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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-05-25

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Monday, 25 May 2009 Issue No: 3202


  • [01] PM: Target is leading Greece out of crisis
  • [02] PM addresses open rally in Larisa
  • [03] PM inspects projects in Trikala prefecture
  • [04] PM Karamanlis tours Karditsa prefecture
  • [05] Visit to Tempi worksite
  • [06] PASOK leader pledges 'readiness to change Greece'
  • [07] Papandreou visits Elefsina air base, Drapetsona
  • [08] Papandreou to 'Kathimerini': PM's proposal 'hypocritical'
  • [09] Papandreou gives interview to 'Imerisia' newspaper
  • [10] Simitis: we need more Europe
  • [11] Papariga on EU, EuroParliament polls
  • [12] KKE SG on Euroelections
  • [13] Tsipras: big parties only 'green' on paper
  • [14] Tsipras tours Thrakomakedones, Menidi
  • [15] Karatzaferis: LAOS aims to elect 2 Euro-MPs
  • [16] LAOS party leader Karatzaferis tours Igoumenitsa
  • [17] Opinion polls put PASOK in the lead
  • [18] PASOK leading ND new polls show
  • [19] Foreign Exchange rates - Monday
  • [20] Earthquake measuring 5.1 north of Thessaloniki
  • [21] Earthquake near Serres
  • [22] Park life: a day for dwindling urban greenspace
  • [23] Two slightly injured in Macedonia Palace Hotel fire
  • [24] Arson attack on muslim place of worship
  • [25] Arson attack against bank branch
  • [26] Battle of Crete 68th anniversary events end Sunday
  • [27] Man caught smuggling 20 illegal immigrants
  • [28] British cameraman dies of divers' disease
  • [29] Panathinaikos wins, AEK-Larissa draw in Super League playoffs
  • [30] Cloudy, rainy on Monday
  • [31] The Sunday editions of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [32] President: As long as Turkey occupies Cyprus, it can not enter EU
  • [33] House President criticises Talat over Limnitis
  • [34] Spokesman: Determined to continue talks despite difficulties

  • [01] PM: Target is leading Greece out of crisis

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed a party rally in the city of Tripoli, in the Peloponnese, on Sunday, saying that trust is a source of strength and stressed that the government's aim is to lead Greece out of the crisis and that "succeeding is our commitment and we shall succeed."

    Karamanlis said that top priority is being given to the sectors that are affected. Farmers, low wage earners, low pension earners, the unemployed and young people.

    The prime minister further said that the economy is the top priority and national interest comes above all, adding that "we are aware of problems. The heaviest burden, is the public debt left by the governments of PASOK."

    "We have a deep sense of the problems. The first being unemployment, that was 3 percent in 1981 and which PASOK delivered to us at 11 percent (in 2004). Those responsible for the problems are promising everything to all," Karamanlis noted.

    He accused main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou of "defaming the country and of slipping to insults," while noting that "in PASOK they have dared terming as barbarians all who do not vote for PASOK."

    "We took difficult decisions that guarantee a result, however," he said and added that the government performed a considerable task, promoted reforms, provided integrated strategic planning and launched a big public investments programme.

    "Our aim is to support the financially weaker. We are scheduling a special programme for young men and young women to acquire professional training with a full salary and security. We have scheduled unprecedented programmes to support small and medium-size enterprises and, for the first time, the programme also concerns self-employed professionals, doctors, lawyers and others," he added.

    Karamanlis mentioned that the public investments programme totals 19 billion euros and that the Peloponnese has a considerable share of it, adding that as a result of regional planning 900 projects have been scheduled and financed with 800 million euros and 670 have been completed.

    The prime minister also referred to the wildfire sufferers in the Peloponnese and stressed that with the special fund and with the contribution of 92,000 donors, 800 homes are being rebuilt and restoration will not be delayed.

    He also revealed that the government has gone ahead with the preparation of a plan for the regions affected amounting to 2.5 billion euros and underlined that the goal is the revival of all of the Peloponnese.

    "We know that the year is difficult. It requires a sense of social responsibility. It requires all of us to shoulder part of the cost to enable the country to exit from the crisis," Karamanlis concluded.

    [02] PM addresses open rally in Larisa

    Addressing his first large, open rally in the run-up to the European Parliament elections on Saturday evening, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis urged voters in the central Greek city of Larisa to join ruling New Democracy's efforts, participating actively and in force.

    "We say 'yes' to the Europe of our common future. We say 'yes' to Greece progressing responsibly, solidly and decisively. We say 'yes' to the path of self-confidence, optimism and certainty," he stressed during a speech in Larisa's central square on Saturday night.

