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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-06-05

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

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

Saturday, 5 June 2010 Issue No: 3509

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM stresses need to cleanse politics in reply to ND leader
  • [02] PM urges PASOK to 're-organise in mass movements'
  • [03] PM replies to SYRIZA question on market prices
  • [04] Citizen Protection Minister at EU meeting
  • [05] Foreign ministry spokesman on FYROM
  • [06] PM Papandreou on the return of Greek activists
  • [07] Clinton has telephone talks with Greek PM
  • [08] FM spokesman on the Gaza flotilla raid by Israel
  • [09] Athens on Turkey's citation of maritime law vs Israel
  • [10] Papoulias' message for World Environment Day
  • [11] ND leader addresses party conference on environment
  • [12] Tsipras opens 6th Synaspismos congress
  • [13] Serb president wraps up official visit to Greece
  • [14] Gov't on better exploitation of state property
  • [15] Greece to reduce participation in NATO operations in Kosovo, Somalia
  • [16] Appellate prosecutor recommends Mantelis be prevented from leaving country
  • [17] Parliamentary committee requests SDOE investigation
  • [18] Greek GDP shrinks 2.3 pct in Q1
  • [19] ND official on recession
  • [20] Barroso meets European Union Confederation delegation
  • [21] Eurobarometer: Majority of Greeks want to be self-employed
  • [22] Greek econ sentiment index down in May
  • [23] Energy secgen at Baku conference, meets with Azeri minister
  • [24] Posidonia international shipping exhibition opens Monday in Piraeus
  • [25] Tunisian envoy to visit Thessalonki to boost trade, tourism relations
  • [26] Car registrations down 7.9 pct in Jan-May
  • [27] Stocks plunge to 2010 lows
  • [28] Greek bond market closing report
  • [29] ADEX closing report
  • [30] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday
  • [31] Hydra, an intimate holday destination brimming with history
  • [32] Papoulias receives young artists
  • [33] AHI honors Goulandri, Pantermalis
  • [34] Protest action by lawyers next week
  • [35] High court: Negligent bank must pay compensation to customer
  • [36] Illegal street trade scourge debated in Parliament
  • [37] Rainy on Saturday
  • [38] Pope hopes Cypriots will resolve remaining concerns
  • [39] President Christofias: Cyprus is free of nationalist prejudices
  • [40] Archbishop requests Pope's support in struggle of Cypriot people
  • [41] Pope stresses Cyprus Church's contribution in reconciliation
  • [42] Spokesman: Cyprus talks cannot continue without clear basis Politics

  • [01] PM stresses need to cleanse politics in reply to ND leader

    Speaking in Parliament on Friday, Prime Minister George Papandreou emphasised the need to reform political institutions and called on main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras to make specific proposals for overturning a political system that had led Greece to its most difficult moments.

    "Help to sort out the gaping wounds that drag us back. It is the national duty of all. Do not follow the petty party politics of your predecessor. I have said this and repeat it today. Unless a sense of justice and rule of law is conveyed, people will come after us with stones. I demand the contribution of all and your own proposals," Papandreou stressed.

    Samaras countered by emphasising economic issues, saying that the country's greatest enemy was unemployment and announced that his party will soon submit an overall proposal for the economy. He also said it was a "mistake" to try to blame current problems on the past.

    The exchange had been prompted by Samaras' question on the Greek central bank's decision immediately after the elections to extend the settlement period on its electronic bond trading platform to 10 days (T+10) and abolish penalties for failed trades - a decision that has exposed the central bank to criticism that it encouraged naked short selling.

    According to Samaras, this was a "serious and unforgivable mistake" that proved the government did not know what it was doing, since over months when the country was being targeted by speculators the margins for such speculation had been enlarged without control.

    "We ourselves omitted to control the speculators when we were the main victims of the speculation. There is no explanation for this mistake. You should at least admit this," Samaras underlined.

    ND's leader also criticised the government of replying with a 45-day delay on an issue that had also been raised in Parliament by its own ruling PASOK MPs.

    Papandreou left open the possibility of changing the regulatory framework governing the operation of the financial system and transactions. He agreed with Samaras that unemployment was one of the major problems facing the country, adding that it was among the government's immediate priorities.

    The prime minister also emphasised, however, the govern-ment's insistence on ensuring transparency at all levels, with rules of accountability that would strike a blow against corruption and an investigation of all major cases of mismanagement, including those of the structured bonds and the Siemens scandal.

    [02] PM urges PASOK to 're-organise in mass movements'

    Prime Minister George Papandreou has called for a much greater degree of organisation within the ruling PASOK party, especially from the start of September and until the holding of local authority elections later this year.

    While chairing a meeting of PASOK's Political Council on Thursday, he noted that the PASOK party had to re-establish cohesive ties with social movements, which had been disrupted by measures taken by the government, and said that the role of such mass movements went further than demands for higher pay and pensions.

    "Only with the help of social movements, only with the participation of [PASOK] itself, of local government, of the syndicates of citizens, through the Internet, through all the new forms of participation, only in this way can we carry out these major changes," he stressed, pointing out that the government could not be expected to carry out the changes entirely on its own.

    Stressing that the country and the PASOK party were going through one of the most difficult phases in their history, Papandreou underlined that "with the sacrifices of the Greek people there must be built a bridge for a better tomorrow".

    Among the major changes, the prime minister cited the "Kallikratis" plan that merged and changed the boundaries of local authorities, saying that this would give the regions a different "developmental identity".

    Analysing the global financial and economic crisis - as well as the crisis in Greece and the harsh austerity measures taken in response - the Greek premier emphasised the crucial role played by democracy and democratic institutions, noting that democratic countries were made vulnerable to attack because they were unable to react autocratically but that highly development democracies with a strong social state were in some ways more resilient.

    "The major international interests are much more powerful than states. Especially when they are small states without strong democratic institutions that are trapped, bought out, where there is corruption. Siemens is one of myriad cases around the world," he noted.

    "The countries, the democratic and developed ones, that have weathered these crises are the countries with a strong democratic tradition, strong democratic institutions, strong rule of law and social states. They are the countries of the north of Europe, Canada and Australia," said the prime minister.

