|Friday, 19 January 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-02-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 4 February 2011 Issue No: 3712
 PM confers with visiting Cyprus PresidentPrime minister George Papandreou and visiting Cyprus President Demetris Christofias on Thursday discussed the latest developments in the Cyprus issue following recent talks held by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon with Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu in Geneva.
Describing the meeting with Christofias as "crucial", Papandreou expressed hope that the Turkish-Cypriot side will "finally respond to his well-known proposals for an honest and mutual compromise, in the framework of a negotiation without pressing deadlines and arbitration".
Papandreou and Christofias called on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots to display a constructive stance and refrain from putting forward issues that are not part of the Cyprus reunification process, relevant UN resolutions and the agreements reached between the leaders of the two communities on Cyprus.
"We look for a just solution that will end the occupation and settlement and the outdated guarantee formations," Papandreou added.
The premier also stressed Greece's steadfast support for the Cyprus government, saying that the Cyprus issue remained a top priority of Greek foreign policy and that Greek-Turkish relations could not be normalised until it was solved.
Christofias expressed hope that a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue that will be acceptable to all Cypriots may be found by the end of 2011.
He noted that the Cyprus government's stance in Geneva had indicated its willingness to "proceed in a practical and effective way" to find such a solution and that it was now up to Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots to do the same.
He criticised the Turkish-Cypriots for insisting on positions that were not in UN resolutions and past agreements, especially its refusal to link the territorial, settlement and property issues, which he stressed were key to a meaningful negotiation. Christofias said this refusal was a deliberate delaying tactic designed to lead the talks to a deadlock and ensure four-way talks on Cyprus' internal affairs.
Other issues discussed during the meeting were the positions that Greece and Cyprus would adopt during upcoming the EU summit on energy policy.
According to Papandreou the two countries had "converging interests" in this area and were closely coordinating their policy on both energy and on delineating marine zones. Christofias stressed that it was up to each country to "exercise its territorial rights that arise from maritime law" and urged a low-key approach, noting that the handling of energy issues "requires more deeds than words".
The third major issue discussed were developments in Egypt, with both sides expressing hope for a smooth transition.
The Greek premier stressed that the Egyptian people wanted change and freedoms, adding that the transition to democracy should be made with stability and without violence. Emphasising "Greece and Cyprus as neighbouring countries but also as members of the EU have a special role in contributing to a smooth transition," he added, noting that Greece would continue talks and take every initiative in this direction.
Christofias, on his part, expressed hope for a positive outcome, pointing out that the "volatile situations in the region affect us all".
Cyprus' president also thanked the premier for the Hellenic Airforce's assistance to Cypriot citizens who had asked to be evacuated from Egypt.
 Greek, Cyprus Presidents: Concern over crisis in EgyptPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and his visiting Cyprus counterpart Demetris Christofias expressed concern over the volatile situation in Egypt, and expressed hope that things will develop in a smooth way, during a meeting in Athens on Thursday.
Christofias also urged that Egypt's policy on Greece and Cyprus does not change.
"Egypt has always been a significant support for Greece and Cyprus in the region of the Middle East, as a leader country, a major country in the region. I hope that this policy does not change because our neighbors, the occupation force in Cyprus, is spreading wings everywhere with the technique of Islamism," Christofias said.
The Cyprus President noted that he discussed those issues also with Greek prime minister George Papandreou, whom he met with before his talks with Papoulias.
"We are coordinating ourselves, and I believe this is necessary. We hope that the policy that will ensue will not divert from that which we are accustomed to," he added.
Papoulias also expressed interest in the developments in the energy sector.
 PM gives interview to British BBC-4 radio network on EgyptPrime Minister George Papandreou, in an interview with the British radio network BBC-4, expressed support for Egypt's transition to democracy without violence.
Speaking to the programme "The Word at One," Papandreou said "the violence we are observing in the past days must stop and transition must take place in a way that will bring complete democracy and freedom that, in particular, the youth of Egypt is calling for."
The Greek prime minister further said that he is in constant contact with all the Egyptian leaders, including President Hosni Mubarak to whom he conveyed the necessity for transition to democracy without violence.
Papandreou also said that he conveyed to the Egyptian president the desire of the international community as well as of the Egyptians for specific actions for the transition to democracy.
