|Sunday, 25 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-04-09
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 9 April 2010 Issue No: 3463
 Droutsas meets Turkish FM: Erdogan visit brought forwardA visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Athens will be brought forward to mid-May, Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas announced on Thursday after a meeting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara.
In statements after their two-hour meeting, the two ministers said that they had made a number of important decisions, including the introduction of five new confidence-building measures.
Among others, Erdogan's visit will also set in motion an agreement for a High Level Cooperation Council between the two countries, comprised of 10 ministers each from Greece and Turkey.
Specifically, the ministers on the council will be those for foreign affairs, finance, environment, energy, transport, communications, culture, tourism, civil protection, education and European affairs.
Droutsas stressed that the Council would help upgrade bilateral cooperation between between Greece and Turkey, exploiting the experience gained during the exploratory talks of 1999-2004 and marking a serious and systematic change in their relations.
Davutoglu said that preparation for Erdogan's visit had already begun so that the two sides would be ready to set up this strategic cooperation council when Erdogan met Papandreou in Athens and, if necessary, expand it further.
"We anticipate full Greek-Turkish cooperation on all levels. For promoting and continuing the cooperation we have begun, we envisage two meetings a year on the progress of the talks between the foreign ministries and at least one meeting a year between the two prime ministers in the framework of the Cooperation Council," the Turkish minister said.
In addition to the regular meetings between the foreign ministers, the two sides were also planning exchanges of diplomatic missions in order to put relations between the two countries on a different footing, Davutoglu said.
Droutsas also reported an agreement with Ankara to intensify exploratory contacts, with the next round due to take place immediately after Erdogan's visit to Athens.
Davutoglu, on his part, said that his country desired cooperation with Greece and compared the economic crisis to an earthquake, much like the twin earthquakes that had prompted the previous period of rapprochement between Greece and Turkey.
"In earthquakes our two countries know how to lend a hand and help and for this reason we are prepared to support Greece. Our fortunes are shared and together we will build a common future," he said.
In a joint press conference after their meeting, Droutsas emphasised that Greece sincerely desired good neighbour relations with Turkey, provided that these were combined with respect for its territorial rights and full respect for international law.
"It is in this framework that we are talking and our vision is that this dividend of peace, created through a mutual reduction of armaments, will be shared out among education, health and social insurance," Droutsas stressed.
The ministers also replied to questions about the Cyprus issue, which Droutsas stressed was not a bilateral issue between Greece and Turkey but an international problem of invasion and occupation. He repeated Greece's support for the talks taking place on Cyprus under the aegis of the United Nations, saying that Athens will contribute to this process in any way that it can.
"For us the solution must come from the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots themselves. They are the ones that must share their common future on Cyprus and for this reason we should let them negotiate freely," the Greek minister stressed.
He also repeated Athens' confidence in Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and the way he was conducting the negotiations, while underlining that Cyprus was and would remain a member of the European Union, even after a solution was agreed.
In addition to cooperation on a political level, the two ministers also referred to other important areas of common action in business, tourism and civil protection.
These included plans for a High-Level Business Conference that will end with the participation of the Greek and Turkish premiers, a joint initiative to attract tourism from China, facilitating the issue of visas and passport control for Turkish nationals visiting the EU and joint exercises for coping with natural disasters.
Droutsas began a two-day working visit to Turkey on Wednesday, at Davutoglu's invitation. The Greek alternate foreign minister was received on Wednesday by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and visited the Sismanoglio Mansion in Istanbul, before heading for Ankara.
On Thursday, Droutsas had a one-on-one meeting with Davutoglu, followed by talks between the two delegations and a working lunch.
Droutsas will also be received separately on Thursday afternoon by Turkish President Abdullah Gul and prime minister Erdogan.
