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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-03-05

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

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

Saturday, 5 March 2011 Issue No: 3736

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM: Crucial battle ahead at EU this month
  • [02] PASOK sec't Karhimakis addresses party's nat'l council congress
  • [03] PES leader addresses PASOK National Council
  • [04] PM Papandreou, PES president address joint press conference
  • [05] European Socialists' support for Greek government's efforts to exit crisis
  • [06] PM Papandreou holds bilateral meetings on sidelines of PES directorate conference
  • [07] ND leader Samaras meets Ireland's Enda Kenny
  • [08] Foreign minister briefs EU ambassadors on Greek foreign policy issues
  • [09] Gov't offers 6-mo. stay to hunger strikers; won't bow to 'blackmail'
  • [10] No agreement in government meeting with hunger-strike migrants
  • [11] Migrants on hunger strike reject government offer
  • [12] Petalotis denies plan to privatise ANA-MPA
  • [13] Parliament to investigate lease, maintenance of firefighting choppers
  • [14] Police chief, deputy chief retain positions
  • [15] ND MPs table question on Gaddafi Foundation
  • [16] Papariga meets with Syrian Communist Party official
  • [17] LA.OS leader: Gov't cannot lead country out of crisis
  • [18] LA.OS tables amendment on use of firearms by police
  • [19] US helicopter carrier sails into port at Souda naval base
  • [20] Helliniko site discussed in Parliament
  • [21] FinMin meets with regional governors
  • [22] NBG: Job positions will be safeguarded
  • [23] Credit expansion shrank further in Jan
  • [24] Piraeus shop' turnover down during winter sales
  • [25] Goody's announces dynamic expansion plans
  • [26] Car registrations down 54.5 pct in Jan-Feb
  • [27] Stocks end slightly higher
  • [28] Greek bond market closing report
  • [29] ADEX closing report
  • [30] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday
  • [31] Draft law on ratification of Prespes Lakes Park agreement
  • [32] Three people airlifted to safety from distressed vessel
  • [33] Interpol locates stolen icons in London gallery
  • [34] Police arrest two migrant traffickers
  • [35] Pirate attack on Greek-owned tanker foiled
  • [36] Child porn arrest
  • [37] Cloudy on Saturday
  • [38] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [39] UN chief concerned about rate of progress in Cyprus talks
  • [40] Cyprus President: UNSG report on Cyprus ''not bad''
  • [41] Leaders discuss governance and power sharing Politics

  • [01] PM: Crucial battle ahead at EU this month

    Despite the hurdles still lying ahead, there were positive signs that reforms were beginning to work and the economy would soon recover, Prime Minister George Papandreou said in his address to ruling PASOK's National Council on Friday. He forecast that the rate of recession would significantly abate in the first half of 2011 and level off in the second half, with Greece returning to positive growth in 2012.

    Papandreou underlined that one of the most crucial battles ahead would be fought this month at the European Union, where Greece had to strive for an EU solution to its excessive debt burden that would allow it to repay its debts. He underlined, however, that even if negotiations in Europe go exactly the way Greece wants there was still a long struggle ahead and that it was essential for Greece to change.

    "If we continue to only buy, not produce and not export, we will not make it," he emphasised.

    Referring to the debt burden and Greece's continued inability to borrow on the markets, where analysts still distrusted the country's ability to handle its debts, Papandreou said the answer lay in a coordinated European policy that would create better terms for a Greek debt settlement. He also emphasised that the government expected the opposition parties to lend their support to its efforts to achieve this goal.

    The prime minister also stressed that the debate on this issue in Europe had to be wrapped up as quickly as possible so that the countries struggling with debt problems could work on improving their economies in a calm and secure climate, especially given the period of instability now sweeping the Arab world.

    Among positive signs that the economy was recovering Papandreou cited a 30 percent increase in exports, a significant increase in orders from abroad and positive signs that tourist traffic will be higher this summer.

    He stressed that the government was fighting to restore Greece's independence from any dependency or supervision and that it had successfully warded off efforts to force Greece to back down on economic but also national sovereignty issues as a result of the crisis. As an example, he pointed out that the government had averted efforts to deprive Greece of its vote on EU issues in exchange for the loans received from the EU as part of the financial support mechanism.

    The prime minister also promised that an ambitious state privatisation programme would be based on the same principles, exploiting state assets financially but without selling off public land.

    He also ruled out an Asian growth model based on low wages, saying this could not be a basis for achieving competitiveness. Instead the government would focus on reducing red tape, developing education, sustainable development. Indicatively, Papandreou asserted that greater transparency and rule of law would have generated savings ranging from 4-8 percent of GDP and thus spared Greece from resorting to either loans or a financial support mechanism.

    On a growing movement toward civil disobedience in Greece, Papandreou said that he could also support disobedience but only to practices that brought Greece to its present pass, such as bribes to public officials and corruption in general.

    He was particularly scathing about main opposition New Democracy's role in allowing the debt to grow, essentially accusing the previous government of doubling both the debt and deficit and "condemning future generations so that they and theirs might be better off".

    The prime minister also admitted that there were problems with the internal coordination of his own government but attributed these to the way that the political system worked in Greece in past decades that members of the government were making huge efforts to change.

    [02] PASOK sec't Karhimakis addresses party's nat'l council congress

    Ruling PASOK National Council secretary Mihalis Karhimakis on Friday addressed the 11th congress of the party's National Council underlining that "through organized political action PASOK will have to create the political preconditions for a national agreement to lead the country out of the crisis."

    He underlined that the decision of the prime minister and PASOK president George Papandreou to call a meeting of the party's National Conference is timely and necessary.

    Karhimakis criticized the parties of the opposition, stressing that they lead to tension. "ND instigates anomy when the government gives a fight to salvage the country," he said, adding that the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) "calls for disobedience" and "Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) sets up local rebellions".