 Two Greek reporters injured in Cairo demonstration, reported well in healthCAIRO (ANA-MPA/E. Nicolaou)
Two Greek media workers, a newspaper journalist and a photoreporter covering the events in Egypt were injured during demonstrations in Cairo on Thursday morning.
Kathimerini newspaper reporter Petros Papaconstantinou and photojournalist George Moutafis were reported to have suffered light injuries and were well in health.
Papaconstantinou, who was attacked by demonstrators near Cairo's central Tahrir Square and suffered injuries in the left leg and the head, received first aid treatment in the city's Anglo-American Hospital and released.
The newspaper reporter was near the square, but not in close proximity to the violence, when he was asked by demonstrators who he was and where he was from, and was attacked with clubs when he revealed that he was a Greek journalist, Papaconstantinou told ANA-MPA, adding that army officers rushed to his assistance, taking him to the hospital.
Papaconstantinou also said that the demonstrators stole his camera and two tape recorders.
Photojournalist Moutafis was also at the scene, and suffered lighter injuries.
Greek ambassador to Egypt Christodoulos Lazaris rushed to the site, and took care that Papaconstantinou's passport was returned to him, before taking him back to his hotel.
 ND leader covers gamut of issues in Parliamentary group addressMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Thursday lashed out at the government, accusing it of treating the country like "a company undergoing liquidation".
Speaking before his party's Parliamentary group, Samaras stressed that the country needs a government that can change the terms of the memorandum, while he accused the government of preparing a new package of austerity measures without showing any social sensitivity.
The ND president repeated that measures boosting growth are necessary for the country to get out of the crisis.
As regards the parliamentary investigation committees, Samaras accused the government of attempting to keep ND hostage and repeated his proposal for backdated processing of "sources of wealth" statements, submitted by political figures who took office in the period following the restoration of democracy in the country (1974).
On the illegal migration issue, he stressed that it is "hypocritical and inconsistent" to pass legislation (a naturalisation) that attracts migrants and, at the same time, build a fence to keep them out.
He did not rule out the likelihood of snap elections that will be "the result of the people's rage".
Samaras referred to the foreign policy, stressing that his party rejects "the joint exploitation of natural resources in regions that are under our own jurisdiction"; that it is firm on 'red lines' drawn in the fYRoM name issue and rejects any change in the Annan plan on Cyprus, stressing that "we will not accept the economic crisis as an alibi for concessions".
The ND leader also called on the government to immediately proceed with the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) following the example of Cyprus.
He spoke about the situation in the Mediterranean, stressing that "the Greeks by nature are supportive of the peoples' struggles and also of security and stability".
Moreover, Samaras referred to this week's ruling, handed down by the 4th session of the Council of State (CoS) as regards the vote of legal resident but non-EU foreign nationals in municipal elections, stressing that "the CoS is close to declaring the naturalisation law unconstitutional".
Furthermore, he insisted in the abolition of the university asylum, stressing that the entry ban in essence constitutes violation of academic freedom.
 Interior minister proposes increased hours, afternoon operation, in civil servicesInterior minister Yiannis Ragoussis announced on Thursday that the ministry plans to take two significant initiatives for the modernisation of the public sector, productivity of the civil servants and improving services to the citizens, during a meeting with the presidium of the civil servants' umbrella federation ADEDY.
The first initiative will be an increase in the working hours by 2 1/2 hours weekly, from the current 37 1/2 hours to 40 hours per week, as is in effect in the private sector, while the second initiative is for certain vital services to be open to the public in the afternoons as well.
On the second proposed initiative, Ragoussis stressed that the ministry was not talking about a shift with a break between morning and afternoon hours, but a continuous shift. He said the new working hours for the services that will also be open in the afternoon will begin in October to enable employees to schedule their obligations.
Ragoussis said that with the above to proposals to the civil servants, he was calling on them to contribute to the national effort being made by all the Greeks to bring the country out of the crisis, and clarified that the initiatives were unrelated to the Memorandum and the troika.
ADEDY chief Spyros Papaspyros expressed reservations over the increased weekly working hours and the afternoon hours, although he acknowledged the ministry's desire for a frank dialogue.
