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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-06-04

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

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

Thursday, 4 June 2009 Issue No: 3211

CONTENTS

  • [01] Gov't's agenda path of responsibility PM tells ANA-MPA net-TV
  • [02] PM: addresses Thessaloniki rally
  • [03] Papandreou address conference on climate change
  • [04] Conference on climate change ends with Athens Declaration
  • [05] Papandreou backs citizenship for eligible ethnic Greeks of Albania
  • [06] KKE SG calls on people to strengthen party in Euroelections
  • [07] Inner cabinet meeting on the environment
  • [08] Gov't on Papaconstantinou stint at OTE
  • [09] NATO-Russia Foreign Ministers' Council in Greece on June 27
  • [10] Presentation of Greece's priorities as WEU president
  • [11] Valinakis at SEECP meeting
  • [12] Suspect rushed to hospital during Siemens case hearing
  • [13] Georgiou to be remanded in custody, hospitalised after feeling unwell
  • [14] Commission approves Greek state aid scheme for enterprises
  • [15] SE European Energy Dialogue in Thessaloniki this month
  • [16] NBG head: Crisis ending
  • [17] Alpha Bank owns significant branch network in Southeastern Europe
  • [18] Groupama Phoenix seeks greater market share in Greece
  • [19] Direct air link between Athens, Abu Dhabi
  • [20] Stocks end 0.77% down
  • [21] ADEX closing report
  • [22] Greek bond market closing report
  • [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [24] Mastic soda drink debut
  • [25] Close cooperation between German and Greek municipalities
  • [26] Hellenic Foundation announces 'Cultural Portal of Aegean Archipelago'
  • [27] City of Athens cleanup operation at old appeals court bldg.
  • [28] Cloudy, rainy on Thursday
  • [29] The Wednesday edition of Athens dailies at a glance
  • [30] Some convergence achieved on economy, Cyprus President says Politics

  • [01] Gov't's agenda path of responsibility PM tells ANA-MPA net-TV

    The government's agenda is a path of responsibility, reforms and everything that needs to be done, along with an emphasis to limiting the impact of the immense global financial crisis, Prime Minister and ruling New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis stressed in an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA's Net-TV on Wednesday.

    He also emphasised that the goal is to prepare the country to meet the challenges in the wake of the crisis' end, stressing that most of the reforms have already been set in motion and what is needed is continuity, consistency and greater intensity, so that they will move ahead at a faster pace.

    The prime minister spoke at length on his government's reforms, Sunday's European Parliament elections, and also on foreign policy issues, with the focus on Turkey and its EU aspirations.

    Asked to what degree the outcome of Sunday's European Parliament elections will influence the further course of the government's work and whether it would determine the agenda for the 'day after', the premier noted that the Euro-elections "are a very serious thing, first of all because the European Parliament has much greater importance today than in the past as serious decisions are taken there and, particularly for a country that wants to be on the front line of Europe, its presence in the European Parliament is also of very great importance.

    "Naturally, the Euro-elections also have a political significance; useful conclusions arise, but beyond that, the agenda of the 'day before' is a given fact. And this agenda is the path of responsibility, the path of reforms, all that which we must complete, and are completing, to limit the repercussions of the major international crisis and to prepare the country to face the 'day after' under much better terms," he explained.

    Asked what he considered as the priorities immediately after the Euro-elections, given the international economic situation and the European Commission's remarks regarding the Greek economy, the prime minister replied that Greece, up until now, has been more mildly affected by the "real crisis", in other words, the impact on the real economy.

    "This is the truth. Of course, we have experienced negative effects and naturally the forecasts for all of Europe, as for the entire world, are adverse, but comparatively, however, with other countries, we do not have such major difficulties," he noted.

    "In Greece, in our country just as in every country, there are particularities. The significant problem is the immense public debt accrued over the past decades, which requires that we are always cautious in our fiscal matters, along with some dysfunctions in our markets. In other words, there is a need for structural changes," the premier said.

    "This means, therefore, that we must have our attention turned to pushing the reforms ahead, not only because Europe tells us so, but because we need to understand ourselves what we must do. At this time, however, when the crisis is showcasing the weaknesses of every country, we are obliged to be honest, to look at those weaknesses in the eye and to immediately advance reforms".

    Asked to outline the reforms planned until the end of the year, Karamanlis first of all noted that "most of them have already been set in motion".

    "One example, a few days ago the government announced the merger of 255 agencies of the wider public sector ... This is an important step in the effort, in the constant effort, to tidy up the wider public sector. We all know that it is the 'sick man' in our economy."

    Another example he cited is the restructuring and streamlining plan for Hellenic Rail (OSE), which Karamanlis said costs the national economy more than two million euros a day.

    Thirdly, he continued, is a need to advance the government's plans with great caution, ones for curbing expenditures in the health sector.

    "A cutback of expenditures is necessary, but not at the expense of services provided. However, the fact that now there is a central committee that approves supply contracts; the fact that all of the hospitals are now obliged to submit an annual budget, a balance sheet; the fact that we now have a clear plan for limiting exorbitant expenditures for pharmaceuticals, indicates that we must persist and continue on the path that we have embarked on."

    Fourthly, the premier noted the substantial social security reforms carried out last year.

    "The fact that 133 social security funds were decreased (through mergers) to 13 (larger funds) was a very big step, but more is needed. Let me give you a few simple examples: Separating the health branch from the pension branch; rationalisation of the 'heavy and hazardous' professions, which is overwhelmingly larger in our country than in the other European countries. And on the other hand, promoting the 'opening' of the closed markets and professions. Naturally, this is done through dialogue with the interested sides, but with a clear target: a more open economy that will be more competitive and more productive.

    "What does all this mean? It means that we can turn the crisis, the major challenge of the crisis, into a national opportunity, provided of course that we have the political courage to take the decisions that are necessary, decisions which sometimes may also create dissatisfaction. They may cause a temporary or short-term political cost, but they are nevertheless necessary for Greece's course," Karamanlis said.

