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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-05-23

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Saturday, 23 May 2009 Issue No: 3201


  • [01] Papandreou pledges state reform, transparency
  • [02] Karamanlis tours new cancer wards in Athens hospital
  • [03] PM to tour central Greece prefectures on Saturday
  • [04] Papariga visits Information Systems General Secretariat
  • [05] KKE SG addresses rally in Iraklio
  • [06] Euro-Parliament candidates resign as MPs
  • [07] Measure to allow seamen to vote on June 7
  • [08] FM Bakoyannis to participate in 13th Economist Conference
  • [09] FM Bakoyannis to meet Serb counterpart Monday
  • [10] Clinton: US committed to solution to FYROM name issue, reunification of Cyprus
  • [11] New motion in U.S. Congress on FYROM
  • [12] Protest follows claim that police tore paper with religious verses
  • [13] Government spokesman on religious freedom
  • [14] Minister visits Komitini communities for repatriated Greeks
  • [15] Second jailing pending trial in Siemens bribery case
  • [16] Higher sales, lower profits in '08
  • [17] Current accounts deficit down 22.2% in Q1
  • [18] Canadian ambassador visits Iraklio Chamber of Commerce
  • [19] Frigoglass reports lower Q1 results
  • [20] Vivartia Group reports improved Q1 results
  • [21] Building cost index down 0.3 pct in April
  • [22] Greek stocks end 1.29 pct higher
  • [23] ADEX closing report
  • [24] Greek bond market closing report
  • [25] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday
  • [26] Souflias message for UN biodiversity day
  • [27] Athens mayor welcomes proposal to buy old appeals court
  • [28] Ionian Isles' annexation commemorated
  • [29] Tribute to Lambrakis by left-wing parties
  • [30] Foreign national arrested during protest outside police station
  • [31] Guilty conscience drives bank robber to surrender
  • [32] Fish species from Hungary eyed for Ioannina lake eco protection
  • [33] Bulgarian national arrested for immigrant trafficking
  • [34] Load of contraband cigarettes from China intercepted
  • [35] Fair on Saturday
  • [36] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [37] ''Argonaftis 2009'' military exercise's final phase takes place Politics

  • [01] Papandreou pledges state reform, transparency

    A transparent state, a stronger Parliament, a new election law and changes in the mass media were the four areas in which PASOK intended to carry out reforms when it was elected to government, the leader of the main opposition party George Papandreou stressed on Friday. He was addressing an event organised by PASOK in the Old Parliament on "The political system and state at the service of the citizen".

    "The symbolism is clear. We represent two opposing worlds and, however much as the people of [ruling] New Democracy desire to be wilfully blind, the truth is that their policies of lawlessness and impunity are sinking the country into the barbarity of social injustice and polarisation," Papandreou said.

    "In Norway, multinationals exploit the oil but their profits, or part of these, are channelled into the state's interests; in Africa, the profits are channelled into the pockets of ministers. It is the quality of their democracy that makes the difference," he noted.

    Listing the ills bedevilling the Greek state, he criticised ND for allowing the "deepest decline of the institutions" and stressed that this downhill course had to be arrested.

    Regarding PASOK's proposed changes to election law, Papandreou called for something akin to the German electoral system of proportional representation, adapted to Greece's needs.

    The party also intended to introduce public debate before the tabling of legislation and to ban the tabling of amendments after a draft bill has been approved by the appropriate Parliamentary committee, he added.

    In terms of the mass media, he called for greater autonomy and transparency in their operation and better control of the finances of state-run television, among others.

    Outlining reforms to promote transparency, Papandreou said that PASOK intended to ensure transparency in the funding political parties and to modify the rules of the asset statement made by politicians and other officials, so that any undeclared assets would be lost in favour of the state.

    PASOK's president said his party was in favour of a small, flexible and effective central government occupied mainly with defence, foreign policy, public order and major infrastructure projects, with the decentralisation of other activities and resources to a more local level, accompanied by a new wave of municipal mergers and the creation, finally, of metropolitan municipalities in Athens and Thessaloniki.

