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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-03-10

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Wednesday, 10 March 2010 Issue No: 3440


  • [01] PM Papandreou terms successful his talks with President Obama
  • [02] U.S. designates Greece as a member of the Visa Waiver Program
  • [03] Papandreou-Pelosi meeting in D.C.
  • [04] ND spokesman on gov't policies
  • [05] Parliament approves appointment of new head of energy authority
  • [06] Deputy Justice Minister Katsifaras's contacts
  • [07] Barroso says EU working on fiscal mechanism
  • [08] Commission to approve Greek fiscal measures
  • [09] Greek-Russian talks on pipelines
  • [10] GSEE declares 24-hr general strike on Thursday
  • [11] PPC employees to participate in nationwide strike on March 11
  • [12] Air traffic controllers to strike on Thurs.
  • [13] ETUC stresses support for Greek workers facing pay cuts
  • [14] Greece fourth most popular tourist destination in EU
  • [15] Gerekou to attend ITB-Berlin
  • [16] Annual NSS study on poverty released
  • [17] Millennium Bank says net profits 9.0 mln euros in 2009
  • [18] Cyprus Bank to expand branch network in Greece
  • [19] Official presentation of Autogrill Hellas activities in Greece
  • [20] CPI up 2.8pct in Feb. 2010
  • [21] Building activity down 27.6 pct in 2009
  • [22] Stocks end slightly lower
  • [23] Greek bond market closing report
  • [24] ADEX closing report
  • [25] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [26] Karditsa, Trikala celebrate anniversary of strategic Battle of Height 731 against Axis forces
  • [27] US embassy co-organises tree-planting project near Marathon
  • [28] Michalis Kakoyiannis Foundation inaugurated
  • [29] Foreign nationals charged in businessman's murder
  • [30] Serbs prefer Greece for their summer vacations
  • [31] 4.3R quake in western Aegean
  • [32] Giant squid caught off Crete
  • [33] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday
  • [34] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [35] President Christofias: property issue is also a political issue
  • [36] US Congress members send letter to Clinton on Cyprus
  • [37] President expresses relief as ex-president's corpse identified Politics

  • [01] PM Papandreou terms successful his talks with President Obama


    Prime Minister George Papandreou expressed his absolute satisfaction over the results of his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, since not only did he find understanding regarding proposals on the joint handling of profiteers, but secured the visa waiver for Greek citizens visiting the United States as well which, as the prime minister said, President Obama decided on Tuesday.

    Speaking to reporters, Papandreou termed the visa waiver "a vote of confidence" to Greece and noted that the Greek government is determined to respond to its obligations and cooperate closely at international level on the tackling of terrorism.

    "I briefed President Obama on the state of the economy in our country and on the determination that we showed in taking difficult measures," Papandreou said, underlining that with the institutional changes being promoted by his government not only in the economy but in other sectors also such as education, health and public administration the country is entering a course of sustainable growth and is becoming competitive and attractive.

    The Greek prime minister stressed that he briefed the US president on his and other European leaders's initiative such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarcozy and eurozone president Jean Claude Juncker that aims at confronting profiteers and restoring Greece's image in international markets.

    Papandreou called on the US to contribute to a common direction with the European countries at the next G20 summit. The Greek prime minister said that the US president reassured him that he considers this initiative useful and positive and that the US will move in the same direction so that "order is put in the international markets."

    The prime minister made it clear that Greece did not request economic aid from the US and termed "every voice of support positive," particularly when it comes from the biggest economy and the strongest country in the world politically, while speaking of "recognition of the difficult measures that we are taking."

    Papandreou also said that apart from the economy, he discussed with President Obama Greece's initiative for the accession of all the countries of the western Balkans to the European Union by 2014, a development that he characterised as being stabilising for peace in the wider region and the solving of specific bilateral problems. As regards relations with Turkey, Papandreou briefed the US president on the visit to Athens by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in the coming months, as well as on the will of the Greek side to revive the procedure on the normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations and the solving of differences, such as the case of the continental shelf adding "we also have support on the part of the US in this effort".

    On the question of Cyprus, Papandreou said that he confirmed his support for the efforts of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias for a just solution to the issue and the need for a message to Turkey as well for a decisive will for a solution to this problem, always within European frameworks.

    Papandreou, commenting on the visa waiver decided by the US president, termed it "a vote of confidence to Greece, a vote of confidence to the Greek economy as well and, of course, it is also self-evident that Greece as well, as always, is responding to its international obligations, it is cooperating, it is working with all the international organisations for the combatting of international terrorism. It is, therefore, I think a very positive gesture, that is not only symbolical, but which is also substantive."

    Replying to a question on whether he requested economic aid from the US, Papandreou replied categorically "no, we have not requested economic aid from anyone. What we want is to to put our economy on the right course," adding that "we want to borrow with lower interest rates and help from the European Union is necessary here."

