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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-10-23

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

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

Friday, 23 October 2009 Issue No: 3330

CONTENTS

  • [01] Alternate FM outlines foreign policy priorities, positions
  • [02] Deputy FM at BSEC ministerial meeting in Baku
  • [03] Deputy FM Kouvelis visits Azerbaijan
  • [04] Candidates for ND's leadership launch campaigns
  • [05] Political reaction follows attack on police unit in Exarchia, detentions
  • [06] Justice minister on use of hoods
  • [07] Alternate FM receives foreign envoys
  • [08] Alternate FM Droutsas holds talks with US official
  • [09] Alternate FM hosts luncheon for Arab envoys
  • [10] Alternate DM receives US official
  • [11] Deficit at 7.7% of GDP in '08
  • [12] Economy minister addresses Greek Institute summit
  • [13] International symposium on sustainable development and water
  • [14] Paying off hospital debts a priority, health minister
  • [15] Conference on refuse management
  • [16] Building cost index down 2.1% in Sept.
  • [17] Athens hotels' occupancy rates down in Jan-Sep
  • [18] MSC denounces contract with Piraeus port
  • [19] Stocks end 1.53% lower
  • [20] ADEX closing report
  • [21] Greek bond market closing report
  • [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [23] Lighting of the Olympic Flame: The journey begins
  • [24] Ecumenical Patriarch opens 8th Environmental Symposium
  • [25] China's director of the state forestry administration in Athens
  • [26] Major heroin bust in Athens
  • [27] Infant trafficking ring intercepted in Bulgaria
  • [28] Greek ambassador in Romania presents his new book
  • [29] Firemen injured
  • [30] Rainy on Friday
  • [31] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [32] President: Sides maintain their positions on properties chapter
  • [33] Italy and Cyprus FMs stress that Turkey should fulfill its EU obligations Politics

  • [01] Alternate FM outlines foreign policy priorities, positions

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Thursday outlined several key-points in the new government's foreign policy, touching on timely issues expected to dominate Athens' attention in the coming period, including EU-Turkey and Greek-Turkish relations.

    Regarding the former, he emphasised that "Turkey will be assessed in December strictly and objectively" at the upcoming December EU summit.

    Responding to a press question on whether there should be sanctions in case Turkey does not implement the Ankara Protocol, he responded that everything is possible. "Everything is on the table. We have said in the past that Greece's stance and position at the European Council meeting in December should not be and cannot be regarded as a given by anyone," he stressed.

    Asked about the worrying influx of illegal migrants entering Greece from EU hopeful Turkey, Droutsas stated that the issue constitutes an immediate concern for the Union itself and stressed that the foreign ministry will continue to work systematically within the framework of the EU without ruling out moves that can be made on a bilateral level.

    Droutsas reminded that the signing of the 2001 bilateral agreement with Turkey on the specific issue was the result of the policy followed in the period 1999-2004, when George Papandreou, the prime minister and foreign minister today, was then foreign minister as well.

    In terms of the closely watched climate change issue in view of the Copenhagen Summit, Droutsas referred to the pledge made by PM Papandreou that Greece's preparation and participation will be notable in coordination with the ministry of environment, energy and climate change.

    Referring to the leading role Greece can play in the SE Europe region, he pointed out that a "precondition for the opening of EU accession negotiations with fYRoM is a settlement of the name issue," and added that Athens has an "an open mind" and will examine all possible ways to make progress with Skopje, based on "the national red line that has been made clear."

    "The name should include a geographic qualifier for all uses," he underlined, echoing standing Greek policy and reminding that the issue of the opening of accession negotiations falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of all 27 EU member-states.

    Moreover, he referred to "extreme rhetoric" often expressed by fYRoM leadership up until now and expressed a hope that this tactic will be abandoned in order to achieve progress.

    Responding to a question on the likelihood of no agreement on the "name issue", Droutsas underlined that Greece's OSCE chairmanship entails obligations and at the same time options.

    Touching on Cyprus, he stated that it is always a priority, which became obvious by the fact that the first visit of the prime minister, a few hours after winning the Greek Parliament's vote of confidence, was to Nicosia. He said the Greek side was briefed on all developments by Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and all political party representatives and underlined that cooperation was close and effective on all levels.

