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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-03-09

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

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

Wednesday, 9 March 2011 Issue No: 3738

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greek gov't to pursue 'global solution' at European summits, PM says
  • [02] PM meets with Samaras, reiterates determination to clash at summit
  • [03] Samaras: Drastic change of Memorandum conditions
  • [04] Papariga rules out agreement with government
  • [05] LA.OS' leader Karatzaferis
  • [06] Leftist leader rejects competitiveness pact
  • [07] PM: Comprehensive package solution, or no solution
  • [08] Cabinet meeting on Wednesday
  • [09] Greek, Turkish FMs outline positions on Aegean, EU relations
  • [10] ND vice president meets Turkish FM
  • [11] PM on Libya crisis
  • [12] ND leader visits factory in Thessaloniki
  • [13] ND leader Samaras addresses event for women
  • [14] LAOS party leader meets ambassador of Iran
  • [15] Greece raises 1.625 bln euros from 26-week T-bill auction
  • [16] EU Parliament votes in favour of financial transaction tax, eurobonds
  • [17] Greece 29th of 139 countries in WEF survey on attractive environment for tourism development
  • [18] Stocks nosedive on Tues.
  • [19] Greek bond market closing report
  • [20] ADEX closing report
  • [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [22] Winter arrives in Greece with vengeance
  • [23] Concessionaire responds to snowfall-caused traffic jam
  • [24] Six dead in fire in Chinese store in Egaleo
  • [25] Physician: Hunger-striking migrants prevented from eating by solidarity com't members
  • [26] Search in Souda Bay continues; 1,500 Bangladeshi airlifted from Hania
  • [27] Two migrant-smugglers arrested, 20 illegal migrants intercepted in Igoumenitsa port
  • [28] Brief takeover of local party office in Ioannina
  • [29] Duo arrested for attempting craps games heist
  • [30] Drug arrest in NW Greece
  • [31] Dead sea turtle washes ashore in Pieria
  • [32] Book on Nazi massacres in Greece during WWII
  • [33] Tree planting in Xanthi in memory of journalist
  • [34] Folklore exhibition dedicated to Estonia
  • [35] Cloudy on Wednesday
  • [36] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [37] President Christofias: Famagusta is a test of Turkey's intentions Politics

  • [01] Greek gov't to pursue 'global solution' at European summits, PM says

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking after his meetings with opposition party leaders on Tuesday, said that the Greek government will pursue a "global solution" in the crucial European Union Summit meetings on March 11 and 25.

    Papandreou said that he notified that this is the Greek position and this is the struggle that the government will wage. He called on all party leaders, as he said, to assume their responsibilities and support this national, as he termed it, effort because it concerns all.

    The prime minister also mentioned that in light of the two summits there are many open issues for negotiating. Among them he referred to the European economic governance, the so-called competitiveness plan, the future support mechanism, and the terms for serving the debt by member-states facing problems such as Greece. Also, as he said, there are the issues of the eurobond and the imposition of a tax on fiscal transactions, two issues that the European Parliament ratified on Tuesday.

    Papandreou said that the global solution that Greece is promoting is also necessary for the safeguarding of the stability of the eurozone. Greece is working hard and creatively for such a solution but, as he stressed, this solution must also be real. Meaning, as he explained, that Europe cannot be taken by surprise by the markets nor appear as dragging itself behind them.

    The prime minister termed the struggle being waged by Greece for markets to function for the benefit of citizens, a struggle of democracy.

    The government's main pursuit, as the prime miniser underlined, is for Greece to stand on its feet as soon as possible. This, he added, will be good for Greece as well as for Europe.

    "Our conviction is that the Greek issue is at the same time a European issue and the European issue is at the same time a Greek one," he noted.

    "We are waging the struggle to achieve the best possible for the country," Papandreou added, "and we shall continue all together the effort for the homeland to stand on its feet and for us not to experience again the difficult situations we are living today."