    Asked to comment on opposition reactions to the reforms, the premier said: "It is a fact that all the reform efforts -- let me remind you of two of the top reforms, educational reform and social security reform -- were sharply contested by the opposition parties, and chiefly the main opposition party's (PASOK) fierce reaction, with unproductive and barren criticism, and with a monotonous 'no to everything'. This is a disadvantage for the country. And I wish to be clear on that, because there are countries, for example, where the social security reform -- which perhaps was even more advanced than ours -- was agreed upon by political and social partners.

    "Also, as you know, a few months ago, when the international crisis was at its peak, I asked the leaders of the other parties, if not to agree, to at least reach an understanding on some basic guidelines, namely, on what I would call the fundamental and self-evident aspects. I was again met with refusal, mainly from the main opposition. At any rate, this does not mean that we must not push forward. In the end, it is the government that has the responsibility. I have been elected twice as prime minister by the Greek citizens. It is my duty to do that which must be done. That is what we are doing, and that is what we will continue to do," the prime minister said.

    Asked about issues faced by ethnic Greeks abroad, Karamanlis first noted that he and everyone in Greece has a special place in their hearts for their compatriots living and working outside the country.

    "They are a valuable part of Hellenism that contributes a great in all aspects, because they are good ambassadors of our country abroad and because they contribute much, especially to the efforts on our national issues.

    "I must say that, every day we can do more for these people. Much has been done. We are in close contact with the upgraded World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE); much has been done to improve teaching of our language, in cultural affairs, so as to enhance the ties between the homeland and the Greeks abroad. I regret that a very large reform -- and also a very major step that would have rendered our bonds with our compatriots abroad even closer -- did not become a reality, due to the barren refusal of the opposition, and especially the main opposition party, namely, to agreeing that we all pass a bill giving an absentee vote to the Greeks abroad," he added.

    "I say this because the nation is also comprised of the Greeks abroad as well, and beyond that, I believe that the strongest bridge, even closer ties and communication between the motherland and its children abroad, would have been their direct participation in our country's political and social affairs. The bill, which the Greeks abroad organisations were in agreement with, was tabled in Parliament, but unfortunately, only ND voted in favour of it, and given that the Constitution requires a 2/3 (two-thirds) majority, it was not passed. I hope that in the not-so-distant future we will be able to make this a reality, because our compatriots abroad deserve it," the premier said.

    Foreign affairs

    Turning to foreign affairs, the prime minister was asked to elaborate on Greece's steadfast position concerning Turkey's aspirations for European Union membership, especially the position that full accession presupposes Ankara's full compliance with the European principles and values. He was also asked whether this included a solution to the Cyprus problem based on the European acquis and withdrawal of Turkish occupation forces from Cyprus, which is an EU member-state.

    "Our strategy on this issue is quite clear and simple, and I also believe that it is very concrete: Full compliance, full accession. What does this mean? I believe that we all agree that a European Turkey, a Turkey that has adopted attitudes and behaviours founded on European criteria, principles and values, will be a better Turkey, first of all for its own citizens, but also for its adjacent region and for all of Europe and, of course, its neighbours. This strategy means that Turkey has, and should have, a European potential, provided however that it, just as every other candidate-country, absolutely fulfils all the criteria," Karamanlis explained.

    "This is our position, and I believe it is a very strong position. This means that gradually, Turkey is required to fully respect the European acquis. And this includes the issues you mentioned because, naturally, one cannot possibly speak of a European future when one country (candidate Turkey) does not recognise a country that is already an EU member-state, and indeed, a country whose consensus is needed (for Turkey) to continue on towards the next steps on the European course," the premier said.

    "Beyond that, however, it also means many more things. It means that a 'casus belli' cannot exist; it means that there must be absolute respect for the rights and freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It also means that the principles of good neighbourliness must be fully consolidated. And what is surmised by all this? That this strategy has a beginning, and an end. We maintain this reasoning. It is up to Turkey to prove, in practice, that it wants and can become a European country tomorrow, in the future," Karamanlis continued.

    Turning to the fYRoM "name issue", the prime minister was asked whether his government would seek a more substantive European intervention for a solution to the nagging problem, given that despite statements by the new president of the neighbouring country, Skopje continues to maintain the same stance it has held in the past.

    "But Europe, and also the Euro-Atlantic Alliance (NATO), of course, already has a clear-cut position, crystal clear decisions, and unanimous decisions on this matter, and I must note that I consider this an important national success, if one considers where we were on this issue three, five, 10 years ago. The decision today is that the criterion and condition for fYRoM's accession course to both these major institutions -- the European family and the Alliance -- to progress, good-neighbour relations must be secured and the outstanding name issue must be resolved with a mutually acceptable name," the premier explained.

    "Our position is clear on this, clear and steadfast. Besides, everyone knows this now, and that is how we reached the two, in my opinion correct, decisions in Bucharest (NATO summit) and later at the European Union. A mutually acceptable name, a composite name with a geographical determinant that will make clear the distinction from Greek Macedonia and will be in effect universally, for all uses. We desire good relations with that country. We want to support its choices for (membership in) Europe and the Alliance, but that is the prerequisite, and it is an inviolable condition," Karamanlis continued.

    Asked, finally, what was at stake in Sunday's Euro-elections, Karamanlis noted that "I spoke about the content of the Euro-elections at the beginning of our interview, and I would add that what is at stake for the country today is whether we will choose to support and actively advance the path, the choice, of responsibility, which may entail tough decisions at times, but which is the only road if we want our country to maintain its 'weapons', its strong points, and to permanently cure its weak sides...in other words the path of reforms, or whether we will listen to the street sirens, the voices of irresponsibility and populism".

    "I believe that the choice is clear. For the government and for myself, personally, there is no quandary, nor has there ever been one, on what we must do. This is what we are doing, and what we will continue to do the 'day after'," the premier stressed, adding: "I am certain that the Greek citizens realise this very well and, regardless of any other parameters and particularities the Euro parliament elections may have, they know that this is a path that we must all traverse together."

