|Tuesday, 17 July 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-11-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 4 November 2010 Issue No: 3636
 PM: Democracy cannot be terrorisedDemocracy cannot be terrorised, prime minister George Papandreou stressed on Wednesday, adding that irresponsible and thoughtless actions that aim at hurting the immense effort being made by the Greek people for the recovery of the country and the economy and for regaining Greece's credibility, will not succeed.
In a brief statement at a memorial service for his grandfather George Papandreou, who was also a prime minister of Greece, the premier said that "we are making a systematic effort to safeguard the right of every citizen to security and safety".
Papandreou said that the day was reminiscent of the struggles of the Old Man of Democracy (as the late three-time prime minister was called) and of so many generations to consolidate stability and democracy in Greece and against lawlessness and all forms of violence.
 President warns of 'irrationality of terrorism'President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias warned on Wednesday that the "irrationalnality of terrorism" could "threaten our country's painful efforts for stabilisation of the economy and upgrading of its international image", referring to a spate of parcel bombs targeting foreign embassies and politicians the preceding 48 hours.
Papoulias said that condemnation of all forms of violence "is self-evident and strong", while equally self-evident and strong should be a consensus of all the political forces on matters that are above the partisan dividing lines.
He expressed his conviction that the Greek state is in a position to safeguard the democratic conquests and consolidate rules of security for the citizens.
The President also noted how easy it is in these days for an unquantifiable factor to cause dramatic consequences at a critical conjuncture for the country's future.
 Gov't: Parcel bombs not linked to international terrorGreek government spokesman George Petalotis on Wednesday ruled out any connection between international terrorism and the 14 parcel bombs sent from Greece to foreign embassies and targets abroad, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
"It is our own strong conviction that international terrorism is not involved with all these actions that generate a bad image for the country at a time when we are struggling to show our international partners and worldwide public opinion that Greece is moving on, that it is a country of security and a country of stability," Petalotis underlined.
The spokesman pointed out that analysts in the international media saw no connection between terrorist attacks in Greece, including the latest spate of parcel-bombs, and international terrorist activity or terror groups such as Al Qaeda.
He also pointed to statements by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had ruled out any connection between the booby-trapped parcel sent to her office from Greece and the parcel bombs posted to the U.S. from Yemen, which have been attributed to Al Qaeda.
Petalotis also emphasised the negative repercussions of these were terrorist and criminal actions on the country's image abroad and the fact that they could easily have resulted in victims and damage were it not for the quick reflexes and immediate response of Greek authorities.
"Every such act is absolutely to be condemned. There is not a trace of justification, not from the Greek state and chiefly not from Greek society," Petalotis underlined.
The spokesman also reported on a round of telephone calls made by Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Tuesday to embassies and several of his counter-parts whose countries had been targeted by parcel bombs, conveying the sorrow of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou for the disturbance caused.
Petalotis said the ambassadors contacted had expressed satisfaction with the level of cooperation with Greek autho-rities, adding that the government was satisfied with the progress of the investigation by Greek police so far.
"The reaction, reflexes and coordination of the Greek Police, the citizen's protection ministry and foreign ministry were flawless," he said.
 Parcel bombs unrelated to international terrorism, Droutsas saysForeign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Wednesday stressed that the barrage of parcel-bombs in Greece since Monday was completely unrelated to international terrorism. He was speaking during an interview with the Greek radio station 'Flash'.
The minister also praised the performance and prompt response of the Greek police:
"Apart from these images that, unfortunately, went around the world, we have to look at the essence: that here, Greek authorities and the Greek police really did operate very well, exceptionally I would say. It is, however, a terrorist action here that must be condemned and we condemn it in the most absolute way. What I think we must stress, in a categoric way, is that these actions have no relation with international terrorism," he underlined.
 Citizen protection minister on mail bombs probeCitizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis on Wednesday expressed his satisfaction with the performance of local law enforcement agencies' response to the mail bombs scare.
Papoutsis made the comment after meeting with Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou to discuss the ministry budget.
"We are not intimidated," he underlined, stressing that the issue of the explosive-laced parcels concerns both the state and people.
Referring to the parcels and envelops detected at Athens' international airport, Papoutsis stated that there is no responsibility on behalf of airport security, stressing that the problem stems from the legislative void in the operation of courier firm, which does not allow for a more effective inspection.
 Mail bombs intercepted at airport hub; 2-day delivery suspensionA cargo jet carrying a suspicious parcel made an emergency landing in Bologna late Tuesday evening after Greek authorities received information that the package -- reportedly destined for the office of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi -- contained explosives.
According to international wire stories, one package reached the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin before security staff detected explosives and neutralised the threat. No damages were reported.
The incident came after roughly 13 parcel bombs were intercepted and neutralised in the greater Athens area on Monday and Tuesday, most addressed to foreign embassies in Athens and one headed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office.
Two arrests were made on Monday along a busy Athens street of suspects believed to have mailed one such parcel bomb minutes earlier. According to police, the two suspects -- both local men in their early 20s -- were armed and found in possession of similar parcel bombs, including the one addressed to Sarkozy.
