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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-03

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Tuesday, 3 February 2009 Issue No: 3112


  • [01] PM and GSEE trade unionists discuss crisis
  • [02] FM visits Belgrade, meets with Serbian leadership
  • [03] FM interview with Tanjug ahead of SE Europe tour as OSCE chairperson
  • [04] Gov't spokesman on OA
  • [05] Cretan farmers arrive in Piraeus, police stop tractors' exit
  • [06] PASOK spokesman on farmers, economy, election law, OA
  • [07] PASOK on economy
  • [08] Education Minister addresses letters to Papariga, Karatzaferis
  • [09] SYRIZA to abstain from dialogue on education
  • [10] Slovenian president on FYROM's use of ancient symbols, heritage
  • [11] Organic farming 'abandoned', PASOK claims
  • [12] Interamerican allocates 319.6 mln euros in compensation in 2008
  • [13] Atlantic supermarkets to expand network in 2009
  • [14] Vivere, Theros Int'l win tender for Corfu casino
  • [15] Greek PMI down to 40 in Jan.
  • [16] Greek stocks plunge 2.96% on Mon.
  • [17] ADEX closing report
  • [18] Greek bond market closing report
  • [19] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [20] Papoulias briefed by Dimas
  • [21] Parliament president receives EU Commissioner Dimas
  • [22] Angelopoulos's new film "Dust of Time"
  • [23] Ruling released on Alex case
  • [24] Major human trafficking ring busted in nationwide sweep
  • [25] Drug arrests in Serres
  • [26] Material damage to three police patrol cars during chase
  • [27] Cloudy on Tuesday
  • [28] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [29] President hopes for a conclusion on ship issue Politics

  • [01] PM and GSEE trade unionists discuss crisis

    Trade unionists meeting Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday said the premier had treated their demands for measures to curb lay-offs with understanding, promising that the government would consider their proposals and discuss them further. Their talks had focused on the financial crisis and labour relations.

    The presidium of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) - An umbrella trade union organisation representing the largest bloc of Greece's private-sector workers - had asked the government to prevent companies receiving state aid, especially funding from banks via the 28 billion euros support package, from carrying out mass lay-offs. The meeting was also attended by Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou and Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia.

    The employment minister, on her part, stressed that the goal was to protect labour rights and support those that were financially weakest, adding that the crisis could not be an alibi for anyone. The government was at the side of employees and those companies that respect labour rights, she said.

    According to GSEE President Yiannis Panagopoulos, the measures being taken were "aspirins unable to tackle the great disease" and he repeated his call for a ban on lay-offs, saying that he had seen a "desire for understanding" as opposed to a tough stance on the part of the premier.

    GSEE secretary Costas Poupakis said the government had shown interest in the trade unionists proposals and had promised to consider them and then discuss them in meetings with Petralia.

    [02] FM visits Belgrade, meets with Serbian leadership

    BELGRADE (ANA-MPA / N. Melisova)

    Greece reiterated here on Monday its standing support for Serbia's major modernisation programme to reform the country's public sector, a crucial factor for Serbia's European prospects, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said.

    Bakoyannis, in her capacity as chairperson of Greece's rotating OSCE presidency for 2009, began a tour of the western Balkans this week, meeting in Belgrade with her Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic.

    In joint statements afterwards, both ministers said bilateral relations were excellent, with an intent to further strengthen economic relations amid the ongoing international economic crisis. Greece currently ranks as the number one foreign investor nation in Serbia.

    One issue on the agenda of talks was the normalisation of a fee transport regime for Greek lorry drivers passing through Serbia.

    Moreover, Bakoyannis again reiterated the Greek government's standing support for Serbia's European integration, saying that "we are working very hard for this; the vision of European inclusion should not be lost even in this period of contemplation by the European Union."

    On his part, Jeremic expressed Belgrade's gratitude for Athens' support vis-a-vis Serbia's European volition, which he said was the "number one" priority for his country.

    Asked about the prospect of Kosovo requesting admission into the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), both ministers said decisions by the 56 member-states are taken with "absolute consensus". Jeremic noted that his country "would never acquiesce" to such a prospect.

    "The OSCE mission in Belgrade and Pristina is clear-cut and the organisation does not enter into matters outside its jurisdiction," the Greek FM added.

    Asked about the still unresolved FYROM "name issue", Bakoyannis merely repeated Athens' emphasis on a "geographic determinant for all uses", something she said no MP in the Greek parliament is willing to change.

    Ín response, Jeremic said he was "impressed over the consistency of Greece's positions on foreign affairs issues, something he said should be followed by the Serbian side".

    The Greek FM also met with Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic and was also scheduled to meet later in the evening with Serbian President Boris Tadic.

    Bakoyannis will visit Pristina on Tuesday.

    [03] FM interview with Tanjug ahead of SE Europe tour as OSCE chairperson


    Serbia's role in southeastern Europe is particularly important, Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis noted in an interview with the Serbian news agency Tanjug.

    Bakoyannis, as chairperson of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for 2009, embarked on Monday on a series of visits over the next two weeks to the western Balkan states, with Belgrade as the first stop, where she will have meetings with Serbian leadership, followed the following day by a visit to Pristina, Kosovo where the largest of the OSCE's 19 missions is headquartered and where she will hold talks with representatives of international organisations headquartered there.

    The following week, on Feb. 9, Bakoyannis is scheduled to visit Tirana, while on Feb. 11 she will visit Tbilisi, for talks with government officials in both countries.

    In her interview with Tanjug, Bakoyannis explained that the Greek OSCE chairmanship will focus on "settlement of the open conflicts, improvement of the cross-border cooperation among the (region's) countries, the migration problem, enhancing the just state, reinforcing the fight against trafficking of people, and more generally defending human rights".

    Regarding Serbia, Bakoyannis said the OSCE mission provided substantial help in the reform of the judicial sector, combating organized crime, building institutions for the protection of human rights, and other programs that render the Organization's work in Serbia of particular importance.

    The OSCE, she added, can help the countries of the region overcome the tribulations they are facing, and noted that the OSCE's fundamental principles are respect of international law and the use of multi-faceted diplomacy for the creation of a climate of compromise.

    Bakoyannis described as "impeccable" the cooperation between the OSCE mission and the Serbian government, and expressed hope that this will continue and be enhanced in the future.

    Asked about Serbia's European prospect, Bakoyannis said Athens is in favour of Serbia's European integration. Greece, she noted, will back Serbia's request for the dispatch of an EU committee to Belgrade to examine the Serbian authorities' cooperation with the International Court of Justice on the former Yugoslavia.

    "Greece's position on Serbia's European integration is guided by the conviction that Serbia's accession to the EU will contribute to peace and stability in our region and in Europe in general," the Greek foreign minister said.

    Regarding Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence, Bakoyannis said Greece's stance has not changed: "Greece's foreign policy is determined on the basis of international law, taking into consideration our national interests, stability in the region, and European values," she stressed.

    Asked whether Greece will comply with a request by the Serbian foreign ministry that it attend and outline its views at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, when Serbia's recourse against Kosovo independence is heard, Bakoyannis said that "this request is being examined in a spirit of friendship and cooperation".

    In closing the interview, Bakoyannis further referred to bilateral relations between Greece and Serbia, which she described as "excellent, substantive and long-standing".

    She added that the friendly relations enjoyed historically between the two peoples were enhanced by cooperation at political and economic level, and expressed certainty that this cooperation will also help overcome the storm caused by the global financial crisis".

    [04] Gov't spokesman on OA

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, referring to the Olympic Airlines (OA) national carrier privatization process, stated that it is in progress and all available data will be examined as soon as all files with binding tenders submitted for its acquisition are opened.

    The tenders will be evaluated by the privatization consultants appointed by the Greek State, who will inform the government, namely the Interministerial Committee on Denationalizations, on their details, namely the price, the investment plans and the conditions set out by the bidders. A commissioner designated by the European Commission is also taking part in the evaluation procedure.

    "There can be no clear picture before Wednesday when the Interministerial Committee on Privatizations will meet," Antonaros stated.

    [05] Cretan farmers arrive in Piraeus, police stop tractors' exit

    Riot police blocked groups of protesting Cretan farmers from leaving the port of Piraeus, Greece's busiest, early Monday morning. The farmers, roughly 1,100 strong with scores of pick-up trucks and a few dozen tractors, disembarked from three ferry boats arriving from the large Aegean island in order to hold a protest in front of the agriculture ministry in downtown Athens.

    Police used tear gas to prevent protesting farmers from leaving the port area, which is located in congested Piraeus. Tension continued for the following hours, while farmers claimed four of their colleagues were injured and several others were arrested.

    Tempers had eventually died down by around midday, with the farmers penned into the port by 11 squads of riot police and coast guard officers. They have demanded that they either be allowed to take their tractors to the agriculture ministry in order to meet the Agriculture Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis, or that the minister come to the port of Piraeus to hear their demands.

    These include a subsidy per tenth of a hectare for potatoes and produce, lower production costs, return of 15 percent VAT, a check on imported products and restructuring of agricultural land and crops. Among their numbers are the three prefects of Crete amd several mayors on the island.

    Also in the port from the early hours of Monday morning was Piraeus Public Prosecutor Yiannis Sofoulakis, who is coordinating police operations.

    Meanwhile, protesting farmers in one Thessaly district began to withdraw from their road block on the national highway near Larissa in central Greece, in accordance with a decision they reached on Sunday evening, but those at the Promahonas border crossing in Serres, northeastern Greece, were determined to stand fast at a road block that is now in its 15th day and which has greatly disrupted travel to and from neighbouring Bulgaria.

    In statements to the press, the farmers of Serres said they would stay where they were even until Easter, if necessary, unless their demands were fully met.


    On his part, Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, referring to the incidents at the port of Piraeus, pointed out that "what's important is to have a dialogue".

    Antonaros added that those interested were notified that they could have a meeting on Sunday with Rural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis. He also stated that when the farmers arrived in Piraeus they were informed that deputy minister Mihalis Papadopoulos was waiting for them at his office otherwise he would come down himself to meet them.

    Antonaros stated that compensation have been allocated for olive tree growers on Crete.

    [06] PASOK spokesman on farmers, economy, election law, OA

    Main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou criticised the stance adopted by the government and police on the occasion of the incidents recorded earlier Monday at the port of Piraeus.

    He called on the government to display a measure of responsibility and enter a dialogue with the farmers and referring to Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis he said that he departed hastily for Brussels to avoid meeting with the farmers. He also accused police of excessive use of teargas.

    On the economy, Papaconstantinou stated that the government made mere announcements on Friday and did not present a Programme of Stability and Development. He called on the government to table the programme in Parliament and present a new State Budget.

    On the election law, he maintained that it is not the election law's fault that the country is rudderless and has no crisis survival plan, reiterating his party's request for immediate elections.

    On the privatisation of Olympic Airlines (OA) national carrier, Papaconstantinou characterised it as an "unfolding fiasco", blaming the government for not taking under consideration current conditions in the global economy.

    [07] PASOK on economy

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou chaired a party meeting on Monday night focusing on the state of the Greek economy.

    The meeting of a newly established PASOK body on the economy, assessed that "all developments, predictions and criticism that had been formulated by PASOK, before and during the parliamentary debate over the 2009 state budget, as well as criticism over the government's economic policies, have been proved to be true."

    [08] Education Minister addresses letters to Papariga, Karatzaferis

    Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos addressed letters to Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Central Committee General Secretary Aleka Papariga and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) President George Karatzaferis.

    Spiliotopoulos thanked Papariga for her reply to the invitation for a dialogue on education and expressed the hope that the party will choose to react with its characteristic sense of responsibility during the process of the dialogue. He also agreed that the choices made by the government and the education minister are being discussed within the framework of the parliamentary committee on educational affairs.

    The minister's letter to LAOS was thanking the party for its participation in setting up the political committee.

    [09] SYRIZA to abstain from dialogue on education

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group president Alekos Alvanos on Monday said his party would not participate in a government proposed national dialogue on education.

    "Today, the possibility of our participation in a dialogue which is not taking place on a 'tabula rasa' basis but which would mean for us acceptance of faits accomplis, does not exist," Alavanos said in a letter addressed to Nationbal Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos.