    [02] PM: addresses Thessaloniki rally

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed on Wednesday evening an election rally in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, saying that his New Democracy (ND) party had no dilemmas and opted "for the path of responsibility, the path of duty, the path for a strong and proud homeland in the heart of Europe."

    Karamanlis, who addressed party supporters in the rain, called on citizens to be present in the Euroelections on Sunday and to vote "yes" to stability and confidence.

    The prime minister said that Greece is currently following a policy of national self-confidence and its base and support on this course is the European Union. He added that it is the great national option that was envisaged and turned into practice by late statesman Constantine Karamanlis and reminded that when ND made this option some were seeking "thirdworld" paths.

    Karamanlis referred at length to the work achieved during the ND's five-year governance and stressed that the government will continue unwaveringly its reformist task and that in every effort it made it was faced with strong reactions by well-established interests.

    "In every reform we faced the polemics of the PASOK System. To every change they presented a monotonous 'no'. They did not want established structures to change. They did not want a change in practices and mentalities that kept, for decades, our country behind," he said.

    Karamanlis acknowledged mistakes and omissions that occurred in this course, saying that "we never sought infallibility. We made, wherever necessary, our self-criticism," and adding that "nobody can annul our work."

    The prime minister criticised the main oppposition PASOK party over its stance and attitude towards the economic crisis and stressed that "in the most difficult times for our country, they are indifferent about the country's interests. They speak of shipwrecks and promise miracles. They promise everything for everybody. But they do not say where they would find them from. They apply demagoguery. They are sinking in populism. They are sinking in irresponsibility. They do not change."

    He also said that they have lost their calmness in PASOK and accused it of scandal mongering and danger mongering and of placing party interest above the interest of the homeland.

    Karamanlis focused on infrastructure projects that have taken place in Thessaloniki and Northern Greece and appealed to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), saying that "being a Macedonian prime minister I say in every direction: history cannot be ruled out, it cannot be written off, it cannot be rewritten."

    [03] Papandreou address conference on climate change

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, addressing on Wednesday an international conference on:" Climate Change and Challenges for the Future Generations", stressed that "either we proceed with a green growth or we will continue to experience the barbarism of the downgrading of the environment".

    Papandreou said that some countries are hesitant ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in December in Copenhagen, which stems, as he said, from the belief that drastic policies for combating climate change are counter to development. "The fact is, however, that inertia on the effects of climate change will delay development" adding that policies to confront the climate change must be rendered into the tools for overcoming the economic crisis.

    Referring to Greece, Papandreou said that the country could become a leader in, and a model of green growth. "I want Greece to play a major role, focusing especially on Southeastern Europe and the Black Sea countries," he said, and criticised the government.

    Papandreou said that that he would expect the government to explain its positions and the negotiation documents it has, ahead of the Copenhagen conference, but, "unfortunately they are absent today".

    The PASOK leader stressed that further studies on the environment are unnecessary. "What is needed is the political volition for an environmental, economic and social agreement with our social partners in order to move forward," he said.

    "As President of Socialist International (SI) and the leader of PASOK, I have the volition to formulate, jointly with our social partners, an environmental pact for green growth," concluded Papandreou.

    The two-day conference, which wound up on Wednesday, was jointly organised by the 'Foundation for the Child and Family' and the international body The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), in collaboration with the World Sustainable Development Forum (WSDF), under the aegis of UNESCO.

    [04] Conference on climate change ends with Athens Declaration

    Investment issues and funding aimed at limiting the emissions of "greenhouse" effect gases and the adjustment to climate change, dominated on the second day of the international conference on "Climate Change and Challenges for the Future Generations" that began in Athens on Tuesday under the patronage of UNESCO.

    The conference concluded with the adoption of the Athens Declaration on Vulnerable Children and Climate Change, which placed emphasis on the urgent need to limit climate change and assume action facilitating the necessary adjustments. It raised the issue of common opportunities and restrictions and highlighted the challenges for the future generations, taking into consideration the limited resilience displayed by the most vulnerable and poor populations, while calling for stronger international cooperation in this direction.

    "The vulnerable communities in the region of the Mediterranean, such as the elderly and the very young, especially those suffering from chronic diseases, are most likely to be among those who will be greatly affected by the destabilization of the climate system coupled with the imminent disruption of the eco-systems," the declaration underlines.

    In the efforts to reduce "greenhouse" gases, the Mediterranean region can play a major role by increasing the use of RES and promoting effective actions and environmentally friendly technologies in important sectors of the economy, according to the declaration.

    The conference was earlier addressed by Development Ministry General Secretary for Research and Technology Professor Philippos Tsalidis, who pointed out that Greece's energy needs cannot at present be met by renewable energy sources (RES) and that natural gas is the strategic fuel for Greece. He also referred to Aghios Efstratios, the first "green" island in Greece, stressing that it could serve as a model globally considering that 100 pct of its energy needs will be covered exclusively by RES.

    Dr Ole Odgaard, a senior advisor to the Danish Energy Agency, focused on the Danish experience as regards the dissociation of economic development from the carbon dioxide emissions. He said that in the period 1990-2008 the country's GDP increased 43 pct, while carbon dioxide emissions dropped 16 pct. He also pointed out that the Danish wind energy industry meets 30 pct of domestic energy needs.

    Professor Walter Erdelen, Assistant Director General for Natural Sciences in UNESCO, referred to the organization's actions in the Mediterranean region aimed at offering information and education on the consequences of the climate change while supporting the development of low carbon emission economy.

    "The more we delay in reducing the climate change risks, the greater the global economic crisis will be," World Economic Forum Managing Director, Regional teams, Governments and Constituents and Norway's former Commerce and Industry Minister Berge Brende stressed.

    The pressures exerted by the interdependent multiple crises (energy, water, food, climate) have a direct impact on the planet's poor populations, Assistant Professor of Political Economy, University of Athens, A. Papandreou underlined, adding that investment in mass transportation networks or electric-powered automobiles will be more effective than the imposition of a carbon emission tax.

    The conference is jointly organised by the Foundation for the Child and Family and the international body The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), in collaboration with the World Sustainable Development Forum (WSDF).

