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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-12-28

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

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

Monday, 28 December 2009 Issue No: 3383

CONTENTS

  • [01] Gov't, parties express 'deep grief' over maritime tragedy
  • [02] Ship fire toll reaches 9, bodies of all missing crew recovered
  • [03] Christmas Day violations by Turkish warplanes reported
  • [04] Samaras: Major party changes
  • [05] Gov't on internal affairs body
  • [06] Christmas carols for the political leadership
  • [07] Concern for Patriarch
  • [08] Economy minister sees economic upturn by spring
  • [09] Trade balance deficit down 46.7pct in October
  • [10] Shareholders approve merger of Marfin Popular and Marfin Egnatia
  • [11] Police catch mystery jeep shooter
  • [12] Thessaloniki taxi drivers on strike over colleague's murder
  • [13] Three patrol cars in pile-up during chase of 'stolen' vehicle
  • [14] Evosmos incident suspect released with restrictions
  • [15] Mammoth reconstructed in Oreokastro, Thessaloniki
  • [16] Priceless icons, artifacts stolen from church in Ioannina

  • [01] Gov't, parties express 'deep grief' over maritime tragedy

    The Greek government and political parties have expressed grief over the loss of nine seamen, including three Greeks, in a Christmas Day fire aboard the Greek-owned bulk carrier "Aegean Wind" off the coast of Venezuela.

    Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping minister Louka Katseli, in a message, expressed her "deep grief for the loss of our seamen, both Greek and foreign", and the government's "unconditional support to their families".

    "For our seamen traveling all over the world, the family warmth and peace of these holy days is not a given. The tragic event on the Aegean Wind confirms that, even on Christmas Day, danger lurks," Katseli said, adding that the ministry's services were mobilised from the first moment upon learning of the incident.

    She pledged that the causes and conditions of the tragedy would be investigated in depth, aimed at the taking of all measures deemed necessary to avert other such situations in the future.

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) press officer Panos Panagiotopoulos, speaking on behalf of ND leader Antonis Samaras and the entire party, expressed deep grief for the loss of the three Greek seamen and their six foreign colleagues in the fire on the Greek freighter off Venezuela.

    "We express our condolences to their families, and to our country's big maritime family, over this tragic loss," he added.

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) demanded a thorough investigation into the causes of the fire.

    Expressing its sorrow and support for the families of the sailors killed, KKE was also critical of the government for statements that appeared to exonerate the owners Atlantic Bulk Carriers Management Ltd of responsibility before any investigation had been carried out.

    The party stressed that it was unacceptable to "attribute the death of so many workers to bad luck, at a time when the number of employer crimes on land and at sea has radically increased."

    The policy that served competitiveness and the profitability of capital had led, in addition to a reduction in wages and the rolling back of basic labour rights, to dangerous working conditions, the KKE said.

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party expressed "heartbreak" over the maritime tragedy, and its condolences to the families of the victims.

    "We share in the grief of the Greek shipping family. We call on the State to closely monitor the investigation into the causes of the tragedy that led to the loss of so many human lives," LAOS added.

    The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party expressed its deep grief and condolences to the families of the seamen who perished in a Christmas Day fire aboard the "Aegean Wind" off Venezuela.

    However, it added, beyond the grief and condolences, "we wish to put forward a question: Until when will our seamen be paying this blood toll, until when will the necessary measures that will reduce the chances of such accidents not be taken?"

    "No material cost is above the human lives," SYN added.

    [02] Ship fire toll reaches 9, bodies of all missing crew recovered

    The death toll from a fire that broke out on board the Greek-owned freighter "Aegean Wind" on Christmas Day as it was sailing off Venezuela reached nine over the weekend as the bodies of the last three missing seamen were recovered.

    Six of nine merchant seamen reported missing after a fire on board the Greek bulk carrier "Aegean Wind", owned by Athens-based Atlantic Bulk Carriers Management Ltd., had been recovered dead by the Venezuelan coast guard early on Saturday.

    The discovery of another missing Filipino crew man later on Boxing Day, in addition to the three Greek seamen and two Filipinos already found earlier, had brought the overall tally of dead to six, while rescuers on Saturday evening found and recovered the bodies of the last three members of the crew still missing.

    Authorities have yet to discover what caused the fire, which began in the vessel's mess hall and quickly spread throughout the ship while it was sailing off the coast of Venezuela. The ship had a crew of 24, nine of them Greeks. It was laden with steel and had set off from Brazil heading for Houston, Texas.

    The fire, which broke out as the vessel was sailing 33 kilomters off the Venezuelan island of La Blanquilla, was put out on Friday night and a Greek coast guard officer is heading to Venezuela to assist the return of the Greek seamen to Greece.

    In addition to the nine casualties, five people sustained minor injuries, including two Greek crewmen and a Greek female trainee officer. They were taken to a nearby island for treatment.

    [03] Christmas Day violations by Turkish warplanes reported

    Greek military authorities on Friday, Christmas Day, reported that up to eight Turkish warplanes violated Athens FIR regulations after entering the region south of the eastern Aegean island of Limnos. At least two instances of violations of Greek airspace were also cited in the northern and central Aegean.

    According to reports, Hellenic Air Force fighter planes were scrambled to identify and escort all of the intruding warplanes out of the Athens FIR.

    The latest instance of Turkish military violations in the eastern Aegean on Christmas Day, a religious and national holiday for predominately Eastern Orthodox Greece, contravenes the so-called Papoulias-Yilmaz memorandum, which calls for the avoidance of military exercises during the peak summer tourism season and on major national and religious holidays in either nation.

    [04] Samaras: Major party changes

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) president Antonis Samaras was quoted in a published interview on Friday as emphasising his intent to radically change the party, speaking less than a month after he won a party leadership race to succeed former premier Costas Karamanlis.

    "I have the responsibility to change what must be changed and to again unite this political formation, something you cannot achieve by observing 'sensitive balances', but only with bold initiatives," he was quoted as saying.

    Among others, Samaras also said Karamanlis, the former ND leader and two-time prime minister, engaged in a "very courageous self-criticism in the end", while adding that the previous two ND governments have a positive record, as a whole.

    Asked about the recently approved 2010 state budget, tabled this week by the ruling PASOK government, Samaras again referred to it as "insincere" and featuring a "bloated" budget deficit, while pointing to his promise for support of the government's efforts to reform the Greek economy, "if it changes direction and decides to take measures aimed at reform..."

    In response to a recent statement by Prime Minister George Papandreou on a "distorted economic system that produces corruption", the Messinia prefecture MP and former minister emphasised that this "system" was not created by ND during its five-and-a-half-years in power.

    "(ND) found it; it was inherited from PASOK," he said, underlining that today's main opposition party will be on the government's side when tackling the specter of corruption, "as opposed to PASOK, which was against the ND government in its reform efforts."

    Finally, in reference to next year's local government elections and asked whether he believes current Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis has had a successful tenure, Samaras merely responded that the latter will be judged when he has completed his term.

    Kaklamanis, who served in Costas Karamanlis' first cabinet as the health minister and was later easily elected as Athens mayor on a ND-affilated ticket, at one time belonged to the party, Political Spring, that Samaras established in the early 1990s.

    The interview was published in the Athens weekly "Real News".

    [05] Gov't on internal affairs body

    Citizen's Protection Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis addressed an open letter to Amnesty International's Greek section this week as regards the establishment and operation of an internal affairs office to deal with incidents of alleged police misconduct and unlawful behaviour.

    Chryssohoidis was responding to recommendations made by Amnesty International in letter on Dec. 1, 2009.

    The minister reminded that no international treaty or contractual obligation undertaken by the country calls for the establishment of a special independent body to examine complaints against police. He also stressed that the reference, in the Amnesty International letter, to the European Court of Human Rights guidelines underlines the need to ensure institutional and hierarchical independence between the inspector and the inspected.