    [02] U.S. designates Greece as a member of the Visa Waiver Program


    U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday announced the designation of Greece as a member of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)-strengthening passenger information sharing and ensuring strict security standards while streamlining travel for Greek citizens visiting the United States.

    "Our efforts to guard against terrorism while enhancing legal travel and trade depend upon close collaboration with our international partners," said Secretary Napolitano.

    "I commend our partners in Greece for committing to strong screening and security standards and enhanced information sharing for travel by Greek citizens to the United States as we work together to protect our citizens and strengthen our economies," Napolitano also said.

    Greece's VWP designation represents a major step forward in the continued and long-standing economic and security partnership between the United States and Greece-reflecting more than two years of coordination between the two countries on Greece's entry into VWP.

    With this announcement, Greece joins the 35 nations already participating in VWP. Greek citizens will be able to visit the United States without visas in approximately 30 days.

    [03] Papandreou-Pelosi meeting in D.C.


    US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterated here that Greece would not be left alone in the current economic crisis.

    Speaking after talks on Tuesday with visiting Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, the California Democrat referred to the strong ties between the United States and Greece as well as to the important role of the Greek-American community. She added that the United States would stand by Greece and the Greek people in these difficult moments.

    [04] ND spokesman on gov't policies

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party, via spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos, on Tuesday reiterated its demand that the government to change or withdraw altogether a controversial draft law on immigration.

    Panagiotopoulos said the draft law "leads Greek society to dangerous dead-ends and if implemented Greece will become a pole of attraction for illegal migrants."

    Referring to the contacts of the prime minister abroad and relevant discussions in Europe, Panagiotopoulos hailed the process launched at the European level for the establishment of a European Monetary Fund and reminded of ND's firm position that "the country's problems should be resolved within the framework of the eurozone."

    Commenting on the amendment submitted to parliament on Monday that allows the prime minister to assign specific studies to individuals, companies and committees on an ad hoc basis, he characterised it as "unprecedented" in Greece and criticised the government's hastiness in this matter.

    Panagiotopoulos expressed his party's satisfaction for the government's decision to adopt the regulations concerning the Credit Guarantee Fund for Small and Very Small Enterprises (TEMPME), one of the relief measures suggested by ND leader Antonis Samaras, as he said.

    Finally, he reiterated that ND is against the petrol tax increase and called on the government to immediately set up specific control mechanisms to combat profiteering.

    [05] Parliament approves appointment of new head of energy authority

    Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee on Tuesday approved the appointment of Nikos Vasilakos as head of the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE), as recommended by Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili.

    Her choice was approved by the MPs for PASOK and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, while the other opposition parties cast a blank vote.

    Vassilakos outlined his plans for RAE, including a shift to a 'greener' Public Power Corporation that he said would help create 14,000 new jobs. Vassilakos underlined that Greece, especially in light of the current economic crisis, had to fully exploit its very strong comparative advantages in the areas of solar and wind energy.

    Asked who would pay for the cost of this "green development", the new chief of RAE admitted that the cost would be shunted onto consumers via the special Renewable Energy Sources (RES) fee included in their electricity rates bill, amounting to 0.30 euros per 1,000 kW.

    He also admitted that this special fee would have to be increased as the penetration of RES in the system increased because of the cost of managing the networks will increase. He predicted that the fee would have to rise to 2.5-3.0 euros from 2011-2013.

    Vassilakos also stressed the need to improve the system for installing photovoltaics and making better use of funds made available from the European Union for this purpose.

    "It currently takes three to five years for a photovoltaic system to be licensed for installation on a rooftop. The clearer the costs on invoices, the clearer the processes will be and there will be no room for untransparency. A license can be ready within 2-3 months," he said.

    [06] Deputy Justice Minister Katsifaras's contacts

    Deputy Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Minister Apostolos Katsifaras received on Tuesday the Penitentiary Affairs Minister of the Republic of South Africa Nosivviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who was accompanied by a delegation.

    According to an announcement by the Justice ministry, the purpose of the visit was "the briefing of the foreign delegation on issues concerning the orgnisation and functioning of the penitentiary system of our country."

    The meeting was concluded with the mutual will for further cooperation and the exchange of experiences on penitentiary policy issues.

    Katsifaras also met with the Secretary General of the European Organization for Probation Leo Tigges, focusing on the possibility of the country's participation in the organization.

    An announcement by the Justice ministry afterwards said that the deputy Justice minister said he was satisfied with Greece's participation for the first time in a European organization that promotes good practices on issues regarding the suspension of execution and alternative forms of carrying out sentences, stressing that a Democracy is judged by its ability to provide protection for its weak links.

    Financial News

    [07] Barroso says EU working on fiscal mechanism

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)

    The European Commission is working intensively with Eurozone member-states to set up a mechanism, which Greece could use in case of need, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

    In a statement to the Parliament, Barroso stressed that "this mechanism will be used under strict preconditions and will be compatible with the Lisbon Treaty, particularly regarding actions prohibiting the rescue of a member-state". He noted, however, the readiness of the EU's executive to recommend a European framework for coordinated help, which will demand the support by all Eurozone members and said that the Commission was also drafting an announcement over the strengthened coordination of economic policies and the surveillance of economies.

    Barroso noted that Greece has taken the necessary measures to reduce its fiscal deficit this year. These measures were proof of the Greek government's determination to deal with structural problems, he said, adding that "we are doing what is necessary to ensure stability in the Eurozone as a whole".

    Commenting on markets, Barroso said Greece's current problems were not caused by speculative moves in markets, although he acknowledged that speculation worsened the situation. This development highlights the significance of a fundamental reform in derivatives market, he said.

    Special attention must be given to CDS, so that in the medium-term member-states would be able to act in a coordinated way, Barroso said.

    [08] Commission to approve Greek fiscal measures


    The European Commission was expected to formally approve a package of supplementary economic measures announced by the Greek government during its regular weekly meeting on Tuesday, a spokesman for EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner said on Tuesday.

    Speaking to reporters, the spokesman said the measures already taken by Greece to cut its fiscal deficit and a package of new supplementary measures announced last week, along with their expected impact on the country's budget, will be discussed during the Eurogroup and ECOFIN meetings, in the framework of a monthly examination of the country's public finances envisaged in the advanced surveillance stage for the Greek economy that currently applies.

    The spokesman added that both the Commission's President Jose Manuel Barroso and Economic Commissioner Olli Rehn have expressed their satisfaction over the content of the measures.

    He reiterated that the Commission was currently drafting a recommendation to set up a European framework for coordinating support, a project that will need the support of all Eurozone member-states.

    [09] Greek-Russian talks on pipelines

    Deputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Ioannis Maniatis met on Tuesday with the ambassador of the Russian Federation Vladimir Chkhikvishivili, with talks focusing on the promotion of pipeline projects.

    "Greece supports the immediate promotion of works regarding the construction of the two pipelines of mutual interest, the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and the South Stream natgas pipeline, while it pursues close bilateral cooperation with Russia," Maniatis said.

    The meeting follows talks Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou held in Moscow last month with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

    As regards the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, the two sides expressed readiness for implementing the project as soon as possible, while regarding South Stream, Maniatis said all necessary works for establishing a joint subsidiary company have been completed. He added that the text finalising the company's status -- which has been agreed upon -- is expected to be signed in the near future.

    [10] GSEE declares 24-hr general strike on Thursday

    The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation representing the private sector, has called a 24-hour general strike on Thursday, beginning at 24:00 on Wednesday night and ending at 24:00 on Thursday night.

    The strike has been called in protest against the public-sector pay cuts announced by the government, coupled with hefty hikes in indirect taxation.

    GSEE also urged workers to gather for a protest rally at Pedion tou Areos, beginning at 11:00, followed by a march to Parliament in Syntagma Square.

    [11] PPC employees to participate in nationwide strike on March 11

    The PPC (Public Power Corporation) employees' union (GENOP) announced on Tuesday that it will participate in the 24-hour nationwide strike that has been called by the country's two largest umbrella labour union federations GSEE and ADEDY for Thursday, 11 March. Moreover, the union announced a mobilisation throughout the country on Monday, 15 March and a 48-hour strike on 16 and 17 March.

    The GENOP board will meet on March 17 to decide on further action.

    [12] Air traffic controllers to strike on Thurs.

    Greek air traffic controllers will participate in a 24-hour nationwide general strike on Thursday called by trade unions in protest over recently announced austerity measures by the government.

    Airspace over the country is expected to be virtually closed to air traffic from Wednesday at midnight until Thursday at midnight.

    The two major commercial airlines in Greece, Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines, announced that all scheduled flights will be cancelled, while the departure time will be changed for certain flights to avoid coinciding with the strike.

    [13] ETUC stresses support for Greek workers facing pay cuts

    The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) on Tuesday issued a statement expressing support for Greek workers in their struggle against the pay cuts and higher indirect taxation announced by the Greek government, saying that European trade unions will stand with them "shoulder to shoulder".

    An announcement put out by the Greek civil servants' union ADEDY said the decision was taken during a same-day meeting of the ETUC Executive Committee in Brussels that was also addressed by ADEDY president Spiros Papaspiros and the representative of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) at the ETUC Georgios Dassis.

    During his address, Papaspiros supported establishing a European Day of Mobilisation to support workers' income, insurance and labour rights.