    He said that the areas of this cooperation could include joint actions for the Mediterranean region which is expected to be immediately affected by the consequences of the climate change.

    Droutsas also underlined that there is no issue of flights from Greece to the occupied territories.

    Finally, he made a special reference to Economic Diplomacy in which a key-role is played by the International Development Cooperation Department - Hellenic Aid, underlining that the government wishes that this should not be simply just another term but focus on a plan and programme through the use of a new tool, referring to "green diplomacy".

    [02] Deputy FM at BSEC ministerial meeting in Baku

    BAKU (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)

    "Greece is playing, and will continue to play, an important role in economic cooperation and development in the Black Sea region, with which we have traditional bonds and with a significant place in the world's energy map," Greece's deputy foreign minister Spyros Kouvelis said on Thursday after a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organisation in Baku, during which Azerbaijan turned over the organisation's chairmanship to Bulgaria for the next seven months.

    Referring to Greece's assumption of the BSEC chairmanship after Bulgaria, in the second half of 2010, Kouvelis said that Greece intends to play the role of a dynamic green growth power outside its borders as well, noting that this was a commitment made by prime minister and foreign minister George Papandreou personally.

    Addressing the 21st Council of the BSEC foreign ministers, Kouvelis stressed the new Greek government's commitment to advance the enterprise nature of the Organisation, with the aim of advancing economic cooperation to the benefit of all the members and putting aside the political differences and consequences of the 2008 conflict between Georgia and Russia.

    Kouvelis conveyed the Greek government's pledge to advance the BSEC's two major projects: the organisation of the Black Sea Ring Highway, or 'Road of the Argonauts', circling the Black Sea, and the coordination of a network of links and cooperation among ports on the Black Sea, Caspian Sea and Mediterranean Sea.

    He noted that Memoranda of Understanding have been signed for both projects, and stressed that the environmental factor will be calculated into the equation.

    "I express our strong commitment for the materialization of the BSEC's two major projects, the Black Sea Ring Highway and the linking of its ports with the ports of SE Europe, as well as the need to proceed with additional initiatives for the green development of the region," Kouvelis said.

    As the representative of the BSEC's oldest EU member state (the other two are Bulgaria and Romania), Kouvelis stressed the need for the region's greater rapprochement with the EU so that the countries of the region may benefit from the advantages of such a cooperation in the framework of the EU-Black Sea Synergy process, and noted the prospects for thematic collaborations in key sectors such as transports, energy and the environment.

    For the purpose of actively advancing the enterprise element of the BSEC, he said, as of November 1 it will place the Hellenic Developmental Fund for the BSEC at the organisation's disposal, with funding of two million euros over a four-year period, as its first contribution for the manifestation of broader investment interest.

    For the same reason, it is encouraging the Thessaloniki-based Black Sea Trade and Development Bank to engage in discussions with international financial and credit organisations for the funding of the BSEC's major projects.

    [03] Deputy FM Kouvelis visits Azerbaijan

    BAKU (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)

    Azeri Energy and Industry Minister Natiq Aliyev confirmed Azerbaijan's clear political will to cooperate with Greece in the energy sector for the implementation of the ITGI natgas pipeline, as well as for the use of Greek know-how in renewable energy sources, during his meeting here on Thursday with Foreign Deputy FM Spyros Kouvelis.

    On the question of the ITGI pipeline, the Greek deputy foreign minister said after the meeting that "we underlined the need for its implementation and there is political will for it to go ahead. The issue between Azerbaijan and Turkey is pending on the transit of gas and we committed that we shall do all that we can to resolve it. There is the commitment at political level for us to proceed with this cooperation."

    He that in early 2010 a joint inter-ministerial committee will convene in Baku to probe sectors of bilateral cooperation.

    The strong and mutual political will for enlarged cooperation in new sectors with emphasis on tourism, culture and education was also confirmed in the meeting Kouvelis had with Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.