    [05] Papandreou backs citizenship for eligible ethnic Greeks of Albania

    Main opposition PASOK president George Papandreou on Wednesday called for the granting of Greek citizenship to eligible members of the centuries-old ethnic Greek community of southern Albania.

    Moreover, the former foreign minister called for specific measures to support the ethnic Greek communities in the neighbouring country, now a NATO ally, in their native communities and villages.

    "We are in favour of a comprehensive plan of growth and investments in the regions with an increased Greek element, and with an emphasis on social infrastructure, culture, the road network, water works and the boosting entrepreneurship," he said during a meeting with representatives of ethnic Greek groups from southern Albania.

    Additionally, Papandreou, who is currently the president of the Socialist International (SI) group, also called for a more effective protection of ethnic Greeks' property in their place of birth as well as the greater support of education in their districts with the building of more schools and the provision of textbooks.

    He also criticised the government, saying that its initial opposition to the measure quickly turned into a "clientele relationship" and then only selectively.

    Finally, the PASOK leader also criticised what he called the Greek government's lack of protest vis--vis a series of convictions, in absentia, by Albanian courts against five prominent members of the ethnic Greek minority, as well as the conviction of Omonia political party president and Himare mayor Vassilis Bolano, who was handed down an unusually still sentence on a road sign tampering misdemeanor recently.

    [06] KKE SG calls on people to strengthen party in Euroelections

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, addressing the party's main election rally in Athens on Wednesday evening, stressed the need for its strengthening in the Euroelections adding that "with KKE's ticket in the ballot box, now is the time for the people to take the case in their hands."

    Papariga spoke of a "massive attack against social security, health and welfare from the day after the elections, based on the decisions taken in Prague," while noting that they are issues to which neither the government nor the main opposition PASOK party refer to.

    KKE, she further said, "remains an irreconcilable rival of the bourgeoisie political system which is rotten, not only due to the scandals but above all because this system organises the accumulation of capital, strengthens monopolies everywhere. It legalises antilabour and antipopular laws that lead to the continuous worsening of day-to-day life."

    Papariga went on to say that a strong radical pole must be created that will constitute the rival awe for the dominant policy, the monopolies, in cooperation with every radical movement in European countries and even further.

    "In KKE we are not alone, we are many, let us show our strength on June 7 an as of June 8 we shall go for new and more effective struggles," she concluded.

    [07] Inner cabinet meeting on the environment

    The inner cabinet met on Wednesday, in a session chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis focusing on environmental issues.

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias, who had a separate meeting earlier with the prime minister, underlined that the government "implements a comprehensive environmental policy," adding that the new "spatial plan was the greatest reform ever made as regards the environment."

    He stressed that recycling has increased fourfold in the country, adding that Greece is no longer the black sheep in Europe, considering that it faced no fines during the past few years.

    Souflias stated that "measures were taken on all issues that concern the environment, a well-organized monitoring agency was established, regular inspections are being conducted, fines have been imposed, a national plan on hazardous wastes has been drawn up, water reserves are being monitored and all environment programmes are fully utilized."

    He also stressed that, for the first time ever, the sectors of public works and the environment are equally funded with 4.5 billion euros each according to the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).

    The minister stated that the environment is a priority for the government and development without environmental protection is unthinkable.

    [08] Gov't on Papaconstantinou stint at OTE

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday again referred to a two-year stint on the board of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), Greece's former state telecom, by the head of PASOK's list of candidates for the European Parliament elections, George Papaconstantinou. In response to questions about an article run by the newspaper "Avriani" on the issue, he pointed out that Papaconstantinou had not included his two years at OTE on the CV he had posted on his personal website.

    "It would be good if Papaconstantinou himself gave answers to the Greek people about his term and actions on OTE's board, where he served for two years," Antonaros said, pointing out that this had coincided with a time where he was reporting directly to the office of the prime minister of the time, Costas Simitis.

    Claiming that Papaconstantinou's reaction indicated blatant irritation and concern, Antonaros stressed that "it is obvious that he has something to hide".

    Regarding the arrests related to the Siemens case on Tuesday, where authorities took the family of fugitive from justice Christos Karavelas into custody, the spokesman expressed certainty that prosecuting authorities were doing their duty, based on the evidence and was scathing about those criticising the arrests.

    Antonaros underlined that it was inconceivable for the government to be accused over the flight of a suspect that had chiefly acted when main opposition PASOK was in power and "handing money out right and left".

    He again pointed out that the main protagonists of the period were former PASOK official Theodoros Tsoukatos who had confessed his involvement, top PASOK trade unionist Georgios Skarpelis who was on OTE's board for 15 years and was now in custody, and a former PASOK minister Tassos Mantelis and a known PASOK associate George Trepeklis.

    "These are the four names that one comes across everywhere in this case, whose tentacles spread to the years when PASOK was in government," Antonaros added.

    [09] NATO-Russia Foreign Ministers' Council in Greece on June 27

    The 28 NATO Foreign Ministers and their Russian counterpart will meet on the Ionian Sea Island of Corfu on June 27 after the cancellation of their May summit due to Moscow's discontent, NATO spokesman James Appathurai announced on Wednesday.

    "The next meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at foreign ministers' level will be held on June 27 on Corfu, where the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ministerial summit will take place under the Greek Chairmanship," he said.

    "The daily agenda has not been decided yet," he added, clarifying that in attendance will be both the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    The two sides had aimed to hold the meeting on May 20 in Brussels, but Moscow postponed it in protest to a military exercise conducted by the alliance in Georgia and after NATO expelled two Russian diplomats.

    [10] Presentation of Greece's priorities as WEU president

    PARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)

    Foreign Ministry Secretary General Dimitris Katsoudas outlined the priorities set by Greece in exercising the presidency of the West European Union (WEU), as of July 1, at the Plenum of the WEU's Parliamentary Assembly on Wednesday.

    The main chapters that Greece will be dealing with are combatting piracy, the WEU's budget, the expiry of Javier Solana's tenure as WEU Secretary General and the future of the WEU in relation to the ratification or not of the Lisbon Treaty.

