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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-09-03

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

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

Thursday, 3 September 2009 Issue No: 3287

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM calls snap elections, date to be announced
  • [02] Papandreou calls for 'new beginning'
  • [03] Papandreou: 'PM seeking escape via elections'
  • [04] Parties react to snap election announcement
  • [05] PM Karamanlis confers with central bank governor
  • [06] State Department official's talks in Athens
  • [07] Parliament com't ratifies MoU with NATO
  • [08] MEPs denounce harassment of Olympic Air flight by Turkish jets
  • [09] Zagorianos to be replaced in Siemens investigation
  • [10] SYN leader visits OAED
  • [11] ECOFIN meeting in Brussels
  • [12] Parliament passes bill giving jobs to 20,000 unemployed
  • [13] Tourism sector urges more competition in Greek airports
  • [14] Power utility to switch to new, more detailed bill design
  • [15] Gov't to separate Greek natgas grid from DEPA
  • [16] Finance ministry warns of phishing scams posing as ministry e-mails
  • [17] Hellenic Petroleum to absorb Petrola SA
  • [18] Stocks end 1.26% down
  • [19] Greek bond market closing report
  • [20] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [21] New Metro station at Mint inaugurated
  • [22] Bomb targets bourse, second aimed at ministry in Thessaloniki
  • [23] Anti-tank rockets found buried in Thessaloniki
  • [24] Light earthquake in Villia
  • [25] IKA to set up 100 swine flu surgeries
  • [26] Cloudy, showery on Thursday
  • [27] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM calls snap elections, date to be announced

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday evening announced the holding of a snap general election, speaking during a nationally televised address.

    In prefacing the announcement, he underlined the need for immediate and significant reforms and measures to deal with the repercussions of the ongoing international economic crisis and what he called decades-old obstructions in the domestic economy and public sector.

    Among others, Karamanlis said strict fiscal discipline, a "war" on tax evasion -- a severe problem in the east Mediterranean nation -- and long-sought structural reforms are imperative, reforms, however, that he said necessitate a stable political system.

    Along those lines, he said the main opposition party's decision to cause early elections next March by utilising Parliament's vote for a new president of the republic led to his decision.

    Karamanlis said he has already briefed President Karolos Papoulias over his decision and will visit the latter on Thursday to officially request early elections. The exact date for the election will then be announced, as most media outlets in the Greek capital on Wednesday cited an Oct. 4 date as the most probable.

    During his address, the ruling New Democracy (ND) leader expressed confidence in the maturity and responsibility of citizens, stressing that Greek citizens will be called on to select the prime minister who shall handle the problems that are being created by the economic crisis.

    Additionally, he outlined what he called a "dilemma of responsibility" that necessitates the "difficult path of decisions for the future and one of irresponsibility and the easy path, replete with talk of promises and easy solutions that only cause harm in the long term."

    In turning to criticism of his own government, Karamanlis said his administration should have proceeded with deeper reforms while he again sharply criticised PASOK, saying that it has no plan for an exit from the crisis and has bequeathed huge deficits and a huge public debt to the country. He further said that what is necessary is not attributing responsibilities for policies before the crisis, but how problems will be overcome.

    Karamanlis said he will unveil his programme on the economy at this weekend's Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), adding that his initial target was September 2011, the end of the current four-year period. A precondition, however, for these policies to succeed was the existence of a suitable political environment, at which point he accused PASOK leader George Papandreou of directly saying he will cause elections in March on the occasion of the election of a President of the Republic, terming Papandreou's attitude as unprecedented.

    Karamanlis clarified that if he had waited until March 2010 for the country to be led to elections, "this would have been the worst thing for the economy because it would not be possible to take required measures."

    He emphasised that he will not "hand out promises and will not beautify difficulties". He said that the citizens have to choose between the difficult path that the government is proposing and the easy path of the other side. The option of responsibility is the first and of irresponsibility the second.

    Lastly, the prime minister expressed confidence in citizens' judgment and called for a fresh popular mandate to enable the crisis to be handled with the programme that he will present for all to see.

    [02] Papandreou calls for 'new beginning'

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday evening greeted the prime minister's televised announcement of snap elections -- probably in the first half of October -- by charging that the Karamanlis government has collapsed "under the weight of the impasses it created".

    Papandreou also said the current government has twice won voters' trust and a government mandate but never honored that mandate, charging that it alone bears responsibility for what he called the "deep crisis that the country is facing".

    "Our proposal for the future of Greece is built on a grand vision, one that we can all turn into reality, together ... we have the knowledge, we have the political volition; we know the problems and we have proposed feasible solutions, ones that are just and respect the lives and hopes of the Greek people..." he said, speaking from PASOK headquarters in downtown Athens.

    Among others, he said PASOK has a development plan and a way-out of the economic crisis, pointedly adding that "we have the power and boldness to clash with every establishment that keeps our country bound."

    [03] Papandreou: 'PM seeking escape via elections'

    The prime minister was collapsing under the weight of the dead ends created by himself and his policies, main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou said on Wednesday while chairing his party's Parliamentary Coordinating organ.

    "Resorting to the ballot boxes will be an admission of Karamanlis' failure and dead ends. It will be an escape via elections," he said in reference to press reports that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was seriously considering elections in a month's time, adding that the alternative of a government reshuffle would do nothing for the real problems of the country nor change the government's catastrophic policy of wasteful spending and lawlessness.

    "We are not interested in the way that Mr. Karamanlis organises his exit, through a grotesquery of public debate between ministers about whether elections should take place or whether elections would be suicide," Papandreou remarked, adding that PASOK defended the public interest and that Greek people were daily becoming more convinced that elections should take place as soon as possible.

    PASOK's leader noted that the government would most likely succeed in getting a two-year extension from the European Commission for reducing the public deficit but this would not do it any good: "The issue is not to get a certain extension, which everyone will get, but what you do with this extension and what policy you follow" he noted, adding that the neoliberal policies followed by ND so far would not succeed in restoring the economy in two or 12 years.

    According to Papandreou, it was all over for the prime minister since "he cannot manage the economic crisis, nor draw up a budget, nor control his party nor run his government. And above all, because he cannot withstand the popular outcry over the economic, environmental, institutional and ethical crisis in Greece, which he received strong and optimistic and is now handing over wounded and exhausted."

    [04] Parties react to snap election announcement

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, commenting on Wednesday evening on the premier's decision to hold a snap election, said it would take place with the government's responsibility due to the aggravated economic crisis.

    "The country's plutocracy, the businesspeople and, of course, both their parties, New Democracy and PASOK, are aiming from these elections, each for itself, the emergence of a strong government, a government capable of providing a breakthrough, not for the people, but for the unimpeded profit-making of capital. A government capable of taking new, more barbaric, more savage measures against the working people, at the expense of working people," she said.

    Papariga further said that "we must spoil their plans and early elections are a good opportunity. Neither ND nor PASOK are in a position to take measures for the people's benefit, they do not want, they cannot, and in this sense the only hope that the people have is to spoil their plans, to condemn both, to weaken them and bring the people, the popular movement a step forward, in a position of attack to confront the new storm that is coming."

    Synaspismos

    Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party leader Alexis Tsipras said "the only response to the crisis is a liberal programme that will build a shield of solidarity and social protection.

    "The Karamanlis government collapsed under the weight of its deadlocked policy," he said.

    LA.OS

    Finally, Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party leader George Karatzaferis, commenting on the premier's address, said that "in a difficult situation the prime minister chose to escape. Fortunately, for the party and the country, reserves exist."

    [05] PM Karamanlis confers with central bank governor

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday conferred with Bank of Greece (BoG) governor George Provopoulos.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the central bank governor said they discussed the course of the economy. He declined comment on questions whether they discussed elections-related issues.

    [06] State Department official's talks in Athens

    Visiting US new Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Ambassador Tina Kaidanow, had separate meetings in Athens on Wednesday with foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis and deputy minister Yannis Valynakis, at the US diplomat's request.

    Kaidanow paid a protocol visit to foreign minister Bakoyannis, and no statements were made after the meeting.

    During his meeting earlier with Kaidanow, Valynakis was critical of Turkey's behavior in the Aegean, warning that Ankara's provocations will not be without consequence.

    Recently, efforts have been made by "certain quarters" to create tension in the region, Valynakis said in statements after the meeting and, citing the Greek adage that "good accounts make for good friends", warned that "when the account is inflated by violations (of Greek national airspace), overflights (of Greek islands in the Aegean) and buzzings, it is only natural that all those cannot be left without consequence".

    "It is self-evident that the principles and values of the EU must be respected in our region, that active application of the principles of good neighborhood is required, and it is only on the basis of these principles that we can move forward," Valynakis explained.

    The talks with Kaidanow, who recently succeeded Matthew Bryza to the post, focused on Greek-US bilateral relations, developments in the region of SE Europe, the Cyprus issue and international developments.

    "We had the opportunity to discuss bilateral relations between Greek and the US, this strategic relationship, which is at an excellent level in the economic, political and military sectors," Valynakis said, and noted the role of the Greek community in the US as a "bridge in the relations between the two peoples".

    Valynakis further briefed Kaidanow on Greece's positions on issues concerning the region, reiterating that Greece "supports the European prospect of the Western Balkans and Turkey, on condition that those countries respect and abide by the specific criteria and prerequisites set out by the EU".

    "Only full compliance will lead to their full accession to the EU," he stressed.

    On the Cyprus issue, Valinakis stressed that Turkey has assumed specific commitments to the EU regarding Cyprus "which Ankara must fulfill", adding that a Cyprus solution can only be one founded on the UN resolutions and the principles and values of the EU, and one freely arising from dialogue between the two sides.

    [07] Parliament com't ratifies MoU with NATO

    A second Parliamentary summer recess committee on Wednesday ratified, via majority vote (New Democracy and Popular Orthodox Rally parties), a defence ministry draft law endorsing a MoU between Athens and the Supreme Allied Command of Europe, concerning support provided by the host nation during NATO operations.

    Earlier, the main opposition PASOK party lodged an appeal (with which the leftist parties also agreed) that the committee had no authority to ratify the bill, but the appeal was rejected.

    PASOK said the draft bill should be brought before the plenum for discussion since it is related to the article of the Constitution that rules that a two thirds majority is necessary for bills regarding the cession of duties.

    Speaking on behalf of ruling New Democracy party, MP An. Karamarios said that it is a MoU applying to all that has valid since the country's admission to NATO, adding that PASOK has also ratified all such memorandums with the specific process.

    The relevant alternate defence minister said the MoU is a procedural agreement that regulates the way with which NATO exercises are carried out.

    [08] MEPs denounce harassment of Olympic Air flight by Turkish jets

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)

    Commenting on the recent harassment of a civilian Olympic Air flight by Turkish fighter jets above the Aegean, Sweden's Infrastructure Minister Asa Torstensson on Wednesday stressed the need to respect the right of passengers to safe air transport. She was responding to a question put by Greek New Democracy MEP George Koumoutsakos regarding flight safety in European air space, during a meeting of European Parliament's Transport Committee.

    In her reply to Koumoutsakos, Torstensson stressed that the safety of air transport was a very important issue for the Swedish EU presidency, as was ensuring that the treaties necessary for EU institutions to function were honoured.

    The incident was also denounced to European Commissioner Olli Rehn by Greek PASOK MEP Marilena Koppa, during a session of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. Koppa said that Turkey had violated a moratorium on military exercises in the Aegean over the summer and also pointed to recurrent flights above the inhabited Greek islands of Agathonisi and Farmakonisi by Turkish fighter jets, as well as a simulated bombardment by Turkish military planes above the island of Fournous a few days ago.

    [09] Zagorianos to be replaced in Siemens investigation

    Greek Supreme Court Prosecutor Ioannis Tendes on Wednesday announced that he had taken action to replace 4th examining magistrate Nikos Zagorianos from the investigation into the Siemens kickbacks scandal, after the magistrate himself was placed under investigation for disciplinary offences committed during the conduct of the investigation.

    Tendes on Wednesday informed Justice Minister Nikos Dendias that he had sent a letter to the Appeals Court chief prosecutor Fotis Makris, asking him to convene the appellate judges council in order to appoint a new appeals court magistrate to take over the case.

    This development occurred after the head of the Court Inspectorate and Supreme Court Vice President Ioannis Papanikolaou initiated a disciplinary inquiry into Zagorianos and whether in the course of the Siemens investigation he committed disciplinary offences by failing to include charges for acts proved to have taken place in 2004-2007 in the arrest warrant sent to German authorities for the extradition of Siemens case suspect Michalis Christoforakos.

    The investigation will also look into whether Zagorianos had failed to promptly issue warrants for the arrest of Christoforakos and fellow Siemens-case suspect Christos Karavellas, both of whom later fled the country, and whether he had overstepped his authority by refusing to give other defendants in the case access to all the documents in the case file on the grounds that they did not concern them.

    Finally, the investigation into Zagorianos will look into whether he was influenced by third parties and was not acting according to his conscience.

    [10] SYN leader visits OAED

    The real quandary the country is facing "is whether we will continue to have a society with thousands of unemployed youths, the hostages of a clientele system, or whether there will be a shield of solidarity with dignified salaries and work," Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) leader Alexis Tsipras said Wednesday.

    During a visit to the state Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED), Tsipras added that the real problem faced by Greece is not whether the prime minister will call early general elections at this time, or whether early elections will be forced by main opposition PASOK's stance on the Presidential election in March.

    Tsipras stressed that the Left was here, and united, and will provide an outlet and solution for the Greek society through a platform that gives solutions.

    Financial News

    [11] ECOFIN meeting in Brussels

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)

    An informal ECOFIN meeting here on Wednesday discussed ways of finding a common European stance in a forthcoming "G-20" meeting in the United States.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia underlined the need to find a common strategy by the EU-27 member states on exiting the current economic crisis.

    On his part, Greek Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou met with Almunia and -- hours before Greek Prime Minister announced a snap election, probably for early next month -- presented the country's fiscal condition in the first half of 2009, a programme to promote structural changes and Greece's fiscal outlook for the year, more-or-less based on current data characterised as less than optimistic.

    [12] Parliament passes bill giving jobs to 20,000 unemployed

    An interior ministry draft bill regulating labour issues for those employed on private-sector terms was passed by Parliament on Wednesday, including a controversial amendment attached to the bill that allows up to 20,000 registered unemployed to be given temporary jobs in local authorities for up to 36 months.

    The specific amendment was passed by the ruling New Democracy MPs only after some 351 mayors affiliated to opposition parties withdrew their support for the measures, objecting to the procedures envisioned in the bill as untransparent and open to abuse by those seeking party favours.

    Main opposition PASOK accused the government of "toying with the hopes of young people" while loading local government with unemployed supporters of the ruling party through untransparent processes, since the selection of those eligible for permanent positions would not go through the Supreme Council for Staff Selection by be chosen directly by the governor of the Greek Workforce Employment Organisation (OAED).

    [13] Tourism sector urges more competition in Greek airports

    Greek tourism enterprises on Wednesday urged the government to ensure that two companies will be allowed to offer handling services at the country's state-run international airports, stressing that greater competition will lead to better quality services at lower prices.

    In a letter sent to Transport Minister Evripides Stylianidis, the Hellenic Association of Tourist Enterprises (SETE) cited negative consequences, such as poor quality of services and rising cost for travel packages in Greece as a result of monopolistic conditions prevailing in ground handling services of airports, emphasising that "sustaining monopolies distorts transparency in the sector".