    [04] Candidates for ND's leadership launch campaigns

    The candidates for main opposition New Democracy party leadership launched their campaigns on Thursday. Former foreign minister and ND deputy Dora Bakoyannis and former Health Minister and ND deputy Dimitris Avramopoulos will be in Ancient Olympia on the occasion of the lighting of the Olympic Flame for the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Both candidates will also meet with local official. The third of the four candidates, Antonis Samaras, is due to tour Northern Greece over weekend.

    The fourth candidate is Thessaloniki prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis.

    The official deadline set by ND's Extraordinary Congress Organising Committee for the submission of 50 signatures by Congress delegates (electors) endorsing the candidacies expires at 8:00 p.m. Thursday.

    [05] Political reaction follows attack on police unit in Exarchia, detentions

    Several people, including two Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) cadres, were taken in for questioning by police late Wednesday night following a violent incident in the Exarchia district of central Athens.

    According to police, a group of approximately 30 hooded troublemakers appeared suddenly from a side street and attacked four officers patrolling on foot, throwing rocks, bricks and other objects. A nearby motorcycle police unit and riot police rushed to their colleagues' assistance and chased the attackers, who reached a cafe-bookshop where a book presentation was taking place.

    A few of the patrons at the presentation reacted, with police detaining at least three people at the event.

    Minister for Protection of the Citizen Michalis Chrysohoidis contacted writer Dimitris Papachristos as soon as he was informed of the incident, and ordered that all those taken in for questioning be released. He also ordered an investigation into the incident.

    In a reaction a day later, SYRIZA parliamentary head Alexis Tsipras tabled a questioned towards the minister, referring to an "unprovoked police intervention", while at the same time charging that following the elections a "permanent police state climate" is being cultivated in the specific neighbourhood -- often touted as Athens' "bohemian" and a magnet for "alternative" movements.

    [06] Justice minister on use of hoods

    Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Minister Haris Kastanidis proposed during Thursday's cabinet meeting the abolition of the legislative clause rendering the judicial handling of hooded people stricter, when they perpetrate the offences of violence in public gatherings, unprovoked bodily injury, robbery and distinguished cases of damage to property.

    Kastanidis said that the abolition of the hood as an incriminating case was an pre-election commitement made by PASOK.

    The relevant amendment on the abolition of the hood as an incriminating case will be tabled in Parliament immediately.

    [07] Alternate FM receives foreign envoys

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Thursday received the British ambassador to Greece David Landsman, with talks focusing on issues concerning climate change and bilateral relations.

    Droutsas also met with ambassador of the Netherlands, Kees van Rij; Luxembourg's Conrad Bruch and Belgium's Pierre Vaesen.

    Talks concerned bilateral and EU related issues.

    [08] Alternate FM Droutsas holds talks with US official

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas discussed the issue of piracy with US Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro on Thursday.

    The US official is in Athens to participate in an event of the Propeller Club Amver Reward on Thursday night and, on the occasion of his visit, he met with Alternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis and Droutsas.

    During his visit to the foreign ministry, he discussed bilateral cooperation on piracy issues, since Greece has two ships in the international effort on combatting piracy, one in the European and another one in the NATO missions, while it is also participating in the international Group on Combatting Piracy under the auspices of the UN.

    Droutsas also met with Beglitis to organise the coordination of the two ministries' actions at international organisations, as well as their cooperation on a wide spectrum of international issues.

    [09] Alternate FM hosts luncheon for Arab envoys

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas hosted a luncheon at the foreign ministry on Thursday in honor of ambassadors from Arab countries accredited to Greece.

    Droutsas expressed Athens' intent to play an active role in the Middle East, underlining the traditionally friendly relations shared by Greece and the Arab world. Meanwhile, the idea of a tour of the region's countries by the alternate FM was received positively by the foreign diplomats.

    The luncheon attended the ambassadors of Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Syria, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates and the charge d' affaires of the embassies of Egypt, Kuwait, Libya and Saudi Arabia.

    [10] Alternate DM receives US official

    Alternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis on Thursday received Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro at the ministry in Athens, for talks on issues concerning terrorism, combating piracy, the situation in Afghanistan, Greek-Turkish relations and illegal migration.

