|Saturday, 21 April 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-05-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 21 May 2010 Issue No: 3498
 Papandreou and Lebanese PM discuss bilateral cooperationBEIRUT (ANA-MPA - V. Mourtis)
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou met his Lebanese counterpart Saad Hariri here on Thursday for talks that focused mainly on bilateral economic cooperation.
In statements afterward, the two premiers said their meeting had been very constructive and had led to agreements on important issues. Papandreou reported great interest on the Lebanese side in carrying out investments in Greece, while Hariri agreed with Papandreou's proposals for EuroMediterranean cooperation and said they had discussed expansion of economic cooperation.
According to the Lebanese premier, the talks had touched on tourism, trade, energy and reforms, while he stressed that Greece had valuable knowhow obtained by hosting the Olympic Games that was needed by Lebanon.
Regarding tourism, in particular, he said there was a great interest in tourism in the general region of Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and other countries in the area.
On his part, Papandreou stressed that Greece had always been close to the Arab world and referred to the need for stability and peace in the troubled region of the Middle East, noting that Greece and Lebanon had common positions in favour of an independent Palestinian state.
On strikes in Greece
Questioned about the strikes taking place in Greece on Thursday against the measures taken by his government, Papandreou said he could understand the reactions but insisted that the reforms and changes were necessary in order for Greece to deal with the crisis.
Referring to the EU-IMF support mechanism for Greece and the loan thus secured by Greece, Papandreou stressed that Europe had taken a historic decision. In comments on a decision by Germany and the Euro area to ban trades in naked shorts of eurozone bonds, the Greek premier said the decision indicating that the European Union was determined to defend itself.
"We want markets to be useful for economic growth and operate according to rules," he said, expressing hope that the United States and the G-20 will follow Europe's example in this.
 PM Papandreou proposes creation of Euro-Med Cooperation Forum in address to Arab Economic Forum in BeirutBEIRUT(ANA-MPA/V. Mourtis)
Greece's prime minister George Papandreou proposed the creation of a Euro-Med Cooperation Forum, addressing an Arab Economic Forum in Beirut during a visit to Lebanon.
Speaking at the opening session of the 18th annual Forum, organised by the Arab League, Papandreou also outlined the Greek government's initiatives for simplifying procedures for the licensing and operation of foreign businesses in Greece, noting that an ad hoc team has been set up for that purpose coordinated by the premier himself.
Regarding the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, Papandreou said it would lead to economic and social development that would extend beyond the Mediterranean.
It is an ambitious idea, Papandreou said, adding his conviction that such a cooperation could lead to the creation of a zone of peace, stability and security in the wider region.
Stability in the region is not a simple matter and does not concern each country separately, he explained. He cited climate change as an example, warning that it could aggravate the existing problems related to water and food supply and create new hazards not only to human health and the ecosystem but also to the economies of the countries.
Papandreou cited his recent meeting with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Athens as an example. "We sat at the same table and discussed many sectors of cooperation, and these types of cooperation can create stability in the region and a new developmental model," he said.
The Greek premier also referred to Greece's recent borrowing from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), stressing that the country's recourse to the EU support mechanism translated into guarantees for Greece and gave it the needed time to advance the major changes planned, such as those in the economic and business sectors.
He further spoke of the close friendly relations between Greece and the Arab world and their economic relations. Every time that events occurred that left their mark on the region, the two peoples cam closer together, the premier said, and noted the relations with the Arab world inaugurated by his father and founder of Greece's ruling PASOK party, the late former prime minister Andreas Papandreou, and his close relations of friendship with many leaders in the region.
In all the difficult times, Greece manifests its solidarity with and support for the Arab world, he added.
Papandreou further noted his own efforts in the past, as Greece's foreign minister, and also as president of the Socialist International (SI) which he currently heads, for further tightening of relations with the Arab world aimed at seeking common solutions to common challenges, and his own presence in Beirut, such as at the funeral of slain Lebanese former prime minister Rafik Hariri and during the difficult hours of the war in 2006.
"Today I am here, as the prime minister of Greece, to continue trodding this same path and to expand cooperation in the political, cultural, commercial and business sectors," Papandreou stressed.
Turning to the Middle East problem, he stressed that "all of us, and Israel, must respect the procedures of the UN Security Council, and our goal must be the creation of a climate of peace and good neighborhood in the region".