Initial reports claim the pair is linked to the ultra-leftist, self-styled anarchist terrorist underworld active in the Greek capital in recent years, with a law enforcement investigation now in high gear, as another five suspects are wanted. Authorities even released the photos of the five suspects on Tuesday, which were subsequently aired on television stations.
The emergency landing came hours after a bomb disposal squad conducted a controlled detonation of two envelopes discovered in the cargo terminal of Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport on Tuesday evening.
According to initial reports, the envelopes were first isolated, with one was destined for Europol headquarters at The Hague and the other for the European Court of Justice.
The private cargo plane carrying the parcel addressed to Berlusconi's office was first headed to Paris before its final destination of Lyon, where the correspondence would have been sorted and forwarded to recipients.
Back in Athens, both suspects nabbed by authorities on Monday have reportedly refused to make any statements to judicial investigators or to have their fingerprints taken, a misdemeanour.
One of the two, 22-year-old Panagiotis Argyrou already faces a bevy of charges stemming from an attack on a deputy's political office (current Minister Louka Katseli), a bomb blast outside the resident of a former public order minister (Panagiotis Hinofotis) and an attack at the Macedonia-Thrace ministry in Thessaloniki.
 Police release details about route of parcel bombs sent abroadGreek police authorities on Wednesday released additional information concerning two parcel-bombs sent abroad via Greek courier firms, based on their investigation so far.
This showed that the parcel sent to the offices of German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been given for postage to a courier firm near Larisis railway station in Athens by an unidentified young man. The sender of the package was given as the Greek finance ministry.
The private courier firm then transferred the package to its own central headquarters so that it might undergo required security checks for suspect items and it was then taken to the airport, where it was loaded onto an aircraft operated by a private airline destined for Germany.
The second package that made it out of Greece was posted on the same day, again by an unidentified young man, at the branch of another private courier firm based in the west Athens district of Perissos. The package was ostensibly sent by a high-ranking member of a Greek political party and addressed to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
This courier firm had the package sent to the facilities another courier firm based in the Athens airport for required security processing and it was then loaded onto a cargo plane bound for Italy. This second package was tracked down by police while the plane was in the air.
The aircraft crew were alerted to its presence by Greece's civil aviation authority, which arranged for the aircraft to land at Bologna airport. Italian police authorities, alerted by their Greek counterparts, confirmed that the package was booby-trapped and arranged for it to be neutralised.
At the recommendation of the Greek Police, the Greek civil aviation authority decided to suspend delivery of all air freight abroad in order to carry out closer inspections.
 Parcel-bomb suspect remanded to prison on outstanding "Cells of Fire"terror group arrest warrantA 22-year-old man who was arrested in Athens on Monday in connection with a spate of parcel-bombs addressed mainly to foreign embassies was on Wednesday remanded in custody and jailed on the basis of an outstanding arrest warrant against him on charges of participation in the "Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire" urban terror group.
The 22-year-old chemistry student, Panagiotis Argyrou, was taken on Wednesday before an examining magistrate investigating the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire case. The arrest warrant for Argyrou was issued on charges of participation in a criminal organisation, procurement and construction of explosive materials, and for the bomb explosions at the office of then PASOK MP and current employment minister Louka Katseli in the Kolonaki district of Athens in September 2009, outside the residence of then deputy public order minister Panagiotis Hinofotis in July 2009, and at the now defunct Macedonia-Thrace ministry in September 2009.
Argyrou refused to testify before the examining magistrate or to make any statement on the case.
Argyrou and a second man arrested with him in the Pangrati district of Athens on Monday, Gerassimos Tsakalos, will on Thursday appear before an examining magistrate in connection with the parcel bombs, charged with four felonies and four misdemeanors.
 Metro station bomb hoaxA call by an unidentified person claiming a bomb at the Syntagma Metro station in downtown Athens proved to be a hoax.
Police special forces searched the station's premises and found nothing suspicious and, consequently, as of 19:21 the station was re-opened to the public.
The Metro station at Syntagma in downtown Athens was closed as of 6:30 on Wednesday evening following a bomb threat.
An unidentified person called the Police, the newspaper "To Vima" and the newspaper "To Kentri" between 18:20 and 18:30 and said that a bomb had been placed at the Metro station in Syntagma that would explode in 31 minutes.
Police closed the station and removed people and an investigation took place by bomb disposal department crews.
 Second metro station bomb hoaxA call by an unidentified person claiming a bomb at the western Athens district of Aigaleo Metro station proved to be a hoax. The Metro station at Aigaleo closed at around 11:15 on Wednesday night following a bomb threat.
Police special forces searched the station's premises and found nothing suspicious.
It is the second incident on the same day as a call by an unidentified person claiming a bomb at the Syntagma Metro station in downtown Athens, earlier in the evening, proved to be a hoax.
 EU experts to meet on air cargo securityBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
European Union air cargo security experts will hold a meeting in Brussels on Friday to evaluate the threat of mail bombs, the spokesman for EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom stated on Wednesday.