    According to Papandreou, even democratic countries that lacked a social state took decisions with much greater ease - including decisions for the degradation of the environment and use of land - and this gave them an initial growth advantage. Already, however, the long-term negative repercussions had started to become apparent, he added.

    Concerning the problems faced by Greece, Papandreou listed the two main culprits as the country's excessive debt and a bloated black economy, indicative of corruption that was not just on a political level but riddled a host of services and functions.

    "If we manage to strike the black economy we will have saved massive funds," he said.

    The prime minister also emphasised the need for a sense of justice to prevail, in order to ensure the broader public's participation and support of measures to shore up the economy.

    "Everything must be done with complete transparency. Everything must be brought into the light," he underlined, while warning that there would be reactions from various powerful interests and the government would have to persevere.

    "Only in this way can we deal with the reduction of wages and pensions," he added.

    Papandreou also noted that the austerity measures had to be accompanied by measures to boost growth, appearing confident that Greece had an untapped developmental "reserve" that could be exploited with the right organisation.

    [03] PM replies to SYRIZA question on market prices

    The government has taken steps to check the market and will make more in the future, but without strong consumer movement, the ministers are not able to solve the problem of the high prices, prime minister George Papandreou said Friday in parliament, in reply to a timely question tabled by Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) parliamentar group leader Alexis Tsipras.

    Describing the situation on the market, Papandreou spoke of a prevalence of cartels, insufficient competition and a lack of new investments.

    [04] Citizen Protection Minister at EU meeting

    Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chryssohoidis attended the EU Justice and Internal Affairs Ministers' meeting on Thursday in Luxembourg which focused on the illegal migrants' re-entry agreement between the EU and Turkey.

    Chryssohoidis referred to the issue from the Greek side, underlining that Greece is the country most affected in the EU by illegal migrants' entry from Turkey. He also stressed that Turkey, as the gateway of illegal migrants, must assume its responsibilities in order to stem the wave of illegal migrants to the EU.

    Chryssohoidis added that the agreement currently being drafted must act supplementarily to the EU FRONTEX's (organisation for the management of the operational cooperation on EU's frontiers) efforts with the conduction of joint operations against illegal migration.

    "An agreement that is not balanced, clearly stated and operational for all sides will not be effective" warned Chryssohoidis, who called for the taking of political and operational measures to tackle criminal activities, including under-the-table money transactions via the web.

    [05] Foreign ministry spokesman on FYROM

    "Greece wants the solution of the problem with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and has taken specific steps for the improvement of bilateral relations," foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras underlined in response to a question concerning the name dispute with the FYROM.

    Delavekouras stated, however, that the recent speech by FYROM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski had caused "concern" in Athens, as it indicated that Athens' desire was not matched by Skopje. "Such rhetoric confirms that the name issue is made into a vehicle for nationalism and at the same time, proves that there is an immediate need for a mutually acceptable solution," he said.

    "On our part, the effort will continueHowever, reaching a solution will be impossible if Greece is being treated as the 'enemy'," the foreign ministry spokesman stressed.

    Responding to a question on the European prospect of the neighboring country, Delavekouras pointed out that "our position is that a solution should be found on the name issue. We cannot talk about FYROM's European prospect if no solution is found."

    [06] PM Papandreou on the return of Greek activists

    Prime Minister George Papandreou expressed deep satisfaction over the return of the Greek civilians held in Israel following the military operation on the flotilla of activists carrying aid to Gaza.

    Speaking in parliament, Papandreou criticized the acts of violence committed by Israel.

    He pointed out that the safety of the Greek civilians was the main issue for the Greek government, which was working in this direction, underlining that the acts of violence by Israel were condemnable.

    [07] Clinton has telephone talks with Greek PM

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held on Friday telephone talks with Greek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister George Papandreou focusing on "the situation in Gaza, the issue of Iran and other regional issues", according a State Department spokesman.

    Addressing reporters, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said that during their telephone contact, Clinton and Papandreou examined "some ideas" regarding the handling of the issue, and underlined that the U.S. was discussing with other countries "a broad spectrum of options" which would allow the international community to help Israel respond to challenges, both in offering more help to the inhabitants of Gaza and answering to its own legitimate concerns.

    [08] FM spokesman on the Gaza flotilla raid by Israel

    "It is a matter of principal for the Greek government that NGO activities should be conducted without restrictions under the precondition that they are legitimate," foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Friday.

    He underlined that Greece has categorically condemned the Israeli attack on the Greek mission "both verbally and tangibly by postponing the visit of the Greek Air Force General Staff Chief to Israel and interrupting the joint exercise that was underway at the time. Our actions were made to ensure the safety of our compatriots and their speediest possible repatriation," he stressed.

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and political party representatives met on Thursday morning with the members of the Greek mission that participated in the flotilla of vessels carrying aid to Gaza, who returned to Athens from Israel on board a Greek Air Force flight.

    Delavekouras stated that the foreign ministry was monitoring the mission for months and was in touch with the Greek organizers and the Israeli authorities, in view of the fact that Israel had said it would stop the flotilla from reaching Gaza.

    "We had told the Greek organizers of the risks involved," Delavekouras pointed out, clarifying that "Athens was not in operational coordination with Israel but was in political contact with the Israeli authorities."

    As regards the "mistreatment" alleged by the Greeks held in Israel, Delavekouras stated that the foreign ministry Crisis Management Team was in contact with all the members of the Greek mission to record their testimonies and complaints, both about the alleged "mistreatment" and the loss of personal effects.

    Delavekouras said that Athens "wants the channels of communication to remain open to salvage the peace process (in the region)."

    He underlined that Greece and Cyprus have agreed to continue the effort concerning the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza, adding that Athens supports the "full and independent investigation of the conditions under which the incident took place. Such a request has also been made by the EU and the UN Security Council and if met will benefit Israel."

    As far as the actual incident is concerned, Delavekouras stated that "the Greek citizens were in international waters when the Israeli military operation took place," and added that the Greek embassy had put the members of the Greek mission in contact with a lawyer to ensure that their rights will be defended.