On Greece's trade relations with the countries of the Gulf region and Northern Africa, he noted that in the past few years they have neared 5 billion euros, with Greek exports to the region reaching 9 percent of the overall Greek exports.
Papandreou is due to be received later in the day by Lebanese President Michel Sulayman, which will be followed by a bilateral meeting between the Greek and Lebanese delegations with the participation of prime ministers Papandreou and Saad Hariri, respectively, and a working lunch.
 Papoulias receives Egyptian President MubarakEgyptian President Hosni Mubarak was received by Republic President Karolos Papoulias at the presidential mansion in Athens on Thursday, as the former arrived in Greece for a brief stopover. The Egyptian leader later met at the Athens airport with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in the afternoon, following the latter's arrival in Greece from an official visit to Lebanon.
Earlier, in welcoming the Egyptian leader, Papoulias stressed that "your presence confirms the excellent bilateral relations shared by our countries," while he pointed out that "there is still room for greater cooperation in the sectors of economy and trade."
Papoulias also referred to Greek investments in Egypt, underlining that they are worth close to 1 billion US dollars.
On his part, Mubarak said Greek-Egyptian relations are long standing, while he stressed that the two countries share continuous and decades-old cooperation, commenting that Alexandria is the biggest proof of that. "Alexandria had a large Greek community, which is still active, and many of its members have acquired Egyptian nationality," Mubarak said.
 Gov't reiterates firm backing for pipeline projectsThe government on Thursday announced that a high-level meeting will take place later this month with Bulgarian representatives to focus directly on a still pending environmental study for the cross-border Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline project.
Speaking in Parliament during debate on a tabled question regarding the pipeline, Deputy Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis also noted that a reworked draft bill regarding construction of the Greek portion of the project will be tabled in Parliament in the next few days, "as the government has taken the reactions by local societies under consideration", as he said.
Moreover, he said the Russian side has also reiterated its commitment to the project and the immediate commencement of construction works, citing statements by the Russian ambassador to Athens.
"Greece steadfastly desires the immediate commencement of construction works for both projects, the Burgas-Alexandroupolis crude oil pipeline and the South Stream natural gas pipeline," Maniatis reminded, stressing that Athens wants whatever obstacles, such as environmental concerns expressed by the Bulgarian side, to be overcome.
The author of the tabled question, main opposition New Democracy (ND) deputy Mihalis Yiannakis, called for the Greek government to table the draft bill as soon as possible.
 Gov't on Vatopedi affair; ridicules speculation over eurozone exit"We respect the independent operation of investigation committees; we will wait for their findingsThe people can see for themselves who is responsible for the situation we are in," government spokesman George Petalotis said on Thursday.
He made the statement when asked to comment on a main opposition New Democracy (ND) party proposal suggesting that Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou appear before a parliamentary examination committee investigating the Vatopedi land swap affair.
Petalotis stressed that "the government is determined to respect the findings of the committees and there will be no procrastination in making specific the responsibilities if they exist, even in the case of criminal charges."
"The autonomy of the MPs is guaranteed by the Constitution and it would have been unthinkable to set restrictions in the questions they table," Petalotis said when asked if the 10 ruling PASOK party MPs, in essence, have turned against the finance minister with a question they tabled seeking information on the Bank of Greece (BoG).
Petalotis said "the MPs express their concern for the state of the Greek economy," adding that "the government respects the duty of the MPs to exercise parliamentary control."
The question tabled for FinMin George Papaconstantinou concerns changes made by the Bank of Greece on Oct. 5, 2009, one day after the elections, to rules for the clearing of transactions involving Greek bonds.
Called to clarify why he denied, with a statement to Reuters, speculation over Greece's exit from the euro-zone, Petalotis said he rejected such rumours because he was asked by the specific news agency, explaining that "the rumours are not limited inside Greece and to specific political figures."
"Spreading rumours is a very popular sport and, unfortunately, when we haven't even considered taking the country out of the euro-zone, we have no other choice than to comment on and deny the obvious. We have reached that point," he said.
 Government on naming and shaming tax dodgersCommenting on the government's policy of naming individuals owing large amounts of tax, government spokesman George Petalotis on Thursday stressed that the government had chosen to uncover those systematically evading tax and that "there was very carefully selected publication of names".
Petalotis stressed that the government was not making public the names of people that might end up owing money to the public sector for various reasons but only those "systematic tax-evaders that make large amounts of money and do not declare them".