    [02] PM meets with Samaras, reiterates determination to clash at summit

    Prime minister George Papandreou on Tuesday reiterated his determination to clash in the upcoming eurogroup and EU summits if necessary, during a meeting with main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras.

    The premier also stressed that Greece will insist on a package solution, believing that there is no other solution, and on that basis will wage its battle at the March 11 eurogroup and March 25 EU summits.

    Papandreou also said that the government respects the different approaches of the political forces, and that was why his meetings throughout the day with the political party leaders aim at understanding and at support for the national effort in view of the summit.

    "It is not simply a matter of consensus," Papandreou said, adding that the assumption of political responsibility by all the political forces is needed.

    According to sources, Papandreou expressed displeasure to Samaras over the fact that no clear reference was made to Greece in last Friday's European People's Party conference, which was attended by the ND leader.

    The same sources said that Papandreou and Samaras also discussed the ongoing speculation on early general elections, which the prime minister categorically ruled out, stressing that the government still has much work ahead and that early elections were neither in the thoughts nor the options of the government.

    [03] Samaras: Drastic change of Memorandum conditions

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras called for a drastic change in the conditions of the Memorandum as the only solution to Greece's economic problem, in a statement at ND headquarters shortly after a meeting with prime minister George Papandreou ahead of the critical eurogroup and EU summits later in the month.

    The problem today is the asphyxiation caused to the Greek economy by the Memorandum itself, Samaras said, adding that even if auspicious decisions are secured at the EU summits on management of the debt, such as extension of the EU/IMF support mechanism loan's repayment period, that of itself will not suffice to solve the problem.

    According to ND sources, the premier briefed Samaras on his intention to put forward matters concerning management of the debt at the upcoming summits.

    Samaras, on his part, reiterated his own positions in favor of the issue of a euro-bond, the issue of a developmental bond, and extension of the repayment period for Greece's 110 billion euros support mechanism loan, as well as reduction of the cost of borrowing and the repurchase of Greek bonds.

    The main opposition leader said he was promoting these positions in his meetings with EU officials as well as his counterparts in the European People's Party, especially of those countries facing similar problems, such as Spain, Ireland and Portugal.

    Samaras further stressed that such a package deal should in no way entail new, harsh measures for the Greek economy.

    [04] Papariga rules out agreement with government

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga ruled out all prospect of reaching consensus with the government after meeting Prime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday, while stressing that new and even worse austerity measures were imminent.

    "We cannot make proposals to the government about whether the rope that we will use to hang the Greek people will be silk or hemp. We foresee that there will be an agreement within the framework of the European Union for a controlled default. Whatever deal there may be, no matter what variation, one thing is a given: new, unsupportable measures against the Greek people and the peoples of Europe," she said.

    Papariga underlined that consensus with the government under these conditions was impossible and warned that people would be best off if they fought the coming events united.

    Concerning policy for illegal migration, she called on the government to "exhaust all margins" for a solution before it was too late.

    "Especially when we see with what desperate people we are dealing with, when they prefer to leap into the sea in the freezing cold rather than face a forced return to their countries".

    [05] LA.OS' leader Karatzaferis

    Opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) leader George Karatzaferis warned that the future of Europe, not just the future of Greece, is at stake during a March 25 EU summit, in comments after meeting with Prime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday.

    "The question is whether all of Europe will become a German province," he said, clarifying that he will support the government only if it adopts a "policy of offense".

    Karatzaferis stressed that the "defensive game" played by the governments of PASOK and New Democracy (ND) was ineffective, and that "we have known only defeats and downgradings".

    [06] Leftist leader rejects competitiveness pact

    Opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday called for the rejection of the Competitiveness Pact at the upcoming EU Summit, as well as a referendum and the renegotiation of debt within the framework of the EU.

    In statements made after a meeting with the prime minister, Tsipras pointed out that the Competitiveness Pact, in essence, is an even tougher European Memorandum, one with no timeframe.