    Referring to the dilemma presented to voters by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou between "socialism and barbarism," Karamanlis repeated accusations that Papandreou was thus effectively calling the majority of Greeks barbarians and said the dilemma raised by ND was a choice between dedication to national interests as opposed to devotion to one's party, above all else.

    During his speech, the premier underlined his government's policy for developing regional areas, pointing to a host of public works being carried out in Thessaly, and noting that 80 percent of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds were being allocated to regional areas.

    He also referred at length to agricultural issues, given that Thessaly is predominately a farming region and accounts for a large section of Greece's agricultural land, noting that more than seven billion euros will be made available for agricultural development programmes over the next five years, in addition to the 18 billion euros available to farmers via Community subsidies.

    Karamanlis also emphasised the steps and reforms being taken by the government in order to reduce wasteful spending in the public sector, stressing that the government had opted for the "path of responsibility, the path of certainty and security, the path that leads to a better tomorrow."

    The prime minister said that the government had one clear-cut goal: that Greece should emerge from the crisis with the fewest possible repercussions and with Greeks the "winners" of the global crisis.

    "Together we will fight the battle. Together we will succeed. And I assure you that we can succeed this time also," he emphasised.

    Funds to local authorities

    Earlier on Saturday, while addressing a nationwide conference of ND-affiliated local government officials, the prime minister announced that local authorities would receive 215 million euros in May, which would be first instalment of some 1.7 billion euros in funds that had been improperly withheld by central governments.

    Also present at the meeting were Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and the head of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE), Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis.

    The rest of the funds will be given in eight annual instalments of equal size to be paid on January 31 of each year. Referring to plans for administrative reforms for local authorities, he said that these had not been abandoned but postponed until economic conditions were ripe.

    "I believe these funds can contribute to dealing with serious daily problems, with citizens themselves as the final recipient," he stressed, underlining that the money should be used to help improve quality of life, safety and meet the needs of ordinary citizens and to boost social cohesion.

    He also emphasised that they should be used with absolute transparency and that there was no margin for wastefulness on any level.

    [03] PM inspects projects in Trikala prefecture

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis visited two projects in the prefecture of Trikala, in central Greece, on Saturday with his first stop being at the Megalohori intersection.

    The prime minister was given a briefing on the course of the Trikala-Larissa national motorway project and was told that it will be completely ready for use in a short period of time.

    He then visited the new building housing the 10th elementary school, instead of the Theopetra cave as had been initially planned, that was built in record time and that meets all modern educational requirements.

    Karamanlis is also scheduled to make an address in the city of Larissa on Saturday evening.

    [04] PM Karamanlis tours Karditsa prefecture

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, currently on a tour of the region of Thessaly in central Greece, visited the Karditsa prefecture at noon on Saturday, with Anavra being his first stop where he visited the worksite of the Central Greece Motorway (E65). Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias briefed him on the progress of the project.

    Karamanlis then made a brief stopover in Achladia and then came to the hydroelectric plant of Smokovo, that was inaugurated a short time ago. Briefing the prime minister on the project, Souflias revealed that it will be producing 10.7 GWh of energy during the summer period that will be environmentally friendly.

    Concluding his tour of Karditsa, Karamanlis visited the city's Music School that was inaugurated a few days ago. After touring the facility, he said that "the Karditsa Music School, as is the case with all the Music Schools, has a special importance because it combines education with culture," adding that "over the past five years over 1.5 billion euros have been provided for school infrastructures. And over 9,000 new schoolrooms have been built. To nihilism and levelling we reply with the truth about our work and with tangible results."

    [05] Visit to Tempi worksite

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis began his tour of the region of Thessaly, in central Greece, on Saturday with a visit to the Omolio project worksite where Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias briefed him on the course of the project and declared that the project will be completed in 2012 and the prime minister expressed his great satisfaction over the work being accomplished in the Tempi area.

    "When this work will be completed, we shall have an excellent National Motorway, from its beginning to its end. A safe, modern motorway of European specifications," Karamanlis said.

    After being given a guided tour of the twin tunnels that are under construction, the prime minister said that "I am very satisfied with my visit here today because I can see that, after the Maliakos detour, the project is forging ahead with speedy rates along one of the most difficult and most dangerous points on the national motorway, at Tempi and at Platamonas," he added.

    Karamanlis further said that "I wish to congratulate the public works minister on the occasion for the promotion of this big project as well and to express the conviction, certainty that all who are dealing with this big and difficult project will make every effort possible to have it completed as soon as possible."

