|Wednesday, 23 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-09-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 30 September 2010 Issue No: 3606
 Citizen's card issue to be provided for public discussionThe main axes of the "citizen's card", which will be provided for public debate in the coming days, were discussed in a wide meeting chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou at the Maximos Mansion on Wednesday.
According to reports, the card will be used for all of the citizen's transactions with the state and for social services in particular.
The card will also be used as a travel document for destinations within Schengen.
According to the same reports, the government is orientated towards extending the uses of the card to uses for the private sector as well, such as transactions with banks.
The same sources said that there is no question with personal data and that their full protection is anticipated.
The "citizen's card" is expected to start being available as of December 2011 and will gradually replace the police identity card.
 Droutsas has brief meeting with US vice presidentNEW YORK City (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Wednesday had a brief meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
The US official expressed his satisfaction over his recent meeting with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, adding that "Greece is a "reliable partner" in the Balkan region and the Middle East.
On the sidelines of an event held at a New York hotel, Droutsas also met with the Democratic Party candidate for the Senate and Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. The two men discussed the situation in Greece and the US.
Giannoulias, an American of Greek descent, briefed Droutsas on the main issues of this campaign agenda.
Giannoulias is runs for the Senate seat previously held by US President Barack Obama.
 Droutsas in LA on WednesdayForeign Minister Dimitris Droutsas will fly on Wednesday to Los Angeles where he will address the forum "World Affairs Council".
On Thursday, Droutsa will meet with representatives of Hellenes Abroad organisations, the Greek Heritage Foundation and the Greek Film Festival. Later, the Foreign Minister will visit an exhibition at the Getty Museum on "The Art of Ancient Greek Theater.
 New team of prosecutors for public-sector corruption casesThe first-instance court public prosecutors' office on Wednesday announced a new specialist department dealing exclusively with financial crimes and corruption cases in Greece's public sector. The aim is to specialise criminal investigation into corruption and achieve faster administration of justice.
The new department has already begun operating and is made up of six prosecutors with extensive experience, some of which have also done post-graduate studies on such issues.
They will take on all cases involving corruption in the state sector, including tax offences, public contracts terminated for failing to meet terms, corruption among public officials and civil servants and other cases along similar lines.
Its current case load includes some high-profile investigations, such as alleged tax violations by a former minister, a bank loan to the Vatopedi Monastery, reports of financial mismanagement at large Athens hospital, reports of bribery and suspect 'winning' lottery tickets in the football.
A team of two prosecutors will take over each case and the entire department will meet every week, along with the head of the prosecutors' office Eleni Raikou, to brief each other and exchange views on their work and their next plan of action. Their working 'model' also calls for a complete electronic record of all their activities in each case, such as witness testimony, requests for judicial assistance, orders for access to bank account records etc.
In addition to this new department, Raikou also appointed prosecutors to the department on domestic violence and that dealing with environmental and cultural goods that is occupied with cases involving antiquities, illegal occupation of land and property, landfills etc.
 Amendment eyes prison terms for truckers defying requisition orders; arrests reportedThe government on Wednesday tabled an amendment designed to quash continued protest action by truck owners against laws opening up the road freight sector. The amendment was added as a rider to a draft bill on closing pending tax cases that will be put to the vote on Thursday.
The amendment imposes a minimum three-year prison sentence on anyone who owns, uses or possesses a requisitioned property or good and refuses to comply with or carry out the obligations arising from the requisition order. For those that repeatedly carry out the same offence, the penalty can rise to five years.
Furthermore, offenders may also be stripped of their licence to operate the item or provide the service in question.
Refusal to comply is defined as not performing the specific orders of an appropriate public body and not carrying out transport or other kind of work in the normal fashion in which the economy functions or abandoning the requisitioned item or using it to obstruct traffic or generate a "common need".
Finally, in cases of emergency and urgent and unforeseeable need the appropriate minister can assign the task or public service normally performed under licence to be performed by private vehicles, machinery and other means.