 PM confers with interior minister ahead of meeting with ADEDY repsPrime minister George Papandreou had an early morning meeting on Thursday with interior minister Yannis Ragoussis, ahead of the premier's scheduled discussion with the presidium of the civil servants' umbrella federation ADEDY.
 Gov't: All pending Siemens contracts to be re-examinedAll contracts with Siemens and other companies awaiting final approval will be re-examined by a special office of the Council of Audit to be established shortly, Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis announced on Thursday.
The auditing will be conducted for public interest reasons. The state, as well as, anyone with legitimate interest (private companies, citizens, etc) has the right to proceed with the revision of the contracts in question. The contracts already executed will not undergo the specific procedure.
Kastanidis also pointed out that the justice ministry has prepared all relevant provisions for the criminal prosecution of tax-dodgers.
On the parcel bomb that was destroyed by controlled explosion on Wednesday, he stated that it was more powerful than the one that had exploded a few months ago at the citizen protection ministry.
 Doctors strike against healthcare system reformsState sector doctors throughout Greece announced lengthy strikes on Thursday in protest against the government's proposed changes and reforms to the state healthcare system.
Their action includes an indefinite strike by doctors at the Social Insurance Foundation (IKA), which covers the vast majority of Greece's workers and pensioners and a week-long strike until next Thursday by hospital doctors in Athens and Piraeus. This will coincide with a three-day nationwide strike next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday by the Federation of Hospital Doctors of Greece and a 48-hour strike declared this Thursday and Friday by the Athens medical association. Also on strike for 24 hours on Friday are IKA health service staff.
Doctors' associations gave a press conference on Thursday from the amphitheatre of the health ministry, where they have staged an occupation. Among those present was the head of the Attica Pharmacists' Association Constantinos Lourantos, who said that doctors and pharmacists were fighting a common fight.
Striking doctors are demanding that the government withdraw a draft bill making IKA clinics a part of the overall National Health System and want dialogue to start from scratch, while they accuse the minister of trying to set up last-minute and makeshift strike-breaking mechanisms that he has failed to think through.
Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, on his part, has ruled out all prospect of withdrawing the draft legislation that he says "brings doctors closer to the citizen".
As a measure to reduce the impact of the strike, from next Monday IKA patients will be allowed to ask for treatment from the 12,500 doctors of the Civil Servants' Fund OPAD and the 4,500 doctors that have contracts with the freelance workers' fund OAEE, as well as health centres and hospital out-patient clinics. The doctors that provide their services will then be paid by IKA.
The Athens and Piraeus medical associations, however, have threatened to take disciplinary action against any OPAD or OAEE doctors that agree to take IKA patients.
On the other hand, the Panhellenic Medical Society of National Health System managers has written a letter to Loverdos expressing their disagreement with the stance adopted by the doctors.
They reject the scenes at the health ministry since the doctors' occupation began on Monday as "irrational" and stressed that the draft bill is the first effort to complete and improve the services provided by the NHS in several years. They also point out that a national organisation for providing healthcare services is a demand going back several years.
"It is a known fact that social insurance funds currently spend more than 10 billion euro for services that are not checked or assessed while insured citizens do not receive the services necessary to them," the letter points out, saying that the reactions were sabotaging all attempts to modernise and improve a system "condemned by its inadequacy".
Based on health data figures for 2007 supplied by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Greece spent 9.7 percent of GDP or 2,687 U.S. dollars per capita on health care in that year, with public health care accounting for 60.3 percent of total health care costs. A study published in 2008, meanwhile, (Private health expenditure in the Greek health care system: Where truth ends and the myth begins, Health Policy December 2008) said that informal payments in public hospitals accounted for up to 20 percent of privately financed hospital care, while 66 percent of private household health expenditure was for outpatient services and dental services.
 LA.OS raps state-sector doctors' strikesOpposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) on Thursday lashed out at striking public sector doctors, a group of whom has launched a sit-in demonstration inside the health ministry building, stressing that such behaviour is unbecoming of health professionals.
State sector physicians throughout Greece have announced strikes to protest against government proposed changes and reforms to the state healthcare system.
 Minister on so-called 'no-pay movement'Infrastructure, Transport & Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas, speaking in Parliament on Thursday, decried what he called irresponsible practices, in reference to the so-called "no-pay movement" that has affected public transports and tollways.
As regards the negotiations on under-construction highways and the burning issue of tollways used to finance ongoing and even future projects, he said that any contract to be reached will benefit the state.
The disobedience by citizens who refuse to pay tickets and road tolls in protest against a recent sharp increase in fares ignited a confrontation between the minister and the opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MPs.
SYRIZA MP Dimitris Papadimoulis accused the government of governing on a "divide-and-rule" basis.
Reppas returned the accusation, saying that SYRIZA is being "responsible for tearing Greek society apart by adopting demands presented by different groups even if they are opposed to their actual aspirations and goals".
 Leftist party supports 'no-pay' movementThe political secretariat of Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party has decided to support a nascent movement urging people not to pay road tolls in the greater Athens area. The decision was reached following a meeting on Wednesday with a delegation of party members active in the movement.
 Education minister addresses LSE Hellenic ObservatoryLONDON (ANA-MPA)
Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou addressed the Hellenic Observatory of the London School of Economics (LSE) on Wednesday evening, speaking on the subject of "education's role in Greece's course towards recovery".
Diamantopoulou stressed that constructive proposals on the model of administration and management to be adopted by universities in Greece are being studied, including the controversial "university asylum".
She also ruled out the introduction of tuition fees at Greek universities, responding to a question on whether such a prospect is within the government's intentions, and reminded that free public education is constitutionally guaranteed.
 Alternate Education minister on Roma childrenAlternate Education Minister Fofi Yennimata, speaking at the opening event of the European "Dosta" campaign in Greece hosted by the Mihalis Kakoyiannis Foundation, referred at length to the measures and actions being promoted by the government to strengthen the access and participation of Roma children in education.
The foundations of the campaign, whose aim is to combat prejudices and racism against the Roma were laid last July with a resolution of the Council of Europe and French actress Fanny Ardant as "ambassador."
The Council of Europe had given the name "Dosta" to the awakening campaign that in the language of the Roma means "Enough", while its resolution had recognised the poor results of efforts made for the improvement of the Roma's conditions of life, whose population amounts to 12 million in Europe, and had requested from the member-states the taking of additional measures against discriminations.
"Our target is a double one. Prejudices in Greek society to break and for us to convince the Roma themselves that their children deserve to have a right to education," Yennimata stressed.
 Latest parcel bomb may have been powerful enough to kill, minister saysCommenting on a parcel bomb sent to his office the previous day, Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis on Thursday told reporters that it may have contained more explosives than that sent to then Citizens' Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis, killing one of his closest aides.
According to the minister the wiring of the bomb was reminiscent of the parcel bombs built by the terror group "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" but much more powerful than a clutch of parcel bombs sent to foreign embassies and other targets in November.
Kastanidis said that the interception of Wednesday's parcel bomb, which aroused the suspicions of his staff and was later detonated by bomb squad experts with a controlled explosion, was due to the alertness of his staff.
Kastanidis made the statements during a press conference at the justice ministry, during which he announced that the ministry was ready to present its full proposals on the penal provisions for tax evasion to the finance ministry.
"The justice ministry has reached conclusions on article 2 of the bill concerning a financial prosecutor and may even forward these to the finance ministry today," he said.
The government and the finance ministry were anxious to combat tax evasion to the maximum degree, he added, but this has to be done in a way that accorded with the laws and the principles of legal science.
 New transparency, human rights sec-gen appointedJustice Minister Haris Kastanidis on Thursday announced that attorney Yiannis Ioannidis will assume the post of transparency and human rights general secretary.
Ioannidis is the son of one-time PASOK MP and former IKA governor Fivos Ioannidis.
 Ecumenical Patriarchate's Order of the Dignitaries to honour Greek ambassador in U.S.NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The Ecumenical Patriarchate's Order of the Dignitaries of the Apostle Andrew will honour Greece's ambassador in the United States, Vassilis Kaskarelis. According to a relevant announcement, ambassador Kaskarelis will be honoured for his "valuable contribution" to Greece, expatriates, Orthodoxy and the just causes of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The event, together with a dinner, will be taking place on Thursday February 17 at a hotel in Manhattan.
 IMF supports extension of Greek loan repayment periodWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA / T. Ellis)
The International Monetary Fund does not retain mechanism to offer loans extending more than 10 years, Caroline Atkinson, head of foreign relations, told reporters here on Thursday.
The IMF official reiterated the fund's intention to extend the repayment period for Greece's 110-billion-euro loans and stressed that interest rates were set according to market conditions at specific times.
"It is important to have a full plan to deal with European problems," Atkinson said, while she underlined the significance of a permanent fund mechanism.
Commenting on European bank stress tests she said they should not only be transparent but also have a plan to offer the necessary capital liquidity after completion of the tests.
The IMF official underlined the significance of fiscal consolidation measures implemented by countries with debt problems and of structural reforms needed to achieve economic growth. The problem of debt is finally the one side of a general growth problem, like in Greece's case.
 Minister: Significant interest in Greek ports, cruisesMaritime Affairs & Fisheries Minister Yiannis Diamantidis on Thursday reiterated that interest in developing sea cruise tourism in practically every Greek port is enormous, following the scuttling of most the cabotage legislation that hampered foreign flagged vessels from conducting cruises in Greek waters.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with the heads of the country's 12 largest ports, Diamantidis said there was significant interest for investments in certain ports, in cooperation with neighbouring countries. He also announced that the government's strategic plan for a national port system will be based on four axes.
Additionally, the Greek minister said the government has hired an international consultant to draft a plan on improving the operation of ports.
"We want to include all orphan ports - more than 800 - into this new national port system, so that it becomes profitable for our country," Diamantidis said.
In a related development, the minister also said there was no issue of Louis Hellenic Cruises switching to a flag of convenience and leaving the Greek registry, despite comments by Giorgos Koubenas, the company's general manager in Greece that "there is no other choice but to change the flag on these ships".
Louis Hellenic Cruises has begun a legal battle with the Seamen's Pension Fund (NAT) over payment of social insurance contributions. NAT does not recognise the validity of a law offering state subsidies to seamen's social insurance contributions.
 Business start-ups surpass closures in 2010The number of start-ups of new enterprises continued surpassing business closures last year, although the growth rate was much slower compared with previous years' figures, the regional development & competitiveness ministry said on Thursday.
In a report, the ministry said new businesses recorded by the country's 59 chambers of commerce and industry totaled 62,781 in 2010, while closures totaled 56,037 over the year. The ministry said the manufacturing sector was the only one to record a decline in the balance between start-ups and closures last year.
July was the busiest month of 2010, with 7,018 new set ups, while December recorded 8,126 business closures.
The report did not offer details over the causes of business closures.
 Culture, Tourism minister at conference on gastronomic tourismCulture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos made an intervention on Thursday at the conference of "Imic 2011", focusing on gastronomic tourism, that was held at the Athens conference mansion, abd stressed that the uniqueness of Greek gastronomy and all that it represents must be promoted in every way.
"The products of the Greek soil and the Greek sea, combined with the morals and customs related with our food, constitute a basic element of our identity." he noted.
 Athens retailers express anger over public transport strikesThe greater Athens region shop-owners expressed concern for the decline in their business turnover that reached 40 pct in the first two weeks of the winter sales as well as resentment against public transport strikes that have contributed to this development, according to a statement issued by the Athens Traders Association.
Based on a study conducted by the association, retailers offer their products in very low prices and consumers are responsive only when access to the shopping centers is not hindered.
 Greek economic sentiment index up in JanGreece's economic sentiment index recovered in January to 75.6 points, up from 73.3 in December 2010, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) announced on Thursday.
IOBE, in a monthly report, attributed this improvement to a small rise in the manufacturing and retail sectors, although sentiment in the services and construction sectors continued falling.
Consumer confidence recovered slightly, with the economy showing signs of stabilising at current levels. IOBE said the economic recession is expected to slow this year.
Business expectations for production in the manufacturing sector worsened, while expectations over the current level of demand, new orders and inventories improved in January.
In the services sector, business expectations recovered over the current level of works and demand, in the retail sector, expectations fell over the current level of sales and inventories while forecasts over next quarter's sales recovered.
In the construction sector, expectations were mixed, with forecasts over employment rising and forecasts over the current level of works worsening sharply.
Consumer confidence showed some improvement after falling to record lows in December, with Greek households feeling less pessimistic over their finances, the country's economic situation and their intention of save month, while expectations over unemployment remained very negative.
The economic sentiment index was unchanged both in the Eurozone and the EU-27 in January to December levels, after rising for seven consecutive months.
 Stocks continue bullish runStocks continued moving higher, although at a much slower pace, for the seventh consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday supported by buying interest for blue chip stocks. The composite index of the market rose 0.67 pct to end at 1,675.14 points, with turnover falling to 116.621 million euros. The Big Cap index rose 1.06 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.65 pct and the Small Cap index ended 1.98 pct higher.
The Telecoms (5.60 pct) and Raw Materials (1.31 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Health (2.71 pct) and Food (1.58 pct) suffered losses.
OTE (5.60 pct), Alpha Bank (2.46 pct), Viohalco (2.0 pct) and Mytilineos (1.86 pct) were major gainers among blue chip stocks, while Titan (1.85 pct), Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (1.69 pct) and Piraeus Bank (1.18 pct) were major losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 94 to 79 with another 54 issues unchanged. Sfakianakis (20 pct), Attikat (14.29 pct) and Attica Bank (12.75 pct) were top gainers, while Paperpack (18.92 pct), Ridenco (12.5 pct) and Kyriakoulis Yachts (10 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.25%
Personal & Household: -1.07%
Raw Materials: +1.31%
Travel & Leisure: +1.14%
Food & Beverages: -1.58%
Financial Services: Unchanged
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: 5.00
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.50
HBC Coca Cola: 21.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.41
National Bank of Greece: 7.72
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.99
Bank of Piraeus: 1.67
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 760 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 738 bps on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.82 pct and the German Bund 3.22 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 27 million euros, of which 13 million were buy orders and the remaining 14 million euros were sell orders. The five-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 1.66 pct, the six-month rate 1.33 pct, the three-month 1.08 pct and the one-month rate 0.91 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.25 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover a low 42.069 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,699 contracts worth 29.977 million euros, with 34,697 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 25,788 contracts worth 12.092 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,393), followed by Eurobank (2,149), OTE (3,522), Piraeus Bank (4,534), Alpha Bank (2,036), Marfin Popular Bank (4,388), Cyprus Bank (561), Hellenic Postbank (415), MIG (592), ATEbank (239).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.385
Pound sterling 0.855
Danish kroner 7.515
Swedish kroner 8.951
Japanese yen 113.36
Swiss franc 1.309
Norwegian kroner 7.921
Canadian dollar 1.370
Australian dollar 1.369
 Work stoppages in Athens transports on FridayCommuters in the greater Athens region will face more public transport work-stoppages on Friday, although fewer problems are expected compared to previous days, when the Greek capital was plagued by repeated strikes against the draft law reforming the sector.
Bus drivers will observe a work-stoppage between 11.00 and 15.30, trolley drivers between 11.00 and 15.00, while the Athens-Piraeus Electric Railway (ISAP) will face a four-hour work-stoppage beginning at noon.
The public transport employee unions will decide their future stance by next Monday.
Speaking in Parliament, Infrastructure, Transport & Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas said that between 2004 and 2009, the Greek state has subsidised the greater Athens area's public transport organisations with 727 million euros, while 1.6 billion euros was indirectly allocated to pay their loans. The overall debt of the public transport agencies is estimated at 3.8 billion euros.
 Downpour causes problems in greater Athens areaThursday's heavy rainfall caused problems throughout the greater Athens area, with traffic problems and flash flooding. Transports were disrupted by flooding in several parts of eastern Attica, close to the airport, and in several locations in southern coastal Athens.
The fire brigade received nearly 90 calls for fallen trees flooded basements and stores.
 Imam kidnapping solved, 10 foreign nationals arrestedAthens police on Thursday said they have solved a January 30 abduction of a 34-year-old Imam and a 20-year-old friend of his from Pakistan, naming the perpetrators as a large ring of Pakistanis that has been broken up, while investigations are continuing to see if the ring has been involved in other abductions of foreign nationals.
Police said the Imam and 20-year-old Pakistani man were abducted by the ring on January 30 in the Egaleo district of Athens and taken to a farm building in Egio, where the two captives were beaten repeatedly. The ring also demanded 5,000 euros ransom each from the families of the captives, which was put up by the Imam's brother, who permanently resides in London.
But the ring did not release the captives and asked for more ransom.
Attica security police, who had been informed of the kidnappings, located the abductors' hideout and raided it on Wednesday, accompanied by a prosecutor, arresting 10 Pakistani nationals and releasing the victims.
Police found and confiscated from the farmhouse 7,500 euros in cash, a large number of cell phones, the wooden boards with which the ring members beat the Imam and 20-year-old Pakistani captive, the ropes used to tie up the captives, and a receipt from an electronic money transaction for the ransoms sent by the Imam's brother from London.
The 10 detainees have been brought to Athens and are due to appear before a public prosecutor.
 Two foreign nationals arrested for armed robberyTwo foreign nationals aged 36 and 22 years old, respectively, have been arrested in Stylida on charges of armed robbery. The two were led before a Corinth examining magistrate who issued the warrant for their arrest on Thursday.
The two men had been positively identified as the robbers that hit branches of the National Bank of Greece in Velo and Vrahati, Corinth the previous month based on images captured by the bank CCTV surveillance systems.
Police are also seeking a 34-year-old in connection with the same robberies while a 28-year-old woman was charged the previous week for harbouring criminals after police found that the culprits had taken refuge in her house in Pasio, Corinth after the robberies.
Among evidence found in her house was a replica of a handgun while police have also confiscated two cars driven by the suspects that were bought with the proceeds of the robberies.
 Illegal migrants interceptedTwo migrant truck drivers were arrested Thursday in the western port of Patras for carrying 20 illegal migrants hidden in their trucks, police said.
The illegal migrants were found during a port inspection before the trucks boarded an Italy-bound ferry.
A total of 20 illegal immigrants were concealed in a refrigerator truck loaded with oranges (11) and a truck loaded with cabbages (9).
 Illegal migrants re-arrested after brief escape from detention centrePolice arrested 21 illegal migrants (12 Moroccans and nine Algerians) shortly after they escaped from a detention center in Soufli, extreme northeast Greece, was announced on Thursday.
The group escaped when police officers led five persons out of the detention cells to take their fingerprints.
A total of 140 illegal migrants are hosted at the facility.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-9 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -5C and 14C. Rainy in Athens, with northerly 6-8 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 3C to 9C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 0C to 8C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEconomic and tax issues and the search for a comprehensive solution to the EU debt crisis were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Thursday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Greek households paid 4.5 billion euros for para-Education in 2010".
AVGHI: "Rift between government, university rectors".
AVRIANI: "Quickly, back to the drachma - The euro has burned us, damn it".
ELEFTHEROS: "Five active 'volcanoes' terrify government".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Gray war over migrants' vote".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Explosion of taxes on real estate".
ESTIA: "Common sense has been lost by society".
ETHNOS: "Prosecution for tax dodgers".
IMERISSIA: "Merkel plan 'locked in' - Frenzy of deliberations in eurozone".
KATHIMERINI: "Timid steps in tackling lawlessness".
LOGOS: "Trench war over public transport".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Prosecution for major tax evasion remains".
NIKI: "The target now is the auxiliary pensions".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Nationalistic poison".
TA NEA: "Public sector: 23,000 agencies being merged, in bid to get rid of red tape".
VRADYNI: "Merkel accused of 'cannibalism'."
 Christofias and Eroglu to meet February 9NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, namely President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, will be meeting on February 9 in the context of UN-led talks for a solution of the Cyprus problem.
This will be their first meeting since they met in Geneva on January 26 with the UN Secretary General.
The representatives of the leaders of the two communities, George Iacovou and Kudret Ozersay, will be meeting on Friday in view of the meeting of February 9.
After the Geneva meeting, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had said that the two sides agreed to intensify negotiations with additional meetings over the coming weeks.
He also said that he would be at their disposal to review progress and to encourage them to bridge their differences.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
President Christofias and Eroglu are currently engaged in UN-led negotiations with an aim to reunify the island.
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