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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-02-17

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

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

Wednesday, 17 February 2010 Issue No: 3424

CONTENTS

  • [01] Papandreou and Putin agree to further develop strategic relations
  • [02] PM Papandreou on Moscow talks
  • [03] PM Papandreou gives interview to CNN
  • [04] Greek and Israeli premiers meet in Moscow restaurant
  • [05] ND leader seeks meeting with prime minister
  • [06] Finmin rescinds acceptance of Vatopedi Monastery proposal to return state properties
  • [07] Readjustment of car circulation fees ratified by Parliamentary com't
  • [08] SYRIZA question on '14th salary'
  • [09] Farmers depart from Promachonas border crossing
  • [10] Greece ready to reassure markets, partners and citizens over deficit-cutting plan
  • [11] Eurogroup chief reaffirms Greece's, EU's commitments
  • [12] 9th Turkish Aegean Coast-Greek Aegean Islands Economic Summit
  • [13] Customs employees launch 3-day strike, new strike planned by taxi owners
  • [14] Finance ministry employees begin strike
  • [15] Credit conditions remained negative in Jan
  • [16] ND on government policy on pharmaceuticals
  • [17] Stocks end 1.71% lower
  • [18] Greek bond market closing report
  • [19] ADEX closing report
  • [20] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [21] Civilian killed, two police injured in Vyronas shoot-out; two arrested
  • [22] Gunmen strip police officers of weaponry
  • [23] ND on the incident involving the disarming of policemen
  • [24] Blast at JP Morgan offices in Athens
  • [25] Bank robbers make off with 110,000 euros in Lamia
  • [26] Major hashish haul
  • [27] Heroin arrest
  • [28] Two elderly nuns die in monastery fire in Gerakas
  • [29] Minor disturbance by foreign detainees in Tripolis jail
  • [30] Athens signs MoC with Special Olympics 2011 organising com't
  • [31] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday
  • [32] Tuesday's edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Papandreou and Putin agree to further develop strategic relations

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA - V. Mourtis)

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expressed their joint desire to further develop strategic relations between their two countries following their meeting in Moscow on Tuesday.

    Their talks covered a broad range of issues, from political, economic and trade cooperation to cooperation in energy and culture, and was sealed with the signature of a special protocol for 2012-2014.

    Outlining the results of the two-hour meeting, Papandreou stressed that economic cooperation between Greece and Russia was particularly significant at a time when Greece was up against serious economic problems. He stressed that this cooperation would help Greece to re-order and develop its economy during a time of crisis.

    Replying to questions, the Greek prime minister also appeared confident that Greece would be able to weather the storm and emerge all the stronger - both politically and economically - since the crisis would provide an opportunity for changes long overdue. He emphasised that the Greek people were ready to support the changes that needed to be made, so that Greece could become a viable economy and an equitable society.

    Papandreou pointed out that the current crisis was not just Greek or European but global, and said that Greece was responsible for making changes to its economy and society, outlining the government's goal to reduce the public deficit by four percentage points in 2010 and below 3 percent of GDP in 2013.

    During their joint statements, Putin referred to the economic difficulties currently faced by Greece and appeared confident that the country could overcome the problems, while he referred to the "positive" message issued on Tuesday by EU finance ministers on this issue.

    He expressed hope that Greek-Russian bilateral relations would help both countries overcome their economic difficulties and pointed out that the global economic crisis had not begun in Greece, Europe or Russia but originated in the United States, which also faced problems like a high public deficit and huge foreign debt in the same way as other countries.

    A major part of their talks was devoted to energy cooperation, Papandreou told reporters. He said there had been an agreement to proceed quickly, in collaboration with Bulgaria, with the closely-watched Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project -- which envisions the transport of Russian crude from the Bulgarian Black Sea port to the Greek port in the NE Aegean as an alternate route to avoid the congested Bosporus Straits.