In a report justifying the addition of the rider to an unrelated bill, the government said that it dealt with acute problems created by the refusal of "specific professional groups whose personal services have been requisitioned or who are owners of requisitioned items to respect the Constitution and the basic functions of law and order and society".
In addition to the prison sentences, the amendment also gives authorities powers to take away the licence for a profession or service of common use on the grounds that the licences were issued to meet important public and social needs and serve the public interest.
 Parliamentary Economy Committee ratifies Justice ministry's amendmentThe Parliamentary Economy Committee has ratified the controversial amendment by the Justice ministry by which those refusing to fulfill the commitmernts resulting from their requisitioning will be punished with imprisonment, while the possibility is also provided for the Transport minister to remove the licence for exercising a profession from truckers not complying.
The amendment was voted against by the opposition parties, denouncing both the process of its introduction with the urgent procedure as well as its essence.
Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis said that "despite the intense dialogue and despite the fact that the government was extremely careful and did not think of penal aspects from the consequences of requisitioning, the owners of public use trucks, are continuing not to provide their services, they are keeping out of use the requisitioned means and vehicles, creating huge problems in the supplying of the market, according to the market officials."
Commenting on the amendment, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Wednesday stressed that the government had 'enriched its legal arsenal' against those obstructing traffic and the smooth supply of markets because "the state cannot remain defenceless".
"Not only are we not talking about suppression but we will enrich our legal arsenal for all those that create problems and obstruct the circulation of goods and all those that systematically evade taxes," Petalotis noted.
The spokesman underlined that all political forces should immediately condemn the actions of a small section of truck owners that were preventing their colleagues from working. He asserted that the great majority of truck owners now wanted to work and were being prevented by violence that included beatings and even use of guns.
Hours later, three truck owners were arrested for obstructing traffic during protests held in the southern part of the country.
A 35-year-old truck owner was arrested at noon at the Elefsina toll gate on the Athens-Corinth national motorway when he attempted to block the highway with his vehicle. He was charged with obstructing traffic and resisting arrest.
In a separate incident, two truck owners, 41 and 57, were arrested just before 2 pm on the Patra-Pyrgos national motorway and charged with blocking traffic, when they allegedly attempted to hold a demonstration on the highway during a rally staged by the local trucker associations.
 Truckers decide to continue mobilisationsStriking freight and fuel truck drivers late Tuesday night decided to continue their labor action, which entered its 14th day on Wednesday, with an overwhelming majority of 76 of the 96 truckers' unions voting in favor of continuing the moblisations, and just 6 against, while 14 cast blank votes, after a marathon General Assembly of the Panhellenic Federation of truck owners.
Government spokesman George Petalotis said Monday night after the truckers' decision was announced that the government has exhausted all margins, noting that the closure of outstanding tax obligations draft law also foresees special arrangements for the truck owners.
Merchants and enterprises, which have been hard hit by the strike, have indicated that they will take recourse to justice against the truckers.
 Freight companies urge end to mobilisationsAn association representing road freight companies on Wednesday stated that its members will begin work immediately, in an announcement conveyed to striking truck owners, whose mobilisations have caused shortages in certain retail sectors around the country, including super markets.
"Continuation of your mobilisations, in the manner in which they have been implemented so far brings you face-to-face against Greek society and by extension us, as well," the announcement reads, while again calling on striking truck owners to cease their mobilisations.
Truck owners are vehemently opposed to recently ratified bill liberalising the road freight sector in Greece, essentially ending the "closed shop" status enjoyed by truck owners for decades. Public truck transport licenes, the last of which were issued in 1971, have been traded and transferred ever since via transactions "under the table".
Meanwhile, in a related development, the government is reportedly considering the possibility of adding a rider to a draft bill on closing pending tax cases making the blocking traffic and transports a felony, as well as envisioning a three-year prison term for truckers failing to heed mobilisation orders.
Additionally, the rider would make the revocation of truck licenses earlier.