The spokesman said that the government was focusing its investigation in areas where large-scale tax evasion was known to occur and where people owed large sums in back tax as a priority. He also stressed that the finance ministry had "changed tack" and had as its first priority the collection of sums owed to the state but also to clamp down on illicit behaviours that had been treated as self-evident until now.
 ND reiterates demand for re-establishment of autonomous Merchant Marine ministryMain opposition New Democracy (ND) on Thursday called for the re-establishment of an autonomous Merchant Marine Ministry, on the occasion of European Maritime Day.
ND's chief of merchant shipping policy, Lassithi MP Yiannis Plakiotakis, said that the geographically small Greece is a global maritime superpower, having comparative as well as competitive advantages.
Unfortunately, however, the Greek maritime sector was today facing an unprecedented crisis, "not so much due to the economic crisis, but due to mistaken and incomprehensible choices of the government, the most significant of which is, naturally, the abolition of the Merchant Marine, Aegean and Island Policy Ministry", he said.
Plakiotakis said that ND expresses hope, on the occasion of the May 20 European Maritime Day, that the government will take interest in the impasses faced by shipping and proceed to the re-establishment of the ministry it abolished.
He added that it is commonly acknowledged that, especially in periods of crisis, the country needs to invest in sectors in which it has the comparative advantage.
 ND leader Samaras visits ONNED officesMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras visited the offices of the party-affiliated youth group ONNED on Thursday, following Wednesday's positive result for the party-affiliated student group DAP-NDFK in student elections.
"You have been winning for many years. This year, however, you won under very adverse and difficult conditions," Samaras told ND's youth.
"In this way, you also gave a reply as well to those who want the party's perspective to darken. The reply is that you are the perspective, it is youth. We are together, you are by our side. And on behalf of all I congratulate you. And on behalf of the party I thank you very much. Congratulations to all. It was an amazing success," he added.
ONNED president A. Papamimikos said on his part that "it was a great victory, a great battle waged by DAP women and DAP men, who for the 25th consecutive year held the blue flag high in the universities and in the TEI (technical institutes). The flag of hope, the flag of optimism, the flag of confidence."
 High-ranking Chinese military delegation in GreeceGreece's national defence general staff chief, Gen. Ioannis Giagkos, and visiting People's Republic of China Gen. Zhang Haiyang, who heads up a delegation of 10 high ranking military officers, met on Thursday in Athens and focused on issues concerning a Greek-Chinese military cooperation programme as well as military issues of mutual interest.
The Chinese delegation arrived on Wednesday for a five-day visit.
During their stay they will tour the archaeological sites in Epidaurus and ancient Olympia, the city of Nafplio, the New Acropolis Museum and other archaeological sites in Athens.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos to visit RussiaISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos will be paying an official visit to Russia on May 22-31.
The Patriarch will be welcomed by Patriarch Kirill at Moscow airport, while on Pentecost Sunday he and Patriarch Kirill are expected to bless the faithful. On Monday of the Holy Spirit they will be officiating together at Moscow's Saviour Cathedral.
A meeting will be held with Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday and the Patriarch will be returning to Istanbul on Monday, May 31.
 Cosco briefed on logistics centre, other investment prospectsChinese multinational Cosco on Thursday expressed interest in investment opportunities in Greece, including a proposed a logistics centre in Thriasio Pedio industrial district west of Athens proper. Chinese interest was expressed during a meeting between Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas and Cosco chairman Wei Jiafu, who has been received by the country's political and business leaders this week.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Reppas said talks with Cosco executives were very successful, before specifically citing an international tender to build and manage a large logistics centre in the Thriasio Pedio district.
He said the tender will be launched in the next few days.
The winner of the tender will manage the project for a period of 40 years.
Moreover, Greek officials briefed Cosco executives over the condition of Hellenic Railways and over a plan to build a new international airport in Irakleio, Crete, a major holiday destination.
Finally, the minister said that although Cosco was primarily a shipping company and not a rail operator, it was briefed on prospects for Hellenic Railways (OSE), especially the rail cargo component.
 ND official on COSCO contractMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party Merchant Marine Political Responsibility sector chief Yiannis Plakiotakis said on Thursday that the statement by government vice president Theodoros Pangalos that PASOK's criticism of the contract signed by the ND when it was in office with COSCO was a misunderstanding was "comical and tragic".