    Papandreou said the two sides were also ready to sign a legal agreement for the foundation of a company based in Athens to coordinate their cooperation on the construction of the South Stream natural gas pipeline.

    Putin particularly emphasised the importance of the South Stream pipeline and other large-scale projects that would help develop the economy, noting that the South Stream was not just a bilateral Greek-Russian project but a major international project being carried out on free-market terms and without any funding problems. He noted that 10 European countries have so far asked to participate.

    On bilateral trade relations, Putin said that these needed to be stimulated after shrinking by 40 percent during 2009 due to the economic crisis.

    Papandreou said Greece was interested in the expansion of agricultural exports to the potentially large Russian market and they agreed to set up a joint Greek-Russian ministerial committee that met for the first time on Tuesday and will reconvene in Moscow in a few months.

    The Greek side is also interested in further developing relations in the tourism and transport sectors, where Putin noted that Greece could become a major energy and transport hub in Europe and thus attract investments that would increase its significance in Europe.

    The Russian prime minister particularly stressed the potential for cooperation in solar energy, natural gas and oil, while they also discussed the transfer of Greece's know-how from the organisation of the 2004 Olympics and the Olympic Truce to Russia, which will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

    In terms of bilateral political cooperation, Papandreou said there were shared views on policies for the region and that Greece had made a significant contribution to the start of dialogue on a European security architecture, of which Russia was an inseparable part.

    The Greek premier also noted the cooperation with Russia in the Balkans and thanked Moscow for its steadfast, persistent and fair position on the Cyprus issue

    At the start of their meeting at the Kremlin, Putin had warmly greeted the Greek premier and said that he expected Papandreou's new Greek government to continue the progress achieved over the recent period in bilateral ties, while assuring that Moscow is interested in boosting relations.

    Earlier, Papandreou was received by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who expressed hope that cooperation between Greece and Russia will become closer during Papandreou's term.

    In a later meeting with visiting World Bank President Robert Zoellick on Tuesday, Medvedev referred to his earlier meeting with Papandreou and said that he had advised the Greek prime minister to seek the aid of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in solving Greece's deficit and borrowing crisis.

    Earlier, Papandreou met with the speaker of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, Sergey Mironov and the chairman of Russia's State Duma Boris Gryzlov.

    The Greek prime minister is accompanied by Minister of State Haris Pamboukis, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, Greek government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis and Deputy Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change Yiannis Maniatis.

    [02] PM Papandreou on Moscow talks

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA/V. Mourtis)

    Visiting Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking to Greek reporters here on Tuesday, said that he held a long discussion on the economic crisis with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, during which he told him that Greece has the Eurozone as its first option. If it did not belong to the Eurozone it would possibly consider other solutions.

    The Russian president mentioned to the Greek prime minister that he should assess all the possibilities that he has at his disposal so that Greece's economic problems can be solved.

    On the question of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline, Papandreou said that he discussed this issue in all the meetings he had in Russia and met with a positive response. Replying to a relevant question, he said that he did not get the impression of Russian interest receding following the results of the Ukrainian elections. On the contrary, as he said, what he realised was that the issue remained important for Russia.

    As regards the South Stream natural gas pipeline, the prime minister said that Greece is ready to sign the agreement with Russia. He also pointed out that there is no question of revising the contract on the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline, while also categorically denying the raising of the issue of economic support for Greece by Russia.

    He further mentioned that he would be meeting main opposition New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras, who requested the meeting.

    [03] PM Papandreou gives interview to CNN

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking in an interview with the CNN television network, stressed that Greece will observe its commitments, adding that the greatest problem facing the country was not the monetary deficit, but the "credibility deficit" and that "the primary aim of the new government is to correct innate problems of Greece, such as corruption and the lack of transparency."

    [04] Greek and Israeli premiers meet in Moscow restaurant

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA - V. Mourtis)

    Prime Minister George Papandreou had a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow on Monday night, when the two heads of government met while dining at a restaurant in central Moscow. The Greek premier arrived in Moscow on Monday night for a round of contacts with Russia's leadership.

    [05] ND leader seeks meeting with prime minister

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Tuesday asked for a meeting with Prime Minister George Papandreou immediately after the premier's return from Moscow in order to discuss crucial issues concerning the economy and the latest developments in Greece's relations with neighbouring Turkey.

    "ND's president believes that the critical nature of events must be faced on the basis of national responsibility and national understanding," ND spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos said.

    The spokesman went on to criticise the policy being followed by Papandreou and Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou in relation with economic developments and for sending mixed messages.

    "At the same time that Papandreou made clear that Greece is not asking for financial aid but political support and time in order to be able to borrow on the same terms as other countries, the finance minister in Brussels was comparing Greece and the Greek economy with the Titanic," Panagiotopoulos noted, saying that this sent completely contradictory messages to markets.

    [06] Finmin rescinds acceptance of Vatopedi Monastery proposal to return state properties

    Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Tuesday rescinded the government's acceptance of a recommendation made by the Legal Council of State, which advised that the state accept a proposal by the Vatopedi Monastery that it return to the Greek State any properties still in its possession that had been acquired through land swaps with parcels of property around Lake Vistonida.

    The monastery made the proposal in December 2008 and the Legal Council of State issued its own recommendation in 2009. It also said that the issue of who owned the lake and lakeshore properties should be settled in court.

    Papaconstantinou also instructed the Legal Council of State to set up working teams that will carry out all judicial and administrative steps to protect the rights of the state.

    [07] Readjustment of car circulation fees ratified by Parliamentary com't

    Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili on Tuesday told a relevant parliamentary committee that the government will soon unveil a "comprehensive political proposal" on the automobile, including measures that she said aim to improve mass transportation infrastructure.

    Following a debate on proposed legislative acts concerning the readjustment (reductions) of vehicle circulation fees and the adoption of measures against air pollution the government MPs voted in favor while the opposition deputies cast a negative vote.

    The minister stated that the goal set is to present incentives for less polluting cars, adding that a "green" levy will be imposed based on the principle of reciprocity.

    [08] SYRIZA question on '14th salary'

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday tabled a question in Parliament calling on the prime minister to clarify the government's intentions vis-a-vis the so-called "14th salary", a reference to numerous press reports over the recent period citing the abolition of the extra abolish the "14th salary".

    Tsipras charged, in his tabled question, that "wage-earners and pensioners have become the target of the government as if they are the only ones to blame for the economic crisis."

    He warned that such a decision would bring a long recession to the country with dramatic consequences.

    [09] Farmers depart from Promachonas border crossing

    Protesting farmers that had blocked the Promachonas border crossing with Bulgaria on Tuesday decided to finally suspend their protest and withdraw the tractors. The decision was made after a lengthy meeting at the Macedonia-Thrace secretariat with Deputy Agriculture Minister Mihalis Karhimakis.

    One of their representatives said they were satisfied with their discussion with Karhimakis and Deputy Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Markos Bolaris but warned that if their demands were not met by next November, the farmers would take to the roads once again.

    Financial News

    [10] Greece ready to reassure markets, partners and citizens over deficit-cutting plan

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)

    EU finance ministers on Tuesday gave Greece the "green light" to implement its economic stability programme, although they underlined the possible risks surrounding the programme.

    "We move fast with solid steps to implement our commitments," Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou told reporters after an Ecofin meeting here.

    The Greek minister said Athens was ready to reassure its partners, international markets and above all Greek citizens that it would cut its fiscal deficit by 4.0 pct of GDP by the end of 2010 and noted that the government, in the next few weeks, would study all possible risks stressed by Ecofin and would discuss with the European Commission the need "to take any additional measures".

    Papaconstantinou stressed that both the Eurogroup and Ecofin councils re-asserted an EU Summit statement that eurozone members have a collective responsibility for the euro area's problems and that the eurozone would help member-states doing what they have to.