    [09] Athens on Turkey's citation of maritime law vs Israel

    Foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras confirmed in response to questions on Friday that Turkey has criticised Israel's raid of the Gaza aid flotilla as a breach of maritime law, even though Turkey has not itself ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

    "We would like to believe that this is a position of principle and a first step in a common course with the 160 countries that have signed the relevant treaty," Delavekouras said, commenting on a statement by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

    Delavekouras said that "the framework set by the international law is the only safe path toward defining the sea zones between the two countries and gives a clear response to the disputes expressed by Ankara."

    Turkey currently disputes Greece's right, arising under the provisions of international maritime law, to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in the Aegean. It has also threatened that any move by Greece to extend the current limit of six miles will be interpreted as a cause of war (casus belli). Greece currently claims six miles of territorial waters around its coast and islands but has not waived the right to extend this at some future date, as and when it sees fit.

    As regards Athens' position on the low-enriched uranium agreement between Turkey, Iran and Brazil, Delavekouras pointed out that "the agreement has its own significance and is being assessed" both by the Greek government and the international community. He underlined that the goal is Iran's full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency."

    "In this discussion, what's important are the viewpoints expressed by the six countries that have been talking with Iran for several years," he added.

    [10] Papoulias' message for World Environment Day

    President of Republic Karolos Papoulias, in his message on Friday for World Environment Day, said a change in today's development model is mandatory in order to tackle the environmental crisis.

    In his message, Papoulias underlines that "today's environmental crisis has brought humanity on the verge. A further worsening of the environmental conditions does not only mean loss in quality of living, forests' destruction, and pollution of the sea waters, it means loss of the life itself."

    [11] ND leader addresses party conference on environment

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, addressing a party conference on Friday on the occasion of International Environment Day, said that the time has come for the degradation of the environment to be reversed, damage to be remedied, as well as the balances that were upset.

    Samaras further said that a 30-year model went bankrupt, a model that redistributed borrowed money from the next generations, adding that "we must lay the foundations for a new growth model that utilises the environment and does not loot it and we must invest in creativity, competitiveness, sustainable growth and the future."

    The ND leader went on to say that "all our policies must take into consideration competitiveness as well and respect for the environment. We do not want 'dirty energy' even when it is very cheap and nor can we pursue absolutely clean energy when it is very expensive. An economy that is based on non-competitive energy is condemned to lose the battle of competitiveness."

    Samaras also said that Greece has a huge energy potential from renewable sources - wind, solar, wave and geothermal - and underlined that it can utilise its nature, climate, mountains, islands and archipelago.

    He also stressed that everything requires investments and the investments in such planning for utilising the environment have a very high performance when they are carefully selected. Lastly, he said that among the 23 measures for the recovery of the economy that he proposed are many that concern precisely this. The energy upgrading of the country and of its potential.

    [12] Tsipras opens 6th Synaspismos congress

    Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party leader Alexis Tsipras expressed a conviction that the party's congress can serve as a springboard for a left "of hope, solidarity, social struggles and an alternative prospect", in his opening address to the congress on Thursday evening.

    Tsipras, whose party heads the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary alliance, blasted the government's policy, warning that no government can hold up long with the people and society against it.

    "Their days are numbered and they realise this," he said.

    He also warned that the Greek society cannot hold up under the measures taken by the government, which are unfair and, chiefly, ineffective, since "not only do they not distance the danger of bankruptcy but, from a distance and theoretical threat, they have turned it into a real threat".

    Tsipras further stressed that the Left must become the vehicle for something new and for the people's hope, not only in words but also with action, and urged unity.

    He also blamed the two mainstream parties -- ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy (ND) -- for the scandals, but warned that the people are now "on to them"

    [13] Serb president wraps up official visit to Greece

    Serb President Boris Tadic ended his official visit to Greece by addressing the Greece-Serbia Business Forum organised by Thessaloniki's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, stressing the traditional ties of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

    Tadic addressed the forum on Thursday, accompanied by a delegation of roughly 40 Serb business people, stressing that bilateral ties will improve further once road infrastructure like Axis 10 is in place and his country joins the European Union.

    The Serb president stressed that Greek companies will always be welcome in Serbia and thanked Greece for its political and economic support, while pointing to the "huge growth potential of the Serbian market".

    "It is impossible for someone to think of growth and ensuring stability in the Balkans without taking into account our geostrategic position," he added.

    Tadic referred to the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) and similar agreements signed by his country with Russia, Belarus and Turkey, pointing out that they created a potential export market of over 800 million consumers.

    He also promised to encourage Serbs to once again spend their holidays in Greece, which is already the most popular destination for Serbs holidaying abroad.

    Serb Minister of Trade and Services Slobodan Milosavljevic highlighted the potential for economic cooperation in energy, manufacturing and tourism, while Greece's Deputy Minister of Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Markos Bolaris underlined the importance of Thessaloniki as a Balkans 'crossroads' and a hub for transport and logistics.

    During Tadic's visit on Thursday, the Serb president also had a working dinner with Greek National Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos that was attended by Serb Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac.

    The meeting focused on the entire range of issues relating to southeastern Europe and the western Balkans, including bilateral relations and Serbia's prospects of joining the EU and NATO.

    [14] Gov't on better exploitation of state property

    Government spokesman George Petalotis on Friday referred to the better exploitation of the state's existing resources, underlining that they were left unexploited and unregistered.

    He said that the government proceeds with the registration of the public property and spoke of timeless dysfunctions in the public sector and organizations, adding that public property will be utilized systematically and methodically.

    Responding to questions on the recent informal Cabinet meeting that focused on the issue and the relevant press reports that followed, he said that in an informal Cabinet meeting the presentation of different views, within the framework of productive discussions, is welcome.

    As regards the public real estate property, Petalotis stated that it falls under the jurisdiction of the ministry of finance.

    Referring to the National Public Real Estate Corp. (KED) he said that an effort is being made to be turned into an organization responsible for the utilization of public property.

    [15] Greece to reduce participation in NATO operations in Kosovo, Somalia

    The National Defence General Staff (GEETHA) announced on Friday that Greece plans to withdraw the largest proportion of its contingent to the peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) beginning in the autumn, in the framework of a NATO decision to reduce its force in that region.

    In total, approximately 600 of the 838 soldiers currently comprising Greece's contingent, the ELDYKO (Greek Forces in Kosovo) will be withdrawn while, depending on the developments in the region, the Greek force may be further reduced in 2011.

    The cost of Greece's participation in the KFOR was 24 million euros in 2009.

    Further, the GEETHA said that the frigate LIMNOS will be withdrawn from the NATO force against ship piracy off Somalia.

    It clarified, however, that the frigate ELLI, which is participating in the EU's anti-piracy force (EUNAVFOR) off Somalia, will remain in the region.

    [16] Appellate prosecutor recommends Mantelis be prevented from leaving country

    An appellate prosecutor has recommended to the appeals council of justices that they ratify a decision banning former minister Tassos Mantelis from leaving the country, an order imposed on Mantelis on suspicion that he has engaged in money laundering.

    The money laundering charge came after Mantelis, a former transport minister under a Simitis government in the late 1990s and earlier in the decade, told a Parliamentary fact-finding committee last week that he received a total of 450,000 deutschemarks for German multinational Siemens as part of "campaign contributions".

    The committee was established by the current government to probe the high-profile Siemens kick-back and bribery affair in Greece. The money was paid in 1998 and 2000 into a bank account that eventually ended up back to Mantelis, according to his testimony before the committee.

    The former minister has reportedly been employed over the past few years by a Greece-based consulting firm active in Azerbaijan.

    [17] Parliamentary committee requests SDOE investigation

    Parliament MP Sifis Valirakis met on Friday with the financial crimes squad (SDOE) general secretary Yiannis Kapeleris.

    Valirakis, in charge of the parliamentary committee assigned with the investigation of Siemens kickbacks and bribery affairs, conveyed to SDOE the committee's request to have the bank accounts of businessman Marios Katsikas checked.

    Financial News

    [18] Greek GDP shrinks 2.3 pct in Q1

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)

    The Greek economy shrank 0.8 pct in the first quarter of 2010, compared with the fourth quarter of 2009, Eurostat said on Friday.

    The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report, said Greece's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrank 2.3 pct in the January-March period, compared with the corresponding three-month period in 2009.

    In the Eurozone and the EU-27, GDP grew 0.2 pct on a quarterly basis in the first quarter of 2010, while on an annual basis, GDP in the Eurozone grew 0.6 pct, while in the EU-27 grew 0.5 pct.

    [19] ND official on recession

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party Economy sector alternate chief Christos Staikouras, speaking on the occasion of the announcement of data on the GDP increase rate in the European Union, ascertained a "deep and prolonged recession in the Greek economy."

    In a relevant announcement he said that "according to the data of Eurostat, in the first three months of 2010 the Greek economy is presenting: 1. A decrease in GDP by 2.3 percent compared to the corresponding period in 2009, that is among the highest in the EU. 2. A decrease in GDP by 0.8 percent compared to the last three months in 2009, which is one of the three biggest in the EU. 3. A decrease in GDP for the fourth consecutive quarter (The only country, together with Cyprus, in the EU)."

    He added that "the above data confirms the need for the immediate taking and promotion of measures to boost the market and to support economic activity, since the recession is deepening and unemployment is swelling."

    [20] Barroso meets European Union Confederation delegation

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    A delegation of the European Trade Union Confederation raised the issue of the social repercussions of the economic crisis and the consequences that the austerity measures being implemented by European governments will have on employment and the social sector in general, in a meeting here with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Participating on behalf of Greece was General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) President Yiannis Panagopoulos.

    Speaking after the meeting, Panagopoulos said that "the world of labour and the Greek people in a wider sense is angry over all this that happened in the past and which are now taking on a terrible form against it (the world of labour) with the stance of governments, but mainly with the stance of the European Commission."

    According to Panagopoulos, "the European Commission is hiding behind the Iternational Monetary Fund and is exercising policies that are not simply austerity policies but policies that ruin the European social model as we knew it in social security and labour relations."

    The GSEE president further noted that "with this policy, Europe, Greece, Spain, Portugal and the other countries will not exit from the crisis" and said that "consideration is required on the big question of: Where is Europe heading."

    [21] Eurobarometer: Majority of Greeks want to be self-employed

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)

    Sixty percent of Greeks say that they would like to be self-employed, according to a Eurobarometer poll released in Brussels on Friday. This was significantly higher than the average in the European Union (45 percent) but also the United States (55 percent).

    No more than 37 percent of Greeks stated a preference for salaried employment, compared with 49 percent in the EU as a whole.

    According to European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, the entrepreneurial potential in Europe is not fully exploited since "only an average of 10% is actually self-employed today. If we could raise this percentage, we could have millions of new innovative and creative enterprises which would rejuvenate Europe's economic basis, make it more robust, more job-generating and more resilient to stormy economic times".

    As the main advantages of self-employment people cited greater independence and better financial prospects, while the main advantages of a salaried job were a steady and regular income and steady work.

    Within Greece, 34 percent of those responding to the poll said that they had tried to set up their own business or were considering such an attempt. Half of those said that they had to do this "because of necessity", while 39 percent because "an opportunity had presented itself".

    In Europe as a whole, 22 percent stated that they have tried to set up their own business or were thinking of it.

    In answer to the question "Why do you think it is not feasible to start your own business in the next five years," 17 percent of Greeks - compared with 12 percent of Europeans - said that the "current economic climate is not suitable for new start-ups", while 16 percent of Greeks compared with 24 percent of Europeans replied that they lacked the necessary funds.

    Excessive bureacracy was cited as 83 percent of Greeks as an obstacle to starting their own business, compared with 67 percent of Europeans, while 73 percent of Greeks compared with 45 percent of Europeans said it was hard to collect information on how to set up their own business.

    Concerning their opinion of certain social groups, 43.5 percent of Greeks taking the poll expressed a negative opinion of executives of big businesses, compared with 32 percent of Europeans, while 42 percent had a negative view of managers in banks and other financial institutions, compared with 38 percent of Europeans. Concerning politicians, 66 percent of Greeks view them negatively, compared with 55 percent of Europeans.

    In answer to the question "If you won X amount of money, how would you use this," 32 percent of Greeks replied that they would buy a house (31 percent in the EU), 27 percent said that they would place it in a savings account (30 percent in the EU), 21 percent that they would start their own business (14 percent in the EU) and 12 percent that they would spend it on travel and luxury items (16 percent in the EU).

    [22] Greek econ sentiment index down in May

    Greece's economic sentiment index fell to 61.9 points in May, after a temporary stabilization in April, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) announced on Friday.

    IOBE, in a monthly report, said the May figure was not comparable with previous months' figures.

    The services sector suffered the heaviest pressures in May, while consumer confidence continued falling to historic low levels for the third consecutive month. Greek consumers remain highly pessimistic over their expectations for the country's economic outlook, over their households' prospects and over developments in the labour market.

    In the industrial sector, business expectations showed a decline in production, demand and new orders, while inventories were rising slightly.

    In the services sector, business expectations fell to new record lows, with forecasts over the current level of business and demand were significantly worsening.

    In the retail sector, business expectations over current sales fell slightly, while forecasts over demand were strongly down and inventories rose further.

    In the construction sector, business expectations over the current level of business fell further, although employment prospects rose in May.

    Consumers' savings showed signs of improvement in the next 12 months, after hitting record-lows in August, although forecasts over unemployment hit new record-highs.

    [23] Energy secgen at Baku conference, meets with Azeri minister

    Environment, Energy and Climate change ministry secretary general Costas Mathioudakis met with Azerbaijan's energy minister Natig Aliyev on Thursday in Baku, where the former is attending the 17th Caspian Oil and Gas International Conference and Exhibition.

    During the meeting, the two officials reaffirmed their countries' interest for cooperation in the energy sector, especially on matters concerning the purchase and transit of Azeri natural gas from Greece, as well as future investments.

    [24] Posidonia international shipping exhibition opens Monday in Piraeus

    The 22nd biennial Posidonia international shipping exhibition opens on Monday in the port of Thessaloniki, running to June 11.

    The event, under the aegis of the Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping ministry, the municipality of Piraeus, the Shipping Chamber of Greece, the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) and other maritime organisations, is expected to attract the most exhibitors and visitors than any other previous exhibition, with more than 1,850 exhibitors from 87 countries.

    [25] Tunisian envoy to visit Thessalonki to boost trade, tourism relations

    Tunisian ambassador to Greece Moncef Hajeri will visit Thessaloniki from June 7 to 10 to take part in an event for the reactivation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2000 by the Chambers of Commerce of the Tunisian city of Sfax and Thessaloniki.

    The Tunisian delegation's visit is part of efforts to promote business exchanges between the two cities and the general strengthening of ties between Greece and Tunisia, according to an embassy announcement.

    Hajeri will also meet with the chairman of the Thessaloniki Chamber and other officials, aimed at boosting cooperation between the two countries in the sector of commerce as well as tourism.

    [26] Car registrations down 7.9 pct in Jan-May

    Car registrations (both new and used ones) fell 7.9 pct in the January-May period, compared with the same period last year, the National Statistical Authority announced on Friday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said car registrations totaled 105,911 in the five-month period, after recording a 32.8 pct drop in the corresponding period in 2009.

    The number of motorcycle registrations totaled 24,824 in the January-May period, down 6.9 pct from last year, after a decline of 30.1 pct in the same period in 2009.

    Car registrations dropped 51.9 in May, compared with the same month in 2009, while motorcycle registrations fell 16.3 pct in the same period.

    [27] Stocks plunge to 2010 lows

    Stocks plunged during the last trading session of the week at the Athens Stock Exchange, hit by a worries over debt problems in the Eurozone following negative developments in the Hungarian economy which pushed the euro currency to its lowest levels since 2006.

    The composite index of the market dropped 5.03 pct to a new record low for the year of 1,484.90 points, with turnover remaining a low 137.776 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index dropped 5.56 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 3.31 pct down and the FTSE 80 index fell 2.54 pct.

    The Travel (8.30 pct) and Financial Services (7.39 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 147 to 33 with another 49 issues unchanged. ANEK (17.65 pct), Klonatex (12.50 pct) and Hellenic Fish Farming (12.5 pct) were top gainers, while Elfico (9.68 pct), ELBE Clothing (9.20 pct) and Viohalco (9.20 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: Unchanged

    Industrials: -4.57%

    Commercial: -2.46%

    Construction: -0.68%

    Media: -4.06%

    Oil & Gas: -1.68%

    Personal & Household: -3.25%

    Raw Materials: -1.97%

    Travel & Leisure: -8.30%

    Technology: -4.54%

    Telecoms: -5.11%

    Banks: -5.64%

    Food & Beverages: -4.06%

    Health: -3.51%

    Utilities: -5.41%

    Chemicals: -0.78%

    Financial Services: -7.39%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, OTE and EFG Eurobank Ergasias.

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.50

    ATEbank: 1.05

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.10

    HBC Coca Cola: 18.13

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.50

    National Bank of Greece: 9.74

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.84

    OPAP: 11.50

    OTE: 6.50

    Bank of Piraeus: 3.92

    Titan: 14.20

    [28] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 61 million euros on Friday, of which 14 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 47 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 12 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 555 basis points from 544 bps on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 8.20 pct and the German Bund 2.65 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.06 pct, the six-month rate 1.10 pct, the three-month 1.10 pct and the one-month rate 1.05 pct.

    [29] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -2.67 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover rising slightly to 62.984 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 15,055 contracts worth 53.196 million euros, with 29,013 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 16,982 contracts worth 9.788 million euros, with investment interest rates focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,789), followed by Eurobank (932), MIG (3,631), OTE (717), OPAP (529), Piraeus Bank (739), Alpha Bank (1,078), Marfin Popular Bank (1,151), Hellenic Petroleum (504), ATEbank (452) and Mytilineos (326).

    [30] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.215

    Pound sterling 0.834

    Danish kroner 7.499

    Swedish kroner 9.625

    Japanese yen 112.62

    Swiss franc 1.406

    Norwegian kroner 7.913

    Canadian dollar 1.269

    Australian dollar 1.447

    General News

    [31] Hydra, an intimate holday destination brimming with history

    Hydra, one of the Saronic Islands in the Aegean Sea between the Saronic and Argolic Gulfs, is a beautiful island brimming with history and architecture, and the perfect destination for visitors seeking a quiet, more intimate destination for their holidays.

    Separated from the Peloponnese by a narrow strip of water, the island was known in antiquity as Hydrea (derived from the Greek word for water), due to the islands numerous springs.