    Tsipras also suggested a referendum to strengthen the country's negotiating ability.

    [07] PM: Comprehensive package solution, or no solution

    "We will either have a comprehensive, package solution, or there will be no solution, this is our position," prime minister George Papandreou stressed at a ministerial meeting he chaired on Monday evening ahead of Friday's critical eurogroup summit meeting in Brussels and a March 25 EU summit.

    He said that a package solution was the solution "that will help Europe, the eurozone, the euro currency and, naturally, Greece and the other markets being hit by the markets", adding that "there is no doubt that this requires of us the strict adherence to our targets and commitments, and the changes that need to be made".

    However, the premier stressed, the EU "also has the collective responsibility to formulate a safe environment for the euro and, consequently, for the management of the crisis, in order to convince the markets".

    He said that proposal currently on the table was founded on the decisions taken by the EU in February, and referred to various points such as economic governance, the Merkel-Sarkozy proposal for a Competitiveness Pact, the future European support mechanism, and management of Greece's and Ireland's debts, and reiterated: "Our position is that there must be a comprehensive package solution, and this is where will wage the battle".

    Papandreou said that now was the opportunity for the EU to finally realise that "we need to take such decisions that will be effective vis-a-vis the markets, because we constantly take decisions that are a step behind the conditions being formulated by the so-called markets, and this is why we must wage this battle".

    "In the EU, we are waging a battle of democracy in the sense that we, the politicians, are called on to determine the policies that will calm, tame and utilise the markets to the benefit of the citizens, instead of the markets continuing to act in fear and, many times, with self-serving, profit-oriented purposes and creating problems for our policies and decisions regardless of the fact that those policies and decisions are correct, well-grounded, and have the support of peoples and governments," Papandreou explained.

    The Greek premier noted that although the battle up to March 25 is critical, "it is not, however, the end of the world", given that "if positive decisions are not forthcoming we, in every instance, must carry on with our program and put increasing weight on our own power" while, in the event that the battle goes well, "this does not mean that because a better climate has been created that we shouldn't make the major changes or implement the changes that have already been decided".

    He further stressed that the country's debt, although more manageable, continues to exist and is very high, and criticised main opposition New Democracy (ND) for the 'legacy it left behind'.

    Another battle being waged is that of implementation of the changes, given that Greece's problem "cannot be faced only through reduction of salaries and pensions, but is something much wider, a state system, a structure that is not productive, which lacks transparency, which contains lawlessness, lack of confidence in the institutions, and that is something that cannot be solved only through legislation," the premier added.

    He stressed the importance of stabilising the financial and credit markets of Greece and the economy, given that Greece is a point of stability in the wider region of the Balkans and the Middle East "where the situation is particularly fluid and where the pressures could potentially intensify in our neighborhood" on the issue of a possible new wave of refugees.

    Greece, on its part, is doing what it must and is on a track that has been positively evaluated, Papandreou said, adding that the country's "negotiating card" is "our credibility, and it is on this basis that we are conducting the negotiation".

    On Monday's downgrading of the Greek economy by three notches by Moody's, Papandreou charged that "this new downgrading is unjustified, since it has no basis in relation to the course of our program".

    He assessed that the climate on the markets is also burdened by the major problem of the Irish banks, given that it also burdens the state debt and the deficits and creates a situation in the markets that is very hard to confront, noting that this was why Ireland entered the support mechanism.

    [08] Cabinet meeting on Wednesday

    Prime Minister George Papandreou will chair a cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning, it was announced on Tuesday evening.

    Earlier in the day, the premier will chair a meeting of the Government Council of Foreign and Defence affairs (KYSEA).

    The prime minister will then depart for Brussels where he will be meeting with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

    On Thursday, Papandreou will travel to Paris for a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

    [09] Greek, Turkish FMs outline positions on Aegean, EU relations

    Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu began a three-day official visit to Greece on Tuesday, with his Greek counterpart Dimitris Droutsas later stressing after talks that Athens will contribute towards the goal of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey "cooperating as full members of the EU for their common future."

