|Saturday, 21 September 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 19 February 2009 Issue No: 3126
"The Greek economy is in better condition compared with the average condition in the Eurozone, which is currently in recession," EU Commissioner Joaquin Almunia reiterated on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Almunia underlined, however, the need to accelerate a restructuring programme of the Greek economy, starting this year.
Presenting the European Commission's report on Greece's updated Stability & Growth Programme, the EU Commissioner noted that economic growth in Greece remained positive, with forecasts made by the Greek government being more optimistic compared with the European Commission and the Bank of Greece, at a time when Eurozone records negative growth rates.
Almunia stressed that the Commission's message to Greek authorities was to accelerate a fiscal adjustment programme, adding it was not the Commission that was pressing Athens with yield spreads, but the market.
The European Commission's assessment on the stability and convergence programmes of 17 European Union member states was issued today. Regarding Greece the commission's report is as follows:
Greece has experienced strong economic growth at 4 percent per year over the current decade. In 2008 its GDP grew well above the euro area average and in 2009 it was still seen in positive territory in the Commission's January forecasts. However, domestic and external macroeconomic imbalances have widened considerably, which has led to very high public and foreign debt. The ongoing global economic and financial crisis is taking its toll on the economy and putting pressure on the debt burden.
The budget deficit exceeded 3 percent in 2007 and 2008 and, according to the Greek Stability Programme, it will reach 3.7 percent in 2009 before falling to 3.2 percent of GDP in 2010 and 2.6 percent by 2011. Greece has no room for fiscal impulse given its very high debt and current account imbalance. It has not adopted a stimulus package. The consolidation strategy in 2010 and 2011, outlined in the Programme, relies on expenditure restraint and to a lesser extent on increasing tax revenues, but the plans currently lack in detail on concrete measures.
In view of the Commission assessment, Greece is invited to: (i) strengthen substantially the fiscal consolidation path already in 2009, especially if economic conditions turn out better than expected in the programme, through well-specified permanent measures curbing current expenditure, including a prudent public sector wage policy, thereby contributing to necessary reduction in the debt-to-GDP ratio; (ii) ensure that fiscal consolidation measures are also geared towards enhancing the quality of public finances, within the framework of a comprehensive reform programme, in the light of the necessary adjustment of the economy, with a view to recovering competitiveness losses and addressing the existing external imbalances; (iii) implement swiftly the policies to reform the tax administration and improve the functioning of the budgetary process by increasing its transparency, spelling out the budgetary strategy within a longer time perspective and set up mechanisms to monitor, control and improve the efficiency of primary current expenditure; (iv) in view of the mounting level of debt and the projected increase in age-related expenditure, improve the long-term sustainability of public finances, by continuing the on-going reforms in the healthcare and pension system.
The deficit exceeded 3 percent in 2007 and the general government debt stood at 94.8 percent of GDP that year, according to the data notified by the Greek authorities in October 2008 and validated by Eurostat, confirmed also in the January 2009 update of the Stability Programme. Therefore, the Commission adopted a report under Article 104.3 of the Treaty, which marks the start of the EDP. According to the Commission's January forecast, the deficit net of one-offs attained 3.6 percent of GDP in 2008 (or 3.4 percent of GDP including one-offs). The excess over the 3 percent reference value is not temporary. The excess over the 3 percent reference value is also not exceptional, as it does not result from a severe economic downturn in the sense of the Treaty and the Stability and Growth Pact.
Speaking to reporters, Papathanasiou said Greece was one of five Eurozone states expected to record a positive growth rate this year (1.1 pct), although the European Commission insisted that economic growth in the country would be 0.2 pct. The Greek minister said that the country's fiscal deficit and the unemployment rate will be lower compared with Eurozone's average.
He stressed, however, that there was no room for loosening the government's fiscal policy, adding that the public debt -which tripled in the period 1980-2004- was the country's largest problem.
Greece's Stability and Growth program seeks to gradually reduce the fiscal deficit below 3.0 pct of GDP by 2011, while an additional cut in the deficit would be achieved through measures to cut public spending. Papathanasiou said that neither the Greek government's or the European Commission's projections over economic growth rates could be declared infallible.