    The meeting lasted 45 minutes and was held in the presence of National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) chief Gen. Ioannis Yiagos and US ambassador to Athens Daniel Speckhard.

    No statements were made afterwards.

    Financial News

    [11] Deficit at 7.7% of GDP in '08

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)

    Greece's fiscal deficit was 7.7 pct of GDP and its public debt at 99.2 pct of GDP in 2008, Eurostat announced on Thursday, sharply up from 3.7 pct and 95.6 pct, respectively, in 2007.

    The EU executive's statistics agency, in its second estimates over fiscal data of the EU's 27 member-states, noted that "Eurostat expressed reservations over the data submitted by Greece because of significant uncertainties regarding the data compiled by Greek statistical authorities".

    Under Article 15 of Council regulation 479/2009, the term reservation refers to the case when Eurostat expresses doubts over the quality of submitted financial data.

    Eurostat also said the EU-27 member states' fiscal deficit jumped from 0.8 pct of GDP in 2007 to 2.3 pct in 2008, while Eurozone's deficit rose from 0.6 pct to 2.0 pct over the same period. Greece (7.7 pct), Ireland (7.2 pct), Romania (5.5 pct) and UK (5.0 pct) recorded the highest fiscal deficits.

    The EU 27 member-states' public debt also jumped from 58.7 pct in 2007 to 61.5 pct in 2008, while in the Eurozone from 66.0 pct to 69.3 pct over the same period. Italy (105.8 pct), Greece (99.2 pct), Belgium (89.8 pct), Hungary (72.9 pct), France (67.4 pct), Portugal (66.3 pct), Germany (65.9 pct), Malta (63.8 pct) and Austria (62.8 pct) recorded the biggest public debts.

    [12] Economy minister addresses Greek Institute summit

    "The clientele-focused conception, the only viable conception on the development of our economy, particularly in times of crisis, does not concern and must not concern the private sector only. It also concerns the functions of the public sector, the functions of public utilities. This is necessitated by the principles of modern partnership governance."

    This was stressed by Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli in an address at the 4th Summit of the Greek Clients Service Institute on Thursday.

    The minister explained that clientele-focused conception, something the ministry is also seeking to adopt, means "results should be assessed, the quality of services provided should be promoted, man, the citizen or the customer, must be placed, at the focal point of the activity of every agency and the staff potential must be invested and trained in the needs and the satisfaction of the outcome, in quality, thus creating added value for the entire spectrum of the service chain."

    She reiterated that the ministry is promoting actions such as supporting small and medium-size enterprises and boosting liquidity in the market.

    "The government has committed itself to promote measures for an exit from the crisis focusing on the citizen. This conception is also governed by the bill that we are processing already and that concerns the simplification of procedures for the establishment, licensing and operation of new businesses," she added.

    [13] International symposium on sustainable development and water

    The International Symposium on "Sustainable Development and Water: An international challenge for local action", is set to promote the need for regional or local action and cooperation to tackle the international challenge of the viable management of water.

    The event is being organised at the initiative of the Council of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) on Viable Development and is being held at the Athens Concert Hall on October 22-23.

    In parallel, Scientists and experts from Greece, Europe, Australia, the United States, the World Bank and the UN who are participating in the symposium will approach the thorny but vital issue of water finances and pricing.

    SEB President Dimitris Daskalopoulos, speaking at the opening of the symposium, said that "sustainable development and together the viable management of water resources is no longer a question of choice but a necessary precondition for a viable future."

    [14] Paying off hospital debts a priority, health minister

    Health and Social Solidarity Minister Mariliza Xenoyianna-kopoulou underlined on Thursday that paying off hospital debts, estimated at 6.2 billion euros, is a priority.

    Xenoyiannakopoulou said a settlement is being promoted and most of the debts will be cleared by the end of the year, adding that the hospital debts will be included in the state budget.

    She also pledged that at least 3,000 hospital nursing staff will be hired by next year.

    [15] Conference on refuse management

    Refuse Management-The Swedish Model was the issue probed by a conference organised by the Swedish Commercial Council and Invest in Greece, a company focusing on promoting, attracting and supporting direct foreign investments in Greece. The conference was held at a downtown Athens hotel and was under the auspices of the Swedish Embassy in.