    Beyond bilateral relations or issues linked with the EU, both men also discussed the situation in the southern Mediterranean during the 45-minute meeting.

    On his part, Davutoglu expressed what he called a "message of friendship, good-neighbourliness and a common destiny," while adding that in the near future "the entire world will see the excellent cooperation between Turkey and Greece."

    Turning to core issues that have dominated Greek-Turkish talks for decades, Droutsas said boldness and decisiveness are necessary for substantive progress within the UN framework to be achieved vis-?-vis the long-standing Cyprus problem. He also reiterated Athens' standing position that a resolution to the Cyprus problem is a condition for a full normalisation of bilateral ties.

    In reference to the recently re-emerged question of delineating the continental shelf in the Aegean, the Greek FM repeated Athens' position on upcoming exploratory contacts, namely, that such talks aim at the "self-evident ... (delineation) from Evros (in extreme northeast Greece) to Kastellorizo (an island in the south of Rhodes and off Turkey's southwest Mediterranean coast)."

    "The framework is clear, one based on international law, sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said, underlining that certain practices by Ankara, "ones that do not contribute to our common effort", should cease.

    Referring to other timely issues, such as illegal immigration, Droutsas called for better cooperation between the European Union and Turkey, as well as on the bilateral level. Along those lines, he praised a recently penned EU-Turkey agreement for the repatriation of third country nationals, expressing a hope that it will soon enter into force so that discussion over lifting the visa regime for Turkish citizens can commence.

    On his part, Davutoglu cited a "new phase" in cooperation, beyond what he called "old stereotypes" in Greek-Turkish ties. He expressed satisfaction over Athens' support within the EU over the visa waiver issue, something he said was very important for his country.

    In response to the comments on the Cyprus issue, he said the entire east Mediterranean should be considered as a "basin of peaceful co-existence. Cyprus must become an island of peace." In reference to the problems faced by Turkey in course towards the EU due to the Cyprus issue, he merely noted that it will continue to "plague our relations" in the wider region.

    Davutoglu also commented on the unprecedented developments occurring in North Africa, where Turkey enjoys significant relations with the region's countries, saying he briefed Droutsas on his recent visit to the area.

    Kastellorizo

    Asked directly about his most recent statements regarding Kastellorizo, carried in an interview published by the Athens daily "Kathimerini" over the weekend, Davutoglu said there was no dispute of the isle belonging to Greece.

    "My message is that Turkey has a positive approach in resolution (of problems in the) Aegean," while qualifying that his position on Kastellorizo is "absolutely geographic ... Greece has its own positions, but issues should be discussed in the open."

    Finally, the Turkish prime minister was asked about his same-day visit to the Thrace province, which hosts a Muslim minority. Davutoglu emphasised that it was an "inseparable part of Greek sovereignty", while saying he wants to get to know the region better through his visit, which will also include stops to the cities of Thessaloniki and Kavala in northern Greece.

    "Greece is a free and hospitable country, and Mr. Davutoglu is welcome everywhere," Droutsas said.

    [10] ND vice president meets Turkish FM

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party vice president Dimitris Avramopoulos met on Tuesday with visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

    Speaking after the meeting, Avramopoulos said "representing the President of ND, Mr. Antonis Samaras, I met with the Foreign Minister of Turkey Mr. Ahmet Davutoglu. Foreign Sector Chief Mr. Panos Panayiotopoulos participated in the meeting," adding that "we had a cordial and friendly discussion. It is known that with Mr. Davutoglu we are acquainted for a long time and I requested from him to convey a warm greeting to the friend, Prime Minister of Turkey Mr. (Tayyip) Erdogan."

    Avramopoulos further said that they had the opportunity to discuss during the meeting all matters concerning developments in the wider region, the new factors being shaped and Greek-Turkish relations.

    "It is known, and it is our steadfast position, that we encourage the promotion of initiatives on strengthening relations between the two countries. On the other hand, however, we reiterated once again the fixed and steadfast Greek positions on all issues, always noting that for Greece there is only one problem for settlement. That of the definition of the continental shelf in the Aegean," he added.

    Asked also whether they discussed Kastelorizo, Avramopoulos said "I set out with clarity the Greek position and no margin was left for misinterpretations."

    [11] PM on Libya crisis

    Government sources in Athens, replying to a question by the press regarding a dispatch by the AFP from Libya, revealed on Tuesday night that Prime Minister George Papandreou held a telephone conversation on Tuesday with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi following an initiative by the latter.

    The prime minister, according to the same sources, after listening to Gaddafi's views on the happenings in the country, underlined to colonel Gaddafi the importance of the resolution of the UN Security Council, stressing in parallel the need for finding a solution to prevent the developing humanitarian crisis and the escalation of the confrontation and violence that is causing an increasing number of victims and is intensifying the possibility of civil war.

    The AFP, invoking the state agency of Libya Jana, broadcast earlier that the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi warned in his telepehone conversation with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou against "whatever design" against his country.

    [12] ND leader visits factory in Thessaloniki

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Tuesday visited a factory in Thessaloniki that employs mostly women (72 pct) on the occasion of the International Women's Day, celebrated on March 8.

    Samaras met with factory management and employees who briefed him that they work four-days-a-week on a rotating basis and have accepted a 30 pct wage reduction.

    [13] ND leader Samaras addresses event for women

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, speaking at an event of the party's youth group ONNED for women in Thessaloniki on Tuesday, called for more young people and women joining ND.

    "We see next to us women who have succeeded in entering the undisputed territory of men for years in a series of professions. Our struggle is to bring renewal to ND and if something will make me proud, in the future, will be for me to have achieved this renewal in practice and not in words," he said.

    He placed emphasis on the activation of women and stressed that "if we search really, every sector has the best, and if they think about it they might sacrifice certain dreams and prospects for them to join the difficult sport of politics."

    Samaras stressed that ND's aim is social progress with merit and noted "without you we will not forge ahead. With you we shall forge ahead and we shall lead the country where it deserves, where it is suited, where it belongs, which is in progress and merit and with the right to the dream of every man and every woman."

    [14] LAOS party leader meets ambassador of Iran

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party leader George Karatzaferis, speaking after his meeting with the ambassador of Iran in Athens Mehdi Honardoost, expressed the view that the future moves in the region of the Middle East and the wider Mediterranean must include Iran's possible reactions.

    Karatzaferis termed Iran a big power and a friendly country, while saying that an in-depth discussion took place during his meeting. He also termed the current period extremely crucial that must not add on more problems. On his part, the ambassador of Iran, according to sources of the LAOS party, asked Karatzaferis, whom he termed an old friend of his, for his opinion on the latest developments in the region of the Middle East and North Africa.

    Moreover, in a statement, Karatzaferis commented on all that visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said about Kastelorizo earlier in the day, stressing that from the beginning of the year and in Parliament he had "warned the government that Turkey would try to invent, to trump up ways to take Kastelorizo out of the development of the exclusive economic zone."

    "Mr. Davutoglu has begun to orchestrate this situation. Every day that passes he is acting against our country on a major national issue," Karatzaferis concluded.

    Financial News

    [15] Greece raises 1.625 bln euros from 26-week T-bill auction

    Greece raised 1.625 billion euros on Tuesday from an auction of 26-week treasury bills, with an interest rate of 4.75 percent (up from 4.64 percent of the previous such auction).

    Total offers reached 4.485 billion euros, thereby over-subscribing the issue by 3.59 times. The auction was held through primary dealers, with the settlement date being Friday, March 11, 2011, according to the Public Debt Management Organisation.

    [16] EU Parliament votes in favour of financial transaction tax, eurobonds

    STRASBOURG (ANA-MPA - N. Roussis)

    The European Parliament on Tuesday voted in favoured of a report submitted by Greek MEP Anny Podimata that calls for the imposition of a tax on financial transactions in Europe and the issue of Eurobonds to fund projects. Both proposals are strongly supported by the Greek government as part of an overall package of measures to exert a measure of control on markets and financial support mechanisms for member-states.

    [17] Greece 29th of 139 countries in WEF survey on attractive environment for tourism development

    Greece ranked 29th among a total of 139 countries with respect to the most attractive environment for development of the tourism sector, according to a survey released on Tuesday by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the tourism branch for 2011.

    In the survey, conducted for the fourth consecutive year, the WEF grades 139 countries around the world on the basis of 60 indicators, including regulatory framework, security, health services, infrastructures, prices, culture, environmental protection and commuter transport.

    The top ranking country was Switzerland, followed by Germany, France, Austria, Sweden, Britain, the US, Canada, Spain and Singapore in the top 10 positions.

    Cyprus ranked 24th and Turkey 50th.

    According to the report, the tourism sector globally was recovering slowly from the economic crisis, and was reservedly optimistic for the future, seeking new and innovative ideas for successful growth.

    [18] Stocks nosedive on Tues.

    Stocks ended significantly lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday in the wake of Monday's downgrading of the Greek economy by Moody's. The composite index dropped 3.81 pct to end at 1,525.50 points. Turnover was a moderate to low 133.55 million euros.

    The Big Cap index fell 4.53 pct, the Mid Cap index dropped 3.05 pct and the Small Cap index fell 4.20 pct.

    All indexes moved lower, with Banks (6.26 pct) suffering the biggest losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 143 to 20 with another 30 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -3.23%

    Industrials: -2.97%

    Commercial: -2.29%

    Construction: -4.18%

    Media: -4.97%

    Oil & Gas: -2.31%

    Personal & Household: -2.52%

    Raw Materials: -4.56%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.37%

    Technology: -3.53%

    Telecoms: -0.27%

    Banks: -6.26%

    Food & Beverages: -3.37%

    Health: -5.58%

    Utilities: -3.07%

    Chemicals: -0.25%

    Financial Services: - 5.32%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 4.69

    ATEbank: 0.73

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.10

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.69

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.27

    National Bank of Greece: 6.15

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.30

    OPAP: 15.50

    OTE: 7.50

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.40

    Titan: 17.00

    [19] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose to 944 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.73 pct and the German Bund 3.29 pct. Turnover was 61 million euros, of which 7 million were buy orders and the rest 54 million euros sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving higher. The 12-month rate was 1.94 pct, the six-month rate 1.49 pct, the three-month 1.18 pct and the one-month rate 0.90 pct.

    [20] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.45 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising to 46.579 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,988 contracts worth 35.310 million euros, with 28,708 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 25,297 contracts worth 11.269 million euros with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's (6,520) contracts followed by National Bank (3,318), Alpha Bank (2,907), Marfin Popular Bank (2,841), Eurobank (2,017), MIG (1,972), OTE (1,096) and PPC (982).

    [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.400

    Pound sterling 0.867

    Danish kroner 7.517

    Swedish kroner 8.917

    Japanese yen 115.56

    Swiss franc 1.305

    Norwegian kroner 7.817

    Canadian dollar 1.364

    Australian dollar 1.388

    General News

    [22] Winter arrives in Greece with vengeance

    Winter has arrived in Greece with a vengeance, with low temperatures, gale-force winds and snowfall throughout the country on Tuesday, including flurries in central Athens, with central and western Macedonia and the Peloponnese the hardest hit areas, especially on high ground.