 Gov't dismisses rumours that PM is seeking UNSG postGovernment spokesman George Petalotis on Wednesday dismissed reports that Prime Minister George Papandreou might be a candidate for the post of United Nations Secretary General as "a humouristic scenario" and "possible wishful thinking".
"What we need today is the specific prime minister that has contributed through his presence, his personality and his actions to saving the country, who has a lot of work still to do and is doing it in the best way," Petalotis added.
He confirmed that the government was thinking of introducing a "Citizen's Card" that he said would simplify the public's dealings with the state sector. Replying to concerns about protecting privacy and personal information, the spokesman said that laws protecting these existed and could be further strengthened if necessary.
 ND leader calls for rallying of forcesMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, addressing Wednesday the party's enlarged Executive Secretariat, which is functioning as an Election Struggle Committee, called on the party's forces to rally in light of the local government elections.
"I call on all of you to rally. I shall watch all of you because I want all of you by my side in the front line," he said, addressing his cadres.
He added that "the political climate is changing after the Thessaloniki International Fair. ND's message is becoming understood. The people are being convinced, ND and its proposals constitute the main bearer of hope."
Samaras requested from his cadres rallying, unity, extroversion because, as he said, "at a time of the most relentless austerity, when pensions and salaries are being cut, shops are closing down, unemployment is soaring, small and average size enterprises and large businesses are at their limits, in short at the most crucial conjuncture of the past 50 years, when the people want us by their side, I am determined not to allow neither discussions in backcorridors, nor gossip, behind the closed doors of offices."
"Whoever wants to offer weapons to the rival must assume his responsibilities," Samaras warned.
He further said that these elections "are the first to take place in the eye of the cyclone, ND has prepared its programme proposals on the exit from the crisis, it has proposed specific, immediately applicable, priced, effective measures."
Samaras also said that ND "is struggling against government unreliability and gives hope to the people and a breakthrough to the country."
"The government's only weapon is the distortion of our positions. But now we are those who impose the political agenda," he said and concluded by noting that the struggle is not a partisan one, it concerns the present and future of the country.
Samaras provided the main guidelines of the election struggle at the meeting, which was attended by the members of the Executive Secretariat and the deputies who have assumed a coordinating role in regions.
Only vice president Stavros Dimas was absent, as he in Europe due to undertaken commitments.
 ND on FT commentary by PM's advisorMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos strongly criticized Prime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday on the occasion of a recent Financial Times commentary signed by his economic advisor Italian banker and economist Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa.
Panagiotopoulos called on the prime minister to provide clarifications as regards the references on "debt restructuring" made in the commentary, adding that such publications recycle negative comments for the country in the international scene.
On former PM Costas Karamanlis' letter to the parliamentary committee investigating the Vatopedi land swap, he said that Karamanlis gave all the answers and there is nothing left to comment.
Referring to the developments in the mobilizations of truck owners protesting against the liberalization of the road freight market, Panagiotopoulos stated that the government of PASOK "undermines the foundations of social peace, pushes the situation to extremes and seeks a head-on collision."
He repeated ND leader Antonis Samaras' proposal and called on the government to correct its handling of the situation, "engage in dialogue" and "extend the transitional period" before the relevant legislation is fully implemented, adding that "resorting to violence is not a solution." He also called on the protesting truckers to avoid causing more problems with their mobilisations.
 Education minister addresses letter to party leadersEducation Minister Anna Diamantopoulou has addressed a letter to the presidents of the ruling PASOK, main opposition New Democracy (ND), Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), Democratic Left parties, the secretary general of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Ecologists Greens Executive Secretariat, extending an invitation for their representation in the National Interparty Committee on Education.
The political party leaders are invited to appoint within 10 days their party's representative, as well as his substitute (members of the National or European Parliament) who will participate in the National Interparty Committee on Education, that will operate throughout the entire parliamentary period.
 KKE head on upcoming local gov't electionsOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga stressed on Wednesday that voting for ruling PASOK or main opposition New Democracy (ND) party in the Nov. 7 local government elections will be "highly dangerous".