Plakiotakis said better late than never and noted that "we must also remind that the contract in question was signed during ND's governance, and this contract, for which PASOK is now jubilating, is very beneficial for our country."
 Gov't eyes accelerated approval of investment plansThe government on Thursday said it expects completion of an evaluation process for a total of 3,438 pending investment plans by the end of September, allowing a new development law - scheduled to begin funding investment plans from 2011 onwards - to move smoothly, free from past problems.
An economy ministry announcement said ministry agencies approved investment plans budgeted at nearly 71 million euros between May 10-14. The new plans cover investment in manufacturing (33,857,864 euros), tourism (29,608,231) and renewable energy sources (7,165,670 euros), while state support will total 32,539,413 euros.
The government said it has funnelled around 450 million euros into the market so far, as part of state support for investment plans, with another 700 million euros earmarked for the remainder of the year.
 Finance ministry announcement on public debtThe "net" increase in the public debt during the first quarter of the current year amounts to 5.8 billion euros, while the remaining 6 billion euros - out of the 11.8 billion euros of the total increase in the Central Government's debt - express the increase in the State's fund availables compared to the beginning of the year.
This was announced by the Finance ministry, which stressed that the specific change in the public debt is in full agreement with the borrowing programme prepared for 2010.
 IMF: Greek measures aim to combat low competitiveness, high debtWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) official on Thursday clarified that the organisation has not recommended the abolition of the so-called "13th" and "14th" salaries in Greece's private sector.
IMF foreign relations director Caroline Atkinson said such a proposal was not included in the programme agreed to with the Greek government in order to activate a eurozone-IMF support mechanism.
Nevertheless, Atkinson reiterated that the IMF believes there is an issue of the Greek economy's competitiveness, something that Athens is dealing with, namely, by abolishing various restrictions on the operation of free trade in the country and opening up so-called "closed professions".
In conclusion, she said the significance lies in Greece combatting the twin spectre of low competitiveness and high public debt, something that recently enacted measures aim to address and rectify.
 Strike rallies held peacefully, turnout lower than May 5Protest rallies against the government's heavy-handed pension reforms and austerity measures were held throughout Greece on Thursday, during a 24-hour general strike called by the country's largest trade union groups, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece and the civil servants' union ADEDY.
The turnout was somewhat smaller than that seen during rallies on May 5 but without the violence that had marred demonstrations on that day, when three people had been killed in fires set by demonstrators. During Thursday's rally, GSEE and ADEDY announced that the next protest rally will be held on May 29.
Trade unionists noted that the main Athens rally at Pedion tou Areos was smaller than its May 5 equivalent - something that had been expected - but significantly larger than similar protest rallies organised in previous years, indicating that mass participation in the protests had not been discouraged by the violence on May 5.
ADEDY President Spyros Papaspyros said that strikers had sent a "direct, strong and political message" demanding an immediate exit from EU-IMF supervision. He noted that 90 percent of Greek society was targeted by the current policy and that the struggles of workers would take on a significant political dimension.
Speaking for GSEE, the union group's general secretary George Tsalikakis called on workers to resist the trampling of their fundamental rights and said the recent bill for reforming the pension system was the most unjust, harsh and anti-social bill of recent years. He claimed that trade unions had been deceived by the labour ministry and that workers should not have to face the dilemma "sacrifices or bankruptcy".
Trade unionists also complained that police had carried out precautionary arrests of mainly young people making their way towards the rally and demanded their immediate release.
Police confirmed that 20 people had been detained in the region of Exarhia since Wednesday night during precautionary checks carried out in view of Thursday's rally. The entire Exarhia region was essentially blockaded by police leading up to the protest action, while those held have been taken to the central police headquarters to confirm their identity.
A total of 1,500 officers were assigned to police the rally and make arrests on sight if there was any incident.
Among the various groups participating in the Athens rally was a delegation from the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group headed by its leader Alexis Tsipras and Manolis Glezos.
In addition to the rallies in Athens, there were two protest rallies in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, both of which were held peacefully and without incident, while trade unionists expressed satisfaction with the turnout and the level of participation in the strike. In the city of Hania on Crete, however, turnout was signficantly smaller for both protest rallies and the strike.
Among the victims of the strike action in Greece were three cruise ships that were unable to dock at Piraeus port.
