|Tuesday, 17 September 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-02-03
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 3 February 2010 Issue No: 3413
 PM Papandreou announces new measures to tackle economic crisisPrime Minister George Papandreou, addressing the Greek people on Tuesday evening after holding meetings with political party leaders at the Maximos Mansion during the day, announced new measures to tackle the economic crisis.
Papandreou stressed that the country was at the centre of speculating games that have the euro as the ultimate target and used Greece as a weak link. He added that the annulment of all these efforts through which leading the country down a cliff is being attempted, is a national duty and stressed that the government is determined to take all measures to prevent such development.
"We must act immediately and decisively," he said and mentioned that on Wednesday the European Commission will be considering the country's stability programme positively, a programme that, as he said, "will tidy up the economy."
Among the measures announced by Papandreou are an increase in tax on distributed profits that are not reinvested, the taxation of dividends in the way that incomes are taxed and an increase in the taxation of offshore companies.
Papandreou also stressed that it will be necessary in 2010 for public sector revenues to increase and announced that one of the measures that will bring revenues quickly will be an increase in the taxation of fuel.
He further announced that the bill on incomes policy will be tabled in Parliament soon, issues related to high incomes in the public and wider public sector will be handled and that increases that will be given will not move further than salary maturity. He said that all this will also concern local administration and the wider public sector.
The prime minister went on to say that the country's lost competitiveness must be tackled and called on employers and employees to contribute in this direction.
Referring to the social security system, he said that it will be fair and gave an indication of decisions which, as he said, have been implemented in other European countries and concern, among other things, an increase in pensioning age limits.
The prime minister stressed that the government is fully aware of the difficulty and crucialness of the situation, as well as of difficulties facing the Greek family. He added that for this reason it will move with a feeling of justice, that the measures may be painful but the government's effort is aimed at stopping the country's course towards the abyss.
Papandreou promised that he and the government will do everything possible to support the weak, to support the average Greek family and the younger generation. He added that "there is no ground for strikes, work stoppages and blockades since, as he said, we must all wage the struggle together".
He also stressed that the more powerful must contribute more and, in parallel, the weak must be protected more.
Lastly, the prime minister pointed out that the government is here to guarantee all this and expressed certainty that the citizens are also here to help the country achieve its targets. He stressed "we know the abilities of Greece and Hellenism" and underlined that "I am sure that we shall succeed."
 Econ measures dominate PM's successive meetings with political leadersPrime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday afternoon held separate and successive meetings with Parliament-represented political leaders, including main opposition leader Antonis Samaras, as the contacts focused directly on the serious deficit crisis plaguing Greece and attempts to find a consensus over necessary measures.
Papandreou first met with Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga, followed by Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) president George Karatzaferis and then Samaras. He ended his separate meetings by receiving Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group head Alexis Tsipras.
ND leader's statement on economy
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras said on Tuesday evening that all serious measures regarding the state of the economy should be taken immediately and that his party was ready to support whatever was necessary.
"All serious measures must be taken now, they must be implemented immediately without waverings and disagreements within the government," Samaras told a press conference at the party's headquarters after a meeting earlier in the day with Prime Minister George Papandreou.
"We say 'yes' to measures that curb the state's extravagances, tax evasion and contribution evasion, but we say 'no' to measures such as the increase in fuel taxation or a VAT increase which will hurt the financially weak. We also say 'no' to measures that intensify the flight of capital abroad," Samaras also said.
"We offer a decisive support as regards to what is beneficial to the country but let the government know that our support is not a card blanche," the ND leader added, noting that the dramatic developments in the economy "have not arisen suddenly" and accusing PASOK that when it was in the opposition and the world crisis broke out, it "understood nothing or it did not want to listen, promising everything to everybody."
"PASOK won the (October 2009) general elections but it did not react timely after the elections," Samaras said. "One cannot handle such a crisis with hesitations, dramatic delays and double talk," he added.
In seeking consensus for the government's closely watched economic and structural reforms programme, Papandreou first met with KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga, who afterward ruled out any type of support for measures she charged "targeted the working classes".
"We are not prepared to give our consent and support to anti-working class, anti-labour and anti-farmer measures in the name of the crisis, and to serve the profitability of capital and resulting profiteering," she underlined.
Papariga said pressures sought to impose ever harsher measures against the working classes and to force the Greek people into accepting whatever measures were imposed without argument. She called on workers, farmers and shop employees to take part in a strike being organised by the KKE-affiliated trade union movement PAME on Feb. 10.
Speaking after his meeting with the premier, Karatzaferis said circumstances necessitate prudence and seriousness from all parties and stressed that it is a difficult period, the problems are many and accumulated.
The LA.OS leader further said that realism, and not petty party expediencies, are required to boost optimism, adding that if all that will take place and is taking place are not done with petty political interest then they shall produce results.
Lastly, referring to the state of the economy and responsibilities that exist, Karatzaferis said that all who participated in the "demolition" have responsibility for the economy and stressed that he has not served in government and is one of those who build.
Upon his exit from the premier's Maximos Mansion, Tsipras said the government "can enjoy consensus only from the right-wing forces, namely, New Democracy (ND) and LA.OS".
He added that PM's Tuesday meetings with party leaders could have had a meaning if they proceeded with the tabling of a stability programme, adding that the government, by holding these meetings, "is dramatising the situation, since it has already decided on the policy it will implement."
For the SYRIZA leader the "greatest danger is that the country may follow a policy dictated by money markets and speculators."
Tsipras also said he asked from Papandreou not to insist on the policy he's announced since, as he noted, it is a "destabilising programme and not one of stabilisation."
 Gov't on PM's meeting with opposition leadersThe government spokesman on Tuesday underlined that the country is in a "tough position", adding that "we are hostage to speculators' games that have a direct effect on Greece and an indirect on the eurozone and the euro."
Spokesman Giorgos Petalotis stressed that "the time of petty party politicking is long gone" and that "consensus and solidarity is the only option." He also announced that a statement will be issued following the meetings of the prime minister with the opposition party leaders on Tuesday.
Petalotis pointed out that the implementation of the updated Stability Programme presupposes a consensus of society and the political opposition.
Responding to news reports on press allegations over "inconsistencies" in the government's stance toward banks, Petalotis cited a relevant statement issued by Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli and underlined that the government has adopted a specific stance.
On the likelihood of further spending cuts to be imposed in case the Stability Programme is rejected, Petalotis stated that "additional measures will be taken if deemed necessary."
On farmers' mobilisations, Petalotis reiterated that "the government will not resort to off-hand and temporary solutions by handing out allowances that leave us exposed to the EU."
Petalotis stated that the parliament will decide if there are political or criminal responsibilities referring to the statistics investigation findings submitted by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou to the Parliament president on Monday. The findings will be discussed in a standing committee.
 German FM Westerwelle: full backing for Papandreou, Greek reformsGreek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday received visiting German vice-chancellor and foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, who is Athens on a working visit. After their talks, Westerwelle underlined the German government's confidence in both the programme of reforms launched by the Greek government to overcome the economic crisis and in Papandreou himself.
"We Europeans - and that is why I am here - want to express our complete confidence in the Greek government, unconditionally for the measures and the prime minister. We want to show our solidarity with Greece and our support," the German minister told reporters afterward.
Papandreou later said that his talks with Westerwelle were dominated by the economic crisis, both in terms of each individual country and in terms of its impact on the European economy as a whole. The Greek premier said that he had outlined the measures already taken by the government and the policies initiated via the Stability and Growth Programme to correct the country's structural problems and reorganise the Greek economy so that it was "more competitive, more sustainable and fairer."
Westerwelle said that Greece appeared determined to face challenges caused by both the economic crisis and its public finances, stressing his own full support for the effort and noting that the economic crisis had created problems for all countries.
The German minister emphasised also that the Greek government's reform programme would not only benefit Greece but the EU as a whole, since it was an issue of stability for both the country and the European Union.
"The prime minister has explained the programme to me, I am confident and convinced that this programme gives rise to new opportunities that will take substance if the programme is supported by the whole of Greek society," Westerwelle said.
In terms of EU issues, Papandreou said they had discussed the Lisbon Treaty and the greater capacity for action and cooperation this would give to the EU, making it more powerful on the international scene.
On his part, the Greek premier outlined Greece's 'Agenda 2014' policy for the EU accession of all western Balkan countries by the year 2014. According to Papandreou, this was not just a vision for unified Europe but would also serve to consolidate security and democratic values in the region.
Their talks also covered the Cyprus issue, Turkey's EU accession progress, the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Iran and the results of the London Conference on Afghanistan.
Another key issue discussed was illegal migration and the measures taken by Greece to improve the processing of asylum applications and reception facilities for migrants, where they ascertain significant margins for potential cooperation.
Westerwelle also briefed the Greek premier on the results of his recent visit to the Middle East and issues of the international agenda, where he said they had "impressively similar" views.
 President meets Germany's foreign minister WesterwellePresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received at the Presidential Mansion on Tuesday Germany's Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor Guido Westerwelle, who expressed confidence that Greece has the power to overcome the crisis.
President Papoulias said that Europe was currently going through an "interesting" period and expressed certainty that Greece will solve its problems.
"However, you should also believe that we have the will and the potential to overcome the crisis. I believe that the difficulties faced by Greece are not limited to the country. I see that Spain also has certain difficulties and I believe that our currency, the euro, is being tested," Papoulias stressed.
On his part, Westerwelle stated that "we feel very confident as regards Greece's capability to overcome this crisis," and stated that he and Germany have close ties with Greece referring to his professor, constitutional law expert, Dimitris Tsatsos.
The German foreign minister and vice chancellor is on a working visit to Athens and will also be received by Prime Minister George Papandreou.
 Alternate FM Droutsas holds talks with US Secretary of StateWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)
Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas met here on Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying afterwards that he had expounded on Greece's positions on major national issues as well as Greece's will to help, through initiatives in its broader region and primarily in the Balkans but the Middle East as well.
In statements to the press after his meetings with Clinton and Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, Droutsas said:
"I met with the U.S. State Department's leadership, with Secretary Clinton and Deputy Secretary of State Steinberg. It was a good opportunity for us to deepen our relations with the US again, to exchange views on all the issues of mutual interest, international developments, for us to also highlight the fact that Greece can play a role in these international developments, particularly in our direct neighbourhood. We have a role to play in the Balkns, we have a role to play and to offer in the region of the Middle East and the Arab world. This is the image that we want to present to the international community again. An image of Greece with a presence, a voice, a real role in international developments.
"It was also an excellent opportunity for me to reiterate Greece's positions on the issues of particular Greek interest. On the issue of Cyprus we are again experiencing an important phase, in our relations with Turkey our effort for a new approach and cooperation with Turkey is known, on the issue of the name of FYROM Greece's will and desire for a solution is known, as well as the Greek national red line on this issue is. It is important that the US also knows our positions on all these issues as well, for us to repeat them so that they will also know our approach, always in the framework of cooperatiopn between our two countries, cooperation on an equal basis between two allies and partners."
On the question of the visa waiver that was also raised, Droutsas said that "on the part of Greece we have already completed all our preparations and our commitments on this issue. The American side also confirmed this for us, that on the part of Greece we are ready. It is now an issue of internal procedures for the US, that we shall also wait for the present."
Replying to a question on the issue of Cyprus, as the visit to Nicosia by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has just come to an end, the alternate foreign minister said "every initiative by the Secretary General of the UN in the direction of a solution to the issue of Cyprus is important and welcome. His presence in Cyprus is, of course, a very important step. We hope that this will contribute to the further process and particularly to contribute to that the Turkish Cypriot side will ascertain in which direction it must also contribute for a solution to the Cyprus issue."
Participating in the joint meeting with Clinton on the Greek side were ambassador to Washington, Vassilis Kaskarelis and the director of Droutsas's diplomatic office, Christos Panagopoulos, while in the extensive discussion with Deputy Secretary of State Steinberg, ambassadors Paraskevopoulos and Aliferi also participated.
After the meetings at the State Department, Droutsas went to the Capitol where he was to be meet House of Representatives president, Nancy Pelosi, the president of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman, and the president of the committee dealing with issues of the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe, senator Benjamin Cardin.
Droutsas was then to make a brief visit to the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and afterwards participate in a roundtable discussion at the Brookings foundation on the theme of "Greece: Challenges for the new government."
 Droutsas interview to Greek-American dailyNEW YORK CITY (ANA-MPA)
"There is no shadow cast over our relations with the United States. However, this does not mean that we are pleased with the current level of our relations," Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas stressed in an interview published here by the NYC-based Greek-American daily "National Herald" ("Ethnikos Kirix").
Droutsas pointed out that "it is my belief that there are broader fields of cooperation and more room for substantive progress in our relations."
On the occasion of his first official visit to the United States since his appointment, Droutsas also referred to the role of the vigorous Greek-American community in the bilateral relations.
"We are a new government and this visit is a good opportunity to present our thoughts and perspective vis-à-vis the major issues that concern our region," he added.
Responding to a question on the voting rights of the Greeks living abroad, he pointed out:
"The voting rights of the Greeks abroad constitute a clear-cut intention and a crucial challenge for all of us. The specific issue is of pivotal importance for our government. A new legal framework is already being processed by the interior ministry and I hope that soon it will be presented for public consultation -- a groundbreaking method of democratic participation for Greece implemented by the new government.
"We should keep in mind that political consensus in Greece is necessary in order to be able to forge ahead. I hope that all sides will rise to the occasion and reciprocate to the demand expressed by Hellenism worldwide. It is very useful and important to us as a government to listen to the direct voice of our compatriots; listen to their experiences and have them incorporated into the definitive text of the draft law that will be tabled in parliament."
Responding to a question on whether the fYRoM "name issue" and the Greek-Turkish relations constitute a "thorn" in the ties between Greece and the United States, Droutsas stated:
"We have a tradition of friendship and cooperation with the United States. Our shared values constitute a strong basis on which to build excellent cooperation relations. I think that what's most important is the common will that exists at this moment of time, to have them promoted further. Therefore, any exchange of views can only serve as fertile ground for our relations. As regards the fYRoM name issue, the decision of the previous US administration to recognise the so-called constitutional name of the neighboring country has certainly further perplexed things and made a solution more distant.
"We have directly indicated this to the United States; Greece's position is clear: We seek a name with a geographic qualifier to be used for all purposes, erga omnes. We believe that the United States can play a constructive role in this effort and for this reason it is important for them to have a clear view of the Greek positions."
 President Papoulias receives LAOS leaderPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias met Tuesday with Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis.
Karatzaferis' opposition party has already declared that it will support the President's reelection and after the meeting he stressed that "we are entering a new phase", adding that "the political parties will have to reach a better understanding and Karolos Papoulias' reelection is a good start".
Karatzaferis characterized Papoulias as a "serious, wise and prudent President who will offer his good services whenever needed."
 Greek and Cypriot ministers discuss educational reformsNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A.Viketos/CNA)
Educational reforms in Cyprus and Greece was the focus of a meeting between the Cypriot Minister of Education and Culture Andreas Demetriou and visiting Greek Minister for Education, Lifelong Learning and Religions Anna Diamantopoulou.
Speaking at a joint press conference here Tuesday, Demetriou said that they had a very productive discussion on various issues, noting that the focus of the discussion was the educational reform underway in both countries.
He also said that the Greek minister was briefed on the various aspects of the reforms in Cyprus with special emphasis on the analytical programmes.
Demetriou said that the Chairman of the Committee on the modernization of the analytical programs, George Tsiakalos, briefed Diamantopoulou on where Cyprus stands regarding this issue, adding that "it is known that the analytical programmes have already been delivered and we are in the final stages of writing the single text for all lessons".
The Cypriot minister said that they agreed to form a joint committee which will monitor and coordinate the process in both countries as well as produce new material with the objective to bring into effect the analytical programmes.
The two ministers agreed also to renew the existing Memorandum of Cooperation between Cyprus and Greece on education soon.
On her part, Diamantopoulou said that her visit is both symbolic and substantive, noting that Greece and Cyprus share a close cooperation in educational matters due to the fact that both countries are linked by language and culture which are the basic pillars of education.
She noted that the changes and reforms introduced by the Cypriot Minister are in line with modern thinking, adding that all European countries have either implemented such reforms or are in the process of doing so.
Meeting with House Speaker
Diamantopoulou said that cooperation in the field of education is indispensable due to the need for a unified policy on research, innovation, education and training, that will allow the achievement of common goals.
Speaking during a meeting she had also on Tuesday with Cyprus House President Marios Garoyian, Diamantopoulou, who is paying a two-day visit to Cyprus, said that as regards bilateral cooperation in the field of education the two sides have agreed the coordination of their competent Committees which deal with the issue of reviewing programmes of the Greek and the Cypriot Education Ministries.
She also said that the two countries are working towards the renewal and enrichment of the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on educational issues and expressed here satisfaction with the results of her visit.
On his part, Garoyian commended the excellent level of inter-parliamentary relations between Greece and Cyprus, underlying that the further coordination of actions in the field of education, both bilateral level and in the EU framework constitutes a common goal.
Garoyian also referred to the ongoing negotiations on the Cyprus question, noting that despite efforts made by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias the Turkish intransigence has not allowed to have real progress.
A meeting between the Greek minister and President Christofias was finally canelled after the Cypriot president felt ill.
 Situation unchanged at roadblocksThe border posts of Ormenio and Kipi in Evros prefecture were open on Tuesday, however protesting farmers kept their tractors lined up on both sides of the road but without disrupting traffic. Farmers at Ormenio are intermittently closing the border post
The Promachonas checkpoint remained closed for trucks during the night, while farmers on the Serres-Thessaloniki highway at the Strymonikos intersection are intermittently blocking the road.
Roads bypassing by the Doirani and Evzoni checkpoints in Kilkis prefecture are open, as are the Krystallopigi and Niki checkpoints in Florina prefecture.
Protesting farmers of Serres prefecture remained throughout the night at their roadblocks at the Kedryllia intersection on the Egnatia motorway.
The Exochi border post in Drama Prefecture was open during the night but the Chryssoupoli interchange at Kavala was blocked.
Grevena prefecture farmers remain on the Egnatia motorway and several others have gathered at the Servia bridge in Kozani, but without obstructing the traffic.
Thessaly (central Greece) farmers remain at their roadblocks at the Nikaia and Mikrothebes intersections.
 New York event for holocaustNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P.Panayiotou)
The International Day for the victims of the Holocaust was marked at the General Consulate of Greece here on Tuesday with Greek foreign minister diplomatic and historical archives' director Fotini Tomai presenting her book "Greeks at ÔÝëïòöüñìáòÁñ÷ÞöüñìáòAuschwitz-Birkenau".
Tomai referred to documents and testimonies included in the book.
 PM: Strict adherence to Stability programmeGreece is at the centre of an unprecedented attack by market speculators, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou charged on Tuesday, adding that "strangulation" of the Greek economy is being attempted through skyrocketing 10-year state bonds spreads to unjustified levels.
Speaking at an Economist conference in Athens, Papandreou added that, in the midst of the speculative attack, Greece's Stability, Development and Restructure programme -- recently submitted to the EU -- has drawn positive comments by level-headed analysts, stressing that "we mean what we say".
He said the speculative attacks had exploited long-standing problems in the Greek economy, and aimed at inflating the magnitude of the crisis, adding that remedying these chronic problems and weaknesses is a national dictate.
Papandreou attributed the fiscal crisis to the choices of "preceding situations".
"Greece is vulnerable, but it has immense prospects and, at any rate, it does not deserve what it is currently experiencing," the premier said, stressing that "Greece is an equal partner in a strong monetary union, and at the same time has a government with a powerful mandate, determination, and a plan", which will be applied "at the fastest possible speed allowed by our (democratic) institutions".
The plan contains not just simple cutbacks in benefits and salaries, but also deep changes that will not be temporary ones, and which are viable, he continued.
He said his PASOK party had been talking about a problem while "others were attempting to sweep it under a rug", but "we couldn't begin to imagine its magnitude".
"The solutions will be tough ones and will cause reactions in 'accommodated' situations, but they will be fair and the most appropriate solutions," he added.
Papandreou said that the goal of the country's Stability, Development and Restructuring programme is to rid the country from such attacks and perceptions of the past, noting that the programme's targets include reduction of the budget deficit to below the EMU-mandated 3 percent of GDP by 2012, de-escalation of the state debt, deep changes in the operation of the state, and a shift towards "green" development.
The programme, he continued, is the basis for a three-year period during which Greece will correct its mistakes, "but the country cannot remain a prey to borrowing and the wild winds of the markets".
"It is we who must determine our fate," Papandreou stressed, putting emphasis on the aspect of development, which "if not supported, the fiscal adjustment will not be viable".
"The programme will be applied to the letter. Greece for the first time has to do so much in so little time, but also, for the first time, Greece is determined. For the first time, the Greeks are determined to take part in the effort, and I am certain that the Greek effort will both be acknowledged and bear fruit," he added.
Commenting on concerns voiced earlier at the conference by Columbia University professor and Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Papandreou said that one of the biggest problems is the fact that democratic institutions have much less power than "murky concentrated interests", adding that "we do not say 'no' to the market or the state, but these must be put to the service of the citizens".
Stiglitz, in his address, expressed pessimism on the policies implemented to tackle the global financial crisis, adding that the general conviction is that things today are much worse than they were a year ago, as the situation has become much worse due to the crisis and also due to the way that it was being faced.
He expressed optimism on the prospects for a quick recovery of the US economy, noting that many European countries face problems comparable to those faced by the US, and opined that the EU does not have the "macroeconomic structure", such as the US' Federal Budget, to support its member countries facing problems.
Further, after a lengthy analysis of the various aspects of the crisis, Stiglitz said that the "deficit fetishism" has proved wrong.
Earlier in his address, Stiglitz commented that Papandreou had "done well" at the recent 40th World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.
Papandreou agreed with Stiglitz regarding "deficit fetishism", adding that the problem in Greece is two-fold given that there is a deficit while "the monies were wasted and not put to good use".
The Greek premier said it is necessary to find investments, and this remained a question since "we have increased public investments somewhat", while there was also the ESPA (National Strategic Reference Framework-NSRF), "but this needs to be combined with private investments".
Papandreou further said the EU's stance will be decisive, noting that a kind of "schizophrenia" was plaguing the EU: enhancing the economies on the one hand, and meeting the Maastricht criteria on the other.
He said that capital can be mobilised, and persisted in the position that "if serious decisions had been taken in Copenhagen on 'green development', we would have mobilized capital" while, regarding the eurobond, he said that the EU could issue a bond at a smaller spread than internationally.
Papandreou noted Germany's rejection of the idea of a joint European bond, but said that one could be issued with the money being returned to a joint European fund.
"My priority is to bring us out of the impasse, and I assume our responsibilities in the face of the crisis in the existing conditions," he said, and proposed that Greece undertake the initiative to convene an international conference on SMEs and their problems.
 FinMin at Economist conference: Gov't unwavering on needed changesThe government is absolutely unwavering on the deep-rooted changes that need to be made, which will be to the citizens' benefit, finance minister George Papaconstantinou stressed during an Economist conference in Athens on Tuesday.
Greece needs to do what it must not because of the EU or the international markets, but because the government wishes to create healthy fiscal foundations and a juster society, he said.
The minister noted that the country mustn't simply restrict expenditure, but change the entire system, "and in this context, time is needed".
He explained that Greece's Stability and Development program attempts to in a very big wager in a just way, without sinking further into recession, adding that this was not an easy venture, but it was absolutely necessary.
Key to this was strict adherence to the Stability and Development program, Papaconstantinou said, stressing also that the deficit of confidence in the Greek economy was nearly as significant as the budget deficit. In that framework, the government's first concern is to shield credibility through actions such as the autonomisation of the national statistics service (ESYE, the draft legislation for which will be tabled in parliament in the next few days), the creation of an independent body for monitoring execution of the budget, and other relevant steps.
Papaconstantinou further pointed out that an unprecedented speculative attack was underway, with Greece as a pawn in a wider "game" targeting the euro itself.
He noted that the PASOK government inherited from its predecessors a total fiscal derailment and a Greek economy that was in recession for the first time since 1993.
The minister also underlined that a series of important issues, such as a radical change of the formula with which the state budget is drafted and monitored, tax reform (the fundamental principles of which are slated to be tabled next week), social security and public administration reform were opened up during the government's first three months in office.
The fundamental principles of the changes in the taxation system will go far beyond simple changes of tax coefficients and concern the core of the taxation system, the procedures and the monitoring system, Papaconstantinou said after his address, in response to a press question.
He further expressed confidence that the Greek Stability and Development plan will receive a go-ahead by the EU on Wednesday.
 Tsipras requests off-the-agenda debate on stability programmeRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday requested an off-the-agenda discussion in parliament on the updated Stability and Development Programme submitted by the government to the European Union.
Tsipras underlined that SYRIZA's parliamentary group believes that the specific programme is not a one-way street.
 Barroso on Greek stability programmeBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expresses his conviction that Greece will achieve a correction of its budget deficit within the timetable set and, in a written statement issued here on Tuesday evening, declared that on Wednesday the European Commission will propose to the European Union's Council of finance ministers the approval of Greece's stability programme.
Barroso mentions that with its assessment the Commission believes that the correction of the deficit that Greece pursues by 2012, with an adequate effort for advancement for 2010, is an optimistic and attainable plan.
The Commission's president also hails Greece's commitment to take timely corrective measures in the event that the dangers that exist on the implementation of the stability programme are confirmed and stresses that the Commission will have as a responsibility to scrutinise the programme's implementation through a close supervision of monetary developments in Greece.
According to Barroso, the successful correction of the high monetary deficit is not only important for Greece but for the eurozone as well and for the EU as a whole.
Barroso also mentions that Greece's high monetary deficit for 2009 "constitutes a surprise for all of us" and points out that such deficits emanate from a combination of monetary slipping and the inaccurate notification of statistical data and must be corrected with determination, while also noting that Greece's public debt is also particularly high.
 Fears surrounding Greek economy 'irrational', Stiglitz claimsFears that the Greek economy will collapse were "irrational", Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said during a press conference in Athens on Tuesday, after the end of an Economist Conference held in the city.
He ruled out the prospect of economic collapse in Greece and also said the high interest rate spread for Greek bonds was excessive.
Stiglitz did not volunteer specific measures that the Greek government might take to correct the problems, noting only that this required structural reforms and that a successful policy should find a good balance between reducing the deficit, stimulating the economy and dealing with its structural weaknesses.
Asked whether salaries in Greece should be cut, the economist asserted that pay reductions did not general have a positive impact on reducing public deficits and pointed to the case of Ireland, where cuts in wages had failed to the anticipated results.
Commenting on the European Central Bank, Stiglitz said it was a paradox that the ECB was prepared to lend to banks at effectively zero interest but was not prepared to do the same for EU member-state governments.
 Financial system supports econ reforms, Eurobank CEO saysThe domestic financial system is determined to support reforms in the public and private sectors, reforms needed for the country to exit the crisis, Nikolaos Nanopoulos, Eurobank Group's chief executive, said on Tuesday. Addressing an event organised by the bank, the banking executive stressed that the state bonds' spread should be allowed to remain at current high levels for a long time, as it would have serious consequences on the cost of money in the country.
Nanopoulos noted that the government's updated Stability and Growth Programme was moving towards the right direction, and said the programme should signal the beginning of a period of drastic structural transformations and fiscal discipline for the Greek society.
He added that restoring confidence to the Greek economy was a decisive factor for achieving fiscal stability and the return of the economy to growth rates.
 FinMin meets with banks' associationFinance Minister George Papaconstantinou met on Tuesday with the presidium of the Hellenic Bank Association. Issues related to the Greek banks' exit from a programme for the reinforcement of the country's liquidity and the existing spread between the Greek and German bonds were discussed.
 Committee of Experts meets on social insurance system; statements by Papaconstantinou, LoverdosThe Committee of Experts, set up to study the implementation of structural reform in the existing social insurance system, met on Tuesday in the presence of Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos.
The meeting concluded that the imposition of a new tax to finance the social insurance funds is unlikely at least for the time being, while the Committee will meet again next Tuesday.
Loverdos underlined afterwards that the presentation of all relevant proposals will be concluded by the end of March. He stated that the financing of the social insurance system is an urgent issue and pointed out that AKAGE, the generations' solidarity fund, received 580 million euros for the first time this year.
On his part, Papaconstantinou stated that it is not feasible at present to impose a new tax to finance the social insurance funds, pointing out that the burden will not be laid on the law-abiding citizens.
Papaconstantinou underlined that the 2010 budget will support the social insurance funds but it will not be able to proceed with extraordinary funding and described as interesting the proposal to proceed with the utilization of the funds' real estate property. He also suggested a joint management of the social insurance funds' reserves.
Describing the financial state of the social insurance funds, Papaconstantinou stated that the year 2009 had been a period of "derailment" for the social insurance system.
The finance minister reiterated that AKAGE will by further financed by revenues stemming from VAT increase, privatizations and the GDP increase, while legalized gambling is another resource under consideration.
 Eurobarometer on economy, social protection, public administrationBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
The European eurobarometer report publicised here on Tuesday and titled "The social climate in the EU" shows the Greeks as being the most displeased Europeans regarding social protection in their country, the economic situation, the cost of life and the functioning of public administration.
On a scale of -10 to +10, the Greeks declare in general to be most dissatisfied with their lives, together with the Bulgarians and the Hungarians. They declare themselves dissatisfied with their personal state (-0.6) as against (+3.2) of the European average.
On the state of the economy in general, Greece shows one of the highest levels of dissatisfaction (-6.2), behind Latvia (-8.3), Hungary (-7.3) and Ireland (-6.5).
As regards health care, the greatest extent of dissatisfaction is noted in Greece, Bulgaria and Romania (-3).
Lastly, Greeks, Hungarians and Latvians are the most displeased regarding the way with which poverty and inequalities are being handled in their countries. The relevant rate in Greece is (-4.7) as against (-2) in the 27-nation EU.
 New car registrations down 15.1% in Jan.The Greek car market continued shrinking in January, with registrations of new vehicles falling 15.1 pct in the month, compared with the same period last year, the Federation of Car Importers and Dealers announced on Tuesday.
New registrations totaled 26,585 cars, down from an average of 31,310 in the same month in the four-year period 2004-2007 before the crisis. The federation expects car registrations to fall by more than 40 pct in February and March.
 Stocks end moderately upStocks ended moderately higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, supported by selective buying demand for bank shares. The Composite index of the market rose 0.73 pct to end at 2,058.41 points, with turnover a low 147.6 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index rose 0.78 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.74 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.02 pct. The Food (2.74 pct) and Bank (1.67 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Utilities (2.39 pct) and Commerce (1.22 pct) suffered losses.
Vell Group (24 pct), Compucon (11.11 pct), Korres (9.65 pct), Nikas (9.63 pct) and Paperpack (8.33 pct) were top gainers, while United Textiles (14.29 pct), Klonatex (11.11 pct), Mouzakis (6.98 pct) and Eurodrip (6.76 pct) were top losers. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 92 to 81 with another 61 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.60%
Personal & Household: +1.00%
Raw Materials: +0.33%
Travel & Leisure: -1.10%
Food & Beverages: +2.74%
Financial Services: -1.80%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 7.14
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.98
HBC Coca Cola: 17.20
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.70
National Bank of Greece: 16.15
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.60
Bank of Piraeus: 6.35
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened again to 356 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 346 bps on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 6.75 pct and the German Bund yielding 3.19 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 1.647 billion euros, of which 574 million were buy orders and the remaining 1.073 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 470 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.094 pct, the six-month rate was 0.96 pct, the three-month rate 0.66 pct and the one-month rate 0.42 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover a low 52.206 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,402 contracts worth 43.369 million euros, with 26,612 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,266 contracts worth 8.837 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,176), followed by Eurobank (792), MIG (1,046), Piraeus Bank (1,039), Alpha Bank (2,088), Hellenic Postbank (453) and ATEbank (592).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.404
Pound sterling 0.880
Danish kroner 7.505
Swedish kroner 10.203
Japanese yen 127.21
Swiss franc 1.485
Norwegian kroner 8.208
Canadian dollar 1.488
Australian dollar 1.594
 Greece, Albania, FYROM sign agreement for Prespes ParkGreece, Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) signed a formal agreement for protection of the unique Prespes Lakes wetland on Tuesday, on the anniversary of World Wetlands Day and exactly 10 years since the declaration of the Balkans' first transboundary eco-agreement.
The agreement for the park that straddles the borders of all three countries was signed by Greek Environment Minister Tina Birbili and her Albanian and FYROM counterparts, Fatmir Mediu and Nexhati Jakupi, as well as European Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas. It dates back to the pledge made in a Joint Communique on February 2, 2000 by the prime ministers of the three countries at that time to cooperate in protecting the Prespes ecosystem.
The key aim of the agreement is to facilitate trilateral cooperation to ensure comprehensive protection of the Prespes Lakes wildlife and sustainable development in the Prespes Park area, as well as to develop a comprehensive plan for managing the waters flowing into the Prespes basin.
In statements after the signature of the agreement, Dimas underlined the importance of such transnational agreements and pointed out that "the environment does not recognise borders". He also expressed satisfaction that one of his last acts as environment Commissioner was to preside over such an important agreement.
Birbili praised the role of non-governmental organisations and local communities in the 10 years that intervened from when the transnational Prespes Park was first declared until the emergence of the legally binding agreement signed by the three countries on Tuesday. She also particularly emphasised the support of the "European family" in this effort, since an innovative feature of the agreement signed on Tuesday is that the European Union will be represented in the park's administrative committee.
Mediu hailed the agreement, emphasising the important of cooperation on a regional level and saying that this should be seen in the context of a European prospect for the region, while inviting Greece to take on a central role in the management of other environmental issues. The FYROM minister said the agreement came as a crucial time and redefined commitments to sustainable development and protection of biodiversity in the Prespes region.
Ramsar Convention senior advisor for Europe Tobias Salathe also made a brief statement, in which he stressed the importance of the agreement for the region.
The history of the agreement
The drive for the signature of the agreement was revived last November by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who organised an informal summit of the three countries' premiers at the Ramsar-protected Prespa National to discuss cooperation in the management of the Prespes Lakes Park.
The effort was launched at a trilateral summit on February 2, 2000, symbolically held on World Wetlands Day, by the then prime ministers Costas Simitis of Greece, Ilir Meta of Albania and Ljubco Georgievski of FYROM, in a declaration that designated the Prespes region a National Park, the first of its kind in the Balkans.
The aim of the park is to protect several the region's rare wildlife, as well as enhancing cooperation among Balkan countries.
After the declaration, an informal coordination committee was set up by the three countries, which from 2001 until the present has advanced the planning and execution of joint programs for protection of the area and improvement of the local residents' standard of living. The development of the Strategic Action Plan for the Sustainable Development of Prespes Park, financed by Greece, was one of the first major achievements of this collaboration.
In the context of the decade-long cooperation, many local agencies (chiefly municipalities and NGOs) have been working together to carry out joint programs, often funded by international financial organisations. Even though there has not been a legally binding agreement so far, such initiatives have resulted in significant joint actions that have promoted both sustainable local development but also brought the populations of the neighbouring countries closer together.
Prespes: A treasure chest of biodiversity
The Prespes basin stands out for its exquisite biodiversity, which has been acknowledged at European and global level not only for its rich fauna and flora, but for the quality and rarity of the species found there.
More than 260 species of birds, 1,500 species of plants, 23 species of fish and 60 species of mammals make up Prespes' rare biodiversity.
The Lesser Prespa Lake and Greater Prespa Lake of Florina, northwestern Greece form a unique ecosystem and constitute a natural border between the three countries.
The two tectonic Lakes, among the oldest on Earth, are home to the Mediterranean's most ancient species of trout, and also the short-horn pygmy cow, both of which are threatened with extinction.
The Prespes Lakes are also among the 10 most important wetlands of the Mediterranean, while eight of the 11 fish species native to the lakes are endemic and not found anywhere else in the world.
The area is a large basin at an altitude of 850m which contains two lakes, Mikri (Lesser) and Megali (Greater) Prespa. Megali Prespa is today located in Greece, Albania and FYROM while Mikri Prespa is entirely located within Greece and Albania.
According to the UNESCO World Heritage Center, the area is characterized by outstanding natural beauty and has been inhabited without interruption since antiquity (with traces of ancient habitation in the area of "Lemos" and on the island of Agios Achilleos) to the present day.
The local population has closely associated the area, its history and its natural beauty with myths, legends and traditions.
The Prespes region contains the highest degree of species biodiversity in a corresponding surface area in Europe. It is a unique lake landscape of outstanding natural beauty that includes a wealth of monuments from the Byzantine and post-Byzantine period. The uniqueness lies in the interaction between man and nature.
Covering an area that includes both lakes and the neighbouring slopes of Mounts Triklari and Varnunda, the National Park is the largest in Greece with a core area of 4,900 hectares and a surrounding zone of 14,750 hectares. It begins at an altitude of 850m and contains deciduous forest dominated by oak and beech, as well as fir and cedar forests. More than 1500 plant species and 12 forest types can be encountered in the area in which 46 mammal species live, including some of the rarest in Europe such as the wolf, bear, wild ibex and otter.
Moreover, the area is one of the most important biotopes in Greece in terms of bird life. Birds that nest here include the grey goose (Anser anser) and the goosander (Mergus mersander), cranes (Ardeidae), cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis) and pygmy cormorants (Phalacrocorax pygmeus), as well as several species of ducks, terns, birds of prey, woodpeckers, etc. It is the only area in Europe other than the Danube Delta and the former USSR where two species of pelican reproduce, the White pelican (Pelecanus onocratulus) and the Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus). The water meadows surrounding the lakes are home to significant amphibian and reptile populations.
Protected areas in the three countries
Over the last few decades, all three countries have taken a series of steps to protect the unique ecosystems of Prespes.
In Albania, the Prespes National Park was established in 1999 aimed at the restoration and sustainable protection of critical land and aquatic ecosystems in the area.
In Greece, the Prespes National Park was established in 1974 for the protection of the Lesser and Greater Prespes Lakes and their outflow basin, while in 1975 the area was designated a "Place of Significant Natural Beauty". Further, the Greek section of the Lakes' basin is included in the National List of 163 areas that have been entered in the Natura 2000 network as "Special Protected Areas" (SPA) in accordance with the EU 'Birds' (conservation of wild birds, 1979) and 'Habitats' (conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora, 1992) Directives.
The Lesser Prespa Lake was designated in 1974 as a "Wetland of International Importance" under the Ramsar Convention.
In FYROM, the Pelister National Park was founded in 1948 for protection of a globally unique mountain ecosystem east of the Greater Prespa Lake, while the Galicica National Park was founded in 1958 for the restoration and protection of a unique land ecosystem extending to Mt. Galicica situated between Greater Prespa and Lake Ohrid. The Ezerani (Ramsar site) ornithological (nature) reserve was founded in 1996 for the protection of migratory and other aquatic birds. Greater Prespa was designated a "Natural Monument" in 1977.
 Suspected member of terrorist group to testify WednesdayÁ 21-year-old man arrested on Monday and charged with being a member of the terrorist group "Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire" asked for and received an extension until Wednesday to prepare his testimony.
According to the case file, the suspect's fingerprints were found on a mobile object in the Athens district of Halandri safehouse alleged to be used by members of the latter group.
 Trial for Mylonas kidnapping beginsThe trial for the kidnapping of northern Greek industrialist Georgios Mylonas began in an Athens criminal appeals court under stringent security measures on Tuesday afternoon, only to be postponed almost immediately because one of the defence lawyers was unable to attend. The court has now adjourned proceedings until 9:30 on Wednesday morning, when Mylonas himself will go on the stand as a witness.
Eleven people stand accused for the June 2008 kidnapping, in which wanted criminal Vassilis Paleokostas is alleged to have been the mastermind and is being sought by authorities. The accused face a total of seven criminal charges and 17 misdemeanours.
The main suspects for the kidnapping are Vassilis Paleokostas, Vaggelis Chrysohoidis, Polykarpos Georgiadis and Asimakis Lazaridis. Also among the accused is prison inmate George Haralambidis, who allegedly assisted in arranging Mylonas' abduction while incarcerated in Trikala prison.
Five people related to Haralambidis and Lazaridis have been charged with misdemeanours, while the fugitive George Petrakakos also faces charges for various robberies committed with Paleokostas.
Mylonas was held for 15 days and released after his family paid a ransom of 10.8 million euros, only half of which have been retrieved so far.
 Pirates release Greek cargo ship "Filitsa"The Greek-owned cargo vessel "Filitsa" on Tuesday was released by Somali pirates after receiving an unspecified ransom.
According to Greek Coast Guard, the crew of three Greek and 19 Filipino seamen are well and the Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship is now sailing to the nearest safe port for refueling.
The freighter, which belongs to the Order Shipping Co. Ltd., was seized by Somali pirates on November 11, 2009, 400 nautical miles northeast of the Seychelles while sailing to Durban, South Africa, loaded with fertilizer.
 Removing billboards too expensive, local authorities claimThe Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) on Tuesday said it was seeking a meeting with Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis regarding the issue of illegal advertising billboards put up alongside Greek roads. The minister recently wrote to the Supreme Court prosecutor requesting that he take action to enforce the law and have the billboards torn down.
Local authorities, however, stress the need for a new legislative framework that also takes into account cost considerations, pointing out that the removal of the billboards will cost several thousand euros that cash-strapped municipalities can ill afford to spend.
 Foreign nationals arrested for smuggling illegal migrantsFour foreign nationals from Asian countries were arrested on Tuesday in the interchange of Eleftherochori, Thesprotia prefecture in northwest Greece, accused of smuggling illegal migrants.
Police acting on a tip-off found 15 illegal migrants, among them 3 children, all Asian, in four private cars driven by the suspects.
The illegal migrants who were destined for Italy and the smugglers will be led before a prosecutor. The cars were seized.
 Italy-bound illegals, smugglers intercepted in NW GreeceFour foreign nationals were arrested on Tuesday in extreme NW Thesprotia prefecture on migrant smuggling charges, and following a surveillance operation by authorities.
A total of 15 would-be migrants, identified only as citizens of an Asian country, were also arrested in four separate vehicles.
The final destination was Italy, according to reports, via a ferry boat route beginning in the port of Igoumenitsa.
 Off-duty police officer killed in scuffleAn off-duty police officer was killed after entering a fray with four stockbreeders, two men and two women, on their farm in the region of Neochori, Thesprotia prefecture in extreme northwest Greece. The fatal incident occurred shortly after midnight on Tuesday.
The victim drove to the farm house with his car and the causes of the clash are unknown. According to the autopsy he died from severe blows to the head caused by a piece of plywood.
