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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-07

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

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

Saturday, 7 February 2009 Issue No: 3116

CONTENTS

  • [01] Parliament: Karamanlis on measures against poverty
  • [02] PM Karamanlis on farmers protests
  • [03] Farm minister on incidents in Piraeus
  • [04] Agriculture minister meets Promahonas farmers
  • [05] Minister on police scuffles with farmers in Piraeus
  • [06] FM Bakoyannis holds talks with U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke
  • [07] PASOK repeats calls for immediate elections
  • [08] Gov't spokesman on Papandreou's interview, election talk
  • [09] Gov't on waste management
  • [10] U.S. embassy security officials meet Greek Police chief
  • [11] MIG bid for OA discussed next week
  • [12] OPE to carry out business mission to Russia
  • [13] New car sales down 39.7 pct in January
  • [14] Greek budget revenues up 8.5 pct in December
  • [15] "Katselis" company employees hold 24-hour strike
  • [16] Greek stocks surge 2.69% up
  • [17] ADEX closing report
  • [18] Greek bond market closing report
  • [19] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday
  • [20] Interior minister attends regional secretary generals session
  • [21] National Confederation of People with Disability Conference
  • [22] South Europe universities meeting in Thessaloniki on franchise 'colleges'
  • [23] Police officer remanded to custody
  • [24] Drug arrest in Trikala, central Greece
  • [25] Souflias and SYN leader discuss new Panathinaikos stadium
  • [26] Cloudy, rainy on Saturday
  • [27] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [28] Defence Committee: UNFICYP figures on occupying troops are false
  • [29] Spokesman: We must remain consistent with the agreements on Cyprus Politics

  • [01] Parliament: Karamanlis on measures against poverty

    The measures against poverty adopted by the government were the focal point of a confrontation between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) President George Karatzaferis in Parliament on Friday.

    The key points of the government's economic policy are to protect jobs and strengthen vulnerable social groups, Karamanlis said, stressing that the following months will be crucial for all countries. He also issued an appeal for a fruitful dialogue aimed at coping with the crisis and stressed that there are no magic and cost-free solutions, adding that irresponsible danger-mongering practices are not useful.

    On his part, Karatzaferis accused the prime minister of not making any specific proposals.

    [02] PM Karamanlis on farmers protests

    "Protesting with tractors in Athens is not a matter of freedom," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stated speaking in Parliament on Friday in response to a question posed by SYRIZA Parliamentary Group President Alekos Alavanos as regards the Cretan farmers' recent mobilizations.

    "Our position is clear," stated Karamanlis, adding that "it is the citizens' right to challenge and demand. Images of confrontation between police and protester are not what we want. However, the State has certain obligations toward the people as a whole."

    He also wondered why SYNASPISMOS party does everything in its power to undermine dialogue rejecting participation in the talks on the secondary education reform and the new examination system. Moreover, he wondered why farmers should flood downtown Athens with their tractors to have a dialogue on sector issues.

    Karamanlis pointed out that the blatant violation of laws does not constitute exercising of a right saying that "causing social unrest and conflict situations is not useful to anyone. Farmers do not benefit by adopting practices detrimental to economy and society. Therefore, neither SYNASPISMOS nor main opposition PASOK can maintain that it is a 'matter of freedom' to protest on the streets of the nation's capital. The opposition is in error if it thinks that can capitalize farmers' struggles in such a way."

    Referring to the damage caused to the agricultural sector he clarified that the compensations are not paid based on geographic criteria and that the products from Crete are included in the 500-million-euro package announced by the government. He pointed out that numerous projects were completed on Crete during the past four years while unemployment on the island is much lower compared to the average unemployment rate in the country, adding that "the priority now are the sectors hit more either by natural causes or by the global economic crisis."

    He also stressed that it is unacceptable for political powers to invest in misinformation and denial, pointing out that "the government cares and fights for the real interests of all farmers, respects all citizens indiscriminately and seeks dialogue and consultation on all major issues that concern the country's present and future."

    On his part, Alavanos said that the government practices are an insult to the sensitivity of the Cretan people and called him to apologize.

    [03] Farm minister on incidents in Piraeus

    Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Friday expressed sorrow over the incidents between police and farmers that occurred while he was visiting Brussels to talk with the European Commission about the government's proposed aid package to farmers.

    While answering an opposition MP in Parliament, Hatzigakis said he had been the target of "low blows, below the belt" and essentially accused main opposition PASOK of stirring up Cretan farmers and "mobilising the Iraklio mechanism" in order to create incidents and impressions that would undermine the government.

    He again called on PASOK to take a clear position on whether a demonstration with 300 tractors should be allowed to bring Athens to a standstill.

    [04] Agriculture minister meets Promahonas farmers

    Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis and ministry officials briefed representatives of farmers from the Promahonas (northern Greece) roadblock, in the northern prefecture of Serres, on Friday on arrangements concerning the package for 500 million euros and on European Union control procedures.

    The minister stated that he will stand by them and will deal with their demands fairly.

    The farmers' representatives requested that the compensation be given to farmers having agriculture as their main porofession and added after the meeting that they trust the minister and that they will leave the roadblock by Sunday morning.

    According to an announcement, Hatzigakis will be meeting with farmers from Crete on Thursday.

    [05] Minister on police scuffles with farmers in Piraeus

    Alternate Interior Minister for Public Order Christos Markoyannakis on Friday rejected suggestions that the police were responsible for scuffles that took place in Piraeus port between Cretan farmers and riot police earlier this week. Answering main opposition PASOK MP Ioannis Diamantidis in Parliament, he also denied that tear gas had been used on farmers while main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou was among them.

    The incidents at the port had occurred when protesting farmers from Crete attempted to exit Piraeus port with their tractors and pick-up trucks in order to stage a protest rally using farm machinery in the centre of the capital. While blockaded within the port by riot police, they had received a visit from Papandreou, who wanted to hear their demands.

    Markoyannakis called PASOK MPs to clearly state whether they were for or against demonstations using tractors in Athens, adding that the police had been under attack and adopted a strictly defensive attitude.

    He also expressed sorrow at being targeted and the arsonist attack on his office, while Diamantidis said that the attack on the minister's office "does not become our democracy" and was condemned by everyone in PASOK in every possible way.

    [06] FM Bakoyannis holds talks with U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke

    MUNICH (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis held 45-minute talks on Friday night with the special envoy of U.S. President Barack Obama for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke and the State Department's second in rank James Steinberg, also in her capacity as OSCE chairwoman, on the sidelines of the 45th International Conference on Security taking place here.

    Issues of international interest were raised during the meeting, including the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moreover, the OSCE's role and mission was also discussed in relation to the issue of dialogue on the European Security Architecture, while brief reference was also made to the situation in the Balkans and to the very important role being played in the region by Greece.

    Replying to a question on whether Holbrooke made a specific request concerning Greece's presence in Afghanistan, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos replied negatively and stressed that the discussion concerned an overall exchange of views on Afghanistan, particularly in light of the elections scheduled to take place in the country in August.

    Bakoyannis also met her Romanian counterpart, with whom she discussed the situation in the Balkans, the prospect of tripartite cooperation (Greece-Bulgaria-Romania) and the repercussions of the international economic crisis in Europe and in the Balkans in particular, while the issue of regional cooperation on handling of energy security problems was also raised.

    Bakoyannis arrived here on Friday to participate in the 45th Munich International Conference on Security.

    On Saturday, Bakoyannis will be chairing a panel focusing on the theme of "NATO, Russia, oil, natural gas and the Middle East, the future of European security."

    British Foreign Minister David Miliband, Ukrainian Prime Minister Julia Timoshenko, U.S. Republican Senator John McCain and Russian Alternate Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov will also be participating.

    [07] PASOK repeats calls for immediate elections

    Main opposition PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou on Friday repeated PASOK's call for immediate elections, either now or by the time of the European Parliament elections at the latest, with a simultaneous consensus decision over the election of the President of the Republic. The call for immediate elections was originally voiced by PASOK leader George Papandreou in a press conference on Thursday.

    The spokesman stressed that demanding elections was a "stance of responsibility" by PASOK, noting that allowing the current premier Costas Karamanlis to use up his entire four-year term would be "catastropic, because it means lack of government".

    Replying to the statements made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday, Papaconstantinou said that this had failed to present a plausible plan for tackling the crisis and that the total sum of the government's policies showed it to be irresponsible.

    Asked whether PASOK had a plan for exiting the crisis, Papaconstantinou pointed out that the main opposition had made very significant proposals, some of which were also tabled as draft bills.

    [08] Gov't spokesman on Papandreou's interview, election talk

    The prime minister made a political statement on the economy and the global financial crisis in a way that allows for no doubts, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stated on Friday. Commenting on main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou's press conference on Thursday, he underlined that the government will not follow PASOK in its effort to plunge the country into a climate of election-mongering.

    The government's priority is to carry out its pledges and look for substantive and effective solutions to the problems stemming from the global economic crisis, especially for those who are most vulnerable, Antonaros said. The government has a concrete parliamentary majority and governs with a plan and effectiveness.

    If the parties of the opposition do not join a consensus to deal with the crisis, they will bear full responsibity for their refusal to participate effectively and constructively in the common effort, he said.

    On the election law, Antonaros stated that the ruling majority had passed it in parliament because it was deemed the most appropriate and therefore believed that is would be better to put it into effect from the next elections, adding that PASOK's objection proved that it does not want a stable government.

    [09] Gov't on waste management

    The inter-ministerial committee on solid waste management met with representatives of the European Commission over the issue of illegal dumps, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Friday, pointing out that the European Commission deadline for shutting these down ended on Dec. 31, 2008.

    Antonaros stated that of the 1,102 illegal dumps for which Greece had been fined, only 7 are still active. He also clarified that according to the existing timetable they will have to be closed before the end of the year.

    He commented that there is a timetable defining the manner and time in which the government decision for the construction of 4 modern waste management plants will materialize and stressed that the representatives of the European Commission expressed satisfaction for the progress made.

    [10] U.S. embassy security officials meet Greek Police chief

    The U.S. embassy had requested two years ago the removal of the policeman who had shot the private guard outside the U.S. ambassador's residence last Wednesday, according to an announcement issued on Friday night by the Greek Police Headquarters.

    According to the announcement, the embassy's security officials had noticed that the policeman had a peculiar attitude and had telephoned three times to the commander of the Ambelokipi Police Station on 7/2/2007, 20/4/2007 and 17/7/2007 and had duly informed him.

    The embassy's security officials mentioned these actions at noon on Friday in a meeting with Greek Police chief Vassilis Tsiatouras whom they visited in his office for this purpose.

    The announcement by the Greek Police points out that the leadership of the Police had not been informed of the U.S. embassy's security action at the Ambelokipi Police Station.

    Tsiatouras called on the embassy's security officials to submit to him in writing what they had told him orally to enable the document to be included in the enquiry he has ordered for those responsible.

    Financial News

    [11] MIG bid for OA discussed next week

    The government on Friday said negotiations over an offer by Athens-based Marfin group (MIG) to purchase national air carrier Olympic Airways will begin next Tuesday.

    Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, in charge of efforts to privatise OA, said talks between government and MIG will begin over the latter's expressed interest in the company.

    "... the proposal is open to all investors to express their interest. It goes without saying that the formalities of whatever agreement on OA's privatisation will become official after EU approval," he added.

    [12] OPE to carry out business mission to Russia

    The Exports Promotion Organisation (OPE), in the framework of its action programme, will be carrying out a business mission to Russia (Sochi) from April 27-30, 2009, in cooperation with the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE) and the Enterprise Europe Network-Hellas.

    Sochi, a Russian resort city, is located on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. It was selected to host the Winter Olympic Games in 2014 and, according to relevant reports, Russia will be providing huge amounts of money to implement the programme.

    It has been estimated that 12 billion dollars will be provided, two thirds of which will be used for the development of infrastructures in Southern Russia, where millions of Russian citizens spend their vacations every year.

    Apart from the Olympic sports facilities and infrastructure projects (roads, bridges, tunnels, thermoelectric plants, etc), dozens of new and modern hotels, cultural and trade centres and restaurants will be built.

    [13] New car sales down 39.7 pct in January

    New car sales fell 39.7 percent in January, compared with the same month last year, totaling 20,247 units, evidence that an international financial crisis is hitting the domestic car market.

    Figures published by the Association of Car Importers and Dealers, showed that almost all car brand names suffered heavy losses in the first month of 2009, with Toyota reporting a 42.8 pct drop in sales ranking second. VW rose 1.1 pct in January, ranking first, with Opel in the third place despite a 38.1 pct decline in sales.

    Car dealers are pressuring for more favourable financing programs through banks and have launch offering large discounts (mainly on used cars) with the aim to boost the market.

    An IOBE report this week said that 90 pct of consumers were unlikely to buy a car this year, with only 1.3 pct saying they intended to buy a car in the next 12 months.

    [14] Greek budget revenues up 8.5 pct in December

    Greek budget revenues grew 8.5 pct in December, for a growth rate of 6.8 pct in the 12-month period from January to December 2008, the finance ministry said on Friday.

    A ministry report said the 8.5 pct increase in budget revenues reflected a 2.6 pct rise in tax agencies revenues, a 17.9 pct rise in customs revenues and an 8.4 pct decline in VAT revenues in December.

    [15] "Katselis" company employees hold 24-hour strike

    Employees of the bread and pastry products manufacturer "Katselis" held their first strike in the company's 30-year-long operation, according to the company personnel trade union.

    The 24-hour strike was held in protest to the management's plans for large-scale downsizing and lay-offs.

    [16] Greek stocks surge 2.69% up

    Greek stocks rose vigorously in the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday, in line with a positive outlook in other European markets. The composite index rose 2.69 pct to end at 1,761.69 points, with turnover remaining a low 106.7 million euros, of which 5.5 million euros were block trades.

    All sectors moved upward, with Financial Services (4.33 pct), Health (4.30 pct) and Travel & Leisure (4.09 pct) and Oil & Gas (4.08 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Insurance (1.84 pct) and Commercial (0.29 pct) recorded losses.

    The FTSE 20 index rose 2.73 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.79 pct up and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.31 pct down. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 142 to 60, with another 57 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.84%

    Industrials: +2.32%

    Commercial: -0.29%

    Construction: +2.60%

    Media: +0.54%

    Oil & Gas: +4.08%

    Personal & Household: +0.94%

    Raw Materials: +3.44%

    Travel & Leisure: +4.09%

    Technology: +1.80%

    Telecoms: Unchanged

    Banks: +2.18%

    Food & Beverages: +2.74%

    Health: +4.30%

    Utilities: +3.20%

    Chemicals: +0.43%

    Financial Services: +4.33%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 5.80

    ATEbank: 1.21

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.14

    HBC Coca Cola: 10.90

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.68

    National Bank of Greece: 13.08

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.42

    Intralot: 3.32

    OPAP: 21.86

    OTE: 11.48

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.14

    Titan Cement Company: 12.52

    [17] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 2.17 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover a low 36.443 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 6,439 contracts worth 28.246 million euros with 32,260 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,205 contracts worth 7.833 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,470), followed by Eurobank (1,537), OTE (1,065), GEK (1,129), Alpha Bank (1,323) and Intralot (387).

    [18] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 526 million euros on Friday, of which 403 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 125 million euros were sell orders.

    The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 95 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 240 basis points with the Greek bond yielding 5.72 pct and the German Bund 3.38 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.20 pct, the six-month rate 2.10 pct, the three-month rate 2.02 pct and the one-month rate 1.69 pct.

    [19] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.289

    Pound sterling 0.877

    Danish kroner 7.511

    Swedish kroner 10.65

    Japanese yen 117.63

    Swiss franc 1.513

    Norwegian kroner 8.843

    Canadian dollar 1.612

    Australian dollar 1.956

    General News

    [20] Interior minister attends regional secretary generals session

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, addressing on Friday the 25th Session of Secretary Generals of the country's Regions in Xanthi, northern Greece, said that the Region of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace was an example worthy of copying, regarding the administrative adjustment to the requirements of the times.

    The minister pointed out that the Region has achieved a great deal in a relatively short period of time, mentioning that "its performances in absorbing funds from the Regionasl Operational Programme have increased from 14.82 percent in March 2004 to 106 percent today."

    Pavlopoulos referred in particular to development interventions being implemented in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, with emphasis on supporting mountainous regions, flood protection, boosting entrepreneurship, improving the quality of life and promoting social accession activities.

    As regards operational programmes in general, he said that their absorption rates have been speeded up with leaps and have reached 100 percent, while stressing that the government has succeeded in not even one euro being lost.

    [21] National Confederation of People with Disability Conference

    Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Friday stressed that the government's goal is to form an environment more friendly and hospitable for people with disability during the 7th Conference of the National Confederation of People with Disability in Athens.

    Opening the two-day conference, Avramopoulos conveyed the prime minister's support, stressing that even though significant progress has been made, public awareness as regards the disabled is still lagging. He termed existing conditions for the disabled as "primitive".

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou stated in his address to the conference that "now is the time to guarantee that there will be no new exclusions as a result of the crisis therefore guaranteeing social cohesion". He pledged that PASOK will create the preconditions for implementating existing laws, pointing out that the necessary amendments will be made to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities will be protected.

    Employment and Social Protection Minister Fani Palli Petralia underlined the pressing need for a new social plan that promotes opportunities, pointing out that competitiveness is unthinkable without social cohesion.

    Referring to the new draft law promoted by the ministry of employment and social protection, Petralia invited the confederation board to a meeting next week for collaboration.

    [22] South Europe universities meeting in Thessaloniki on franchise 'colleges'

    Representatives of southern European universities met in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Friday to hold talks on the evaluation of degrees, both those awarded by state universities but also those awarded by colleges working under a franchise from universities abroad, as well as an objective international ranking system for academic institutions.

    The aim of the meeting was to agree on a common stance on these issues by the universities of southern Europe, including France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Greece, in view of the European Universities Association convention that will take place in Prague this March.

    On the issue of colleges based in other countries and the "export" of academic qualifications, those present agreed that the relevant European directive does not promote the interests of universities and that academic issues should not be determined on the basis of the economic criteria set by the European Commissioner for trade.

    The said that such colleges should be assessed by either a single European system with a set of commonly accepted criteria or on the basis of criteria decided by each individual country.

    They also noted a deficit in the reliability and objectivity of international ranking system for higher learning institutes and called for a set of common criteria "that will be compatible with the culture and traditions of academic institutions in Europe and will take into account all educational parameters."

    [23] Police officer remanded to custody

    An examining magistrate in Athens on Friday ordered the jailing of a police officer who shot and seriously wounded a private security guard outside the US ambassador's residence in the Greek capital on Wednesday.

    Specifically, the supect will be incarcerated at a local prison's psychiatric ward.

    Following an initial statement before the magistrate on Friday, he was charged with attempted murder and illegal use of a firearm.

    Defence attorneys have reportedly asked that their client undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

    [24] Drug arrest in Trikala, central Greece

    Police in Trikala Prefecture, central Greece, arrested a 21-year-old Albanian national on drug trafficking charges acting on a tip-off.

    A subsequent search in his house with the help of a police dog revealed 11 packets of heroin weighing 95 grams and a precision scale.

    Soccer

    [25] Souflias and SYN leader discuss new Panathinaikos stadium

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias on Friday received Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party leader Alexis Tsipras at the ministry for a discussion regarding plans to build a new football ground for the Athens club Panathinaikos in the run-down Votanikos district.

    Souflias said his discussion with Tsipras had been "interesting" and noted that the ministry had now done all that it could and was waiting for the Athens municipality to complete the land expropriations that were necessary and issue the building permit.

    The minister said that he did not separate the issue of building the football ground from that of the shopping mall that is also being planned, clarifying that the construction of the project "requires funds and the necessary space, which means compensation," while noting that this compensation could either be in the form of money paid by the municipality or take advantage of the "reciprocity" method allowed under current laws.

    In spite of the objections to the construction of the shopping mall, the ministry could not intervene in terms of how compensation is given, nor deny the law, Souflias added.

    Tsipras, on his part, said that the plans for construction of the Panathinaikos stadium at Votanikos was one of the areas where his party's views coincided with those of the government.

    "I hope our discussion was useful. We will look into all aspects so that work on the Panathinaikos stadium will begin immediately," he said.

    SYN's leader called for the municipality to give permits to begin work on the stadium, independently of the case before the Council of State concerning the shopping mall.

    Weather Forecast

    [26] Cloudy, rainy on Saturday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 1C and 20C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Athens, with southerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 7C to 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 16C.

    [27] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' nationally televised message regarding the economy and main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou's press conference along with Marfin Group's (MIG) interest on Olympic Airways' acquisition dominated the headlines on Friday in the Athens dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Inter-ministerial committee on economic confirms measures for 870,000 self-employed professionals".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Karamanlis: We're supporting people to deal with financial crisis".

    AVGHI: "Government reinstates the 10,500-euro tax-free ceiling to cajole voters".

    AVRIANI: "Marfin VP Andreas Vgenopoulos saves Olympic Airways and acts as life-vest for taxpayers".

    CHORA: "Vgenopoulos gives wings to Olympic Airways - MIG's proposal gives the life kiss to the national air carrier".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "PASOK leader demands general elections and sends message to Karamanlis: Go, it's my turn - Karamanlis later emphasises: I'm not going anywhere".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Spectacular changes in tax code - Breather for 900,000 self-employed professional and SME owners".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Consent instead of elections - Leaders of two major parties cross swords on economy, early elections".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "They dismantle their policy - Government without plan".

    ESTIA: "Positive changes in tax code - Reinstitution of tax-free ceiling".

    ETHNOS: "Papandreou throws down the gauntlet for general elections ".

    KATHIMERINI: "Karamanlis U-turn in economic policy - Asked for consent in face of crisis".

    LOGOS: "Papandreou challenge: I want general elections now - Karamanlis calls for consent".

    NIKI: "Heavy taxes for real estate".

    TA NEA: "Government imposes new taxes on way to ballot box".

    VIMA: "Papandreou: Election now, with mutual agreement for election of new President of Republic".

    VRADYNI: "Tax-free ceiling reinstated - Paper's report verified".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Multinational threatening unions, unionists with prosecution".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [28] Defence Committee: UNFICYP figures on occupying troops are false

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cyprus Defence Parliamentary Committee Chairman Yiannakis Omirou has branded ''false and deceptive'' a report on the number of Turkish occupation troops in Cyprus released earlier by Chief of Staff of the United Nations Peace-Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), British Colonel Gerard Hughes.

    In a report leaked to the press, Hughes said that the Turkish occupation troops in Cyprus numbered 21,000 in addition to 3,000 soldiers of the so-called Turkish Cypriot ''security forces,'' totaling 24,000 soldiers.

    Cyprus National Guard Commander, Lieutenant General Constantinos Bisbikas, briefed the Defence Committee on Thursday on the number of the occupation forces.

    Omirou revealed afterwards that the National Guard Chief had presented ''undisputed figures'' about the number of Turkish soldiers occupying the northern part of this east Mediterranean island. He said Turkish troops numbered between 42,000 and 44,000.

    He added that according to the National Guard briefing, the occupation troops deployed in an offensive formation were being constantly upgraded.

    Omirou recalled that similar claims were reported by UNFICYP in 2003 reducing the number of occupation forces to 28,000. In 2006 the then Chief of the Turkish Armed Forces, General Yasar Buyukanit, spoke publicly of 44,000 Turkish troops stationed in the occupied part of Cyprus.

    Asked on the reasons for the release of this report, Omirou noted that ''there is no doubt that such deceptive reports entail a certain motive.''

    ''I can see no other motive than the creation of a false image on the presence of Turkey in Cyprus and the false image that Turkey withdraws troops from the island,'' the Defence Committee Chairman concluded.

    [29] Spokesman: We must remain consistent with the agreements on Cyprus

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    "If all of us remain consistent and guided by the agreements for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation based on the UN resolutions for Cyprus and the principles of the International and European law as the two leaders and the two communities have agreed upon through all these years, then we will be able to reach a solution to the Cyprus problem", Stephanos Stephanou, Government Spokesman has said.

    Asked here Friday, to comment on the Turkish Cypriot leader's statements, Stephanou stressed that the aim is a solution of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, that will end the Turkey's occupation in Cyprus, and will reunify the country, the people and the economy of the island.

    "A state with one sovereignty, one citizenship and one international personality, and with two communities that will have the co-administration of the one and common state", he added.

    Invited to comment on the Turkish Foreign Minister's position regarding the treaties of guarantees and the need, as Turkish FM said, for these treaties to be part of the solution, the spokesman pointed out that a member state of the European Union should feel secure within the Union.

    As regards the Turkey's EU course, Stephanou stressed that Turkey has to meet its commitments towards the Union and Cyprus, and "it is not possible for Turkey to join the EU as long as it occupies a significant part of Cyprus, an EU member state".

    Replying to a question on the issue of the Cypriot-flagged ship, of Russian interests, ''Monchegorsk'', Stephanou said that the Republic of Cyprus takes all the necessary security measures for the ship.

    However, he added that the Government has not yet received the response of the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on its request for an advice.

    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 breach of UN Security Council sanctions, as claimed.

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