    He explained that Greece intends to have "full cooperation" with Sweden, which will be holding the European Union's presidency over the same period.

    "The Greek Presidency will be taking into its consideration the very fine balances that are being shaped from now on for the future of the European Union. A discussion of a different type will take place if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified and a different one if it is not ratified by Ireland," he stressed.

    Katsoudas also underlined that "Greece does not intend to propose the abolition of the WEU."

    [11] Valinakis at SEECP meeting

    Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis will represent Greece at a foreign ministers' and heads of state meeting of the South East European Co-operation Process (SEECP), due to convene on Thursday and Friday in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.

    The meetings will focus mainly on the Euro-Atlantic course of the countries of the region as well as developments in SE Europe.

    [12] Suspect rushed to hospital during Siemens case hearing

    The hearing of Siemens case suspects Ilias Georgiou and Georgios Skarpelis before special examining magistrate Nikos Zagorianos began as scheduled on Wednesday, only to be interrupted when Skarpelis complained of feeling seriously unwell and was rushed away in an ambulance with acute high blood pressure.

    Both men are among several facing charges of bribery and money-laundering in connection with a contract signed between Siemens Greece and the then state telecom Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) in 1997. Georgiou was a senior Siemens executive at the time, while Skarpelis was a high-ranking trade unionist that served on OTE's board for more than a decade.

    Their lawyers Dimitris Tsovolas and Yiannis Mantzouranis, representing Skarpelis, and Angelos Parsalis, representing Georgiou, had earlier refused to attend Wednesday's proceedings until the Misdemeanours Court justices council had issued its decision on their application to have Zagorianos recused from the case.

    In statements to the press, they also strongly protested against the use of the term "remand prisoner" for their clients by government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, before either had appeared before the magistrate, who is empowered to order their detention on remand.

    Mantzouranis said the arrests were "an alibi for an investigation that must, at all costs, keep hidden until after the European elections secret documents that would cause seismic shockwaves."

    Tsovolas, on his part, pointed out that no documents regarding the case had been released by the examining magistrate and that Zagorianos was pressing ahead with the process in defiance of laws that required him to stop until the application to have him recused had been decided.

    "The government is behind the magistrate. It is afraid of something very serious. These things don't happen even in totalitarian regimes," the lawyer told reporters.

    The same line was taken by Parsalis, who said the magistrate had "flagrantly violated all the laws and dragged justice several years back". He also pointed out that a deputy appeals court prosecutor had refused to lodge an appeal against Misdemeanours court justices council order to release copies of documents in the case file to the defence.

    "This is the sixth time that a prosecutor has refused to assist in transgressions," he added.

    In the meantime, Supreme Court Attorney General George Sanidas officially requested in a memo to Athens Appeals Court Public Prosecutor Kyriakos Karoutsos that he lodge an appeal against two orders issued by the Athens Misdemeanour courts justices council, in which they had upheld a demand by lawyers representing Skarpelis and fugitive from justice Christos Karavelas that the magistrate release copies of all the documents in the case file.

    Zagorianos ordered the arrest of the two suspects last week, after the flight abroad of key suspect Christos Karavelas, who failed to appear before him as summoned last Friday. Karavelas' flight had been preceded by that of Mihalis Christoforakos, who has taken refuge in Germany. As a German citizen, Christoforakos is protected from automatic extradition to Greece to stand trial.

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros dismissed the criticism from the three lawyers, accusing them of "making a mountain out of a molehill" and "playing with words".

    "What is important is what each is accused of and what role has been played by the specific person that in the past 15 years was, as a trusted figure for PASOK governments, a key player in OTE's board. It is an indisputable fact that the appropriate authorities decided to detain him a few days ago," he stressed, adding that no words could expunge the transgression of that period and the disputed contracts that had been signed.

    [13] Georgiou to be remanded in custody, hospitalised after feeling unwell

    Former Siemens company cadre Ilias Georgiou will be remanded in custody following his appearance before special investigator Nikos Zagorianos on Wednesday.

    Georgiou, who is charged with bribery and the legalisation of revenues from illegal activities, made his plea without the presence of a lawyer, since his attorney Angelos Parsalis refused to attend, as earlier in the day he submitted an exemption appeal and a lawsuit against the investigator, stressing that they have not yet been given the entire file of proceedings.

    The defendant responded to every question by the investigator by saying that he did not wish to reply unless he was given the file of proceedings and that he desired to make his plea together with his attorney.

    At some point, Georgiou felt unwell and the investigator requested his examination by a medical examiner. Ilias Boyiokas who examined the defendant said that he must be examined in a hospital.

    Georgiou was then taken to an Athens hospital under guard. However, the investigator and prosecutor Leonidas Nikolopoulos were heading to the same hospital for the completion of the plea by former Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) cadre Gerge Skarpelis as well, that had been interrupted in the afternoon after the defendant was diagnosed with high blood pressure.

    Financial News

    [14] Commission approves Greek state aid scheme for enterprises

    The European Commission on Wednesday authorized a Greek government scheme offering state aid at firms that encounter financial difficulties as a result of the credit squeeze in the current economic crisis.

    The measure allows national authorities to grant aid in the form of reduced interest rates on loans concluded by 31 December 2010. The scheme meets the conditions of the Commission's Temporary Framework for state aid measures, which gives Member States additional scope to facilitate access to financing in the present economic and financial crisis. In particular, it is limited in time and only applies to companies that were not in difficulties before 1 July 2008. The scheme is therefore compatible with Article 87(3)(b) of the EC Treaty, which permits aid to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State.

    Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said "The Greek measure aims at improving the liquidity of companies affected by the current economic downturn, without causing undue distortions of competition. A significant reduction in the cost of loans can be an effective way of encouraging business investment and economic recovery."

    The Greek authorities designed this measure in accordance with the rules set out in the Commission's Temporary state aid Framework. The scheme is limited in time and only applies to companies that were not in difficulties before 1 July 2008. It is part of a wider set of measures that Greece is putting in place under the Temporary Framework.

