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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-11-09

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

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

Monday, 9 November 2009 Issue No: 3344

CONTENTS

  • [01] ND Congress extends vote to all members
  • [02] Droutsas at '5+2' format meeting on Transdnestr
  • [03] Papandreou at fall of Berlin Wall celebration
  • [04] Fall of Berlin Wall commemorated at Technopolis
  • [05] U.S. official sees window of opportunity for Cyprus issue
  • [06] Newspaper interview with Turkish minister of state
  • [07] U.S. vice-president hosts dinner for Ecumenical Patriarch
  • [08] KKE leader blasts government
  • [09] LAOS elects new Central Committee general secretary
  • [10] Turkish radar harasses FRONTEX plane
  • [11] The economy a top priority for the government
  • [12] Dock workers extend strike by 48 hours
  • [13] Foreign Exchange rates - Monday
  • [14] Kenyan athletes dominate 27th Classic Marathon
  • [15] Papoulias at ceremony for 27th Classic Marathon
  • [16] Air Force celebrates patron saint
  • [17] Justice minister visits Thessaloniki courts, prison
  • [18] Acid-attack trade unionist given home as compensation
  • [19] Police crack 2008 murder case
  • [20] Police searching hit-and-run driver in Thessaloniki
  • [21] Arms cache seized on Crete
  • [22] Hotel owner charged over CO poisoning deaths
  • [23] 'Time-bomb' truck laden with flammables caught on ferry
  • [24] One man dead, another missing, in flooding
  • [25] Greek Super League results
  • [26] Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glance Politics

  • [01] ND Congress extends vote to all members

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) concluded its two-day extraordinary Congress on Sunday leading up to the election of a new party president on November 29 by a broadened electorate, following Saturday's vote for changes to the ND Charter to enable the party's registered members to vote for the new leader.

    Extraordinary Congress on Saturday voted in favour of changes to the party's charter so that ordinary party members throughout the country will be able to vote in the election of the new ND president on November 29.

    The proposal put to the Congress by the organising committee was passed by a large majority of the delegates attending, with the backing of all three candidates in the leadership race: former foreign minister and past Athens mayor Dora Bakoyannis, former culture minister Antonis Samaras and current Thessaloniki prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis.

    Following the changes, the new leader of the party will no longer be elected by its MPs and a small number of representatives of local party organisations, but by everyone who is either a registered member of ND or registers as a member up until the day of the vote. The Congress did not adopt calls to open the election process even further by including 'friends', namely those that did not want to be registered members.

    The Congress, held at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Faliro, continued on Sunday with further speeches by the delegates, following addresses delivered earlier on Saturday by each of the three candidates that remain in the race for the leadership and outgoing president Costas Karamanlis.

    Predominating in the messages to the Congress was the call for unity, so that the party would emerge strengthened from the election, regardless of its outcome.

    The Congress was also addressed early on by ND Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis, who stressed the need to mobilise the party grass roots to participate in the election if the proposed changes were approved. "The larger the number of those that come to vote, the greater the party's strength will be," he underlined.

    Appeals for unity dominated the opening speeches to the delegates, including that by outgoing president and former premier Costas Karamanlis, and emphasised the importance of the decisions that had to be made.

    The Congress will not elect a new leader directly, but was convened to vote for a change to the party's charter so that the new leader can be elected by the entire party membership and not just a small body of electoral representatives. The proposed changes were decided on by a unanimous vote of ND's Central Committee based on the recommendations of the organising committee for the Congress.

    Costas Karamanlis

    Addressing the gathering, Karamanlis noted that this would be his last speech as party president after 13 years at the helm of ND and appealed to all sides to keep the discussion on a political level and "avoid personal bickering".

    "The new president will have the backing and support of all, will be the president of all and the next prime minister of the country," he underlined.

    He stressed that the Congress would launch the process for electing a leader by the party's grass roots - the membership and those that wished to become members up until the day of the election - and that this development was an overture to society, participation, solidarity and a new prospect.

    "This development is a major conquest for democracy, it boosts two-way communication and builds a new collective force and a collective momentum. Success is the obligation of all," he stressed.

    Even more important, however, were fundamental issues concerning the party's behaviour, political arguments, unity and cooperation in acheiving the common goals, Karamanlis underlined.