    He added that this statement should have been specialised, but it won't since it could not become an issue of public debate. Papaconstantinou stressed that if a political statement would not be enough to end speculative attacks by markets, then the EU should be ready to send a necessary message to markets in combination with implementation of the economic stability programme by Greece.

    Papaconstantinou said it was too early to talk of additional measures, although he said an Ecofin statement called for interventions to boost budget revenues and cut state spending.

    "We will move within this framework and will announce decisions in cooperation with our partners," he added.

    The Greek minister was adamant that the government would not cut the so-called "14th monthly salary" to employees in the public sector, saying that the ECOFIN council did not take any specific decisions.

    "The government will do its best to safeguard the incomes of Greek wage-earners," he noted. Papaconstantinou reiterated that it was vital to restore confidence in our programme, but added that a larger than expected recession in 2009 could lead to a larger recession in 2010 -compared with early estimates, although he noted that additional measures announced in early February were meant to deal with such a likelihood.

    He said that European officials acknowledged that the Ecofin's decision did not cover the Greek problem only, but other problems that would arose in other Eurozone states. Papaconstantinou said a debate began on how to deal more effectively with the use of financial instruments in the EU.

    Moreover, he said the Greek government will launch an "aggressive" communication policy to better inform European public opinion over the situation in the country and reiterated that Greece must give a battle against time.

    Commenting on ECB's insistence for additional efforts to be taken by Greece, Papaconstantinou said the country was leading as an example so that other eurozone members acknowledged their obligation in fiscal policy.

    [11] Eurogroup chief reaffirms Greece's, EU's commitments

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker late Monday affirmed Greece's commitment to take additional measures if this proved necessary, reaffirming also the EU leaders' commitment to provide assistance to Greece if it should require help from the eurozone.

    Speaking in Brussels after a Eurogroup meeting on the Greek economy, Juncker noted that if the Greek government deems additional measures are necessary, it must announce by March 16 what additional measures it will take both for reducing the state expenditures and for increasing state revenues.

    He added that the European Commission will recommend to Greece a package of possible measures for both targets.

    In the event of differing views between Greece and the Commission, the Council, following the proposal of the Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB), has the right to take the decisions on the measures itself, given that, under Community legislation on excessive deficits, the state with the excessive deficit does not have the right of vote when the problem is discussed by the Ecofin, he explained.

    With regard to increasing revenues, Juncker cited indicatively an increase in VAT, increase in taxes on luxury items, cars and energy.

    With respect to reducing state expenditures, the Eurogroup chief cited indicatively the ministries' reserves and reduction in spending on salaries.

    Juncker further acknowledged the existence of certain risks with respect to materialisation of the targets of Greece's Stability and Growth Program pertaining either to slower growth or macro-economic hazards.

    He also said that Greece is responsible for stabilising its public finances, noting that this is a purely Greek problem.

    As for the active support measures for Greece, Juncker said that it would not be prudent for the eurozone country's to make them public at this time, stressing that if and when such measures are required, there will be specific intervention instruments.

    "We have confidence in Greece's stability program and the commitments assumed by the Greek government," Juncker said, adding that "the international markets are making a mistake in attacking Greece, and are wrong if they believe that they will entrap Greece."

    He further expressed satisfaction with the Greek government's reaction to the crisis, stressing that it is a difficult venture and that the Greek government and Greek people must display courage.

    [12] 9th Turkish Aegean Coast-Greek Aegean Islands Economic Summit

    Greece and Turkey on Tuesday expressed their will to strengthen bilateral economic, commercial and business relations to tackle the economic crisis with extroversion as an implement.

    The 9th Turkish Aegean Coast-Greek Aegean Islands Economic Summit held in Athens with the participation of 200 Turkish businessmen was termed a historical moment for the difficult challenges of the future that the two neighbouring countries are facing.

    "It is jointly perceptible that todayt's discussion has a particularity which is by definition oriented towards the strengthening of relations and which could create beneficial results in both countries," said Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli.

    She further said that "our challenge is the need for us to develop cooperations and to act collectively and coordinatedly," adding "investing in extroversion is investing in growth and social prosperity, while elements uniting us are much more than those separating us."

    Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis said on his part that "we have many possibilities for joint big steps," explaining that the increase in contacts between the business communities of the two countries must be and is a priority for both sides.

    The deputy minister also said that total Greek investments in Turkey, in many sectors, currently exceed 6 billion dollars. They are two economies that can produce joint results through a common effort to take initiatives and this is a target that we can and must achieve.

    Turkish Minister of State Mehmet Zafer Caglayan said that "our bilateral economic relations were, are and shall be very important in the development of the two countries," pointing out that the present meeting in Athens has greater importance than others of the past due to the economic crisis dealing a blow at both countries.

    "We want to show solidarity and friendship to the struggling Greek people from a deep crisis that is also dealing a blow at the Turkish people," the Turkish minister said and noted that Turkey has greater experience in economic crises and maybe worse ones, while explaining that the main reason for his presence in Athens together with the 200 businessmen is for Turkey to "extend a helping hand to Greece and to share with it the bitter experiences it went through."

    [13] Customs employees launch 3-day strike, new strike planned by taxi owners

    Customs employees throughout the country launched a three-day strike on Tuesday, in protest of cutbacks announced in their benefits and incomes.

    The Customs employees will be on strike up to and including Thursday, while Finance and Economy Ministry employees in various services also launched a four-day strike on Tuesday that will run through Friday.

    The Finance Ministry employees on strike include the State Accounts office, the national statistics service, the Deposits and Loans Fund, the Capital Market Committee, and central services of the finance and economy ministries.

    On Friday, taxi owners will hold a new 24-hour strike, while on February 24 a 24-hour nationwide strike has been called by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), in which the civil servants' umbrella federation ADEDY has also stated participation.

    The Customs employees strike is expected to cause problems in the operation of Greece's Customs houses.

    [14] Finance ministry employees begin strike

    Striking finance ministry employees blocked access to the ministry building in Athens on Tuesday as they launched two rolling 48-hour strikes.

    The strike action was called in protest to the government decision to freeze salaries, adopt new tax measures and impose a 10 pct cut on benefits, which the protestors say correspond to monthly salary reductions of between 350 and 750 euros.

    [15] Credit conditions remained negative in Jan

    Credit conditions remained negative in the first month of 2010, with the value of bounced checks rising 1.08 pct on a monthly basis and falling by 22.3 pct from the same month last year.

    A monthly report by Teiresias SA, said that bounced checks totaled 17,689 in volume in January, down 0.57 pct from December 2009 and down 17.19 pct compared with January 2009. The number of unpaid bills totaled 14,648 in January worth 27.3 million euros, up 9.04 pct and by 7.72 pct compared with January 2009, respectively.

    [16] ND on government policy on pharmaceuticals

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party growth and competitiveness sector chief Costis Hatzidakis and the party's health sector chief Marios Salmas believe that the government has backtracked on announcements it has made regarding the pricing of pharmaceuticals.

    The two officials in a statement made on the occasion of announcements by Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli on the repricing of all phartmaceuticals in circulation in the greek market, said:

    "We expected the government to be more determined on the issue of pricing pharaceuticals, even more so at this crucial economic conjuncture.

    "In 3 months, since the announcements of November 19, 2009, the government backtracked on its announcements. The pricing of model pharmaceuticals that would take place on the basis of the 3 cheapest prices of the countries of the European Union of the 26, is becoming the 3 cheapest of the Eurozone."

    [17] Stocks end 1.71% lower

    Stocks ended significantly lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, hit by a jump in the Greek bonds' spreads. The composite index of the market ended 1.71 pct lower at 1,866.87 points, off the day's lows, with turnover shrinking to 167.060 million euros. The FTSE 20 index fell 1.31 pct, the FTSE 40 index dropped 2.30 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 2.09 pct down.