Michele Cercone commented that the meeting will be held with the participation of experts in the detection of explosive devices and air cargo security.
"The terrorist threat is still here," he stressed and urged for vigilance on European and individual EU member-state level.
Responding to a relevant question, he denied that the European Commission was the recipient of a parcel bomb stressing, however, that its security services are in a state of alert and all incoming parcels are being meticulously checked. (ÁÍÁ-ÌPA)
 U.S. State Department on mail bombsWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)
The U.S. State Department issued on Wednesday a notice regarding package bombs sent through courier services over the past two days in Athens.
"Over the past two days, a number of package bombs have been dropped off at courier services for delivery to foreign embassies in Athens. Some have exploded and others have been detonated by police. One incident resulted in minor injuries to a courier office employee. The police have arrested two individuals in connection with these incidents and the investigation continues," the notice said.
"A suspicious package in the area of Parliament was originally intended for another embassy and was brought there by a courier office employee in order to be destroyed by the authorities. A shootout in Faliro reported by some bloggers is the result of a robbery and is not related to these incidents.
"As always, we encourage Americans to exercise common sense and caution when going about their daily activities. If you discover or receive a suspicious package, do not attempt to open it. The police emergency number ("911") in Greece is 100. For additional information and almost real-time updates on demonstrations in Athens as well as other useful travel and security advice, please visit the Consular pages of the US Embassy website at http://athens.usembassy.gov/service.html and now check us out on Facebook, under Athens Consular," the notice concludes.
 PM Papandreou gives interview to CNN networkPrime Minister George Papandreou, speaking in an interview with the American CNN television network on Wednesday, stressed categorically that the restructuring of the debt is not included in the government's political agenda.
Replying to a relevant question, the Greek prime minister said that "I am very explicit as regards this. We also believe, as things show, that we shall not deviate from our course" and repeated the position that as of 2012 Greece will have a very low first stage debt and looks forward to growth for 2012.
Papandreou further said that this means that "we shall have a very viable serving of our debt." He also said that the government decreased the deficit by 5.5 percent and is on a steadfast course and praised the Greek people's "impressive maturity" for the way with which they are facing the painful, as he said, changes.
Asked about the rift in European societies due to the wave of strikes, both in Greece and other European countries, such as France, Portugal, he did not rule out the existence of imbalances and cohesion problems might possibly arise. "I hope, however, that we shall have the insistence and the ability to succeed," he noted.
Referring to the decisions of last week's European Council, Papandreou expressed his satisfaction over the fact that the temporary support mechanism that was created for Greece is now acquiring a permanent character and will also be included in the texts of the Treaties governing the European Union.
The Greek premier however, appeared reserved over the imposition of sanctions, particularly regarding the deprivation of the vote of member-states of the EU, without ruling out that they (sanctions) might have the character of a strict economic fine. "Of course, conditions might arise, in which a country will find itself in this situation, not because it did not show diligence, but due to the international conjuncture, due to a crisis in the construction sector, or due to toxic bonds, or for whatever other reason. Evidently, this will be taken into consideration in the decision on whether sanctions will be imposed. We hope, however, that we are creating a strong apparatus, that will prevent public debt crises."
 PM briefed on e-prescription system at fund's officesPrime Minister George Papandreou underlined on Wednesday, while being briefed on a newly instituted e-prescrioption system, that "if what was presented today had been imple-mented years ago there would have been no deficits or debts and we wouldn't have to sign the memorandum with our partners to be able to get the money the markets refused to loan us."
Papandreou visited the Organisation for the Insurance of Self-Employed Professionals (OAEE) to be briefed on the e- prescription system operating on a trial basis since Oct. 18.
He stressed that "we've managed this year to keep the country on its feet," adding that "the sacrifices made were necessary to avoid bankruptcy."
Referring to the money saved as a result of the e-prescription system implementation, he said that "there was and there is money, but the question is where it went".
He also referred to the draft law on e-prescription passed in parliament on Tuesday evening and criticised the parties of the opposition that voted against it, stressing that this is a law that combats the lack of transparency in transactions.
Papandreou cited figures that were presented during his briefing according to which, 90 pct of the doctors and pharmacists have already been included in the e-prescription system and stressed that this is a proof of the fact that "the Greek society is mature and wants changes," adding "only a small minority still resists change".
 Health minister promises to transfer drug rehab services to hospital within 2011Health Minister Andreas Loverdos on Wednesday visited a wing of the state-run drug rehabilitation agency OKANA and promised that OKANA services will have been transferred to a hospital by the end of August 2011.
Loverdos was accompanied by Piraeus Prefect and candidate for Piraeus mayor Yiannis Mihas.
The minister also referred to the problems caused both in Piraeus and Athens by the long waiting list for entering an OKANA drug rehab programme, saying that the ministry's goal was to do away with the waiting list and stop the exploitation of addicts by ruthless drug dealers.
 ND leader Samaras addresses election rallyMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, addressing a rally in Athens on Wednesday, accused Prime Minister George Papandreou of "absolute paranoia in relation to the dilemma of elections" and added that "the people cannot stand more measures."