    Chryssohoidis stated that the independence cited will be guaranteed by the fact that a special office will not be established within the law enforcement framework. Moreover, its personnel will be civilians and distinguished members of the judiciary.

    Chryssohoidis thanked the group and all collective agencies or private citizens for their contribution to the dialogue held on the specific issue.

    [06] Christmas carols for the political leadership

    Children from the "Smile of a Child" organization for missing and exploited children and members of the Karpathos island association "Dimitra" sang Christmas carols for Prime Minister George Papandreou at the Maximos Mansion government headquarters on Thursday, Christmas Eve.

    The choirs of the SOS Children's Village and the Greek Scouts sang Christmas carols for main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras at the ND party main offices in Athens.

    The Christmas carols for Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga were sung by the members of the coordinating committee of STAGE programme workers.

    Kastelorizo island cultural association members sang Christmas carols, while Christmas songs and dances were performed by a Cretan association for Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis.

    Members of the Pontian Greek Federation and the choir of the Pan-Epirotic Federation sang Christmas carols for Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group President Alexis Tsipras.

    [07] Concern for Patriarch

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA - P. Panagiotou)

    Archbishop of America Demetrios has sent letters to U.S. President Barack Obama and top U.S. officials, expressing concern about the safety of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul and seeking their assistance in his protection.

    The letters were sent before Christmas Day and addressed to Obama, U.S. Vice President Jo Biden, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Speaker of the U.S. Congress Nancy Pelosi and the leader of the Democrats in the Senate Harry Reid.

    The letter also asks them to help secure the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul to continue operating and carrying out its mission.

    Archbishop Demetrios wrote the letters in the wake of incensed reactions from Turkish officials and some Turkish media to statements made by Bartholomew in an interview with CBS, during which the Patriarch complained that his treatment by Turkish authorities often left him feeling "crucified" and "like a second-class citizen".

    Financial News

    [08] Economy minister sees economic upturn by spring

    During a visit on Thursday to Ermou Street, the main shopping highstreet in central Athens, Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli appeared confident that the Greek economy would soon begin to show signs of recovery in 2010, after a slow start in the early months of the year.

    "The market will be boosted by the liquidity measures that we have proposed and which go to Parliament in January. I look to much better days in the spring of 2010," the minister stressed, urging businesses to take an optimistic view of the new year.

    "There is no doubt that the first months of 2010, especially, will continue to be difficult. We are in a recession and economic activity is slowed but for this reason we are mobilising the tools that we have: the Public Investment programme, smaller and larger projects, paying off public-sector debts and keeping prices low to support consumers and their purchasing power," she said.

    During her visit, the minister was accompanied by the general secretary for trade Stefanos Komninos. They spoke with business owners, who mostly expressed agreement with proposals for linking the tax-free allowance with receipts for goods and services, protection of borrowers and boosting market liquidity.

    In terms of consumer traffic, they said that they now pinned their hopes for a revival on the January sales.

    [09] Trade balance deficit down 46.7pct in October

    Greece's trade balance deficit fell by 46.7 percent in October 2009 to 1,910.7 million euros from 3,582.2 million euros in October 2008, according to provisional figures released on Thursday by the national statistics service ESYE.

    The decline of the trade balance deficit resulted from a 39.8 percent drop in imports-arrivals and a 25.3 percent drop in exports-dispatches.

    The trade balance deficit for the 10-month period January-October 2009 also dropped by 43.3 percent to 20,562.6 million euros from 36,288.7 million euros in the corresponding period of 2008.

    [10] Shareholders approve merger of Marfin Popular and Marfin Egnatia

    Shareholders of Cyprus-based Marfin Popular Bank Public Co Ltd have approved a cross-border merger with the bank's Greek-based subsidiary Marfin Egnatia Bank, which is to be absorbed by Marfin Popular Bank, during an extraordinary general meeting held in Nicosia on Wednesday.

    General News

    [11] Police catch mystery jeep shooter

    Police on Sunday reported the arrest of a man they suspect is the mysterious shooter in the dark-coloured jeep, who fired on three unrelated and unsuspecting passers-by in Athens and Piraeus over the past week, seriously injuring two of them.

    The suspect is a 31-year-old Greek working as a taxi driver, who is being held by police and will be led before a public prosecutor on Monday. He has denied the charges against him.

    He was caught at a police road block driving a dark khaki jeep that contained 9mm pistol shells. A ballistics investigation showed that the shells came from the same gun used to shoot at the unlucky victims of the mystery shooter.

    Police also found a 9mm pistol that still has to be identified as that used in the shootings through forensics tests.

    Of the shooter's three victims, a man and a woman are seriously injured, while a third man sustained lighter injuries.

    Announcements regarding the man's arrest will be made on Monday by Attica Security police.

    [12] Thessaloniki taxi drivers on strike over colleague's murder

    Taxi drivers in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki were on strike until 14:00 on Saturday, in protest over the murder of a fellow taxi-driver in the region of Pylaia on Christmas Day.

    The 32-year-old victim was found dead in his vehicle on Friday with six stab wounds to the neck and was buried on Saturday. Police say that robbery did not appear to be a motive for the killing, since the unlucky victim had money on him when he was found.

    This is the second murder of a taxi driver in the city this month.

    [13] Three patrol cars in pile-up during chase of 'stolen' vehicle

    ‘wo policemen were lightly injured in a pile-up involving three police patrol cars at dawn on Thursday as they were chasing a private car on the Athens-Lamia national highway near the intersection for Piraeus.

    The driver of the car, who was arrested shortly afterwards, was being held at the Nea Philadelphia police station.

    A police investigation revealed that the man had reported his car as stolen, and that was the reason why he did not stop for a routine check by police.

    [14] Evosmos incident suspect released with restrictions

    A 19-year-old charged with vandalism, weapons possession and the construction and possession of explosives was released with restrictions on Thursday, and will be spending Christmas at home after appearing before an examining magistrate in Thessaloniki.

    He had been arrested in the district of Evosmos in the early hours of Tuesday morning when, along with a number of unidentified individuals that escaped arrest, he allegedly attempted to attack the offices of ARIS FC fans. The group fled the scene after they were spotted by local residents and caused damage to a total of nine private vehicles parked in the area as they left.

    Police found and seized homemade fire bombs, gas canisters and axes abandoned in the area by the assailants.

    [15] Mammoth reconstructed in Oreokastro, Thessaloniki

    Visitors to the Museum of Mammoths that opened recently in the district of Oreokastro in Thessaloniki can see a reconstructed mammoth from 9-million-year-old fossilized bones, tusks and skull combined with artificial parts.

    The museum is the only one in the entire Balkan region that has on display fossilized remains of mammoths, the gigantic animals that lived in the Ice Age.

    A Dinosaurs' Park was also inaugurated in Oreokastro a few years ago based on an idea by Vassilis Michailidis, who is also the creator of the Mammoths Museum.

    [16] Priceless icons, artifacts stolen from church in Ioannina

    More than 50 icons and other priceless religious artifacts dating to the 15th and 16th centuries were stolen from a church in Zagorochoria, Ioannina, including the relics of Saints Panteleimonas and Haralambos.

    The theft was discovered by the local priest and parishioners when they arrived at the Church of the Virgin (Panaghia) in the village of Koukouli for the Christmas service.

    The burglars broke into the Church from a small window after cutting its iron frame.

    According to an initial inventory, the burglars made away with more than 50 icons, several gospels, exapteriga (six-winged liturgical ripidia), chalices, relics of Saints Panteleimonas and Haralambos, and several other sacred vessels, all of great value dated to the time of the church's construction between the 15th and 16th century.

    Several years earlier, burglars had stolen the church's priceless Epitaphios (carved bier of Jesus Christ carried throughout the community in a funerary procession on Good Friday).

    Police have launched a manhunt for the thieves.

    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


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