OSCE," to promote a more environmentally friendly Organization. On top of improving the every day practice of the Organization this project will seek to provide for a promising new generation of environmental programmes.
The security of energy supplies is a recurring concern. We should recall here the commitments we have all taken to "a predictable, reliable, economically acceptable, commercially sound and environmentally friendly energy supply", achieved by means of long-term contracts where appropriate. The OSCE Strategy Document for the Economic and Environmental Dimension, adopted in Maastricht in 2003, should remain a reference point for us all.
The OSCE can also help to ensure that the global financial crisis does not cast a heavy shadow over stability in its region. We stand ready to react as appropriate and in line with the OSCE mandates to consider the potential security impact of the crisis.
The OSCE is unique because it is founded on the idea that genuine security between States must rest on a foundation of shared values -- respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the development of societies based on pluralistic democracy and the rule of law.
We have achieved a lot together, and we can do more to prevent the acquis we have crafted from eroding, to adapt it further for new circumstances, and to ensure that we all feel equal ownership of this vital dimension of security.
Respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, as well as the proper functioning of democratic institutions, can never be taken for granted. These are achieved through long, sometimes painful, processes that require constant care and commitment.
Participating States should continue to implement their agreed commitments in the Human Dimension. At the same time, we should help each other in this process, in a spirit of good will.
In the Human Dimension, the Greek Chairmanship will seek to strengthen the broad thematic area of the Rule of Law, guided by a more sober and structured approach. The relevant MC Decision adopted in Helsinki can provide a useful starting platform.
Greece will also give priority attention to gender equality and mainstreaming. It is my belief that the empowerment of women and a stronger emphasis on the need to respect their rights can trigger positive developments within participating States, and positively affect their capacity to fulfill their commitments.
In the area of tolerance and non-discrimination, the Greek Chairmanship will devote particular attention to the situation of the Roma and Sinti as well as the fight against hate crimes. Freedom of religion and human rights education will also be given prominence.
Finally, Greece is dedicated to maintaining the highest standards for OSCE election observation activities. This year will see important elections in the OSCE region, and it is essential that election observation remains a flagship activity of the Organization. Cooperation between the ODIHR and the Parliamentary Assembly remains a key to success.
I wish to thank my colleague, Minister Stubb, and the Finnish team for their unwavering efforts throughout 2008. In the same vein, I look forward to close co-operation with Finland and Kazakhstan in the Troika format during 2009.
I also consider the support of the Secretary General, the Secretariat and the OSCE Institutions vital for the success of our Chairmanship and for the continuity and effectiveness of the Organization.
In the shape of the Parliamentary Assembly, the ODIHR, the High Commissioner on National Minorities and the Representative on the Freedom of the Media, we have a unique toolbox, designed to support States and to strengthen the health of their societies. The Greek Chairmanship will draw on all facets of the OSCE comprehensive concept of security and all of the tools that we have created together.
In this respect, we look forward also to deepening co-operation with the OSCE Partners for Cooperation and our partner international organizations.
In closing, alow me to underline the three ideas that will guide the Greek Chairmanship:
· The search for synergy between all participating States for promoting our co-operative, indivisible and cross-dimensional security.
· The pursuit of strategy to design more effective ways to achieve our common goals of guaranteeing stability, security and cooperation in the OSCE area.
· The concern for symmetry of efforts in dealing with new "asymmetric threats" and old challenges.
In an evolving international environment, we will seek to make a difference by upholding the values, principles and rules of the OSCE. Together, these constitute the driving force of this Organization and the basis for our co-operative security.
We need each other more than ever, and I pledge that forging stronger ties will be the promise of the Greek Chairmanship. We rely on each and every one of you to help us keep this promise.
 PM chairs interministerial committee on econ policyPrime minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday chaired a meeting of the Interministerial Committee on Economic Policy he recently set up.
All forecasts for the EU countries regarding the real economy are adverse, in the midst of the curent immense global financial crisis, national economy and finance minister Yiannis Papathanassiou told reporters after the meeting.
He stressed that the government was on top of the developments, adding that one of the issues that impacted the real economy was that of liquidity (cash flow), stressing that it was now time for the banks to roll over the liquidity (injected into the banking system under the government's 28 billion euros plan) to businesses and citizens.
The minister explained that the government, in cooperation with the country's central bank, the Bank of Greece (BoG), would exercise "systematic and stringent checks" to ensure that this liquidity would indeed reach the real economy. "It is time for each and everyone to take up his share of the responsibilities," Papathanassiou stressed.
The minister announced that he would meet on Friday with the Association of Greek Banks to discuss these matters while, to a question on the downgrading of Greece's credit rating by Standard and Poor's, he stressed that "the government's target is to boost the real economy on the one hand, and on the other fiscal balance", adding that this would be outlined as well in the updated Stability and Growth plan to be submitted to the EU.
 Spokesman on global crisisGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday notd that the global financial crisis was constantly developing and no one could know its rhythm, adding that what was important was to monitor those developments so as to be in a position to confront its repercussions in the best possible way, especially for those who have greater need, while at the same time meeting the country's obligations to the EU.
Replying to questions during a regular press briefing, Antonaros also said that statements earlier by national economy and finance minister Yiannis Papathanassiou had fully covered the matter concerning the downgrading of Greece's credit rating by Standard and Poor's, and put the issue into its "true dimensions".
Asked if the government plan for injecting liquidity into the economy had run into problems, the spokesman noted that the liquidity plan had just recently begun being implemented.
 PASOK on developments in GazaMain opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou said on Thursday, referring to the ongoing Gaza crisis, that "unfortunately, news of an impending ceasefire in Gaza is being denied every day" and then focused on the ship "Arion" that returned to the port of Larnaca after being blocked by Israeli warships.
"It is unfortunate that the Israeli government does not realise the need for humanitarian aid corridors to be open. The international community and Greece must insist on this," the spokesman said and added that "a non-combatant people who are under bombs every day are watching an international community that does not want or that cannot."
 Tsipras: Gov't a 'Pontius Pilate' vis-a-vis ongoing Gaza crisisCoalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party leader Alexis Tsipras, speaking on Thursday during a protest rally in western Greece against the use of the port of Astakos for the transfer of munitions from the United States to Israel, said that "we shall not allow even an inch of land to be used to facilitate the transfer of war supplies to Israel.
"The pride of the Greek people is ruffled when weapons are transported from ports in the country," Tsipras said.
Tsipras accused the Greek government of "washing its hands" and of "behaving like a Pontius Pilate" and called on it to take initiatives, stressing that "it must forget all thoughts of facilitating Israel and the United States and recall the Greek ambassador from Israel, otherwise its complicity will be grave."
 Humanitarian aid-laden vessel blocked from GazaLARNACA (ANA-MPA)
A Greek-flagged vessel carrying humanitarian aid for war-ravaged Gaza returned here on Thursday evening following a fruitless 34-hour journey after Israeli gunboats intercepted it in international waters.
The vessel, "Arion", had departed from the Cypriot port of Larnaca with 17 passengers of different nationalities and four crewmembers. Due to the blockade of Gaza by the Israeli navy the humanitarian aid was not delivered.
 Alavanos meets with Iranian envoyRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group head Alekos Alavanos met on Thursday with the Iranian ambassador to Athens Mehdi Honardoost, saying afterwards that the Greek government cannot be absent from the Gaza issue.
"The burning of UN offices in Gaza by Israeli forces, the threat of sinking a ship of the 'Free Gaza' movement in international waters, the more than 1,000 dead show that things can go no further and that the Greek government cannot be absent, because absence means a cover up," Alavanos said.
Alavanos reiterated SYRIZA's position on recalling the Greek ambassador to Israel, a freezing of the Greek-Israeli military cooperation agreement of 1993, while calling for the development, despite differences, of Athens' relations with Iran at governmental and Parliamentary level.
 Guyana President arrives for state visitThe President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, currently on an official visit to Greece, met with President Karolos Papoulias for talks on bilateral relations and international issues on Thursday.
Papoulias hosted a dinner in honour of the Guyana president and expressed certainty in his address that the visit will contribute to the further strengthening of friendly relations between the two countries.
Jagdeo said on his part that "in the ranks of the European Union the small countries are those that can understand the challenges being faced by the small and developing ones around the world."
 Gov't on proclamation sent by terror groupThe government spokesman on Thursday reiterated that "violence, no matter where it comes from, is categorically condemned", in reply to a press question over a proclamation reportedly sent by a shadowy terrorist group and claiming responsibility for three recent attacks against police.
"There is no justification, and moreover, I will not deal with the babble found in the texts of those trying to justify the use of violence," he said.
 PASOK wants Vatopedi com't of inquiryÁ proposal made by the main opposition PASOK party on the establishment of an Investigatory Committee to probe the Vatopedi Monastery land swap affair will be presented to the Parliament plenum on Monday afternoon.
This was decided by the conference of Parliament party representatives that convened on Thursday under the chairmanship of Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas.
The other opposition parties have also acknowledged, in their conclusions on the case, the need for further examining the issue through an Investigatory Committee, while the ruling New Democracy party's Parliamentary representative, Panos Panagiotopoulos, attributed "party selfishness and an attempt to criminalise the country's political life" to the main opposition party, clarifying that the ruling party "will not participate in PASOK's methods."
 Kassimis visits Greek diaspora youth being hosted in GreeceDeputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis visited on Wednesday young people of Greek descent from the southern hemishpere who are being hosted in Greece by the Secretariat General for Hellenes Abroad.
One-hundred young people of the Greek diaspora, aged 18-25, are staying at a downtown Athens hotel from 11 January until the end of the month in the framework of the "Programme of Greek language and civilisation" . During their 20-day visit they will attend Greek language lessons, visit archaeological sites and meet with youth organisations.
 PASOK spokesman points to S&P reportMain opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou, commenting on Thursday on the recent report by the Standard and Poors rating firm, said the downgrading shows that unreliability of the country's economic policy continues to exist.
"Greece is the only eurozone country for which a downgrading of such a kind is taking place," Papaconstantinou said, terming the report a "negative development" that comes after the "successful" -- as he sardonically said -- auctioning of a state bond issue and following a government reshuffle.
 Greek inflation falls to 2.2% in Dec., EurostatBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
Greek annual inflation rate fell to 2.2 pct in December 2008, from 3.0 pct in November, Eurostat said on Thursday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report, said the inflation rate in the Eurozone fell to 1.6 pct in December from 2.1 pct in November and after a 3.1 pct figure in December 2007. In the EU-27, the inflation rate fell to 2.2 pct, from 2.8 pct in November and 3.2 pct in December 2007.
Luxembourg (0.7 pct), Portugal (0.8 pct) and Germany (1.1 pct) recorded the lowest inflation rates, while Latvia (10.4 pct), Lithuania (8.5 pct) and Estonia (7.5 pct) the highest rates.
 Unemployment falls yr/yr to 7.4pct in Oct. 2008The unemployment rate in Greece fell by half a percentage point yr/yr to 7.4 percent in October 2008 from 7.9 percent in the same month in 2007, according to figures released on Thursday by the national statistics service ESYE.
According to a survey on the active population conducted by ESYE, the highest unemployment rate by age group was among the 15-24 age bracket (in which the unemployment rate dropped to 21.2 percent in October from 21.9 percent in October 2007), followed by the 25-34 age bracket (in which the unemployment rate dropped to 10.5 percent from 11.7 percent in October 2007).
With respect to unemployment rates by region, ESYE said that the highest rate, 10.7 percent, was recorded in eastern Macedonia and Thrace, western Macedonia, and western Greece.
Lower rates were recorded in central mainland (Sterea) Greece (9.0 percent), Thessaly (8.7 percent), the Ionian Islands (also 8.7 percent), central Macedonia (7.6 percent), and the Peloponese (7.0 percent).
The lowest rate was in the Northern Aegean periphery, where unemployment stood at 1.9 percent.
The total number of employed in October 2008 was estimated at 4,615,808 people, with 367,204 unemployed out of an active population of 4,260,063 people.
 PASOK criticizes govt handling in Olympic Airlines privatisationPASOK main opposition political party on Thursday strong criticized the government for its handling in a tender to sell Olympic Airlines and Olympic Airways.
Speaking to reporters, PASOK deputies Nikos Sifounakis and Haris Tsiokas, accused the government of lying over a list of candidates for the national carrier, after Qatar Airlines -which was included in the initial list of bidders- categorically denied it has ever interested in buying the Greek national carrier. PASOK deputies said this development "makes a ridicule" of both the prime minister and the government since Premier C.Karamanlis had visited Qatar a few weeks earlier.
PASOK deputies reminded that according to a plan submitted with the European Commission, in case a privatisation effort failed, there was no alternative plan and that Olympic Airlines would have to close down. They recommended that the national carrier needed an integraded restructuring plan covering the whole group, raising private capital, workers taking full responsibility and signing a strategic partnership with other airlines.