These were the "Musica" with 2,600 passengers, which finally docked at the port of Nafplion, the "Armonia" with 1,600 passengers that sailed on to the island of Mykonos and the "Ruby Princess" with 3,080 passengers that sailed on to Turkey.
 Hellenic Petroleum reports positive Q1 resultsHellenic Petroleum on Thursday reported positive first quarter results, reflecting the benefits from the efficient operation of refineries, the acquisition of BP Hellas' petrol station network in December 2009 and stricter control on spending.
The group said first quarter results included a provision for an extra tax charge of 20 million euros. Hellenic Petroleum said the volume of sales fell in Greece, as a result of an economic slowdown and lower sales of heating oil because of good weather conditions. Comparable EBITDA totaled 93 million euros in the January-March period, down from 104 million euros last year. The Group said domestic sales rose in the first quarter, with EBITDA rising to 27 million euros from 20 million euros last year. International activities showed a 26 pct improvement in first quarter EBITDA to 8.0 million euros.
Its petrochemical business showed EBITDA of 8.0 million euros, despite a decline in the volume of sales, after losses of 1.0 million euros last year year.
Hellenic Petroleum said DEPA -the natural gas operator- contributed 14 million euros to Group profits.
 Nearly 100 detained leading up to Thursday's strike rallyPolice said that a total of 98 people were detained for precautionary reasons in and around Athens on Thursday, in the run-up to a protest rally organised by trade unions in the city centre. The majority of those detained were picked up in the Athens district of Exarhia but also in other areas of the city.
Police mainly detained people carrying rucksacks or were suspected of intending to provoke violent incidents during the rally. All were taken to the central police headquarters in Athens and then released after their identity was confirmed.
 Greek competiveness up in 2010, IMD reportGreece improved its position in the global competitiveness report, published by the Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne on Thursday.
Greece ranked 46th in this year's report, up from 52nd last year, with Spain, Portugal and Italy ranked 36th, 37th and 40th, respectively.
Singapore topped this year's report, followed by Hong Kong, the US, Switzerland, Australia and Sweden. The IMD's report included forecasts over the debt levels of various countries and estimated that Greece will achieve the 60 pct of GDP debt level in 2031. It noted, however, that several other developed countries will reach this goal later, with Japan in 2084, Italy in 2060, Portugal in 2037, Belgium in 2035, the US in 2033 and Iceland in 2032.
 Industrial turnover index up 15.7 pct in MarchGreece's turnover composite index in the industrial sector (measuring both the domestic and external markets) jumped 15.7 pct in March, compared with the same month last year, after a decline of 21.2 pct recorded in March 2009, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics agency, in a report, attributed this development to a 9.1 pct rise in the mining turnover index and a 15.8 pct increase in the manufacturing turnover index (oil products 37.5 pct, pharmaceuticals 20.3 pct, base metals 28.6 pct).
The 15.7 pct increase of the composite index in March, reflected a 15.2 pct increase in the domestic market index and a 16.9 pct jump in the external market index.
 Halcor reports 2.2-mln-euro loss in Q1Halcor SA on Thursday reported after tax and minorities losses totaling 2.2 million euros, or 0.0213 euros per shares, in the first quarter of 2010, compared with the same period last year. Consolidated turnover jumped 54.3 pct to 229.8 million euros, reflecting higher average metal prices and a 16 pct rise in the volume of sales.
The Group said it managed to boost its volume of sales and gain market share despite adverse economic conditions prevailing in Greece and a harsh environment in western and eastern Europe. Consolidated gross earnings fell 20.4 pct to 8.8 million euros in the January-March period, from 11.1 million euros last year, while EBITDA fell 27.5 pct to 6.6 million euros and EBIT plunged 117 pct to a loss of 500,000 euros. Consolidated pre-tax losses were 3.9 million euros in the first three months of 2010, from a loss of 2.9 million euros last year.
Net borrowing totaled 478 million euros, up from 402 million euros last year.
 First Ryanair flight lands at Nea AghialosAn inaugural Ryanair flight arriving from Frankfurt with 138 passengers aboard landed on Thursday at the Nea Aghialos airport near the central Greek port city of Volos, the first-ever flight by the Irish carrier to the specific destination.
Local officials were on hand to greet the first passengers and to handout brochures highlighting Magnesia prefecture's landmarks.
Forty-eight passengers flew on the same plane back to Frankfurt.