    The Travel (0.74 pct) and Industrial Products (0.29 pct) were the only sectors to score gains, while Oil (5.72 pct) and Technolgoy (3.91 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Compucon (12.5 pct), VIS (9.73 pct), Druckfarben (9.43 pct) and Athina (9.30 pct) were top gainers, while Voyatzoglou (16.9 pct), Cardico (16.22 pct), Lamda Development (13.12 pct) and Desmos (9.09 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 149 to 38 with another 42 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -0.01%

    Industrials: +0.29%

    Commercial: -2.70%

    Construction: -2.09%

    Media: -1.22%

    Oil & Gas: -5.72%

    Personal & Household: -1.54%

    Raw Materials: -2.60%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.74%

    Technology: -3.91%

    Telecoms: -0.12%

    Banks: -1.35%

    Food & Beverages: -2.47%

    Health: -1.40%

    Utilities: -2.10%

    Chemicals: -3.10%

    Financial Services: -3.11%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 6.44

    ATEbank: 1.58

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.73

    HBC Coca Cola: 16.55

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.01

    National Bank of Greece: 13.54

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.30

    Intralot: 3.37

    OPAP: 15.40

    OTE: 8.62

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.68

    Titan: 18.80

    [18] Greek bond market closing report

    Yield spreads widened significantly in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widening to 322 basis points. The Greek bond yielded 6.41 pct and the German Bund 3.21 pct. Turnover was a low 982 million euros, of which 383 million were buy orders and the remaining 599 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 265 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.22 pct, the six-month rate 0.96 pct, the three-month 0.66 pct and the one-month rate 0.42 pct.

    [19] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.68 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising to 125.975 million eurs. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 12,655 contracts worth 57.763 million euros, with 32,163 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 81,423 contracts worth 68.212 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (71,209), followed by Eurobank (777), MIG (511), GEK (1,119), Piraeus Bank (630), National Bank (3,089), Alpha Bank (1,271), Cyprus Bank (560) and Hellenic Postbank (412).

    [20] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.375

    Pound sterling 0.877

    Danish kroner 7.502

    Swedish kroner 9.956

    Japanese yen 123.66

    Swiss franc 1.479

    Norwegian kroner 8.116

    Canadian dollar 1.437

    Australian dollar 1.535

    General News

    [21] Civilian killed, two police injured in Vyronas shoot-out; two arrested

    A civilian was killed and two police officers were injured during a shoot-out on Tuesday afternoon in the east Athens district of Vyronas between authorities and two bank robbery suspects, identified as Albanian nationals.

    According to initial reports, the two suspects fled a police stakeout by lobbing hand grenades against the arresting officers in pursuit. One was caught and arrested immediately, while the second took refuge in a bakery, lobbing more hand grenades against pursuing police officers.

    Both suspects were subsequently arrested, while the injured were transported to a nearby hospital.

    The two men threw at least five hand-grenades in total, of which only two or three exploded. Bomb disposal experts are now on the scene to neutralise the remainder.

    The civilian - a 25-year-old ethnic Greek from Albania that was working on a construction site - was caught in the cross-fire and sustained serious injuries that resulted in his death in hospital a few hours later.

    [22] Gunmen strip police officers of weaponry

    Two gunmen took the service revolvers and bullet-proof vests of two police officers who went for a routine check outside the Tax Bureau office in Athens' northern suburb of Maroussi shortly before midnight Monday.

    According to initial reports by the police, the two officers from the Maroussi police station sent to the Tax Bureau office to investigate two suspects. The suspects took them by surprise however, immobilised them and grabbed their weaponry and bullet-proof vests, and fled the scene.

    The circumstances of the incident are being investigated by police, while a manhunt has been launched to locate and arrest the perpetrators.