    There followed addresses by the candidates for the party's leadership, starting with that of former foreign minister and one-time Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis, followed by Antonis Samaras, Panagiotis Psomiadis and former candidate Dimitris Avramopoulos, who has now backed out of the race.

    Dora Bakoyannis

    "We are too big a party to confine ourselves to small visions," former foreign minister and one-time Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis stressed in her speech to main opposition New Democracy's extraordinary Congress on Saturday, the first of the candidates for the party's leadership to address the delegates.

    "The presence of us all makes the heart of the party beat strongly to the rhythms of the new age that begins on the 29th of the month," she said, referring to the date for the election of the party's new president by the entire membership. "I stand before you fully conscious of the weight of this responsibility."

    Bakoyannis, who is favoured by opinion polls, expressed confidence that ND would "find its pace and move forward" after a punishing election defeat.

    Referring to ND's history and its founder Constantine Karamanlis, she said that he had made "a sense of duty" its defining political trait and attacked what she called "personal bitterness camouflaged as hyper-patriotism".

    "This clear stance against all populism and demagoguery will be the great political legacy of this party. It is this responsible policy that I pledge to follow," she stressed.

    Bakoyannis went on to refer to "extreme inequality that created problems in the foundations of a just society" and said that correcting this injustice was the basic motive for doing politics.

    "This must be the central element of our policy. Our ideology is social liberalism, which we must defend," she underlined.

    Bakoyannis defended the policies followed by ND as a government and said that the priority for the party would be to combat unemployment and that it must suggest strategies and policies to society.

    "There is a whole world waiting for ND to express them. PASOK was unready to handle the destiny of the country. Everything that we had said will soon be borne out. The day when PASOK will pay for its populism is coming. It is our duty to be ready. We must not lose even one day. From November 30 we roll up our sleeves," she underlined.

    Bakoyannis went on to present proposals for radical changes to the structure and operation of ND, including a fixed term for the president with their election every four years, and emphasised that the first priority was that the party remain united, promising to remain on the front lines whether she was elected leader or not.

    Antonis Samaras

    Addressing the extraordinary Congress on Saturday, leadership candidate Antonis Samaras staunchly defended neoliberal ideas and said that ND had to stand up for its beliefs and clearly differentiate itself from PASOK, not shift leftward in order to chase after swing voters.

    "Great parties win by convincing society, not tricking marginal voters. There is already one PASOK and it is enough. We don't need a second one," he underlined.

    Samaras also stressed that he had not come to talk about himself or "the mistakes of the past" but about "tangible hope and specific prospects".

    Urging the party "not to hide its ideas," he criticised the previous leadership and said that the election defeat "was not an accident".

    "We are sometimes afraid to defend our ideas. The role of the middle class, the love of country. Everywhere, before the crisis began, all the talk was of competitiveness versus a statist logic. It is impossible for neoliberal ideas to be winning over societies and socialists to be in decline while we in Greece suffer the repercussions of a heavy defeat. The defeat can soon be converted into a mere parenthesis," he stressed.

    He dismissed ruling PASOK's calls for green development as "socialist waffle that is neither green, nor development" and promised "competitiveness everywhere", a "diffusion of growth" and "opportunities for all".

    According to Samaras, ND's task was not just to find the new potential prime minister but the person that would lead Greece to a new change of state.

    "Only someone that can win the battle of ideas can win the battle of politics. The state needs fundamental changes," he said, stressing that he wanted a "state that can set the rules".

    Referring to the election of ND's leader by the grass-roots, he said this change had been imposed by the grass roots and he asked for a Congress "of positions and principles" by March in order to "reorganise ourselves and give voice to our grass-roots" and raising the bar for personal ethics to avoid a repetition of behaviour that hurt the party and "concern very few".

    Ending his speech, he urged delegates to "consider who can express the traditional values, bring back the core of supporters that we lost, who can say 'no' to an Annan plan, as Karamanlis did."

    A young foreign minister in the 1990-1993 government of Constantine Mitsotakis, the father of his rival for ND's leadership Dora Bakoyannis, Samaras was dismissed by Mitsotakis over his hardline stance on the name issue with the then nascent Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). He resigned as an MP and finally triggered the fall of that government by undermining its marginal majority in Parliament when he left ND to form his own Political Spring party, which managed to elect MPs to Parliament only in the 1993 elections and had not participated in any elections this decade. He was brought back to ND recently and appointed culture minister by Costas Karamanlis.