 ECB offers full coverage to BOG over bond settlementEuropean Central Bank on Thursday offered full coverage to Bank of Greece's actions in the settlement of bond trading.
In a letter, ECB's executive commission member, Gertrude Tumpel Guegerell, said Bank of Greece's decision to adopt the recycling procedure in the settlement of bond trading, was justified in order to prepare its operations for T2S, Europe's future settlement system.
It also stressed that no logical connection between short selling and recyckling has been established so far and noted that short selling was an aggressive trading strategy, which was generally not affected by settlement procedures. Therefore, ECB said, it was unlikely that a measure adopted to facilitate settlement to have any affect on recent developments in the domestic bond market.
The ECB executive said recent initiatives taken by some European countries to contain short selling did not envisage changes in the time period of recycling and focused only on transparency demands over the settlement of securities trading.
 Stocks end sharply lowerStocks ended at new 2010 lows at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pressured by a negative climate prevailing in international markets. The composite index of the market dropped 3.32 pct to end at 1,582.22 points, with turnover a low 112.667 million euros. The Insurance sector was the only one to end higher (3.12 pct), while Banks (4.54 pct) and Financial Services (5.18 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index fell 3.85 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.89 pct down and the FTSE 80 index fell 1.34 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 134 to 46 with another 47 issues unchanged.
Medicon (17.52 pct), Neorio (10.64 pct), NEL (9.09 pct) and Lanacam (7.84 pct) were top gainers, while Klonatex (14.29 pct), Naftemporiki 13.46 pct), Texapret (10 pct) and Epsilon Net (10 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -4.05%
Personal & Household: -1.76%
Raw Materials: -2.95%
Travel & Leisure: -2.10%
Food & Beverages: -3.00%
Financial Services: -5.18%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, DEH and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.66
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.50
HBC Coca Cola: 17.25
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.47
National Bank of Greece: 10.18
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.53
Bank of Piraeus: 4.51
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 61 million euros on Thursday, of which 31 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 30 million were buy orders. The three-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 25 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds fell to 418 basis points, from 494 bps on Wednesday. The 10-year Greek bond yielded 7.86 pct and the German Bund 2.68 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.22 pct, the six-month rate 0.95 pct, the three-month rate 0.64 pct and the one-month rate 0.40 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -2.05 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 63.19 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 14,121 contracts worth 53.678 million euros, with 26,553 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,841 contracts worth 9.512 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (1,149), followed by Eurobank (429), MIG (354), OTE (1,066), PPC (394), OPAP (521), Piraeus Bank (1,149), Alpha Bank (1,475) and Mytilineos (1,005).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.243
Pound sterling 0.871
Danish kroner 7.501
Swedish kroner 9.816
Japanese yen 112.83
Swiss franc 1.429
Norwegian kroner 8.109
Canadian dollar 1.322
Australian dollar 1.503
 Book on Patriarch Petros VII of AlexandriaA book on the life and work of the deceased Patriarch Petros VII of Alexandria and All Africa, entitled "Poreia Martyrias", was presented at the Byzantine Museum in Athens on Thursday by the representatives of the Church of Greece and the Patriarchate of Alexandria.
The initiative belongs to the NGO "Beacon of Hope".
Petros VII died in September 2004 along with 16 others when the helicopter carrying them crashed into the Aegean while en route to the monastic community of Mount Athos, in northern Greece.
 Drug dealer arrested near KateriniA 41-year-old man was arrested on Thursday on drug dealing charges. The man was arrested on the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway by Katerini (northern Greece) police while attempting to pick up 250 grams of heroin at a spot along the highway.
According to police, unknown individuals had hidden the drugs near the Agathoupolis interchange.
Police also found in the detainee's possession police seven vials of liquid methadone, a small quantity of hashish and a revolver.
 Foreign nationals arrested for drug traffickingTwo foreign nationals, aged 20 and 46, were arrested by Port Authority officers in the north-western seaport of Igoumenitsa after a search in their car revealed 6 kilos of opium and 5.7 kilos of a new type of illegal drug, hidden in special crypts.
Port Authority officials became suspicious of the two after a passport check, conducted while boarding a ferry to Italy on Wednesday, showed that they had visited Iran, Turkey and Egypt before coming to Greece.
The drugs were detected with the help of a sniffer dog.