 National Bank included in Global Dow - Top 150 indexNational Bank on Thursday said it will be included in the Global Dow -Top 150, an index including the top 150 companies around the world.
In a statement, National Bank said this development was even more important given the very negative international situation in the credit sector. The index is a product of cooperation between Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal and aims at highlighting the current and future leaders in the global corporate world. It evaluates the performance of 150 top companies for their innovation, dynamism and influence on their fields.
National Bank said the development placed its shares among a list of top shares around the world and attracts the attention of a wider range of international investors.
 Credit conditions worsened in 2008The value of unpaid bills and bounced checks in the country totaled 1.46 billion euros last year, up from 1.099 billion euros in 2007, official figures showed on Thursday.
The value of bouncing checks totaled 1.291 billion euros at the end of December 2008, from 921.8 million euros in December 2007, while the value of unpaid bills grew 36.3 percent to 170.2 million euros.
 Serapheim Liapis appointed new IKA dep. gov.Serapheim Liapis on Thursday was appointed as the new deputy governor of the Social Security Foundation (IKA), by decision of the employment and social protection minister.
According to a relevant announcement, Liapis is an economist with postgraduate studies in health services administration and a doctorate in regional development.
 AB Vasilopoulos says 2008 sales up 13.8 pctAB Vasilopoulos on Thursday reported a 12.7 pct increase in cnsolidated sales in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 379.1 million euros, and a 13.8 pct rise in consolidated sales throughout 2008 to 1.337 billion euros, from 1.175 billion euros in 2007.
The supermarket group said it had opened eight new units and five franchises along with the operation of a logistics center in Thessaloniki covering the needs of Northern Greece.
For 2009, AB Vasiliopoulos plans to expand its network with the addition of 16 new shops, totaling 217 units around the country.
 Winter sales opening dayThe merchant sector expressed hope that the winter sales that began on Thursday, and will run through February 28, will boost and revive the market. The National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE) warns consumers, however, not to be impressed by announcement made for PR reasons but to compare prices on the market before proceeding with the purchase.
The Confederation underlined that in this difficult conjuncture of the global financial crisis, during which even the smallest purchase is of value, a mature consumer attitude serves the buyers and also becomes the best ally for a robust and organised market.
 Greek stocks end 1.94% downGreek stocks lost further substantial ground in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the market near the 1,700 level. The index ended 1.94 pct down at 1,709.69 points, with turnover rising to 163.5 million euros, of which 1.4 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with the Food/Beverage (4.78 pct), Banks (3.58 pct) and Constructions (3.04 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while the Financial Services (0.52 pct), Telecommunications (0.51 pct) and Travel (0.27 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index dropped 2.20 pct, the FTSE 40 index fell 0.32 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.53 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 125 to 66 with another 59 issues unchanged.
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 56.313 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 2.17 pct, with volume of 10.019 contracts worth 43.312 million euros and 24,669 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 15,484 contracts worth 12.583 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,480), followed by Eurobank (594), MIG (381), OTE (838), PPC (786), OPAP (1,187), Piraeus Bank (892), GEK (1,423), Alpha Bank (1,738) and Intralot (344).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds widened to 258 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with turnover rising to 604 million euros, of which 210 million were buy orders and the remaining 394 million euros were sell orders. The Greek benchmark bond yielded 5.45 pct and the German Bund 2.87 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates fell further. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.65 pct, the six-month rate 2.57 pct, the three-month rate 2.51 pct and the one-month rate 2.20 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates: FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.319
Pound sterling 0.903
Danish kroner 7.510
Swedish kroner 11.080
Japanese yen 117.91
Swiss franc 1.484
Norwegian kroner 9.502
Canadian dollar 1.650
Australian dollar 1.997
 Church's NGO to initially despatch 50 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza, second shipment to followThe Church of Greece's non-governmenal organization (NGO) Allilegii (Solidarity) will despatch a 50-ton shipment of humanitarian aid for Gaza, in cooperation with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece announced on Thursday at a meeting of the Standing Holy Synod.
The Archbishop informed the Synod that following contributions received so far by the Church's NGO and from stocks of supplies in its warehouses, a despatch of 50 tons of food aid would be sent to Gaza. The humanitarian aid comprises 20 tons of flour, 10 tons of olive oil, 2.5 tons of pasta, legumes and rice, 9.5 tons of bottled water, 7 tons of sugar and one ton of powdered milk.
In addition, with the money to be amassed in the collection plates in the churches throughout the country on Sunday, January 18, medicines would also be purchased, to be despatched in a second shipment of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
 Baby dies in fireÁ 12-month-old baby girl burned to death on Wednesday night at a Rom camp on the island of Rhodes in the Dodecanese.
According to the Fire Brigade, the fire was started by a spark from a stove or a brazier, and burned three shacks occupied by Rom families.
 Taxi driver arrested for transporting illegal immigrantsAn Albanian taxi driver was arrested Thursday on the Antirrio-Ioannina national highway, after a chase, for transporting illegal immigrants for a fee.
The taxi was spotted by police, who considered it suspect and flagged it down for a check. The driver, however, sped off instead of pullling over, but due to excessive the taxi collided with a truck in the opposite lane. The Albanian and illegal immigrants, as well as the driver and co-driver of the truck, were injured in the crash and rushed to hospital.
The taxi driver and the illegal immigrants were under guard at the hospital until their release, after which they will be led before a public prosecutor.
 Police hold rare protestTwo separate protests took place in downtown Athens on Thursday by diametrically different groups, as police unions rallied in front of Parliament demanding an end to violence against them, and in general, while a few blocks away -- in front of Athens University's 19th century administration offices -- protesters attended a rally organised by leftist and out-of-Parliament groups.
The latter again demanding that a ban on non-profit, non-state universities remain in place in the country and that "asylum" status -- no law enforcement presence -- on various campuses around the country also remain unchanged.
The central slogan at the rally by police officers was "violence against police is violence against society and democracy."
No incidents or any tension was reported at the gathering in front the of university building during the peaceful demonstration.
Police unions took the initiative in the wake of a terrorist gang's assumption of responsibility for three attacks on police over the recent period, including an ambush of three police sentries last month, which left one 21-year-old officer seriously injured.
 Drug arrestAn Albanian driver was arrested on the Ioannina-Kefalovrisso provincial road on Thursday, while is accomplices averted arrest by fleeing, after police found two sacks containing a total of 90.2 kilos of cannabis in two cars.
The cars were spotted on the provincial road by security police and drug squad officers, who arrested the Albanian national in one car, while his accomplices fled, abandoning the second car.
One of the two vehicles had been reported stolen on January 13 in Athens.
 US Embassy to be closed on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King holidayThe US Embassy and Consular Section in Athens, the General Consulate in Thessaloniki and all US government offices in Greece will remain closed on Monday, January 19, in observance of Martin Luther King's birthday anniversary, a US national holday.
 Cloudy, rainy on FridayCloudy weather with local showers and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 3C and 16C. Cloudy and showery in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 15C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 6C to 12C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe Revolutionary Struggle group's assumption of the attacks against police officers, the ongoing Turkish provocations in the Aegean and the state of the Greek economy dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Main opposition PASOK tabled a proposal for the establishment of a preliminary investigation committee into the Vatopedi monastery-State real estate exchanges".
APOGEVMATINI: "Turkish frigate in Attica - Ankara's "Hawks" are trying to provoke a hot incident".
AVGHI: "They are rolling over the cost onto the backs of the financially weaker".
AVRIANI: "Revolutionary Struggle preannounces new 'blind' attacks".
CHORA: "Proof he's alive - The kidnappers sent a video tape showing abducted shipowner Pericles Panagopoulos".
ELEFTHEROS: "Golden opportunity for Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to perform a 'clean up' in ND and the political system".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: They declared war against all".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Loans-loop for the Economy - Greece's credit ability downgraded".
ESTIA: "Radical simplification of the taxation system".
ETHNOS: "The dreams of benefits are shattering - Standard and Poor's credit rating house report is shocking for Greece and the eurozone".
KATHIMERINI: "Painful downgrading of the Greek economy".
LOGOS: "The warning bell sounds for the Greek economy".
NIKI: "The economy in a chasm - Greece to face new misadventures".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Greece must not turn into a sprinboard for the slaughter of the Palestinians".
TA NEA: "International credit rating house downgrades the Greek economy".
TO VIMA: "Ruling party New Democracy (ND) dismantles ND - They are changing the changes of the re-establishment"
VRADYNI: "Social cohesion comes first - FinMin Yannis Papathanassiou's response to STANDARD & POOR's appraisers".
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