    "The problem of the economic crisis and the repercussions of the measures are identical in all European countries. Therefore, there is a need for joint action and the organisation of simultaneous and joint strikes throughout Europe. The 'theology' outlined in the recipe of measures in Greece is imported and seeks to be exported anew to other European societies, in order to bring about the overthrow of salary, labour and insurance rights," Papaspiros said.

    In its statement, the ETUC stressed that the cause of the crisis was not the workers but the "greed and speculation of the 'Lords of Finance'". It also accuses EU agencies of giving "entirely the wrong message" and failing to act against those responsible for the problems.

    "The European Council, the European Central Bank and the European Commission are giving an entirely wrong message: Speculators are not to be touched while workers and governments are pressed to cut wages, social benefits and public services."

    The ETUC called for European action against speculators, demanding a "New Social Deal for Europe" that includes a financial transaction tax, a common Euro bond, a European rating agency and a European Central Bank which also supports public policy and public finances.

    "The way forward is through recovery plans agreed with the social partners, in which the rich and comfortable accept their full share of responsibility, and it is not the working people who are left to carry the burdens of the recession through unemployment, pay and pension cuts."

    [14] Greece fourth most popular tourist destination in EU


    Greece is the fourth most popular tourist destination in the European Union for the year 2010, according to the EU eurobarometer poll publicised on Tuesday. The most popular tourist destination in the EU is Spain, followed by Italy and France.

    Responding to the question "where do you intend to go for holidays in 2010", 8.3 percent said Spain, 6.1 Italy, 5.8 France and 3.9 Greece.

    According to eurobarometer, in 2010, 76 percent of Greeks intend to go for tourism in Greece, while only 2 percent intend to visit Italy and Germany.

    Moreover, according to the same poll, Greeks travel mainly for reasons of recreation 53 percent (as against 37 percent by Europeans), to visit relatives or friends (17 percent compared to 19 percent by Europeans) and to enjoy the sun and the sea (14 percent as against 17 percent by Europeans).

    Lastly, 22 percent of Greeks, compared to 18 percent of Europeans in the "EU of the 27" declared that in 2008 and 2009 they did not go for holidays for financial reasons. 13 percent of Greeks and Europeans also said that they did not go for holidays due to the lack of time.

    [15] Gerekou to attend ITB-Berlin

    Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou will attend the international tourism trade fair ITB-Berlin on March 9-11 in order to meet with representatives of the tourism sector and international travel organisations.

    During her visit to Berlin, she will also meet with the tourism ministers of other countries and foreign journalists.

    [16] Annual NSS study on poverty released

    Greece's national statistical service (NSS) on Tuesday put the number of families threatened by poverty at 832,975, -- or roughly 2.1 million people -- based on an incomes and living conditions for 2008.

    The poverty index -- calculated with the same methodology -- apparently shows a relevant consistency over the past 14 years, from 1994 to 2007.

    The benchmarks are 6,480 euros for a single person living on their own and 13,608 euros for a nuclear family of two adults and two children, whereas the average income of households in the country was set at 22,243 euros.

    However, as in previous years, there was no variable in the study taking into account the phenomenon of tax evasion in the country, with instances of well-paid physicians and attorneys, amongst others, declaring annual incomes below the above figures.

    [17] Millennium Bank says net profits 9.0 mln euros in 2009

    Millennium Bank on Tuesday said its net profits totaled 9.0 million euros last year (down from 15.1 million euros in 2008, with pre-tax profits totaling 19.2 million. The bank said its net after tax profits would be 14.6 million euros if an extra tax charge was excluded.

    Commenting on the results, George Taniskidis, the bank's chairman and chief executive, said Millennium Bank aimed to further expand its customer base this year, to maintaining the quality of its portfolio and its strict capital and capital adequacy policies. Our aim is to continue creating value, he added.

    Millennium Bank said its customer base surpassed 540,000 last year, with more than 40,000 new clients in 2009. Saving deposits totaled 3.5 billion euros, its Tier 1 rate was 9.3 pct and total assets of 6.7 billion euros, up 9.0 pct from the previous year.

    The bank operates a branch network of 177 units around Greece.

    [18] Cyprus Bank to expand branch network in Greece

    Cyprus Bank plans to open 20 new branches in Greece this year, as part of a strategy to expand activities in the country and raising its branch network to 186 units. The bank said 10 branches were expected to begin operations by June (six in Attica, two in Thessaloniki and the remaining two in regional cities), while another 10 branches were expected to open in the last quarter of 2010.

    Yiannis Seiradakis, the bank's general manager said Cyprus Bank, supported by its strong fundamentals, strong liquidity and high capital adequacy, continues its growth in Greece, despite adverse economic conditions.

    [19] Official presentation of Autogrill Hellas activities in Greece

    Autogrill General Director Giorgio Minardi and Italian Ambassador to Athens Gianpaolo Scarante participated in the official presentation of the activities of Autogrill Hellas in Greece for the year 2010, according to an Italian embassy press release on Tuesday.

    "Autogrill, a company with a dominant position in the international market in the sector of "Food & Beverage" and the provision of services to travellers, is active in Greece since 1997 and, with over 200 employees, it consolidated a fixed and scattered presence all over the country (Athens, Lamia, Patra and Corinth). In the year 2009 the turnover of Autogrill reached 14 million Euros," the press release also noted.

    [20] CPI up 2.8pct in Feb. 2010

    The Consumer Price Index (CPI) in February 2010, as compared to February 2009, increased by 2.8%, according to figures released on Tuesday by the national statistics service ESYE. A year earlier, the annual rate of change of the CPI was 1.6%.

    The CPI in February 2010, as compared to January 2010, decreased by 0.5%. A year earlier, the monthly rate of change of the CPI was -0.9%.

    In the twelve-month period March 09 - February 10 the average rate of change of the CPI was 1,4%. A year earlier, the corresponding rate of change of the CPI was 3.7%.

    The Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) in February 2010, as compared to February 2009, increased by 2.9%. A year earlier, the annual rate of change of the HICP was 1.8%.

    The HICP in February 2010, as compared to January 2010, decreased by 0.6%. A year earlier, the monthly rate of change of the HICP was -1.1%.

    In the twelve month period March 09- February 10 the annual average rate of change of the HICP was 1.5%. A year earlier, the annual average rate of change of the HICP was 3.8%.

    [21] Building activity down 27.6 pct in 2009

    Building activity dropped 22.3 pct in volume in December 2009, compared with the same month in 2008, although building permits fell only 3.1 pct in the same period, the National Statistical Service said on Tuesday.

    Western Macedonia (74.2 pct), the Ionian islands (44.8 pct), Thessaly (44.6 pct), western Greece (40.6 pct) and the Peloponese (35 pct) suffered the biggest decline in building volume in December, while Attica (5.5 pct) was the only region to record an increase.

    The volume of building activity fell 27.6 pct last year, while the number of new permits fell 14.3 pct. Building activity fell throughout the country in 2009, with central Macedonia (42.1 pct), northern Aegean (39.2 pct), southern Aegean (35.8 pct) and Thessaly (34.6 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses.

    [22] Stocks end slightly lower

    Stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday with the composite index of the market losing 0.11 pct to end at 2,085.16 points, off the day's lows. Turnover was a moderate 185.428 million euros.

    The Health (1.94 pct) and Constructions (1.78 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Utilities (1.55 pct) and Industrial Products (1.34 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 104 to 74 with another 51 issues unchanged. AEGE (15.96 pct), Hellenic Fish Farming (10 pct) and Sprider (9.21 pct) were top gainers, while Eurobrokers (12.78 pct), Nafpaktos Spin Mills (9.38 pct) and Nexans (8.71 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +0.42%

    Industrials: -1.34%

    Commercial: +0.80%

    Construction: +1.78%

    Media: -0.33%

    Oil & Gas: +0.43%

    Personal & Household: +1.35%

    Raw Materials: -0.83%

    Travel & Leisure: +1.29%

    Technology: +0.71%

    Telecoms: -0.86%

    Banks: -0.46%

    Food & Beverages: -0.40%

    Health: +1.94%

    Utilities: -1.55%

    Chemicals: +1.13%

    Financial Services: +0.46%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Coca Cola, Benroubi and OPAP.

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

    Alpha Bank: 7.12

    ATEbank: 1.64

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.47

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.64

    National Bank of Greece: 15.69

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.30

    Intralot: 3.62

    OPAP: 16.54

    OTE: 9.28

    Bank of Piraeus: 6.54

    Titan: 19.46

    [23] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the new 10-year Greek bonds and the 10-year German Bunds widened to 317 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 6.28 pct and the German Bund 3.11 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 1.405 billion euors, of which 415 million were buy orders and the remaining 990 million euros were sell orders. The three-year benchmark bond (March 20, 2012) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 355 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month rate 0.99 pct, the three-month rate 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.48 pct.

    [24] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.42 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover at 79.169 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 12,241 contracts, worth 68.311 million euros, with 35,877 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,679 contracts worth 10.858 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,536), followed by Eurobank (633), MIG (403), Piraeus Bank (626), Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (557), Alpha Bank (1,195), Mytilineos (366) and Cyprus Bank (1,274).

    [25] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.366

    Pound sterling 0.913

    Danish kroner 7.501

    Swedish kroner 9.805

    Japanese yen 122.69

    Swiss franc 1.474

    Norwegian kroner 8.105

    Canadian dollar 1.407

    Australian dollar 1.505

    General News

    [26] Karditsa, Trikala celebrate anniversary of strategic Battle of Height 731 against Axis forces

    The cities of Karditsa and Trikala jointly celebrated on Tuesday the anniversary of the heroic March 9, 1941 defense of the strategic Height (or Hill) 731 against an Italian offense by the 5th Army Regiment during WWII.