 Storm warning for Thursday nightGreece's meteorological service on Thursday warned of heavy rains and storms beginning on Thursday afternoon in western Greece and spreading throughout the country over night, except in eastern Macedonia and Thrace. The rains are seen continuing on Friday morning but gradually becoming restricted to eastern Thessaly, central Macedonia, the island of Evia and the islands of the north and eastern Aegean.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 10C and 23C. Cloudy and rainy in Athens, with northwesterly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 12C to 22C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 10C to 19C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe European front against speculation headed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Finance Ministry's meticulous investigation of specific categories of professionals for tax evasion, China's intended investments in Greece focusing on tourism and ports and the nationwide labor strike on Thursday, mostly dominated the headlines.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "They exonerate drug dealers and arm smugglers - They are annulling their sentences and appointing them in municipalities".
APOGEVMATINI: "Government in nervous breakdown - In-party clearing up of accounts with 'leaks' and revelations feared by ministers".
AVGHI: "Education a trade - IMF's memorandum hands over education to the powers of market'.
AVRIANI: "Mutiny by 10 ruling PASOK MP's, including former Minister Vasso Papandreou - Question tabled in parliament against Bank of Greece (BoG) chief and Finance Minister ignites fire in government".
ELEFTHEROS: "Ten MPs' stern accusation against Finance Minister".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Movement in PASOK over scam with bonds - Vasso Papandreou and nine more PASOK deputies 'expose' Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and BoG chief George Provopoulos".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Former Deputy Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou's case brings turmoil and fear of the possibility of the revelation of a similar case".
ESTIA: "Unbelievable chaos over taxes - How unpaid debts skyrocketed".
ETHNOS: "Rebuke of Tax Bureau employees over revenues".
IMERISSIA: "New suspicious game with Greece and the euro - ECB and Switzerland rumoured to intervene in order to support the euro".
KATHIMERINI: "Merkel's ultimatum to the North - She suggests controlled bankruptcy for those member-countries that will not take advantage of the EU support mechanism".
LOGOS: "New list of debtors to the state underway - Meticulous inspection of artists, high school teachers and journalists".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Markets hit red due to the German measures".
NIKI: "Cosco 'sees' Greece as its gateway to Europe".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Strike today - No one must be absent".
TA NEA: "The Chinese are coming - They promise to make major investments in ports and tourism".
TO VIMA: "Severe austerity in....painkillers too - Social security funds will not pay for them".
VRADYNI: "Closed due to looting - Workers' message to government and EU".
 Serbia will never recognise pseudo-state in the north, says Serbian PresidentNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Serbia will never recognize the self styled pseudo-state in the northern Turkish- occupied areas of Cyprus, Serbian President Boris Tadic stressed on Monday, while on a two-day official visit to Cyprus.
The Serbian President was speaking at a joint press conference with President Demetris Christofias, at the Presidential Palace, following the signing of bilateral agreements between the two countries.
On his part, President Christofias thanked Tadic for his country's steadfast and longstanding positions on the Cyprus issue as well as the strong support of Serbia in the efforts undertaken by the Greek Cypriot side to reach a comprehensive solution to the problem.
"We had a cordial and substantial meeting with President Tadic, during which we discussed in depth our excellent bilateral relations and ways to strengthen those relations,'' he added.
The Republic of Cyprus, he continued, ''strongly supports Serbia's efforts to join the European Union", noting that ''our position stems from the excellent traditional relations with Belgrade and our policy as regards the integration of the countries of the Western Balkans into the Union".
He also noted that ''the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo was an unacceptable act,'' making clear that the Republic of Cyprus "does not recognize Kosovo and will never do so, as a principled position which is consistent with international law.''
A solution, he added, ''must be a product of a mutual bilateral consultation which would lead to an agreed settlement which should respect the territorial integrity of Serbia and be adopted by the Security Council of the United Nations.''
President Christofias said that with his Serbian counterpart they also discussed the current developments in the Cyprus problem, adding that ''we briefed the President of Serbia on our willingness to continue talks from the point they have been interrupted and on the basis agreed on with the former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat".
''We are ready to work with the new leader of the Turkish Cypriot community to reach an mutually agreed solution, a solution of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality as defined by the relevant UN resolutions for a single state with an undivided sovereignty, a single international personality and a single nationality,'' he said.