    Panagiotis Psomiadis

    The third candidate in the race for New Democracy's new leader, Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis, also addressed the party's extraordinary Congress on Saturday and levelled harsh criticism against the people that had surrounded outgoing president Costas Karamanlis while he was prime minister.

    "We came here to criticise, because if we sweep things under the carpet then some people will be making fun of us and we are through," he underlined, striking out at the 'princes of ND' and denied that his candidacy was a "ruse" designed to benefit one of the other candidates.

    "I entered this race to represent the simple ND supporter, the simple people of ND. I heard that I was always laughable, that I always used working-class language, straight-shooting and with a Thessaloniki dialect. I speak without rounded edges, I was not the laughable one. Some other people were laughable, incapable and tragic and brought us to this pass," he said.

    Psomiadis referred to arrogant attitudes, behaviour and bad communications policy that had cut off contact between ND and its supporters, bringing about a heavy defeat in the elections.

    "There is no room today for executives and appointees, who were honoured by Karamanlis and who betrayed the party's trust," he added, making it clear that he was speaking about many people sitting in the front benches of the Congress.

    Psomiadis said he was in favour of a more open procedure for electing ND's new leader:

    "Even those that voted against us should vote in the election of the leader. If we do not express society, then society will turn its back on us," he stressed, adding that there were "many rotten fruits" within ND that had to be thrown out.

    He said it was time for Greece "to talk once again about homeland, family, religion and young people" and was adamant that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) should not be allowed the name 'Macedonia'.

    [02] Droutsas at '5+2' format meeting on Transdnestr

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA - D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas took part in an unofficial "5+2" framework meeting to discuss a resumption of Transdnestr talks held at the offices of the Greek Permanent Representation to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Greece is currently the chair of the OSCE and the meeting held late on Friday was arranged by Droutsas in a bid to relaunch efforts at a settlement.

    The meeting essentially wrapped up a round of contacts during his visit to Vienna, both for the Greek OSCE chair and on a bilateral level, as well as events commemorating the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

    The minister's last stop before departing from Austria's capital was at the Greek Embassy, where Greek Ambassador to Vienna Panagiotis Zografos presented the embassy staff.

    [03] Papandreou at fall of Berlin Wall celebration

    Prime Minister George Papandreou is to leave for Germany on Monday in order to attend events commemorating the 20th anniversary since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    The prime minister is scheduled to fly to Berlin at 12:30, in time for the start of celebrations marking the fall of the Berlin Wall late on Monday afternoon. These will culminate with speeches at the Brandenburg Gate by Germany's Federal President Horst Koehler, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    The celebrations will end on Monday night with a dinner for the visiting heads of state and government hosted by Chancellor Merkel.

    [04] Fall of Berlin Wall commemorated at Technopolis

    The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was celebrated in an event at the Technopolis in Athens on Sunday, with a re-enactment by schoolchildren.

    Addressing the event, alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas stressed that the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall brings to mind the fact that "there is another country, which has such a wall dividing it", referring to EU member Cyprus.

    "In the EU, there is no room for walls, or occupation troops, which still exist in Cyprus," he said at the event, which was organised at the City of Athens' Technopolis cultural center under the aegis of the German Embassy in Athens.

    "The fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago paved the way for the reunification of Germany, and not only," Droutsas said, adding: "At the same time it paved the way of other countries, which were isolated at the time, to Europe. That Wall became the symbol of freedom for all of humanity".

    The event culminated with a symbolic re-enaction of the demolition of the "Wall" by pupils of the German School and the Greek-German School.

    Written on the 'wall' was a phrase by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias that "history is full of strong walls that fell by the hands of weak people, who stood tall".

    German Ambassador to Greece Wolfgang Schultheiss addressed a greeting to the event, while documentaries on life in former East Germany and period films were shown.

    An exhibition of period photographs and of drawings by pupils was also displayed.

    [05] U.S. official sees window of opportunity for Cyprus issue

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA - A. Ellis)

    The present period offers a significant window of opportunity for a solution to the Cyprus problem, U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon said at foreign correspondents' association here on Friday.

    Gordon noted that the leadership of the two communities on the island was currently made up of people that had known each other for a long time and that, unlike in similar situations in the past, sincerely desired a solution.

    He repeated Washington's support for a bizonal, bi-communal federation and expressed hope that the two sides would make progress and were ready to contribute to a solution in any way that they could.