    [03] PES leader addresses PASOK National Council

    Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, former Danish prime minister and President of the Party of European Socialists (PES), said in his address to the ruling PASOK party's National Council that "the Panhellenic Socialist Movement and we socialists in the rest of Europe are those who have to face the problems we inherited."

    As he said, the socialists are creating bridges between the future and the daily conditions and for this reason "we must realise that we must create this bridge with the future, otherwise others will decide the future for us."

    Rasmussen added that PASOK "under George Papandreou will be able to guide Greece and take it out of the crisis and stressed that the success and the destiny of Greece are the success and the destiny of the rest in Europe.

    The PES leader further said that in the meeting of the party's leaders on Friday night and on Saturday he will be presenting an alternative plan to that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. According to it, if in parallel with the attention on fiscal restructuring there is also a margin for investmnents, "in the next 10 years there shall be a huge difference between their and our Europe."

    [04] PM Papandreou, PES president address joint press conference

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and Party of European Socialists (PES) President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, addressing a joint press conference on the occasion of the convening in Athens of the directorate of PES, stressed that the European Union does not have the luxury of not taking correct decisions at its summit on March 25.

    They also stressed that Europe needs vision and will and Papandreou said that Europe needs innovative tools, such as the Eurobond and the tax on fiscal transactions.

    On his part, Rasmussen said it is time for a wide support mechanism to be created and in parallel the interest rates of the loaning of Greece and Ireland to decrease.

    Both Rasmussen and Papandreou placed responsibility for the present situation and the difficulty in the taking of decisions on Europe's conservative majority and mainly on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "Europe is in mistaken plans," the PES president said.

    Rasmussen further said that the PES will present an alternative plan to the conservatives' competitiveness plan that concerns both growth and fiscal matters.

    Replying to relevant questions, Rasmussen said that the conservative leaders must not only look at money but the future of Europe as well. Papandreou stressed that Greece has taken bold decisions and added that the crisis in Greece is not a model for the rest of Europe.

    Both Papandreou and Rasmussen said that the competitiveness Pact is not an answer to the crisis. They added that Europe has possibilities to create the calm which markets consider essential, but the conservative leaderships do not provide this possibility.

    Replying to a question on the imposition of a tax on fiscal transactions and whether it can drive the markets out of Europe, Rasmussen said that with a minimum percentage that is being proposed by the socialists 340 to 350 billion euros can be found.

    Papandreou and Rasmusen were asked about the absence of the prime ministers of Spain and Portugal from the PES conference, attributing it to the pressures they are sustaining from the markets at this time. Papandreou also said the two countries are being targeted unfairly and that Europe could stop the raid against them with the issuing of a Eurobond.

    Lastly, replying to a question on how important the date of March 25 is for Greece, Papandreou said it is an important milestone but in the event that the decisions will not be the expected ones Greece will proceed and support itself on its own forces.

    [05] European Socialists' support for Greek government's efforts to exit crisis

    Martin Schulz, leader of the European Parliament's Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) parliamentary group, on Friday expressed the European Socialists' solidarity with Greek prime minister George Papandreou and his ruling PASOK government "in this difficult time for the country", in a greeting to the PASOK National Council's 11th congress, chaired by Papandreou.

    Schulz stressed that Europe must decide the direction it will take, and underlined that it should not be the direction of German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

    He further said that the excessively high interest rates need to be reduced, stressing that the issue of Euro-bonds would be a very good tool in that direction, while he also backed the extension of the repayment period of the support loans of countries such as Greece.

    "Why should that be so difficult," he questioned, and gave the reply that this was so because there is a lack of solidarity.

    Schulz said that the euro is a strong currency, and wondered "why is it being weakened through internal squabbling in the eurozone". He explained that Europe's common currency is being weakened by the lack of solidarity "because the strong economies, such as Germany, are trying to give lessons in economy, as with the Competitiveness Pact".

    He said that the EU must move in the direction of investments in order to boost the economy through the development of infrastructures, education, worker qualifications, etc.

    Without a common strategy, he warned, this will not be achieved.

    He acknowledged that cutbacks and improvement of fiscal finances are necessary, "but this can be achieved only if there is growth".

    Schulz further said that the capitalists must make their contribution, and cited a proposal by PASOK Eurodeputy Annie Podimata for a tax on stockmarket transactions, noting the symbolic value of the proposal as it came from Greece.

    He said that the Papandreou government must solve problems and burdens it inherited from preceding governments, noting that "people such as Angela Merkel do not speak about what the previous governments did", and pointing out that before the last general elections in Greece the German chancellor had fully backed the (preceding New Democracy) government of Costas Karamanlis.

    "We socialists are solving problems created by others," he said.

    As a German himself, Schulz said that although Germany is governed by Merkel, the country was not represented by her, and expressed hope that "the time will come when she will be a former chancellor" because "the country needs a different course".

    Noting that things are very difficult, he said that "we will make every effort to help Greece come out of the crisis".

    In closing, Schulz expressed his admiration for and confidence in Papandreou, noting that it is hard for a politician to not mince his words and to speak the truth, and adding that Papandreou was leading Greece in a very dignified manner and lending dignity to Greece in a very difficult time.

    Schulz is in Athens for a two-day summit of the Party of European Socialists (PES) leaders that opens here later Friday.

    [06] PM Papandreou holds bilateral meetings on sidelines of PES directorate conference

    Prime Minister George Papandreou held separate meetings on Friday, on the sidelines of the sessions of the Party of European Socialists (PES) leaders taking place in Athens, with Zlatko Lagumdzija, President of SDP, Bosnia Herzegovina, Eamon Gilmore, President of the Labour Party, Ireland, Martine Aubry, First Secretary of the PS, France, Boris Tadic, President of the Republic of Serbia and leader of the Serb Democratic Party.