"Mr. Papandreou is threatening the people that if they vote against his candsidates he will hold elections" Samaras said and wondered "for what reason? for them to vote against him again? is he possibly escaping? is he possibly abandoning and why should we be afraid?"
The ND leader further said that the prime minister "does not trust his policy, he is aware that his policy is not advancing, that figures are not in his favour, that public revenues are off course and is bringing new measures.
"The people, however, cannot stand more measures and will say this with their vote on Sunday," he pointed out.
Samaras referred to the prime minister's address in Ioannina on Tuesday and said that "Mr. Papandreou is requesting from the citizens legalisation for the memorandum that he signed, he is requesting pardoning of sins, he is requesting authorisation for even tougher measures."
He further said that Papandreou has a secret agenda for which he is requesting approval in advance with the "extortionate dilemmas."
The ND leader noted that the economic policy has not yielded results and for this reason on Sunday the people will say "we reject the sacrifices without hope, we will not give a blank cheque for painful measures."
He added that if on the night of the elections Papandreou feels satisfied, then he will take tougher measures that neither society nor the economy can stand.
Samaras concluded that the citizens' free expression in the ballot box does not constitute destabilisation, on the contrary, destabilisation is created by "the reckless extortion of Mr. Papandreou" and called on the party's voters to wage the blue struggle so that "it will appear all over Greece on Sunday night."
 ND on economic policyMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos underlined on Wednesday that "the govern-ment should change its policy with an emphasis on the adoption of measures, like those suggested by ND leader Antonis Samaras that will boost development and economic activity."
Panagiotopoulos made the comment in response to a statement by Union of Hellenic Chambers of Commerce (UHCC) President George Kassimatis, who predicted that roughly 100,000 businesses will close by the end of 2010.
The ND spokesman also stated that PM George Papandreou uses excuses to cover up the fact that "he is the premier who cut pensions while implementing the policy of the memorandum."
 KKE secretary general addresses Athens rallyCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, addressing a rally at the Pedio tou Areos Square in Athens on Wednesday evening, stressed that "the vote has a political character and a political result. Don't forget this."
Papariga added that "you vote with the criterion of your woes, the deprivations, the insecurity that you feel for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, yours and above all of your children and your grandchildren."
Referring to the climate created with the sending of explosive devices to embassies and personalities, Papariga said "they are rubbing their hands with the packages and with the explosive devices" and added that "since the blackmail of early elections does not appear to be succeeding, they hope that intimidation for destabilisation will succeed."
Papariga concluded that if the policy of ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy parties "is not condemned, if the strategy of the European Union is not defeated that sacrifices the rights of the people on the altar of the profit of capital, the antipopular attack will be escalated after the elections."
 KKE condemns 'election dilemma'Opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga lashed out at the prime minister in a radio interview on Wednesday, strongly criticising him for the "dilemma", as she called it, he placed before voters, linking the outcome of Sunday's local government elections with the likelihood of snap general elections.
Papariga also referred to the developments as regards the mail bombs scare, stating that they are part of the "destabilising atmosphere".
 Karatzaferis on elections; economy; mail bomb scareOpposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) President George Karatzaferis on Wednesday referred to "blackmailing dilemmas" by PM George Papandreou and main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras, stressing that the "protagonists in our political life, lacking social and political arguments, are foolishly engaged once again in an attempt to entrap the Greek people in blackmailing dilemmas".
Commenting on the economy, he underlined that "the country will be faced with a dead end unless immediate measures are implemented in addition to those already taken by the government which further deteriorate the situation."
Regarding the mail bomb scare, he pointed out that an attempt is being made to destabilise the country.
 Tsipras on local electionsRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group president Alexis Tsipras, speaking in Thessaloniki on Wednesday, said that on Sunday the citizens, with their vote, "can change the climate and, condemning categorically the government and the Memorandum, throw their weight on the course of things."
Tsipras called on citizens to send a "resounding message of hope and change, a message of condemnation for government policy and the Memorandum which are dragging society and the economy to a vicious circle of recession, unemployment and poverty."
 DM, FM confer ahead of NATO summitDefence minister Evangelos Venizelos had a working meeting on Wednesday morning with foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas ahead of a NATO summit in Lisbon on November 19-20.
No statements were made after the meeting.
 Greece to participate in Nusret 2010 naval exercise in AegeanANKARA (ANA-MPA - A. Abatzis)
Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and NATO will participate in the Nusret-2010 naval exercise that is due to begin in the Aegean on November 6, the Turkish navy announced on Wednesday.
The naval exercises will be held from November 6 to November 13 and aim to improve cooperation between the Alliance's naval forces, the announcement said.
There is to be a press conference on the naval exercises on November 7 in Izmir.
 Environment minister meets with Japanese ambassadorEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change minister Tina Birbili met on Wednesday with Japanese ambassador to Greece Hiroshi Toda, in the context of her regular international contacts on environmental and energy issues.
Toda asked to be briefed on the ministry's policy regarding improvement of energy efficiency, and the two sides agreed on an exchange of knowhow between the two countries to seek the optimum practices in the fields of recycling and energy conservation.
The envoy briefed Birbili on the Japanese experience in waste management, and particularly management of household waste. He particularly noted the example of the city of Yokohama, where the system of "separation at the source", combined with the collection of recyclable materials, has resulted in a 30 percent reduction of the volume of trash.
Birbili, in turn, noted the efforts being made by Greece to increase recycling, which currently nears the EU average, with the quantity of packaging trash recycled nearing 50 percent in 2009.
 Turkey returning Prinkipo OrphanageANKARA (ANA-MPA/A.Abatzis)
The building of the Prinkipo Orphanage will be returned formally to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, according to a decision taken by the Prinkipo first instance court on Wednesday.
On June 15 2010 the European Human Rights Court ruled that the real estate should be returned to the Ecumenical Patriarchate by Turkey, in any way.
The legal procedure followed then in Turkey was the review of a decision issued in 2005 by the Prinkipo first instance court and with which the ownership title had been withdrawn from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Patriarchate's lawyers had requested the review.
With its decision on Wednesday the Prinkipo first instance court revokes the 2005 decision and orders the return of the Orphanage's building to the "ethnic Greek patriarchate," as is mentioned in the decision.
The full text also orders the Land Registry Department to implement the decision, meaning to re-register the real estate to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, where it also belonged in the past.
 New ambassadors present credentials to PresidentThe new ambassadors to Greece of Luxembourg Ronald Dofing, the Czech Republic Hana Sevcikova and Switzerland Lorenzo Amberg, presented their credentials to President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias during a special ceremony on Wednesday.
 Greek economic sentiment index up slightly in Oct.Greece's economic sentiment index rose slightly in October to 67.3 points, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Wednesday.
In a monthly report, IOBE said the manufacturing, services and retail commerce showed a slight improvement, while expectations in the construction sector showed a significant increase. On the other hand, demand continued shrinking with consumer confidence falling to new record lows. Consumers are frustrated with economic developments, overwhelmed by insecurity over their personal finances and the economic situation in the country in general.
Business expectations in the manufacturing sector recorded a significant increase both in demand and new orders, while inventories fell slightly.
In the services sector, a mild improvement in expectations over current operations and a larger increase over short-term demand were counterbalanced by a strong decline over current demand levels.
In the retail sector, sentiment improved because of a significant recovery of expectations for current sales and inventories despite a slightly fall in the outlook of sales.
In the construction sector, a sharp recovery of business expectations reflected optimism over current operations and a strong improvement of expectations over employment levels.
Consumer confidence fell to new record lows in October, reflecting households' pessimism over their finances, the country's economic situation and intention to save money in the next 12 months. Expectations over unemployment remained around last month's historic high levels.
Business expectations in the retail sector jumped to 58.2 points in October from 53.4 in September, the highest level in five months, although it remained sharply down compared with a 99-point reading recorded in October 2009.
The consumer confidence index fell to -72 points in October. Greek consumers remained the most pessimistic Europeans for the eighth consecutive month, followed by Romanians (-57 points). The average European rates remained unchanged at -12 (EU-27) and -11 (Eurozone).
Greek consumers' expectations on their finances in the next 12 months fell by seven points in October to -64, a new record low. Households' expectations on economic conditions in the country worsened also to -70 points in October, also a record low.
 Gov't eyes acceleration of VAT refunds to exportersA special task force comprised of finance ministry officials and representatives of the national exporters' federation is currently examining ways to resolve the nagging issue of VAT refunds to export firms, as well as abolishing counter-incentives in all-important export activity.
The creation of a task force was discussed during a meeting between Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Kouselas with the presidency of the federation on Tuesday.
The minister, acknowledging the need to boost liquidity in markets and to support exporters, ordered the task force to step up work in order to boost export activity, adding that the ministry will soon announce measures to speed up oft-delayed VAT refunds to exporters.
Christina Sakellaridi, president of the federation, said Greek exporters acknowledged recent efforts by the state towards fiscal restructuring and in boosting state revenues, while she stressed that exporters' demands focus on "self-evident actions".
 Hellenic Shipyard to seek abolition of EU restrictions on operationsHellenic Shipyards will not resume operations of its merchant ship-repair unit -- where the company has a significant share of the market in the eastern Mediterranean -- until the landscape is cleared of restrictions envisaged by European authorities' initial decision, Iskandar Safa, the new owner of Skaramanga shipyards emphasised on Wednesday.
In an address to the shipyards' workers, Safa added it was his wish, and the government's, to fully exploit all capabilities and infrastructure of the shipyards, while he announced the shipyard's new board, headed by Lebanese manager Bulo Hankan.
The shipyards were purchased by the Abu Dhabi Mar company recently.
The new board will have five members, supplemented by two Lebanese nationals, a Dutch national and a Greek attorney.
"Our intention is to bring new orders, and our aim is to fully operate the shipyard; we want it all and not crippled," Safa said, adding that the new owners want to reverse an initial decision by the EU - published in July 2010 - placing restrictions to the shipyard's construction operation and allowing only the repair of warships and not commercial vessels.
Speaking to the ANA, Vassilis Karakitsios, president of the shipyard's 1,300-member workers union, said the issue was pending and noted that employees want to reverse any decisions restricting the shipyard's operations.
 Early bookings prop-up tourism sectorGreek tourism has apparently not been affected by a spate of mail bombs and suspicious packages addressed to foreign embassies in Athens over the past 48 hours, Federation of Greek Hoteliers president Andreas Andreadis told the ANA-MPA on Wednesday.
Andreadis said advance bookings were continuing normally.
He explained that advance bookings at this time were mainly from the British market, and that it is off-season for Greece.
"Of course, such incidents do not help Greece's image abroad," he said, while he also pointed to long-standing problems of the local tourism sector.
 Emporiki Bank reports net loss of 209.9 mln euros in Q3Emporiki Bank Group on Wednesday reported net losses of 209.9 million euros in the third quarter of 2010, raising its losses for the January-September period to 745 million euros.
The group said its gross operating earnings rose to 52.9 million euros -the highest quarterly figure in the last two years. Gross operating earnings rose 22.4 pct to 92.9 million euros in the nine-month period.
Net income rose 7.2 pct in the third quarter to 192.6 million euros compared with the previous quarter, despite a 19.7 pct decline in net commission income. In the January-September period, net income rose 1.7 pct to 561 million euros, reflecting a 23.5 pct rise in net interest income (478.1 million euros).
Emporiki Bank said its loan portfolio totaled 22.6 billion euros, with its shipping and corporate portfolios rising by 13 pct and 2.0 pct, respectively, from the start of the year.
Operating expenses fell 1.6 pct to 468.1 million euros in the nine-month period. Bad debt provisions fell 18 pct in the third quarter, from the second quarter of 2010, to 259.1 million euros, raising the total provisions to 826.1 million euros, up 58.9 pct from the same period last year.
The bank said its saving deposits accounted for 61.2 pct of its savings portfolio, up from 59.5 pct in the January-June period, despite the fact that Emporiki remained steadfast in its decision not to participate in an intensifying competition in time-deposit rates. Deposits fell 17.9 pct to 12.2 billion euros.
Alain Strub, the bank's vice-chairman and chief executive, commenting on the results said Emporiki managed to further improve its operating performance in the third quarter. "As a member of Credit Agricole, the largest banking group in France, Emporiki will continue offering loans to Greek households and enterprises along with a safe and credible banking environment".
 Attica Bank aims to double market shareAttica Bank's main goal is to double its share in the domestic banking market, from 1.5 pct currently to 3.0 pct, through organic and other development, Ioannis Gamvrilis, the bank's chairman said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek banker said merger deals for the sake of mergers should be avoided, noting that were numerous examples of merger plans that failed to deliver results in the past.
Attica Bank will contribute with all its forces to the recovery of the Greek economy, regardless of its size as a flexible and specialized bank, Gamvrilis said.
He also announced the creation of Attica Finance, a product of its partnership with Dynamic Securities, which will offer consultancy services.
 Transfer of former OA personnel deadline on Fri.The transfer process for former Olympic Airways (OA) personnel to public sector agencies ends on Friday, according to an interior ministry circular.
The Manpower Employment Agency (OAED) will have to be notified by the new employers that the former OA personnel -- employed at the carrier when it was still operated by the state -- have assumed their new posts in order to stop unemployment benefit payments.
In case a former OA employee does not show up for work, the unemployment benefits will stop a month after the transfer act is published in the Government Gazette.
 SMEXA proposal to FinMin to boost growthAssociation of Members of the Athens Exchanges (SMEXA) President Alexander Moraitakis suggested on Wednesday the establishment of a committee to study and copy, when possible, the taxation and institutional framework implemented in Luxembourg, in order to accelerate growth in the country.
In a letter addressed to Finance Minister George Papacon-stantinou, the SMEXA president mentions that he already had informal meetings with Bank of Greece Gov. George Provopoulos, Capital Market Commission chairman Anastassios Gavriilidis and Hellenic Banks' Association president Vassilis Rapanos, all fervent supporters of the proposal.
 Friendly settlement system steadily growingMore than 345,000 drivers used a friendly settlement system for damages during in the 10-month period from January to October this year, official figures showed on Wednesday.
The 30 insurance company members of the friendly settlement system provide insurance protection to 5,455,614 vehicles in the country and have settled 206,053 damage cases in the last 12 months.
The system was founded 10 years ago when insurance companies offered protection to 3,658,711 vehicles. In 2000, the first year of operation, the system settled 6,123 damage cases.
This year's figures so far showed a 3.26 pct increase in the volume of material damages and a 3.28 pct rise in compensation payments for damages although the average cost of material damages remained close to zero (up 0.02 pct compared with the 10-month period in 2009).