She was commenting on a European Commission's recommendation over the country's updated Stability and Growth Program for the period 2008-2011.
Katseli said the international economic crisis was not responsible for this development, rather it was due to continuous deficits run up by the government over the past two years.
On its part, the Communist Party (KKE) said the Commission report "once again reveals the fact that the EU is a transnational mechanism of processing and protecting the anti-popular policies; a faithful expression of the needs of European monopolies..."
Finally, a Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) statements condemns the report as proposing the same "failed" recipes and directives, "measures that only affect the economically weaker and which, to a great extent, led to today's economic crisis".
Karamanlis welcomed the two US lawmakers, the first official US delegation to visit Greece following the inauguration of new US President Barack Obama, stressing that the US president's commitment to closely cooperate with friends and allies on all major issues of mutual interest and concern is warmly welcomed.
The Greek prime minister added that, as he has told the US president in the telephone conversation they had, he is looking forward to close cooperation with him, focusing on forging closer bilateral relations, which are already on excellent as well as on issues of mutual interest, both international and regional.
"This reception is not of a symbolic nature, but constitutes a very sincere and substantive commitment," Karamanlis concluded.
On his part, US Sen. Durbin underlined that he is not in Greece as an official representative of the Obama administration adding, however, that he and Giannoulias come as "official friends of the President" and will convey to him the message that the friendship with Greece is strong and will become even stronger.
"Greece has inspired our democracy, and our alliance today is inspiring. We have many challenges that need to be faced globally and regionally. We have cooperated in the past to solve many problems and will do the same in the future as well," he stressed.
Meanwhile, the US lawmakers were later received by main opposition PASOK and Socialist International (SI) president George Papandreou, for talks on the international economic crisis and ways to combat its repercussions via the Obama administration's massive stimulus plan.
The two US officials queried Papandreou regarding the economic crisis in Greece and Europe, taking under consideration Papandreou's initiative to establish a Stieglitz Committee with the participation of representatives from all major countries.
Referring to the economy, discussion also touched on Papandreou's "green" growth proposals. They also referred to Middle East situation SI arbitration efforts in the Israel-Palestinians conflict and Iran.
Cyprus was also amongst the issues discussed in the meeting, as Papandreou cited PASOK's firm positions and his proposal for a new national strategy, adding that when PASOK returns to government, Athens' policy vis-Ó-vis Turkey will again become a top foreign policy priority.
The US Senate's "No. 2" Democrat later spoke at a press conference at a downtown Athens hotel, where he said the Cyprus issue dominated his talks with Greek leadership this week.
Durbin and Giannoulias, a second generation Greek-American, first visited the eastern Mediterranean island republic before arriving in Athens, while Ankara and finally Istanbul will be their next stops. The Illinois lawmakers are scheduled to be received in the Patriarchate in Istanbul by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholemew I.
Asked about who holds the "key" to a solution to the long-standing Cyprus problem, the Durbin answered the "Cypriot themselves, on both sides."
He added that, as regards the Cyprus problem, "we satnd ready to help, but only if asked."
Additionally, Durbin said energy issues -- i.e. energy security and renewable sources of energy -- as well as repercussions from the international economic crisis were discussed with Greek leadership.
Durbin, who again described himself as an "official friend" Barack Obama in a bid to distinguish his role during the ongoing regional tour, twice referred to the new US administration's emphasis on dealing with climate change, noting that the problem threatens humanity's future. He added that he will share his experiences and observations from his contacts in Cyprus, Greece and Turkey with the US president and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In terms of other matters, the US Senate majority whip said Afghanistan was not discussed with the Greek government, whereas he said his lack of comments on the ongoing furor surrounding new appointed US Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) is due to the fact that he is "eight time zones" away from Chicago and wants to first review all the documents in detail.
He nevertheless said the latest allegations concerning Burris "raised questions that need to be answered very carefully".