    [07] ND leader Samaras meets Ireland's Enda Kenny

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras met on Friday with the winner of the elections in Ireland Enda Kenny, on the sidelines of the European People's Party (EPP) summit taking place in Helsinki.

    Samaras congratulated the Irish prime minister-elect for his victory and discussed with him the two countries' common problems and the memorandum, on which they agreed that "it does not solve the problems of their countries."

    They also agreed that Greece and Ireland have similar courses due to their subjection to the support mechanism and common problems that are being created by the need for growth.

    The ND leader expressed support for low tax rates and for the extension of the public debt's repayment with a parallel decrease in the interest rate.

    Kenny has already declared his intention to negotiate the change of the memorandum, something that Samaras is also proposing for Greece.

    Speaking after his meeting with Kenny, Samaras said: "I had the pleasure of talking with the prime minister designate of Ireland Mr. Enda Kenny and to congratulate him on his great election victory. Our countries are facing a very big economic problem. Both our countries are each facing a Memorandum that does not solve their problems. Ireland, however, has forged ahead for Development. It started its struggle. We have stayed very much behind. We have not even started our struggle for Development. I hope this will happen soon. There is no other solution."

    The meeting between the two leaders lasted for about half an hour and according to Samaras's staff "it was in an extremely good climate." Samaras was the second leader with whom Kenny met after European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

    [08] Foreign minister briefs EU ambassadors on Greek foreign policy issues

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Friday briefed EU member-states ambassadors on a range of foreign policy issues of interest to Greece at a dinner given at the embassy of Hungary, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

    Droutsas outlined Greece's policy in Libya and on the anticipated migration wave from north African countries, which the Greek side has presented in a European dimension since the turmoil in the region erupted.

    He also outlined a proposal for a 'Democracy Centre' based in Greece to help these countries reshape their societies on more democratic lines and build democratic institutions. He emphasised the positive aspects of the crisis in the region, stressing that this had to be turned into an opportunity.

    Presenting Greece's position for its surrounding region on a European level, he said Athens supported a new partnership agreement and a neighbourhood policy between the EU and the south, which would make use of EU legal instruments for the political, economic and social support of Arab peoples seeking a better future.

    Droutsas also referred to the prospects of EU enlargement in southeast Europe through Athens' 'Agenda 2014' initiative, relations with Turkey and the latest developments in the Cyprus issue and the economic crisis in Greece in light of the EU summit on March 25 and a meeting of Eurozone countries on March 11.

    [09] Gov't offers 6-mo. stay to hunger strikers; won't bow to 'blackmail'

    The government on Friday again offered to consider the 250-plus illegal migrants currently on a near month-long hunger strike in Athens and Thessaloniki as eligible for a six-month so-called "state of tolerance", meaning they will not face deportation to their home countries.

    Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis again made the proposal a day after a high-profile comment by the defence minister, who said that "human casualties must be avoided at all costs", sparked an immediate and sharp reaction by the relevant interior minister.

    On his part, Papoutsis called on NGOs and the migrants' supporters to work towards a solution, given that dozens of the mostly North African nationals have been hospitalised recently for dehydration, exhaustion and kidney problems.

    Nevertheless, the government has reiterated repeatedly that it will not be blackmailed into granting legalisation to non-eligible migrants, i.e. illegal immigrants. The initial demand by the hunger strikers and their supporters, including members of the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), was for the unconditional legalisation of all undocumented foreign nationals in the country.

    Migrants and supporters have been camped out at a neo-classical building off Patission street after initially taking over an Athens law school building for a week last month.

    "Regarding the hunger striking migrants, relevant officials of our ministry have clarified to the NGO representatives that support their struggle to propose to the strikers that their repatriation be postponed," Papoutsis said, adding that a written guarantee will be offered to each hunger striker valid for six months. He added, however, that each of the foreign nationals must also register their particulars to police authorities.

    Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis also underlined, in reference to the development, that "as much as our obligation is to make sure not even one life is lost, so too is it our obligation to not allow our country to be blackmailed."

    Thursday's mini furor came on the heels of DM Evangelos Venizelos' comment, which were answered via a written statement by Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis hours later. The latter said Venizelos should have asked for direct briefing over such a sensitive matter before making statements in Parliament.

    In a late-night intervention, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said both ministers later spoke by phone in the evening, "where it was judged that no problem exists."

    [10] No agreement in government meeting with hunger-strike migrants

    No agreement was reached during a meeting on Friday between government ministers and representatives of 300-odd migrants that are on a mass hunger-strike in a central Athens building to demand legal residence for themselves and other economic migrants in Greece.

    After Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis and Health Minister Andreas Loverdos left the building, the migrants held a meeting to decide whether they should accept or reject the government's proposal to allow them a six-month "grace period" before they are asked to leave the country.

    The six-month "window" is foreseen under the law for those applying for political asylum and can be extended to illegal immigrants when there special circumstances, such as the serious health problems now faced by the group on hunger strike. This essentially delays deportation for a period of six months and the delay can also be extended for a "reasonable" space of time by the Citizens' Protection Minister.

    The 'tolerance status' also allows a migrant resident in Greece to work legally for as long as they are in the country. In order for the law to go into force, however, a presidential decree that is currently still pending must first be issued.

    After the meeting, Ragoussis said that it was positive the government had an opportunity to speak to the migrants and make its position clear.

    "The Greek government has exhausted all leeway given by the law. It cannot proceed with a mass legalisation of migrants," he stressed.

    The migrants on hunger strike had asked to be granted humanitarian status but this was refused by the government, which said that humanitarian status was given either to those that had a residence permit in the past or could prove that they had lived in the country for 12 years.

    Commenting on the government's handling of the issue, main opposition New Democracy representative Yiannis Mihelakis said it was "at sixes and sevens" and "falling apart".