    A ministry announcement launching international tenders for handling services in the country's 34 airports envisages two companies in the airports of Hania, Kos and Zakynthos, and one for the remaining 31 airports. SETE stressed that more competition, as witnessed at the airports of Athens, Thessaloniki, Irakleio, Rhodes and Corfu, offered a significant improvement in quality and costs for airlines, between 25-28 pct.

    [14] Power utility to switch to new, more detailed bill design

    The Public Power Corporation (PPC) on Wednesday announced that it is working on a new design for its bills that will provide customers with a more detailed breakdown of what they are paying for, in accordance with European Union regulations. The company stressed that there will be no change to electricity rates or what customers will have to pay, only a more detailed analysis of the charges being made.

    The new bill will now have two pages, one summarising the amounts due to the PPC and the second listing the charges that the PPC is obliged by law to collect on behalf of third parties, such as municipalities, the national broadcasting organisation ERT, sum paid for the running and maintenance of the electricity grid and other costs for public utility services.

    [15] Gov't to separate Greek natgas grid from DEPA

    The Greek government on Tuesday said it planned to restructure its natural gas monopoly, DEPA, by stripping it from its pipeline grid operator DESFA and returning some capital to its shareholders, before taking a decision to sell a stake to investors.

    The country's privatisation commission agreed that DESFA will be separated from the group and operate independently, a move reflecting the government's decision to maintain control over the country's natural gas grid network.

    A Finance ministry statement said the government will ask both DEPA and DESFA to return some capital to shareholders.

    [16] Finance ministry warns of phishing scams posing as ministry e-mails

    The Greek economy and finance ministry on Wednesday warned the public to beware of phishing scams involving fake e-mails allegedly sent by the finance ministry, in which people were asked to divulge personal information such as credit-card numbers and other sensitive data. The ministry said that several such incidents had been recorded recently, with messages containing links that led to fake forms for submitting data that had nothing to do with the finance ministry.

    The General Secretariat for Information Systems, which runs the finance ministry website www.gsis.gr, advised the public in an announcement that the finance ministry on no occasion asks citizens to divulge such information via e-mail. It also noted that information on finance ministry applications and electronic services are available at its site.

    [17] Hellenic Petroleum to absorb Petrola SA

    Hellenic Petroleum on Wednesday announced a merger decision through the absorption of its 100 pct subsidiary Petrola SA from its parent company Hellenic Petroleum SA. The merger will be completed by the end of the month.

    [18] Stocks end 1.26% down

    Greek stocks changed direction for the third consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, this time ending lower, following a similar trend in other European markets. The composite index fell 1.26 pct to end at 2,477.98 points, with turnover at 213.9 million euros, of which 7.4 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved downwards, with the Health (3.05 pct), Technology (2.95 pct) and Telecommunications (2.59 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Financial Services (2.60 pct), Media (2.56 pct) and Oil (0.79 pct) scored gains.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 1.21 pct, the FTSE 40 index eased 1.30 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.62 pct down. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 136 to 62 with another 48 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -0.63%

    Industrials: -0.92%

    Commercial: -1.35%

    Construction: -0.58%

    Media: +2.56%

    Oil & Gas: +0.79%

    Personal & Household: +0.13%

    Raw Materials: -1.89%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.30%

    Technology: -2.95%

    Telecoms: -2.59%

    Banks: -1.55%

    Food & Beverages: -1.39%

    Health: -3.05%

    Utilities: -2.50%

    Chemicals: -1.11%

    Financial Services: +2.60%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 11.60

    ATEbank: 1.59

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 16.10

    HBC Coca Cola: 15.90

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.52

    National Bank of Greece: 22.99

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 9.64

    Intralot: 4.27

    OPAP: 16.95

    OTE: 10.54

    Bank of Piraeus: 10.69

    Titan: 21.38

    [19] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 1.212 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 677 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 535 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 452 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds widened slightly to 132 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 4.57 pct and the German Bund 3.25 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.30 pct, the six-month rate 1.08 pct, the three-month rate 0.81 pct and the one-month rate 0.48 pct.

    [20] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.433

    Pound sterling 0.882

    Danish kroner 7.502

    Swedish kroner 10.401

    Japanese yen 132.68

    Swiss franc 1.528

    Norwegian kroner 8.749

    Canadian dollar 1.584

    Australian dollar 1.724

    General News

    [21] New Metro station at Mint inaugurated

    The Athens Metro Line 3 (blue line) section from the Defense Ministry station to the Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos (AIA) reopened to the public on Wednesday, after being closed since mid-February for the construction of three new stations along the route, while environment, town planning and public works minister George Souflias inaugurated the first of the three new stations at the Mint (Nomismatokopeio Station).

    Souflias said that the Nomismatokopeio station will serve an estimated 30,000 commuters daily, while the facilities also include a three-storey underground parking space with a capacity of 630 parking spots.

    He noted that the distance from the Mint to the center of Athens (Syntagma Square station) will require just 10 minutes by Metro, whereas the distance takes at least 40 minutes by car during peak hours. This, he added, was the reason why the630-car parking facility and the Metro's biggest transfer station was created on the surface area of the Nomismatokopeio station, noting that the transfer station would open to commuters in two weeks' time, at the same time as one storey of the parking facility, while the other two storeys of the underground parking facility would open to the public by the end of September.

    As for the other two new stations on the route, Souflias announced that the Holargos Station would open to commuters in December, while the Aghia Paraskevi station would be in operation early next summer.

    As for the Metro extension to the western suburbs of Athens (Metro line 2, or 'red' line), Souflias said that the new stations of Peristeri, Anthoupolis and Haidari would be ready by the end of the year, while in the coming spring four more Attica prefecture suburbs in the east-- Ilioupolis, Alimos, Argyroupolis and Elliniko), will also have Metro stations (red line extension to the east).

    Further, a tender was currently underway for extension of the Metro route from Haidari (red line) to Piraeus, with stations in Aghia Varvara, Korydallos and Nikea, and three stations in Piraeus (Maniatika, Piraeus and Municipal Theater), Souflias said, adding that six consortiums of technical companies were taking part in the tender for the project, which is budgeted at 515 million euros.

    In addition, the minister continued, another tender would be issued soon for a U-shaped Metro line comprising 20 stations and spanning 20 kilometers underground, extending from Galatsi to Maroussi, via Athens University and Pangrati.

    Souflias stressed that the ministry's overall developmental plan for the Athens Metro network envisioned a total of 200 stations spanning a track network of 220 kilometers, which will be incorporated in the new Attica basin Regulatory Plan, aiming to serve all areas of the basin in the future.

    [22] Bomb targets bourse, second aimed at ministry in Thessaloniki

    A booby-trapped van exploded outside the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) at dawn Wednesday, causing extensive material damage, while another smaller explosion occurred outside the Macedonia-Thrace ministry in Thessaloniki, both following anonymous telephone calls to media outlets.

    A woman was lightly injured in the hand by a glass shard at a distance from the explosion, which caused damage to surrounding buildings as well.

    Police had cordoned off the area surrounding the new ASE building, on the corners of Chrimatistiriou (Stock Market) street and Athinon Boulevard, after a 5:05 a.m. anonymous call to the Athens daily "Eleftherotypia", warning that explosives had been planted in a van parked outside the ASE building and would explode in 40 minutes.

    The home-made bomb, which exploded at 5:35 a.m., was planted in a white van parked outside the ASE building off Athinon Boulevard in Athens.

    Police told ANA-MPA that the van had been stolen on Monday from the Zographou district in east Athens. Teams from the counter-terrorism squad and the crime squad were combing the surrounds.

    The ASE board and president Spyros Kapralos announced later that trading on the Athens Stock Exchange will be conducted as usual.

    Meanwhile, another explosion occurred almost simultaneously in Thessaloniki outside the Macedonia-Thrace ministry, again following an anonymous call to a private television station and police in Athens.

    The unidentified caller warned that an explosion would take place in about 10 minutes at the ministry.

    Gov't spokesman

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday sharply condemned the early morning bomb attacks.

    "Every democratically minded citizen and Greek society as a whole, express their abhorrence over the exercise of all forms of violence," Antonaros said.

    The condemnation of such actions and all those behind them must be explicit, universal and straightforward," the spokesman said, adding that the crime enforcement authorities are doing everything necessary to investigate such cases in depth and to lead the perpetrators to justice.

    [23] Anti-tank rockets found buried in Thessaloniki

    Eight buried rockets were discovered in the mountains of Nea Vrasna in the northern Greek prefecture of Thessaloniki on Wednesday, by the Special Audits Service regional headquarters for Central Macedonia. The find was made after an intensive search based on a tip-off.

    The search was carried out in cooperation a Thessaloniki Coast Guard Special Missions team and the American-made 3.5-inch anti-tank rockets, carefully wrapped, were unearthed in an inaccessible stretch of forest in the Nea Vrasna area.

    The appropriate public prosecutor, the Anti-Terrorism Service and Greece's National Intelligence Service (EYP) have all been alerted to the find.

    [24] Light earthquake in Villia

    A light earthquake measuring 4.4 on the Richter scale was recorded just before noon on Wednesday at a distance of 40 kilometers west of Athens.

    According to the Athens National Observatory's Geodynamics Institute and the Thessaloniki Aristotle University's Geophysics Laboratory, the trembler was recorded at 11:17 a.m., with its epicentre in the area of Villia.

    [25] IKA to set up 100 swine flu surgeries

    The Social Insurance Foundation (IKA) on Wednesday announced that it will set up 100 surgeries throughout the country to treat cases of H1N1 novel influenza, in collaboration with the National Health Operations Centre. There are also plans for 180 vaccination centres to administer the vaccine against the virus when it arrives.

    Weather Forecast

    [26] Cloudy, showery on Thursday

    Cloudy weather with local showers and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 2-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 16C and 35C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with variable 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 20C to 34C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 20C to 31C.

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

    Speculation that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will call early elections and reactions within ruling New Democracy (ND) dominated the main front-page items in Athens' newspapers on Wednesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Eruption within ND. Everyone, ministers and MPs, except [Environment Minister George] Souflias express rage at the prospect of elections."

    APOGEVMATINI: "We need a new 'NO'. Open letter from 'Apogevmatini' to the prime minister".

    AVGHI: "Political turning point. With or without elections in October, political developments have taken their course".

    AVRIANI: "Karamanlis manifesto and bold initiatives to clear the political scene once and for all. PM to announce his decisions today".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Desperate efforts by ministers, MPs and party officials to get the idea of elections out of the prime minister's head because they believe it is a suicidal ideation".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "A date with the Oracle...Ministers and MPs playing...lotto with the elections".

    ESTIA: "ND suicide. It is inflicting political damage on itself".

    ETHNOS: "Drums of war beat in ND. Today or tomorrow it will opt for elections on 4th(?) October".

    KATHIMERINI: "Karamanlis on the verge of deciding to hold elections. Papandreou says 'no' to consensus".

    LOGOS: "The choice made today...government MPs object to early elections".

    NIKI: "Dilemma in the wreckage. Karamanlis unties the 'Gordian Knot'".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Political struggle needed for long-lasting measures for public health, the health system".

    TA NEA: "Karamanlis also hit by Siemens bombshell on the eve of elections".

    TO VIMA: "Ballot boxes and weeping. Half of ND crying and wailing. Karamanlis makes final decision for early elections".

    VRADYNI: "George's [PASOK leader George Papandreou] torpedo to markets and institutions. Papandreou's 'No' to consensus on the economy".

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