All four suspects were arrested and a police investigation is underway.
 Fair on WednesdayFair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -8C and 12C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 1C to 8C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 5C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glancePrime Minister George Papandreou's plea to political leaders for consensus during Monday's off-the-agenda discussion in parliament on corruption, and the government's measures for recovery of the economy, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Benefits to 'bogus' blind persons with forged documents".
APOGEVMATINI: "Government-bankers in head-on collision over market liquidity".
AVGHI: "We are turning back many years - Prime Minister George Papandreou's additional measures amount to a 20 percent reduction in income for large groups of the population".
AVRIANI: "Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras' bold proposal to Papandreou: Impose harsh measures right away to avoid bankruptcy".
CHORA: "Suffocation from banks' lack of liquidity".
ELEFTHEROS: "Ruling PASOK deputy Mimis Androulakis admits that PASOK was not ready to govern".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Doublespeak in the midst of the crisis - Prime Minister calls on the banks for support and Economy Minister Louka Katseli accuses them of profiteering".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Dramatic plea for unity - Papandreou: We are in the cyclone's eye".
ESTIA: "Time for decisions on the economy -Prime Minister to meet with political leaders".
ETHNOS: "Additional measures every month if needed".
IMERISSIA: "Take measures now - First step towards consensus".
KATHIMERINI: "Consensus pending measures - Prime Minister to hold meetings with political leaders".
LOGOS: "Round of meetings for consensus ....over measures for the economy - Papandreou called all the political leaders....".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Finance Ministry presses the Tax Bureau offices to increase revenues up to 10.6 percent".
NIKI: "Govern, or else a 'directorate' - Brussels lying in wait, the time has come for major reversals".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The working classes' rights define the country's prestige, not the corrupt foreign credit rating agencies"
TA NEA: "Zero hour for the measures - New tax on fuel - Cutbacks in salaries".
TO VIMA: "Shocking report on the 55 billion euros lie - How we arrived at the cliff's edge".
VRADYNI: "Massacre of employees - Preannouncement of the immediate implementation of Plan B".
 Spokesman:UN chief's visit gave impetus to efforts for a settlementNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said on Tuesday that Monday's visit to Cyprus by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was successful and gave impetus to efforts to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem.
He noted that the visit reaffirmed that the UN's role was not that of a mediator or arbitrator, but that of a supporter of efforts, and that the process for a settlement belongs to the Cypriots, with the international community providing its support.
Regarding the meeting Ban Ki Moon had with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat at the so-called president's office in the Turkish occupied areas of the Republic, Stephanou said President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias ''acted decisively and with calm, so that the trap set up for the Secretary General to visit the so-called presidential office of Mr. Talat boomeranged on the side that had set it.''
''The President of the Republic, acting as the head of state, warmly welcomed the Secretary General and made sure that the visit sent messages of respect towards the Republic of Cyprus,'' he added.
Stephanou said remarks by the UN chief's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer were based on UN resolutions that provide for the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus only, and point out the illegality of the unilateral declaration of independence of the Turkish Cypriot regime in the Cyprus' northern Turkish occupied areas.
The spokesman also said that President Christofias had the opportunity to point out to Ban Ki Moon that Turkey holds the key for a settlement, and that the meetings reaffirmed respect to UN resolutions on Cyprus, which should guide all efforts for a solution.
Referring to the joint statement of the leaders of the two communities, Stephanou said it was balanced. He noted that it sent messages of progress on the chapter of governance and underlined the necessity to discuss the other aspects of the Cyprus problem, in which there are differences.
He added that the statement also points out the need to step up efforts for more convergences, in order to pave the way for a solution, and highlights the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
Stephanou assured that the Greek Cypriot side would continue the hard work for a solution, based on UN resolutions, European and international law, and the high level agreements of 1977 and 1979, adding that the solution should terminate the Turkish occupation and reunify the island and its people, in the framework of a bizonal bicommunal federation.
Asked why the joint statement did not make any reference to a bizonal bicommunal federation, the spokesman said the basis of a solution had already been agreed on.
Replying to other questions, Stephanou said that progress has been made through the two rounds of intensive negotiations in January between the leaders of the two communities.
He added that President Christofias would be briefing the political parties in detail on the course of the negotiations, and that a meeting of the National Council, the top advisory body to the President on the question of Cyprus comprising parliamentary parties, would be announced soon.
Stephanou said both President Christofias and Talat have assured publicly that they are ready to continue the negotiations.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
President Christofias and Talat have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008, with an aim to reunify the island. Two rounds of intensive negotiations were held in January.
 UNSG departs after three-day visit to CyprusLARNACA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon departed from Cyprus Tuesday morning after a three-day visit to the island.
During his stay, the UNSG had separate meetings with President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
The three also had a joint meeting on Monday after which a statement was issued, noting that leaders "need even more courage and determination in the period ahead to bring the Cyprus talks to a successful conclusion".
Ban also said he was encouraged that the two leaders personally assured him of their shared commitment to a comprehensive solution as early as possible.
Ban assured the United Nations will continue to provide all the support they can.
 President Christofias discharged from hospital after testsNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic Demetris Christofias was discharged on Tuesday evening from the Nicosia General Hospital, where he underwent medical tests after having felt unwell earlier in the day.
Speaking to the media on his way out, a cheerful President Christofias said he was ''fine'' and thanked the doctors and staff for the care he received for a few hours.
Asked if he would be returning to work immediately or would be taking some time off to rest, President Christofias implied that he would not be staying away from his duties.
Head of the Cardiology Department of the Nicosia General Hospital Evagoras Nicolaides told reporters that the results of the first set of tests were satisfactory and that the second tests later on in the evening ''also proved to be satisfactory.''
''The President wanted to go and rest at home so we followed the procedure we follow with all patients and let him go home to rest. Due to the President's medical history, more specialised tests may follow in the near future,'' he added.
Replying to questions, Nicolaides said no decision had been taken for the president to return to the Hospital for tests on Wednesday.
Asked if the doctors had recommended that the president rests, Nicolaides said ''unfortunately the President is obsessed with his job and it seems that whatever we say he will continue to try to work.''
Replying to other questions, Nicolaides said that ''possibly exhaustion and his heavy schedule'' caused the condition that led him to hospital.
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