    Souflias said on his part that the twin tunnels at the Omolio worksite have a length of six kilometres. In all, 23 kilometres of twin tunnels will be constructed and two kilometres of bridges, while the biggest in length, 750 metres long, are those starting in the region of Evangelismos.

    The total budget for the project from Maliakos to Klidi, in the Imathia prefecture, amounts to 1,2 billion euros, of which 850 million euros correspond to the cost of work that is currently under way at Tempi which, as the minister noted, is the most difficult.

    [06] PASOK leader pledges 'readiness to change Greece'

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou addressed a pre-election rally of supporters in Lamia, central Greece, on Sunday evening, pledging his party's "rediness to change Greece".

    "On June 7, we vote for a change in course which will lead the country to salvation in the next general elections whenever they take place," Papandreou told his audience, two weeks ahead of the Euroelections.

    The PASOK leader asked from voters and his party's members and officials to "be ready, active and be mobilised in order to achieve an overwhelming majority, which is currently being shaped."

    Papandreou defended what he calls the dilemma of the upcoming Euroelections, "Socialism or Barbarism", underlining at the same time that "in the hard struggle which PASOK is today waging, it does not place (ruling) New Democracy (ND) voters on the opposite side, because we want the ND voter to be on our side, since we do not separate citizens, we do not polarise society but we are instead sheping a new consensus for great changes."

    Expanding on his "Socialism or Barbarism" slogan, Papandreou said among other things "the policies that make the rich richer and the poor poorer constitute a social barbarity, closing down the Parliament in the middle of the night and in an arbitrary manner in order to go to the write off of scandals, this is an institutional barbarity, policies that allow factories to poison rivers and forests to be burnt constitute a barbarism."

    "The government has lost its contact with reality, with the citizen and its problems and it is now losing its contact with its own voters. This government has nothing else to offer to the country," the main opposition leader charged.

    He also called on the government to "state clearly what new taxes is preparing to impose after the Euroelections and what new burdens it intends to add to the Greek family's shoulders."

    "What is at stake, in these elections, is crucial and clear: Are we going to reward with our vote or our abstention those who are responsible for all that we are now experiencing or are we going to shape with our vote the new course which the country needs," Papandreou noted.

    Referring to strictly European issues, the PASOK leader said that Socialists were asking for a reform to be brought to the Stability Pact "in order to have public productive and social expenses exempted from the assessing of deficits."

    "The neo-conservatives are asking from us to raise our hands, to bow our heads, to resign. I have toured all of Greece and I have not seen a single Greek who wants to bow its head. What neo-conservatives call 'impossible' it is what we call 'possible'," Papandreou concluded.

    [07] Papandreou visits Elefsina air base, Drapetsona

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou visited the 355 Regular Transport Squadron in the coastal city of Elefsina on Saturday, where firefighting aircraft are stationed, and thanked officers for their detailed briefing on their preparations for the summer and the possible wildfires they may have to tackle.

    "We all feel proud of their work, their heroic efforts, particularly during peak wildfire periods, their self-sacrifice and my presence here today is to stand by their work and to commit myself that we shall be providing all the means and all the assistance necessary for their moral and material support to enable them to carry out their task without dangers for their own life," he said.

    Papandreou visited the Elefsina air base on the day of the sad anniversary of the death of Air Force pilot Costas Iliakis in the Aegean.

    According to the briefing, the 13 CL15, 8 CL415, 28 PZL and 11 Grumman firefighting aircraft that the country possesses, apart from those it rents, will be in a state of full operational readiness between June 1-10, while crews and aircraft mechanics have an excellent level of preparation.

    After visiting Elefsina, Papandreou visited the premises of the old fertilizers factory in Drapetsona, on the outskirts of Piraeus.

    "We are here to highlight one of the big problems of Attica, particularly of the region of Drapetsona, a problem that could also be an advantage, since we can all see that the region here is probably one of the most beautiful that the Mediterranean has. However, the coastal front of Attica is forbidden for the needs of its many citizens," he said.

    Papandreou, also referring to the situation prevailing in Western Attica, said that "an ecological apartheid exists that is social injustice and inequality," adding that "we are coming to give the same rights to the citizen."

    [08] Papandreou to 'Kathimerini': PM's proposal 'hypocritical'

    In an interview appearing in the Sunday edition of the newspaper "Kathimerini", main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou dismissed an invitation extended by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis for dialogue on changing laws governing ministerial accountability and prosecution, saying it was "hypocritical".

    He counter-proposed a new election system, adapted along the lines of the German proportional representation model, as a first step for making politics more independent and thus seriously reducing spending during election campaigns.

    On questions concerning the mass media, Papandreou said that PASOK had already made pledges for the swift issue of licences to the media and to upgrade the National Radio and Television Council.