The five Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) announced by the two ministers include:
Joint training programmes in the framework of the NATO Partnership for Peace Program at training centres in Greece and Turkey;
Lectures for students at military training academies of all branches of the Armed Forces by the chiefs of staff in the framework of mutual exchange visits;
Links on the level of senior officers between a Greek division/brigade at the headquarters of the NATO High Readiness Force in Turkey and of a Turkish division/brigade at the headquarters of the NATO Rapid Deployable Corps in Greece for training purposes;
Organising mutual courtesy visits between the military academies in the framework of planning trips abroad;
Conducting joint scientific activities between the university-level military educational institutions of the two countries, such as academic studies, seminars, symposiums and publication of joint articles in military periodicals and reviews of the two countries, in the framework of existing student exchange programmes and exchanges between officer-training schools.
 Gul, Erdogan receive Greek Alt. FM DroutsasANKARA (ANA-MPA / M. Savva)
Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday received Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, following the conclusion of the latter's working visit here.
The Greek delegation's contacts in the Turkish capital on Thursday aimed to ensure the intensification of "exploratory contacts" with the goal of delineating the Aegean's continental shelf within a "reasonable period of time", and if this is not possible, then recourse to the International Court at The Hague being the next step.
The purpose is for the next round of exploratory contacts to take place before the Turkish prime minister's visit to Athens in mid-May.
According to Greek officials, Athens reiterated that the framework for such talks is absolute respect for territorial integrity, sovereign rights and international law, referring to the latter as essential preconditions for the two countries' substantive rapprochement.
It was also stressed in the talks that Turkey must fulfill commitments towards the European Union, as well as all its member-states, including the Republic of Cyprus.
Droutsas also met with the chairman of the Turkish national assembly's foreign policy committee, Murat Mercan.
 ND official calls for government briefing on Erdogan visitThe main opposition New Democracy (ND) party called o Thursday for a briefing for parties from the government after the prime minister's visit to Cyprus next week and also in light of the visit to Athens by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In addition, it is calling for a briefing on the trip to Ankara by Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas.
ND Political Responsibility, Foreign Policy and International Relations chief Dimitris Avramopoulos stated that the announcement on the Turkish prime minister's visit to Athens in May "constitutes a step on the path of understanding, always on the strict precondition and the non-negotiable term that our only difference with Turkey is the delineation of the continental shelf in the Aegean."
He also said that the announcement on the creation of a "High Cooperation Council" with the participation of 10 ministers respectively from the two countries "can also appear useful on condition, however, that the low policy issues that it will be called on to examine will lead to a new period for the two countries, since these issues have been discussed for years and many of them have been promoted during the past 20 years. Meaning that there should be progress and not stagnation or backtracking."
As regards the 5 new confidence building measures, Avramopoulos stressed that the "five specific measures" that were announced constitute an object of a purely military and training content, being joined to the framework of NATO, that are considerable for the cohesion of the Alliance, but without direct impact on the important issues that are pending between Greece and Turkey and on the issue of Cyprus.
 Fierce Parliament debate amid rising spreads; FinMin releases Q1 deficit figuresA heated Parliament debate took place on Thursday during deliberations over a recently tabled draft tax bill, as the session coincided with the reaching of 448 basis points -- the ubiquitous "spread" -- for Greek 10-year state bonds during trading just after noon here.
"The country will continue to borrow, while in parallel, we have a serious stability programme, a careful execution of the budget and a programme for serious structural changes," Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou told members of Parliament's budget and finance committee.
Meanwhile, in announcing budget figures for the first quarter of 2010 during the same parliamentary debate, Papaconstantinou emphasised that the "first quarter deficit in 2010 declined to 4.3 billion from 7.1 billion in the first quarter of 2009.
"This 40-percent decline has been achieved even before the latest additional government measures cutting expenditures and increasing tax revenues have fully taken effect. It proves that the government is fully on track to meet the 8.7 per cent of GDP deficit target in 2010," he stressed.
He said the Greek government continues to carefully monitor markets and developments, although the goal is not aimed at the daily fluctuation of interest rates as it is with restoration of the country's credibility, he said.
The Greek FinMin also deflected sharp opposition criticism by saying that there was no such concerns when the economy began to derail in 2009.
In leading the stepped up criticism of the government's handling of the ongoing and unprecedented debt crisis, main opposition New Democracy (ND) rapporteur Theodoros Karaoglou referred to the government's "anxiety and awkwardness over unprecedented rise in spreads, which have hit a 12-year high ... We call on you to get serious and discover who this 'deep throat official' is."
Karaoglou was referring to international media reports publishing alleged "leaks" by officials from within the government.
Former minister Dora Bakoyannis called on the government to "finally stop talking, because when they keep (talking) they cost us euros".
From the ruling PASOK party side, MP Costas Geitonas said the government is neither rejoicing nor is it engaging in fatalism, although he agreed that "we politicians must talk as little as possible."
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) rapporteur Angelos Tzekis referred to ND's "hypocrisy" and its major responsibility for the public debt, while he added that the people are once again called on to pay so that profiteers benefit.
Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) MP Ilias Polatidis reiterated his party tabled question over a recent article in "Le Monde" over the relationship of Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA) general director Petros Christodoulou with the Goldman Sachs firm.
"I don't know what relationship Mr. Christodoulou has with Goldman Sachs, what I do know is that he's the most chatty head of any such position in Europe," Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) head Dimitris Papadimoulis said.
The latter added that the mistakes of the previous government do not relieve the current government of its own mistaken decisions.
 ND spokesman on economy, spreads, taxationMain oppositon New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Panos Panayiotopoulos criticised the government and the prime minister on Thursday on the issue of spreads and taxation policy.
Panayiotopoulos attributed responsibilities to the prime minister on the increase of borrowing interest rates, that emanated from a publication in the German media, concerning the supposed leak by a government official.
"The prime minister must assume the responsibilities corresponding to him, he must reveal the official who made the leak and apportion the responsibilities," Panayiotopoulos said.
"Under the conditions that we are experiencing, the government must realise that silence is golden," the spokesman added.
He further said that it would be better if government officials spoke of measures for boosting the market and promoting employment.
 Gov't: No renegotiation of EU Summit decisionA government spokesman in Athens on Thursday emphasised that the Greek government "will not consider any renegotiation" of a recent EU Summit meeting decision envisioning an economic assistance mechanism for euro-area member-states.
Moreover, responding to a relevant press question, spokesman Giorgos Petalotis categorically dismissed the likelihood that the country will declare bankruptcy.
Petalotis noted that Greece won a clear decision of support during the recent EU Summit meeting, one is based on the specific mechanism with specific characteristics.
He also pointed out that this was termed as a success for Greece and the EU, which created a "safety net" for countries that face or could face economic problems. He added that this decision has led Greece to a fiscal condition that is much more manageable.
Petalotis underlined that the country has started to regain its lost credibility on international level, "which is obvious in official statements made by our EU partners and definitely not in fabricated statements, rumors, anonymous statements and leaks."
 Trichet on Greek spreadsFRANKFURT (ANA-MPA)
European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet on Thursday declined to comment on the skyrocketing spreads for Greek 10-year bonds, while noting that a joint EU-International Monetary Fund aid programme for Greece outlined by euro-area leaders on March 25 was a "workable statement."
He also emphasised that there was no issue of Greece not being able to make its payments, while it was up to Athens to activate the support mechanism.
 PM Papandreou receives visiting Iranian dep. FMPrime Minister George Papandreou received visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani at the Maximos Mansion government headquarters in Athens on Thursday.
No statements were made after the meeting
 Environment minister in ParisPARIS (ANA-MPA)
Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili met in Paris on Thursday with her French counterpar Jean-Louis Borloo.
Their meeting focused on the promotion of bilateral cooperation in the sectors of environmental protection and energy.
They also expressed support to the efforts for a global agreement in the UN convention of climate change to take place in Mexico at the end of the year.
Accompanied by the presidents of Public Power Corporation (PPC) and DE.PA natgas utility, Birbili had contacts with the representatvies of companies active in the energy sector, including GDF SUEZ, EDF Energy, AREVA, for talks on strategic cooperation issues.
 PM visits labour minister in hospitalPrime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday paid a brief visit to Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos in hospital, where he is being treated for an intestinal inflammation.
The premier and the minister spoke for roughly 15 minutes in the ultrasound room, where Loverdos was waiting for an ultrasound scan.
According to doctors treating the minister, Loverdos is responding well to a pharmaceutical regime and the prospect of surgery is looking increasingly unlikely. They said that Loverdos will probably have to remain in hospital until Sunday, and a decision will be made on Monday on whether he will be discharged.
 Foreign ministry staff declare 48-hour strikeForeign ministry personnel serving at the foreign ministry headquarters in Athens and abroad began a 48-hour strike on Thursday in opposition to a recently tabled draft tax bill.
A main demand of the roughly 2,200 foreign ministry employees is to retain an tax-exempt status for bonuses received to cover expenses during travel abroad.
Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, commenting on the issue recently, stated that a clear message is being sent out by the government that there will be no exemptions.
 Taxation bill ratified in principleThe taxation bill was ratified in principle and for its articles at the Parliamentary Economic Committee on Thursday.
The main opposition New Democracy (ND) party voted in favour of about a third of the articles, while it reserved judgement on some others at the Plenum. The Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) voted against in principle and for all, calling in parallel for stricter clauses concerning living criteria and reserved judgement for each of the articles at the Plenum, after examining the changes announced by Yiannis Papaconstantinou. The Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party reserved judgement both in principle and on the articles, while the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) stated that, although it agrees with some of the arrangements in the bill, it votes against all, expressing its opposition to the Finance ministry's bill that is "distinguished by the tax exemptions that it anticipates for the big capital and the big debtors."
 Gov't on draft tax bill; environment ministry initiativeGovernment spokesman Giorgos Petalotis described a draft tax bill currently under discussion as "daring", stressing that it introduce the biggest tax reform in decades.
Petalotis said the goal is a fundamentally different tax system framework, more objective and fair that includes penalties for habitual tax evaders.
Referring to the ministry of environment-sponsored draft law on illegally enclosed spaces in buildings, which was discussed in Wednesday's cabinet meeting, he stressed that it will save money and enact ground-breaking regulations as opposed to the "revenue-collecting practices" implemented by the previous government.
 Considerable decrease in budget deficitThe budget deficit decreased considerably by 40 percent in the first quarter of the year, reaching 4.3 billion euros from 7.1 billion euros in the first quarter of 2009.
The figures were announced by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou in Parliament on Thursday, according to an announcement by the Finance ministry.
The announcement clarifies that the 40 percent decrease in the deficit was achieved before the government's recent additional measures to decrease expenditures and increase tax revenues were able to produce fully.
It was noted that this proves that government policy is leading to the decrease of the deficit to 8.7 percent of GDP, as is also the target of the budget and the Stability Programme.
 Stocks shed 3.11 pct in 3rd consecutive diveGreek stocks spun into freefall on the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, spinning in the eddies of a new record high of 448 basis points on the spread for Greek 10-year bonds. The composite index of the market shed 3.11 pct during its third consecutive dive to end at 1,925.82 points, with turnover at 351.059 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index plunged 3.92 pct, the FTSE 40 index fell by 2.32 pct and the FTSE 80 index dropped 1.50 pct.
Sectors with the percentage biggest gains of the day were Chemicals (0.82 pct) and Petroleum (0.59 pct), while Banks (-6.00 pct) and Travel (-3.63 pct) suffered the biggest losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 144 to 35 with another 39 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.59%
Personal & Household: -2.73%
Raw Materials: -0.79%
Travel & Leisure: -3.63%
Food & Beverages: -0.05%
Financial Services: -0.69%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index
closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 6.11
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.20
HBC Coca Cola: 19.96
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.12
National Bank of Greece: 12.75
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.70
Bank of Piraeus: 5.50
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 429 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 7.37 pct and the German Bund 3.08 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 636 million euros, of which 200 million were buy orders and the remaining 436 million euros were sell orders. The five-year bond (August 20, 2015) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 145 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were 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.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount 2.02 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday with turnover rising to 115.042 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 20,621 contracts worth 95.681 million euros, with 25,813 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 21,646 contracts, worth 19.361 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (8,162), followed by Eurobank (3,002), Alpha Bank (2,535), OTE (1,870), Piraeus Bank (1,574), MIG (652), Bank of Cyprus (561) and Intracom (431).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released
by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.340
Pound sterling 0.882
Danish kroner 7.503
Swedish kroner 9.755
Japanese yen 124.75
Swiss franc 1.443
Norwegian kroner 8.014
Canadian dollar 1.351
Australian dollar 1.450
 Greek NGO vol, academic released by Afghan Taliban eight months after abductionAfghan Taliban militants have released Greek NGO volunteer Athanassios Lerounis eight months after kidnapping him in the Chitral region of northern Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, a Pakistani official announced on Thursday.
Lerounis, head of the Greek volunteers, was kidnapped outside a museum he runs the remote Kalash valley last September, while his guard was fatally shot. He had been working on a cultural project in the area since 2001.
The top government official in Chitral, Rehmatullah Wazir, told the Reuters news agency that the Taliban freed Lerounis in the Nooristan province in Afghanistan, while Pakistani officials took him to Chitral on Wednesday night.
"He is here. He looks fine. He is healthy," Wazir said, clarifying that no ransom was paid, and adding that the abductors had several other demands "but we did not accept them and were able to secure his (Lerounis') release by negotiations and ... pressure".
Prof. Athanassios Lerounis, a teacher and social worker, was kidnapped on Sept. 8, 2009 following an attack on the Kalash village of Brun, in Pakistan, where he lived.
Lerounis was abducted outside the ethnological museum Kalash-Dur, which he had established in Pakistan to preserve and showcase the culture of the Kalash people. Lerounis has also founded two primary schools, three motherhood centres and the Kalash Cultural Centre in Bumburate Valley.
Speaking in Athens hours later, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said Pakistani authorities notified Prime Minister George Papandreou's personal envoy to Islamabad, ambassador-at-large Dimitris Dollis, that Prof. Lerounis has been released.
Lerounis had a telephone communication with Amb. Dollis and informed him that his health is good. If all goes well, he is expected at the Greek embassy in Islamabad on Friday morning. His transportation to Athens has been arranged by the Greek government.
 Cosmopolitan Mykonos launches international congresses, cultural events for new tourism seasonThe cosmopolitan island of Mykonos, a top tourist destination in the Cyclades Island complex, is inaugurating this year a series of international congresses and cultural events for the summer tourism season this year.
The events include the 2nd International Meeting on Aesthetic and Reconstructive Facial Surgery on May 13-16, the 48th Panhellenic Congress on Pediatrics on May 21-23, and the 2nd International Symposium on "Green Chemistry and Environmental Health" on September 27-29.
Further, a series of concerts, dance and theatrical performances, and art exhibitions have been planned spanning on the island from May to end-September, with the main thrust in July and August.
Events will also be held on the nearby islet of Delos to celebrate the August full moon.
Mykonos, which is also known for its golden sandy beaches, cobblestone streets and windmills dating from as early as the 16th century, is believed, according to local legend, to have been named after a local hero -- an offspring of the ancient Greek god Apollo -- who was worshipped locally in antiquity.
According to Greek mythology, Mykonos was the site of the battle between Zeus and the Titan, and the island was named in honor of the mythical god Apollo's grandson Mykons.
The island's world-famous landmarks include: Petros the Pelican, a white pelican that has been the official mascot of Mykonos for over 50 years, since the first Petros, a wounded pelican, was found off the coast of Paranga shore by a local fisherman in 1958 and was nursed to health; the windmills, most dating back as early as the 16th century, built by the Venetians, and used to grind wheat up until the early 20th century; the settlement of Alefkantra (Little Venice), with its houses, dating back to the middle of the 18th century, built right on the sea's edge and their balconies overhanging the water; the Archaeological Museum that houses marble sculptures, ceramics and jewelry recovered from Mykonos and the nearby islets of Delos and Renia; the Aegean Maritime Museum, with its models of a collection of ships from the pre-Minoan period through to the 19th century and ancient artifacts recounting the history of shipping on Mykonos; and the Church of Panagia Paraportiani (literally, Our Lady of the Side Gate' in Greek, as the church's entrance was found in the side gate of the entrance to the Kastro area), one of the most famous architectural structures in Greece, with the name meaning inner or side door, which it was to the Medieval stone walls that encircled the area. The impressive white-washed church, the construction of which began in 1452 and was completed in the 17th century, in actuality consists of five churches attached together. The four other churches (Saint Efstathios, Saint Sozon, Saints Anargyroi and Saint Anastasia) are all on the ground and constitute the base of the 5th church (Panagia) build on top of them.
 Memorial ceremony for teen Afghan terror victimThe citizen's protection ministry on Friday morning will organise a brief ceremony ahead of the transport of the body of a 15-year-old Afghan teen killed in the Kato Patissia district of central Athens late last month after he inadvertently picked up a makeshift bomb planted in a trash bin by as yet undetermined perpetrators.
The ceremony will take place at the Kesariani cemetery in eastern Athens.
The body of Hamidullah Natzafi (sic) will be transported back to Afghanistan for burial. Deputy Minister Spyros Vougias and Greek Police (EL.AS) chief Lefteris Economou will be amongst the officials in attendance, according to reports.
 Architecture exhibition at Benaki MuseumAn exhibition on the contribution of architecture to the building of democracy and the social state is being hosted at the Benaki Museum in Piraeus street as of April 14.
The example of Spain, following the regaining of its freedom and the ratification of the Constitution in 1978 and the correlation of the architecture of the country's recent history with the needs of society is being tried to be interpreted by the exhibition "35+ Building Democracy. 35 years of Spanish social architecture." The exhibition will last until May 9.
 Border police catch six with 50 kilos cannabisA group of six Albanian nationals was caught in the act of smuggling 50 kilos of cannabis into Greece on Thursday, by border police in the mountains of Grevena.
A police announcement said that the foreign nationals were proceeding on foot, carrying sacks full of the illegal drugs on their back. They dropped the drugs and attempted to escape on foot when a patrol attempted to stop and search them.
In the pursuit that ensued, police succeeded in capturing a 25-year-old member of the group while the rest managed to get away and are now being sought.
 Man arrested in Kiato for drug dealingA 29-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday in Kiato (northeastern Peloponnese) for drug dealing, police announced on Thursday.
Kiato Police, acting on a tip-off and in a coordinated operation, arrested the suspect and confiscated 530 grams of heroin, a mobile phone and a private car which the suspect used to transport the drugs. During the arrest the suspect attempted to escape and caused a traffic accident, while he also resisted officers during the arrest
Kiato police are conducting an investigation, while the suspect will be sent before a Corinth prosecutor later Thursday.
 Large quantity of hashish found in GrevenaGrevena (northwestern Greece) police found and confiscated 51 kilos of cannabis in a remote mountainous area after a police patrol spotted six suspects in the vicinity. During an ensuing chase the suspects abandoned the cannabis and fled to escape arrest.
After an investigation, police arrested 25-year-old man of Albanian nationality while the five other suspects are wanted.
 Ex-policeman arrested on major drug trafficking chargesA 47-year-old former police officer with a record of service in units assigned anti-narcotics, extortion and illegal migration investigations was arrested major cocaine trafficking charges in Athens. Another three local men, the owner of car dealership and his two employees, were also arrested.
Police, acting on a tip-off, placed the suspects under surveillance over the past two weeks. The 47-year-old was arrested on Wednesday at his accomplice's business while allegedly supplying an undercover officer with one kilo of cocaine for the price of 50,000 euros. The other three suspects were arrested shortly afterwards.
A police search in their homes revealed nearly nine kilos cocaine and four handguns.
 Underage eyewitness defies court hearing Grigoropoulos caseA court in the western town of Amfissa on Thursday ordered that a 17-year-old teenager be forcibly produced as a witness in the trial of two special police guards facing homicide charges linked with the Dec. 6, 2008 shooting death of 15-year-old pupil Alexis Grigoropoulos.
A police document read by the presiding judge mentioned that the teen eyewitness was not at his residence in the Psychiko district of Athens when police arrived before dawn to escort him to Amfissa, based on a court warrant ordering that he testify in the case.
According to the 17-year-old's father, his son left their house during the night and the family has had no contact with him because he has changed his mobile phone number.
Based on these developments, the court also decided to forward excerpts of the court minutes to the first instance court prosecutor's office in Athens to investigate whether the parents of the 17-year-old can be accused of lax supervision of a minor.
 Alleged serial prank caller arrested in AthensPolice have charged a 39-year-old Athens man in relation to several dozen prank calls over the past seven months, calls falsely warning authorities of imminent bomb attacks.
The suspect was led before a prosecutor on charges of breaching public peace and disseminating false information and rumours, as well as prompting the unnecessary mobilisation of authorities.
The 39-year-old reportedly posed as a member of an urban terror group to phone in threats and warnings to police, the fire brigade and other authorities.
He is charged with making a total of 21 prank phone calls, while he also allegedly called the ambulance service (EKAB) to report non-existent accidents.
 Cloudy, rainy on FridayCloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 5C and 21C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 7C to 19C. Cloudy with local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 7C to 18C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe skyrocketing of the Greek bond spreads and the arrangements for legitimising illegally enclosed semi-balconies, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "All the arrangements and fines for illegal garages, basements, semi-enclosed balconies, and attics (whose usage has been altered without a relevant building licence)".
APOGEVMATINI: "Return to main opposition New Democracy's policy - Government fully adopts the measures it had condemned when it was the main opposition party".
AVGHI: "Employment collapsing".
AVRIANI: "Greece needs to generate 150 billion euros in two years to avoid bankruptcy".
ELEFTHEROS: "All the arrangement for the semi-balconies - Those who pay the fine will 'save' (legitimise) them for the next forty years".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Confession and panic - Government unable to rise to the occasion".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "What you will pay for the legalisation of semi-balconies, basements, attics".
ESTIA: "Who are raising the interest rates - The Government's actions are senseless".
ETHNOS: "If you pay...you can save it - The final decisions on semi-balconies and changes of usage".
KATHIMERINI: "Borrowing potential is marginal -Spread reaches new record high".
LOGOS: "Taxation and expenses under the microscope....at Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou's meeting with IMF team of experts - Greek economy on a tightrope".
IMERISSIA: "Shock and awe over the bonds and shares - Endless pressure on the Greek economy".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "In search of those 'guilty' over the borrowing problems".
NIKI: "Fast rhythm in a slow orchestra - Maximos mansion (government headquarters) puts gag on leaks that nourish speculators
RIZOSPASTIS: "NATO puts in question the Greek borders in the Aegean Sea - Dangerous developments".
TA NEA: "Semi-balconies - Two-speed taxes".
TO VIMA: "Town planning amnesty with 5%-15% penalty - Heavy fines for those who do not pay - Government says the money will go (into a 'green' fund) for the creation of public and recreation areas".
VRADYNI: "Witch-hunt - In search of a government cadre responsible for the spreads' skyrocketing".
 US support negotiation process for a Cyprus solutionWASHINGTON (CNA/ANA-MPA)
US support the ongoing direct negotiation process, aimed at finding a mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus problem, a State Department Official has reassured, confirming that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had a telephone conversation with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
"The Secretary called Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to express continued US support for his efforts, along with those of Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias, in the ongoing Cypriot-led negotiations under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General's Good Offices Mission under Alexander Downer", he said.
"As we have said on many occasions, we support a just and lasting settlement that reunifies the island into a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation, and we applaud the two leaders for their initiative in pursuing a settlement", he added.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008, with an aim to reunify the island.
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