    The aim of the conference was to brief representatives of Greek businesses and local administration agencies on solutions and technologies that are implemented successfully in Sweden and promote the investments opportunities of the Greek refuse management market, as well as to probe the possibilities of the Swedish companies invited participating in Greek refuse management projects.

    According to the European Union, by the end of 2011 Greece must achieve, among other things, the reacquisition of 60 percent of packaging refuse and the recycling of 55-80 percent of packages currently ending up in the garbage. Moreover, by 2010 biodegradable urban refuse must be decreased by 25 percent.

    [16] Building cost index down 2.1% in Sept.

    Greece's new building construction materials' price index fell 2.1 pct in September compared with the corresponding month last year, after an increase of 7.4 pct recorded in September 2008, the National Statistical Service said on Thursday.

    The statistics service, in a report, also said that the construction works' price index fell 1.0 pct in the third quarter of 2009, after an increase of 4.6 pct recorded in the corresponding period in 2008.

    [17] Athens hotels' occupancy rates down in Jan-Sep

    Çotels in the Attica prefecture (the greater Athens-Piraeus area) on Thursday reported significant decreases in their average room occupancy rates and revenues per available room in the January-September period, reflecting a decline in tourist arrivals in the Greek capital.

    A monthly report by GBR Consulting showed that average room occupancy rates fell by 13.62 pct, 9.26 pct and 9.25 pct for five-, four- and three-star hotels, respectively in the nine-month period, while prices fell by 9.71 pct, 10.0pct and 2.62 pct and losses in revenues per available room totaled 22.07 pct, 18.30 pct and 11.70 pct, respectively for these three hotel categories.

    The Association of Athens Hoteliers said the figures were fully in line with its forecasts for 2009 and stressed that the association is expecting the new government to act immediately towards resolving chronic problems in the sector.

    The Association again urged measures to boost security in Athens' centre and reiterated its opposition to government plans to raise a municipal tax on touristic and restaurant enterprises.

    [18] MSC denounces contract with Piraeus port

    Mediterranean Shipping Co. on Thursday denounced a contract with the Piraeus Port Organisation for the exclusive transport of containers at the S. Ikonio cargo terminal in the port of Piraeus.

    The move by the Italian-Swiss shipping company, based on a contract signed in 2002, caused concern both with the Piraeus Port authority and Chinese multinational Cosco, with the latter expecting revenue losses, since MSC's container volume totaled 400,000 containers in the period 2008-2009, bringing profits totaling 17.5 million euros to the port of Piraeus in the period 2007-2009.

    [19] Stocks end 1.53% lower

    Greek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with the composite index of the market losing 1.53 pct to end at 2,811.26 points. Turnover was a lower 217.5 million euros, of which 5.2 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved downwards, with the Banks (2.66 pct), Financial Services (1.41 pct), Constructions (1.21 pct) and Travel (1.14 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Chemicals (2.49 pct), Insurance (1.75 pct) and Personal/Home Products (0.56 pct) scored gains.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 2.01 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.03 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index rose 0.04 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 110 to 102 with another 49 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.75%

    Industrials: -0.51%

    Commercial: -0.92%

    Construction: -1.21%

    Media: +0.03%

    Oil & Gas: -0.78%

    Personal & Household: +0.56%

    Raw Materials: -0.50%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.14%

    Technology: -0.10%

    Telecoms: Unchanged

    Banks: -2.66%

    Food & Beverages: -0.17%

    Health: -0.01%

    Utilities: -0.25%

    Chemicals: +2.49%

    Financial Services: -1.41%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 13.70

    ATEbank: 2.01

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 14.85

    HBC Coca Cola: 18.25

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.55

    National Bank of Greece: 26.01

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 11.70

    Intralot: 4.80

    OPAP: 17.93

    OTE: 12.50

    Bank of Piraeus: 12.50

    Titan: 24.26

    [20] ADEX closing report

    The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.61 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover easing slightly to 74.589 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 7,643 contracts worth 57.217 million euros, with 25,861 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 13,974 contracts worth 17.372 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,630), followed by Eurobank (1,686), OTE (1,593), Piraeus Bank (786), Alpha Bank (1,649), Marfin Popular Bank (2,138) and ATEbank (401).