In closing out the press conference, US ambassador to Greece Daniel Speckhard answered a press question dealing with Athens' standing request for inclusion in the US Visa Waiver Program, reiterating his hope that the matter will be completed in 2009. He noted that both sides share a commitment to resolve the outstanding issue, adding that only one issue remains to be settled.
Antonaros on PM's meeting with US officials
Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday said that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had met US Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Illinois State Treasurer Alexis Giannoulias as figures of the U.S. political scene, in the same way as other officials coming to Greece.
It was up to the prime minister to decide who he would meet, the spokesman added.
The meeting lasted roughly an hour and was also attended by US Ambassador in Athens Daniel Speckhard.
Giannoulias, who is a Greek-American, stated afterwards that he is optimistic about the future of Greece and Cyprus, stressing that both countries are very important to the US President.
Referring to the Greek-American community, he stated that both the United States and the Greeks seek the solution of many problems and, underlining the importance of the Cyprus issue, he commented that "this is the reason we spent the last 24 hours in Cyprus. We are optimistic that the problem will be solved".
He also expressed his personal interest and that of the Greek-American community in the Ecumenical Patriarchate issues and stressed that more detailed answers will be given at a press conference later in the afternoon.
The next stop of the US delegation will be Turkey.
Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis met here on Wednesday with Euro-MPs of the three largest groups within the European Parliament, in view of upcoming debates for the adoption of reports directly affecting Greek interests.
Specifically, he met with the head of the European People's Party (EPP) group Joseph Daul, the vice-presidents of the socialists group Johannes Swoboda and Jan Marinus Wiersma and the head of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Graham Watson.
Valinakis also held talks on issues of Greek and European interest with the European Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey Ria Oomen-Ruijten and the 'shadow' rapporteur on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) for the Liberals Jelko Kacin, as well as the EPP coordinator for the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Jose Ignacio Salafranca.
In meetings on Tuesday, Valinakis held talks with two Greek MEPs on the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee, George Dimitrakopoulos of New Democracy and Marilena Koppa of PASOK.
Commenting afterwards, Souflias underlined that the government is carrying out a major spatial planning reform that for the first time allows people to have a clear picture of what is permissible.
He pointed out that the objective is the decentralization of industry aimed at promoting regional development and environmental protection, stressing that the general spatial plan and the special spatial plan for the Renewable Energy Sources, RES, have already been enacted.
Asked to comment on the European Commission Report and the statements made by Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, he stated that the government has a plan as regards the economy, while the stability and development programme submitted to the EU is currently being discussed.
"The minister of national economy and finance has specified the measures to be implemented," Souflias said, pointing out that "the government is determined to carry out the programme and certain adjustments will be made if they are deemed necessary."
"Mr. Papandreou owes immedate and clear answers on all these serious questions. Everything else is lacking substance," Antonaros stressed.
According to the spokesman, Papandreou on Tuesday attempted to "exploit the countries institutions for communications purposes, in order to create impressions."
He also claimed that PASOK's leader was using "various tricks unbecoming his institutional capacity" to maintain election speculation and "sacrificing everything to further his own petty political interests".
Antonaros stressed that the government "would not play Papandreou's game" and that the top priority was to deal with the global financial crisis.
In her policy statement to the Congress, Papariga rang the bell for the party's counter-attack "on all fronts", at a time when major economic, social and political problems at global, regional and also national level were being "put on the table".
As such, socialism was "both timely and historically necessary", the KKE secretary general said, at the same time launching an attack on all the other opposition parties.
Expressing conviction that the Congress "will contribute to opening up a new page in the action and prospect of the labor, popular movement and in the KKE's contribution to the international communist, anti-imperialism movement", Papariga expressed gratification with the big majority with which the texts of the party's positions and the positions on socialism were ratified (72 percent and 73 percent respectively), which she said meant that the "agreement with both the texts of Positions has a solid foundation", adding that the ideological/political unity of the party was stronger today, consolidated by experience, struggles and the ideological/political confrontation.
However, the fact that the Congress was taking place in the midst of a crisis meant that "we all have cognizance of the fact that the demands are growing, as the first signs of the crisis have made their appearance in our country", she said, predicting that the crisis would break out in Greece as well, and would be "aggravated and relatively long-term".