    Another area that PASOK would emphasise would be that of e-governance and investment in broadband to create a host of new electronic services, he added.

    Finally, he touched on planned reforms to justice and plans to boost the internal independence of judges, as well as changes to current laws on the prosecution of ministers and MPs when the next Constitutional revision occurred, so that a simple Parliamentary majority would be unable to shield politicians from prosecution.

    Referring to the status of immigrants in Greece, Papandreou said that PASOK sought their integration into society, including granting Greek nationality to those that had lived in the country for a certain period of time and the granting of nationality to second-generation immigrants born in Greece.

    He asked voters to bring about PASOK's victory in the European Parliament elections and its victory and an independent majority in the general elections.

    [02] Karamanlis tours new cancer wards in Athens hospital

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday toured the new Oncology Hospital Aghii Anargyri in the Kifissia district of northern Greece.

    After his tour of the hospital premises and various wards, the prime minister stated: "We are implementing our promises and we are providing a new impetus to the National Health System through new facilities and staff hirings".

    Karamanlis, who was accompanied by Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, referred to the changes and reforms undertaking by his government, stressing that "the government has for the first time instituted a comprehensive system of primary medical care by creating a national health operation centre; by organising a system of hospital shifts in order to insure decent medical care, and by abolishing the phenomenon of cots in hallways," he underlined, adding that reforms in health administration structures has yielded savings of 70 million euros per year.

    The Aghii Anargyri hospital was rendered inoperable by a September 1999 earthquake, while the new modern facility was constructed with a 335-bed capacity.

    [03] PM to tour central Greece prefectures on Saturday

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will carry out a tour in the prefectures of Trikala, Karditsa and Larisa in central Greece on Saturday.

    Scheduled stops during the tour include a worksite's on the Patras-Athens-Thessaloniki national highway at Tempi and Megalohori, Trikala, as well as the Theopetra Cave. He will also visit the worksite at the central Greece national highway E65, irrigation works at Smokovo and a school, before arriving in Larissa to address a rally in the city's central square on Saturday night.

    [04] Papariga visits Information Systems General Secretariat

    In a visit to the General Secretariat for Information Systems on Friday, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga conversed with members of staff and also referred to the upcoming televised debate between the political party leaders.

    "If we didn't think that the people might consider that we are shying away from it, it might have been worth not going at all," she said, appearing dismissive about its usefulness.

    KKE had asked for each party leader to answer the same questions, so that people could compare their answers, instead of each party leader being asked something different. According to Papariga, this process was largely dependent on the opinion that each journalist had of each party leader and the result would be a series of "parallel monologues".

    She warned people not expect much from this process. "The discussion afterwards will be on what everyone was wearing and whether it matched the set," she added.

    On her party's strongly anti-European stance, Papariga said that KKE had opposed the Maastricht Treaty on the grounds that it did away with borders, gave capital a free rein and allowed large-scale imports of products already produced by Greece, as well as allowing European armies and NATO free access.

    "Unfortunately we were vindicated and confirmed in this major and important single NO for Greece," she stressed.

    Papariga also critised the two main parties for abusing the system of temporary work contracts in the public sector, noting that 268 employees at the general secretariat were currently employed on that basis and without proper insurance, while the length of their employment proved that they covered permanent rather than temporary needs.

    [05] KKE SG addresses rally in Iraklio

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretry General Aleka Papariga addressed a rally in Iraklio on Friday evening, calling on citizens to "punish the European Union parties that lied to them about Maastricht, the EMU and the euro and who are telling them lies now about the crisis."

    Papariga added that all the means and possibilities currently exist for a radical improvement in the life of the worker, the self-employed professional, the small farm holder, of young people and of women who belong to the working and popular classes.

    [06] Euro-Parliament candidates resign as MPs

    Main opposition PASOK party MPs George Papaconstantinou and Sylvana Rapti on Friday tendered their resignation to Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas ahead of the announcement of their candidacies for the European Parliament on PASOK Euro-ticket. Their seats in Parliament will be taken by Yiannis Vlandis and Thanassis Tsouras, respectively.

    Additionally, Andreas Makrypidis will expectedly succeed former PASOK MP Christos Verelis, who resigned on May 8 from his Aetoloakarnania precinct seat.

    A swearing-in ceremony will be held immediately after the Euroelections.

    [07] Measure to allow seamen to vote on June 7

    The interior ministry on Friday issued a legislative act, following a meeting by the cross-party committee, settling problems faced by Greek seamen who would be unable to vote in the upcoming election because their captains had not submitted to the appropriate authorities a list of their crew-members that would be unable to vote at their local constituency because they would be at sea.

    Noting that the number of voters involved was quite small, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said skippers now had until the evening of May 25 to submit lists of their crew, while Tuesday would be the day for objections and new lists would be issued by courts on Wednesday. The measure had been taken because the seamen were in no way responsible and would end up being deprived of their right to vote, he added.

    [08] FM Bakoyannis to participate in 13th Economist Conference

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will participate in the 13th annual Economist Conference on Monday May 25 at 10:00. The conference will be taking place in Athens on May 25-26 (at the Intercontinental Hotel).

    The minister will chair the roundtable discussions that will focus on Euroatlantic relations, relations between Europe, the United States and Russia, as well as stabilisation in the Balkans.

    Serb Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, the alternate head of the conservative opposition in the House of Lords, Howell of Guildford, the Russian Federation's Permanent Representative at the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov and the U.S. Ambassador to Greece Daniel Speckhard will be participating in the discussion.

    [09] FM Bakoyannis to meet Serb counterpart Monday

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will be meeting her Serb counterpart Vuk Jeremic on Monday at 14:00, a ministry press release announced on Friday.

    The two ministers will address reporters after their talks.

    [10] Clinton: US committed to solution to FYROM name issue, reunification of Cyprus


    The US is committed to the finding of a solution to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) name issue and the reunification of Cyprus as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has stressed.

    Addressing the 25th Annual Cyprus, Hellenic and Orthodox Issues Conference, which took place Friday in Washington, Clinton noted that the Cyprus solution must be a decision that is reached by the people of Cyprus themselves.

    "I have spoken openly on the need for a solution to be found regarding FYROM's name issue, in a manner that is acceptable to both sides," Clinton said, adding that the present U.S. administration has committed itself to, and was encouraging, a solution "that we think it is in everyone's interest. It will pave the way for a proces leading to the accession of another country to the European Union, something we think will reinforce stability in the region."

    Regarding the Cyprus problem, Clinton said "We believe in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, and we're going to continue to support that and work toward that. And again, we think it is in everyone's interest."

    The US, she said, is committed "to the reopening of the (Greek Orthodox) Halki Seminary (in Istanbul), to the unification of Cyprus as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, and we know these are difficult issues".

    Asked what the US intends to do in the direction of Turkey, which holds the key to the solution of the Cyprus problem, she said "I think both sides hold the key. I think this has to be a decision that is reached by the people of Cyprus themselves".

    The US, she added, "strongly supports the United Nations mediator".

    "I have met with representatives of both Turkish and Greek Cypriots, and have underscored the Obama Administration's commitment to supporting the steps that they would be willing to take themselves to resolve this", Clinton continued.

    Cyprus, she said, "is so strategically located. And in terms of its impact on the actions in the region, its commercial possibilities, its opportunities for greater prosperity that can be shared among all of the people of Cyprus, I just think the future is unlimited".

    "But this", she went on to add, "has to be resolved, but in a way that brings confidence and security to people on both sides, and that's what we are going to work to achieve".

    "I want to pledge to you that the Obama Administration is committed to making progress through our partnership. We are dedicated to advancing dialogue and cooperation and working to support the people of Greece and Cyprus as they advance stability and democracy in the Mediterranean", she went on to add.

    During the event, Secretary Clinton was honored for her interest in issues concerning the Greek American community.

    Receiving her award, she said "I thank you for this award and I am greatly looking forward to my next visit to Greece at the end of next month where Greece will be hosting an important gathering of the OSCE countries to talk about stability in Europe and many of the other regional matters that we are working on together".

    Clinton also referred to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, expressing her intention to welcome him at the State Department during his visit to the U.S. next automn.

    [11] New motion in U.S. Congress on FYROM


    Nineteen U.S. Congressmen have tabled a motion on the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), criticising FYROM's government of creating among its citizens hostile feelings towards Greece with its anti-Greek rhetoric and undermining the principle of good neighbourliness in this way, a condition regarding EU and NATO accession.

    Motion 486 follows the precedent of Congress's motion 356 and Senate's motion 300 which had been tabled during Congress's previous tenure and had garnered the support of 130 legislators, including current President Barack Obama.

    The motion also terms Greece a strategic partner of the U.S. in the Balkans, in the framework of the effort to consolidate the region's stability and economic growth.

    [12] Protest follows claim that police tore paper with religious verses

    Roughly 1,500 protesters, reportedly Muslim guest workers and immigrants, demonstrated in front of Parliament in downtown Athens on Friday afternoon in the wake of an Iraqi man's claims that a police officer tore a piece of paper he was carrying featuring religious verses in Arabic.

    Protesters at first threw objects at riot police, while several bus stops were damaged on the route of the protest, with police responding with tear gas and "flash-bang" grenades.

    The Iraqi man's allegation a day earlier -- which allegedly occurred during a routine check in a central Athens neighbourhood hosting a large number of foreign nationals -- generated an initial impromptu protest outside a police station in the Athens district of Aghios Panteleimonas. The inflammatory claim was apparently spread by word of mouth in the same urban district within hours. A later announcement by police headquarters said the incident will be thoroughly investigated.

    ¤ne man was arrested in central Athens late Thursday evening following the rally by several hundred people outside the precinct, with demonstrators mostly identified as Afghan nationals.

    The suspect, a Syrian national (previously identified as an Afghan), was arrested after allegedly throwing a firebomb near the Aghios Panteleimonas police station, which is based in a neighbourhood that has recently garnered heightened local media coverage due to increased crime and local residents' charges of the presence of criminal gangs comprised of illegal immigrants and economic migrants.

    Another five arrests, apparently unrelated, were reported overnight in the same vicinity involving foreign nationals.

    [13] Government spokesman on religious freedom

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Friday that the Greek state has proved in the long run that "it respects the religious freedom of everyone absolutely and condemns in the most categorical way any form of offending this freedom, particularly the offending of sacred documents and symbols that constitute an inseparable part of every religious faith."

    "Every act directed against religious freedoms meets, in any case, with the absolute condemnation of Greek society which traditionally receives people in its ranks hospitably, regardless of race or religion, given that they respect the laws of the state," he said.

    [14] Minister visits Komitini communities for repatriated Greeks

    Macedonia-Thrace ╠inister Stavros Kalafatis on Friday visited 800 families of ethnic Greeks repartriated from the former Soviet Union that settled in model communities near the northeastern town of Komotini.

    Komotini Mayor Dimitris Kotsakis, who accompanied the minister, told reporters that the new communities were operating smoothly. The municipality has built sports facilities while construction of an indoor hall has begun.

    [15] Second jailing pending trial in Siemens bribery case

    An examining magistrate in the high-profile Siemens kickback and bribery affair ruled that former Siemens Hellas technical director Emmanouil Stavrianos be incarcerated pending trial, after the conclusion of the latter's testimony in the case on Thursday night.

    Stavrianos faces felony charges of bribery and money laundering.

    The decision was the second incarceration pending trial in the case, following former Siemens Hellas general director Prodromos Mavridis, who faces the same charges.

    Stavrianos reportedly tendered a lengthy deposition to examining magistrate Nikos Zagorianos.

    Financial News

    [16] Higher sales, lower profits in '08

    Greek enterprises reported mixed 2008 results, with sales rising and profits falling because of high operating costs, an ICAP survey said on Friday. The survey conducted on the published balance sheets of 4,000 Greek enterprises, showed that sales grew 11 pct to 8.1 billion euros, compared with 2007, while EBITDA fell by 15 pct to 1.4 billion euros and net pre-tax profits fell 43 pct to 3.0 billion euros.

    ICAP said this development reflected increased product costs and higher administration and distribution spending. The manufacturing sector suffered the biggest percentage decline in earnings (-14 pct), with pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) falling by 30 pct and net pre-tax profits falling by 57 pct in 2008. The 893 manufacturing enterprises included in the survey reported a 19.1 pct rise in costs and gross profit margin of 20.9 pct.

    A total 1,713 enterprises in the commerce sector were included in the survey, with sales rising 8.3 pct and gross profit margin falling by 2.8 pct last year. EBITDA fell by 250 million euros compared with 2007, to 1.23 billion euros.

    A total of 1,317 enterprises in the services sector reported a 7.0 pct rise in sales with a 10.4 pct decline in gross profit margin to 30.5 pct, while EBITDA fell 7.8 pct last year.

    Tourism enterprises reported a 9.1 pct rise in sales last year, but gross profit margin fell by 8.7 pct.

    [17] Current accounts deficit down 22.2% in Q1

    Greece's current accounts deficit fell by 855 million euros in March to 2.706 billion euros, compared with the same month last year, reflecting a significant decline in the trade deficit, the National Statistical Service said on Friday.

    The statistics agency said the country's trade deficit fell by 1.093 billion euros in March, reflecting a decline in the shortfall of goods and lower net payments for fuel imports as well as lower net payments for ship purchases. The services surplus fell by 208 million euros in March, mainly due to lower net revenue from transport services, while the current transfers deficit rose to 88 million euros, from 27 million euros in March 2008.

    The current accounts deficit fell by 22.2 pct in the first quarter of 2009 to 7.331 billion euros, compared with the corresponding period last year, reflecting a significant decline in the trade deficit by 3.131 billion euros. Travel spending in Greece fell by 18.2 pct with net payments for travel services remaining almost unchanged in the January-March period.

    The incomes deficit grew by 286 because of higher net payments on interest, dividends and earnings, while the current transfers' surplus fell by 124 million euros.

    [18] Canadian ambassador visits Iraklio Chamber of Commerce

    Canadian Ambassador to Athens Dr. Renata E. Wielgosz paid an official visit to the Iraklio Chamber of Commerce on Friday, accompanied by the commercial attache Brian Young, the political adviser Denys Tessier and the public relations officer Zoe Delibasis.

    The Canadian diplomat met with the first vice president of the Chamber of Iraklio Yianis Perakis who briefed her at length on economic activity in the prefecture of Iraklio, the number of businesses that are members of the Chamber and the main sectors of activity.

    The purpose of the Canadian ambassador's official visit was the expansion of business relations between Canada and the island of Crete in various sectors such as renewable energy sources, informatics and communication technology and refuse management.

    [19] Frigoglass reports lower Q1 results

    Frigoglass on Friday reported a 55.9-pct drop in its first quarter sales to 71.6 million euros, down from 162.3 million euros in the same month last year, adding that operating earnings dropped 83.5 pct to 5.3 million euros, from 32.7 million euros last year. Net profits fell by 97 pct to 618,000 euros.

    Petros Diamantidis, the company's chief executive, commenting on the results, said adverse macro-economic conditions continued early this year, forcing customers in Europe to postpone investments.

    [20] Vivartia Group reports improved Q1 results

    Vivartia Group on Friday reported improved first quarter results, with consolidated sales rising 15.9 pct to 335.9 million euros, up from 289.7 million euros in the corresponding period last year, reflecting the integration of Everest and Nonni's in the group.

    Consolidated pre-tax, interest and amortisation earnings (EBITDA) totaled 29.3 million euros in the January-March period, from 28.5 million euros last year, for an increase of 2.9 pct, while consolidated after tax and minorities earnings rose 4.3 pct to 1.315 million euros.

    Spyros Theodoropoulos, chief executive of the group, commenting on the results, said first quarter results were in line with budget provisions paving the way for achieving goals set by a five-year business plan.

    [21] Building cost index down 0.3 pct in April

    Greece's home building materials' cost index fell 0.3 pct in April, compared with the same month last year, after increases of 5.7 pct and 7.4 pct recorded in April 2008 and April 2007, respectively. The National Statistical Service (NSS) said the index was up 0.2 pct in April from March, after increases of 0.8 pct and 0.9 pct in April 2008 and April 2007, respectively.

    [22] Greek stocks end 1.29 pct higher

    Greek stocks ended higher the last trading session of the week in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index of the market rose 1.29 pct to end at 2,280.15 points, with turnover a strong 301.1 million euros, of which 129.1 million were block trades.

    Most sectors moved upwards, with the Insurance (5.90 pct), Food/Beverage (3.74 pct), Personal/Home Products (2.40 pct) and Travel (2.08 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Telecommunications (1.06 pct) and Commerce (0.13 pct) suffered losses.

    The FTSE 20 index ended 1.31 pct higher, the FTSE 40 index rose 0.90 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.17 pct up. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 151 to 79 with another 42 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +5.90%

    Industrials: +1.73%

    Commercial: -0.13%

    Construction: +1.04%

    Media: +0.84%

    Oil & Gas: +1.60%

    Personal & Household: +1.60%

    Raw Materials: +1.49%

    Travel & Leisure: +2.08%

    Technology: +0.49%

    Telecoms: -1.06%

    Banks: +1.13%

    Food & Beverages: +3.74%

    Health: +1.50%

    Utilities: +2.04%

    Chemicals: +1.35%

    Financial Services: +0.31%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were Marfin Popular Bank, National Bank, Bank of Cyprus and OTE.

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

    Alpha Bank: 8.60

    ATEbank: 1.78

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 15.43

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.70

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.00

    National Bank of Greece: 18.10

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 7.74

    Intralot: 5.30

    OPAP: 22.31

    OTE: 11.23

    Bank of Piraeus: 8.30

    Titan Cement Company: 19.95

    [23] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -2.04 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover at 60.453 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,083 contracts worth 46.979 million euros, with 28,927 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 17,207 contracts worth 13.474 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (3,036), followed by Eurobank (774), OTE (1,567), PPC (619), Piraeus Bank (886), National Bank (2,381), Alpha Bank (1,352), Hellenic Postbank (762) and ATEbank (1,639).

    [24] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 852 million euros on Friday, of which 453 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 399 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 347 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 168 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.21 pct and the German Bund 3.53 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving higher. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.62 pct, the six-month rate 1.46 pct, the three-month rate 1.26 pct and the one-month rate 0.91 pct.

    [25] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.408

    Pound sterling 0.885

    Danish kroner 7.505

    Swedish kroner 10.563

    Japanese yen 132.46

    Swiss franc 1.533

    Norwegian kroner 8.946

    Canadian dollar 1.587

    Australian dollar 1.797

    General News

    [26] Souflias message for UN biodiversity day

    Environment Minister George Souflias on Friday underlined that biodiversity was an issue of monumental importance for humanity, in a message for the International Day for Biological Diversity. Protecting and preserving the various forms of life on the Earth was a matter of survival and quality of life, he noted.

    "In Greece, the situation is clearly better than in other countries. In no other Mediterranean or European country has such a high biodiversity been preserved. Overall, in our country we have recorded some 5,500 higher plants, 23,000 land and freshwater animals and 3,500 marine species," he said.

    Greece was also notable for the large proportion of endemic species of plants and animals found only within the country, as well as 85 unique habitats of Community interest that qualified for special protection measures.