    [21] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market was 2.355 billion euros on Thursday, of which 1.303 billion euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.051 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.540 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was 131 basis points with the Greek bond yielding 4.61 pct and the German Bund 3.30 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.25 pct, the six-month rate 1.02 pct, the three-month rate 0.73 pct and the one-month rate 0.42 pct.

    [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.512

    Pound sterling 0.912

    Danish kroner 7.503

    Swedish kroner 10.406

    Japanese yen 138.0

    Swiss franc 1.522

    Norwegian kroner 8.393

    Canadian dollar 1.586

    Australian dollar 1.636

    General News

    [23] Lighting of the Olympic Flame: The journey begins

    The Olympic Flame began its long journey on Thursday to Vancouver, Canada, host city of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, after the Lighting of the Torch ceremony officiated by actress Maria Nafpliotou as the high priestess.

    The ceremony took place in ancient Olympia at the foot of Kronios Hill where, using a concave mirror to reflect the sun's rays, the Olympic Flame was successfully lit.

    The first torch bearer was Greece's Giant Slalom skier Vassilis Dimitriadis. The Olympic Flame will travel throughout Greece, winding up on October 29 at the ancient Panathenian Stadium in Athens where, in a ceremony, the Flame will be turned over to the Organisation Committee of the Winter Olympic Games "Vancouver 2010" for the next leg of the journey.

    [24] Ecumenical Patriarch opens 8th Environmental Symposium

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew inaugurated the 8th "Religion, Science and the Environment Symposium", which focuses on the Mississippi River, on Thursday in New Orleans.

    Bartholomew, who has been dubbed the "Green Patriarch" because of his environmental sensitivities and initiatives and interest in the intersection of faith and the environment, has been organising the Symposium since 1995, which focuses each time on a specific body of water and the problems faced by the surrounding communities and ecosystems. Previous Symposium themes have included the Aegean Sea, the Nile Delta, the Amazon, the Danube River and the Arctic Ocean.

    The 8th Symposium, titled "The Great Mississippi River: Restoring Balance" and taking place over the next five days on a steamboat sailing on the Mississippi River, brings together environmental scientists, theologians, environmentalists, business leaders, public officials and media representatives to discuss the problems and challenges facing both the River and the area, nearly three years after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

    The Ecumenical Patriarch had visited New Orleans in January 2006, just four months after the hurricane and ensuing massive flooding.

    In his opening address, the Ecumenical Patriarch described the 8th Symposium as "historical" and "special", noting that the Mississippi River was a "microcosm of our planet", in whose waters one can observe many of the global environmental problems, and stressed that "we are here to hear its story, and learn from its history".

    Messages from Pope Benedict and former US vice president and Nobel laureate Al Gore were also read out.

    "Our decisions, individual or collective, determine the future of the planet. We have extended our domination over nature to such a point that we touched the absolute boundaries of survival," Bartholomew said.

    "We have lost half of the great forests of the world due to the demand for wood, but also for their conversion into expanses for cultivation. The quantity of water in some of the biggest rivers of the world has been substantially reduced to human activity, with the result that they don't even reach the sea. But even the water that does flow into the sea now conveys chemicals and industrial waste, as well as the trash it collects along the way. Instead of living off the surplus of the natural resources, we are wasting the environmental capital and destroying the natural sources of the Earth as if there is no tomorrow. The dilemmas we face are problems created by human beings. We must keep in our thoughts the fact that we are all on the same fragile ship of life," he added.

    Archbishop Demetrios of America also delivered a greeting to the Symposium, referring to "the wounds caused to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina" and stressing that "many years will be needed to heal them".

    [25] China's director of the state forestry administration in Athens

    Agriculture Development and Foodstuffs Minister Katerina Batzeli on Thursday received China's director of the state forestry administration, Jia Zhibang, at the ministry in Athens, as talks revolved on issues of mutual interest.

    [26] Major heroin bust in Athens

    Police reportedly broke up a major drug trafficking ring bringing large quantities of heroin to Athens via Turkey.

    A total of nine foreign nationals were arrested following a police operation in the Kato Patissia and Nea Halkidona districts, which led to the confiscation of 135 kilos of heroin.

    According to police, six Syrian nationals aged between 24 and 41, a 22-year-old from Bangladesh, a 30-year-old from Sudan and a Romanian woman, 27, were arrested.

    Authorities were reportedly drawn to the lavish lifestyle of the suspects during undercover operations in various nightclubs. A raid of a basement production unit for ready-to-wear clothes allegedly used as a cover uncovered the heroin and a complete drug lab replete with all the necessary equipment used for drug adulteration and packaging.

    Another kilo of heroin, a handgun with a silencer, cartridges, forged passports and identity cards were found in the suspects' houses.

    The total value of the confiscated heroin after adulteration is estimated at more than million euros.

    [27] Infant trafficking ring intercepted in Bulgaria

    SOFIA (ANA-MPA/B. Borisov)

    An infant trafficking ring that sold babies from Bulgaria in Greece was dismantled by Bulgarian authorities in collaboration with Greek police.

    Bulgarian police arrested a local couple in the village of Sliven in eastern Bulgaria, who are believed to be involved in the sale of three infants in Greece.

    Sliven police spokesman Georgi Sheytanov said on Thursday that the infants were sold for 8,000 euros each, of which 5,000 euros went to the mother.

    Sheytanov did not specify what areas the three babies were sold in, but confirmed that the investigation was continuing in order to arrest "the big fish".

    The police operation was launched following information that the couple was involved in the smuggling -- with Greece as the destination -- of at least 10 women from the Roma communities in several areas of eastern and central Bulgaria,in the late stages of pregnancy.

    Bulgarian police believe the couple were the middle-men of the ring. "We are now seeking the accessories, who secured legal cover" for the ring's activities, the spokesman added.

    This is the second largest infant trafficking ring, with Greece as the destination, to be dismantled in recent years in eastern Bulgaria. In 2006, a Sliven police operation had resulted in the arrest of four people in a similar case.

    [28] Greek ambassador in Romania presents his new book

    The Ambassador of Greece to Romania George Poukamissas will present on Thursday in Bucharest his book "Dialogue with History", according to an announcement by 'Omonia publications'.

    The Greek envoy's book includes a collection of essays, most of them written in Bucharest, which refer to important historic moments from ancient to modern Greece, which he includes within a wider European, Mediterrenean and Balkan framework.

    [29] Firemen injured

    Three firemen were injured on Wednesday evening during an operation to contain a fire that broke out in a tanker truck carrying petrol after it overturned on the road from the central Greek city of Volos to Hania on Pelion mountain.

    Authorities are investigating the causes of the truck's overturn.

    Weather Forecast

    [30] Rainy on Friday

    Rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 9C and 27C. Cloudy in Athens, with southerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 14C to 25C. Cloudy and rainy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 12C to 22C.

    [31] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Government spokesman George Petalotis statement terminating the STAGE (EU subsidised work experience acquisition program) contracts in the public sector, the process for electing a new leader in main opposition New Democracy (ND) party and the substantial changes in the taxation system, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Government prepares harsh measures - End to the promises".

    APOGEVMATINI: "100,000 employees in the public sector and local governments losing their jobs - Government sinks into despair thousands of families".

    AVGHI: "As soon as possible! Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou announced in English the legalisation of non-state colleges".

    AVRIANI: "The Europeans and Americans are responsible for the country's huge deficits".

    CHORA: "The candidates for ND's leadership unsheathed their knives".

    ELEFTHEROS: "40,000 STAGE employees will be fired - The government spokesman announced that their contracts will not be renewed".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "In 10 days we will have a draft of the 2010 State Budget".

    ESTIA: "This is how the tax evasion will be intercepted - Restoration of the people's confidence in the state".

    ETHNOS: "Favoritism....hirings through the sieve - The pre-election political favors that increased the expenses are being reviewed".

    KATHIMERINI: "Changes in taxation will start in 2010 - Stage contracts will not be renewed in the public sector".

    LOGOS: "Election fever increases in ND".

    NIKI: "They should be ashamed! ND sank Greece, and her cadres are impudent".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Stable, permanent jobs in public and private sector - Preposterous manipulation through Stage programmes".

    TA NEA: "Thousands of contract employees in the public sector will be fired - Government imposes severe measures".

    TO VIMA: "The 2010 new taxes will be decided through dialogue".

    VRADYNI: "Tax storm on employees, pensioners and professionals".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [32] President: Sides maintain their positions on properties chapter

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has said that the Greek Cypriot side and the Turkish Cypriot side maintain their positions on matters of principle regarding the chapter of properties, which was discussed during Thursday's meeting in the framework of UN-led direct negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    In statements at the Presidential Palace after the conclusion of his meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, President Christofias said the only common position of both sides on the chapter of properties is that owners are recognised as such but the Greek Cypriot side gives priority to the owner, whereas the Turkish Cypriot side to the current user.

    President Christofias said that the two leaders authorized their aides to study "some criteria", adding that they will come back to the issue in ten days.

    During next week's meetings, they will discuss about governance.

    Asked whether Talat continues to believe that the Greek Cypriot refugees, who had to abandon their properties in the northern part of Cyprus after the Turkish invasion in 1974, are still the owners of those properties, President Christofias answered affirmatively.

    "Of course, this has been stated already and nobody questions that", he pointed out.

    The Cypriot President noted that "the only common position of the two sides on the issue of ownership is that owners are recognised as owners".

    But he went on to clarify that the difference is the way each side approaches this issue.

    "There are different views on how the sides approach ownership. We give priority to the owner whereas they give priority to the person who currently uses that property", he concluded.

    President Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008 with a view to solve the problem of Cyprus, divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.

    UN Special Adviser

    The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus maintained their positions on the property issue, said here Alexander Downer, Special Adviser of the UN Secretary General on Cyprus.

    Speaking after the two hour meeting, Downer said the leaders had a tete-a-tete session and then a plenary one during which they had a discussion on the question of property.

    "They began discussions on the question of property. They had a useful discussion and they have reserved their positions", Downer said.

    The Australian diplomat said the representatives of the two leaders, George Iacovou and Ozdil Nami will meet next Thursday and there will be further discussion at their level about the issue of property.

    The two leaders will meet again next Tuesday and will talk about the issue of the competences of the federal government and there will be further discussions about the external relations issue.

    [33] Italy and Cyprus FMs stress that Turkey should fulfill its EU obligations

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Italy considers that EU gates should remain open to Turkey, who has to fulfill all its obligations as referred to the Copenhagen criteria, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has said, speaking after a meeting with Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou in Rome.

    "There should not be double standards, but every EU candidate country should fulfill all its obligations", Frattini stressed.

    On his part, Kyprianou underlined that if Turkey will not conform and not meet its EU obligations until December, there should be consequences against Ankara by the EU.

    According to an official announcement, Italy Foreign Minister noted that Turkey's EU course must be discussed in a European spirit, as he said, "since there are different sensitivities towards Turkey within Europe". Frattini set as an example the different approach between his country and France on the issue of Turkey's accession to the EU.

    Frattini said that he will accompany Italian President Giorgio Napolitano during his visit to Turkey in November and he will have the opportunity to discuss the issue with the Turkish leadership.

    In addition, the Italian foreign minister said that Minister Kyprianou briefed him on the latest developments in the Cyprus problem and the ongoing direct negotiation process between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.

    Kyprianou stated that in the meeting with Frattini they discussed Turkey's EU course evaluation by the European Council in December.

    "Cyprus accepts Turkey to become an EU member state. However, we need a European Turkey and not just a Turkey in the EU. This means that Ankara should meet all the conditions and the obligations that the other candidate countries met."

    Kyprianou also stressed that if Turkey makes no progress until December, there should be consequences.

    Replying to a question, Kyprianou said that the last few years, the European Council recognizes that Turkey was not fulfilling its obligations, and called on to do it. The recent report of the European Commission clearly identifies all Turkey's obligations and recognizes that Turkey has not fulfilled them.

    "Turkey should suffer the consequences of its refusal", he stressed.

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