"We have only one choice, to rise to the circumstances so that the labor movement will find itself in a position of counter-attack, and the social alliance will take steps forward".
On the two mainstream parties, Papariga said that both the New Democracy (ND) government and main opposition PASOK party, albeit with different phraseology and slogans, were essentially saying the dame thing, that the maximum cooperatin among the social partners, all the "productive forces", must be ensured so that the crisis will pass as smoothly as possible. At the same time, however, their choices and proposals had two basic interlinking characteristics: Measures to safeguard profit, to the degree possible, and 'aspirin' measures for extreme poverty, she added.
On the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA, the SYN-led parliamentary alliance), Papariga said that it had "exceeded all boundaries of opportunism and anti-communism", making use of the opportunistic leaders who had headed the effort to transmute the KKE with the division of 1968.
As for the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, she said that it has "shown its aversion to the mass popular action and struggles, rendering itself an apologist of police violence".
EU and NATO
Regarding Greece's membership in the European Union and NATO, the text of Positions said that it was time for planning for raising the issue of insubordination, as well as the country's disengagement, as a response to the positions endorsing "change from within".
In that respect, a discussion must commence on why Greece, in different conditions of political authority, is able to stand on its own feet, and under what conditions it should participate in international collaborations, and a systematic de-mythification of the "one-way paths" and the danger-mongering.
An effort could begin, according to the text, to reveal what the "balance of participation" was. The meaning of "balance" replies to the propaganda that Community monies have been and are forthcoming, and also to the argument that a country that cuts itself loose will face dangers. In that area, it was necessary to project the terms of conformation, the asymmetricality, the relations of interdependence and dependence. Thus, the position is de-mythified that Greece is a small, dependent country and cannot enter a developmental orbit to the benefit of the social needs, that is counter to capitalistic growth and the service of the monopolies.
Papariga noted that the first major political battle after the KKE's 18th Congress would be the European Parliament elections, noting that the outgoing Central Committee has drafted a Policy Statement on the political framework and guidelines of that battle.
In one respect, the Euro-elections had significant similarities with national elections, with the difference that in the latter a government is elected while in the former a group of MEPs is elected, but nevertheless their common identity is the resonsibiligy of the EU and the ruling parties regarding the everyday and more general problems faced by the working people in the country, the negative consequences from Greece's incorporation in the EU market and more generally in the "regional imperialistic union", the KKE leader said.
Papariga further said that in the national elections, ND and PASOK -- the parties that alternately (as government) signed all the anti-labor and anti-popular decisions of the EU, took part in its imperialistic interventions and waras it backed or actively took part in -- will be judged.
She said that the "imperialistic European Union policy" does not have only the two mainstream parties as allies in Greece, but also other political forces which, in their own way, supported and support it, considering it a "one-way' path. It was a fact, she said, that recently SYRIZA appeared to be strongly critical towards the EU, while at the same time cultivating the delusion that the EU could change into a more human union "in the same way that it (SYRIZA) frequently adopts the humanization of capitalism at national level".
Papariga opined that national elections were near at hand since, under the present circumstances, it was not at all certain that the ND government would complete its four-year term, and as such the KKE needed to be prepared both ideologically and politically for such a battle, which would essentially be a showdown between the two paths of development.
Speaking to reporters afterwards Papariga said that they exchenged views on the situation in Greece and Cyprus. Regarding the protracted Cyprus problem Papariga expressed her confidence in the person of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and the AKEL party for their handling of the problem.
Papariga also met the Chinese Communist Party delegation to the congress, saying afterwards that it was "with great joy that we welcomed the delegation from the Communist Party of China. As it is known our relations with the CPC are very close."
Sioufas noted that the KKE was the oldest parliamentary party in Greece, as it elected an MP in 1926 for the first time, and stressed that the communist party co-formulated the country's political and social history.
He further stressed the KKE's contribution to the success of the post-dictatorship era, adding that the party was a factor of stability of the democratic form of government.