    No cars, motorcycles or other motor vehicles are allowed to circulate on the island, by law, and thus the only means of public transportation are donkeys, bicycles and water taxis. But the inhabited area is so compact that most people walk wherever they want to go.

    Hydra has a number of lovely bays and natural harbors, as well as a strong maritime culture, making it a popular yachting destination. It is also home to the international Kamini Yacht Club based in the port of Kamini.

    The island also has 300 churches and six monasteries, the two most noteworthy being the 19th century Profitis Ilias Monastery and the monastery of Aghia Efpraxia, both on a hill overlooking the main harbor.

    Further, the old Monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin, sitting on the quayside in the town, is now the island's Cathedral and contains the tomb of Lazaros Koundouriotis, the island's richest sea captain, who gave his entire fortune to support the 1821 War of Independence from Ottoman rule, to arm the Greek navy.

    Hydra also brims with history, as it was the home of many 1821 revolution naval heroes, including Miaoulis, Tombazis, Voulgaris, Kountouriotis, Tsamados and Kriezis, some of whom also served as prime ministers of the new Greek state.

    The Tsamados mansion on the left-hand side of the main harbor is now a Maritime Academy, while the Tombazis mansion is now part of the School of Fine Arts.

    The mansions of Lazaros and George Kountouriotis, Kriezis, Voulgaris and Miaoulis all contain collections of 18th century island furniture, while the descendents of Lazaros Kountouriotis donated his mansion to the Historic-Ethnologic Institute of Greece and today operates as an extension of the National Museum of History.

    Having developed into a strong maritime power, Hydra contributed some 150 ships, including supplies, when the War of Independence broke out, playing a crucial role in the fight against the Ottoman Turks.

    According to archaeological finds, Hydra was populated during the Byzantine era, at attested by vases and coins discovered in the area of Episkopi, while there is evidence of farmers and herders from the second half of the third millennium BCE.

    With the end of the Revolution and the creation of the Greek state, Hydra gradually lost its maritime position in the eastern Aegean, and the mainstay of the island's economy became sponge fishing.

    [32] Papoulias receives young artists

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received award winning students on Friday whose art creations, made of recyclable materials, were distinguished in "Recycle with art" competition co-organised by the ministries of environment and education.

    The students arrived at the presidential mansion on an environmentally friendly bus after receiving their awards at Benaki Museum where an exhibition with their works was inaugurated and will remain open for the public until June 20.

    [33] AHI honors Goulandri, Pantermalis

    The US-based American Hellenic Institute (AHI) paid tribute to Niki Goulandri, co-founder and president of the Goulandris Natural History Museum, and Professor Dimitris Pantermalis, president of the organising committee for the construction of the New Acropolis Museum, during the 6th annual Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Gala Dinner (Athens), held Wednesday in central Athens, during the traditional AHI delegation visit to Greece.

    According to the AHI, this year's honorees are "two extraordinary individuals who have distinguished themselves in their chosen fields of endeavors".

    The honorees were presented with a statuette of the Winged Nike (Victory) holding a laurel wreath, the ageless, since antiquity, message of hope for a better tomorrow, in acknowledgement of their work that projects Greece internationally.

    [34] Protest action by lawyers next week

    Lawyers in all areas of the country will abstain from court appearances throughout the coming week in protest against the government's measures concerning their profession, except those in Athens who have decided to hold protest action on different days.

    A meeting of the country's bar association presidents held in Athens on Friday has decided that their members will abstain from their duties from next Monday through Friday to mark their protest over the new tax and pension reforms and the opening of their profession.

    The Athens bar association had already decided that Athens lawyers will abstain on Monday and Tuesday next week and on Wednesday and Thursday the following week, on June 16-17.

    [35] High court: Negligent bank must pay compensation to customer

    The Supreme Court (Areios Pagos) handed down a ruling on Friday ordering a local bank to pay a 10,000-euro compensation to a former customer for moral damage, caused by negligent bank employees.

    Supreme Court Decision No. 347/2010 ruled in favor of the plaintiff, a Greek Air Force officer, accepting that he was subjected to significant ordeal and distress, which led to moral damage and therefore, he is entitled to monetary compensation.

    The bank failed to include the legal interest in an account that belonged to the plaintiff and as a result when he issued a cheque it bounced. Additionally, his name listed in a bad credit information database.

    [36] Illegal street trade scourge debated in Parliament

    The problem of illegal street trade and peddling, a phenomenon that has mushroomed in Greek cities over the past few years, was debated in Parliament on Friday, with Prime Minister George Papandreou himself stressing that the scourge necessitates an even greater and coordinated effort by law enforcement authorities, including municipal forces.

    Papandreou was replying to a tabled question by Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) president George Karatzaferis, whose right-of-centre party has repeatedly and vociferously cited the problem of street peddlers hawking faux merchandise on central Athens' sidewalks, amongst others.

    Papandreou referred to a "major and long-standing" problem, saying illegal street peddling negatively affects legal commerce, consumers' safety, while it deprives the state of revenue and artists' from their intellectual property rights, i.e. bootleg sales of music and DVDs.

    The prime minister said municipal authorities consider the problem as their number one priority, with joint municipal and police patrols stepped up. He said more than 2,500 such joint patrols have taken place over the past two months, with more than 5,800 confiscations taking place.

    Additionally, the premier said a lack of transparency and red tape also aid the phenomenon of illegal street trading, something that in turn generates corruption and lawlessness.

    Finally, he promised stepped up patrols and inspections by the tax bureau's special force, SDOE, of warehouses and illegal shops in central Athens.

    On his part, Karatzaferis said illegal street peddling and trade alone deprives the state of four billion euros in VAT receipts, while he put the number of street peddlers, mostly foreign national from Third World countries, at 17,000. He also called for the submission of up-to-date tax statements in order to export capital out of the country.

    Weather Forecast

    [37] Rainy on Saturday

    Rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 13C and 26C. Cloudy and rainy in Athens, with southerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 18C to 25C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 16C to 23C.

    Cyprus Affairs

    [38] Pope hopes Cypriots will resolve remaining concerns

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Pope Benedict XVI, who is currently on an official visit to Cyprus, expressed on Friday hope that the desire of Cypriots to live in harmony with their neighbours would inspire them patiently to resolve the remaining concerns that they share with the international community for the future of the island.

    Speaking at the welcoming ceremony at Paphos Airport shortly after his arrival, Pope Benedict said ''Cyprus stands at the crossroads of cultures and religions, of histories both proud and ancient but which still retain a strong and visible impact upon the life of your country.''

    ''Having recently acceded to the European Union, the Republic of Cyprus is beginning to witness the benefit of closer economic and political ties with other European states. Membership has already given your country access to markets, technology and know-how,'' he said.

    He added that ''it is greatly to be hoped that membership will lead to prosperity at home and that other Europeans in their turn will be enriched by your spiritual and cultural heritage which reflects your historical role, standing between Europe, Asia and Africa.''

    ''May the love of your homeland and of your families and the desire to live in harmony with your neighbours under the compassionate protection of almighty God, inspire you patiently to resolve the remaining concerns that you share with the international community for the future of your island,'' the Pontiff said.

    Pope Benedict added that, ''following in the footsteps of our common fathers in the faith, Saints Paul and Barnabas, I have come among you as a pilgrim and the servant of the servants of God.''

    ''Since the Apostles brought the Christian message to these shores, Cyprus has been blessed by a resilient Christian heritage,'' he said.

    The Pope noted that he looked forward to his meeting with President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias, as well as Archbishop Chrysostomos II and other Cypriot religious leaders.

    ''I hope to strengthen our common bonds and to reiterate the need to build up mutual trust and lasting friendship between all those who worship the one God,'' he added.

    Pope Benedict added that, ''as the Successor of Peter, I come in a special way to greet the Catholics of Cyprus, to confirm them in the faith and to encourage them to be both exemplary Christians and exemplary citizens, and to play a full role in society, to the benefit of both Church and state.''

    ''During my stay with you, I will also consign the Instrumentum Laboris, a working document in view of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops to be held later this year in Rome,'' he said, adding that ''the Assembly will examine many aspects of the Church's presence in the region and the challenges that Catholics face, sometimes in trying circumstances, in living out their communion within the Catholic Church and offering their witness in the service of society and the world.''

    The Pontiff pointed out that ''Cyprus is thus an appropriate place in which to launch our Church's reflection on the place of the centuries-old Catholic community in the Middle East, our solidarity with all the Christians of the region and our conviction that they have an irreplaceable role to play in peace and reconciliation among its peoples.''

    Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Paphos, Cyprus, on Friday afternoon, accompanied by a multimember delegation. The Pope was officially welcomed by President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and his wife, Elsie.

    The ceremony included a speech by President Christofias and a reply by Pope Benedict XVI, who also blessed a potted olive tree, which was later planted at Paphos Airport, as a reminder of the Pope's visit.

    The Pope then departed for the Church of Ayia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa in Kato Paphos where an ecumenical celebration took place. Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II delivered a greeting address followed by a prayer by the Pope, a reading of the Acts of the Apostles, a speech by the Pope, a prayer, a song and a final blessing.

    [39] President Christofias: Cyprus is free of nationalist prejudices

    Cyprus is free of nationalist prejudices and its struggle is a struggle for mankind, irrespective of language, religion and cultural identity, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said in his address at the welcoming reception of the Pope Benedict XVI at Paphos Airport.

    Welcoming the Pope to Cyprus, Christofias said ''it is a great honour for us that His Holiness the Pope is visiting our island for the first time in our modern history. It is natural for You, as a profound scholar of the Church Fathers and theology, to manifest your sensitivity by visiting Paphos, in the footsteps of Apostle Paul, who during the first apostolic tour on his first stop to Europe, and accompanied by the Apostle Barnabas, brought Christianity to Cyprus,'' he added.

    He stressed that the Pope's presence to Cyprus ''conveys a strong message of peace over hatred and war. We share with You the same vision for peace and social justice. Our fight against poverty, exclusion, injustice and hunger, which unfortunately still plague much of our planet, is a common one,'' the president said.

    ''Cyprus is in need of Your words of peace, given the difficult situation the island is facing in its occupied area. Allow me to say that Cyprus is in need of Your prayers and Your contribution in order to quickly regain its unity and freedom. We are thus grateful for the days You will be among us. Your presence in our country undoubtedly constitutes a historical occasion,'' the president underlined.

    He noted that ''Cyprus is an apostolic land with Christian roots dating back two millennia. Unfortunately, much of the intellectual and cultural heritage of Cyprus, including the tomb and the Stavropegic Monastery of St. Barnabas, as well as about 500 other religious monuments, are still under occupation by the Turkish army. Particularly worrying is the fact that for more than 35 years our cultural and religious heritage in the occupied area has been looted and destroyed systematically, constituting a loss for humanity as a whole.''

    Referring to the Cyprus problem, he said that ''our effort is to achieve a just solution through negotiations, which will lead to a complete withdrawal of foreign occupation troops and to the restoration of the rights and the fundamental freedoms of the people of Cyprus as a whole. In this struggle, the spiritual values of our people shield us from the deterioration and damage brought on by time. We are free of nationalist prejudices. Our struggle is a struggle for mankind, irrespective of language, religion and cultural identity. And in this noble vision we are fellow-travellers with Your Holiness,'' he underlined.

    The president expressed confidence that the Pope's visit to Cyprus will be a landmark and thanked him on behalf of the people of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins, for accepting his invitation.

    [40] Archbishop requests Pope's support in struggle of Cypriot people

    Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus Chrysostomos II, addressing Pope Benedict XVI shortly after his arrival in Paphos, asked for the Pontiff's support in the struggle of the people of Cyprus.

    "In this struggle of ours, Your Holiness, which the Cypriot people are waging with the guidance of their leaders, we would greatly appreciate your active support. We look forward to your help in order to ensure protection and respect for our sacred monuments and our cultural heritage, in order that the diachronic values of our Christian spirit might prevail. These values are currently being brutally violated by Turkey, a country desirous of joining the EU," he pointed out.

    Presenting the historical events of the arrival in Cyprus of Saints Barnabas and Paul, and the first teachings of Christianity on the island, the Archbishop said that "it was in this town that the first miracle of the Apostles was performed, as recorded in the New Testament."

    "It was here that the first European citizen was baptised in the name of the Holy Trinity. It was here that the first official citadel of idolatry fell and in its place the glory of the Cross was raised in all its splendour, and would gradually spread to cover the whole of Europe and shape its historical future," he added.

    The Archbishop said that "here in Paphos, after the wondrous events that took place, Paul became established as the Apostle to the Nations, and went on to sow the seeds of the bread of life in your own cathedra and throughout the whole of Europe."

    Referring to the situation in Cyprus, Archbishop said that "since 1974, Cyprus and its Church have been experiencing the most difficult times in their history."

    "Turkey, which attacked us barbarously and, with the power of its arms, occupied 37% of our territory, is proceeding, with the tolerance of the so-called 'civilised' world, to implement its unholy plans, first to annex our occupied territories and then the whole of Cyprus," he pointed out.

    The Archbishop also referred to the destruction of monuments in the Turkish occupied areas, noting that "our cultural heritage has been plundered relentlessly and our Christian monuments are being destroyed or sold on the markets of illicit dealers in antiquities, in an attempt to rid the island of every last trace of all that is Greek or Christian."

    "We hope that in this terrible ordeal, which has caused so much agony to the Christian congregation of our Church since 1974, the Good and All-Merciful Lord will not turn His face from our suffering people, but will grant us peace, freedom, and justice, thus granting to us the all-fulfilling love given by His presence in our hearts," he said.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    [41] Pope stresses Cyprus Church's contribution in reconciliation

    Pope Benedict XVI stressed on Friday the contribution of the Church in Cyprus to the process of reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

    The path leading to the goal of full communion will certainly not be without its difficulties, yet the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of Cyprus are committed to advancing in the way of dialogue and fraternal cooperation, the Pope said in his speech at Aghia Kiriaki Chrysopolitissa Church in Paphos where he went after his arrival in Cyprus.

    The Pope began his speech saluting people in Greek. ''It is truly an extraordinary grace for us to gather together in prayer in this Church of Agia Kiriaki Chrysopolitissa,'' he said.

    He noted that ''set apart by the Holy Spirit, Paul, accompanied by Barnabas, a native of Cyprus, and Mark, the future evangelist, first came to Salamis, where they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues. Traversing the island, they reached Paphos where, close to this very place, they preached in the presence of the Roman pro-consul Sergius Paulus. Thus it was from this place that the Gospel message began to spread throughout the Empire, and the Church, grounded in the apostolic preaching, was able to take root throughout the then-known world," he added.

    He stressed that ''the Church in Cyprus can rightly be proud of her direct links to the preaching of Paul, Barnabas and Mark, and her communion in the apostolic faith, a communion which links her to all those Churches who preserve that same rule of faith.''

    ''This is the communion, real yet imperfect, which already unites us, and which impels us to overcome our divisions and to strive for the restoration of that full visible unity which is the Lord's will for all his followers. For, in Paul's words, 'there is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism''', the Pope said.

    He noted that ''the Church's communion in the apostolic faith is both a gift and a summons to mission. In the passage from Acts which we have heard, we see an image of the Church's unity in prayer, and her openness to the promptings of the Spirit of mission. Like Paul and Barnabas, every Christian, by baptism, is set apart to bear prophetic witness to the Risen Lord and to his Gospel of reconciliation, mercy and peace,'' he said.

    He added that in this context, the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, due to meet in Rome next October, will reflect on the vital role of Christians in the region, encourage them in their witness to the Gospel, and help foster greater dialogue and cooperation between Christians throughout the region.

    "Significantly, the labours of the Synod will be enriched by the presence of fraternal delegates from other Churches and Christian communities in the region, as a sign of our common commitment to the service of God's word and our openness to the power of his reconciling grace," the Pope said.

    He noted that the unity of all Christ's disciples is a gift to be implored from the Father in the hope that it will strengthen the witness to the Gospel in today's world.

    "The Lord prayed for the holiness and unity of his disciples precisely so that the world might believe (cf. Jn 17:21). Just a hundred years ago, at the Edinburgh Missionary Conference, the acute awareness that divisions between Christians were an obstacle to the spread of the Gospel gave birth to the modern ecumenical movement.

    "Today we can be grateful to the Lord, who through his Spirit has led us, especially in these last decades, to rediscover the rich apostolic heritage shared by East and West, and in patient and sincere dialogue to find ways of drawing closer to one another, overcoming past controversies, and looking to a better future," the Pope said.

    ''May the Holy Spirit enlighten our minds and strengthen our resolve, so that together we can bring the message of salvation to the men and women of our time, who thirst for the truth that brings authentic freedom and salvation (cf. Jn 8:32), the truth whose name is Jesus Christ!,'' the Pope added, noting that ''sanctity is the sign of the fullness of Christian life, a profound inner docility to the Holy Spirit who calls us to constant conversion and renewal as we strive to be ever more conformed to Christ our Saviour.''

    He said that ''conversion and holiness are also the privileged means by which we open our minds and hearts to the Lord's will for the unity of his Church. As we give thanks for this meeting and for the fraternal affection which unites us, let ask Saints Barnabas and Epiphanius, Saints Peter and Paul, and all God's holy ones, to bless our communities, to preserve us in the faith of the Apostles, and to guide our steps along the way of unity, charity and peace.''

    [42] Spokesman: Cyprus talks cannot continue without clear basis

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said on Friday it was evident that negotiations for a solution of the Cyprus problem could not continue without a clear basis for the talks.

    He noted that the Greek Cypriot side had sent its own messages and was waiting for the whole issue to be clarified, after Thursday's developments, when President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias requested that his meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu be postponed, after Eroglu questioned the basis of the talks.

    Furthermore, Stephanou said that there have been no arrangements for a meeting between President Christofias and Eroglu on June 15.

    ''An issue has arisen. If it is not settled, it will lead to a crisis, in the sense that there will be a problem in the negotiations,'' he added.

    Replying to questions, Stephanou said ''it is obvious that the negotiations cannot continue without a clear negotiating basis, as defined in the statement of the UN Secretary General, to which the two leaders expressed support and which was later on questioned or even annulled with the new remarks by Mr. Eroglu.''

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

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