    Regarding Turkey's prospects of joining the European Union, Gordon pointed out that the U.S. was not an EU member-state and had no say in this decision, while stressing that Washington has long supported Turkey's European aspirations and considered the accession process to be a healthy and constructive one for Turkey.

    In view of this, he added, the U.S. encouraged European countries to continue the accession process, noting that good EU-Turkey ties would be beneficial for both sides and that all Europeans should desire a strong, prosperous and democratic Turkey as part of the EU.

    Referring to the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the U.S. official said that an agreement was possible and that this must be in the interests of both sides and repeated Washington's support for the UN mediation process in this dispute, as one that would contribute to greater stability in the Balkans and better relations between the two countries.

    [06] Newspaper interview with Turkish minister of state

    Turkish minister of state and chief negotiator with the EU Egemen Bagis, who recently visited Athens, appeared optimistic for progress in Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue in an interview appearing in the Sunday edition of the Greek newspaper Kathimerini.

    Bagis spoke of a "window of opportunity" in the Athens and Ankara leaderships for a resolution of the Greek-Turkish differences, adding that Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed to his Greek counterpart George Papandreou the setting up of a high level contact group, headed by the two prime ministers.

    "Two brave leaders are needed to solve the problems, and I believe that now is the appropriate opportunity," he said.

    On the Cyprus issue, Bagis "sees" progress by December, when the EU will review progress in Turkey's fulfillment of EU requirements in its membership candidacy bid, but ruled out any move by Ankara if its demand for "lifting of the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots" is not satisfied.

    "If the problem is not solved by April, when Mr. Talat's (Turkish Cypriot leader) term ends, things will become much more difficult because we do not know if the new leader will be equally determined to solve the problem," he said.

    Bagis avoided directly commenting on the frequent harassment of Greek and European aircraft by Turkish military planes, but said that "a hot incident is not something we desire". He added that "the more frequently we engage in dialogue and exchange high-level visits, the more the possibilities of something so unpleasant occurring diminish".

    [07] U.S. vice-president hosts dinner for Ecumenical Patriarch

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA - A. Ellis)

    U.S. Vice-president Joe Biden gave an official dinner for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the vice-presidential mansion here late on Friday, during which he expressed support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and his respect for the Patriarch himself.

    "We are with you and support the Ecumenical Patriarch as a leader of global standing," Biden stated in a speech at the dinner, praising Bartholomew's unflagging courage in the face of difficulties.

    "It is easy to be brave from a safe distance," the Vice President said to Bartholomew: "You have always been brave and never from a safe distance. You have stared down those who seek to erode the authority of the Church tirelessly, professing the Greek Orthodox way for millions of followers."

    Biden also voiced strong praise for the Patriarch's work on environmental awareness and his important contribution to greater understanding and tolerance between different faiths.

    During the dinner, the U.S. vice-president and Patriarch Bartholomew discussed at length the problems currently faced by the Patriarchate in Fanar and the need to re-open the Halki School of Theology in order to train Orthodox clergy.

    [08] KKE leader blasts government

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga launched a scathing attack on the PASOK government, in a lengthy article appearing in a Sunday newspaper.

    In the article, in the Sunday edition of Rizospastis daily, Papariga also pinpointed problems in the function of her party and called for a "new reading and more in-depth study" of the Political Decision of the KKE's 18th Congress that sets out "what must be done, and how".

    Papariga charged that the target of literally breaking the labor and popular movement, through the "stick and carrot" approach, was on the front line of PASOK's intentions, by alternating between buyout and manipulation, between trading in fear and trading in hope.

    She said that PASOK has the ability to create impressions and create selective alliances at social level in order to gain time to immobilise the labour, popular and youth movements so as to pass its measures with the least possible resistance, if not zero resistance, by putting forward a mixture of trade in hope and fear.

    [09] LAOS elects new Central Committee general secretary

    The Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party's Central Committee on Saturday elected Adonis Georgiadis as its new general secretary, during its 9th session.

    [10] Turkish radar harasses FRONTEX plane

    The Greek Armed Forces General Staff on Sunday announced that Turkish radar operators had once again harassed an aircraft patrolling the Aegean in search of illegal immigrants on behalf of FRONTEX, the European agency in charge of coordinating security along the EU's external borders.

    The incident involved an Estonian aircraft flying north of the island of Farmakonissi within Greek airspace, at a height of 2,000 feet.