    "The prime minister at this crucial time for the country, instead of coordinating and guiding, is acting as a 'blue helmet' between sparring ministers. The government spokesman came to the point of celebrating - in one of the now habitual late-night 'pyjama announcements' - the achievement of an intra-party truce," Mihelakis said.

    [11] Migrants on hunger strike reject government offer

    The 300-odd migrants on hunger strike in central Athens on Friday unanimously rejected the government's offer of a six-month 'toleration status' allowed under EU migration laws, saying it did not meet their demand for full legalisation.

    An earlier meeting between representatives of migrants and government ministers had ended without any agreement and was followed by a meeting to discuss the government's proposals.

    After Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis and Health Minister Andreas Loverdos left the building, the migrants held a meeting to decide whether they should accept or reject the government's proposal to allow them a six-month "grace period" before they are asked to leave the country.

    They also rejected Loverdos' offer to transfer all those on hunger strike to hospital in view of a sharp deterioration in the weather expected over the next few days, saying they would be transferred to hospitals at the recommendation of the doctors currently attending to them.

    The six-month "window" is foreseen under the law for those applying for political asylum and can be extended to illegal immigrants when there special circumstances, such as the serious health problems now faced by the group on hunger strike. This essentially delays deportation for a period of six months and the delay can also be extended for a "reasonable" space of time by the Citizens' Protection Minister.

    The 'toleration status' also allows a migrant resident in Greece to work legally for as long as they are in the country. In order for the law to go into force, however, a presidential decree that is currently still pending must first be issued.

    After the meeting, Ragoussis said that it was positive the government had an opportunity to speak to the migrants and make its position clear.

    "The Greek government has exhausted all leeway given by the law. It cannot proceed with a mass legalisation of migrants," he stressed.

    The migrants on hunger strike had asked to be granted humanitarian status but this was refused by the government, which said that humanitarian status was given either to those that had a residence permit in the past or could prove that they had lived in the country for 12 years.

    Commenting on the government's handling of the issue, main opposition New Democracy representative Yiannis Mihelakis said it was "at sixes and sevens" and "falling apart".

    "The prime minister at this crucial time for the country, instead of coordinating and guiding, is acting as a 'blue helmet' between sparring ministers. The government spokesman came to the point of celebrating - in one of the now habitual late-night 'pyjama announcements' - the achievement of an intra-party truce," Mihelakis said.

    [12] Petalotis denies plan to privatise ANA-MPA

    Government spokesman George Petalotis on Friday strenuously denied that the government is planning to privatise the ANA-MPA. Replying to a question by main opposition New Democracy MP Simos Kedikoglou in Parliament, Petalotis ruled out the prospect of privatisation for the national news agency and stressed that it was an "excellent instrument with national targets".

    As deputy minister to the prime minister, the ANA-MPA is considered to fall within the government spokesman's responsibility.

    "The ANA-MPA is not going to be privatised. Let us not start witch-hunts and let us not transfer to Parliament rumours that have absolutely no relation with reality. The national news agency will be supported in order to play its role. It will not, however, become an agency permanently subsidised by the state, without its own revenues and without making use of its own strength," Petalotis said.

    He invited Kedikoglou and other party representatives to attend a meeting that will take place with the management and staff of the ANA-MPA next week in order to outline the government's positions and find solutions "so that the ANA-MPA can carry out the national and contemporary role of a national press agency."

    [13] Parliament to investigate lease, maintenance of firefighting choppers

    Part of a major investigation conducted by the first instance court economic division concerning the leasing of firefighting helicopters will be forwarded to Parliament to investigate whether there is liability on behalf of former alternate public order minister Christos Markoyiannakis, it was announced on Friday.

    The case file will be forwarded to Parliament pursuant to the minister's liability law after receiving Supreme Court approval and concerns the leasing of five helicopters by the fire brigade in 2009.

    The issue was brought to Parliament by Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Spyros Vougias.

    Another leg of the case concerns the maintenance of five firefighting helicopters based on a contract signed in 2010. The current citizen protection general secretary, Grigoris Tassoulas, is facing felony charges for breach of faith following an investigation. Fire brigade officers and Civil Aviation personnel face complicity charges

    [14] Police chief, deputy chief retain positions

    Greek Police (EL.AS) deputy chief Yiannis Rahovitsas will remain in his position, it was announced on Friday, thus proving speculation of his imminent resignation wrong.

    Rahovitsas was reportedly ready to tender his resignation in the wake of the death of two police officers during a shooting with criminals this past week.

    An EL.AS supreme council, convened on Friday to decide annual promotions, decided to keep the current police leadership as is.

    Consequently, EL.AS chief Lefteris Economou, Rahovitsas and chief of staff Nikos Papayiannopoulos remain in their current positions.

    [15] ND MPs table question on Gaddafi Foundation

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) MPs on Friday tabled a question in Parliament on the prime minister's participation in the "Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation (GICDF)", which is chaired by Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Muammar Gaddafi.

    The question, signed by two ND MPs, was addressed to the foreign minister.

    The ND deputies charged that PM George Papandreou was a member of the foundation since June 2009 and did not resign soon after he took office but only after the Libyan uprising broke out.

    They underlined that "this fact has a negative impact on the premier's and the country's image internationally. Equally negative was the participation of former Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in the Socialist International (SI) chaired by the Greek premier."

    [16] Papariga meets with Syrian Communist Party official

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga met on Friday with visiting Syrian Communist party central committee secretary general Dr. Ammar Bagdache, who is in Athens at the invitation of the KKE, and discussed the situation in the region following the uprisings in northern Africa.

    According to a KKE announcement, the two parties reiterated their support for the struggling peoples and condemned the imperialist interventions against the peoples of the region, adding that the interventions were being prepared under various pretexts.