    [23] ND on the incident involving the disarming of policemen

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) shadow minister of citizen protection Nikolaos Dendias referred to the incident recorded in the district of Maroussi, Athens on Monday night involving the disarming of police officers by gunmen.

    Dendias underlined on Tuesday that "the incident highlights the major deficit in public safety and the rapid crime rate increase," pointing out that "the training of police officers should change as well as the existing policing model."

    Two gunmen took the service revolvers and bullet-proof vests of two police officers who were on a routine check outside a Tax Bureau office.

    According to police reports, the two officers from the Maroussi Police Station were sent to the Tax Bureau office to investigate two suspects. The suspects took them by surprise, immobilized them and grabbed their weaponry and bullet-proof vests before fleeing the scene.

    The circumstances of the incident are under investigation and a manhunt is in progress to arrest the perpetrators.

    [24] Blast at JP Morgan offices in Athens

    A bomb exlosion occurred outside the offices of the JP Morgan brokerage firm in the upscale central Athens district of Kolonaki at approximately 19:50 on Tuesday.

    An unidentified caller had earlier warned an Athens daily that a bomb was going to explode in half an hour, as was the case.

    Police sealed off the area and no injuries were reported.

    The time bomb had been placed at the entrance of a building where the offices were located on the second floor, causing considerable damage.

    Bomb disposal experts and the anti-terrorist squad arrived at the scene.

    [25] Bank robbers make off with 110,000 euros in Lamia

    Four bank robbers made off with 110.000 euros after holding up an ATEbank branch in Lamia on Tuesday morning.

    The four robbers approached the bank on two motorcycles in downtown Lamia, wearing hoods underneath crash helmets, and swarmed into the bank shouting "hold-up", with guns in hand.

    One of the robbers headed for the branch director while two others went straight to the tellers and grabbed all money in sight.

    According to eyewitnesses, the robbers spoke in Greek and appeared determined.

    While the robbery was in progress, a customer outside the bank realised what was happening and alerted police with his cell phone.

    They said one of the four tellers calmly threw a packet containing 200,000 euros in the trash bin without being seen by the robbers.

    The robbers fled the scene on their motorcycles and disappeared in the side streets.

    Lamia police launched a manhunt, closing off the vicinity and conducting car searches. Shortly afterwards they found the two motorcycles abandoned in the outskirts of the city.

    More than 40 employees and customers were in the bank at the time of the hold-up.

    [26] Major hashish haul

    Police in Thesprotia prefecture on Monday seized nearly 200 kilos of hashish in a car from Albania, and arrested the driver.

    During a check in Nea Selefkia, police found 8 sacks of hashish weighing a total 192.86 kilos in the car, which was destined for Athens.

    The driver was arrested, while the Igoumenitsa police narcotics squad are investigating links with collaborators, and also to trace the end recipients in Athens.

    [27] Heroin arrest

    Police from Xylokastro have arrested a 26-year-old foreign national on drug trafficking charges after a substantial quantity of heroin was found in his possession, it was made known on Tuesday.

    Acting on a tip-off that the foreign national was selling narcotics in Athens and Corinth, police discovered the suspect's residence and launched a discrete surveillance.

    In a coordinated operation on Friday in the Athens suburb of Nea Philadelfia, police found and seized 700 grams of heroin, a small quantity of cocaine, a pistol and ammunition, 650 euros in cash and two cell phones used for closing drug sales.

    [28] Two elderly nuns die in monastery fire in Gerakas

    Two elderly nuns died in a fire that broke out in a monastery in the Athens suburb of Gerakas at dawn on Tuesday.

    The bodies of the two nuns, who were sisters, were discovered at 5:45 a.m. at the Aghios Timotheos monastery after a fire that is believed to have been caused by candles during a power blackout in the area.

    According to the Fire Department the two nuns, one of which had mobility problems, were trapped in their bedroom by the flames, and apparently died of smoke inhalation.

    A strong team of 15 firefighters with three fire engines and volunteers rushed to the monastery and quickly put out the blaze before it spread, but the two nuns had already succumbed.

    [29] Minor disturbance by foreign detainees in Tripolis jail

    A failed suicide attempt on Monday morning by a Palestinian held in a police station in Tripolis, southern Greece, caused a limited disturbance by other detainees, also foreign nationals, who set blankets on fire.

    According to reports, the man was set to be deported.

    All of the detainees were moved to an adjacent hall until the fire was put out and seven were briefly taken to a hospital with respiratory problems caused by smoke inhalation.

    Sports

    [30] Athens signs MoC with Special Olympics 2011 organising com't

    ‘he City of Athens and the Special Olympics World Summer Games Athens 2011 Ôrganising committee on Tuesday signed a MoC during a ceremony at city hall.

    The idea of the Special Olympics lends meaning and substance to universal values which have been more or less forgotten, such as social solidarity, social contribution and showing love for your fellow human being. For this reason, our meeting here today and the signing of the Memorandum of Cooperation not only has a practical function, but is a symbolic act," Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis said during the special ceremony held in the Democracy hall.

    Athens 2011 organising committee chairwoman Joanna Despotopoulou commended Kaklamanis' contribution to the joint goal of staging successful Games and noted that preparations are underway to host 10,000 athletes from 185 countries in Athens, together with coaches, families, officials and prominent personalities who will participate in the World Games.

    "We are truly grateful as the economic situation and innumerable problems deprive us of the ability to reach out with optimism to inspire Greek citizens, to mobilize the business community, to raise awareness among the major public welfare institutions so that they can join us in this major humanitarian, cultural, educational and sporting event that Athens will host in 2011," she said.

    Weather Forecast

    [31] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 2C and 21C. Cloudy with light showers in Athens, with southerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 18C. Rainy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 6C to 14C.

    [32] Tuesday's edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Prime minister George Papandreou's visit to Moscow and the Eurogroup (Monday) and Ecofin (Tuesday) meetings on the Greek economy were the main front-page items in Tuesday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The hopes for the Greek economy lie in Moscow now - Prime minister's visit to the Kremlin".

    APOGEVMATINI: "The Easter bonus and summer holiday bonus at risk - Unbearable pressure on Greek government by the Brussels directorate for abolition of the working people's '14th salary' (half-salary Easter and summer holiday bonuses)".

    AVRIANI: "Simitis (PASOK former prime minister) should pay from his own pocket the 300 million euros his government gave in graft to Goldman Sachs".

    CHORA: "How Simitis and (ND former prime minister) Karamanlis (the two preceding premiers, respectively) were concealing the debts (secret borrowing) in collaboration with the 'gold fingers' (US bank Goldman Sachs) - Uproar over the New York Times newspaper's revelations".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "We expect action, not words, from the Europeans because...the vampires of the markets thirst for blood".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Revelations on Simitis' loans from the Americans - He took care to conceal them and did not record them".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "3 billion euros loss from toxic Goldman Sachs bond issued under Simitis government - Government's efforts to cover-up the affair - European Commission demands investigation after the uproar in the international press".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Mass fire over the new measures - Eurogroup's concerted operation to put pressure on Greece".

    ESTIA: "Bankruptcy on the threshold - The government insists on wrong policy".

    ETHNOS: "New taxes, with Brussels' seal - Shock measures from the Eurogroup if we do not achieve the targets of the Stability and Growth Program".

    IMERISSIA: "Ultimatum for new measures - Dramatic behind-the-scenes at (Monday's) Eurogroup meeting".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "EU 'recipe' for additional measures in mid-March (when the results of the Stability and Growth Program will be reviewed)".

    TA NEA: "30-days battle for the '14th salary' and VAT - All-night thriller in Brussels".

    VRADYNI: "Brussels tightening the vise - Stifling pressure for additional austerity measures".

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