    The SYRIZA leader also enumerated in his letter a number of conditions for the party's participation in the dialogue.

    [10] Slovenian president on FYROM's use of ancient symbols, heritage

    SKOPJE (ANA-MPA / N. Frangopoulos)

    Slovenian President Danilo Turk was the latest foreign leader to point to the use of ancient symbols and heritage by the current government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as impeding efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution to the thorny "name issue" still preventing a full normalisation in ties between Athens and Skopje.

    Turk was quoted by FYROM's national news agency as saying that the recent renaming of various public facilities in the landlocked former Yugoslav republic, and in honor of historical figures dating from antiquity and the Hellenistic era -- most notably Alexander the Great -- "causes confusion to those following this bilateral issue".

    "I am not saying that these actions are incorrect, however, you must understand that using Alexander the Great in such cases exacerbates the sensitive name issue, something that should probably be avoided," the Slovenian president said.

    However, he said the "name issue" is not a decisive factor for stability in the Balkans.

    Greece sternly objects to the exclusive use of the name "Macedonia" by FYROM -- the state's UN recognised provisional name -- on the grounds that it is part of irredentist ambitions against the northern Greek province of the same name, which shares a border with FYROM and more closely approximates to geographical and historical Macedonia.

    The vast majority of Greece's public opinion also objects to the FYROM government view as part of historically misleading and revisionist attempts to establish a connection to ancient Macedon and the ancient conqueror through moves like the early 1990s adoption of the Vergina Sun emblem as the country's symbol, the recent renaming of Skopje's small airport after Alexander the Great and even the renaming of a provincial highway after Alexander.

    Financial News

    [11] Organic farming 'abandoned', PASOK claims

    Main opposition PASOK on Monday said the government had abandoned organic farming to its fate and lacked any kind of plan or policy for its development, in a question tabled in Parliament for Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis by 47 main opposition MPs.

    Pointing to a reduction in subsidies and the exclusion of organic products, as well as the overall reduction of organically farmed land by 39.5 percent, they asked why the government had abandoned the national action plan for organic farming launched by PASOK. This had foreseen a doubling of subsidies for basic organic produce, foundation of a national certification body and a National Organic Farming Council.

    In their question, they claimed that consumers had doubts about the authenticity and quality of Greek organic label products and that the government was itself was creating obstacles for organic farmers attempting to make their products available to consumers at more affordable prices, as well as failing to install mechanisms to make such farming competitive.

    [12] Interamerican allocates 319.6 mln euros in compensation in 2008

    Interamerican on Monday said it paid 319.6 million euros in compensation to policy-holders in 2008 and announced that more than 1,360 customers received either compensation or medical and road services on average daily during the same year.

    The insurance company said compensations to customers totaled 2.14 billion euros in the period 2000-2008, with the Life insurance sector paying 143.24 million euros in 2008. In the Healthcare sector compensations totaled 76.28 million euros, in general insurance compensations totaled 74.20 million euros and in group insurance sector compensation totaled 25.91 million euros in 2008.

    [13] Atlantic supermarkets to expand network in 2009

    Atlantic, a Greece-based supermarket chain, on Monday said it plans to expand its network with the opening of six new units around the country this year.

    Addressing a meeting with Atlantic's suppliers from northern Greece in Thessaloniki, Manolis Apostolou, chairman of the company, said its strategic planning for 2009 included also a gradual change in Atlantic's corporate identity.

    [14] Vivere, Theros Int'l win tender for Corfu casino

    A joint venture between Vivere Entertainment SA, the operator of Casino Xanthi, and Theros International Inc, the operator of Casino Rio, were the highest bidders in a tender to buy 100 pct of Hellenic Corfu Casino.

    Under the terms of the tender, Hellenic Tourism Properties (ETA) is expected to declare the joint venture company as preliminary winners of the tender before an Inter-ministerial Privatisations' Commission reaches its final decision on the tender.

    [15] Greek PMI down to 40 in Jan.

    Greece's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell further in January to 40 points, from 41 in December, a new record low for the third month in a row. The index, measuring business activity in the manufacturing sector, shows that the Greek manufacturing sector has fallen into a recession, with production, new orders, employment and inventories all falling significantly in the first month of 2009.

    Production and employment shrank at a record rate in January, reflecting a sharp decline in domestic and foreign demand.

    Readings above 50 points indicate a growing sector, while readings below 50 a shrinking sector.

    [16] Greek stocks plunge 2.96% on Mon.

    Greek stocks suffered heavy losses during the first trading session of the week at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday. The composite index of the market plunged 2.96 pct to end at 1,726.81 points, with turnover shrinking to 79.8 million euros, of which 1.6 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower with the exception of Chemicals which ended 0.37 pct higher. Constructions (6.18 pct), Banks (4.15 pct), Healthcare (3.91 pct), Commerce (3.27 pct) and Telecommunications (3.03 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 3.63 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.04 pct down and the FTSE 80 index eased 1.45 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 147 to 50 with another 48 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.64%

    Industrials: -3.27%

    Commercial: -3.27%

    Construction: -6.18%

    Media: -1.34%

    Oil & Gas: -2.05%

    Personal & Household: -0.04%

    Raw Materials: -1.49%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.34%

    Technology: -1.75%

    Telecoms: -3.03%

    Banks: -4.15%

    Food & Beverages: -2.68%

    Health: -3.91%

    Utilities: -2.18%

    Chemicals: +0.37%

    Financial Services: -2.46%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, OTE and Bank of Piraeus.

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

    Alpha Bank: 6.20

    ATEbank: 1.19

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.84

    HBC Coca Cola: 10.44

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.54

    National Bank of Greece: 12.50

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.86

    Intralot: 2.97

    OPAP: 22.20

    OTE: 11.54

    Bank of Piraeus: 4.98

    Titan Cement Company: 12.90

    [17] ADEX closing report

    Turnover in the Athens Derivatives Exchange was a low 67.429 million euros on Monday, with the March contract on the FTSE 20 index trading at a discount of 1.45 pct. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 12,061 contracts worth 52.449 million euros.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 21,023 contracts worth 14.980 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,954), followed by Eurobank (2,222), OTE (3,493), Alpha Bank (2,628), Marfin Popular Bank (965), GEK (874) and Piraeus Bank (667).

    [18] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 421 million euros on Monday, of which 226 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 195 million euros were sell orders.

    The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 110 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year benchmark Greek and German bonds shrank to 249 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.78 pct and the German Bund 3.29 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.25 pct, the six-month rate 2.16 pct, the three-month rate 2.07 pct and the one-month rate 1.73 pct.

    [19] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.286

    Pound sterling 0.910

    Danish kroner 7.513

    Swedish kroner 10.761

    Japanese yen 114.95

    Swiss franc 1.499

    Norwegian kroner 9.013

    Canadian dollar 1.597

    Australian dollar 2.048

    General News

    [20] Papoulias briefed by Dimas

    President of the Republic President Karolos Papoulias on Monday received European Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas at the presidential mansion for a briefing on the Union's environmental issues.

    Dimas stated that he briefed the president on climate change and energy issues, measures approved last December at the European Council and the necessary moves for their implementation.

    He stressed that the EU is also focusing on issues of global importance for the protection of the environment such as the loss of biodiversity, pointing out that a European conference will be held on these issues in April. Dimas underlined that 2009 is crucial for the international negotiations on climate change.

    Referring to the global economic crisis and whether it can be overcome through a changed position on energy issues, Dimas stated that a package of measures on climate and energy approved in December 2008 provides for measures that promote investments in renewable energy sources and energy saving. He also added that the EU has approved an economic recovery plan focusing on "green investments" aimed at dealing with climate change while boosting economic activity with new job positions.

    Responding to a question on the issue of landfills in Greece, Dimas stated that it is the obligation of the country and other EU states to observe relevant directives, pointing out that landfills are aesthetically unacceptable, generate public health problems and destroy the environment.

    The Commissioner also presented Papoulias with the Natura 2000 programme.

    [21] Parliament president receives EU Commissioner Dimas

    European Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas on Monday briefed Hellenic Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas on issues relating to the international negotiations underway for combating climate change and loss of biodiversity, during a meeting at the Greek Parliament in Athens.

    The meeting was also held in view of a major international conference on biodiversity being organised in Athens by the Commissioner at the end of April.

    Sioufas congratulated Dimas on being named 'EU Commissioner of the Year' in 2008 by the Brussels-based weekly "European Voice" and his nomination as "European of the Year" for his global activity for the protection of the planet from climate change.

    [22] Angelopoulos's new film "Dust of Time"

    The new film of Greek director Theo Angelopoulos "Dust of Time" will have its Athenian premiere on February 11 at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.

    Angelopoulos's new film with an international cast including Willem Dafoe, Irene Jacob and Bruno Ganz, is being considered by critics as his "most poetical and personal film".

    [23] Ruling released on Alex case

    A Thessaloniki court on Monday found six minors guilty of involuntary manslaughter in a ruling on the case involvingt the disappearance of Alex Meschisvili, an 11-year-old boy of Georgian descent that went missing from his home in the Greek town of Veria in February 2006.

    The Thessaloniki Juvenile Court imposed incarceration in a juvenile delinquents' facility in Volos on two local minors until they turn of age.

    For the other three defendants, the court turned over their custody to the Veria Child Protection Services, and imposed 4-hour daily public service and attandance of practical programs, and other reformatory measures.

    The sixth minor, who is the older brother of the two local children sentenced to incarceration, was found guilty of making false testimonies and of harboring a criminal. The court turned over custody to the Veria Child Protection Services and also imposed reformatory measures.

    [24] Major human trafficking ring busted in nationwide sweep

    Authorities on Monday announced that a major human-trafficking ring exploiting foreign nationals, particularly women forced into the sex trade, was busted by Greek police in a nationwide operation that began last Thursday and ended on Sunday. The operation was part of the national plan 'Ilaeira' that was ordered by the chief of police.

    The ring apparently operated in Attica, Karditsa and Florina via an employment agency based in Athens.

    Six suspected members of the organisation have been placed under arrest - three Greeks and three foreigners - along with nine foreign nationals that were in the country illegally. During raids on strip clubs in Karditsa and Florina, police also arrested another three Greeks and six women working in the establishments.

    Another 16 women, nationals of Romania, Moldova, Russia, Nigeria, Lithuania and one Greek, were detained.

    A police announcement said the operation was the culmination of an investigation that had begun a year earlier, based on information that the ring was operating an employment agency in central Athens through which it organised all kinds of illegal activity for the past two years.

    In collaboration with other such agencies in Eastern European countries or ads in Greek newspapers, the agency found women from Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Uzbekistan and other countries. It then exploited their dire financial straits and the fact that they were in Greece illegally, sending them to work as domestic servants, nurses, cleaners and baby sitters while it kept back a part of their salaries as payment.

    The women coming to Greece from abroad were picked up at Athens airport and installed in an Athens apartment with promises that they would be made legal residents in exchange for an exorbitant fee.

    They were then imprisoned in the apartment by members of the ring until they had payed off their so-called debts, sleeping 12 to a room and paying five euros a day in rent, one euro to use cold water, two euros for hot water and five euros to wash their clothes.

    Several of them were sent to work in bars and strip clubs in Karditsa and Florina, for which the ring received a one-off payment for their "sale" to the club owners, who then kept all the money that they earned. In order to force them into prostitution or other sexual acts with clients, they were beaten and threatened.

    Two Russian women that were victims of the trafficking ring have outlined the ring's activities in sworn statements to police. They have been granted police protection and support as victims of human trafficking and safely repatriated in accordance with their wishes.

    The suspects under arrest were led before public prosecutors in Athens, Karditsa and Florina to be charged.

    During the same operation, police arrested a further 15 people in a strip club in Ilisia, where foreign women were again carrying out indecent acts with the customers in areas specially constructed for this purpose.

    Their activities were also recorded by the owners of the clubs with surveillance cameras and the images stored in a computer in a locked first-floor office, which could only be entered by those having the combination of the security system.

    A number of arrests for vice-related offences, both of Greeks and foreign nationals, were also made by police during a raid on a strip joint in Neos Kosmos.

    Those arrested were led before an Athens first-instance court public prosecutor on Sunday.

    [25] Drug arrests in Serres

    Two suspects, aged 25 and 30, owners of a football pools parlor and a motorcycle repair shop, respectively, were arrested in Serres, northern Greece, drug trafficking charges.

    A police search in the 25-year-old's house revealed 25 grams of cocaine, while 148 grams of cocaine and 312 grams of cannabis were found in the possession of his 30-year-old accomplice.

    A 28-year-old was arrested for selling hashish in the municipality of Strimona, while a 44-year-old was arrested for selling heroin and cocaine he had smuggled into Greece from Bulgaria.

    In a separate police operation, a father and son were arrested in the province of Sintiki, Serres, accused of drug trafficking. They sold the drugs to users on the condition that they take them while in their house to avoid being spotted by the authorities and used relatives on the lookout. A total of 11 individuals were arrested for involvement in the case.

    [26] Material damage to three police patrol cars during chase

    Three police patrol cars were damaged in Thessaloniki during two separate car chases Monday that led to the arrest of three suspects in the districts of Dendropotamos and Nikopolis.

    Two individuals, aged 28 and 21, riding a stolen car, failed to stop when they were flagged down by police in Dendropotamos and, in the chase that followed. crashed into a police patrol car after hitting a fence. Police found in their possession stolen goods and during questioning they admitted that they had broken into five parked cars.

    In Nikopolis, a 31-year-old sped off in a stolen truck after breaking into a furniture store. He was arrested when he drove into two patrol cars during a car chase, causing limited damage.

    Weather forecast

    [27] Cloudy on Tuesday

    Scattered cloud and local showers are forecast throughout Greece on Tuesday, with strong winds at sea. Winds from easterly directions, between 4-9 beaufort and temperatures ranging from 4C - 21C. Scattered cloud in Athens and temperatures ranging from 8C to 19C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 7C to 11C.

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

    Ongoing discussions about a revision to the stability and growth plan and measures for farmers as well as the ubiquitous press speculation over early elections dominated the headlines on Monday

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "No early elections - Government denials over early elections a routine".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Property Tax suspended - A new real estate tax is underway".

    AVRIANI: "Main opposition PASOK afraid of early elections".

    CHORA: "Government allocates 8 billion euros for defence to buy friends, customers - Attempts to upgrade relations with US, France and Germany".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "(Farm Minister Sotiris) Hatzigakis will dance Crete's folk dance - Cretan farmers arrive on Monday in Piraeus port".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Party leaders nervous - Final countdown for their political future begins".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Government throws down gauntlet to PASOK: Elections with new electoral law".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Government playing games with new monstrous electoral law - Attempts to disorientate people from financial crisis".

    ESTIA: "Government attempts to fool taxpayers with continuous changes in tax law".

    ETHNOS: "Struggle of life and death for a position in public education- 59,277 university graduates chasing the 1,000-euro salary dream".

    TA NEA: "Scene set for (EU) oversight of Greek public debt - French President Nicolas Sarkozy's intervention".

    VRADYNI: "Crash test for stability pact".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [29] President hopes for a conclusion on ship issue


    The government hopes that the issue of a Cypriot-flagged ship, of Russian interests, said to have been carrying arms, will soon be concluded.

    "Things are evolving and when we have something to say on the matter, we will say it," President Demetris Christofias said here Monday night, replying to press questions about this issue.

    It has been alleged that the ship, which originated from Iran, was carrying arms and it was forced by a US military vessel to dock at Limassol port to have its cargo inspected, in order to establish whether there has been a contravention of UN Security Council sanctions, as claimed.

    Asked when the whole matter might be concluded, President Christofias said he did not know.

    "It is possible that it may come to a close tonight (Monday night) but it may not. We shall have a final conclusion of the matter within the next few days," the president explained.

    Asked if Israel had demanded confiscation of the ship's cargo, Christofias indicated that such matters have nothing to do with the issue at hand.

    "How can the Israelis have any demands from us? They cannot have demands from the Republic of Cyprus," he stressed.

    The ship remains docked at Limassol port. The government has said that the issue is delicate and sensitive and called for patience.

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