Physical damages grew 2.17 pct in the January-October period, while compensation paid fell 2.17 pct and the average cost of physical damages fell 4.25 pct.
The Supplementary Fund, however, faces significant liquidity problems. According to estimates this year's deficit will total 531,861,251 euros, down from 608,880,007 euros in 2009, but the biggest problem in 2010 was greater difficulties in accessing bank financing.
 Stocks end flat on Wed.Stocks ended slightly lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, unable to hold on to early gains. The composite index of the market eased 0.11 pct to end at 1,516.95 points, with turnover a low 67.768 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 0.18 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.30 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.57 pct. Hellenic Petroleum (2.97 pct), Motor Oil (2.23 pct0 and Mytilineos (2.06 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Hellenic Postbank (2.58 pct) and Viohalco (2.14 pct) were major losers.
The Oil (2.67 pct) and Insurance (1.51 pct) sectors scored gains, while Health (7.03 pct) and Utilities (1.58 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 84 to 72 with another 50 issues unchanged. Vell Group (20 pct), Ilyda (15 pct) and Mohlos (10 pct) were top gainers, while Ideal (14.58 pct), Creta Farm (9.98 pct) and Attica Publications (9.88 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +2.67%
Personal & Household: +1.09%
Raw Materials: +1.13%
Travel & Leisure: -0.58%
Food & Beverages: -0.40%
Financial Services: +1.05%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE and PPC.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.72
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.94
HBC Coca Cola: 19.10
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.55
National Bank of Greece: 7.45
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.30
Bank of Piraeus: 3.39
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 843 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, up from 836 bps on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.84 pct and the German Bund 2.41 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 33 million euros, of which 25 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 8.0 million were buy orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 7.0 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.54 pct, the six-month rate 1.27 pct, the three-month 1.047 pct and the one-month rate 0.84 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -2.46 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover shrinking to 26.018 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,019 contracts, worth 21.595 million euros, with 25,075 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contract on equities totaled 9,465 contracts worth 4.423 million euros with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (1,925), followed by Eurobank (1,074), MIG (563), OTE (809), Piraeus Bank (1,384), Alpha Bank (1,831), Cyprus (455) and Marfin Popular Bank (229).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.412
Pound sterling 0.877
Danish kroner 7.514
Swedish kroner 9.398
Japanese yen 114.58
Swiss franc 1.387
Norwegian kroner 8.273
Canadian dollar 1.424
Australian dollar 1.417
 Two dead bodies found in Strymonas RiverTwo dead bodies were recovered from the Strymonas River in the northern Greek prefecture of Serres on Wednesday. According to authorities, the two incidents are unrelated and their discovery on the same day is a coincidence.
The first body found was that of an unidentified man around the age of 60 that was washed up on the shores of the river between Koumaria and Varikos. It was found by a local fisherman and the initial autopsy indicates that death was the result of pathological causes.
The second dead body was that of a younger man and was found around noon at Heimarros by a special disaster management team (EMAK) from Thessaloniki. The body had not been identified nor the autopsy completed but authorities were investigating whether it was that of a 48-year-old forest ranger from Lithotopos who had been missing since Monday.
 Arsonists target PPC vehicles in Nea IoniaEight vehicles belonging to the Public Power Corporation (PPC) were torched in the early morning hours on Wednesday at a PPC outdoor parking lot in the Nea Ionia suburb of Athens.
Unidentified persons placed five home-made explosive devicises comprising small propane canisters under several vehicles, but only two of the devises exploded.
The ensuing fire destroyed eight vehicles.
Athens security police were investigating the incident.
 5.1R quake jolts Samothrace islandAn earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale jolted the island of Samothrace in the northern Aegean at dawn on Wednesday, but no damages were reported.
The quake was recorded at 4:51 a.m., at a distance of 50km southeast of the city of Alexandroupolis, with its epicenter in the Saros Gulf.
 British woman air-lifted to hospital after heart attack on Bahamas-flag cruiseshipÁ 69-year-old British woman, a passenger on the Bahamas-flagged cruise ship"BWDICCA", was airlifted on Wednesday by the Greek Air Force to a hospital in Kalamata after suffering a heart attack on board the vessel.
The woman suffered an acute heart attack as the cruiseship was sailing 100 miles southwest of Kalamata port. A Greek airforce Super Puma helicopter was immediately dispatched, and transported the patient to the nearest hospital.
 Drug dealing arrests in ThessalonikiTwo foreign nationals were arrested during a Thessaloniki Police organised operation on Wednesday, charged with drug dealing. According to police, a total of four kilos of cannabis and 25 grams of cocaine were found in their possession and in subsequent searches of their residences.
 Judicial probe on 'fixed' football gamesTwenty bank accounts belonging to the presidents of football clubs under investigation in "fixed" games, as well as a list of about 1,000 people who illegally -- via the Internet -- bet on "suspicious" games are being examined by the the Athens first instance court prosecutor's office.
The judicial investigator handling the case was recently provided details by the Economic Crime Squad (SDOE) regarding 20 bank accounts of club presidents charged with fixing matches, according to UEFA's list.