    At 7:56 in the morning, Turkish radar operators paged the Estonian plane, claimed that it was flying in Turkish airspace and ordered it to leave, warning that a tactical operation would otherwise be carried out.

    The aircraft did not deviate from its course, however. It had taken off from the Greek island of Kos at 4:50 in the morning and landed at 8:19 in the morning.

    Financial News

    [11] The economy a top priority for the government

    The economy is a top priority for the PASOK government, given its difficult condition amidst the global financial crisis. Economy minister George Papaconstantinou and economy minister Louka Katseli spoke about various aspects of the economy and the government's efforts and policy in interviews appearing in Sunday newspapers, just days after the crucial state budget for 2010 was unveiled to a Cabinet meeting chaired by prime minister George Papandreou, who said the new budget lays the foundations for the country's economic recovery.

    At the same time, government spokesman George Petalotis warned that Greece's economy was on the brink of bankruptcy, but added that the government would nevertheless fulfill its commitments, speaking at a gathering on Saturday night in Komotini.

    "The state of the Greek economy is on the verge of bankruptcy, much worse that what we had expected, but our commitments will be turned into action," Petalotis said during his address on the theme "Shielding the prosperity of the Greek citizen", and several times reiterated the government's optimism for the country's economic recovery.

    "We are optimistic, better days are coming," he said characteristically.

    On the government's economic policy, Petalotis noted that all the measures being introduced will benefit the Greek people through the targeted redistribution of the income.

    As for the steps taken during PASOK's first days in office, the spokesman said that everything that has been done so far to change the country's economic situation was not enough, but was the first indication of the new government's policy.

    He also referred to the draft laws being drawn up by the government, and set out the framework of its efforts aimed at reinforcing and boosting the market through protection of the small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) and reinforcement of the working people, adding that the time has come for those who have profited greatly to contribute as well.

    In an interview appearing in the Sunday edition of Ethnos newspaper, economy minister George Papaconstantinou outlined the government's targets for the recovery and tidying up of the economy, calling it a "marathon that has just begun".

    He also said he was optimistic that the EU would give Greece an adequate extension of time to reduce the state deficit, given that the updated Stability and Growth Plan that will be submitted to the European Commission "will record, with specific timetables, the plan and the interim targets for the course of the country's finances".

    On taxation, he spoke of a modern system of cross-checking and pinpointing all taxable elements, stressing the need for expansion and more efficient implementation of the "source of wealth" procedures through a uniform income tax statement being examined by the ministry.

    He said a uniform "source of wealth" procedure was being advanced for everyone, aimed at creating a new system of income tax statements that will record, to the greatest possible degree, both the incomes and property assets of the citizens.

    On the new tax scale, Papaconstantinou said it will be uniform for incomes from work and stock dividends, and progressive so that the taxpayers will contribute proportionally with their ability, while it will also be cost of living indexed in order to protect the incomes from inflation. He stressed that the highest tax coefficient will not be raised, while there will also be tax relief for the lower incomes.

    With respect to taxation on real estate property, the minister noted that the following year, with the new system that will replace the Uniform Tax on Property (ETAK), the bigger burden will be on large properties, while a regulation will also be included on the real estate holdings of offshore companies. He also said there will be a tax-free ceiling, stressing that the small and medium size property holdings will not be burdened.

    As for Church property, Papaconstantinou clarified that the properties that are being commercially exploited will be taxed.

    Concerning the major problem of confronting tax evasion, the minister said the current SDOE financial crimes squad will be reorganised and improved, through objectivisation of the audits system with modern electronic cross-checking systems and the introduction of incentives for adherence to tax legislation. As for the smaller, but very many, instances of deliberate or unwitting tax evasion, he said a point system was being advanced "that will give a second chance for conforming, without the imposition of substantial sanctions initially.

    Further, the only indirect taxes that will be increased will be those on cigarettes and alcohol "so that important policies for the citizens, such as increased medical staff at the state hospitals, can be financed".

    Economy, competitiveness and shipping minister Louka Katseli, in an interview appearing in the Sunday edition of Eleftherotypia newspaper, referring to a campaign pledge by the government that extraordinary contributions would not be imposed, explained that the financing of the support for the incomes of 2.5 million Greek citizens hard hit by the crisis, through the imposition of an extraordinary contribution on the country's 300 biggest enterprises and banks, was not only a just measure of redistributing the income, but had also been announced in parliament when PASOK, as the main opposition party before the elections, had tabled a relevant draft law.