    His proposed reforms to ensure greater independence by justice included changes in the way that the judicial leadership is selected and appointed and even suggested a revision of the Constitution, so as to make Parliament a part of the of process and thus rule out appointments on strictly party lines.

    [09] Papandreou gives interview to 'Imerisia' newspaper

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, speaking Saturday in an interview with the newspaper "Imerisia", said that the economy is a field that he will be dealing with personally.

    Papandreou added that monetary restructuring must be combined with recovery and that "productive investments will contribute in the middle and long term to a monetary balance."

    Distancing himself from the ruling New Democracy party on the European Union's Stability Pact, he said that it must be revised and that "we shall seek alliances" to achieve this.

    Commenting on "green development" proposed by PASOK, Papandreou said that the linking of the environment with growth is possible and that Greece must utilise its comparative advantages that are renewable energy sources and farm products having a high nourishing value.

    [10] Simitis: we need more Europe

    A call to the political parties to put more 'Europe' into the agenda for the European Parliament elections was made by former Greek premier Costas Simitis in an interview appearing in the newspaper 'Vima' on Sunday.

    "The topics of the Euro-elections should be as European as possible and highlight that what is sought on a national level is largely dependent on a European answer," he said.

    Simitis also urged opposition to what he called the "political inaction" of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, stressing the need for a change in the political balance of power and more effective EU policies on issues concerning Europeans.

    European social democrats had to provide answers on the future of Europe; not just about the kind of Europe desired but also on how to achieve economic growth combined with social justice, he noted.

    The former premier expressed support for "more Europe", in which the EU had stronger institutions and broader powers than at present, while noting that current trends were more in favour of a 'looser' union based on the "principle of intergovernmental cooperation".

    [11] Papariga on EU, EuroParliament polls

    In an interview printed in the Sunday edition of "Eleftherotypia", Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga asserted that the widespread support for European Union membership by a vast majority of EU citizens was the result of "ideological terrorism".

    "We are experiencing the repercussions of the counter-revolution of 1989-91 and the effect of the ideological terrorism that outside the EU we are lost," she said, when asked why most Europeans preferred to be in the EU, rather than out of it.

    She opposed abstaining or casting a blank ballot in the European Parliament elections, however, saying that this would play into the hands of those that wanted peoples marginalised and urged people to vote for her party and ensure that the two main parties "hit rock bottom".

    [12] KKE SG on Euroelections

    Communist Party of Greece Secretary General Aleka Papariga called on Saturday for the rallying, in light of the Euroelections, not only of the party's members and friends but also of those who believe that strengthening KKE will be something positive and radical that will provide a momentum for resistance and a counter-offensive.

    Papariga added that she was calling for rallying "to secure the third deputy. And, therefore, for the third deputy to be secured KKE must have a substantive and spectacular upsurge for which the preconditions exist."

    She further said that "many more can vote for KKE for the first time, knowing that it had resisted over all the past years, it had struggled and if KKE had not been like this matters would have been far worse for working people."

    Papariga concluded that KKE "has stability, an upward course and, therefore, this must be continued. It is not a shooting star party. They can't get their hands on us. We have been put to the test. The only thing that is urgent today is that on June 8 in Brussels and in Greece there be a spectacularly different message in favour of KKE. A new beginning will take place."

    [13] Tsipras: big parties only 'green' on paper

    Criticising the environmental policies of both main parties, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party leader Alexis Tsipras told protestors in the Athens district of Elliniko on Sunday that the actions of ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK in no way matched their professed support for 'green' policies.

    "As we approach the elections, we hear not only the president of PASOK but also the prime minister talk about "green development" at the same time that they agree to plans that destroy the environment, to environment-killing laws, to plans for motorways, large shopping malls and diversions of major rivers. We wonder, in the end, whether by the term 'green' they mean the colour of nature or the colour of money," he said.

    He was speaking at a protest organised by Elliniko residents against the environment ministry's plans to build a major junction on open ground previously occupied by an airforce unit that has now departed from the site, instead of letting it remain as a park.

    Tsipras stressed that the fight for the environment was a battle fought by active citizens in every local society, who were the only force that could win large open spaces and resist the plans of big capital. He underlined his party's support for their efforts.

    In an interview published in the Sunday newspaper "Vima", meanwhile, Tsipras denied that a decision by former SYN leader Alekos Alavanos to represent the party at the upcoming debate between the party leaders - as head of the SYRIZA Parliamentary group in which SYN is the major coalition partner - in any way undermined his leadership position.

    "No, the river doesn't come back," he told reporters, in response to questions, while predicting that his party would come in third in the European Parliament elections on June 7.