The judicial official intends, through the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO), to summon former UEFA investigatory chief Peter Limacher to testify on the issue.
In the framework of the investigation, the judicial official has requested from EPO and the Super League all particulars of football players who participated in the games under investigation.
 Cloudy on ThursdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 6C and 24C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 11C to 22C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 20C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceA spate of parcel bombs on Tuesday and planned changes to the tax collection system, mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Alert over the parcel bombs!".
AVGHI: "Let's hope they (gov't) won't loot us at the ballot, too".
ELEFTHEROS: "Government abolishes, with law, the minimum salary in private sector".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "International alert over the parcel- bombs".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Terror gloom on the way to the ballots".
ESTIA: "Total confusion over the Memorandum".
ETHNOS: "Alert for the delivery men of terror".
IMERISSIA: "Kallikratis plan in taxation system brings three major changes".
KATHIMERINI: "Bomb against county's image".
LOGOS: "Athens places Europe on alert... over the booby-trapped parcels".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Bank financing to market runs dry".
NIKI: "Greek Police on alert".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Government abolishes collective labor agreements with blows against wages and salaries".
TA NEA: "Terror couriers".
TO VIMA: "Thriller in mid-air with parcel bomb destined for Silvio Berlusconi".
VRADYNI: "Bomb against the collective labor agreements".
 Cyprus protests Cavusoglu's contacts in occupied CyprusSTRASBOURG (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus' Permanent Representation to the Council of Europe is filing an official protest over contacts Mevlut Cavusoglu, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of Europe, has had with "officials" of the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime in northern Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus.
During a three-day visit to Cyprus (October 31-Novemeber 2), Cavusolgu, after meeting the Cypriot President, the House President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, crossed to the occupied areas and held contacts with the self-styled ''prime minister'' and the ''president'' of the so-called ''parliament'' of the illegal regime.
Prior to his visit, Cavusoglu had given assurances that he would not make any move that would offend the government of the Republic or infringe international law and order.
On Tuesday, the President of the Cypriot House of Representatives protested these meetings, adding that the House would file an official protest with PACE.
A note of protest, handed to Cyprus' Permanent Representation to the Council of Europe for the necessary action, recalls that the Cypriot parliamentary delegation to PACE has made it clear to Cavusoglu that during his visit to Cyprus he should refrain from meeting ''officials'' of the illegal regime, as such action would be tantamount to giving it an upgraded status, according to reliable sources.
Cavusoglu, diplomatic sources point out, did not visit the occupied areas as a Turkish official but as the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which does not recognise any state entity in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus.
According to the same sources, Cavusoglu by his actions has given state legitimacy to the Turkish Cypriot community, which is recognized as a community but not as a separate state.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory. In 1983 the illegal regime in Cyprus' northern occupied areas unilaterally declared independence, a move described as ''legally invalid'' by resolution 541 (1983) of the UN Security Council which called for its withdrawal.
Meanwhile, PACE issued a press release with regard to Cavusoglu's visit to Cyprus, which, inter alia, notes that Cavusoglu ''has welcomed the continued negotiations between the leaders of the two Cypriot communities under UN auspices, and called on both parties to show political courage and firm determination to find a fair, lasting and comprehensive solution for a peaceful and united Cyprus', one which would guarantee the legitimate rights of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots in full compliance with the values and principles of the Council of Europe.''
The press release adds that ''during his visit, Mr Cavusoglu met President Demetris Christofias, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Marios Garoyan and Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou, among others. In the northern part of the island he met Dervis Eroglu, leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, and elected representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community, as well as representatives of political forces.''
 Cavusoglu misled Cyprus House, House President saysNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The visit by the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Mevlut Cavusoglu to Cyprus was conducted in a positive atmosphere, however his contacts in the northern Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus constitute a breach of international law, the President of the House of Representatives Marios Garoyan said here Wednesday.
Asked to evaluate Cavusoglu's visit to Cyprus, Garoyan said that the two sides exchanged views in a positive atmosphere, adding that statements by PACE President during their contacts were made within the framework of PACE resolutions and the relevant decisions of the Council of Europe.
He also said they discussed the Cyprus problem, conveying to him the positions and concerns of the Greek Cypriot side.
"We explained the reasons why negotiations are not progressing and we touched upon the various aspects of the Cyprus problem" Garoyan noted.
He also said that Cavusoglu showed empathy for the issues concerning the refugees, missing persons and the humanitarian aspects of the Cyprus problem.
Speaking on Cavusoglu's contacts in the occupied areas with the so-called authorities of the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime, Garoyan said that PACE President has misled the House of Representatives.
While preparing the visit to Cyprus, Cavusoglu pledged to the Cypriot Representation to PACE to avoid making any moves that would constitute a breach of international law.
Garoyan said that he received assurances from Cavusoglu, even a few hours prior to the latter's actual contacts in the occupied areas.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. The illegal Turkish Cypriot regime is not recognized by any state except Turkey. The UN has described it as "legally invalid" and called on all states not to recognise it or facilitate it in any way.
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