    In that direction, they criticised "the imperialist planning for a military intervention in Libya".

    [17] LA.OS leader: Gov't cannot lead country out of crisis

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party leader George Karatzaferis emphasised on Friday that the PASOK government "cannot extricate the country from the crisis and cannot tackle the difficult problems laying ahead."

    Addressing a party meeting, Karatzaferis also referred to the "completely unsuccessful the government handling of the crisis", while at the same time hinting at the possibility of early elections. According to the LA.OS leader, Prime Minister George Papandreou has, according to the 1986 Constitution, the sole responsibility for the next political moves.

    "Either he proceeds with elections, which will clear-up the situation, or he reshuffles the government," Karatzaferis said.

    Referring to the premier's address to his ruling party's national council earlier in the day, Karatzaferis claimed that Papandreou is considering a departure.

    [18] LA.OS tables amendment on use of firearms by police

    Opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) MPs on Friday tabled an amendment in Parliament "on the use of firearms by police officers during the pursuit of (armed) suspects" to be included in a citizen protection ministry-sponsored draft law.

    The three LA.OS MPs, who have signed the proposed amendment, pointed out that Article 3 in Law No 3169/03 regulates the use of firearms by police officers in a vague way and law enforcement officers are not certain when they can use their service guns. They also said repeated incidents of police officers killed in the line of duty made the amendment of the relevant legislation imperative.

    [19] US helicopter carrier sails into port at Souda naval base

    The US Navy's helicopter carrier USS Kearsarge sailed into port at the naval base of Souda, on Crete, on Friday morning, accompanied by tugs, with a crew of 77 navy officers and 1,100 sailors.

    The amphibian assault ship is carrying a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, and is equipped with Sea Sparrow and Rolling Airframe missiles, as well as Phalanx anti-aircraft cannons.

    Its chief mission is supporting the landing of sea forces anywhere in the world, and can also provide aircraft control services for missions, while it also has a hospital unit with a capacity of 600 patients.

    The arrival of the USS Kearsarge at Souda and the prospect of the naval base's implication in the crisis in Libya has drawn reactions, with the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) organising a protest demonstration in the afternoon.

    Financial News

    [20] Helliniko site discussed in Parliament

    Minister of State Haris Pamboukis on Friday responded to a tabled question by Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MP Dimitris Papadimoulis on the fate of the former Helliniko airport site in southern coastal Athens.

    Pamboukis wondered "whether there is anybody in Parliament who believes that the entire Helliniko site should be turned into a park when the parks in New York City and London are much smaller. It should be clarified whether the arguments presented are in favour of moving forward, or to remain idle".

    Responding to a relevant question by Papadimoulis, the minister said that during his visit to Qatar he examined the intentions of likely investors and did not negotiate any specific plan. He underlined that a broad-based consultation, involving more parties and not only the neighboring municipalities, will precede any definitive choice, stressing that the project concerns the entire Attica (greater Athens) region.

    [21] FinMin meets with regional governors

    Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Friday met with 13 regional governors focusing on the financial difficulties in the implementation of "Kallikratis" local government reform plan in the country's 13 administrative regions. Among the issues discussed were the transport of schoolchildren, salaries and operating expenditures.

    [22] NBG: Job positions will be safeguarded

    The National Bank of Greece (NBG) in a document forwarded to Parliament on Friday underlined its firm position to safeguard job positions, ensuring that NBG employees affected by shutdowns will be transferred to other branches.

    The document was forwarded to Parliament in response to a relevant question tabled by a main opposition New Democracy (ND) MP.

    NBG underlined that it responded to the tabled question within the framework of its transparent operation and out of respect to the parliament even though it is not obligated to provide information on operation-related decisions that are always taken in accordance with the law.

    [23] Credit expansion shrank further in Jan

    Credit expansion shrank further in January this year as bank lending towards the private sector of the economy continued falling, the Bank of Greece said on Friday.

    The central bank, in a report, said that credit expansion was a negative -0.3 pct in January, from -0.1 pct in December 2010, reflecting lower loans to enterprises and an intensifying de-leverage in Greek households, with new mortgage and consumer loans significantly lower compared with repayment of existing debt.

    New funding to enterprises was a net positive flow of 157 million euros, for an annual growth rate of 0.8 pct in January, down from 0.9 pct in December 2010. The manufacturing sector recorded an increase in bank lending with the annual growth rate improving to -1.7 pct in January from -2.7 pct in December, while all other sectors recorded worsening funding conditions (commerce (-3.9 pct in January from -3.5 pct in December and constructions 0.7 pct in January from 1.9 pct in December).

    Funding to self-employed was a net positive flow of 6.0 million euros, for an annual growth rate of 0.1 pct in January from 0.2 pct in the previous month.

    Lending to households was a negative 315 million euros, for annual growth rate of -1.4 pct in January, from -1.3 pct in December 2010. Mortgage loans recorded an annual growth rate of -0.7 pct, while consumer loans an annual growth rate of -4.1 pct in January.

    [24] Piraeus shop' turnover down during winter sales

    The overwhelming majority of shops in Piraeus recorded a drop of at least 40 percent in their turnover during this year's winter sales season due to the crisis, despite substantial discounts, while the use of credit cards has also dropped even further, according to the Association of Piraeus Merchants in a survey of the market movement in the regular winter sales held among a sampling of 150 ships in Piraeus.

    The survey showed that 90 percent of the respondents are dissatisfied with their sales during the sales period, saying they were down, with only 7 percent saying that sales were at the same level as last year and just 3 percent posting a rise.

    [25] Goody's announces dynamic expansion plans

    Goody's SA on Friday announced plans to dynamically expand its network in Greece and Southeastern Europe this year.