    In fact, Karditsa, western Thessaly in mainland Greece, was the first city in Europe to be liberated from nazi occupation (on March 12, 1943), in the campaign fought by the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS) during the period of the Greek Resistance until February 1945.

    The 'Battle of the Titans' at Height 731 was a unique example of heroism, self-denial and effectiveness, that repelled Mussolini's "Spring Attack" in March 1941, the Axis Forces' first defeat in Europe which lifted the morale of all of Europe.

    On the day of the attack, Sunday, March 9, 1941, the 5th Army Regiment comprised exclusively of soldiers from the prefectures of Karditsa and Trikala were in the vanguard of the front. The Italian army's intention was, with its attack at Height 731, to split the Greek defense line and create an inroad to the Kleisoura valley, aiming at the collapse of the central Greek front so as to allow the Italian motorised infantry division to advance towards Ioannina by outflanking two other Greek fronts, the Northern and Southern flanks.

    The Italian forces deployed 50,000 men with 400 canons and 2,000 airplanes in the vanguard, followed by tanks and motorized infantry units, which were ready to advance after the split of the Height 731 front and the opening of the way.

    But the inroad was never opened up, because Height 731 did not fall.

    Trikala and Karditsa staged a series of events on Tuesday celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of Height 731, while a Presidential Decree has been issued designating March 9 as a local public holiday in the two prefectures.

    The city of Karditsa is also celebrating its liberation from the occupation forces on the night of March 12 to March 13, 1943, making it the first liberated city in Europe.

    From 1941 to mid-1942, the Italian forces controlled not only the Thessaly valley but also the Karditsa mountain range. In the fall of 1942, however, Greek resistance forces, with Karditsa resistance fighters in the lead, were intensifying their efforts, blowing up the Karambali railway bridge and the Stefanousiaos bridge between Karditsa and Trikala, thus disrupting rail communication, while the Karditsa-Trikala road was in such bad condition that it would take hours for reinforcements to arrive from Trikala.

    The Italian forces, fearing more attacks and even an attack on their camps, were forced to abandon Karditsa after a flurry of deliberations.

    Specifically, on the night of March 10, 1943, they imposed a prohibition of circulation in the city. On the night of March 12, they retreated towards Trikala.

    On the morning of March 13, 1943, the residents of Karditsa awoke in a free city. That same day, Resistance units, and namely the ELAS 1-38 Regiment, entered the city and declared it the capital of Free Greece.

    Karditsa became the first liberated city in all of Europe, and the Resistance center for all of Greece for the next eight months.

    [27] US embassy co-organises tree-planting project near Marathon

    The US embassy in Athens, in cooperation with the historic municipality of Marathon and NGO "Green Belt", held a reforestation project at the Marathon archaeological museum site of Vranas on Thursday.

    High school students from the Nea Ionia district along with teachers, NGO leaders, US embassy programme alumni, the embassy community, and other individuals participated. A special tour of the archaeological museum followed the tree-planting portion of the event.

    Before planting the first tree, US ambassador Daniel Speckhard joined Marathon Mayor Spyros Zagaris in welcoming the volunteers. The site was ravaged during a wildfire in the summer of 2009.

    "It will be 2,500 years from the Battle of Marathon later this year, and I am proud that we will contribute to the beauty of this area," Speckhard said at the event.

    [28] Michalis Kakoyiannis Foundation inaugurated

    President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias and Cyprus President Demetris Christofias inaugurated on Tuesday evening the ''Michalis Kakoyiannis Foundation", housed in an Athens central building.

    The inauguration event took place in the presence of Cypriot born Michalis Kakoyiannis, director of world acclaimed films such as Stella, Electra, Zorba the Greek and The Trojan Women.

    [29] Foreign nationals charged in businessman's murder

    Five Bulgarian nationals have been charged in the murder of a 66-year-old Greek-American businessman, who was found dead in his apartment in the Athens district of Neos Kosmos last December.

    A break in the case came when one of the suspects, a holder of a Greek passport originally from Bulgaria, was arrested in a bank in southern Athens after reportedly attempting to cash a check taken from the victim's apartment. An arrest warrant for printing and trafficking counterfeit banknotes was also pending against her.

    The woman, 62, allegedly confessed to the murder and implicated the other four suspects, namely, her 30-year-old daughter and 28-year-old son as well as other two Bulgarians, a 19-year-old woman and a 30-year-old man.

    The 62-year-old claimed she had business dealing with the victim, Vassilis Moraitis, who was supposed to supply her with bakery equipment. She said she decided to kill him when the order failed to arrive in Bulgaria.

    The cash, jewelry, mobile phones, portable computers, checks and credit cards stolen from his apartment as well as the machinery and other goods removed from the victim's warehouse were taken to Bulgaria.

    [30] Serbs prefer Greece for their summer vacations

    Roughly 50 pct of the Serb tourists plan to spend their summer vacations in Greece this year, based on a survey conducted by the Serb National Association of Travel Agencies (YUTA).

    Greece is the most popular destination for Serb tourists, followed by Spain (18 pct) and Turkey (12 pct), according to the Belgrade newspapers "Blitz", "Press" and "Kurir".

    The Sunday edition of the newspaper "Blitz" included a special presentation of the prefecture of Thesprotia in western Greece with information on the region's tourist destinations, the sights and natural beauty.

    [31] 4.3R quake in western Aegean

    A light earthquake registering 4.3 on the Richter scale was recorded before dawn Tuesday in the western Aegean Sea.

    According to the Athens National Observatory's Geodynamic Institute and Thessaloniki Aristotle University's (AUTH) Geophysics Laboratory, the earthquake was recorded at 4:55 a.m. at a distance of 100 kilometers north-northwest of Athens, with its epicentre in the sea area between Northern Evia and Skopelos in the Northern Sporades island complex.

    [32] Giant squid caught off Crete

    A giant squid measuring 1.5 metres in length and weighing in at eight kilos and 100 grammes turned up in the nets of two amateur fishermen from Hania, Crete on Tuesday.

    The two fishermen had dropped their nets in the sea at the Kefalas Apokoronos region and had the surprise of their lives when they raised them to find the gigantic squid. Squid of this type are normally found at much greater depths and are rarely seen in the waters around Crete.

    Weather Forecast

    [33] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-9 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 20C. Cloudy and rainy in Athens, with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 7C to 14C. Cloudy and rainy in Thessaloniki with snowfall in mountainous areas, with temperatures ranging from 1C to 6C.

    [34] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Prime minister George Papandreou's visit to the US, the anticipated joint EU-US policy line against speculation, the foundation of a European Monetary Fund being advanced by the eurozone member states, and economy minister Louka Katselis' announcement of 2 billion euros in low-interest state-guaranteed loans under the Credit Guarantee Fund for Small and Very Small Enterprises (TEMPME) were the main front-page items in Athens dailies on Tuesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Two billion euros in low-interest loans for 100,000 enterprises".

    APOGEVMATINI: "30 percent less syllabus material for all primary and junior-high school classes as of September, by decision of education minister Anna Diamantopoulou".

    AVGHI: "Opinion poll shows rift over government measures - Turn-about in public opinion on the anti-social measures - From shock to rejection".

    AVRIANI: "The crisis is sinking the political system - PASOK and ND's percentages plunging - Strong wave of dispute of the economic measures by society".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Ministers in 'plaster casts' - Institutional divergence on the pretext of the crisis".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "European (Monetary) Fund vs. IMF (International Monetary Fund) - Green light from Merkel and Brussels, after Sarkozy".

    ESTIA: "The Greek public sector a barrel full of holes - It cannot be salvaged with liquidity 'patches'."

    ETHNOS: "Front against the international speculators - Papandreou conveying European proposal to Obama".

    IMERISSIA: "EU coordination for rescue of Greece".

    KATHIMERINI: "European designing its monetary defense, prompted by the Greek problem".

    LOGOS: "Visit to the US, with European backing - Critical meeting with Obama today - Papandreou appeal for front against speculators".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "European Commission: Proposal ready for European Monetary Fund".

    NIKI: "The nightmare of a social explosion causes turmoil in PASOK, brings government reshuffle".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Working women, rise up against the policy that is shattering your lives - PAME rally yesterday (Monday) on International Women's Day".

    TA NEA: "The speculators the 'first course' - Critical Obama-George meeting".

    TO VIMA: "Change the salary and work regime now - Olli Rehn (EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner), in interview with To Vima, calls for measures in the private sector as well".

    VRADYNI: "The 'green guards' are returning - Razing of the state, with Ragoussis (interior minister) draft law" on the selection of public-sector managerial staff.

    Cyprus Affairs

    [35] President Christofias: property issue is also a political issue


    The property issue and other aspects of the Cyprus problem cannot be resolved through recourse to courts because the problem is not merely a legal issue but it is also a political one, President Demetris Christofias stressed here Tuesday.

    The president was speaking at Larnaca airport before departing for Athens to inaugurate, with President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias, the ''Michalis Kakoyiannis Foundation». He was asked to comment on statements by Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat that a European Court of Human Rights ruling shows the way to solve the property issue in Cyprus during the talks for a Cyprus solution.

    The European Court of Human Rights recognised in its judgment on Friday the self-styled immovable property commission (IPC), in Turkish occupied Cyprus, and called on Greek Cypriots to address themselves to this commission if they want to claim their occupied properties.

    The European Court (ECHR), in Strasbourg, also said that the IPC is an effective domestic remedy as far as property claims are concerned, and that Greek Cypriots must first exhaust all domestic remedies before resorting to the ECHR, including the so-called high administrative court in the occupied areas.

    President Christofias said when the Courts were taking decisions that were not to the interest of the Turkish side, both in interstate and individual cases, Talat kept talking about it but the Greek Cypriot side would point out that "these issues cannot be solved at a legal level".

    Further to the implementation of human rights, "the Court decision has political aspects which we have already examined. The property issue was examined during more than 18 meetings I have had with Talat and we will continue this effort," he added.

    "This is a procedure which under no circumstances I want to undermine. However, the property issue and other aspects of the Cyprus question will be resolved at the negotiating table," he added.

    Talat, he went on to say, "will try to exploit this decision with regard to the recognition of the so-called immovable property commission".

    "We have our arguments", the president said, adding that "the so-called commission was set up by Turkey, the occupation force, it is not a legal institution of the self-styled Turkish republic of northern Cyprus, and this is clear in the Court decision." However, he noted, "such commission will not operate after a solution of the Cyprus problem."

    Asked if he had any contact with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou before the latter's meeting on Monday with US State Department Hillary Clinton, President Christofias said on Monday they were in touch.

    He added that when the Greek government is expected to hold talks, there is contact with the Cypriot government for an exchange of views on issues that might possibly be raised. "I welcome this and this is what happened yesterday (Monday)", he added.

    President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008, with a view to solve the problem of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.

    [36] US Congress members send letter to Clinton on Cyprus


    Five members of the US Congress, in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are bringing to her attention two recent State Department actions that are inconsistent with wishes recently expressed by 132 members of the House, including the chairmen and ranking members of the Foreign Affairs and Appropriations Committees and a majority of the members of the pertinent subcommittees.

    Expressing the belief that these actions are inconsistent with Clinton's wishes and policies, the members of the Congress, Gus Bilirakis, Elton Gallengly, Shelley Berkley, Jim Costa and Michael McMahon note that Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey's reference on February 3 that "Turkey doesn't invade neighbours. It has security concerns in Cyprus," "contradicts the rational and purpose of the European Parliament's resolution enacted February 10, 2010, which called on Turkey to withdraw its troops from Cyprus".

    The members of the Congress note that Ambassador Jeffrey "must be careful to be sure that his language does not contribute to faulty Turkish beliefs contributing to their movement away from the EU and western democracies".

    The letter also expresses concern over the recent State Department's decision not to provide the Cyprus government with 2.5 million US dollars for the Limnitis crossing of the Green Line in Cyprus.

    "If we are to restore America's credibility after the 2004 debacle, we must be responsive to such modest requests to help facilitate continued peaceful interaction between Greek and Turkish Cypriots."

    The letter recalled that American credibility "was severely injured in 2004 when our State Department supported Cyprus settlement provisions referred to as 'unacceptable to Western democracies'. The reference was made in a letter to President George W. Bush and signed by a majority of the Senators on the European Subcommittee of the President's Party. Since America's 2004 endorsement of such policies, Turkey's attitude toward the principles of 'Western democracies' has regressed. Since 2004, Turkey has greatly curtailed its movement toward meeting the criteria set by the EU and Western democracies, according to a recent EU report", the letter added.

    [37] President expresses relief as ex-president's corpse identified


    President of the Republic Demetris Christofias on Tuesday expressed relief and satisfaction over the discovery of the corpse of the late President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos.

    Police Spokesman Michalis Katsounotos told CNA the corpse, found at a cemetery on the outskirts of the capital, Nicosia, after a tip-off late on Monday, had been identified by family members and subjected to DNA tests.

    The body was removed on 11 December 2009 from its grave in the cemetery of Deftera community, on the eve of Papadopoulos' first annual memorial service.

    Speaking before departing to Athens to inaugurate, with President of the Hellenic Republic Carolos Papoulias, the ''Michalis Kakoyiannis Foundation", President Christofias said he had contacted the late president's wife Fotini and expressed his sympathy to her and her family.

    "At last we feel relief and satisfaction, and I am sure the family feels that too", the president said.

    The corpse remains at the site of the new Strovolos cemetery on the outskirts of Nicosia while police and forensic experts are carrying out examinations.

    Papadopoulos' family relieved

    Former President of the Republic of Cyprus assos Papadopoulos' spouse Photini Papadopoulou has expressed her family's satisfaction and relief that Papadopoulos' body was found on Monday.

    In statements at her residence, in the presence of members of her family, Papadopoulou thanked the police for all its efforts as well as the Institute of Neurology and Genetics for the quick identification of the body.

    She also expressed hope that the perpetrators of this criminal act will be arrested by the police.

    The body was found at the new Strovolos cemetery in the Nicosia district.

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