    [14] Tsipras tours Thrakomakedones, Menidi

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Alexis Tsipras, speaking on Saturday after touring the regions of Thrakomakedones and Menidi, on the outskirts of Athens, said that the real dilemma in the Euroelections has nothing to do with the meaningless dispute between green parrots and blue barbarians.

    "The real dilemma is, if as of June 8 (the day after the Euroelections), this policy will continue that reduces rights, salaries and pensions and that leads the new generation to the sidelines," he said.

    Tsipras called on citizens to participate in the Euroelections massively and to send a message to the forces that are insisting on the one-way path of the Stability Pact, the Lisbon Treaty and on the one-way path of a policy that has led to a dead end.

    "On June 7, therefore, we shall have an opportunity in our hands and we are certain that we shall utilise it," Tsipras concluded.

    [15] Karatzaferis: LAOS aims to elect 2 Euro-MPs

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis said in a press conference held in the port city of Patras on Sunday that his party aimed to elect two Euro-MPs to the European Parliament during the elections on June 7.

    Referring to the campaigns of the political parties so far, he noted that "there hasn't been any discussion about Europe yet" and jested that the key players had so far confined their attention to "song birds and barbarity" in a reference to the new ND television spot and main opposition PASOK's much-discussed 'dilemma' between "socialism and barbarism".

    About Niki Tzavella - who migrated from ruling New Democracy's ranks to head LAOS's EuroParliament ticket - Karatzaferis said she had been chosen as the most suitable person for the job, "because the next five years will be the five years of the economy and energy".

    He also repeated criticism about the decision to close the regular session of Parliament early, saying that the prime minister would be the first prime minister of a democratic country who will govern without a Parliament for six whole months.

    [16] LAOS party leader Karatzaferis tours Igoumenitsa

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis, touring the coastal town of Igoumenitsa, in northwestern Greece, on Saturday reiterated his party's position on the name of the neighbouring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), as well as its opposition to Albania's accession to NATO and the European Union until "the human rights of the Greeks in Northern Epirus are settled."

    Karatzaferis also referred to the phenomenon of illegal immigration and to incidents occurring in Athens with muslim illegal immigrants, criticising leftist circles of showing their great sensitivity for the muslim religion but of failing to show similar sensitivity when the Christian religion is being reviled.

    "We are participating in the Euroelections with the slogan of transparency and shaking off corruption wherever it exists," he concluded.

    [17] Opinion polls put PASOK in the lead

    Main opposition PASOK's lead over ruling New Democracy is just 2.8 points, according to the results of an MRB opinion poll published in the newspaper 'Eleftheros Typos' on Sunday.

    Based on the findings of the poll, voter support for the major parties in the European Parliament elections is as follows: PASOK 29.2 percent, ND 26.4 percent, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) 6.6 percent, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) 6.2 percent, Ecologists-Greens 6.2 percent and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) 4.6 percent.

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis continues to beat PASOK leader George Papandreou in terms of who is most suitable for prime minister, with a comfortable five-point lead of 38.2 percent against Papandreou's 33.2 percent.

    A nationwide poll by Kappa Research appearing in the Thessaloniki-based newspaper "Aggelioforos on Sunday" places PASOK in the lead by 3.1 points, with both main parties getting roughly 30 percent of the overall vote.

    Specifically, PASOK is backed by 31.5 percent of those asked and ND by 28.4 percent, while a large percentage of roughly 12.7 percent declared themselves 'undecided'. Of the 'undecided' voters, roughly half have supported ND in the past and about a 37 percent supported PASOK.

    Of the smaller parties, KKE got 7.3 percent, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which has SYN as leading coalition partner, 5.3 percent, LAOS 4.4 percent and Ecologists-Greens 8.1 percent.

    In terms of which party was considered most likely to win the elections, two in three voters said PASOK, while one in five said ND.

    Roughly seven in 10 people said they have the same criteria when voting in the general elections and the European Parliament elections, while 27.3 percent have different criteria.

    [18] PASOK leading ND new polls show

    The main opposition PASOK party is leading the ruling New Democracy party by six percentage points, according to a poll carried out by the Public Issue firm for the newspaper Kathimerini and the SKAI television channel. The poll shows the following results in voting intention for the upcoming Euroelections: PASOK 34 percent, ND 28, Ecologists Greens 7, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) 6, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) 5.5 and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) 5.

    Another poll conducted by the ALCO company for the ALTER television channel shows the distance between the two mainstream parties standing at 4.1 percent.