Papoulias congratulated Kyprianou on his election to the AKEL helm after former leader Demetris Christofias' election as Cyprus President of the Republic, and Kyprianou conveyed Christofias' greetings together with his respects.
The Greek president commented on EU Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn's statements that the EU wants to help Cyprus, stressing that "this was well said, and since they want to help, they should do so, let it not be only 'big words'."
Kyprianou agreed with Papoulias, noting that Cyprus itself was ready and adding that Rehn's recent visit there had been good, but the UE "is not only not dong what it should,but the opposite, and particularlly Mr. Rehn".
"I briefed [the minister] on the latest discussions taking place during talks between [Cyprus President Demetris Christofias] and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat," Kyprianou said after the meeting.
He thanked the Greek government for supporting the effort launched by Cyprus' president to solve the Cyprus problem, noting that "Greece is at this time our main support in the struggle we are carrying out."
Underlining that the Cyprus government and AKEL were determined to see the process through to the end, he also stressed that this would depend on a positive response from the Turkish side.
"For us, certain fundamental principles are not negotiable and this is the message we want to broadcast in all directions, so that the necessary influence is brought to bear on the Turkish side to cooperate within the framework of UN resolutions, high-level agreements but also international and European law," he added.
In response to questions, he said that a plan for a solution was unlikely to emerge before the EU report on Turkey's accession progress, due out in December.
"I am looking forward to our closer cooperation and I am certain that with such a leader your party and Cyprus will advance," Papandreou told Kyprianou.
The Cypriot delegation is currently in Athens to attend the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which began on Wednesday.
Kyprianou thanked Papandreou for his "support to the struggle of the people of Cyprus for liberation and reunification of our homeland."
He added that he discussed with the PASOK leader developments around the protracted Cyprus problem as well as other issues of common interest, noting that cooperation between the two parties will develop further.
The traditionally good relations between PASOK and the CPC were reaffirmed during the meeting with the Cuban delegation, which comprised Fernando Ramirez, member of the Secretariat of the CPC's central committee responsible for international relations and Juan Carlos Marsan, member of the party's inetrnational relations section for Europe. The delegation was accompanied by Cuba's Ambassador to Greece Hermes Herrera Hernandez.
The Cuban delegation is currently in Athens to attend the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which began on Wednesday.
During the meeting with Papandreou, they also discussed the impact from the world economic crisis and the issue of humanitarian aid and support to Cuba after the catastrophic hurricanes that hit the island. The issue of support by European Socialist parties and PASOK in particular to improving US-Cuban relations after Barack Obama's election was also discussed.
The delegation extended an invitation to PASOK's leader to visit Cuba.
"We agreed in discussion with the PPC that we must, without delay, adopt a programme of incentives and disincentives in order to conserve electrical power. In other words, the idea is that when you use less power you will pay less, whereas if you are wasteful you run the risk of paying more. With this policy, we hope to restrict power consumption so that, as is the case in all European countries, we have more reasonable consumption levels. It is a positive policy for the country and positive for consumers' pockets," he said.
Among planned measures cited by the minister were subsidies to replace boilers, upgrade the energy efficiency of buildings and a coupon system for owners of residences and households in order to scrap older, energy-hungry domestic appliances. He also mentioned plans to introduce a telemetry system that again led to reduction in power consumption levels.
Commenting on the results of Wednesday's meeting with environmental NGOs, he stressed the government's desire to have them as key partners in a dialogue on energy issues.
"At the end, we agreed that environmental organisations will discuss amongst themselves and submit to the government a proposal that is the common denominator of their positions for the future energy mix of the country," he added.
"We said in the meeting that it is not enough to agree that we say 'no' to nuclear energy or coal, we must also agree on what we say 'yes' to," Hatzidakis noted.
For a start, he added, all sides had agreed to renewable energy sources in principle and that the country must more quickly expand the RES share of Greece's energy consumption, while they also stressed the issue of energy conservation, where several important steps could be taken.
In this area, the government was already preparing two individual programmes, the minister said, which focused on energy conservation by households.
"Here I must stress the following: money from the Community Support Framework will come and we will be, I assume, able in a very short space of time to present specific proposals in order to subsidise the replacement of boilers and energy upgrades for buildings in general, so that there is energy conservation. The State will contribute money to apartment buildings and houses so that there is such a programme, which will also benefit the country's construction industry, among others, especially during this difficult year," he said.
The second programme, also funded by the CSF, would be a programme by which households will receive coupons in order to scrap older domestic appliances that used more power.
Hatzidakis said the talks had also covered sustainable consumption by households in terms of waste management.
"We do not want to leave things on the level of promotional campaigns. We want there to be, also, a network of policy, a network of measures in the specific area, so that on this level also we follow other European countries that emphasise not just the final link of the chain in terms of waste management but the reduction of waste produced by households themselves," he said.
"The country entered the financial crisis unshielded, and this has enormous consequences on shipping and tourism, two sectors that are of immediate interest for Greece," Papandreou said, and strongly criticised the government and also the Commission, charging that the measures announced by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Dec. 18 have not been activated at the legislative or funding level.
He also accused the EU of "reacting with conservative reflexes" and "moving very slowly at a time when that it should be acting more aggressively and taking more drastic measures for exiting the crisis".
According to the bleakest forecasts aired during the meeting, tourism levels are expected to decline by 20-30 percent in 2009.
Papandreou presented PASOK's proposals on tourism, which aim at promoting quality tourism rather than mass tourism, placing emphasis on "green" tourism, and linking tourism with education and training.
He also proposed a 2-percent reduction in VAT for tourism enterprises.
Greek and British politicians and entrepreneurs will be taking part in the conference, which has been established as an annual bilateral meeting, which the Greek side considers as a means for promoting its image in Europe as a regional economic junction in the eastern Mediterranean.
The company's board will seek shareholders' approval to pay a 0.25 euros per share dividend to shareholders, unchanged from last year.
Pre-tax, interest and amortizations earnings, however, eased to 11.4 million euros in 2008, from 13.1 million euros in the previous year. The company said it would skip dividend payment this year.
Most sectors moved lower, with the Food/Beverage (6.93 pct), Media (3.26 pct) and Personal/Home Products (2.83 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Constructions (2.41 pct), Raw Materials (2.06 pct) and Insurance (2.0 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index eased 0.63 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.52 pct down and the FTSE 80 index rose 0.02 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 115 to 91 with another 46 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.32%
Personal & Household: -2.83%
Raw Materials: +2.06%
Travel & Leisure: -0.35%
Food & Beverages: -6.93%
Financial Services: +1.89
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, OPAP and HBC Coca Cola.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 5.16
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.00
HBC Coca Cola: 8.92
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.36
National Bank of Greece: 11.00
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.50
Bank of Piraeus: 4.54
Titan Cement Company: 13.64
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 18,991 contracts worth 14.088 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,260), followed by Eurobank (551), OTE (1,590), OPAP (644), Piraeus Bank (889), Coca Cola (803), Alpha Bank (1,992) and Marfin Popular Bank (575).
The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 294 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.98 pct and the German Bund 2.95 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved even lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 2.08 pct, the six-month rate 1.99 pct, the three-month rate 1.90 pct and the one-month rate 1.59 pct.
U.S. dollar 1.269
Pound sterling 0.891
Danish kroner 7.510
Swedish kroner 11.197
Japanese yen 117.76
Swiss franc 1.491
Norwegian kroner 8.930
Canadian dollar 1.600
Australian dollar 1.988
According to police, the explosive device was in essence a booby-trapped car filled with a large quantity of explosives, later identified as ANFO, left by unknown individuals in the building's parking lot at about 4:30 a.m.
The moves aroused the suspicion of a security guard, who saw the individuals leaving the car but, when they had not returned five minutes later, he called the police.
Authorities who rushed to the scene discovered that the car was loaded with five propane tanks attached by wiring with a briefcase, and called in the bomb disposal unit. The car-bomb was neutralised via a controlled explosion at roughly 6:40 a.m.
It was as yet unknown why the device did not explode. Also, no warning telephone call was made.
The bomb's mechanism -- comprised of electrical detonators, batteries and two mechanical clocks -- was taken to the police crime lab for examination.
The quantity of the involved explosives -- the same used in the Oklahoma federal building bombing -- was reported as unprecedented for local terror gangs.
The guns used in an armed attack on Tuesday afternoon against "Alter" private television station, a 7.62 millimetre automatic Scorpion rifle and a nine-millimetre pistol, were the same ones used in an attack on the Korydallos police station earlier in the month, based on the results of a ballistic investigation.
The urban terror cell calling itself the "Revolutionaries Sect" (secta epanastaton) had issued a statement in digital form assuming responsibility for February 3 attack in Korydallos, but no one has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's assault.
At least four armed gunmen sprayed the Athens-based television station's parking lot on Tuesday afternoon with gunfire before tossing what was described as a homemade explosive device through a backdoor of the station.
The device reportedly failed to detonate. According to an employee of the TV station in the western Athens district of Peristeri, the four suspects wore helmets and ordered him to flee the area, when he confronted them at around 7 p.m. local time (17.00 GMT). The perpetrators fled on two motorcycles, reports said.
According to the University of Athens, a group of roughly 50 hooded individuals stormed into its Cultural Centre during a scientific conference, brutally attacking those attending and causing extensive damage.
Professor Yiannis Panousis, one of the speakers in the event on the social rehabilitation of former inmates, was injured when he was hit in the face and was taken to Evangelismos Hospital for precautionary reasons.
Prof. Panousis' office had become the target of an arson attack a week ago.
Wednesday's attack on Panousis and the vandalism on the building were later condemned in separate statements issued by Justice Minister Nikolaos Dendias, who also visited the site where the attack took place, and Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos.
They expressed outrage over the attack targeting the mainly voluntary organisation Epanodos that helped the rehabilitation of prisoners returning to society, as well as the attack on Panousis, wishing him a speedy recovery.
President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias will attend celebrations marking the 96th anniversary of the liberation of Ioannina from the Ottoman rule. The President will arrive in the north-western city on Friday.
The four-day festivities launched on Wednesday will be wound up on Saturday.
ERT President Christos Panagopoulos and ERT and ERA general directors, Dimitris Gontikas and Antonis Andrikakis respectively, were honoured in a special event hosted by UNICEF.
Thomas Tzikas, president of North Aegean Sea Canneries SA representing the brands "Trata" and "Flokos", was also honoured for donating part of theirs proceeds to UNICEF's feeding programs, specifically to the distribution of vitamin A to 2.5 million children worldwide.
The court found her guilty of instigating document falsification.
Her eight co-defendants in the trial, the other markers at the centre that she supervised, were all acquitted.
Staff on Athens public buses intend to hold a work stoppage between 10:00 and 17:00 on Thursday, during which time buses will not run.
This will also affect special bus services introduced to link the two metro stations, after the line was shut down last week for about six months, in order to complete construction of three intervening stations along the route.
At first instance, Androutsopoulos had been found guilty and sentenced to serve 21 years in prison. At the start of Wednesday's proceedings, he pleaded not guilty.
Unidentified individuals used three homemade incendiary devices made of gas canisters in the arson attack that targeted cars of the G4 Security firm.
The latest arson is one of series of such attacks recorded in recent days targeting the Hellenic PostBank in Chania, the luxury car of a prominent local businessman, the car of a public works' contractor, the Hunters Federation car, the Byzantine Antiquities Agency car and the office of a tour operator.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: " International Transparency's report indicates Greece as a country of scams".
APOGEVMATINI: "11,735 hirings in the public sector".
AVGHI: "Second wave of crisis - EU insists on the disastrous course".
AVRIANI: "Kids, cut the crap - The major problems were not solved with fireworks".
CHORA: "Almunia's (European Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs) proposals leave us breathless - He called for measures to reduce the deficit".
ELEFTHEROS: "They did it! They have increased the corruption".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: " 'Toxic' virus in 25 European banks - Red alert in their subsidiaries in eastern Europe".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Cracks on the "Eastern Front"- Threat for European and Greek economy".
