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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-08-06

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Friday, 6 August 2010 Issue No: 3560


  • [01] No new memorandum, no new measures, FinMin says
  • [02] Party reactions to FinMin, troika review
  • [03] EU-IMF statement on Greece's economic programme
  • [04] Governmental meeting on energy sector deregulation
  • [05] 'No issue of selling PPC units'
  • [06] Droutsas to meet Davutoglu Friday
  • [07] U.S. State Department on terrorist activity in Greece
  • [08] Bail for former premier's aide reduced
  • [09] Alexandria Patriarch sends letter of support to Moscow Patriarch Kirill over Russia fires
  • [10] ND criticises labour organisation mergers
  • [11] OTE reports negative Q2 results
  • [12] New car, motorcycle registrations
  • [13] Foreign investors' share in ASE down in July
  • [14] Stocks end 1.81 pct down
  • [15] Greek bond market closing report
  • [16] ADEX closing report
  • [17] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [18] Major prescription scam uncovered
  • [19] Speliologist stress environmental risks
  • [20] Fire at mountainous area on Corfu
  • [21] Man killed by thunderbolt
  • [22] Two injured in PPC-chartered helicopter crash
  • [23] PPC statement on helicopter crash
  • [24] Igoumenitsa arrests point to fake passport ring
  • [25] Greek artists present their works in 'Tracing Istanbul' exhibition
  • [26] Heavy rainfall blamed for soil erosion in the region of Ptolemaida
  • [27] Hot and humid on Friday
  • [28] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] No new memorandum, no new measures, FinMin says

    Greek Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou on Thursday said the country has secured all tranches of an EU/IMF loan -worth 110 billion euros. Speaking to reporters, after completion of a 10-day inspection visit by troika experts in Athens, the Greek minister said the country will dismiss all negative predictions and noted that "a first assessment of our economic program is positive, there is no new memorandum, no new measures. We will take the third tranche as well. We will take all tranches".

    Papakonstantinou said "the first round has ended", but efforts continued focusing mainly on structural reforms. He named 10 structural changes to be implemented by the end of the year: new tax administration for combating tax evasion, a new state budget, controlling spending and overspending in hospitals and health costs, changes in civil administration and regional authorities, opening up markets and closed professions (lawyers, engineers, architects, pharmacies, accountants, etc), restructuring Hellenic Railways and public sector enterprises, promoting privati-zations, better management of the state's real estate, changes in the banking system, a new business environment and strengthening the competitiveness and inspection of prices.

    Based on a timetable, the troika will release in early September an updated technical report on the Greek economy. In September 10, the IMF's board will meet to approve the release of the fund's participation in the second tranche of the loan. A similar decision is expected by an ECOFIN meeting in September 7. The second tranche, worth 9.0 billion euros, will be released September 13-15. The next official assessment of the Greek economy will be held by the end of October.

    The Greek minister was adamant in his comments that the government will maintain a 51 pct majority stake in Public Power Corporation and rejected talk of selling parts of the electricity utility. He also rejected talk of cutting a 13th and a 14th salary in the private sector and said there was no issue of laying off staff in loss-making public sector enterprises to be merged.

    Papakonstantinou announced a new package of state guarantees, worth 25 billion euros, for Greek banks aimed at strengthening the banking system and boosting liquidity in the market. The expansion of a state guarantee plan by 25 billion euros, totaling 55 billion euros, is a precondition for the release of a new tranche of the loan since "Greek banks continued facing problems in accessing international sources of funding". He said the landscape over the banking system would begin to be clearer by the end of September and indirectly said he was "open" to any investment interest for Hellenic Postbank and ATEbank from abroad.

    He said the government will sign a contract with three major firms which will evaluate the state's equity holdings in commercial banks, while by September a Financial Stability Fund will begin operating and a restructuring plan for ATEbank will be released. He stressed, however, that no specific timetable for the moves of private banks could be set.

    "The decisions are their own, but within a framework set by the Bank of Greece," he said. He expressed his satisfaction over the results of stress test on Greek banks and reassured that ATEbank was fully safe and that the state fully guaranteed its future.

    Papakonstantinou said he shared the same concerns with the troika experts over any possible risks ahead in implementing an economic program and cutting the fiscal deficit.