    Financial News

    [19] Foreign Exchange rates - 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

    [20] Earthquake measuring 5.1 north of Thessaloniki

    A new earthquake measuring 5.1 points on the Richter scale occurred near Thessaloniki at 19:17 on Sunday afternoon, following the previous tremor measuring 4.1 points that had taken place at 5:29 in the afternoon.

    According to the Geophysics Laboratory of the Aristotelio University in Thessaloniki, the epicentre of the tremor was located 70 kilometres north of the city of Thessaloniki, near the borders with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Earlier, more tremors had taken place with the same epicentre, the biggest of which being the one measuring 4.1 points.

    [21] Earthquake near Serres

    An earthquake measuring 4.1 points on the Richter scale was felt in the northern city of Serres at 19:29 on Sunday.

    The tremor's epicentre was located, according to the Geophysics Laboratory of the Aristotelio University in Thessaloniki, near Doirani on the borders with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    The tremor shook houses and apartment buildings in Serres, while it was not known at press time whether any material damage was caused in the prefecture by the earthquake.

    [22] Park life: a day for dwindling urban greenspace

    A rare oasis in a sea of urban cement, the 'Antonis Tritsis Environmental Awareness' park in Ilion is one of the few open spaces that remain in west Athens, whose neighbourhoods are among the most built-up in a city with just 2.5 square metres of greenspace per resident, one of the lowest per capital greenspace allocations in Europe.

    According to the European Environmental Bureau, by contrast, a per capita greenspace allocation of 10 square metres is considered 'tolerable'.

    The 'Antonis Tritsis' park pictured here and others throughout Europe are being celebrated this Sunday, which has been established as European Day of Parks since 1999.

    The Europarc Federation has in recent years urged city-dwellers throughout Europe to take a stroll around the few remaining urban greenspaces in their countries, in order to highlight the importance and necessity of these small natural habitats.

    In Athens, apart from a handful of official parks, the open spaces that have escaped developed are usually water courses, extremely steep hills and archaeological sites. Experts stress that these act as havens for a host of birds and animals, making them 'urban' habitats of huge social value.

    [23] Two slightly injured in Macedonia Palace Hotel fire

    A fire broke out at the Macedonia Palace Hotel in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, shortly before 7 on Saturday morning, injuring two people slightly and causing panic with thick smoke.

    According to the Fire Brigade, the fire started in the kitchen, located on the building's ground floor, and was extinguished swiftly before having time to spread.

    Hotel employees evacuated some of the rooms as a precautionary measure, while a cook was hospitalised for burns as well as a woman suffering from respiratory problems.

    [24] Arson attack on muslim place of worship

    An arson attack on a muslim place of worship, resulting in five injuries, occurred at 2:45 a.m. on Saturday at the intersection of Aristomenous and Agorakritou streets in the Athens district of Agios Panteleimonas.

    Unidentified assailants smashed the window panes of a basement apartment being used as a mosque by muslims and hurled inflammable fluid inside and started a fire.

    Five nationals from Bangladesh inside attempted to extinguish the blaze, that began to spread as the premises are covered with carpets, and suffered respiratory problems caused by the thick smoke. They were ultimately rescued by firemen who had them sent to hospital.

    It was later ascertained that all five were also slightly injured by the broken glass and were discharged from hospital after receiving necessary treatment.

    [25] Arson attack against bank branch

    Unknown perpetrators threw a petrol bomb at a branch of Piraeus Bank in Thessaloniki in the early hours of Sunday morning. The attack caused minor damage to an ATM.

    [26] Battle of Crete 68th anniversary events end Sunday

    Events for the 68th anniversary since the Battle of Crete in WWII come to a close in the prefecture of Hania on Sunday, after a week of memorial services, exhibitions, speeches and other happenings - including an air show by the Royal Air Force's (RAF) renowned aerobatics team, the Red Arrows.

    A memorial service for the fallen during the historic battle, which occurred in the early years of WWII, was held at Hania's Cathedral on Sunday morning, attended by Deputy National Defence Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis, Alternate Interior Minister Christos Markoyiannakis and honorary New Democracy president Constantine Mitsotakis, as well as a number of MPs, foreign diplomats and local officials.

    "The Battle of Crete was one of the most glorious pages of modern Greek history," Plakiotakis said in statements after the end of the memorial service, stressing that the sacrifices of Cretan fighters for the ideals of freedom, democracy, and to protect the rights of their homeland still elicit the admiration and respect of all democratic countries in the world.

    The air show by the RAF Red Arrows was held over the Old Port of Hania on Saturday, while on Friday there was the formal hoisting of the Allies' flags at the Firka Fort.

    A German embassy event at the German cemetery in Maleme is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 24.