    The company, owner of the Goody's fast food chain and Flocafe -the largest coffee shop chain Greece- said it planned to open new Goody's restaurants and Flocafe across the country's main road map and in selected regions of high population this year, while it also said it would seek opportunities of relocating into more commercial points, with better prospects and lower leasing costs.

    The company is currently building new Goody's and Flocafe points in Almyros Volos and in Corinth, a new Goody's restaurant in Naoussa, new Goody's and Flocafe points aboard the ferry boat Delos to be launched by Blue Star shipping company and to launch its first Flocafe point in Bucharest (Romania) and a new Goody's restaurant in Paphos (Cyprus).

    Goody's operates a network of 175 Goody's restaurants in Greece and Cyprus and 90 Flocafe in Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Hungary.

    [26] Car registrations down 54.5 pct in Jan-Feb

    Car registrations continued falling in January this year, for a decline of 54.5 pct in the first two months of 2011, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Friday. The statistics service said registrations of passenger vehicles were down 58 pct in the January-February period.

    Car registrations fell 46.8 pct in January (both new and used) compared with the same month last year, while registrations in the two-month period totalled 23,060 vehicles, down 54.5 pct compared with the corresponding period in 2010. The market had recorded an 8.5 pct increase in the first two months of 2010.

    Registrations of motorcycles totalled 6,145 units in the January-February period this year, down 10.9 pct compared with 2010, after recording a 19.5 pct decline in the first two months of 2010.

    Car market executives said they hope that a government measure to subsidize the renewal of the car fleet in the country could offer some comfort and reverse a dramatic decline in sales.

    [27] Stocks end slightly higher

    Stocks ended slightly higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday in thin trading conditions, reflecting cautiousness among investors over developments in a European effort to resolve a debt crisis. The composite index rose 0.33 pct to end at 1,585.85 points, for a net gain of 0.17 pct in the week. Turnover was a low 73.043 million euros.

    The Big Cap index fell 0.04 pct, the Mid Cap index rose 0.01 pct and the Small Cap index fell 0.79 pct.

    Jumbo (3.51 pct), Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (2.93 pct) and MIG (1.20 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (3.21 pct), Titan (1.78 pct) and Mytilineos (1.13 pct) were top losers. The Food (2.82 pct) and Personal Products (2.80 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Chemicals (2.56 pct) and Technology (1.37 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 89 to 58 with another 58 issues unchanged. Technical Publications (15.91 pct), Imperio (11.54 pct) and Shelman (10 pct) were top gainers, while Alter (17.78 pct), Olympic Catering (9.76 pct) and Karamolegos (9.46 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +0.89%

    Industrials: +0.39%

    Commercial: -0.74%

    Construction: -1.27%

    Media: -0.49%

    Oil & Gas: +0.14%

    Personal & Household: +2.80%

    Raw Materials: -0.56%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.62%

    Technology: -1.37%

    Telecoms: +0.67%

    Banks: -0.84%

    Food & Beverages: +2.82%

    Health: -0.46%

    Utilities: +0.67%

    Chemicals: -2.56%

    Financial Services: -0.39%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank and OPAP.

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.90

    ATEbank: 0.79

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.47

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.38

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.39

    National Bank of Greece: 6.60

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.58

    OPAP: 15.85

    OTE: 7.52

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.51

    Titan: 17.68

    [28] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was unchanged at 868 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.99 pct and the German Bund 3.31 pct. Turnover was a low 40 million euros, with the majority sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved sharply higher. The 12-month rate was 1.92 pct, the six-month rate 1.47 pct, the three-month 1.16 pct and the one-month rate 0.89 pct.

    [29] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.42 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange, with turnover shrinking further to 24.505 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,743 contracts worth 21.030 million euros, with 28,849 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 8,491 contracts worth 3.474 million euros with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (1,993), followed by Eurobank (551), MIG (204), OTE (200), PPC (244), Piraeus Bank (939), National Bank (1,697), Alpha Bank (771), GEK (390), Mytilineos (416) and Hellenic Postbank (307).

    [30] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.406

    Pound sterling 0.864

    Danish kroner 7.516

    Swedish kroner 8.905

    Japanese yen 116.56

    Swiss franc 1.310

    Norwegian kroner 7.842

    Canadian dollar 1.368

    Australian dollar 1.390

    General News

    [31] Draft law on ratification of Prespes Lakes Park agreement

    The ministry of environment, energy and climate change has prepared a draft law on the ratification process of the agreement signed by Greece, Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) aimed at creating a binding framework for the protection of the Prespes Lakes wetlands, it was announced on Friday.

    A relevant document forwarded to Parliament mentioned that the agreement will be activated as soon as it is approved by the EU, in accordance with the European legislation.

    The environment ministry underlined that the main goal of the agreement is to promote cooperation among the three neighboring countries in compliance with international regulations on environmental protection, management of water resources and sustainable development.

    [32] Three people airlifted to safety from distressed vessel

    Three passengers on board an inflatable boat were airlifted to safety late Thursday night after their vessel rammed into the Platia rocky islet north of Poros.

    The causes of the accident were as yet unknown at Friday noon while the three passengers -- the 43-year-old captain and two other persons aged 21 and 34, were taken to the Tzanio hospital in Piraeus for precautionary reasons and medical examinations.

    The three passengers were airlifted by a Coast Guard helicopter.

    [33] Interpol locates stolen icons in London gallery

    Stolen icons from churches and monasteries in the mountainous Zagorohoria region of Ioannina, NW Greece, were discovered in a London gallery by Interpol, during an operation held with the assistance of New Scotland Yard.

    According to an announcement on Friday, six of the stolen icons have been identified while an investigation is still underway.

    Stolen icons from Greece have also been discovered in Berlin but their exact number and the regions from where they were stolen remain undisclosed.

    For the record, dozens of icons and sections of chancel screens have been stolen in the past two years from churches and monasteries in the region.

    [34] Police arrest two migrant traffickers

    Two migrant traffickers were arrested by police of the special group for combatting illegal immigration in cooperation with FRONTEX officials, as they were attempting to cross 16 illegal immigrants into Greece.

    The arrests took place in the region of Lagyna in Evros, northern Greece, while the illegal immigrants were disembarking on the Greek side from a plastic boat.

    When the two traffickers noticed the police they attempted to escape by swimming to the Turkish side of the Evros river but were arrested.

    The two traffickers and the 16 illegal immigrants will be brought before a prosecutor in the city of Alexandroupoli.

    [35] Pirate attack on Greek-owned tanker foiled

    The Greek-owned tanker Aegea on Friday managed to repel an attack by pirates, 300 nautical miles from Oman, after a pitched battle with eight armed men aboard a fishing boat that lasted one and a half hours. The tanker's crew of 27 included 10 Greeks and three Britons working as a security detail.

    The ship resisted two attacks, during which the pirates shot against it with rifles and also three rockets. Two of the rockets fell wide of their target while a third landed on the deck of the tanker without exploding. No one on board the vessel was injured.

    The captain of the Aegea finally succeeded in eluding the pirates by taking evasive action.

    The ship, owned by the Greek shipping firm Chandris (Hellas) Inc, had left India heading for the Suez canal without cargo.

    The Maritime Affairs, Islands and Fisheries ministry operation room was informed of the incident, as was the European counter-piracy force.

    [36] Child porn arrest

    A 48-year-old man was arrested and taken before the Piraeus prosecutor on Friday on child pornography charges via the Internet.

    Police electronic crimes squad officers traced the detainees IP and home address and, in a search of his house found "unprecedently harsh" child pornography photographs in digital form in his PC, and four hard drives.

    Weather Forecast

    [37] Cloudy on Saturday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 1C and 18C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 8C to 14C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 11C.

    [38] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    A high-profile disagreement between ministers over the issue of 250-plus hunger striking illegal migrants demanding unconditional legalisation, meetings between the prime minister and political leaders, as well as hiring policies in the wider public sector mostly dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Protesters outside home of former PM Simitis".

    AVGI: "Papandreou's Russian roulette...".

    AVRIANI: "Simitis, liar, bring the money back: protesters"

    DIMOKRATIA: "The triad that wants to ... save Greece".

    ETHNOS: "Clash between ministers due to migrants issue".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Greek leaders snuffing out candle of governance".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Topsy-turvy tussle over hunger striking migrants".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "War between ministers over migrants".

    ESTIA: "Lunacy over objective property tax criteria".

    KATHIMERINI: "Fallout due to illegal migrants".

    IMERISSIA: "Interest rate hike a warning".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Triche hint points to interest rate hike in April".

    NIKI: "Hirings in public sector".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Drums of war against Libya, with Greece's participation".

    ?? ???: "Siemens spectre impedes metro".

    VRADYNI: "Hirings in public sector smell of elections".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [39] UN chief concerned about rate of progress in Cyprus talks

    UNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon remains ''concerned about the rate of progress in the talks'' between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus for a solution to the Cyprus problem, noting that ''it is important that the parties reach convergences on the outstanding core issues as soon as possible.''

    In his assessment report on the status of the negotiations in Cyprus for the information of the members of the Security Council, Ban notes that, ''as I told both leaders when we met on 26 January in Geneva, the moment has come to confront the hard choices.''

    ''The negotiations cannot be an open-ended process, nor can we afford interminable talks for the sake of talks. Now, more than ever, both sides must demonstrate courageous and dedicated leadership and take practical steps to bring the negotiations to a conclusion. This will require both leaders to build a greater level of mutual trust between themselves and between their two communities,'' he notes.

    He adds that in the coming weeks he intends ''to follow closely the leaders' efforts to reach further convergences'' and that ''during the latter part of March, I will assess whether there has been enough progress for me to convene another meeting with the two sides,'' noting that he ''would expect that, at that occasion, they will explain to me how they intend to resolve remaining divergences.''

    In his report, the UN Secretary General reaffirms the basis of the talks. ''Since the beginning of full-fledged negotiations in September 2008, the talks have proceeded on the basis of the UN parameters, relevant Security Council resolutions and the joint leaders' statements made on 23 May 2008 and 1 July 2008. I am satisfied that the two leaders are committed to the bases of the negotiations and they have confirmed that the talks would continue on the agreed UN basis,'' he says.

    He also refers to a possible multilateral meeting. ''When I deem it appropriate and in consultation with both sides, I will determine if there has been sufficient progress on the core issues within and across chapters to warrant the convening of a multilateral meeting. The parameters of such a meeting are still being discussed by the two leaders,'' he notes.

    Ban furthermore gives an outline of convergences and divergences in various chapters of the negotiations.

    ''Regarding the specific issues under negotiation, on EU matters, the sides have reached convergence on certain issues related to Cyprus' representation in Brussels and decision-making in EU bodies. The primary remaining divergence relates to the incorporation of the settlement, including any derogation from the EU acquis, into EU law. Both sides wish to ensure the legal certainty of the settlement but differences remain on how to do this,'' he points out.

    Regarding the chapter on economy, Ban says that ''the sides have come close to completing convergences on the core issues,'' adding that ''there is now agreement on the use of both population and consumption as criteria for calculating how, for a certain transitional period, the north's relative economic disadvantage should be addressed'' and that ''on this question, the parties have yet to agree on the conditions for deciding when this transitional period would expire.''

    The UN Secretary General considers that ''convergences on key issues in governance and power-sharing, including those related to the executive, are crucial to the success of the negotiations.''

    ''Since November, in response to my request to move forward on the remaining areas of divergence in this chapter, both sides have presented a number of bridging proposals. I believe that the remaining divergences are not insurmountable. It is vital that the two sides continue to focus on concluding convergences in this chapter,'' he says.