    "We have a duty to protect and preserve our enviable biological reserves," Souflias stressed, noting that the environment ministry had drawn up the National Strategy for Biodiversity toward this end.

    [27] Athens mayor welcomes proposal to buy old appeals court

    Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Friday welcomed a proposal by Athens Prefect Giannis Sgouros that the prefecture should purchase the building formerly housing the Athens Appeals Courts to use for prefecture services and upgrade the surrounding area.

    The mayor said the proposal was in keeping with the muncipality's plans for improvements in the city's historic centre, including plans to pedestrianise Athinas Street, redevelop the Psyrri area, reclaim abandoned buildings in Metaxourgio, redevelop Gazi and upgrade the Sofokleous, Evripidou, Koumoundourou and Platia Theatrou route.

    The old appeals court building is currently occupied and used as a shelter by several hundred immigrants and homeless people that aid organisations stress have no alternative lodgings, while their presence there, in a building lacking proper facilities, is seen as a public health hazard by authorities.

    [28] Ionian Isles' annexation commemorated

    Deputy Development Minister George Kontoyannis on Friday represented the government in events commemorating the Ionian Islands' 19th century incorporation into Greece, during a ceremony on Zakynthos.

    Kontoyannis later referred to the government's efforts to deal with the economic crisis, while he also underlined that the government's aim is to continue with reforms.

    [29] Tribute to Lambrakis by left-wing parties

    Left-wing parties and organisations on Friday paid tribute to a martyr of Greece's Left, Grigoris Lambrakis, an MP that was shot by right-wing militants while visiting Thessaloniki 46 years ago, on May 22 1963. Lambrakis died five days later at Thessaloniki's AHEPA hospital.

    Participants laid wreaths at the monument for Grigoris Lambrakis erected at the spot where he was shot down, on the corners of Ermou and Spandoni streets. Separate, successive tributes were organised by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group.

    [30] Foreign national arrested during protest outside police station

    ¤ne man was arrested in central Athens late Thursday evening following a protest by several hundred people outside a local police precinct, demonstrators mostly identified as Afghan nationals.

    The suspect, an Afghan man, was arrested after allegedly throwing a firebomb near a police station in the Aghios Panteleimonas district, a neighbourhood that has recently garnered increased local media coverage due to increased crime and local residents' charges of the presence criminal gangs comprised of illegal immigrants and economic migrants, mostly from Central and South Asia.

    The pretext for Thursday's raucous protest was a claim by an Iraqi national, who charged that during an earlier routine police check an officer tore a single piece of paper taken from within a plastic file. The man claimed the piece of paper included a religious text, a claim that was apparently spread by word of mouth in the urban district.

    A later announced by police headquarters said the claim will be thoroughly investigated.

    [31] Guilty conscience drives bank robber to surrender

    A 42-year-old man on Thursday turned himself in at a Perama police station and confessed to a bank robbery the previous day in the same municipality, a working-class and industrial western Piraeus district.

    The suspect said he committed the robbery because he was not able to pay off his debts to an alleged "loan shark". According to his statement, he had borrowed money to cover his family's needs. After the robbery he reportedly paid off his debts, while later turning over the remaining 2,400 euros of the 11,365-euro heist to police.

    The man was sent before a local prosecutor.

    [32] Fish species from Hungary eyed for Ioannina lake eco protection

    Hungarian ambassador to Greece Jozsef Toth this week paid a two-day visit to Ioannina, in northwest Greece, within the framework of a project by Ioannina's Lake Management Authority and the Pannon University of Keszthely in Hungary for the protection and clean-up of Lake Pamvotida, the city's eponymous lake.

    Hungarian lake experts from the university contributed to the establishment of a hatchery for a specific breed of fish found in Hungarian lakes, which are expected to combat the green algae in Ioannina's lake.

    Amb. Toth has also met with Ioannina Mayor Nikolaos Gontas and local officials and discussed new opportunities for cooperation between the NW Greek municipality, the University of Ioannina and the University of Keszthely.