    The Battle of Crete began on the morning of May 20, 1941 when German forces launched an unprecedented airborne invasion of Crete, code-named "Merkur". The operation was successful in that it wrested control of the island from Allied forces, although the victory was so costly in terms of paratrooper casualties that the Wehrmacht never again attempted a major airborne operation. The stiff resistance by the allied troops and local Cretans is also credited, by many historians, with delaying the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.

    [27] Man caught smuggling 20 illegal immigrants

    Authorities on Sunday announced the arrest by border police in Krystallopigi-Florina of a 37-year-old Albanian national, who was caught transporting some 20 illegal immigrants in his car on the 35th kilometre of the Florina-Edessa road.

    Also arrested were two more individuals that were acting as look-outs, driving ahead of the car with the immigrants.

    The suspects and the illegal immigrants will be led before a public prosecutor.

    [28] British cameraman dies of divers' disease

    British national Charles Spencer, 37, who was taken to the Navy Hospital in Athens hospital on Sunday afternoon suffering from the divers' disease was reported dead later in the evening.

    Despite great efforts made by military doctors, the National Geographic's 37-year-old cameraman, who was struck by the disease while filming the wreck of the "Britannic" in the straits of the Cycladic island of Kea, was not brought back to life.


    [29] Panathinaikos wins, AEK-Larissa draw in Super League playoffs

    Panathinaikos Athens thrashed PAOK Thessaloniki 4-1 at the Athens Olympic Stadium and AEK Athens drew 0-0 away with Larissa in soccer Super League playoffs played on Sunday.

    Scoring for Panathinaikos were Karagounis (36' pen.), Gabriel (40'), Salpingidis (59') and Petropoulos (90'+), while Anastasakos scored for PAOK (63').

    Larissa was left with 10 men in the whole of the second half after Iglesias was sent off and also missed a penalty in the first half with Para.

    Panathinaikos heads the playoff standings with 15 points and is followed by AEK with 12, PAOK 6 and Larissa 1.

    The top position in the playoffs leads to participation in European Champions League qualifying rounds.

    Weather Forecast

    [30] Cloudy, rainy on Monday

    Cloudy and rainy weather, and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Monday, with wind velocity reaching 2-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 15C and 36C. Cloudy with possible rain in Athens, with northerly 2-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 17C to 36C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 19C to 33C.

    [31] The Sunday editions of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Opinion polls, the pre-election campaigns of the political parties but also the Siemens scandal after the flight of main suspect Mihalis Christoforakos to Germany and the new AMKA social security numbers dominated the front pages of Athens' dailies on Sunday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Key card for a lifetime. How the 'magic' AMKA number works. Its now in the hands of 2.8 million of 7 million eligible recipients".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Basement flats legal - solution for 500,000 'illegal' apartments" [ for spaces illegally converted to residences and business premises instead of storehouses, garages etc].

    AVGI: "They are 'trapping' the vote, hiding the bill".

    AVRIANI: "I'm not going to be a laundry for the system". [On Christoforakos' flight to Germany]

    CHORA: "Who pointed out the kickback routes - Document 38 in the Siemens furnace".

    ETHNOS: "Tax 'thriller' with wage earners, freelance workers in the lead roles".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: [Prime Minister Costas] Karamanlis' last ace". (Predicts problems for Karamanlis if voter turnout declines significantly in Euro plls)

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Wave of discontent 'feeds' Ecologists-Greens. Major MRB poll two weeks before the elections".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Raiders of the lost votes - Parrots, historic slogans and polarisation in the parties' propaganda".

    EPOCHI: "Support those that support you". [article on party pre-election campaigns]

    Free Sunday (weekly): "Battle of best impressions before the storm".

    KATHIMERINI: "Scandals and polarisation put off citizens. Siemens executive: we gave kickbacks to specific political figures".

    LOGOS: "Karamanlis-Papandreou 'duel'. Main parties seek polarisation".

    NIKI: "A bomb at the foundations of labour relations. The economic crisis a pretext to impose a new 'Middle Ages' for workers".

    PARON: "The names with the kickbacks - the Siemens accounts open".

    PROTO THEMA (weekly): "How ND's lady parrot got rich". [Article on businesses run by ND press spokeswoman Fevronia Patrianakou]

    Realnews (weekly): "A rigged game - who opened the exit door for Mihalis Christoforakos."

    RIZOSPASTIS: "No more waiting - to arms so that no vote is lost".

    VIMA: "No more taxes! Government preparing tricks. IMF report orders".

    VRADYNI: "40,000 hired outside ASEP (body for public-sector recruitment) - Plan via OAED to boost employment".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [32] President: As long as Turkey occupies Cyprus, it can not enter EU


    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has stressed that as long as the Turkish occupation of Cyprus continues, Ankara will not become an EU member state.

    President Christofias, who attended Sunday an event hosted by the Maronites' Archbishopric in Cyprus, to honor former Maronite Archbishop Peter Gemayel, noted that despite difficulties he would continue, with consistency, to struggle for a Cyprus solution and reunification based on principles.

    The solution of the Cyprus problem, he added, "must come from Cypriots for Cypriots and be based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality as defined in the relevant UNSC resolutions", he underlined.

    Referring to Turkey, he said "we want Turkey to understand that occupying countries can not consider themselves as democratic countries asking to find a place in the European family. As long as the occupation of Cyprus by Turkey continues and Turkey continues its attitude, it can not become member of the EU".

    "I am determined to continue the struggle for the achievement of a mutually acceptable solution, a solution that would be for the benefit of all Cypriots, Greek Cyrpiots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians, Latins, that would terminate occupation, terminate Turkey's policy to bring illegal settlers to Cyprus, and safeguard human rights and fundamental freedoms for our people", he said.

    Referring to former Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus, he said, "today we honor a true friend, and we express our respect to him", adding "I must make special reference to his concern for the survival of the enclaved Maronites and the resolution of their problems as well as the great interest he has shown regarding the struggle for the maintenance of the holy sites and monuments of Maronites in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus".

    He also expressed certainty that the cooperation between the government and the new Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus Youssef Antoine Soueif will be as fruitful.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began UN-led direct negotiations for an agreed solution to the Cyprus problem since September 2008 and so far held 29 meetings.

    [33] House President criticises Talat over Limnitis


    Cyprus House President Marios Garoyian over the weekend criticised Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat's stance on the issue of the opening of Limnitis area in the southern part of Cyprus.

    Referring to the negative developments on the issue, Garoyian spoke of a ''mockery'' by Talat both towards the Greek Cypriots and towards the international community.

    He said that Talat had pledged that after the opening of Ledras Street, a crossing point in the heart of Nicosia's commercial centre, he would proceed to the opening in a very short period of the Limnitis crossing point.

    ''A year has passed and the Turkish Cypriot leader raises new conditions and new demands,'' he added.

    Concluding, Garoyian said that ''it is evident Talat as the previous Turkish Cypriot leaders, is instigated by Ankara .''

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Talat agreed that ''they would pursue the opening of Limnitis,'' as stipulated in the joint statement issued after the May 23 2008 meeting. The opening of Limnitis would alleviate the problems of the residents in the area in the southern part of Cyprus, who after the 1974 Turkish invasion and the subsequent occupation of the island's northern third are obliged to make an approximately two-hour detour to the south in a bid to reach the capital Nicosia.

    [34] Spokesman: Determined to continue talks despite difficulties


    Cyprus Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou reiterated the Greek Cypriot side's determination to continue UN-led talks for an agreed settlement of the Cyprus problem despite difficulties at the negotiating table.

    Briefing, over the weekend, the 11th Conference of the Federation of Cypriot Organizations in Greece (OKOE) on the latest developments on the Cyprus problem, Stephanou said that the continuation of the Turkish occupation and the de facto division of Cyprus constitutes a time bomb in the foundations of the Republic of Cyprus and the existence and the future of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

    He said that Cyprus President Demetris Christofias has assumed the initiative for the commencement of UN-led talks for the solution of the Cyprus problem on a particular basis which has been reaffirmed by the joint statements issued by the leaders of the two communities.

    He added that the two communities are the main actors in the current solution efforts, noting however, that international pressure towards Turkey so that it would cooperate for a Cyprus solutions is necessary.

    Referring to the current talks, Stephanou said that there are difficulties at the table as well as convergence and divergence between the two sides.

    He pointed out however that time consolidates the fait accompli of the invasion and occupation and consolidates the fait accompli in the consciousness of the people.

    ''Our will to solve the problem and to live together again is what keeps the vision for a solution alive. We must work for a solution without being ready to sacrifice the quality of the solution,'' Stephanou added.

    Referring to the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, Stephanou said that the Greek Cypriot side does not identify him with the previous leader Rauf Denktash who had a vision for the division of Cyprus.

    Noting that Talat underlines that he desires a bi-zonal, bi-communal settlement, Stephanou said ''we believe him, but he must prove it at the negotiating table. That is why President Christofias extends his hand and asks for his cooperation to reach a solution.''

    ''The President of the Republic despite the problems and difficulties will continue to work for a solution to the Cyprus problem, faithful to the principles for a Cyprus solution but showing the necessary flexibility to reach a compromise based on principles,'' Stephanou concluded.

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