    On the remaining chapters, which he identifies as property, territory and security, and guarantees, he says ''there is less progress to report.''

    ''On property, there is already a broad conceptual understanding on a mechanism by which this most difficult of issues might be resolved. Since my last report, however, outstanding core issues in property have not been discussed. The stated positions of the sides on this complex topic remain far apart. In addition, while the sides touched on the subject of territory during the identification of core issues, the circumstances in which both sides would be ready to discuss this chapter have yet to be agreed. On security and guarantees, respective core issues have been identified but not discussed,'' he says.

    He adds that ''in the coming weeks, I strongly encourage the sides to deal expeditiously with outstanding core issues,'' noting that ''to do so, they must recognise that some of the key considerations in the above-mentioned three chapters are necessarily inter-related'' and that ''detailed negotiations, not only within these chapters but across these chapters, are required.''

    Despite his concerns about the rate of progress, Ban points out that, following his last assessment of November 2010, ''the leaders had heeded my call to lift the tempo and increase the output of the negotiations and indeed there has been some progress.''

    ''The political environment in the second quarter of this year, however, will likely be less conducive to making substantial progress in the negotiations. As we approach elections scheduled for Cyprus and Turkey, there is a very real risk of the talks losing momentum. There is a need now for greater impetus to achieve substantive agreements on the core issues across all chapters before the electoral cycles are too advanced. I stressed this to both leaders when we met in New York on 18 November 2010 and once again in Geneva on 26 January 2011,'' he notes.

    The UN Secretary General refers to the suggestions he made to the leaders of the two communities, both in New York and Geneva, and also mentions the meetings he had in January and February with world leaders, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Greece and Turkey, and the contacts held by his Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer.

    Regarding the progress of the negotiating process, Ban believes that ''the pace of the talks has quickened,'' despite the temporary absence of the Turkish Cypriot leader, who had to undergo surgery.

    Specifically concerning the Geneva meeting, Ban notes that ''the Turkish Cypriots put forth ideas for a plan which entailed negotiating all chapters in parallel with the exception of security, on the condition of adhering to a specific time table'' and that, ''while the Greek Cypriots are not in favour of a specific timetable for the negotiations, they in turn have submitted their ideas for a three-stage plan.''

    Ban reaffirms that the UN ''respect the talks as a Cypriot-led and Cypriot-owned process and that it is precisely for this reason that we expect the two sides to assume their responsibility to drive the process.''

    ''The destiny of Cyprus is in the hands of its leaders. It is they who must act to reconcile their differences. Without their dedication and commitment to reunifying the island, the process cannot move forward,'' he points out.

    Furthermore, he says that ''both leaders need to make a convincing case to the public that good progress is being made, that the status quo cannot continue, and that a united Cyprus can be achieved that will be to the benefit of both communities.''

    Regarding the role of third parties, Ban urges ''all regional and international actors to remain focused on finding a solution in Cyprus, to speak with one voice and make every effort to support both sides in the ongoing talks,'' noting that ''the three guarantor powers have provided important support for the process and I am grateful for their continued strong interest.''

    Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu are currently engaged in UN-led direct negotiations, with an aim to reunify the island, under a federal roof.

    [40] Cyprus President: UNSG report on Cyprus ''not bad''

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said on Friday that the report of the UN Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon on his Good Offices Mission on Cyprus is ''not bad.''

    ''In my view, the report is not bad,'' President Christofias said, responding to questions after a meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu in the framework of the UN-backed negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    Christofias said that Ban ''insists on the Cypriot ownership of the talks and on the role of the UN as a facilitator of the talks.''

    ''Of course correctly (Ban) insists that the two communities should find a solution in the framework of the talks,'' the president added.

    Concerning Friday's meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader, Christofias said that he exchanged views with Eroglu on the issue of settlers, in the framework of the discussions on the chapter of Governance and Power-sharing.

    ''We submitted our views which are well-known and crystal clear and we expect the response of the Turkish Cypriot side,'' he added.

    The president observed that ''to some extent we are repeating ourselves,'' adding that this is necessary because Eroglu is a new leader.

    Christofias added that the aides of the two leaders will hold two meetings in the coming week, whereas the leaders will meet again on Wednesday.

    Invited to comment on reports by the Turkish Cypriot press that there is a complication in the talks because Eroglu is not accepting issues that have been agreed during private meetings with Eroglu's predecessor, Mehmet Ali Talat, as these agreements are not included in the UN minutes, Christofias said there are discussions on what has been included in the UN minutes and on what has been agreed in the presence of the UN.

    He underlined however that ''we will thro away these things.''

    [41] Leaders discuss governance and power sharing

    President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu discussed on Friday the chapter of governance and power sharing, during their meeting held in the framework of direct negotiations for the solution of the Cyprus problem.

    Speaking to the press after the meeting which lasted over an hour and a half, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim said that the meeting took place in a cordial atmosphere.

    She added that the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus discussed the chapter of governance and power sharing and agreed to meet next

    Wednesday, the 9th of March, at 11 in the morning.

    Buttenheim also said that the representatives of the two leaders will also meet twice next week. Their first meeting will be on Tuesday, 8th of March, but "we're not sure yet if it will be morning or afternoon that is still to be decided", she added.

    Their second meeting will take place next Friday, the 11th of March, in the morning.

    Asked whether the two leaders had exchanged any views on the Secretary-General's report for Cyprus, she replied: "They did not have an exchange of views, but they both acknowledged that they had received it and they were reading it".

    Replying to another question, she reiterated that two leaders discussed the governance and power-sharing chapter, which covers a range of issues.

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

    The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus are currently engaged in UN-led negotiations, with an aim to reunify the island, under a federal roof.

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: ILIAS MATSIKAS


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