ESTIA: "The way out from the financial crisis".
ETHNOS: "Mass 'escape' to retirement".
KATHIMERINI: "In search of a way to support the Eurozone's weaker countries".
LOGOS: "EU calls on the government to take immediate measures to contain the state deficit".
NIKI: "The government was lying about the deficit - EU Commissioner Joaquin Almunia uncovers the goverment's 'alchemies'."
RIZOSPASTIS: "The Communist party of Greece's (KKE) 18th Congress begins on Wednesday".
TA NEA: "The 10 Commandments of the excessive deficit procedure - EU gives us a cold shower".
TO VIMA: "Ten crucial days for austerity and elections".
VRADYNI: "Painful recommendations - Greece waging battle on the timetable of the stability plan".
The Greek Cypriot side will continue to press on for the opening of the Limnitis crossing point, to facilitate movement to and from the island's northern Turkish occupied areas, Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou said on Wednesday.
He also pointed out that the Turkish Cypriot side has reneged on the agreement, reached between the two Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides in May last year.
Iacovou's remarks came as a committee of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots for the opening of the crossing point appeared indignant and warned of drastic measures, including closing crossing points which operate along the ceasefire line, if there is no progress on the matter.
The delegation met Wednesday with UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Cyprus Taye-Brook Zerihoun and Iacovou to press on with their demand.
Speaking to the press after the meeting, Iacovou recalled that the opening of the Limnitis crossing point was mentioned in the joint communique issued after a meeting between President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
''We are ready to implement that decision taken by President Christofias and Talat. The Turkish Cypriot side essentially reneged on the agreement, since it demanded things which had nothing to do with crossing points and tabled various preconditions which have been deemed unacceptable,'' Iacovou stressed.
Asked why the Turkish Cypriot side submits such preconditions, Iacovou said ''we suspect that others are behind this refusal'' to open the crossing point.
Ever since the 1974 Turkish invasion, Greek Cypriot residents in the area of Limnitis, located at the northeastern coast of Cyprus, have to travel to Paphos, on the western coast, and Limassol, on the south, in order to reach the capital Nicosia. Opening a crossing point at Limnitis would make this journey far shorter. In the recent past, several crossing points to and from the island's northern Turkish occupied areas have opened to facilitate the movement of people.
''We have repeatedly received promises and we waited. Unfortunately nothing has yielded results so far. What we are left with is to take drastic measures, for example to close the crossing point of Astromeritis,'' Andreas Ioannou a member of the committee said.
He added ''I cannot see why my Turkish Cypriot compatriots can go from Morphou or Zodia to Nicosia and work there and the inhabitants of Pyrgos village (near Limnitis) cannot. This is unfair and it cannot continue.''
Recalling that before the Turkish invasion the inhabitants of Pyrgos could travel Nicosia in just 45 minutes, he noted that today ''it is easier to travel to London.''
The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus have agreed on the process for the solution of the Cyprus problem and the UN has accepted that agreement, Government Spokesman, Stephanos Stephanou has stressed.
Stephanou was commenting on statements by Hasan Ercakica, spokesman of the Turkish Cypriot leader, who talked about the need for a new "Burgenstock", where in March 2004 the two community leaders participated in UN-sponsored talks, which led to a solution plan (the Annan plan), the result of UN arbitration and not negotiation between the two sides.
The plan was rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Greek Cypriots, saying it would not reunite the country but it served the interests of Turkey. The Turkish Cypriots approved the plan.
"I do not know if Mr. Ercakica is making statements in an effort to impose a new process, which in fact, does not exist", Stephanou said.
He also clarified that the ongoing direct talks are based on the process that has been agreed between the two leaders. The process does not provide for tight deadlines or arbitration, and aims at finding a comprehensive settlement on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality as defined by the UN resolutions, that will provide for one state with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship, a single international personality, he stressed.
This is what we have agreed as the basis for the solution in the period before the beginning of the direct talks, he pointed out, adding that discussions are now taking place on this basis.
President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Talat have been engaged in direct talks since September last year with a view to find a settlement to the problem of Cyprus divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
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