Speaking at a press conference, Papariga added that "equally wasted will be the vote cast for independent candidates."
Responding to a question on the strategy her party will follow in the second round of the elections, Papariga said that the KKE calls its members to cast blank or void ballot papers.
 Roussopoulos reply to Vatopedi probe com'tFormer minister and ND government spokesman Thodoros Roussopoulos submitted a memo on Wednesday to a Parliamentary committee investigating the Vatopedi land swap case.
In his letter, Roussopoulos maintained that no one has offered incriminating evidence against him and pointed out that official real estate appraisals have showed that the state did not suffer any loss as a result of the transactions.
He underlined that the parliamentary investigation procedures adopted to probe the case in question "display all the characteristics of a political persecution" and therefore, "any attempts to use defense arguments would be pointless."
Citing press reports, he also maintained that official real estate appraisals claiming no loss for the state, conducted before the present investigation began, were intentionally kept secret for "obvious and reprehensible purposes that did not serve public interest".
 IOBE offers 3 scenarios for Greek economy, from 'hope to disaster'Economic recession in Greece is expected to deepen in the second half of the year, reaching 3.5 pct for 2010, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) announced on Wednesday.
In its quarterly report on the Greek economy, IOBE said this estimate was based on a prevailing adverse economic climate and the fact that government-sponsored reforms needed time to offer results.
IOBE stressed that rising unemployment reflected mainly an accelerating decline in employment (-2.3 pct in the second quarter compared with last year) and a continuing expansion of the workforce (it surpassed five million this year) leading to additional "new" unemployed people. These trends are likely to continue with the unemployment rate climbing above 13.5 pct in 2011.
Greece's economic sentiment index in the June-August period remained at very low levels, 66 points, while the consumer confidence index fell to new record lows at -65 points in the same quarter, from -62 in the previous quarter. Moreover, Greek consumers remained steadily the most pessimistic in Europe.
IOBE said Greece has made a significant step towards avoiding the risk of default, something that would have grave consequences to the prosperity of its citizens. The support mechanism, despite continued disbelief by international markets, offered a "window of opportunity" to fully restore fiscal balance, liquidity in the banking system and smooth credit conditions in the private sector, setting the economy back on a growth track and in a real convergence process with the rest of Europe.
However, problems still existed, namely, divergence in fiscal goals and less liquidity in the private sector. A lower budget revenue growth rate (3.3 pct in the first eight months) compared with a 13.7 pct annual growth target was largely attributed to chronic problems of the tax collection and inspection mechanism. The report said that a government plan to offer tax amnesty to tax payers with pending tax cases was an ultimate solution but included several risks. The risk of lower liquidity could be partly resolved with commercial banks raising capital from the market.
IOBE noted that the most significant problem was that Greece continued employing an outdated growth model and stressed that a new model was necessary, friendlier to markets, boosting export activity and competitiveness, based on private investments.
The IOBE offered three scenarios over economic developments in Greece.
The first, a so-called "scenario of hope", envisages that Greece will strictly adhere to the memorandum, implementing reforms and adopting a new modern growth model. In this case, the fiscal deficit could fall to around 7.0 pct of GDP in 2011 and to 5.0 pct in 2012, with the economy shrinking in 2011 but returning to a 1.5-2.5 pct growth rate in 2012.
Under this scenario, Greece could return to international capital markets gradually, although this was not secured since the country's public debt as a percentage of GDP would continue growing to 144 pct in 2012 and 2013. Under these circumstances, markets could be unwilling to lend us money, keeping yield spreads at high levels. In such a case, the troika could extend its support mechanism. We will depend on economic and political developments, particularly in Germany.
The second scenario, a "scenario of disaster", envisages that the government will abandon fiscal adjustment because of strong opposition, or fiscal adjustment could be continued without structural changes. In the first case, the country will face "instant death" as the "troika" will stop lending the country and Greece will default on its loans. In the second case, a "slow death" is expected. A default, based on international experience, will be catastrophic for the prosperity of Greece, while it could also undermine the stability of the euro currency.
The third scenario, the "salvation scenario", envisages that the government will adopt all policies included in the first scenario, along with an aggressive policy to make a more efficient management of state assets, estimated at around 300 billion euros.
This could lead to a reduction of the public debt, one closer to Eurozone average rates. This effort should focus on sectors with comparative advantages, such as holiday homes for European "baby boomers" wishing to live in the European south, "green energy", etc.
 Gov't: Foreign interest for Hellenic Rail; stake in OTE not for saleThe government's privatisation programme will climax in the 2011-2013 period, with the target being to raise 3.0 billion euros, Giorgos Christodoulakis, the special secretary for privatisations at the finance ministry was quoted by the Wall Street Journal.
"We encourage viable private investments but we want to ensure the public interest with modern procedures so there will be no hurried sale decisions," Christodoulakis said, adding that the programme was aimed a restructuring the Greek economy and not only to fill the state's coffers.
He also cited "serious interest" from abroad for the state-run Hellenic Railways Organisation.
"We have received serious international interest for OSE and we expect to proceed with the privatisation of a restructured organization next year, when OSE will be profitable," he said.
Commenting on Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), Christodoulakis said the state will not reduce its equity participation, currently at 20 pct. He said, however, that the government intended to sell its equity participation in the Mont Parness Casino (currently 49 pct), probably by the end of the year.
 Katseli visits SEV officesLabour and Social Insurance Minister Louka Katseli underlined on Wednesday that cooperation with Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) is necessary to support employment in this difficult economic juncture.
Speaking after visiting SEV's offices in Athens, Katseli stressed that the business sector and the State will work together to support both enterprises and workers, adding that the discussion with the SEV board members focused on the problems of undeclared labor, tax evasion and social security contributions evasion.
 2nd International Energy, Economy ForumANKARA (ANA-MPA/A. Ambatzis)
The 2nd International Energy and Economy Forum of Black Sea countries began in a downtown hotel in Istanbul on Wednesday with an address by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Greek Deputy Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis is participating in the forum, that will last until October 1.
On Friday October 1, Maniatis will take part in an entity titled "After the Gulf of Mexico-The Development of Hydrocarbons and the Managing of Risks."
The forum which is being organised by the American "Atlantic Council" was held for the first time last year in Romania.
 Frigoglass to focus on Asia, OceaniaFrigoglass will focus efforts for growth in the second half of 2010 in Asia and Oceania, given the fact that west European markets have not fully recovered yet, according to the company.
"Logically, Asia and Oceania will become are main markets for the year," Lilian Phillips a spokesman for Frigoglass told ANA-MPA.
She stressed it was the first time in the company's history that raising money from this region surpassed other regions. Sales in the region jumped 64.9 pct, accounting for 25.7 pct of total sales in the first half of 2010, worth 236 million euros. Frigoglass has established activities in the region through PT Frigoglass Indonesia, Guangzhou Ice Gold Equipment & Co. Ltd. in China and Frigoglass India PTV.
Frigoglass said that sales in eastern Europe and Russia, Africa and the Middle East continued growing strongly, in contrast with flat sales in western Europe. The company said its US business accounted for 1.4 pct of total sales in the first half of 2010, but estimated it would contribute positive to the group's profitability in 2011.
 Greek PPI up 4.6 pct in AugustGreece's Producer's Price Index in the industrial sector rose 4.6 pct in August this year, compared with the same month in 2009, after recording a 7.8 pct decline in August 2009, the Hellenic Statistical Authority announced on Wednesday.
The statistics agency, in a report, said the index was up 0.3 pct in August from July, after recording an 1.7 pct increase in the same period last year. The agency attributed the 4.6 pct rise of the PPI to a 4.0 pct rise in domestic prices and a 6.4 pct increase in external market prices.
 Stocks continue slideStocks ended slightly lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with the composite index of the market falling 0.40 pct to end at 1,466.67 points - off the day's lows. Turnover was a low 103.773 million euros. The Big Cap index eased 0.23 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.33 pct down and the Small Cap index fell 0.92 pct. The Travel (1.99 pct) and Insurance (1.62 pct) sectors scored gains, while Media (5.06 pct) and Oil (3.32 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 98 to 55 with another 64 issues unchanged.
Mevaco (9.21 pct), Trastor (9.09 pc) and Karamolegkos (8.82 pct) were top gainers, while NEL (13.33 pct), Ridenco (10 pct) and Pegasus (9.47 pct) were top losers. National Bank's shares fell 2.03 pct to 7.23 euros.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -3.32%
Personal & Household: +0.41%
Raw Materials: -1.14%
Travel & Leisure: +1.99%
Food & Beverages: -1.01%
Financial Services: -0.19%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, OPAP and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.49
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.50
HBC Coca Cola: 19.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.65
National Bank of Greece: 7.23
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.22
Bank of Piraeus: 3.56
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 844 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 860 bps on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.67 pct and the German Bund 2.23 pct.
Turnover in the market was 92 million euros, of which 74 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 18 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 15 million euros.
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 rate 0.88 pct and the one-month rate 0.62 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.94 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover a low 25.880 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,308 contracts worth 21,920 million euros, with 28,521 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 6,834 contracts worth 3.960 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,843), followed by Eurobank (484), OTE (635), Piraeus Bank (193), Alpha Bank (1,013), Motor Oil (286), Hellenic Postbank (249) and Cyprus Bank (193).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.372
Pound sterling 0.868
Danish kroner 7.511
Swedish kroner 9.227
Japanese yen 114.76
Swiss franc 1.340
Norwegian kroner 8.030
Canadian dollar 1.409
Australian dollar 1.411
 Campaign to locate stolen Larissa-area artifacts taken during WWIIA campaign for the repatriation of statues stolen from Larissa during the withdrawal of the Nazi troops in 1944 has been launched by the central Greek city's mayor.
Statues that decorated archaic steles were looted by Nazi occupation forces from the Archaeological Museum of Larissa in November 1944, according to Thodoros Axenidis' book, entitled "Pelasgis Larissa".
Many of the missing statues are on display in museums in Athens and Volos and a request for their return has already been made by the mayor of Larissa, in view of the opening of the city's new museum.
However, a large number of the stolen statues are still unaccounted for and a number are believed to be in museums or private collections in Germany.
The local government in Larissa will launch an effort to trace the German commander in the region at the time of the Nazi withdrawal or any of his close relatives to gather information on the artifacts' fate.
 Onassis Foundation in NYC on ancient heroes, heroinesThe Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation in New York will host the exhibition entitled "Heroes: Mortals and Myths in Ancient Greece", from Oct. 5, 2010 until Jan. 3, 2011.
Mythical heroes and heroines like Hercules, Ulysses, Achilles and Helen of Troy, among others, continue to inspire modern culture, with the exhibition venturing to explore the inherent human need for heroes by making it relevant to today's society.
On display will be more than 90 extraordinary works of art dating back to the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic Periods (6th-1st centuries BC) borrowed from private collections in the United States and Europe.
The exhibits include a wide range of sculptures, pottery and miniatures of engraved precious stones.
The exhibition has been organised by the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore in cooperation with the First Center for Visual Arts in Nashville, the San Diego Museum of Art and the Onassis Foundation (USA).
 Wildfire on Crete islandA wildfire that broke out midnight Tuesday in a remote area near Roussospiti in Rethymno prefecture on Crete island continued to burn brushland, bushes and olive trees on Wednesday, with high winds hampering the Fire Brigade's operations.
Two fire dropping helicopters, two teams on foot and 14 fire engines with a 30-member crew were currently trying to contain the blaze.
 Drug dealers arrested in HaniaFour Albanian nationals, aged between 30 and 49, were arrested late Tuesday in Hania, on the island of Crete, charged with drug dealing. Hania police, acting on a tip-off, had placed two of the suspects under surveillance.
The two suspects were arrested as they attempted to sell the drugs to two other compatriots, who were also arested.
Police also confiscated 17 grams of heroin, 23 grams of cocaine,17.5 grams of hashish, a pistol and a motrocycle as well as 3,051 euros in cash deriving from drug dealing.
 Pakistani man assaulted by 20 in KypseliA Pakistani immigrant was violently assaulted and beaten by a group of 20 hooded individuals that descended upon him in Athens' Kypseli Square early on Wednesday morning. One of them also lobbed two petrol bombs at him as he was running away after he managed to escape his attackers.
Police believe the attack was racially motivated and have launched a search to find and arrest those responsible.
 Cloudy on ThursdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 12C and 29C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with northerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 18C to 27C. Fair in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 16C to 24C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe government's efforts to meet the State Budget's targets, the draft law on the closure of outstanding tax obligations to be voted on Thursday in parliament, and the tax collection 'safari', mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Bankers' commitment to channel 25 billion euros to the market".
APOGEVMATINI: "Former prime minister Costas Karamanlis' letter to the president of the parliamentary preliminary investigation committee on Vatoped-State land swaps case".
AVGHI: "Serious shortages of supplies in public hospitals - They have run out of cotton".
CHORA: "Thousands of Europeans take to the streets against austerity measures".
ELEFTHEROS: "Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party spokesman Makis Voridis estimated: Karamanlis' (former ND prime minister) return is being 'cooked up' at the same time that LAOS leader George Karatzaferis is clashing with main opposition New Democracy (ND) over the Memorandum".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "They have concocted a scandal without any evidence - What Karamanlis says about Vatopedi".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Draconian law for all taxpayers - Tax evaders will be sent to prison".
ESTIA: "Closure of outstanding tax obligations was also applied 32 years ago".
ETHNOS: "Handcuffs and shut-downs for tax evaders - Government to table in parliament severe measures against tax evasion".
IMERISSIA: "Imprisonment for VAT fraud - Very harsh penalties for tax evasion".
KATHIMERINI: "Government brainstorming ahead of new State Budget - In search of a Plan C for the economy".
LOGOS: "No incriminating evidence arises for political figures (in Vatopedi case)".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Liquidity injections and loans offered for the closure of outstanding tax obligations".
NIKI: "How the Greek Information Service (EYP) broke up the gang of real estate looters".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Government, backed by civil servants' umbrella federation GSEE, legislating salary cutbacks in the private sector".
TA NEA: "Tax sweep - Close-downs for (not issuing) receipts and imprisonment for VAT fraud".
TO VIMA: "Electronic 'purchases card' on-line with the Tax Bureau - It will record the receipts automatically".
VRADYNI: "Big brother e-card - Government puts society under electronic surveillance".
 President: Smithsonian exhibition marks 50 years of Cyprus-USA friendshipWASHINGTON (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The exhibition "Cyprus: Crossroads of Civilizations", inaugurated Tuesday at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. marks 50 years of diplomatic relations, friendship and co-operation between Cyprus and the USA, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias has said at the opening ceremony.
"The decision to celebrate this important milestone in the history of the Republic of Cyprus with an exhibition of such scope and importance in the United States, testifies the close bonds of friendship between our two countries and people", he said, adding that it also highlights the long history of fruitful co-operation in the field of archaeology between the two countries.
President Christofias noted that the exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Cyprus and showcases its 11.000 year history.
Referring to the antiquities on display he said that they are "merely a fraction of the artifacts discovered on the island by Cypriot and foreign excavators, including many American archaeologists", adding that the display is enriched with masterpieces of ecclesiastical art, maps and coins presented to the American public for the first time.
President Christofias briefly described Cyprus' development in the world saying it became an independent state in 1960, soon after, a UN member, whilst also gaining membership in many regional and international organizations, culminating with its accession to the European Union in May 2004.
Throughout the centuries, he said, Cyprus became a bridge for permanent dialogue between the countries and peoples of the region and beyond, adding that today, as the European Union's lighthouse in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus continues to be a beacon for closer cooperation, understanding and dialogue in its immediate neighborhood and further afield.
Referring to the division of the island President Christofias underlined that Cyprus' commitment to contributing to peace and stability in the region takes place against the backdrop of Cyprus' own painful division since the Turkish invasion of 1974.
"It's a pity for a people like the people of Cyprus to be under occupation", he underlined stating that during the ongoing UN led negotiations between himself and the leader of the T/c community aiming to achieve a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem he is "fighting for the rights of all Cypriots, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Armenians, Maronites and Latins".
"Cypriots deserve a better fate", he said, adding that Cyprus could "become a crossroads of peace, security and friendship between the peoples of the region, the United Europe, the people of the Eastern Mediterranean".
Describing the economic development of the island he said that trade has always been one of the main sectors of the Cyprus economy, adding, however that from the 1960s Cyprus became one of the main tourist centres of the Mediterranean with over 3 million tourists visiting the island annually in recent years.
He also referred to Cyprus' service industry noting that Cyprus has a well-developed banking system and offers a wide range of services catering for the needs of businesses and individuals, adding that it also plays a prominent role as an international maritime center, whereby constituting one of the leading third-party ship management centers in the world.
President Christofias said that Cyprus having one of the richest cultural heritages has meant that it also actively pursues the return of its "plundered culture", also referring to the Memorandum of Understanding between Cyprus and USA dating from 2002, with an aim to protect pre-classical and classical archaeological material of Cyprus, later amended as he said to include Byzantine items, and ancient coins from the classical and pre-classical period.
"The Republic of Cyprus", he noted, "considers this Memorandum of Understanding as an invaluable tool and mechanism, which significantly contributes to the protection and preservation of Cyprus' religious and cultural heritage", also referring to its importance in as far as the occupied areas are concerned since the Republic of Cyprus "is unable to prevent the continuing looting and illegal export of artifacts".
Referring to the exhibition as a whole he said that together with the artifacts, maps, icons and coins displayed, it showcases the indelible footprint of history and the rich mosaic of the varied influences which have touched Cyprus for thousands of years.
All visitors to the exhibition will have "a most enriching experience, gaining also a better appreciation of the significant contribution of Cyprus throughout history", he said.
President Christofias also thanked the Museum Director Dr. Samper as well as all those who contributed to make the exhibition possible.
 US House calls Turkey to protect religious sites in occupied CyprusWASHINGTON (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The US House of Representatives adopted a resolution Tuesday calling for the protection of religious sites which are situated in the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus.
The resolution was introduced by U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), co-chairs of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus.
According to Bilirakis, member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the International Religious Freedom Caucus, around 500 churches, monasteries, cemeteries and other religious sites in the Republic of Cyprus have been desecrated, pillaged, looted and destroyed since Turkey invaded the northern region on July 20th 1974.
Bilirakis noted the "continued violations that are taking place in Cyprus even as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence, which is certainly a milestone, but is also a reminder that roughly one-third of Cyprus has been under Turkish military occupation for more than 35 years".
The resolution also urges the Turkish government to protect the cultural and religious heritage of the Greek Cypriots living in the northern-occupied areas of the country, who have been prohibited from worshiping freely due to the restricted access to religious sites and continued destruction of the property of the Church of Cyprus.
"We're calling on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to investigate and make recommendations on violations of these religious freedoms," Bilirakis said.
"Additionally, I continue to call on Turkey to remove its troops from Cyprus, remove its settlers, and come to the negotiating table in good faith to find a solution that is just for the Cypriot people."
The resolution also demands that Turkey be held responsible for the continued violations of humanitarian law with respect to the destruction of religious and cultural property in Cyprus. Turkey's actions in the occupied areas of Cyprus violate its obligations under several conventions to which it is a signatory.
"Equal support from my Republican and Democratic colleagues illustrates that Congress can work together in a bipartisan manner when it comes to condemning violations of religious freedom throughout the world," Bilirakis said.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey occupied its northern third.
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