    [33] Bulgarian national arrested for immigrant trafficking

    Police in Kastoria on Friday arrested a 31-year-old Bulgarian national who was transporting five illegal immigrants from Albania in his car. They said their final destination was Athens and that each would pay the Bulgarian 300 euros.

    [34] Load of contraband cigarettes from China intercepted

    A contraband cigarette smuggling ring was uncovered on Thursday by law enforcement authorities in the greater Athens area.

    According to a finance ministry announcement, police acted after a tip-off and confiscated 490,000 packets of contraband cigarettes arriving from China by ship.

    The undocumented cargo was unloaded from a Liberian-flagged freighter off a remote dock at the port of Piraeus in the early morning hours.

    According to authorities, the contraband cargo's final destination was Britain, with a Cypriot businessman the alleged recipient. The estimated loss in tax revenue from the cigarettes was estimated at 1.2 million euros.

    Weather Forecast

    [35] Fair on Saturday

    Fair weather, and northwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 14C and 34C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 18C to 33C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 17C to 32C.

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

    The Siemens case and the European Parliament elections mostly dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "3 changes in successive social security recommended by experts' committee for improvement of pension calculation process of pensions".

    APOGEVMATINI: "The payment of benefits to private sector pensioners begins on Friday"

    AVGHI: "United in the Euroelections battle - SYRIZA leader Alekos Alavanos will take part in the election debate among the political party leaders".

    AVRIANI: "The money received by parties, high profile politicians, constructors, entrepreneurs and public utilities managers, unionists and journalists received from SIEMENS".

    ELEFTHEROS: "ND cadres complain over party's campaign for the Euroelections: It is defeatist, introverted and lacks vision".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The trick of the 'Great Escape' - Siemens Hellas former CEO Michalis Christoforakos attempting to make a deal with the German justice authorities".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Barbarity and nonsense - Papandreou (main opposition PASOK leader) distorting the historical dilemmas of the 20th century for election expediencies or due to ignorance".

    ETHNOS: "The experts committee report on changes in pensions".

    ESTIA: "The outcome of the Euroelections could bring about lack of governance in the country".

    KATHIMERINI: "Flight from justice with plan and questions - International arrest warrant for Christoforakos (ordered by the examining magistrate into the Siemens affair) has not yet been forwarded to Interpol".

    LOGOS: "The pre-elections period is characterised by the two mainstream party (ND and PASOK) leaders' vendetta".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The EU policy, which both ND and PASOK agree with and implement, is barbarous".

    TA NEA: "ND's televised campaign 'spots' boomerang against it, and cause internal grumbling".

    TO VIMA: "The battle of the television 'spots' - Ruling New Democracy (ND) and main opposition PASOK clash in the pre-elections campaign".

    VRADYNI: "Express incorporations in the city plans".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [37] ''Argonaftis 2009'' military exercise's final phase takes place


    The final phase of the international military exercise "Argonaftis 2009" took place on Friday at the Naval Base "Lieutenant General Evangelos Florakis" in Mari, Larnaca.

    The scenario of the exercise involved addressing asymmetric threats. The National Guard, the Fire Service, the Civil Defence, the Special Unit dealing with catastrophes, the Fisheries Department and various police departments, such as the anti-terrorist squad, took part at the exercise.

    During the exercise various incidents took place such as an anti-terrorism operation on a ship occupied by pirates, addressing pollution because of the terrorist attack on the ship, identification of illegal immigrants by an aircraft and dealing with them, rescuing people aboard a ship by a helicopter, rescuing people involved at a shipwreck by a helicopter and rescuing people from a building and dealing with a trapped vehicle.

    Defence Minister Costas Papacostas, Justice and Public Order Minister Loucas Louca, the Chief of Police Iacovos Papacostas, National Guard Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Petros Tsalikides, the Commander of the Civil Defence and ambassadors of foreign countries and observers from European Union countries attended the exercise.

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

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