    Greek Economy and Finance Minister, Yiannos Papathanasiou, welcomed the decision saying it ensured that in a crucial period, the survival and continuing of operations of thousands of enterprises, along with employment and workers' incomes.

    [15] SE European Energy Dialogue in Thessaloniki this month

    The Institute of Energy of South East Europe (IENE) on Wednesday announced that it is organising the 3rd South East Europe Energy Dialogue in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on June 18-19 for the third consecutive year. The international conference is taking place under the aegis of the Greek development ministry and in collaboration with the World Energy Council (WEC).

    The agenda for the two-day meeting will include the energy prospects of SE Europe in terms of supply, demand, imports, production and energy management. It will also address issues of energy security and dependency on energy sources, new routes for oil and natural gas in SE Europe, electricity, interconnections and cross-border trade and ways to develop an efficient and competitive energy market in the region, as well as investments, alternative energy sources and renewable energy sources, climate change and new technologies.

    In addition to top government officials from the countries in the region, the conference will also bring together senior executives in major energy firms, senior bankers and executives in financial institutions, as well as officials from the European Commission, the International Energy Agency, the SE Europe Energy Community and other international organisations.

    [16] NBG head: Crisis ending

    National Bank of Greece (NBG) chairman and chief executive Takis Arapoglou on Tuesday expressed his optimism that the financial crisis was over and that markets are beginning to find balance while banks were starting raising more long-term liquidity from markets.

    Arapoglou, addressing an annual regular general shareholders' meeting, said banks were now able to be in a position to support real economies at the time it was most needed.

    "We expect that recent few signs of stabilization in the global economy would multiply in the second half of 2009 preparing a slow but steady recovery in 2010. We must not be complacent, however," he added.

    Commenting on the Greek banking system, the Greek banker said it was widely acknowledged that it was healthy, with adequate capital and liquidity to deal with the consequences of the economic recession in the country and in Southeast European countries.

    Greek banks have never posted negative results, they cannot be blamed for irresponsibility or lack of transparency while they continue to be profitable despite the crisis, he noted. Arapoglou said a state-sponsored programme to boost liquidity in the Greek economy offered the necessary support to the domestic banking system.

    National Bank is capable of exiting the current turmoil in the global financial system unscathed and to maintain its high returns to shareholders, allowing it to continue its independent, autonomous growth and taking advantage of major opportunities created in foreign countries of strategic interest for the bank, Arapoglou told shareholders.

    He stressed that National Bank's lending to small- and medium-sized enterprises totaled 1.3 billion euros in the first quarter of 2009.

    [17] Alpha Bank owns significant branch network in Southeastern Europe

    Alpha Bank operates a significant number of branches in Southeastern Europe, a bank statement said on Wednesday. In Cyprus, Alpha Bank operates a network of 38 branches, with a portfolio of 4.5 billion euros and a market share of 12.4 pct. Saving deposits totaled 3.5 billion euros.

    In Romania, Alpha Bank operates a network of 200 branches with a loan portfolio of 4.1 billion euros. In Bulgaria, its network totaled 120 units, in Serbia it totaled 167 units with a market share of 6.4 pct in lending, in Albania its network totaled 47 branches and in FYROM, Alpha Bank operates a branch network okf 25 units with a loan portfolio of 145 million euros and saving deposits totaling 68 million euros.

    [18] Groupama Phoenix seeks greater market share in Greece

    Groupama Phoenix is focusing on further expanding its business in the Greek market, its general manager Bertrand Woirhaye, said on Wednesday.

    Speaking to reporters, Woirhaye said the company's priority was the gain new market shares and boosting its investment capability.

    Groupama Phoenix also aims to boost its consultancy role through its network and through the sale of insurance programs, taking advantage of the support offered by Groupama Group which recently completed a 52.7 million euros share capital increase plan. "This increase allows Groupama to cover its needs in credibility margin and supporting development actions in the coming years," Woirhaye said.

    Turnover totaled 175.5 million euros last year, of which 111.5 million euros were general insurance and 64 million euros life insurance.

    [19] Direct air link between Athens, Abu Dhabi

    Athens now has a direct air link with Abu Dhabi through Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates. The first flight from Athens to the capital of the UAE, under the code of EY090, left Athens airport on June 2 at 2:30 p.m.

    According to an announcement made during a press conference, at the present stage Etihad will schedule three flights a week, in the coming months their number will increase to five and from early 2010 daily flights will be carried out.

    The flight for Athens will depart at 9:15 a.m. and from Athens airport for Abu Dhabi at 2:30 p.m. and the duration of the flight will be about 4:30 hours.

    The flights will be served with the ultramodern Airbus A-320 aircraft having a capacity of 140 passengers, with 20 classified and 120 economy class seats.

    [20] Stocks end 0.77% down

    Greek stocks ended Wednesday's session with moderate losses at the Athens Stock Exchange, as profit taking halted a several-day rally in the market. The composite index fell 0.77 pct to end at 2,408.75 points, with turnover at 270.1 million euros, of which 14.6 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower. The Constructions (3.95 pct), Banks (3.37 pct0 and Oils (3.25 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Telecommunications (5.40 pct), Food/Beverage (2.92 pct) and Health (2.30 pct) scored gains.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 1.76 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 0.99 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.11 pct up. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 122 to 121 with another 28 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.60%

    Industrials: +1.59%

    Commercial: +1.01%

    Construction: -3.95%

    Media: unchanged

    Oil & Gas: -3.25%

    Personal & Household: +0.38%

    Raw Materials: -0.85%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.43%

    Technology: +1.41%

    Telecoms: +5.40%

    Banks: -3.37%

    Food & Beverages: +2.92%

    Health: +2.30%

    Utilities: +1.13%

    Chemicals: -0.77%

    Financial Services: -3.12%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 8.75

    ATEbank: 1.81

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 16.58

    HBC Coca Cola: 15.45

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.62

    National Bank of Greece: 20.05

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 8.70

    Intralot: 5.22

    OPAP: 21.36

    OTE: 12.30

    Bank of Piraeus: 7.71

    Titan Cement Company: 20.90

    [21] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of -0.96 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 74.928 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,660 contracts worth 53.814 million euros, with 27,867 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 24,684 contracts worth 21.114 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (4,669), followed by GEK (1,615), Piraeus Bank (2,754), National Bank (4,26, Alpha Bank (1,292), Marfin Polar Bank (2,206) and Intracom (908).

    [22] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 760 million euros on Wednesday, of which 375 million were buy orders and the remaining 385 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 435 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year benchmark Greek and German bonds widened further to 190 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 5.46 pct and the German Bund 3.57 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.615 pct, the six-month rate 1.45 pct, the three-month rate 1.26 pct and the one-month rate 0.92 pct.

    [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.432

    Pound sterling 0.866

    Danish kroner 7.505

    Swedish kroner 10.862

    Japanese yen 137.42

    Swiss franc 1.529

    Norwegian kroner 8.992

    Canadian dollar 1.558

    Australian dollar 1.755

    General News

    [24] Mastic soda drink debut

    The mastic "Pistacia lentiscus" is an evergreen shrub or small tree of the Pistacio family growing up to 4 m (13 ft) tall, cultivated for its aromatic resin, mainly on the Greek island of Chios, in the eastern Aegean.

    This "gift from God" as it is called by the island's inhabitants has given its flavor and aroma to tens of products and lately to a carbonated soft drink named "Mast" that is produced only in this part of the world.

    Within the European Union, mastic spice production on Chios has been granted 'protected designation of origin' (PDO) and a 'protected geographical indication' (PGI) name because, although the tree is native to the Mediterranean region, only the mastic trees of southern Chios "weep" the masticha resin when their bark is scored. The island's mastic production is controlled by a co-operative of medieval villages, collectively known as the "Mastichochoria" (mastic villages), located in the southern part of Chios.

    The aromatic, ivory coloured resin, also known as mastic (or mastix), is harvested as a spice from the cultivated mastic trees grown on Chios, where it is also known by the name "Chios Tears". Originally in liquid form, it is sun dried into drops of hard, brittle, translucent resin. When chewed, the resin softens and becomes a bright white and opaque gum.

    Mastic gum is principally used either as a flavoring or for its gum properties, as in mastic chewing gum.

    As a spice, it continues to be used in Greece to flavor spirits and liquors (such as Chios's native drinks of Mastichato and masticha), chewing gum and a number of cakes, pastries, spoon sweets and desserts.

    Apart from its culinary uses, mastic continues to be used for its gum and medicinal properties. The resin is used as a primary ingredient in the production of cosmetics such as toothpaste, lotions for the hair and skin, and perfumes.

    Mastic resin is also chewed as a gum to soothe aching stomach. People in the Mediterranean region have used mastic as a medicine for gastrointestinal ailments for several thousand years.

    Regular consumption of mastic has been proven to absorb cholesterol, thus easing high blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart attacks. Mastic oil also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, and as such is widely used in the preparation of ointments for skin disorders and afflictions. It is also used in the manufacture of plasters

    Further, chewing mastic is a treatment for bad breath. Mastic resin has been proven to reduce bacterial plaque, which explains why many toothpastes and mouthwashes have mastic as one of their main ingredients.

    [25] Close cooperation between German and Greek municipalities

    The notable presence of immigrants from the northern Greek city of Drama in the German municipality of Lauf an der Pegnitz led to their twinning a year ago.

    A Lauf an der Pegnitz delegation headed by Mayor Benedikt Bisping is visiting Dramas and in a meeting with Drama Mayor Thomas Margaritis and city councilors they discussed the strengthening of bilateral relations and cooperation.

    Lauf an der Pegnitz is a municipality near Nuremberg, Germany and the capital of the district Nurnberger Land, in Bavaria.

    Scores of Greeks sought a better life there in the 60s and currently the city is home to roughly 700 expatriates more than half of which come from Drama.

    [26] Hellenic Foundation announces 'Cultural Portal of Aegean Archipelago'

    The Foundation of the Hellenic World (IME) has announced the www.egeonet.gr, the "Cultural Portal of the Aegean Archipelago", a network site that presents the history, culture and natural environment of the islands of the Aegean, from prehistoric times until today.

    According to an announcement, the aim of the site is to bring into contact both the Greek and international public with the historic, cultural and environmental character of the Aegean and, at the same time, to constitute a useful implement for those intending to visit Aegean islands in the summer.

    The site contains information on both the history and culture of each island and wider issues of a historic and cultural nature, such as shipping, piracy, Aegean archaeology, popular culture and demography.

    The announcement further revealed that through www.egeonet.gr the visitor can be informed about festivals, sports clubs, cultural societies, fairs and celebrations that are being organised, newspapers, television channels and radio stations and traditional settlements or natural monuments.

    [27] City of Athens cleanup operation at old appeals court bldg.

    Personnel from the Athens municipality on Wednesday carried out a major cleanup and decontamination operation at the former Athens appeals court building and surrounding area on Sokratous street, as the building continues to reportedly host hundreds of mostly North African illegal immigrants.

    The specific building has come under increased media and law enforcement scrutiny of late, given reports of a distinct downgrading of the specific location and surrounding streets.

    The municipality's priority is to protect public health, according to Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, who officially briefed a competent public prosecutor and police in order for waste management services to proceed with the necessary action.

    The operation involved the participation of more than 30 municipal workers, five vehicles and specialized decontamination equipment.

    Referring to the municipality's operation, Deputy Mayor George Dimopoulos said:

    "The building has an owner, the Store Employees' Auxiliary Insurance Fund, which possesses the exclusive responsibility and authority for the cleaning of the surrounding area and building interior. Although for several months the city of Athens has exerted pressure in this direction, the proprietor has not proceeded with the required action. For this reason, the expenses for the cleaning of the area will be covered by the Fund. At the same time, relevant correspondence will be forwarded to the Fund, the prefecture and the interior ministry, so that the proprietor assumes his responsibilities and is obliged to clean the building interior in order to safeguard the health of the people who reside there as well as residents of the surrounding area."

    Weather Forecast

    [28] Cloudy, rainy on Thursday

    Cloudy and rainy weather, and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 12C and 29C. Cloudy in Athens, with northwesterly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 16C to 29C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 15C to 26C.

    [29] The Wednesday edition of Athens dailies at a glance

    The Siemens case after the incarceration pending trial of the wife and a daughter of former Siemens Hellas financial manager Christos Karavelas, who has fled the country, Sunday's European Parliament elections and the recent balance in international stock markets, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Optimism prevails in ruling New Democracy for the outcome of the Euroelections".

    APOGEVMATINI: "16,433 hirings in public sector".

    AVGHI: "Synaspismos leader Alexis Tsipras in his main campaign rally in Athens on Tuesday called for a third pole".

    AVRIANI: "Main opposition PASOK party spokesman and europarliament candidate George Papaconstantinou is lying. On 18/6/2002 he signed the contract for the direct assignment to SIEMENS of telecom supplies for 114 million euros."

    CHORA: "Karavelas' list with persons involved in Siemens case - Ready to be released?

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "14 million euros from bribes exported to Uruguay and Panama - Karavelas had set up a series of off-shore companies".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Mrs Minister resign! - Article on FM Dora Bakoyannis' political responsibilities on Karavelas' escape".

    ESTIA: "How the Europarliament members are elected with simple proportional electoral system".

    ETHNOS: "Outcry over the arrest of Karavelas' (adult) daughters".

    KATHIMERINI: "Karavelas' wife and (22-year-old) daughter have been incarcerated pending trial".

    LOGOS: "Siemens causes turbulences - Karavelas' family appears before the examining magistrate".

    NIKI: "Dora acquits Dora on the delay - Foreign Ministry's report says that the Minister's office is not responsible".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Everyone show up for the Communist Party's main campaign rally in Athens on Wednesday ".

    TA NEA: "Dora's (FM Bakoyannis), government's gaffes in the limelight - They had been informed about Karavelas".

    TO VIMA: "Clash in Foreign Ministry between FM Dora Bakoyannis and diplomats after the revelation of the telegram from Montevideo (that Karavelas had transferred large sums of money there)".

    VRADYNI: "Parents' sins.....Karavelas fled and his children were arrested".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [30] Some convergence achieved on economy, Cyprus President says

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    President of the Republic Demetris Christofias has said that some convergence has been achieved in some aspects of the economy during the discussions in the framework of the direct negotiations to reach a solution in Cyprus and reunify the island.

    Speaking to the press after returning to the Presidential Palace following Wednesday's 31st meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, President Christofias also said that during next Thursday's meeting (11 June), discussion will begin on the territorial issue.

    "We have exchanged views on the Limnitis issue", said Christofias referring to the opening of Limnitis checkpoint, which would alleviate the problems of the residents in the area in the southern part of the 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.

    On the economy, he said that they exchanged views, on the level of the two leaders and aides, on some aspects of the economy in an effort to reach further convergence. "I must admit we have achieved something", he remarked.

    The president added that these issues will be further examined next week and that talks will commence on the territorial issue.

    Downer: Leaders to begin discussion on territory next week

    UN Secretary General's Special Advisor on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, has said that the leaders of the island's two communities discussed Wednesday the chapter of economy and the Limnitis issue, (relating to efforts to open a crossing point to and from the northern Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus to facilitate movement).

    In statements after the leaders' 31st meeting, which took place in the framework of direct negotiations for a solution, under UN auspices, Downer said that the leaders, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will begin discussing the issue of territory during their next meeting to take place June 11th.

    "The leaders discussed the economy and the Limnitis issue in the tete-a-tete session and had a further discussion in the open session as well on the economy. They decided that next week, next Thursday, they will talk a little more about the economy and the Limnitis question and also they will begin discussion on the issue of territory", Downer told reporters.

    Asked whether there has been any progress regarding the opening of the Limnitis crossing point, that would facilitate movement between the island's northern Turkish occupied areas and the southern government controlled part of the country, Downer referred journalists to the two leaders, saying that Limnitis is "an ongoing discussion and those discussions are continuing".

    Invited to say whether the UN are working on a settlement blueprint on Cyprus, Downer replied negatively.

    "No. The UN do what they can to help the two sides but the UN are not writing blueprints. It's for the leaders to negotiate a comprehensive settlement", he said.

    Invited to comment on information that he is in favor of Turkish army and settlers remaining on the island, after a solution is achieved, Downer said that as a ''politician for many years I am used to people putting words in my mouth''.

    ''I don't have any model that I think should be imposed on Cyprus and I am not promoting any particular model privately or publicly'', he remarked.

    The UN, he added, do what they can to help with the process but ''do not have a position on the Treaty of Guarantee, on troops and that sort of questions'', noting that the leaders have not begun discussing those issues yet.

    ''These are matters not for the UN, but for Cyprus and when it comes to the Treaty of Guarantee of course for the relevant nations to be involved in it. We just leave those negotiations to take their natural course and help the negotiations as possible we can. But I don't have any position on those things at all. Any suggestions that I do have is completely untrue'', he went on to add.

    Asked if he has complained about the local media coverage as regards his work on the island, Downer said he has no complaints, pointing out that local media do a good job.

    "No, I haven't. As a Foreign Minister and member of the Australian Cabinet and somebody who has dealt with the media for many years you just take it as it comes. I am not too sensitive on anything in the media", he said.

    He expressed the view that on the whole the media do a good job in Cyprus, adding "they put forward different points of view and that is the role of the media, so I have no problems with them".

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. President Christofias and Talat have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008 to reunite the island.

    Christofias: Figment of imagination reports on new UN plan

    President of the Republic Demetris Christofias has described as figment of imagination Turkish press reports concerning a new UN plan for a Cyprus settlement.

    Invited to comment on relevant press reports, before departing from the Presidential Palace to attend the 31st meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in the UN Protected Area of Nicosia in the framework of the direct negotiations to reach a solution in Cyprus and reunify the island, Christofias said "how many comments are we going to make on these figments of imagination?"

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