    [02] Party reactions to FinMin, troika review

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Thursday accused the government of "shamelessly lying by maintaining that it will not impose new anti-popular measures," adding that "no day goes by without launching new attacks on the workers' income and rights."

    Commenting on the statements made by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and the troika (EC, ECB, IMF) staff teams in Greece, the KKE accused the government of "being provocative by announcing a new support package of 25 billion euros for the banks."

    Opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) spokesman Kostis Aivaliotis stated that "the troika suggested what is common sense, namely, spending cuts in all sectors."

    Opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) stated that the finance minister "tried unsuccessfully to sweeten the bitter taste left by the statements of the troika representatives as regards the course of the Greek economy."

    [03] EU-IMF statement on Greece's economic programme

    At the end of the first quarterly review of the Greek govern-ment's economic programme on Thursday by staff teams from the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an EC, ECB and IMF statement said the programme had made a "strong start" and that the way should now be clear for the disbursement of the next installment of the 80 billion euro loan agreed with the EU and the 30 billion euro Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF.

    EC, ECB and IMF staff teams have been in Athens since July 26.

    The full statement released was as follows:

    "Our overall assessment is that the programme has made a strong start. The end-June quantitative performance criteria have all been met, led by a vigorous implementation of the fiscal programme, and important reforms are ahead of schedule. However, important challenges and risks remain.

    The contraction in the economy is in line with May programme projections: GDP is expected to decline by 4 percent in 2010 and some 2.5 percent in 2011. Inflation is higher than expected-we have revised our estimate for 2010 to 4.75 percent-pushed up by indirect tax increases. With no signs of second-round effects, inflation is expected to decline rapidly.

    In the fiscal area, the authorities have kept spending significantly below budget limits at the state level. This has offset slippages caused by problems in controlling expenditures at the sub-national level (local governments, hospitals, social security funds), and the overall deficit target for end-June was met. Going forward, to address potential risks to fiscal targets, it is critical to tighten expenditure control and monitoring, in particular at sub-national levels. Another key challenge is to further strengthen tax administration, including to reduce tax evasion by high-income and wealthy individuals. This is essential to secure tax revenues and to promote the overall fairness of the adjustment program.

    In the financial sector, there has been a moderate deterioration in capital adequacy as nonperforming loans have increased in line with expectations. Recently, the CEBS stress tests covered more than 90 percent of Greek banking system assets and all but one state-owned bank passed, thus helping to reduce market volatility. We welcome that the government has commissioned a strategic review for the banking sector and a due diligence for state banks. The Financial Stability Fund (FSF), which is soon to become operational, will provide an important backstop to deal with potential capital shortfalls. In our view, the 10 billion euro earmarked for the FSF under the program remains adequate. Continued close monitoring of the financial sector will be important in the period ahead.

    Impressive progress is being made on structural reforms. The mission welcomes Parliament's approval of the landmark pension reform, which is far-reaching by international standards. Substantive labour market reform is also well underway. Implementation of recent tax reform and budget reform is key in order to consolidate fiscal consolidation. Other reforms that are scheduled for early implementation are transportation, where important progress has already been made with liberalisation of road haulage, and energy. Restoring competitiveness and boosting potential growth remains critical to the programme's success. The challenge facing the government in this regard will be to overcome resistance from entrenched vested interests to opening-up of closed professions, deregulation, implementation of the services directive, and elimination of barriers to development of tourism and retail.

    The Greek government is still unable to access international capital markets except for placement of short-term T-bills. However, market sentiments appear now to be improving. Taking advantage of the breathing space afforded by the large-scale international financial support, the key challenge facing the Greek authorities remains to establish a strong track record of policy implementation in order to regain access to international capital markets.

    The staff-level agreement reached with the Greek authorities will pave the way for the conclusion of the first review under the loan facility agreement (euro area) and Stand-By Arrangement (IMF), subject to approval by the Commission, the Eurogroup, and the IMF's management and Executive Board. Such approval will allow the disbursement of EUR 9 billion (EUR 6.5 billion by the euro area Member States, and EUR 2.5 billion by the IMF).

    The mission for the next program review is scheduled for October, 2010."

    ND on the troika review

    "The troika review is no cause for jubilation," main opposition New Democracy (ND) economy sector head MP Christos Staikouras stated on Thursday.

    Referring to the first quarterly review of the Greek government's economic programme by staff teams of the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the ND official stressed that based on available figures "the sacrifices made by the Greek people are going to waste."

    He pointed out that "private businesses are closing down, unemployment swells and inflation, as mentioned by the troika, is rampant." He also stressed that "economic recession deepens based on the troika's assertions predicting that the GDP will shrink 4 pct in 2010 and 2.5 pct in 2011."

    ND underlined that the "economic policy mix" should be changed, stressing that "public deficit and debt should be handled simultaneously."

    [04] Governmental meeting on energy sector deregulation

    Government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos chaired a governmental meeting on Thursday, during which environment, energy and climate change minister Tina Birbili presented a briefing on the contacts with the EU-IMF troika inspectors and the ministry's planning in the energy sector.

    According to ministry sources, Birbili briefed the meeting on the outcome of the negotiations with the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) inspectors regarding the deregulation of the electrical energy market.

    The same sources said that the troika team, which initially recommended the sale of 40 percent of the Public Power Corporation's (PPC) electricity production units, did not rule out alternative solutions that will lead to liberalisation of the markets, adding that Birbili reiterated the government's stance on the recommended sale of PPC units, which remains negative.

    Apart from changes to the regulatory framework on the operation of the electricity market, which are also required under EU legislation, the Memorandum signed in May foresees that in the autumn the government will issue a Presidential Decree for deregulation of the wholesale energy market and a Ministerial Decision for rationalisation of the electricity fees.

    Birbili further outlined the overall developments in the energy sector and the investments planned, with the focus on renewable energy sources.

    The meeting was attended by finance minister George Papaconstantinou, minister of state Haris Pampoukis and others.

    [05] 'No issue of selling PPC units'

    The Greek government on Thursday reiterated that there is no issue of selling off Public Power Corporation (PPC) units.

    Speaking to reporters after a governmental meeting chaired by government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos, environment, energy and climate change minister Tina Birbili said that "we are discussing everything but the sale of PPC units", addiong that "the government has convinced its EU partners that there is no issue of selling such units".

    Birbili said that Greece also secured an extension to the end of the year to present its proposal for the deregulation of the energy market, and technical issues are already being discussed, on which a decision will be reached at the end of the year.

    The meeting focussed on deregulation of the energy market, investments that must be made in renewable energy sources, and the country's energy planning up to the year 2020.

    [06] Droutsas to meet Davutoglu Friday

    Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas will meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the Dodecanese island of Rhodes on Friday.

    Droutsas will host a private lunch for the Turkish minister and his family. The meeting had been arranged earlier on Thursday in a telephone conversation by the two ministers.

    [07] U.S. State Department on terrorist activity in Greece


    A U.S. State Department report on terrorism issued here on Thursday said that terrorism in Greece increased significally in 2009, after large-scale rioting in December 2008.

    "Domestic terrorism increased significantly in Greece in 2009, following large-scale rioting in December 2008. In 2009 there were more than 430 security incidents - defined to include incendiary and explosive attacks, as well as attacks involving small arms, grenades, and other infantry-style weaponry - far more than have been recorded in each of the previous 20 years," the report said.

    "Local extremists increasingly targeted businesses and Greek law enforcement, and there was an increasing use of infantry-style weaponry in terrorist attacks.

    "The leftist domestic terrorist group Revolutionary Struggle claimed responsibility for shooting police officers and bombing financial targets, including U.S.-affiliated banks and the Athens Stock Exchange, which was targeted in an ammonium nitrate car bomb attack on September 2.

    "A previously unknown group, Sect of Revolutionaries, emerged during the year to claim responsibility for attacks on police and other targets, including the only such lethal attack during the year: the June 17 murder of a police officer on protective detail outside the apartment building of a government witness in Athens.

    "On October 27, unknown assailants attacked the Aghia Paraskevi police station in suburban Athens with AK-47s, seriously wounding six officers and a civilian. Two groups, the Guerilla Group of Terrorists and the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei (SPF), jointly claimed responsibility for the December 27 bombing of the National Insurance Company building in Athens.

    "The appeals of eight convicted members of the November 17 terrorist organization went before the Supreme Court in October. Prosecutors urged the court to sustain the convictions, but recommended consideration of reduced sentences for two of the convicts.

    "On December 3, an appeals court threw out the convictions of three members of the People's Revolutionary Struggle terrorist organization who had initially been sentenced in 2004 to 25 years each for the 1994 murder of a police officer, 48 attempted murders by bombing, and 42 bomb attacks and attempted bombings, though they had been released for health reasons and on other grounds pending appeal in separate decisions in 2005 and 2006.

    "Throughout the year, self-styled anarchists attacked banks, police stations, the homes and offices of politicians, and other "imperialist-capitalist" targets with tools such as firebombs and Molotov cocktails. Since these attacks usually occurred outside normal business hours, few persons were seriously injured and there were no deaths. Several U.S. businesses were targeted. On January 10 , a rock-throwing group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators caused some physical damage to the U.S. Embassy during a protest against the Israeli operation in Gaza.

    "Greece is increasingly an EU entry point for illegal immigrants coming from the Middle East and South Asia and there was concern that it could be used as a transit route for terrorists travelling to Europe and the United States. The number of illegal immigrants entering Greece, especially through the Aegean Sea, increased dramatically in 2008 and 2009, with more than 100,000 illegal immigrants, nearly half of whom originated from North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, arrested each year. Greek authorities participated in the Container Security Initiative and cooperated with U.S. officials on information sharing, as well as the training of Greek security and customs officials, and judicial personnel. Greece sustained its participation in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan by providing engineers and other support officers," the report also said.

    [08] Bail for former premier's aide reduced

    A Court of Appeals Prosecutor accepted on Thursday the request for bail reduction made by former premier's aide Yiannis Angelou, who is accused of moral instigation of breach of faith in the case of the land swaps between the Vatopedi monastery and the state.

    Prosecutor Yiannis Liakopoulos suggested that the 400,000-euro bail posted last month by Angelou for his release be reduced to 60,000 euros.

    Angelou was also been barred from leaving the country after testifying before an examining magistrate assigned with the case.

    [09] Alexandria Patriarch sends letter of support to Moscow Patriarch Kirill over Russia fires

    Alexandria and All Africa Patriarch Theodoros II on Thursday sent a letter to Moscow Patriarch Kirill, expressing the Alexandria Patriarchate's deep sorrow and support for the Russian people beset by the devastating fires sweeping Russia, which have claimed dozens of lives.

    Financial News

    [10] ND criticises labour organisation mergers

    Main opposition New Democracy sector head for labour issues Ioannis Vroutsis on Thursday criticised the merger of labour-related public-sector bodies to create a single National Labour Organisation that was announced the previous day by the government.

    According to Vroutsis, the organisations merged were extremely dissimilar in their mission and focus and the anticipated cost savings from reducing administration staff would be outweighed by the problems that would arise in the new "bloated and unwieldy" organisation.

    "The purpose of the enterprise, however, is different and clear: the funds of these organisations, the money of the workforce and the corresponding social transfers will be used as a pillow of internal borrowing to cover the deficits of the social insurance system," he added.

    [11] OTE reports negative Q2 results

    An economic crisis hitting Greece affected Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation's (OTE) earnings in the second quarter of 2010, with turnover falling 8.3 pct to 1.358 billion euros, while net results showed a loss of 60.8 million euros from a profit of 6.4 million euros in 2009, burdened by an extra tax charge imposed by the government.

    OTE said basic earnings per share dropped 98.2 pct in the April-June period, compared with the same period in 2009, affected by adverse economic conditions, increased competition and higher taxes.

    Fixed-telephony operations, mainly in Greece and Romania, reported declines of 7.2 pct and 11.1 pct, respectively in the second quarter, with domestic operations losing more than 134,00 PSTN and ISDN lines.

    Mobile telephony operations reported a decline of 8.2 pct in the second quarter, with Cosmote down 10 pct to 446 million euros, in Albania down 14.6 pct, in Bulgaria down 9.0 pct and Romania up 6.3 pct. Mobile telephony customers rose 4.5 pct to around 21.6 million euros.

    Cosmote said its customer base totaled 8.5 million, down 3.2 pct from the same period last year. In Albania, AMC attracted 30,000 new connections, with a customer base of more than 2.0 million, up 33.5 pct from 2009.

    In Bulgaria, Globul reported a 7.0 pct rise in new contract subscribers, with its customer base totaling 4.0 million euros at the end of June 2010.

    Cosmote Romania, excluding Zapp, reported a customer base of 6.7 million.

    OTE said negative conditions which affected its results in the second quarter were expected to continue throughout 2010 and said the management would continue adopting programs aimed at limiting revenue losses, cutting costs and raising liquidity.

    [12] New car, motorcycle registrations

    Car registrations (new cars or used imported) fell 25.2 pct in January-July 2010 corresponding to 139,388 cars, compared with the same period in 2009, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday. The decline between 2009 and 2008 was 22.9 pct.

    According to ELSTAT, a total of 41,714 new motorcycles (over 50cc) were registered in the seven month period of January-July 2010 recording a decline of 12.8 pct compared with the same period in 2009 with registrations totaling 47,848 new motorcycles. The decline recorded between 2009 and 2008 was 29.8 pct.

    [13] Foreign investors' share in ASE down in July

    Foreign investors cut their participation in the Athens Stock Exchange to 48.5 pct in July, from 49.4 pct in June, official figures showed on Thursday. Foreign investors were sellers in July, with capital outflows totaling 86.1 million euros, while Greek investors (with a share of 50.1 pct in the market's capitalization) were net buyers with capital inflows totaling 88 million euros.

    Turnover rose 3 pct to 2.287 billion euros in July, but down 45 pct compared with July 2009. The Greek market's capitalization totaled 65.2 billion euros at the end of July, up 15.4 pct from June, but down 26.8 pct compared with July 2009.

    [14] Stocks end 1.81 pct down

    Greek stocks ended significantly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, as investors took profits after the government announced a new state guarantee program, worth 25 billion euros, for Greek banks.

    The composite index of the market fell 1.81 pct to end at 1,745.30 points, with turnover at 107.588 million euros. The Big Cap index dropped 2.22 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.45 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.06 pct down. Utilities (5.18 pct) and Raw Materials (4.13 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Health (3.03 pct) and Insurance (2.37 pct) scored gains. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 99 to 85 with another 41 issues unchanged.

    Ilyda (14.58 pct), Proton (10 pct), ANEK (10 pct) were top gainers, while Vell Group (19.51 pct), Edrasi (14.29 pct) and NEL (12.50 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +2.37

    Industrials: +0.54%

    Commercial: +0.54%

    Construction: -1.11%

    Media: -0.93%

    Oil & Gas: -0.87%

    Personal & Household: +0.04%

    Raw Materials: -4.13%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.85%

    Technology: -1.55%

    Telecoms: -2.15%

    Banks: -2.41%

    Food & Beverages: +1.78%

    Health: +3.03%

    Utilities: -5.18%

    Chemicals: +1.10%

    Financial Services: -3.74%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, PPC and HBC Coca Cola.

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

    Alpha Bank: 6.00

    ATEbank: 1.21

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.00

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.40

    National Bank of Greece: 11.77

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.30

    OPAP: 11.90

    OTE: 6.36

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.28

    Titan: 17.10

    [15] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to a low of 10 million euros on Thursday, of which 7.0 million were buy orders and the remaining 3.0 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 4.0 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds fell to 762 basis points from 769 bps on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.19 pct and the German Bund 2.57 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.42 pct, the six-month rate 1.14 pct, the three-month 0.94 pct and the one-month rate 0.65 pct.

    [16] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.57 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange with turnover at 35.529 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 6,154 contracts worth 26.714 million euros, with 26,223 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,552 contracts worth 8.815 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,091), followed by Eurobank (896), MIG (1,525), Piraeus Bank (870), Alpha Bank (1,540), Ellaktor (346), Mytilineos (1,492) and Metka (236).

    [17] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.328

    Pound sterling 0.835

    Danish kroner 7.510

    Swedish kroner 9.457

    Japanese yen 114.57

    Swiss franc 1.393

    Norwegian kroner 7.939

    Canadian dollar 1.346

    Australian dollar 1.454

    General News

    [18] Major prescription scam uncovered

    A cache of prescription drugs discovered at a depth of 100 metres down a mining shaft by speliologist Thanos Xanthopoulos helped uncover a major case of prescription drug fraud involving a Lavrio pharmacist and a local doctor, authorities announced on Thursday. They said the two had defrauded social insurance funds of roughly 36,000 euro using fake prescriptions.

    The cache of drugs was found by Xanthopoulos and his team about nine months earlier in Kamariza, Lavrio and he informed authorities about the find, warning of the risk to the region's water table.

    Health and social insurance ministry inspectors then starting scouring Lavrio-area pharmacies, while a tip-off led them to a local pharmacist who was collaborating with a doctor in the area to issue fake prescriptions. The two men that set up the scam were apparently related to each other.

    In an announcement on Thursday, the Social Insurance Foundation IKA-ETAM on Thursday said it had begun a formal internal inquiry to investigate the case and revealed that 28 health books belonging to people insured with IKA-ETAM had been found in the pharmacy involved.

    The health books belonged to people living in different areas and IKA-ETAM has sent them to the local branches that issued them - totalling seven in number - so that their owners might be positively found and identified.

    The owners of the health books are also liable for penalties in the case, since a prescription scam requires the collaboration of both doctor, pharmacist and the person insured, though in some cases the people insured are not aware of the scams being perpetrated in their name.

    IKA-ETAM headquarters have also launched a more extensive inspection of all prescriptions written out in the Lavrio area while initiating proceedings to impose penalties on the specific pharmacy behind the scam.

    [19] Speliologist stress environmental risks

    According to speliologists, the case also illustrates another major problem in Greece, which is the use of caves and wells as informal dumps.

    "Anything thrown into wells literally ends up in our water glasses," they stressed, noting that they regularly found all manner of refuse dumped in caves throughout Greece, ranging from eletrical appliances and cars to corpses, especially caves near settlements.

    They underlined that such actions greatly affected the quality of drinking water, since caves were the conduits that drained water falling on the surface of the earth and stressed that Greek laws provided little or no protection to caves despite the dangers to public health.

    [20] Fire at mountainous area on Corfu

    A fire that broke out late Wednesday in the mountainous area of Thinallia on Corfu island was still blazing on Thursday morning.

    Eleven fire engines with a 22 member crew and a firefighters foot division are battling to contain the blaze, assisted by two firefighting airplanes that arrived at the scene at first light of day.

    No populated areas were at risk.

    [21] Man killed by thunderbolt

    A 35-year-old Albanian died on Wednesday when he was struck by a thunderbolt during a storm in raged Kozani prefecture, northwestern Greece.

    According to Kozani police the man was walking along a path near Klitos village when he was stricken by the thunderbolt and was fatally injured.

    The victim was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

    [22] Two injured in PPC-chartered helicopter crash

    Two people were injured in a crash shortly after noon on Thursday involving a private helicopter chartered by the Public Power Corporation (PPC) to clean high-voltage pylon cables just outside the city of Rethymno on the island of Crete.

    The helicopter crashed in the area of Kastelakia, 2.5 kilometers outside the city, and the two men on board were initally rushed to Rethymno hospital, along with the owner of the helicopter who suffered a heart attack when he witnessed the crash.

    The 36-year-old pilot, whose injuries were more serious, was later transferred to the larger Iraklio University General Hospital.

    The second man in the helicopter, the 35-year-old operator of the water-cannon used to clean the cables, is still being treated at Rethymno hospital, along with the owner who doctors say is not in any danger.

    According to initial reports, the accident occurred as the helicopter was attempting to land in order to restock water. During the landing, for reasons as yet unknown, it touched the power cables and dropped from a height of 15 metres to the ground.

    [23] PPC statement on helicopter crash

    The Public Power Corporation's (PPC) management on Thursday expressed its support for the two men injured in the crash of a PPC-chartered helicopter earlier the same day. An announcement said that PPC will give Greek authorities every possible assistance in determining the cause of the accident.

    The helicopter belonged to the private company Bellavia and was chartered by the PPC for the cleaning of high-voltage cable pylons. It crashed in the area of Kastelakia, 2.5 kilometers outside the city of Rethymno on the island of Crete at around 12:10.

    The pilot and handler of the cleaning equipment were both injured in the crash and were rushed to hospital after receiving first aid from staff at Bellavia and the PPC.

    [24] Igoumenitsa arrests point to fake passport ring

    Police in the port city of Igoumenitsa on Thursday arrested four foreign nationals from Asian countries carrying fake passports. Questioned, the four told police and coast guard officers that they had bought the fake passports from a Moroccan in Omonia Square in Athens.

    Igoumenitsa police informed Athens authorities investigating fake passport rackets about the arrests and the statements, while they are also interrogating other Asians recently arrested in the port city with fake passports, possibly supplied by the same ring.

    Apparently there has recently been a sharp increase in the number of Asian nationals with forged passports that are caught as they attempt to board ferries to Italy .

    The police investigation is now pointing to the existence of an Asian ring selling fake passports at hefty prices to other Asians in Athens' Omonia Square.

    [25] Greek artists present their works in 'Tracing Istanbul' exhibition

    The exhibition "Tracing Istanbul", held with the participation of 101 Greek artists representing different forms of artistic expression, will open for the public at Sismanoglio Building in Istanbul, Turkey, on Aug. 28-Sept. 23, while another section of the event will take place at the Theological School of Halki on Aug. 29-Sept. 23.

    For the first time in 30 years, the Theological School of Halki will open its gates to host the exhibition to be formally inaugurated by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Aug. 29.

    The inauguration of the exhibition at Sismanoglio Building will be conducted by the Greek Consul General in Istanbul.

    Invited to attend both openings are Greek and Turkish artists, art collectors, local government officials, scholars and entrepreneurs.

    [26] Heavy rainfall blamed for soil erosion in the region of Ptolemaida

    The recent heavy rainfall recorded in the greater region of Ptolemaida in the Prefecture of Kozani, northwest Greece, is to blame for a narrow crack created on the surface of the earth in the district of Mavropigi, according to findings issued by Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration (IGME) experts that studied the phenomenon.

    Special devices have been installed in the area to monitor any changes in the 1 meter deep and 40 cm wide crevice.

    However, the local authorities express concern doubting that heavy rainfall alone was the cause for the creation of the 300-meter-long gap.

    Weather forecast

    [27] Hot and humid on Friday

    Sunny and humid weather is forecast on Friday with mists in coastal regions. Winds variable, ranging from 2 to 4 Beaufort. Temperatures between 18C and 37C. Sunny in Attica with temperatures from 24C to 37C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 23C to 34C.

    [28] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The deregulation of the energy sector and European Commission, ECB and IMF troika's pressure for the sale of 40 percent of the PPC's plants, the troika's recom-mendations for the next steps in the implementation of the Memorandum, and the Bank of Greece (BoG) chief's report, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Guide: When you will you retire and what pension you will receive".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Survival Guide for the new social security bill".

    AVGHI: "PPC in the dark".

    AVRIANI: "Let's offer Syros island to the Russians to set up a naval station - Putin offers us 100 billion euros and if we accept we will be able to free the country from the IMF's occupation".

    ELEFTHEROS: "The changes in pensions according to the Labour Ministry's official report".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Survival guide for the new social security system".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "When, how, how much for all funds - Pensions: What you must know about the new social security system".

    ESTIA: "Self destruction syndrome - Professionals' undeclared war.

    ETHNOS: "Double pressure from Troika for PPC and lay-offs".

    IMERISSIA: "Bank of Greece (BoG) sends new message on bank mergers - BoG chief urges bankers".

    KATHIMERINI: "Maximos mansion (government headquarters) halts PPC's unionists".

    LOGOS: "Danger of 'crash' in unemployment in 2011".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "BoG chief George Provopoulos recommends strategic alliances among banks - He anticipates pressures will ease off".

    NIKI: "13 hidden secrets for the pensions - Useful queries and answers for the changes in social security".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "PASOK (ruling party) and New Democracy (main opposition) had pre-decided energy's privatisation".

    TA NEA: "PPC: Not for sale - Government's deadline until the end of 2010 for the deregulation of energy market".

    TO VIMA: "Sequestrations of homes and tax audits everywhere".

    VRADYNI: "Social security: The 17 reversals".

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