    On the ongoing rolling strikes by dockworkers at the port of Piraeus in protest of the concession of the port's container terminal to the Chinese port management giant Cosco (by the preceding New Democracy government), Katseli stressed that cooperation with China was of strategic importance for Greece.

    She explained that the agreement with Cosco cannot be abolished, legally, while such a move would give a negative signal to the international markets with respect to the Greek government's and by extension the Greek state's, credibility.

    Katseli said that the employees need not worry about the future, since the workers' labor relations are "a given fact" in the contract with Cosco.

    She further said that a civil mobilisation of the strikers was not being examined, but stressed that "there are no margins for a new extension" to the deadline for Cosco's installation in the port.

    [12] Dock workers extend strike by 48 hours

    Dock workers at Piraeus port have voted to extend strike action by another 48 hours after a their meeting on Sunday. The new 48-hour strike begins after midnight on Sunday and ends at midnight on Tuesday.

    The strikers are also planning a protest rally outside the Piraeus court building on Monday, at the same time as the court is scheduled to hear petition filed by the Messinia Chamber of Commerce to have their strike declared illegal and abusive.

    [13] Foreign Exchange rates - Monday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.498

    Pound sterling 0.903

    Danish kroner 7.501

    Swedish kroner 10.470

    Japanese yen 135.84

    Swiss franc 1.523

    Norwegian kroner 8.501

    Canadian dollar 1.605

    Australian dollar 1.636

    General News

    [14] Kenyan athletes dominate 27th Classic Marathon

    The 27th Classic Marathon of Athens ended with another victory for Kenya in the men's race on Sunday, when Josephat Kipkurui crossed the finish line in 2:13:44 to win his country the gold for the 6th consecutive year and for the 9th time overall. The Kenyan team dominated all three top slots in the men's race and most of the top eight.

    In the women's race, Akemi Ozaki of Japan came first with a time of 2:39:56 and earned her country a second consecutive gold in the women's Athens marathon, and a 5th first place in the women's race overall.

    According to organisers, more than 3,600 athletes set off at the starting line on Sunday, in spite of the poor, wet conditions during the first half of the race that kept times relatively low.

    The first Greek athlete to cross the finish line was Dimitrios Theodorakakos with a time of 2:26:27 and the first Greek woman athlete to finish was Georgia Ampatzidou with a time of 2:44:23, who came fifth in the women's race overall.

    [15] Papoulias at ceremony for 27th Classic Marathon

    The ceremony for the start of the 27th Classic Marathon took pace at the Marathon Tomb on Saturday, attended by President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias. The race will take place in Athens on Sunday and follows the route attributed by legend to the ancient runner Pheidippides, when he ran from the battlefield to ancient Athens to bring the city news of victory over the Persians.

    The president watched the lighting of the flame and the start of a torch-relay that will end two hours later at the Marathon stadium, from where the runners set off on Sunday.

    Papoulias was later shown around the stadium by local mayor Spyridonas Zagaris and then inaugurated the Marathon Race museum, where there are 3,000 exhibits related to the race. The inauguration was also attended by Deputy Culture Minister Angela Gerekou and officials from international sports associations.

    [16] Air Force celebrates patron saint

    The Hellenic Air Force on Sunday celebrated the feast of its patron saint, the Archangel Michael, in airbases throughout the country.

    The main celebration, at the airforce base in Dekeleia, was attended by national defence minister Evangelos Venizelos.

    Addressing the event, Chief of the Air Force General Staff (GEA) Lt. Gen. Vassilios Klokozas assured the minister that the Air Force was prepared to do its duty wherever and whenever required.

    Venizelos, in turn, said that the Greek State and the entire Greek people on this day pay tribute to the guardians of the Greek skies.

    The Greek air force officers "are the true angels of the country's security, the security of the Aegean," he said.

    "This day is much more important than what one can imagine. It is not symbolic, but an essential encouragement of the men and women of our Air Force who wage daily a battle for the protection of the dignity and integrity of our country," Venizelos added.

    Attending the event were representatives of the political parties of Greece, the Armed Forces and Security Corps leaderships, local authorities and other officials.

    In the framework of the four-day celebrations, which conclude on Monday, Air Force planes flew over Greece's border islands, while a nationwide essay contest was organised for highschool seniors.

    Like every year, the Air Force is celebrating its patron saint by also opening up all air bases to the public up until Monday.

    [17] Justice minister visits Thessaloniki courts, prison

    Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Minister Haris Kastanidis on Saturday paid a visit to the Diavates Prison in northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. He met with inmates, who outlined the problems caused by poor prison conditions and afterward stressed the need for deep-cutting changes in Greece's correctional system.

    In statements after the visit, he said that measures will be announced in the next few days to relieve prison overcrowding, which will include the use of community work as an alternatve to imprisonment.

    "Changing the correctional system needs time. But there are things that can be done quickly, thus giving a first taste of humanisation to conditions of incarceration in all the prisons of the country. Alternatives sentences can help relieve crowding in correctional facilities," he said.

    The minister is scheduled to make a series of visits to prisons throughout Greece.

    He also announced that inmates throughout the country would be included in the high-risk groups for H1N1 novel influenza and receive vaccinations on a priority basis.

    The prison director Costas Kouvrakis stressed the need for measures to help overcrowding, pointing out that the cells in Diavates prison were originally designed to hold up to four inmates but now had as many as 10 per cell.

    Kastanidis next visited the Thessaloniki Courts and was briefed on issues concerning the administration of justice.

    [18] Acid-attack trade unionist given home as compensation

    Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos on Sunday presented the deed and the keys to a house in the Athens district of Petralona to former trade unionist Konstantina Kuneva, as compensation for an acid attack almost a year earlier that left her seriously disabled and disfigured.

    The ministry said it was treating the attack on Kuneva, a Bulgarian national who had been an official in an Attica-region cleaners' union, as a labour accident. The keys were accepted by her mother Eleni Kuneva, because the victim is still recuperating in hospital.

    Kuneva was viciously attacked while returning to her home in Petralona at midnight on December 22, 2008 by unknown assailants that flung concentrated sulphuric acid at her face and torso. Her attackers have not been identified and are believed to be still at large.

    The minister clarified that the government was also bringing special legislation to Parliament regarding the award of the property to Kuneva, so that there would be no irregularities or problems that would prevent her claiming other kinds of benefits to which she was entitled.

    [19] Police crack 2008 murder case

    Police on Saturday announced that they had cracked the murder of a 72-year-Greek in Thessaloniki a year earlier after finding the victim's mobile phone in the possession of a 37-year-old foreign man that had been using it since the day of his death.

    The man was arrested on October 13 and has been remanded in custody at the Diavates Prison. A search of his house also revealed a quantity of drugs. The suspect asserts that he bought the phone from a 43-year-old man but authorities have charged him with robbery and murder.

    [20] Police searching hit-and-run driver in Thessaloniki

    Thessaloniki police on Saturday said they were looking for a hit-and-run driver that knocked down and fatally injured a 75-year-old pedestrian in the city's Stavroupolis district and then fled the site of the accident.

    They said the accident occurred on 20 Ethnikis Antistaseos Street in Stavroupolis at 18:45 and involved a silver Nissan Almera with damage to the right front part of the body. They have no information on the number plate.

    Police are appealing to anyone having any information on how the accident occurred or about the identity of either the vehicle or driver to contact the Thessaloniki traffic police at the numbers 2310 566200 or 2310 566210 throughout the day.

    [21] Arms cache seized on Crete

    Heavy weaponry was found and seized by Greek Police (ELAS) officers late Saturday in a farm house in Geropotamos, Rethymno prefecture on the island of Crete, and two men were arrested.

    Following an assessment of information collected, Rethymno security police raided the farm house and its storage facilities, where the found and seized arms, ammunition and military material, including World War II sirens, two Kalashnikovs, automatic weapons, an M1 rifle, several revolvers, a hand grenade 61 detonators, 1,300 bullets and other ammunition.

    Police also arrested two men, aged 24 and 21, for possession of the weaponry, which will be sent to a crime lab in Athens for further investigation.

    [22] Hotel owner charged over CO poisoning deaths

    A public prosecutor on Saturday charged the 34-year-old owner of the Hotel Nepheli in Thessaloniki's Panorama district with two counts manslaughter through negligence and causing bodily harm through negligence after two guests died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the hotel. The charges are being prosecuted as misdemeanours.

    The hotel owner was released after he was charged.

    The manslaughter charges relate to the deaths of two young men aged 27 and 28 years old, one of them a father of one, who were found dead in different rooms within the hotel over a period of 24 hours and proved to have died of inhaling carbon monoxide fumes in their sleep. The second charge relates to a third guest staying in the hotel that felt unwell and lost consciousness.

    The prosecutor said that the evidence file submitted to the public prosecutor was judged incomplete and returned to the Panorama police station, which was asked to include the coroner's report on the two deaths and the experts' report on the hotel's central heating system.

    The hotel owner has claimed that the technicians installing a new gas-fuelled central heating system in the hotel four years earlier had failed to inform him that he needed to carry out yearly maintenance and that he had two maintenance technicians on his staff.

    The Central Macedonia Tourism Directorate is expected to issue a decision temporarily closing down the hotel within the next 24 hours.

    [23] 'Time-bomb' truck laden with flammables caught on ferry

    A truck driver was arrested and charged on Saturday after he illegally drove his truck onto an ordinary passenger ferry with 1,500 people on board and travelled from Piraeus to Iraklio on Crete while loaded with thousands of small gas canisters and other highly flammable material.

    The truck was intercepted by the Iraklio coast guard and found to be loaded with 6,500 small gas canisters, 500 litres of kerosene and 30 three-litre canisters of liquid gas. The truck was confiscated.

    [24] One man dead, another missing, in flooding

    One man died and another was reported missing after their cars were swept away by torrents on Sunday in heavy rainfall in two different parts of Greece.

    The body of the 46-year-old driver of a car swept away by flood waters was recovered between the villages of Trikokia and Karpero outside Deskati in Grevena prefecture, northeastern Greece.

    A 42-year-old man was reported missing in Aridea, Pella prefecture, northern Greece, after the car driven by his 35-year-old wife was swept away while crossing the Belitsa river. The wife and the couple's 17-year-old daughter, who was also in the car, managed to safely reach shore.

    Soccer

    [25] Greek Super League results

    Panathinaikos Athens climbed up to first place in the Greek Super League standings, following its 0-2 victory over Levadiakos Livadia on Sunday, while Olympiacos drew 1-1 against Iraklis Thessaloniki at home on Saturday.

    Other results after ten weeks of play:

    Aris Thessaloniki - Kavala 0-0

    Panthrakikos Komotini - PAOK Thessaloniki 1-2

    Atromitos Athens - Ergotelis Crete 0-0

    Xanthi - Panionios Athens 1-2

    Asteras Tripoli - PAS Yiannina 3-0

    AEK Athens - Larissa 9-11-2009

    Standings

    Panathinaikos 28

    Olympiacos 26

    PAOK 18

    Kavala 15

    Aris 15

    Ergotelis 14

    Panionios 14

    Asteras 14

    AEK 12 (9 matches played)

    Iraklis 11

    Larissa 10 (9 matches played)

    Xanthi 10

    PAS Yiannina 10

    Atromitos 9

    Levadiakos 8

    Panthrakikos 1

    [26] Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glance

    The ongoing main opposition New Democracy (ND) Extraordinary Congress, the economy and taxation measures dominated the front pages of Sunday's newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Bomb for the pensions of 700,000 professionals - 1.2 billion euros deficit in 2010 threatens their social security fund (OAEE) with collapse".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Everything changing on forest expanses - 95 million stremma to be put under the environment ministry's microscope" for the charting of forest maps.

    AVGHI: "The social security funds ready to snap under the weight of 650,000 unemployed and uninsured employment".

    AVRIANI: "11,000 civil servants remain 'missing' - They have been detached to political parties, ministers, MPs and non-existent committees".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The new dictionary of taxes - 2010 budget: All the changes in taxation, who will pay more, and who will be eligible for tax reliefs".

    ETHNOS: "Source of wealth statements for everyone, with new system of income tax statements - Interview with finance minister George Papaconstantinou".

    KATHIMERINI: "The European Commission not convinced by Athens - It is dubious on the new budget".

    LOGOS: "Government battle on three fronts: social security, taxation, unemployment".

    NIKI: "Everything changing in social security system - 2010 a year or rapid developments".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Counter-attack and alliance against the monopolies, PASOK and ND - Call on laborers, poor farmers, self-employed".

    TO VIMA: "End to privileges - Proof of living standard and source of wealth statements for everyone - Who will pay the additional 4.5 billion euros in taxes".

    VRADYNI: "How much tax you will pay - Real estate: the government's plan".

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