Speaking through an interpreter, President Tadic expressed gratitude to the Republic of Cyprus for its support to the struggle of his country and expressed personal thanks to President Christofias as regards the process of accession of Serbia into the European Union and for his unreserved solidarity on Kosovo.
Referring to the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo, the Serbian President said that such separatist activities are extremely dangerous, making clear that "Serbia will never recognize such separatist tendencies wherever they come from".
"Such moves clearly breach international law, the decisions and the Charter of the United Nations and the Helsinki Agreement", he noted.
He also pointed out that ''Serbia will never recognize the pseudo-state (in the northern Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus)".
He said that all disputes should be resolved at the negotiating table and on the basis of the UN Security Council resolutions and decisions.
Serbia is addressing the Kosovo issue having in mind those principles, the Serbian president went on to say.
Referring to the trade and economic relations between Cyprus and Serbia, President Tadic said that they could be improved and to this end both he and President Christofias would encourage businessmen from both countries to invest in the two countries.
Two bilateral agreements were signed on behalf of the two countries prior to the joint press conference, one on Social Insurance and the other in Education and Science field.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and the former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began peace talks in September 2008. Talks are set to resume on May 26, between President Christofias and Eroglu, who succeeded Talat.
 UNSG: Talks must resume within established frameworkUNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Cyprus talks must resume within the established framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and the leaders' joint statements of 23 May and 1 July 2008, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stresses in his report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus.
The report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus, which was submitted Thursday to the UN Security Council, covers developments from 25 November 2009 to 30 April 2010, and brings up to date the record of activities carried out by his mission regarding the fully fledged negotiations between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders.
"Considerable progress was made in the United Nations-sponsored peace talks in Cyprus during the reporting period. The peace talks, in particular the intensive rounds of early 2010, have generated increasing international focus on reaching a lasting solution in Cyprus. There is now a unique opportunity to make a decisive push forward on the talks", Ban notes.
Recalling that on 18 April 2010, Dervis Eroglu replaced Mehmet Ali Talat as the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, he points out that Talat made an important contribution to advancing a solution between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, and adds "I look forward to Mr. Eroglu continuing on that constructive path".
In the report he says that his Special Adviser for Cyprus Alexander Downer will continue to work with both sides to ensure that the talks continue in a productive and expeditious way.
"The talks must resume within the established framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, in accordance with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and the leaders' joint statements of 23 May and 1 July 2008", the UNSG stresses.
The talks, he adds, must build on the convergences achieved since the fully fledged negotiations began on 3 September 2008.
"This significant body of work should provide the basis for breaking new ground in the negotiations and bridging remaining divergences. The broad outline and established parameters of a solution are well known and will facilitate the task of reaching a comprehensive settlement", he continues.
According to the UNSG "a solution is well within reach. As the leaders themselves said in their 1 February 2010 statement, however, time is not on the side of a settlement. On 21 December 2009, the two sides expressed their strong hope that they would conclude the negotiations by the end of 2010, and I share this objective".
Ban Ki-moon points out that in pursuit of this objective, he will be monitoring closely over the coming months the progress made in the negotiations and will submit a further report to the Security Council in November assessing the state of the process.
The UNSG notes that the international community expects the peace process to succeed.
"Following the change of leadership in the Turkish Cypriot community, the international community has encouraged the continuation of the negotiations in a positive spirit and the pursuit of a settlement based on United Nations parameters set out in the relevant Security Council resolutions", he goes on to add.
He also welcomes the "constructive involvement of all regional actors in supporting the Cypriots to find a solution".
"Greece and Turkey continue to demonstrate their commitment and both their leaders have expressed a strong desire for a negotiated and lasting comprehensive settlement", he adds.
"In conclusion, I wish to thank my Special Adviser, Alexander Downer, my Special Representative, Taye Brook Zerihoun, and the men and women serving in my good offices mission in Cyprus for the dedication and commitment with which they have discharged the responsibilities entrusted to them by the Security Council", he concludes.
The report on UNFICYP's mandate will be submitted to the UNSC next week.
Meanwhile, the UNSG has chosen Director of Asian and Pacific Affairs at the UN Lisa Buttenheim to replace Tayee Brook Zerihoun who served as his Special Representative in Cyprus. Buttenheim's appointment is subject to the approval of the two sides in Cyprus.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and the former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began peace talks in September 2008. Talks are set to resume on May 26, between President Christofias and Eroglu, who succeeded Talat.
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS