|Saturday, 23 June 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-11-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 20 November 2009 Issue No: 3354
 PM terms 'great success' the naming of EU's president and foreign policy chiefBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris) Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou termed on Thursday night as "Europe's great success in the framework of the Lisbon Treaty" the naming, by European Union leaders during a special summit, of Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy as the bloc's first president and of Briton Catherine Ashton as its foreign affairs chief.
Addressing reporters at the end of the summit meeting, Papandreou said Herman Van Rompuy "can express the European partners' cohesion and contribute to the unity of the EU. As regards Catherine Ashton, the Greek premier said she "is a progressive person with great experience in inetrnational economic relations who knows very well economic and climatic crises and who will contribute to the reinforcement of Europe's voice worldwide."
Papandreou further expressed his wish that with Thursday's decisions Europe could "speak more substantially and effectively with a strong voice in the world, defending the interests of the peoples and citizens of the EU."
Referring to Maria Damanaki's appointment to the post of EU Environment Commissioner, replacing Stavros Dimas, the Greek prime minister said he had chosen a "person who has made great contributions to Greek political life through many struggles for Democracy and I am certain she will offer services to Europe from any post."
Lastly, Papandreou paid tribute to outgoing Greek commissioner Dimas for his contribution and accomplished work.
 PM at EU socialist leaders' meetingBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
Prime Minister George Papandreou attended the meeting of EU Socialist leaders on Thursday, which took place before the EU summit.
Speaking after the meeting, Papandreou said "we want a European Council president who shall contribute to the cohesion of Europe and we want a supreme representative for the European Union's foreign policy, who shall contribute to the handling of the major issues of our planet, international economic crises, climatic change, to facilitate a progressive as well as a strong voice for Europe, at last, at international level."
Papandreou further said that "it is a very positive fact that the socialist group of the EU was able to discuss, with particular cohesion, the issues that were raised in the important positions of the president of the European Council and the paramount representative on foreign policy," adding that "we are showing an identity of views and a unity that is important for the future of the progressive forces on this continent."
According to the prime minister, it is a new process following the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, despite the fact that this Treaty has not solved all the problems of Europe.
Lastly, Papandreou underlined that it is a new step and "we hope that Europe will obtain a strong and unified voice at last."
 Papoulias wraps up visit to SloveniaLJUBLJANA (ANA-MPA/St.Tzimas)
President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias wrapped up Thursday his three-day official visit to Slovenia by meeting with his Slovenian counterpart Dr Danilo Türk, Prime Minister Borut Pahor and Ljubljana mayor Zoran Jankovi .
The two presidents met for the second time during Papoulias's visit while talks focused on European Union and Balkan issues.
Before leaving Slovenia, President Papoulia visited the resort city of Bled where he met local officials.
 Alternate FM Droutsas visits MontenegroPODGORICA (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)
Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said on Thursday that the future of the Western Balkans, including Montenegro, is in the European Union and for the achievement of this goal Greece "can and shall play a leading role". He was speaking after meeting Montenegrin Prime Monister Milo Djukanovic.
Droutsas conveyed this message to the leadership of Montenegro, outlining the Greek "Agenda 2014" initiative.
The minister said that this proposal is linked directly to Montenegro for a practical reason as well, because Prime Minister George Papandreou spoke about it for the first time in Montenegro in the summer on the occasion of the Socialist International's conference.
In a statement he made after the meeting, Droutsas expressed Greece's satisfaction over the deregulation of the visa, a status that will be valid from the end of December and noted that this step is very important for the citizens of Montenegro.
The two politicians agreed that the level of bilateral relations was excellent, as well as for the promotion of economic relations that are already being characterised by a satisfactory number of Greek investments in Montenegro.
In the morning, Droutsas attended in Belgrade the funeral service for Serb Patriarch Pavle, at which Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos officiated.
After Podgorica, Droutsas was due to leave for Sarajevo on Thursday evening where he was to be attending a dinner hosted in his honour.
On Friday morning he will be holding talks with Bosnia's federal leadership and afterwards he will be leaving for Tirana, where he will be concluding his tour of the Western Balkans.
 Greek presence in Afghanistan necessary, minister tells MPsGreece's participation in the international military force in Afghanistan was mandated by its own interests, National Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos stressed in Parliament on Thursday, in response to a question by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Thanassis Pafilis.
"Our own national issues, our own security, our own national strategy are those that dictate our presence in Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo," Venizelos said. Those claiming otherwise "lacked the necessary realism and were not telling the Greek people the truth," he added.
By participating in such forces, Greece acquired the ability to speak up and intervene, boosting its credibility when it wanted to put forward positions or make demands that were at the core of its national strategy, he pointed out.
"The cost that we pay is very small in relation to the gain we seek, while we take care not to expose our military personnel to unnecessary dangers," the minister added, pointing out that those taking part in such missions were all career soldiers that had volunteered for them, not conscripts, and that no one was sent against their will.
Pafilis criticised Greece's decision to spend money on costly military missions at a time of deep financial crisis, when the government was forced to dig deep into tax-payers' pockets, and also Greece's support of what he called "imperialist wars seeking to change borders".
 Changes aim to cut cost of prescription medicationMeasures aimed at cutting the cost of medication for private individuals, social insurance funds and hospitals were announced Thursday by the three ministries responsible for health care and the pharmaceuticals sector.
Health and Social Solidarity Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannako-poulou, Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli and Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos announced that they will take action expected to be completed next year, promising visible results in lowering the cost of medicine.
The health minister stated that a new institutional framework is being promoted in hospitals through the reintroduction of a list of approved medicines and lowest bidder competitions supervised by the National Organization for Medicines (EOF), while a joint ministerial decision will be issued aimed at cutting the cost of expensive medicines in private pharmacies.
Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Katseli announced that 5 measures will be promoted including "freezing" of prices for 470 medicines for which pharmaceutical companies have requested a price increase, price adjustments for roughly 6,000 medicines already in the Greek market (the first since 1997), adoption of new pricing system for generic drugs, price reduction for 89 expensive medicines beginning on Jan. 1, 2010 and National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) supported measures promoting electronic prescription writing.
Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos stressed that the "system is ailing" and stated that the social insurance funds are burdened with medicine costs that reach 4.5 billion euros. He also pointed out that the social insurance problem in the country can be solved in conjunction with a solution of problems in the pharmaceuticals sector.
 Defence minister holds talks with Russian ambassadorDefence Minister Evangelos Venizelos held talks with Russian Federation Ambassador Vladimir Chkhikvishvili on Thursday.
The discussion focused, according to a relevant announcement, on "the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and all the issues of mutual interest, with special emphasis on issues of defence cooperation and in particular of armaments programmes that are under way between Greece and Russia."
Also discussed was the exchange of visits "as soon as possible between the defence ministers of the two countries." Last week, a visit to Moscow had taken place by an Army General Staff delegation.
 NATO flotilla to visit ThessalonikiA multinational NATO squadron is expected to sail into the port of Thessaloniki on Friday, comprised of six vessels, two Italian warships and the rest from Greece, Turkey, Spain and Germany.
The squadron commander is Italian commander Patricio Rapallino.
The mission of the specific squadron includes monitoring sea routes and ports in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea to avert illegal activities, and to monitor maritime traffic with an eye to preventing possible acts of terrorism.
The NATO vessels are expected to depart on Nov. 25.
 Greek economy to recover in 2011, OECD reportThe Greek economy is expeced to recover in 2011, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Thursday.
The Paris-based organisation, in a report on the Greek economy, however, stressed this forecast was based on two main preconditions: first, that the new government would steadily proceed with structural changes needed and secondly, that an international recovery already underway in countries outside the OECD, particularly in Asia, will help.
OECD acknowledges that an economic crisis hit Greece later and to a lesser extent compared with the average rate in other member-states. The organisation projects that Greek public debt would surpass 120 pct of GDP and the fiscal deficit will total 12.75 pct of GDP this year, attributing this development to the inclusion of public debts to suppliers, enterprises and hospitals to the state budget. OECD expects the Greek fiscal deficit to fall to 9.75 pct of GDP in 2010, thanks to temporary measures taken this year, but projected that the deficit would climb to 10 pct again in 2011.
This figures "confirm the urgent nature of measures needed to be taken for a long-term restructuring of public finances," the report said, adding that these measures should focus on minimizing structural deficits, adopting more limitating fiscal rules and a more strict supervision of budget execution by an independent authority.
OECD said it expected a sharp fall in economic activity by the end of 2009 and early 2010, with production activity falling because of lower demand, domestic and external, while lower revenues from tourism and sea transport would negatively affect exports. Investments, particularly in the building sector, suffered because of stricter lending conditions, while households' consumption suffrered from problems in the labour market and the financial system. The organisation projects that the unemployment rate would reach 10.5 pct in 2010 and projected a gradual decline by the end of 2011. The country's current account deficit was project at 10 pct of GDP. The inflation rate fell to an all-time low in 2009, but OECD said that a continuing decline in competitiveness was raising more hurdles in efforts towards recovery. Uncertainty over a recovery in Southeastern Europe was another determining factor for Greece's recovery.
The Organisation urged the new government to proceed immediately with structural reforms in the fiscal sector, the healthcare system and the pension system, to promote reforms in the labour market to achieve more flexibility, to drastically cut public spending and to combat tax evasion with the aim to restore confidence in the economy in the short-term and laying the foundations for a more dynamic growth in the long-term.
 Gov't to implement fair tax system, FinMin saysThe Greek government's goal is to implement a fair tax system, Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said there was currently provocative wealth in certain professions that was systematically tax-evading and stressed that finance ministry agencies would intensify inspections as part of a new tax reform promoted by teh government.
Papakonstantinou said the government was giving a daily battle over Greek state bonds' spreads and that Eurostat -the EU executive's statistics agency- would draft a recommendation over the country's macro-economic data after completing a three-day official visit to Greece.
The Greek minister said that a state budget for 2010, to be tabled to Parliament on Friday, would include changes, mainly in the spending leg. Papakonstantinou said the new budget would not be printed for cost-cutting reasons and would be distributed in the form of CDs.
 Government, ADEDY on incomes policyGovernment spokesman George Petalotis on Thursday denied that the government's policy for public-sector wages was similar to that of New Democracy, stressing that ruling PASOK was keeping its pre-election pledges. He had been asked about a policy of zero wage increases in 2010 for public-sector salaries and pensions above 2,000 euros a month that was announced on Wednesday.
"We are not talking about a freeze on wages but for a limit on salaries over 2,000 euros, where there must necessarily be a sacrifice for the wages that are more privileged than certain others, from the great majority of wages in the Greek civil service," he said.
He also pointed out wage "maturation" that represented an annual increase of 2 percent a year.
The spokesman said that the economic situation was "truly very difficult" and that the government was carrying out its pre-election pledges within this framework, having clear directions in both the draft budget and the new tax bill, as well as the stability programme that would be submitted at the start of 2010.
Regarding the 2010 budget, he described this as an "emergency" budget that strove to strike a balance between needs and problems and said it was "transitional" budget drawn up in a difficult economic situation.
The civil servants union ADEDY, however, said that the incomes policy announced by the government was contrary to its pre-election promises.
"It envisions zero increases for thousands of civil servants, who will see their wages 'frozen' for the second year running," an ADEDY announcement pointed out.
According to the union, civil servants were being asked to "pay for the repercussions of the crisis and the results of the neoliberal policies that fuelled the recession and lowered the living standards of employees".
The union further noted that a freeze on gross wages over 2,000 euros essentially meant a freeze for people taking home just 1,400 euros a month, while claiming that the other categories receiving a 1.5 percent wage increase would still suffer a cut in real income.
 Tsipras on the "freezing" of salaries, pensionsRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group President Alexis Tsipras accused the government on Thursday of "breaking its campaign pledges" referring to the cabinet decision to "freeze" the salaries of public servants and pensions higher than 2,000 euros.
Tsipras, speaking in the margins of his visit to the Axios Estuary in northern Greece, called on the people to participate in mass protests, underlining that the government adopts the same policy it rejected as opposition.
 PwC survey on financial crimeGraft, corruption, tax intransparency and lack of confidence in the Authorities are the main problems in Greece, according to the annual PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) global study on financial crime conducted in cooperation with INSEAD (European Institute of Business Administration released on Thursday.
According to the study, economic recession creates, at global level, ground conducive to an increase in the risk of financial crime.
In the chapter on Greece, the survey indicated that some 70 percent of the respondents stated that the financial performance of their businesses declined over the past 12 months. Nearly one-fourth of the respondents reported an incident of financial crime in their enterprise, while 40 percent believe that their company is now at greater risk.
Also, 37 percent of the respondents said that the number of incidents of financial crime has risen, while an increase was also observed in the cost of the losses -- financial and other -- resulting from financial crime in Greek enterprises, while the extent of the losses is very high, at times at percentages higher than the Western European and sometimes the international average.
The main elements that differentiate financial crime in Greece in comparison with the western European economies, according to the respondents, are graft, corruption, taxation intransparency and lack of confidence in and cooperation with the authorities.
 Gov't OKs more wind parks in Evia, CycladesThe relevant minister on Thursday paved the way for the construction of a 400 MW wind park in Evia and the Cyclades Islands, in a decision released that concerns the construction and financing of a transport network for the produced energy.
According to Environment, energy and climate change minister Tina Birbili's decision, the Nea Makri-Southern Evia link will be built by the Public Power Corp. (PPC) and financed by the energy producers who have received licenses to set up wind energy in the large island of Evia, just east of the southern Greek mainland, and the Cyclades islands.
Southern Evia hosts several wind parks, most built by private contractors with state and EU subsidies. Placement of the units has often generated local reactions, mostly due to the damage done to the mountainsides from the construction of dirt roads to reach the site of the projected wind parks.
The investments are budgeted at more than 500 million euros and are slated for completion in three years.
It is estimated that the new wind parks will produce an average 1.2 million MWH (megawatt hours) annually, resulting in a reduction of 1 million tons in CO2 emissions per year, and savings of some 25 million euros annually for the Greek economy.
 Gov't on credit market watchdog changesGovernment spokesman Giorgos Petalotis, responding to a question on the changes promoted for the Tiresias System, the domestic the inter-bank list of poor credit risks, stated on Thursday that the government is trying to create conditions that will boost the market, while protecting transaction security and public interest by stimulating the market.
The regulation introduced by the government essentially restores a good credit rating to thousands of businesses that have paid off their debts or will be called to pay them off, he pointed out.
 Gov't on remote air route tender issueGovernment spokesman Giorgos Petalotis clarified on Thursday that airline route tenders to so-called remote, i.e. low profit, island destinations are defined by a specific EU legal framework.
Petalotis said a tender committee was set up by the Civil Aviation Authority during the previous government in compliance with EU Regulation 1008. The committee evaluated the bids presented before issuing a decision on the specific remote island destinations.
Asked whether quality specifications should be present in a future tender in addition to the EU regulation, Petalotis responded that prospective participants in such tenders have the right to object the terms of the tender ahead of its announcement.
 Sprider Stores reports improved nine-month resultsSprider Stores on Thursday reported improved nine-month results, with sales rising 13.2p ct to 114.975 million euros, from 101.55 million euros in the corresponding period last year.
Gross profits totaled 67.922 million euros in the January-September period, from 65.176 million last year, for an increase of 4.2 pct, while EBITDA rose 5.1 pct to 15.426 million euros and EBIT fell 12.1% to 6.967 million euros. Financial expenses totaled 1.426 million euros at the end of September, up from 824,000 a year earlier, while borrowing rose to 51.117 million euros.
Earnings after tax and minorities fell 31.4 pct to 4.037 million euros.
 EL.PE 9-month resultsHellenic Petroleum (EL.PE) on Thursday reported stronger nine-month results, with net profits totaling 201 million euros in the January-September period, up from 143 million euros in the corresponding period in 2008, while comparable net profits totaled 188 million euros from 171 million over the same periods, respectively, for an increase of 10 pct.
Hellenic Petroleum said the improved results reflected lower spending, improved refinery margins, a strong US dollar and the results of a programme to boost the group's competitiveness.
EBITDA rose 2 pct to 332 million euros on a comparable basis, while published EBITDA jumped 17 pct to 349 million euros in the nine-month period. The refinery and distribution sector reported EBITDA of 245 million euros, up 1.0 pct from the same period last year, with third quarter results negatively affected by adverse international conditions in the refinery industry.
The domestic distribution business reported a 25-pct increase in comparable EBITDA, while international business was affected by negative macro-economic conditions in the Balkans.
The petrochemicals sector suffered by the effects from an international recession, although third quarter results showed a significant improvement compared with conditions in the first quarter of 2009.
Yiannis Kostopoulos, chief executive of Hellenic Petroleum, said the group managed to report improved results "thanks to constant efforts to boost competitiveness and the performance of the group".
 Turnover index in the industrial sector down 24.5 pct in SeptThe turnover index in the industrial sector (measuring both domestic and external markets) dropped 24.5 pct in September, compared with the corresponding period last year, the National Statistical Service said on Thursday.
The index was up 11.6 pct in September 2008. The statistics service attributed the 24.5 pct drop of the index to a 24.5 pct fall in the manufacturing sector index and a 27 pct drop in the new orders index.
 Stocks end 1.26% lowerStocks lost substantial ground at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the market below the 2,500 level. The index fell 1.26 pct to end at 2,497.15 points, with turnover at 200.8 million euros, of which 14.1 million euros were block trades.
All sectors moved downwards, with the exception of the Utilities index which rose 0.10 pct. Financial Services (4.24 pct), Industrial Products (2.21 pct), Raw Materials (2.17 pct), Chemicals (2.16 pct) and Constructions (1.93 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index fell 1.37 pct, the FTSE 40 index eased 1.69 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 1.42 pct off. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 167 to 37 with another 49 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.94%
Personal & Household: -1.01%
Raw Materials: -2.17%
Travel & Leisure: -0.44%
Food & Beverages: -0.12%
Financial Services: -4.24%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Public Power Corp (PPC) and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 10.44
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.91
HBC Coca Cola: 17.01
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.19
National Bank of Greece: 23.43
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 9.88
Bank of Piraeus: 10.68
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract was trading at 0.97 percent in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover easing to 78.450 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,933 contracts worth 65.615 million euros, with 28,266 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,767 contracts worth 12.835 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (2,285), followed by National Bank (1,902), Marfin Popular Bank (1,887), Alpha Bank (1,651), Intralot (790), Eurobank (441), MIG (545) and PPC (487).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.498
Pound sterling 0.901
Danish kroner 7.500
Swedish kroner 10.367
Japanese yen 133.11
Swiss franc 1.525
Norwegian kroner 8.459
Canadian dollar 1.590
Australian dollar 1.632
 Int'l symposium on Cavafy in Cairo and AlexandriaThe 11th International Symposium on poet Constantine P. Cavafy to take place in Cairo and Alexandria on Dec. 9 and 10 respectively will focus on the influence his work had on European and Mediterranean literature.
Greek and Egyptian literary men and translators will be honored within the framework of the symposium organized by the Hellenic Foundation for Culture (HFC) Alexandria Branch, the Greek Embassy in Egypt, the Greek Cultural Center in Cairo, the Greek communities in Cairo and Alexandria and Egyptian academic institutions.
 Serbian Patriarch Pavle laid to restBELGRADE (ANA-MPA / N. Pelpas)
Some 250,000, paid their last respects to the late Patriarch Pavle of Serbia, whose funeral was held here on Thursday.
The funeral service was held in the Church of St. Savva, reportedly the biggest Orthodox Christian church in the Balkans, led by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the presence of tens of hierarchs from Orthodox Christian Churches around the world.
The funeral attended Metropolitan Vassilios of Elassona representing the Church of Greece, Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos representing the Church of Cyprus and delegations of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarchate's of Jerusalem, Alexandria and Georgia.
Pavle's body was buried at the Monastery of Archangels Michael and Gabriel in Rakovica suburb, 11 kilometres from Belgrade.
Roughly 300,000 people followed the Patriarch's body in the procession from the cathedral where he had been laying in state to the St. Savva Church where the funeral service was held.
Patriarch Pavle was very popular and was known for his modesty and humility. He passed away on Sunday, Nov. 15 at the age of 95 after being hospitalized for two years with heart and lung problems.
The late Patriarch of Serbia was born Sept, 11, 1914 in the village of Kucani in Slavonija.
Pavle graduated with high honors from the Fourth Male Gymnasium (high school) in Belgrade. He attended postgraduate studies at the Orthodox Theological Faculty at the University of Athens from 1955 to 1957. During his stay in Greece, he studied the New Testament and developed a noted expertise in liturgics, which resulted in the Serbian Patriarch becoming one of the most prolific liturgical writers in the Serbian Church. For his patient and prominent work in the field of theology, the theological faculty of the Serbian Orthodox Church awarded him an honorary doctorate of divinity.
In 1957, Pavle was elected Bishop of Raska-Prizen and on Dec. 1, 1990 he was elected Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovac and Serbian Patriarch.
 International Greek-Turkish Cooperation ConferenceISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)
Athens 9.84 radio station President Thanassis Kafezas, speaking at the International Scientific Greek-Turkish Cooperation conference, said that "we commit ourselves as the Athens Municipality to contribute greatly to the high-level of dialogue and analysis on the issues of cultural linking and culural creation."
Kafezas, who participated representing Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, expressed the wish and made the proposal that next year this meeting take place in Athens.
The scientific meeting will continue on Friday and Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos will be making an address.
 Two high-profile libel trials rescheduled for 2010Two high-profile, albeit separate, libel lawsuits both received a new trial date on Thursday, with a suit brought by MIG chief Andreas Vgenopoulos against leftist leader Alexis Tsipras rescheduled for December 2010, no less.
In the other separate case, a libel suit brought by former minister of state Thodoris Roussopoulos against the Athens-based Alpha TV station and three television journalists was postponed for May 2010.
Roussopoulos has demanded 300,000 euros from each defendant, claiming he was defamed during the height of the Vatopedi land swap affair last year.
Vgenopoulos, meanwhile, filed a libel suit against Tsipras over the latter's critical statements following the sale of Hellenic Telecoms (OTE) to Deutsche Telecom (DT), in which the MIG group sold its OTE shares to DT.
Tsipras was at the time the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) president, but not an elected MP. He was elected to Parliament in last month's general election.
Both cases were rescheduled due to a backlogged docket.
 Yiannitsa bank robbers sentenced, released pending appealTwo Pella businessmen that robbed a bank in Yiannitsa last January using a starting pistol were sentenced to seven years and two months imprisonment by a Thessaloniki Criminal Court on Thursday. They appealed and were released pending trial after each paid 5,000 euros bail.
The 42-year-old owner of an extra tuition school and 35-year-old petrol station owner appeared repentant and said they were driven to their actions by large debts and financial difficulties that they faced.
The pair were arrested a few minutes after the robbery, in a village just outside Yiannitsa, as they were dividing the loot of 87,000 euros between them. They were given away by the motorbike they used in their escape, since passers by had seen its number plate and given the information to police.
 Fires in hotel, apartment building in downtown AthensA fire that broke out early on Thursday morning in a first floor hotel room in Omonia square, downtown Athens, was put out by 30 firemen with 10 fire engines after the building was evacuated.
The most likely cause of the fire is negligence by the people occupying the room where the fire started. One of the hotel guests was taken to hospital with mild respiratory problems.
In a separate incident a couple of hours later, another fire broke out in a fifth floor apartment in the Exarchia district. An adjacent building was threatened by the flames causing panic to its residents. The fire was quickly put out by the firefighters who rushed to the scene.
 Sgouros to give benefit concert in AthensInternationally renowned Greek pianist Dimitris Sgouros - a wunderkind that began his career aged 12 at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1982 - is to give a benefit concert at the Athens Concert Hall next Wednesday evening, with the Athens Municipal Symphony Orchestra conducted by Loukas Karytinos. The money raised by the concert will be donated to the Athens municipality's Reception Centre for the Homeless while it will also mark the start of Chopin Year for the Athens Concert Hall.
The year 2010 has been declared global Chopin year and marks the 200 anniversary since the Polish composer's birth.
 Int'l symposium in Athens on neuro-muscular disordersItalian ambassador to Greece, Gianpaolo Scarante, on Thursday attended an event in Athens in honor of Prof. Salvatore Di Mauro, held at the New Acropolis Museum's amphitheatre, within the framework of an international symposium on recent developments in the sector of neuro-muscular disorders.
The event was hosted by the University of Thessaly in cooperation with Columbia University.
 Police patrol stoned in ExarchiaA group of youths stoned a pedestrian police patrol in the central Athens district of Exarchia on Thursday evening and fled, slightly injuring a policewoman in the leg.
The incident occurred at the intersection of Kallidromiou and Themistokleous streets.
 Emergency siren testing on Fri.An emergency siren test will be conducted on Friday nationwide, the general secretariat of communication-information announced Thursday.
The sirens will sound for one minute, from 11:00 a.m. (09.00GMT) to 11:01 a.m., within the framework of a regular civil defence drill.
 Fair on FridayFair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 2-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 5C and 23C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 23C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 19C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe government's decision to freeze salaries and pensions as well as public sector hiring in 2010, the favorable arrangements for business loans and the run-up to the election of a new leader in main opposition New Democracy (ND), dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Freeze in salaries and pensions - PASOK government rescinds its pre election announcements".
APOGEVMATINI: "Where the voting stations for ND elections will be set up".
AVGHI: "Freeze!! Government puts in the freezer hirings, salaries, pensions".
AVRIANI: "Freeze of salaries and pensions in public sector - Harsh measures to avoid bankruptcy".
ELEFTHEROS: "European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control gives answers on the vaccine against the new flu".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Salaries-hirings freeze - Shocking decision for 500,000 civil servants with salaries over 2,000 euros".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Freeze in hirings and raises in public sector".
ESTIA: "The working positions being lost are more than those opening up ".
ETHNOS: "Liquidity injections in market - Double intervention a breather for the small and medium sized enterprises".
IMERISSIA: "Two-year freeze for borrowers - Breather to enterprises for debts up to 1 million euros".
KATHIMERINI: "The government's emergency measures are timid - The State Budget satisfies pre-election commitments but does not proceed with structural changes".
LOGOS: "Freeze on salaries and pensions over 2,000 euros".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Favorable arrangements for bank loans totaling 11 billion euros".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Unity, struggle and counterattack".
TA NEA: "Freeze in salaries and pensions".
TO VIMA: "Freeze in salaries and suspension of hirings in public sector".
VRADYNI: "Where did PASOK's pre-elections promises go?".
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS