|Saturday, 20 January 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-04-23
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 23 April 2010 Issue No: 3475
 PM: Target of reducing deficit by 4 pct remainsThe target of reducing the deficit by four percentage points in 2010 remains and has not changed, Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed on Thursday. He was responding to news that Eurostat had revised Greece's deficit for 2009 upwards, from 12.7 percent of GDP to 13.6 percent of GDP.
The premier was addressing a meeting of the Cabinet that he called so that the government might learn of the latest developments concerning the economy from himself and Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou.
The prime minister referred to mistakes of the past but also noted that much had been achieved in the major battle waged over the last few months, while stressing that many difficult battles still lay ahead due to the unprecedented crisis the country was going through, the like of which had never been faced by any government in the past.
"It is our historic duty to take every decision that averts the worst for Greeks," he said.
Referring to the reactions toward the involvement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the premier called for a more level-headed approach. "Enough with the fear and panic," he said, pointing out that Greece was already under the supervision of the EU and the IMF because of the deficit and debt created by the criminal policy followed by the previous New Democracy government.
On the European support mechanism for Greece, he said that this was a success for both Greece and Europe and that it had been set up in a very short space of time by European standards.
Describing the current period as a "time of national emergency," Papandreou said the government's focus was now on the major changes needed by the country. He stressed that Greece had to change completely, even in the way that governments had been used to working up until now.
Attack on New Democracy
During his address, the prime minister was particularly stinging in his attack on main opposition New Democracy and the governments of 2004-2009, saying that they had been guilty of a "crime against the country". At the same time, he acknowledged that the governments preceding that of ND also bore their share of blame for the current state of Greece's economy.
He particularly slammed what he called "the usual suspects," who had strenuously asserted throughout 2009 that Greece's deficit remained a single-digit figure that did not exceed 9 percent, naming ND as the political force behind those claims.
Greeks know where the country would be today if their vote last October had not changed the country's course, Papandreou stressed. The fact that Greece was in a position to use the support mechanism in order to borrow was the result of a great effort made by all, he added.
 Greece could resort to EU loanGreece could resort to a short-term loan from the European Union until the EU-IMF support mechanism can be fully activated but the Greek government has not made any such decision at this time, government sources said on Thursday.
Speaking after the cabinet meeting held under Prime Minister George Papandreou earlier the same day, sources said that the mechanism was not yet fully completed and that the government wants the mechanism to be ready by May 19, which date they also named as the first deadline for borrowing.
They added, however, that the roads before the country were either the market or the mechanism.
Concerning the mechanism itself, the sources stressed that this was European and single, with the IMF accepting the framework set by ECOFIN and that the process was continuing without delays.
On Eurostat's upward revision of Greece' deficit by nearly one percentage point, they clarified that the country had a 2 percent 'cushion' in its planning, since the measures taken by the government were calculated to achieve a reduction in the deficit of up to 6 percent.
 ND: government mistakes led us to IMFMain opposition New Democracy spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos on Thursday said that the government had in the past days launched a communications campaign seeking to disorientate public opinion in order to clear ruling PASOK of responsibility for taking Greece to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
PASOK's own omissions and mistakes had led the country into the vice-like grip of the IMF's terms, Panagiotopoulos stressed.
"It is worth remembering the statements about the 'Titanic', about the supposedly corrupt, almost bankrupt country that resulted in markets rejecting us and raising the cost of borrowing," he added.
Panagiotopoulos accused Prime Minister George Papandreou of "populsim" in his attempt to shift the blame for the situation from himself and PASOK.
"Mr. Papandreou deliberately overlooks that fact that no side, not even on a European level, had raised an issue of the IMF for Greece," the spokesman stressed, adding that the prime minister had himself put resort to the IMF "on the table".
Panagiotopoulos also stressed that ND continued to highlight PASOK's responsibility and had never denied its own share of responsibility.
Even if the prime minister finally puts us in the IMF, ND as a major, responsible party will propose specific things so that the country can face the new harsh realisty, defend social cohesion and show a way out of the terms that will be imposed on Greece," he said.
 IMF head says Greek situation 'serious'WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/ T. Ellis)
International Monetary Fund general director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, replying to a question by the ANA-MPA, assessed that the state of the Greek economy is serious and efforts are required from the country's government and people to tackle it.
Speaking during a press conference given in the framework of the start of the IMF and World Bank's spring conference, Kahn said that "until now we have not participated in negotiations, we merely offered technical support," while discussions with the Greek government have started.
"It is clear that the situation in Greece is a very serious one, both from the view of Greece's macroeconomic stability, for the government of Greece, as well as a very serious situation for the Greek people," Kahn said.
He referred to the efforts that must be made, while expressing understanding over the fact that the Greek citizens "are somewhat hesitant, but they must realise that what the Europeans did and the Fund now as well is in their intrest. They must resolve the problem that they have, and there is no easy way for them to do it, there is no easy solution."
He went on to say that "as regards our cooperation with the EU, no problem exists. Although it is the first time that we are helping a eurozone country, we have cooperated with other EU countries such as Latvia, Hungary, Romania," adding that "of course, we must follow the rules of the IMF, and there shall be no different handling of Greece."
Kahn termed the EU's involvement "very supportive" and noted that "we are starting now the consultations that are taking place with the government of Greece which is a member of the IMF. The EU is not a member of the Fund. And we shall try to do it in the best possible way so as to help Greece."
 Rehn urges structural reforms and more measures in GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)
Figures released by Eurostat over Greece's fiscal deficit and public debt are making it necessary to effectively and fully implement fiscal consolidation measures announced for 2010, aimed at cutting the fiscal deficit by four percentage points, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Thursday.
In an announcement over Greece's fiscal data, the EU Commissioner stressed that Eurostat's figures underlined "the urgent nature of intensifying preparations for structural reforms and of additional measures in the coming years".
Rehn said the European Commission was currently working together with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Athens to finalise details of a support program for Greece. The Finn commissioner also stressed the need to improve the collection and processing of statistical data in Greece, to deliver credible data and clear the landscape from past burdens. The Commissioner underlined the need to offer additional powers to the community statistics agency.
 PM meets with Cyprus EDEK leaderPrime minister George Papandreou met on Thursday with visiting president of the Cyprus socialist party EDEK Yannakis Omirou.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Omirou spoke of a new status quo following the victory of Dervis Eroglu in the recent illegal elections in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus.
Despite the fact that policy is determined by Ankara, there is no doublt that Eroglu will submit to the negotiations table his toughest and most intransigent positions, namely for two separate states in a loose partnership, in the UN-brokered Cyprus unification talks, Omirou said.
"We need to be prepared to follow such a strategy that, in the event of an impasse in and collapse of the process, the blame will be placed exclusively on the Turkish side," Omirou stressed.
The EDEK leader said he also discussed with Papandreou the issue of direct trade with the occupied sector, stressing that "the effort for approval, on a wrong legal basis, of direct trade (with the occupied sector) is legally and politically unacceptable", as it would in effect "mean that the EU is giving a kind of recognition to the illegal formation in the occupied sector".
Omirou said that Papandreou, in his capacity as prime minister of Greece as well as president of the Socialist International and his prestige in SI, "must act in the direction of nullifying this unacceptable effort which, if approved, will be the biggest blow to the Cyprus cause since 1974" (Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern part of the independent island republic).
 Alternate FM in Estonia for informal NATO meetingAlternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas will be in Estonia on Thursday and Friday for an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallinn, on the sidelines of which he will have a series of bilateral meetings.
Droutsas is slated to hold bilateral talks with the foreign ministers of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu, Albania Ilir Meta, Estonia Urma Paet and Australia Stephen Smith.
Discussions during the first day of the proceedings are to focus on the Alliance's new Strategic Concept, reorganization of the Alliance's headquarters and the "Open Door" policy. The working dinner on Thursday evening will also focus on missile defense and nuclear issues.
On Friday, a session of the Euroatlantic Council will be held to discuss NATO-Russia relations, and there will also be a meeting of countries contributing to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), with the participation of Afghanistan's Foreign Minister, Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta. The topics of discussion are expected to include the training of Afghan security forces.
 Alternate FM Droutsas meets Turkish FM in EstoniaTALLINN (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)
Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas held 30-minute talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, on the sidelines of the informal NATO foreign ministers conference here on Thursday.
The main issue in the bilateral meeting was the preparation of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Athens in about mid-May.
The two ministers jointly ascertained that the preparations that also include the holding of the Supreme Cooperation Council with emphasis on strengthening multipartite economic cooperation with the coordination of the foreign ministries are proceeding with speedy rates.
The first meeting of exploratory contacts, set in early May, is also part of the preparation framework.
Within the next week the Turkish Foreign ministry's secretary general will also be arriving in Athens for political consultations in the framework of the activation of the mechanism inaugurated during Droutsas' visit to Ankara that was characterised positive and successful by both sides.
As regards the content of the informal two-day conference, the 28 NATO foreign ministers discussed on Thursday the Alliance's new military doctrine and Bosnia's approach to the Organisation, while during a dinner in the evening nuclear policy and anti-missile defence were expected to be discussed.
The Greek government has expressed support for full denuclearisation and Prime Minister George Papandreou is considering the possibility of rekindling the "Initiative of the Six" by late Andreas Papandreou, this time through the Socialist International.
 KKE's Papariga addresses PAME protest rallyCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Central Committee General Secretary Aleka Papariga addressed the protest demonstration staged by the KKE affiliated trade union movement PAME in Syntagma Square on Thursday, within the framework of the nationwide public sector strike against the austerity measures announced by the government.
In statements made afterwards, Papariga underlined that the dilemma posed by the government is that "regardless of whether we get the loan or not the people will lose all rights."
She called on the people "to throw away the dilemma and proceed to revive the movement because only its revival will open the way for the workers' rights."
Responding to the question on where the consultations with the IMF and the Eurozone will lead, Papariga stated that "both the IMF and the Eurozone are focusing on tearing apart the popular conquests and struggles," adding that "regardless of what they give they will demand even worse anti-labor measures."
 Eurostat: Greek fiscal deficit revised upwards to 13.6 pct of GDP in 2009BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
Greece's fiscal deficit totalled 13.6 pct of GDP while the country's public debt stood at 115.1 pct of GDP in 2009, Eurostat said on Thursday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report on the fiscal data of the EU-27, said Greece's fiscal deficit was 7.7 pct of GDP in 2008 and its pubic debt at 99.2 pct of GDP.
Eurostat said there were reservations over the quality of data published by Greece, because of uncertainties over the surpluses of pension funds in 2009 and said the country's fiscal deficit could be revised upwards by 0.3-0.5 pct of GDP and the public debt also by 5-7 pct of GDP for 2009, after completion of an examination over Greek statistics currently made by Eurostat in cooperation with Greek authorities.
Eurostat said the EU-27 fiscal deficit totalled 6.8 pct of GDP in 2009, up from 2.3 pct in 2008, while in the Eurozone the fiscal deficit was 6.3 pct of GDP from 2.0 pct over the same period, respectively. The public debt rose to 73.6 pct of GDP in 2009, from 61.6 pct in 2008 (EU-27) and from 69.4 pct in 2008 to 78.7 pct of GDP in 2009 (Eurozone).
Ireland (14.3 pct), Greece (13.6 pct) and the UK (11.5 pct) recorded the highest fiscal deficits, while Sweden (0.5 pct), Luxembourg (0.7 pct) and Estonia (1.7 pct) the lowest deficits.
No EU member-state recorded a fiscal surplus in 2009.
Italy (115.8 pct), Greece (115.1 pct) and Belgium (96.7 pct) recorded the highest pubic debts, while Estonia (7.2 pct), Luxembourg (14.5 pct) and Bulgaria (14.8 pct) the highest public debts.
Greece's Finance ministry said Eurostat's revised figures for the country's fiscal deficit and public debt for 2009 did not change the government's goals to cutting both its fiscal deficit and public debt figures this year. "The aim of the government was to resolve and not hide problems. We guaranteed the independence of data and production of statistic figures in the country, with new institutions and with an independent authority and we moved rapidly towards correcting the real problems in the economy and in public finances," a ministry announcement said.
The further ministry stressed that the revised fiscal deficit figures did not change a goal to cut the fiscal deficit by at least 4.0 pct of GDP this year and noted that the government has adopted all necessary and additional measures to cut the deficit by more than 6.0 pct of GDP. The ministry attributed the upwards revised fiscal deficit figures to a revision of data by social security funds and said the government's top priority was restoring the transparency and credibility of Greek statistics.
 Moody's cuts Greek credit rating to A3Moody's Investors Service on Thursday cut Greece's credit rating and said it remained on review for a possible downgrade. The credit rating agency cut the country's rating by one notch to A3 and said it may lower it further while it awaited more details over measures taken by the Greek government to restructure its public finances.
Moody's said it has downgraded the rating of Greek state bonds from A2 to A3 saying there was a real risk that the country's debt would stabilize to higher and more expensive levels than previously thought. Sara Carlson, Moody's lead analyst for Greece said that although the Greek government was moving within -or even ahead- of a timetable set to impelement actions included in a Stability Program, an adverse macro-economic and financial environment was making it significantly difficult to strictly adhere to the program.
 Top 20 best workplaces in Greece, Katseli statementThe twenty best workplaces in Greece were announced on Thursday by the Great Place to Work Institute Hellas, based on this year's results of the annual Best Workplaces Hellas 2010 survey evaluating company work environment in the country.
A total of 49 companies participated in the survey and 75 pct of the employees filled out a questionnaire.
Coca-Cola 3E, GlaxoSmithKline Pharma, Abbott Laboratories Hellas, Tasty Foods, AXA Insurance, Athinaiki Zythopoiia, Astra Zeneca S.A., Worth Hellas, Club Hotel Casino Loutraki and Ericsson Hellas, complete the top ten list of the best workplaces in the country with over 250 employees.
The ten companies in the 50-250 personnel category are Bristol-Myers Squibb, PSIMITI S.A., Manpower, AION, Data Communication S.A., Chartis, International Life, Medtronic Hellas, Genecis Pharma, and Xerox Hellas.
"Companies which invest in the human being make an investment in their own future and viability," Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli underlined, congratulating "the companies that managed not to become disorientated by the unfavorable economic conjuncture to the detriment of working conditions."
 Agriculture minister unveils farmers' register billAgricultural Development and Foods Minister Katerina Batzeli on Thursday unveiled a draft bill that introduces a Register of Farmers and Farming Concerns to the relevant Parliamentary committee, stressing that this lay at the core of the government's policy for farming.
"Without it, no policy or development strategy can be implemented with transparency and meritocracy but only on a client-politics, opportunist and unequal basis," she stressed.
Under the proposed bill, new conditions will be set for defining someone a professional farmer, requiring that at least 30 percent of his personal working time be devoted to farm work. In the case where a farmer also has other work and sources of income, at least 35 percent of his total annual income must come from farming.
She said this would broaden the number of professional farmers relative to the current 50+1 percent system, better meeting the demands of the time in terms of negotiating the Common Agricultural Policy and the national support measures for farmers, as well as restructuring of crops.
 Bill on illegal building conversions, extensions passedThe Greek Parliament on Thursday passed the government's bill regulating fines for illegal building conversions and extensions through the enclosure of semi outdoor spaces. The bill was passed with support of ruling PASOK MPs only, while the entire opposition voted against it.
Discussion during the session focused mainly on economic issues, the prospect of resorting to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European support mechanism, however.
 AUTh denies involvement in study on Creta Farm productsThessaloniki's Aristotle University (AUTh) on Thursday denied that findings cited by a recent press report on the range of Creta Farm products "En Elladi" had been based on a study conducted by AUTh.
A formal statement issued by the university said that the institution has absolutely no involvement in any study such as that cited by the report.
On its part, the company stated that the move constitutes a vindication for Creta Farm.
 Posidonia Shipping Exhibition expects record participationNew orders for ship building, worth 750 million euros, coincided with the results of an international survey showing confidence in the global shipping market rising to the highest levels in the last 15 months. These developments offer some optimism for the Greek economy, as the country prepares to welcome a package of 50 million euros related with estimated revenues from around 10,000 international visitors at this year's Posidonia international shipping exhibition.
The most internationally acclaimed shipping exhibition is organized in Greece every two years and represents a significant part of the meetings, incentives, conference and trade fairs sector in the country. The organizers said this year's Posidonia will cover more than 30,000 sq.m., a record-high. The maritime fair will be held June 7-11, bringing together around 1,800 exhibitors from 86 countries and more than 17,000 Greek and international professionals of the shipping industry, along with government officials.
Theodoros Vokos, Project Manager of Posidonia Fairs, said exhibitor reservations were up 12 pct compared with 2008, making it the largest in the 40-year history of the event.
Visitors and exhibitors will enjoy the Posidonia sports festival, with a sailing rally Posidonia Cup, sponsored by Lloyds Register, the Posidonia Shipsoccer Tournament, sponsored by Castrol Marine, and the Posidonia Golfplay Tournament.
 Striking civil servants stage protest demonstration in AthensThe civil servants umbrella federation ADEDY President Spyros Papaspyros addressed the protest rally held in Klathmonos Square in Athens on Thursday within the framework of the 24-hour strike in the public sector.
Papaspyros called on the workers to form a broad social resistance front, stressing that the support sought from the IMF will usher in a dismal future.
He called for an end to the freefall of workers' rights, underlining that all lost rights be restored and pledged that mobilizations will continue with alternative forms of action.
The ADEDY trade unionist leaders invited the private sector union GSEE to coordinated action and called for a general strike.
Present in the rally were opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras and main opposition New Democracy (ND) trade union sector head Yiannis Manolis.
Limited incidents were recorded in a protest march to the ministry of finance.
Protestors in Thessaloniki also engaged in scuffles with the police in their effort to enter the Thessaloniki town hall. Police responded with tear gas and one man had to be rushed to hospital in an ambulance with minor injuries, while one woman suffered respiratory problems. Protestors did manage to break into the building and hang a banner from the first storey, before continuing their march.
 Greek seamen to strike next Monday, Labour DayAll Greek-flagged ships will remain docked at Piraeus port for another day on Monday, April 26, due to another 24-hour strike called on that day by the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO), in protest against plans to lift cabotage restrictions in Greek seas.
The PNO has also decided to hold a 24-hour strike on Saturday, May 1, for all Greek-flagged ships and thus participate in the general May 1st Labour Day strike.
PNO stressed that it rejected all the announcements and statements made by the prime minister and that Greek seamen will reply with labour mobilisations to the "all-out attack against them".
 Work stoppage by TEMPME staffThe staff union of the Guarantee Fund for Small and Micro Businesses (TEMPME SA) have announced a work stoppage from 11:00-15:00 on Friday to protest against the management's behaviour and the decisions and measures they are taking concerning staff. They will hold a protest rally outside the Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping ministry at 12:30 on that day.
 Greek-Austrian trade relationsVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
The Austrian mass circulation newspaper "Kurier", in an extended report, ascertains that Greece is not a negligible trade partner for Austria, since last year, despite the bad state of the Greek economy and despite their decrease by 22.8 percent compared to 2008, Austrian exports to Greece amounted to 582 million euros.
The report includes statements by the trade attache of the Austrian embassy in Greece regarding the difficulties facing bilateral trade transactions, as well as his advice to Austrian exporters to Greece.
For many years Geece has been in the top positions, even in first place, in the preferences of Austrian tourists as a country of destination. Austria, considering its population of eight million, holds top place among foreign tourist arrivals in Greece, since Greece is visited by about 600,000 Austrian tourists every year.
 Greek stocks plunged 3.91 pct on ThursdayGreek stocks suffered heavy losses in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, hit by news of an upward revision of the country's fiscal deficit by Eurostat to 13.6 pct of GDP in 2009 and a new jump in the Greek bond spread to around 600 basis points.
The composite index of the market ended at 1,860.76 points, down 3.91 pct, with turnover rising to 238.01 million euros. The FTSE 20 index plunged 4.39 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 3.58 pct down and the FTSE 80 index fell 2.90 pct.
All sectors moved down with the Financial Services (6.02 pct) and Travel (6.03 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Vivartia (9.35 pct), Texapret (8.33 pct) and Nafpaktos Spinn Mills (7.14 pct) were top gainers, while Ippotour (17.39 pct), Ilis (16.67 pct), Vovos (11.95 pct) and Lamda Development (11.11 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 171 to 27 with another 24 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.44%
Personal & Household: -2.84%
Raw Materials: -3.96%
Travel & Leisure: -5.93%
Food & Beverages: -1.44%
Financial Services: -6.02%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 5.90
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.16
HBC Coca Cola: 20.01
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.85
National Bank of Greece: 11.52
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.69
Bank of Piraeus: 5.64
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 592 basis points -a new record high- in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 513 bps the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 8.96 pct and the German Bund 3.04 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 246 million euros, of which 10 million were buy orders and the remaining 236 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (June 19, 2020) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 110 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved down. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.22 pct, the six-month rate 0.95 pct, the three-month 0.64 pct and the one-month rate 0.40 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.77 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 92.391 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 16,957 contracts worth 77.121 million euros, with 24,590 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 20,006 contracts worth 15.274 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (7,742), followed by Eurobank (1,819), MIG (1,948), OTE (669), PPC (508), Piraeus Bank (1,145), GEK (734), Alpha Bank (1,939), Cyprus Bank (387), Hellenic Postbank (428) and ATEbank (836).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.344
Pound sterling 0.873
Danish kroner 7.501
Swedish kroner 9.692
Japanese yen 125.02
Swiss franc 1.444
Norwegian kroner 7.962
Canadian dollar 1.344
Australian dollar 1.450
 Anti-terrorist squad arrests young woman for participation in Nuclei of Fire caseAnti-terrorist squad police arrested a 19-year-old woman at 7 on Thursday evening, on the basis of an arrest warrant for participation in the case of the conspiracy of "Nuclei of Fire" organisation.
The arrest warrant was one of the first six that had been issued after the location of the house in March 25 Street in the Athens suburb of Halandri.
According to police sources, the warrant was issued on the basis of fingerprints found in the house in Halandri and on other objects. The woman was arrested while speaking from a cardphone in Klafthmonos Square.
She will be brought before the special investigating magistrate on Friday.
 Ballistics examination of terrorist safehouse firearms concludedThe first stage of the ballistics examination of firearms found in a Revolutionary Struggle terrorist group safehouse in the central Athens district of Kypseli earlier in the week was completed late Wednesday night, police said.
Three guns -- two Yugoslav-made Zastava 9mm pistols and a Browning 22mm pistol of unknown origin -- have not been used in terrorist attacks, the ballistics report showed, while the investigation is continuing to find whether the three pistols have been used in common crimes.
Three other firearms -- two Kalshnikovs and an MP5 machine gun -- were conclusively linked late Tuesday by ballistics to several terrorist attacks by the group.
According to police, the two Kalshnikovs and MP5 machine gun had been used in the attacks against a riot police (MAT) bus in the Athens district of Goudi on December 23, 2008 and also in the January 5, 2009 attack outside the Culture Ministry in Exarhia in which a riot police officer was seriously wounded, while the MP5 had been used in the attack against the Nea Ionia police station on April 30, 2007.
 Alarming decline in 'Critically Endangered' Monachus monachus seal populationFive dead Mediterranean Monk Seals (Monachus monachus) have washed ashore on the coasts of Ermioni, Alonissos, Kos, Samos and Andros since the beginning of the year increasing concerns for the survival of the species, according to the "Archpelago" Institute of Marine Conservation.
The monachus monachus population, one of the most endangered species of mammals in the world, is on the decline as a result of human intervention, mainly illegal fishing with the use of dynamite, and sea pollution, an institute representative told ANA-MPA.
In the past five years, the number of marine mammals and sea turtles killed in the Aegean is on the rise leaving no room for optimistic forecasts as regards their fate in the region.
The Monachus monachus monk seal, whose scattered global population numbers approximately 450 members, over half of them living in Greek seas, with the largest concentration centred around the Sporades island of Alonissos in the central Aegean, is now listed as a Critically Endangered species.
 OASA to back 'Clean forests' initiativeThe infrastructure, transport and networks ministry and the Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA) in cooperation with the ministry of environment, energy and climate change on Thursday announced plans to organize volunteer actions for the environment within the framework of the "Green Action, Clean Forests" initiative.
Free transportation for volunteers, who will participate in the cleaning up of the Schinias National Park in Marathonas on Sunday, April 25, will be provided by OASA buses.
 Illegal migrants detained off Sporades islandsThirty-two illegal migrants were spotted late Wednesday night by the crew of a Volos Coastguard vessel patrolling the area in the framework of thePoseidon operation, on board a Ukranian flagged sailing boat that had gone adrift at the region of the Sporades island complex in the northern Aegean.
The three-member crew was arrested and the migrants -- 15 men and 17 women -- were detained, while the boat was towed safely to Alonissos island.
 Drug arrests in PatrasCoastguard officers in the western port city of Patras on Thursday discovered 11 kilos of hashish in 72 separate packages hidden behind the side tapestry and in the sound boxes of a lorry. The 30-year-old driver and 24-year-old co-driver, both of foreign nationality, were spotted while attempting to exit from the port.
The suspects will be sent before a Patras prosecutor.
 Antiquity smuggler arrest in GrevenaPolice in Grevena Prefecture, northwest Greece, acting on a tip-off, arrested a man in the rural area of Petra in the process of digging out two Bronze Age ceramic vases using a metal detector and excavation tools. His two accomplices fled the scene and an investigation is underway for their arrest. All face illicit trade of antiquities charges.
The two vases, 20 and 13 centimeters tall respectively, are of great historical and archeological value, according to archaeologists.
 Cannabis plants found in Messinia, Crete; one arrestPolice in Messinia Prefecture, southern Greece, found 22 cannabis plants in the yard of a country house in the region of Petalidio.
The 57-year-old owner of the house, a permanent resident of Athens, is wanted.
In a separate incident, a 33-year-old foreign national was arrested on drug charges in Chania, on the south Aegean island of Crete, after police found 25 cannabis plants in his yard. The search also revealed 14 grams of processed cannabis, 6.5 grams of cannabis seeds and 1 gram of unprocessed cannabis.
 Bank robbery in VolosA masked man wearning a hat and armed with a sawn-off shotgun robbed a branch of Cyprus Bank in the coastal city of Volos on Thursday morning, taking a total 10,240 euros.
 Gerekou: Mediterranean Games will go ahead"The 2013 Mediterranean Games will go ahead and will be held the way they should be. We are working in a systematic way for their success, ensuring that they will be held in the right way and make us all proud," Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou said on Thursday.
Speaking in parliament in response to a question by main opposition New Democracy (ND) party MP Athanassios Nakos, she stated that the criteria for successful games are four. Namely, to observe the timetables and balanced budget, ensure that the entire region of Thessaly will be promoted as an attractive tourist destination and guarantee the post-games utilization of infrastructures to be gradually delivered by 2013.
"We have a specific framework and we have pledged that it will be observed," Gerekou said. "We will not be the ones to blame in case the necessary atmosphere and the will for cooperation for successful games will be missing," she stressed.
 President Papoulias honored by PSAPRepublic President Karolos Papoulias was honored at the Presidential Mansion by the Professional Football Players Association (PSAP) in recognition of his service to society, his love for sports and the sensitivity he displays to the needs of the young.
In a visit on Wednesday, PSAP President and Piraeus' Olympiakos FC goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis, heading a delegation of veteran football players, presented Papoulias with an honorary plaque and underlined that professional footballers in Greece want to be of service to society following the example of basketball players.
On his part, President Papoulias underlined the need for a joint effort in order to combat hooliganism and promote issues that concern the young.
 Cloudy, rainy on FridayCloudy and rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 7C and 25C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with southerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 24C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 10C to 22C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe skyrocketing of the spread at 529 units and the start of deliberations between Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and EU, IMF and ECB delegation and the nationwide strike that declared the unions protesting for government's austerity measures, mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Government orgy of hirings 'by exception' in public sector".
APOGEVMATINI: "Turmoil in ruling PASOK party over the measures".
AVGHI: "Put a halt to the bankrupt policy, now - 24-hour strike in public sector on Thursday".
AVRIANI: "(Citizens Protection minister) Chrysohoidis dared to put a stop to the huge scandal - He abrogated the C4I (Athens 2004 Olympics security system) contract and withheld the 18,877.376 euro letters of guarantee".
ELEFTHEROS: "Unbelievable scam by Manpower Employment Organisation employees - 1.5 million euros disappeared into thin air".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Blackmail by the speculators (22 international banks) - Prosecutor must intervene".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Government bargaining with tripartite (EU-ECB-IMF) delegation over the support mechanism begins".
ESTIA: "Greece in first place in corruption according to Brookings Institute report".
ETHNOS: "Six 'injections' to boost tourism - Prime Minister George Papandreou's message ahead of a difficult summer".
IMERISSIA: "IMF's conditions on the table - Scissoring in public and private sector".
KATHIMERINI: "Days of uncertainty for Greece - Deliberations with IMF at a crucial point - Germany's stance unpredictable - Suffocation on the market".
LOGOS: "Heavy bargaining under the shadow of the spreads - The outcome of the deliberations uncertain".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Deliberations on the measures with the spread reaching 500 basis units".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The workers' heart is beating today at Syntagma square - The impact of the 48ihour strike is tremendous'.
TA NEA: "Battle against time, bargaining with IMF - The borrowing conditions on the table".
TO VIMA: "IMF typhoon over salaries, pensions and lay-offs: Reforms everywhere or else you will go bankrupt".
VRADYNI: "Alibi for recourse to IMF - Government's communication trick against main opposition New Democracy".
 Spokesman: Cyprus talks must be resumed as soon as possibleNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou has reiterated the position of the Greek Cypriot side that the direct talks to solve the Cyprus problem must be resumed as soon as possible on the agreed basis.
In statements following the meeting of the Council of Ministers held here Thursday, Stephanou said that the there is nothing concrete regarding the time for the resumption of the talks.
He stressed that the negotiations must be resumed as soon as possible on the same basis that the two communities have agreed as well as on the basis of the UN resolutions.
"A solution of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, as defined by the relevant UN resolutions on Cyprus with a single state, single sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship", he added.
Stephanou said that the developments in the Cyprus problem following the illegal election of Dervis Eroglou as the new leader of the Turkish Cypriot community will be discussed during the three day meeting of the National Council scheduled to start next Monday.
He reiterated that the clear and firm aim of the President of the Republic Demetris Christofias is to reach a solution to the Cyprus problem as soon as possible on the basis of the UN resolutions, the principles of the international and European law and the High Level Agreements.
Government Spokesman also said that President Christofias raised the issue of an international conference on the Cyprus issue during his meeting Wednesday with the ambassadors of the P5 to Cyprus, whom he assured of his commitment to continue negotiations for a solution of the island's political problem.
He noted that President Christofias pointed out that the Cyprus problem, according to UN resolutions as well, is an issue of which the internal aspects should be agreed on and resolved by the two communities, in the context of the bicommunal dialogue.
He added that ''an international conference can take place in time, when we will have the discussion and the agreement by the two communities as regards the issues of internal governance while the international conference would deal with the international aspects of the Cyprus problem".
Moreover, he said that President Christofias told the ambassadors of P5 that the position of the Greek Cypriot side is that the international conference should be convened under the UN auspices with the participation of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the EU, the guarantor powers, and the Republic of Cyprus.''
Asked to comment on the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's visit to the Turkish occupied area of Cyprus in order to attend the so called "oath taking ceremony" of Eroglu, Stephanou said that "this is an illegal visit".
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. President Christofias has been engaged in talks with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community since September 2008.
Zerihoun: Cyprus talks to resume on the same basis
UN expect that the Cyprus talks should continue on the basis of the parameters agreed to, UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus, Taye Brook Zerihoun, said Thursday after being received at the Presidential Palace, by President of the Republic, Demetris Christofias.
"We had a pleasant lunch and the President was kind enough to update me on his assessment of recent developments", Zerihoun stated after the meeting, pointing out that as he is going to New York this weekend, it was for his benefit to be briefed on Christofias' views.
Replying to a question about when the first meeting between President Christofias and the newly "elected" Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglou will take place, Zerihoun said that according to media reports, "Mr. Eroglou has indicated that maybe at the end of this month or the next month such a meeting will take place".
Asked whether he believes that the basis of the negotiation should be reaffirmed by the parties involved, UNSG's Special Representative pointed out that we should "wait and see".
Earlier Thursday, Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou indicated that the meeting between President Christofias and Taye Brook Zerihoun, falls within the context of the president's regular contact with UN people.
 Foreign minister says Cyprus ready to appeal against direct trade regulationNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcos Kyprianou has expressed the government's readiness to appeal to the Court of the European Communities, in order to avert the implementation of the proposed regulation on direct trade of the EU with the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus.
''We will use all the institutional and political procedures we have at our disposal, and even if the regulation is promoted in the end, we will appeal to the Court of the European Communities,'' Kyprianou said after attending a meeting on Wednesday of the parliamentary Committees on Foreign and European Affairs.
Kyprianou briefed the members of the two committees on recent developments and reiterated that the proposed regulation was based on an incorrect legal basis.
He added that if its aim was to facilitate Turkey, then it would fail since it would have quite the opposite effect, and that promoting the regulation would undermine efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.
Speaking during the meeting, Kyprianou pointed out that the regulation was never withdrawn by the European Commission or dismissed by the Council, adding that proposals that are not adopted are usually withdrawn after three or four years.
However, he said, the proposed regulation for direct trade has been pending for six years, and expressed certainty that the Lisbon Treaty gave the European Parliament the opportunity to promote the regulation.
Kyprianou referred to the background of the regulation and pointed out that the Republic of Cyprus had never been actively briefed before or after the regulation was submitted, despite the fact that many objections had been raised.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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