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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-04

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Wednesday, 4 February 2009 Issue No: 3113

CONTENTS

  • [01] Inner Cabinet focuses on education sector issues
  • [02] Education Minister Spiliotopoulos meets with DOE representatives
  • [03] Bakoyannis visits Kosovo
  • [04] Cretan farmers decide to depart port; one border post blockade remains
  • [05] PASOK: Government dangerous for country
  • [06] Antonaros on election law
  • [07] Parliament committee approves NATO entry for Albania, Croatia
  • [08] Justice minister confers with Supreme Court president
  • [09] Interior ministry on immigration, asylum
  • [10] U.S. State Department on threat of terrorist attacks
  • [11] Patriarch of Moscow to visit Fanar
  • [12] Agriculture minister on contacts in Brussels
  • [13] Greek enterprises unveils package of measures to boost economy
  • [14] Greek economic sentiment index slightly up in Jan.
  • [15] Juncker eyes eurozone debt agency
  • [16] Greek Shipowners Union on piracy
  • [17] ADEDY calls 24-hour strike for February 25
  • [18] Telecoms work stoppage in Athens on Friday
  • [19] Vivere says bid for Corfu casino totals 7.6 mln euros
  • [20] AIG Greece reports 15 pct increase in premium production in 2008
  • [21] Link Up Markets to begin operation on March 30
  • [22] Greek stocks end 0.24 pct up
  • [23] ADEX closing report
  • [24] Greek bond market closing report
  • [25] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [26] International Year of Astronomy 2009, events in Greece
  • [27] Reception in Washington on arrival of last Liberty ship in Greece
  • [28] Attack on Korydallos police station
  • [29] High court postpones deliberations on 17N appeal
  • [30] Robbers hold up mail truck, steal pensions payroll
  • [31] Two major heroin busts at Evros border post
  • [32] Arson attack on ND deputy's office in Thessaloniki
  • [33] Missing 14-year-old girl found safe
  • [34] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday
  • [35] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Inner Cabinet focuses on education sector issues

    The Inner Cabinet convened on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, to focus on strictly education sector issues.

    Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos stressed afterwards that the key points aim to upgrade primary and secondary education, to strengthen the role of general education in high school system and adoption of a university admission exam system not directly linked with performance in secondary education.

    A wide-ranging dialogue on education sector reforms will be open and democratic without preconditions, and having as a goal the creation of an adequately financed, open, public and democratic school, "a school that will help students develop their skills and talents," Spiliotopoulos said.

    The dialogue launched at primary and secondary education council level under Prof. Georgios Babiniotis, who requested at least six months to coordinate the process and record all viewpoints.

    [02] Education Minister Spiliotopoulos meets with DOE representatives

    Spiliotopoulos stated that sector problems will be faced with a dialogue and the teachers' participation in the process has been requested, underlining the significant work done in elementary schools.

    He denied rumors of the resignation of National Council of Education President Panos Veremis and reiterated that the dialogue will be launched without preconditions. He also stressed that he accepted the proposal for a dialogue with a minimum duration of 6 months made by George Babiniotis who chairs the Primary and Secondary Education Committee.

    The representatives of DOE appeared to be positive as regards the federation's participation in the dialogue stressing that they have never rejected similar invitations.

    [03] Bakoyannis visits Kosovo

    PRISTINA (ANA-MPA - N. Melissova)

    Visiting Kosovo on Tuesday, the second stop on her Balkan tour after Belgrade, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stressed after meetings with Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Pristina that she was here to assist in securing a better future for the region.

    "I am here as a friend, as a neighbour and as chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) with the intention of helping the people of Kosovo, regardless of race or religion, so that they can ensure a better future within the European family," she said.

    She underlined, however, that Greece's position of not recognising Kosovo's independence remained unchanged and was based on the country's own interests.

    "Now is the time for peace and mutually acceptable solutions," she told reporters from Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that flocked to the press conference held after the meetings.

    The minister underlined Greece's desire to boost relations with the people of Kosovo and expand economic ties, revealing plans for a business forum that would examine investment opportunities there.

    The desire for rapprochement was also confirmed by Thaci, who said that there were contacts on all levels, social and political, and expressed satisfaction with the Greek government's effort to find ways to overcome problems arising from the fact that Greece does not recognise passports issued by Kosovo authorities and to facilitate relations between the two peoples.

    Bakoyannis noted that her presence in Pristina highlighted the importance that the Greek OSCE chair places on promoting stability and peace in the western Balkans. She also underlined that she was visiting Kosovo under a regime of neutrality, since there was not absolute agreement between the organisation's 56 member-states concerning recognition of Kosovo's independence, which was required for every decision.

    During the press conference, the Greek minister was also questioned about the outstanding dispute over the name with FYROM and why her tour did not include a visit to FYROM, which will be holding elections in March.

    Bakoyannis did not rule out the possibility of a visit to FYROM while Greece was chair of the OSCE, as part of a series of visits she intends to carry out to the organisation's 19 missions.

    She urged the government in Skopje to carry out free and fair elections, noting that these would be monitored by a delegation of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and by the OSCE parliamentary assembly.

    As before in Belgrade, she appealed to the Skopje government to "abandon the nationalist rhetoric of yesterday" so that FYROM and Greece could move forward to a joint European future.

    After her meetings with local officials, there was a dinner attended by representatives of international organisations with missions in Kosovo, such as the OSCE, KFOR, and the UN Secretary-General's special envoy, during which the work and prospects of the OSCE mission in Kosovo were discussed.

    Bakoyannis had earlier visited the offices of the OSCE missions in Pristina and Belgrade, while she is due back in Athens on Tuesday afternoon.

    [04] Cretan farmers decide to depart port; one border post blockade remains

    Up to 2,000 farmers from Crete that arrived at the port of Piraeus on Monday morning with the intent to hold a tractor rally through downtown Athens on Tuesday finally decided to leave the port, Greece's largest, after authorities continued to prevent their vehicles' exit.

    In deciding to depart, however, farmers' representatives said they would continue their rallies back in Crete.

    Earlier, farmers attempted to break through riot police ranks, with police using teargas to disperse the protestors. Scuffles briefly broke out after a second group of Cretan farmers arrived in Piraeus to join a first group that had arrived the preceding day.

    On Tuesday, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou met with farmers holed up at the port of Piraeus.

    Papandreou, in a brief statement, characterised the conditions as unacceptable and condemned the government's stance on the farmers.

    The leader and former foreign minister left the port shortly afterwards.

    Meanwhile, in the extreme north of the country, local farmers continued blocking the Promahonas border crossing on the frontier with Bulgaria, stressing that they will not withdraw their tractors.

    The border crossing remained closed on Monday and was briefly opened only for one hour early in the morning when trucks with perishable goods were allowed to cross the border into Bulgaria. Traffic is backed up on both sides of the borders.

    Later in the afternoon, SYRIZA Parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos is expected to visit the farmers' blockade in Promahonas.

    Groups of farmers around the country have demanded cheaper fuel, greater VAT rebates, guaranteed crop prices and a freeze on farm loan payments, amongst others.

    Gov't spokesman

    Speaking during a regular press briefing in Athens, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros commented on the main opposition party's stance vis--vis farmers' mobilisations, saying that "the government will not, under any circumstances, follow PASOK in its intended efforts to create artificial political tension."

    Antonaros made the statement in response to a PASOK spokesman, who demanded resignations for the developments at the port over the past 48 hours.

    "It is not acceptable, and I am sure that PASOK will agree on this too, even if it has not stated so, for a rally with heavy machinery to take place in downtown Athens," he added.

    Alavanos meets farmers at Promahonas checkpoint

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group President Alekos Alavanos, who visited farmers who have sealed off the Promahonas border checkpoint on the borders with Bulgaria, called on the government on Tuesday to proceed with the immediate satisfaction of the farmers' "just demands."

    Referring to the package of benefits announced by the government for the farmers, Alavanos said that "it must be supplemented with serious measures not for securing a survival for a few weeks, but to secure the development of regional Greece."

    [05] PASOK: Government dangerous for country

    PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou, referring to party leader George Papandreou's visit to Piraeus on Tuesday morning to "express solidarity for protesting farmers" and to the use of teargas by the police, termed the government "dangerous for the country, the health and security of the citizens and for the economy."

    Papaconstantinou added that Papandreou went to Piraeus to "express his solidarity to the farmers, to give hope to the farming sector and to defuse the situation."

    According to the spokesman, Papandreou "arrived at the roadblock of the police forces before entering the region of the port, where the farmers were assembled. The presence of Papandreou in the area was immediately announced by loudspeakers and immediately afterwards the use of chemicals took place."

    "This is also the reason for which PASOK insists on calling for the resignation of the political and physical leadership of the police, stressing that in any other country if the use of chemicals took place in a place to be visited by a state official, such as the main opposition party leader, politicians responsible would have resigned," the PASOK spokesman added.

    Papaconstantinou also referred to the attack on the police station at Korydallos which, as he said, PASOK "strongly condemns". He added that the attack had a terrorist character, but it is comforting that there were no casualties. He further said that "the citizens are wondering what has happened in the country after 2003 and there is a reappearance of such phenomena."

    Focusing further on the issue of the dialogue on education, the spokesman said that the education minister's reply to a letter by PASOK is unsatisfactory, but pointed out that, despite all this, the main opposition party will remain in the dialogue.

    Commenting, lastly, on the education minister's statement regarding adequate funding for education, Papaconstantinou said that "for five years the government of which the minister is a member is financing education inadequately, with a reduction of funds provided in every budget." He also predicted that if the dialogue which will be taking place has no decision behind it on generous funding for education, it will produce no results.

    [06] Antonaros on election law

    "It is obvious that PASOK is behind the election mongering," government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stated when asked to comment on the stance adopted by PASOK leader George Papandreou as regards recent speculation on which election law should used in any upcoming general elections.

    [07] Parliament committee approves NATO entry for Albania, Croatia

    The Greek Parliament's Standing Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on Tuesday adopted a draft bill that ratifies the entry of Albania and Croatia in to NATO. The bill was backed by ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK, while the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party voted against it and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) was not represented at the session.

    The ratification process by Greece will be completed with the draft bill is formally passed into law in a session of the full Parliament.

    [08] Justice minister confers with Supreme Court president

    Justice minister Nikos Dendias met Tuesday with Areios Pagos (Greek supreme court) president Vassilis Nikopoulos, to discuss matters concerning acceleration of the attribution of justice.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Dendias said that, in cooperation with the economy ministry, a bill would be tabled in parliament prohibiting detainment of citizens for debts to the state up to the sum of 150,000 euros.

    Dendias said he was in deliberations with the employment ministry so that the same arrangement may be extended to apply to debts to social security funds as well.

    The minister said that the purpose of the arrangement was not to benefit big debtors, but, rather, was a measure of social solidarity in a difficult period.

    [09] Interior ministry on immigration, asylum

    The Interior ministry has issued a booklet titled "European pact on Immigration and Asylum", that includes the pact ratified at the European Union's summit last October and handles the issues of immigration, asylum and the shielding of the EU's external borders. The publication is issued in three languages, in Greek, English and French.

    With the ratification of this text, the EU is taking an important step towards its integration in the sector of immigration and asylum. It is a useful publication for people living in Greece and not knowing the Greek language.

    [10] U.S. State Department on threat of terrorist attacks

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)

    The U.S. State Department expresses grave concern in its relevant informative website, that also includes information on Greece, over the increased threat of terrorist attacks against American citizens and American interests.

    The website mentions that "just like other countries that are members of the Schengen Treaty, Greece's open borders wth its European neighbours allow the possible entry and exit of terrorists."

    Mention is also made of "the existence of internal radical organisations that carry out violent acts in Greece, against Greek and foreign targets."

    It further stresses that strikes and demonstrations are a frequent phenomenon in Greece, while underlining that Greece is a stable democracy and that most of these activities lie within the limits of the law.

    [11] Patriarch of Moscow to visit Fanar

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th.Avgerinos)

    Newly elected Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill has accepted an invitation by Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew to visit the Fanar, according to statements he made to a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate headed by Archbishop of Crete Irineos.

    While receiving the delegation to his enthronement ceremony, Kirill said: "I will certainly visit Constantinople, so as in a brotherly relationship with his Beatitude, Patriarch Bartholomew, to define the ways of dialogue betweeen our Churches."

    This dialogue, Kirill added, has been perticularly developed in recent times, referring to a Panorthodox Synod held at the Fanar last October with the participation of the late Russian Patriarch Alexiy.

    Financial News

    [12] Agriculture minister on contacts in Brussels

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis stressed in a written statement on Tuesday that "in all my contacts in Brussels I am waging a struggle for the best possible for Greek agriculture, with self-confidence, with seriousness and with reliable arguments, without superficial and dangerous populisms for domestic consumption."

    He further said that during his meeting with the relevant Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel on Wednesday he "will be defending all the crucial problems of Greek agriculture that have resulted from the losses of the entire year of 2008."

    [13] Greek enterprises unveils package of measures to boost economy

    The Federation of Hellenic Enterprises, Greece's largest employers' union, on Tuesday proposed a package of measures aimed at dealing effectively with a financial crisis, including supporting -socially and financially- vulnerable groups of the population, protecting employment, rekindling the economy and promoting the necessary structural changes in the country.

    In a letter sent to Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, president of the Federation, stressed the need for an integrated long-term program to boost the economy, instead of semi-measures and circumstance policies, while he noted that dealing with the crisis needed the fundamental participation of all social partners in drafting a new policy and implementing the measures.

    In his letter, Daskalopoulos, said the crisis would be deep and would last long, adding that Greece was particularly vulnerable to the negative impact of the crisis since its fiscal condition limited the scope of new measures. He stressed that one-off benefits offered to certain groups of the population could undermine the country's social cohesion and its future. "Current conditions dictate for a mixture of economic policy with direct measures for social support and necessary structural changes. These measures would inevitably burden the country's already problematic budget, but structural changes -if were to begin immediately and effectively- could offer our country the necessary credibility, facilitating access to international capital markets with more favourable terms.

    The measures proposed by the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises included: social support measures, more funds for a Social Cohesion Funds, raising the ceiling for beneficiaries of poverty benefits, abolishing all counter-incentives to distribute profits and measures to maintain employment.

    [14] Greek economic sentiment index slightly up in Jan.

    Greece's economic sentiment index fell slightly in January, while consumer confidence recovered in the same month, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) announced on Tuesday.

    IOBE, in its monthly report, said the economic sentiment index fell to 55.4 points in January, its lowest level since January 1990, with 16 other EU member-states reporting record low levels.

    IOBE, however, stressed that a slowdown in the decline could signal the completion of its downward trend, while interest was not focusing on the duration of its prolonged period of negative economic sentiment and low businesses' expectations levels.

    In the industrial sector, business expectations remained negative over orders and demand, with inventories remaining strong. In the services sector, expectations fell over the course of works and current demand, while in the retail sector, expectations worsened over the current level of sales. In the construction sector, expectations over works were poor in January, with the outlook for employment in the sector worsening more.

    The consumer confidence index improved by 8 points, returning to levels seen in the summer of 2008. Expectations over employment worsened in January, with three out of 10 Greek enterprises forecasting an increase in unemployment in the short-term. Greek consumers were more optimistic over the financial situation of their households for the next 12 months, recovering for the second consecutive month, while Greek consumers remained the most pessimistic among EU and Eurozone states over economic prospects in their country for the next 12 months.

    Expectations over savings improved slightly in January, while prospects of buying a new car in the next 12 months remained very low.

    [15] Juncker eyes eurozone debt agency

    Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday reiterated his support for the creation of a joint state securities agency in the Eurozone, in statements to the ANA-MPA.

    The president of Eurogroup added that there was never a formal proposal to hold an extraordinary summit in the Eurozone to discuss the current global economic condition.

    Juncker, replying to written questions, said he was also in favour of creating a joint debt agency in the Eurozone and stressed that such an agency could be set up in the medium-term.

    The Luxembourg premier said such a move would be one more step towards common management of the single currency and an important step forward to coordinate economic and fiscal policies in the Eurozone.

    [16] Greek Shipowners Union on piracy

    Greek Shipowners Union (EEE) President Nikos Efthymiou, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, termed piracy a curse, adding that piracy has preoccupied the EEE a great deal, as well as many countries.

    As the result of an initiative by the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) secretary general Mitropoulos and the UN, an effort has begun and there has been considerable activity to tackle the problem.

    In parallel, the European Union has also become sensitised over the problem, while the Greek government was among the first to send a warship to the region where there is an upsurge of the phenomenon and now the Greek government is participating in the EU's operation "Atalanta" to combat piracy, he added.

    Efthymiou also referred to the economic crisis, stressing that it is affecting shipping, but shipping has no responsibility for it since it is a crisis of the international monetary system. The violent collapse of dry cargo markets, as he said, is the result of reduced consumption.

    [17] ADEDY calls 24-hour strike for February 25

    Another 24-hour nationwide strike throughout the public sector was announced by the civil servants' union ADEDY on Tuesday, scheduled to take place on February 25.

    During a Tuesday press conference, ADEDY President Spyros Papaspyros said the government was adopting a policy of suppressing trade union mobilisation, referring to a recent court decision that ruled against an ADEDY strike but also the attacks by riot police against the latest rally by civil servants and against farmers in Piraeus earlier the same day.

    He also criticised the three-year stability programme submitted by Greece to the EU, saying that it was a policy that would deepen the recession and warning that social insurance funds would run into serious problems over the next period.

    Meanwhile, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), the umbrella trade union organisation representing the largest bloc of Greece's private-sector workers, has decided to join ADEDY in strike action, on a date to be announced by the federation's executive committee.

    [18] Telecoms work stoppage in Athens on Friday

    Hellenic Telecoms Organization (OTE) employees throughout Attica prefecture will stage a three-hour work stoppage on Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to noon, scheduled to coincide with an extraordinary General Assembly of OTE shareholders to take place at a central Athens hotel.

    The OTE employees' umbrella federation OME-OTE, in an announcement on Tuesday, called on OTE employees to demonstrate outside the hotel, with the purpose of halting the concession of OTE management to German telecom Deutsche Telekon.

    It also called on the government to take measures to that OTE will remain under state control and in the service of the citizens and the employees.

    [19] Vivere says bid for Corfu casino totals 7.6 mln euros

    Vivere Entertainment SA on Tuesday said its bid in a tender for Corfu Casino totaled 7.6 million euros. In a reply letter to the Capital Markets Commission, Vivere said that under the terms of the tender, Tourism Properties Enterprise (ETA) has the right the ask for an improved bid from the preliminary winner of the tender, or even to annul the tender.

    The listed company said thus far the final price for the purchase has not been agreed yet. Vivere Entertainment and Theros International -the operator of Rio Casino- hold a 50 pct stake each in a joint venture that was declared preliminary winner of the tender to buy Corfu Casino.

    [20] AIG Greece reports 15 pct increase in premium production in 2008

    AIG Greece on Tuesday reported a 15 pct increase in its premium production to 60.1 million euros in 2008, compared with the previous year and said its annual growth rate surpassed the Greek insurance markets' growth average rate over the same period.

    The damages index remained below 50 pct of net premiums, while the general expenses index -excluding contract rights- totaled 7.9 pct of net registered premiums. Finally its combined ratio reached 76.4 pct in 2008.

    AIG Business Solutions reported a 23.1 pct increase in premium production and AIG Personal Solutions an 8.7 pct rise in 2008. AIG Greece said sales network totaled more than 1,400 units.

    [21] Link Up Markets to begin operation on March 30

    Link Up Markets, a consortium of eight European Central Depositories that account for 50 pct of securities transactions in Europe, will begin operations on March 30, 2009, the Athens Stock Exchange said on Tuesday.

    Link Up Markets will facilitate the operation of participating Central Depositories with the aim to boost efficiency and reducing costs of cross-border transactions.

    The operation of Link Up Markets will begin on March 30 with the connection of Clearsream Banking Frankfurt (Germany), OeKB (Austria), SIX SIS (Switzerland) and VP (Denmark), while Hellenic Exchanges (Greece) and Iberclear (Spain) will follow in June.

    [22] Greek stocks end 0.24 pct up

    Greek stocks moved slightly higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The composite index ended 0.24 pct up at 1,730.95 points, with low turnover of 79.2 million euros of which 1.8 million were block trades.

    Most sectors moved higher with the Commerce (2.26 pct), Industrial products (1.61 pct), Utilities (1.49 pct) and Banks (1.25 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Travel (2.61 pct), Insurance (1.68 pct) and Media (1.22 pct) suffered losses.

    The FTSE 20 index ended 0.37 pct up, the FTSE 40 index eased 0.29 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.43 pct higher. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 110 to 77.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.68%

    Industrials: +1.61%

    Commercial: +2.26%

    Construction: -0.83%

    Media: -1.22%

    Oil & Gas: +0.18%

    Personal & Household: +0.39%

    Raw Materials: +0.58%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.61%

    Technology: +0.99%

    Telecoms: +0.69%

    Banks: +1.25%

    Food & Beverages: +0.33%

    Health: +0.05%

    Utilities: +1.49%

    Chemicals: +0.17%

    Financial Services: +0.04%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 5.98

    ATEbank: 1.19

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.08

    HBC Coca Cola: 10.48

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.54

    National Bank of Greece: 12.70

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.10

    Intralot: 3.00

    OPAP: 21.48

    OTE: 11.62

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.06

    Titan Cement Company: 12.74

    [23] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover shrinking to a low 29.068 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.61 pct, with volume of 5,085 contracts worth 22.262 million euros, and 31,999 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 7,256 contracts worth 6.516 million euros with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (1,170) followed by Eurobank (1,058), OPAP (1,122), Alpha Bank (1,160), Intralot (505) and Piraeus Bank (453).

    [24] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 674 million euros on Tuesday, of which 374 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 300 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 295 million euros.

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds widened to 253 basis points with the Greek bond yielding 5.79 pct and the German Bund 3.27 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month Euribor rate fell to 2.24 pct, the six-month rate to 2.15 pct, the three-month rate to 2.06 pct and the one-month rate to 1.72 pct.

    [25] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.295

    Pound sterling 0.910

    Danish kroner 7.512

    Swedish kroner 10.836

    Japanese yen 115.94

    Swiss franc 1.501

    Norwegian kroner 9.111

    Canadian dollar 1.618

    Australian dollar 2.027

    General News

    [26] International Year of Astronomy 2009, events in Greece

    The International Year of Astronomy 2009, IYA2009, celebrations, an initiative by the International Astronomy Association and UNESCO, were launched in Greece on Monday night at an event hosted by the Eugenides Foundation in Athens.

    The Greek Organizing Committee announced that various astronomy events will be held throughout the year and the website www.astronomy2009.gr <http://www.astronomy2009.gr> will serve as an information guide for the scheduled events (the international website is www.astronomy2009.org <http://www.astronomy2009.org>). Lectures will be organized by the Athens Academy (www.academyofathers.gr/astronomy2009 <http://www.academyofathers.gr/astronomy2009>), the National Observatory of Athens (www.astro.noa.gr/iya2009 <http://www.astro.noa.gr/iya2009>), the Astronomy and Space Society, the Eugenides Foundation, the Thessaloniki Science Center and Technology Museum as well as amateur astronomy clubs and associations across Greece.

    Astrophotography exhibitions, film screenings, astronomy book publications, presentation of audio-visual material, book launches, artistic exhibitions and happenings, student competitions etc are among the planned events.

    Observatories across Greece will be open for the public and Nights of Open Gates are organized by the National Observatory of Athens, the University of Crete, the University of Athens and the University Observatory in Thessaloniki.

    Stargazers' amateur clubs will host Astroparties, nights of star observation, while many of them will hold missions to China to observe the July 22, 2009 total solar eclipse. The special programme "100 hours of Astronomy" will be held on April 2-5 giving the opportunity to more people to observe the stars.

    [27] Reception in Washington on arrival of last Liberty ship in Greece

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)

    The arrival in Greece of the last Liberty-type ship, the SS Arthur M. Huddell, that was renamed "Hellas Liberty", was celebrated at a reception hosted by Greece's Ambassador in Washington, Alexandros Mallias.

    The "Hellas Liberty" will remain anchored at Faliro, next to two famous Greek ships, the battleship "Georgios Averof", the flagship of the Royal Navy during the largest part of the first half of the 20th century, and the destroyer "Velos", that is also an American ship that was offered to Greece in 1959.

    The event was attended by representatives of Greek and American organisations that had contributed to the implementation of this idea.

    [28] Attack on Korydallos police station

    Two different fire-arms were used in the early morning attack against Korydallos police station near Piraeus, a police announcement said on Tuesday. The three unidentified assailants also lobbed a hand-grenade that failed to explode.

    Nineteen shells were found on the scene, 11 of them having a calibre of 9mm and eight with a calibre of 32mm. Based on a superficial inspection, the first set of shells appear to have been shot from a sub-machine gun, possibly an MP5. The 32mm shells were possibly fired from a handgun, though it is possible that the attackers used a sub-machinegun having the same diameter.

    The above will be confirmed when the shells are subjected to a ballistics examination by the police forensics laboratory, which will also examine the unexploded hand-grenade that the three men threw to cover their escape.

    The hand-grenade was of eastern origin and was defused by army bomb-disposal experts before it was handed to police to be examined.

    A police announcement said that the attack took place at 4:10 on Tuesday morning and was carried out by three people that approached the police station on foot, wearing helmets. When they reached a distance about 15 metres away, they opened fire on the guard post outside the station, where a 21-year-old officer was on duty.

    The officer saw them at the last minute and fell to the ground, thus avoided being shot. He then tried to take cover within the police station by crawling along the ground, at which time the hand-grenade thrown by the gunmen fell next to him but did not explode.

    After the attack, the three assailants fled the scene on foot, firing the second gun to cover their retreat, and escaped using means as yet unknown.

    The attack caused damage but no injuries, the bullets impacting on the wall of the police station, and was later claimed by the "Revolutionary Struggle" organization in an anonymous telephone call to an Athens newspaper. The call was being investigated by the counter-terrorism squad as to its validity, given that the organization usually does not assume responsibility for its attacks with telephone calls. Police officials are convinced, however, that the incident was a terrorist act.

    [29] High court postpones deliberations on 17N appeal

    The Supreme Court will discuss an appeal filed by seven convicted "November 17" terrorists on Oct. 20, 2009. The seven have appealed an Athens appellate court ruling that upheld life in prison and lengthy sentences on terrorism convictions.

    The appeal was filed by the Xiros brothers -- Savvas, Christodoulos and Vassilis -- Alekos Giotopoulos, Costas Telios, Vassilis Tzortzatos and Iraklis Kostaris.

    The postponement was granted due to the death of Savvas Xiros' attorney.

    [30] Robbers hold up mail truck, steal pensions payroll

    Three unidentified robbers held up a van transporting post and money on behalf of the Hellenic Post (ELTA) on Tuesday morning in Messinia prefecture, stealing 75,000 euros. The money was the pensions payroll being taken to the Hatzi post office in the region's Voufrada municipality, where it would have been distributed to pensioners of the farmers' insurance fund OGA.

    The three men were armed and wore hoods concealing their faces, forcing the 68-year-old driver that had been contracted to carry the post to get out of his privately-owned truck at gunpoint. They then broke the window on the passenger side and took five small postal sacks on the seat.

    The culprits escaped in a private car, heading in an unknown direction.

    Police have launched a manhunt to locate and arrest them, while the Messini police department has begun an investigation, in collaboration with the Kalamata police headquarters.

    [31] Two major heroin busts at Evros border post

    Customs officers at the Kipi border crossing on the Greek-Turkey frontier uncovered a hidden cache of 38 kilos in the car of a 50-year-old Italian national, 48 hours ago after seizing 58 kilos of heroin in the car of a Bulgarian couple.

    In both instances, the heroin was detected by a drug sniffer dog.

    The quantity of heroin in the latest incident was packed in 72 packages hidden under the car's side doors and in a crypt between the backseat and the trunk.

    The Italian national, who will be led before a prosecutor in Alexandroupolis, Evros prefecture, told authorities that he was not aware of the narcotics and stated that his destination was Germany.

    [32] Arson attack on ND deputy's office in Thessaloniki

    The office of ruling New Democracy party Deputy and former Agricultural Development minister Savvas Tsitouridis located in downtown Thessaloniki, Macedonia, was attacked with gas cannisters by unidentified assailants shortly before seven on Tuesday evening.

    According to the Fire Brigade, the explosion and ensuing fire caused material damage to the door of the office, situated on the first floor of an apartment building, as well as to its surroundings. The office was closed at the time of the attack.

    [33] Missing 14-year-old girl found safe

    A 14-year-old girl reported missing since Monday morning has been found in the town of Asprovalta, in the northern prefecture of Thessaloniki. According to a statement made to the ANA-MPA by a senior police officer, the girl telephoned to her father on Tuesday evening and asked him to go and pick her up.

    The girl is in good health and was due to explain the reasons for her disappearance to her family and to the police.

    The girl had set out with her twin sister to go to school on Monday morning, but later on she had left her without saying anything. An employee of the KTEL regional bus service had told police that the girl had bought a ticket for the city of Thessaloniki, without any more information being available.

    Weather Forecast

    [34] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-9 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 6C and 19C. Cloudy in Athens with possible local showers, with southerly 5-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 18C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 11C.

    [35] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The saga of up to 2,000 farmers from Crete camped out at the port of Piraeus on Monday -- after riot police prevented the exit of tractors for a projected rally through downtown Athens -- as well as 1.5 billion euros in support of financially weaker strata of society via the Stability and Development programme mostly dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Siemens slush fund: Examining magistrate freezes 38 bank accounts".

    APOGEVMATINI: "1.5 billion euros more for benefits - The revised stability programme finalised."

    AVGHI: "Order without mercy... Riot police against farmers".

    AVRIANI: "Swindlers' parade before the examining magistrate in Siemens case".

    CHORA: "Siemens slush funds frozen - 38 bank depositors' codes deciphered".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Agriculture Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis 'fled' to Brussels - He did not wait to meet with the farmers from Crete".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Major social uprising on the way - Daily incidents humiliate the country internationally".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "US President Obama to French President Sarkozy on recession: Things are worse than our first estimates".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Crete's uprising - Police welcome farmers from Crete with tear gas and arrests".

    ESTIA: "Greece holds world record in changing of electoral law".

    ETHNOS: "Window for unlimited price hikes on the market".

    KATHIMERINI: "Tractors parked in port - Scuffles in Piraeus, tension on Crete, persistence at Promahonas (border crossing to Bulgaria)".

    LOGOS: "Crete's battle to bitter end ... Farmers disembark at Piraeus port".

    NIKI: "Cretan farmers beleaguer government - Riot police block farmers at port".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "United with fist raised against common enemy's attack".

    TA NEA: "Cretan farmers' mobilisation opens new wounds for government".

    TO VIMA: "Financial crisis brings coercion on defence spending - The behind-the-scenes of negotiations for (the acquisition of) frigates, submarines, fighter jets".

    VRADYNI: "Blockade in the port - 'Battle of Crete' between farmers and riot police on Monday in Piraeus port".

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


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