    All ships have been banned from sailing from the ports of Piraeus, Lavrion and Rafina in Attica prefecture due to gale-force winds of up to 10 beaufort velocity in the seas, as well as the ferry crossing to nearby Salamis island from Perama. The sailing ban also affects the areas of Prinos-Kavala, Alexandroupolis-Samothraki, Arkitsa-Aedipsos, and Volos-Sporades Islands.

    [23] Concessionaire responds to snowfall-caused traffic jam

    The "Nea Odos" consortium holding the Athens-Lamia national motorway concession expressed its deep regret for the motorists' ordeal as a result of the heavy snowfall on Monday night.

    In a statement issued on Tuesday, the consortium claimed that a total of six long haul trucks either skidded off the motorway or were immobilised between 8 pm on Monday evening and shortly after midnight on Tuesday. Many motorists used the emergency lane blocking the immediate intervention of the company's snow removing machinery, the statement underlined.

    The government -- which itself came under intense fire for the traffic jam -- along with media and the motorists themselves sharply condemned the consortium on Tuesday, with the relevant minister, Dimitris Reppas, ordering an inquiry and expressing his apology for the problem

    [24] Six dead in fire in Chinese store in Egaleo

    At least six people were killed in a fire that broke out in the first hours of Tuesday in a multi-storey Chinese clothing store in the Aghia Varvara district of Egaleo.'

    The fire brigade rushed to the site, but found the building, comprising a basement, ground floor and two upper floors enveloped in flames, after being alerted of the fire at 2:16 a.m., just minutes after it broke out.

    Two hours later, when firefighters managed to enter the building, they found six charred bodies, but fear the number could rise as all the storeys had not yet been inspected.

    Firefighters believe the bodies belong to the migrants who worked in the store and also slept in the building, and were trapped by the flames.

    [25] Physician: Hunger-striking migrants prevented from eating by solidarity com't members

    Two college students identified as members of a migrants' solidarity committee were arrested on Tuesday following charges that they prevented two hunger-striking migrants from receiving food at an Athens-area hospital.

    According to a health ministry announcement, the migrants asked for food from the hospital's staff but were not served following the intervention by the two suspects, identified as two female college students. The allegation leading to the arrest was made by the director of the Erythros Stavros (Red Cross) Hospital pathology department.

    They are due to face an Athens prosecutor on Wednesday.

    In a later reaction, the groups supporting the hunger-striking illegal migrants called for the immediate release of the two women, while accusing the government of using "police repression" to squash the hunger strike.

    [26] Search in Souda Bay continues; 1,500 Bangladeshi airlifted from Hania

    Inclement weather conditions in Crete continued to hamper the search for 11 Bangladesh nationals that jumped off a ferry boat on Saturday evening in Souda Bay, near Hania, in order to evade repatriation to their home country.

    The south Asian labourers were part of a group of nearly 1,300 people being evacuated from eastern Libya aboard the vessel "Ionian King". Three people, in fact, drowned in the unseasonably frigid waters of the bay. The search continued on both land and sea.

    Meanwhile, another ferry boat carrying 300 evacuees from nine different Asian countries arrived after midnight on Tuesday in Souda Bay.

    Some 1,500 Bangladeshi were airlifted out of Hania airport on Sunday and Monday.

    [27] Two migrant-smugglers arrested, 20 illegal migrants intercepted in Igoumenitsa port

    Two migrant-traffickers were arrested and 20 illegal migrants were intercepted early Tuesday morning in the port of Igoumenitsa, after port authorities found the illegals, all of Asian nationality, hidden in a crypt in a truck.

    The 38-year-old male truck driver and 36-year-old woman co-driver were arrested and the truck was confiscated by Igou-menitsa port authorities, which are conducting a preliminary investigation into the case.

    [28] Brief takeover of local party office in Ioannina

    A group of self-styled "anti-state" activists took over a local PASOK party office in the northwest city of Ioannina on Tuesday and unfurled a banner in support of the 250-plus hunger-striking illegal migrants in Athens and Thessaloniki demanding their legalisation in the country. No damages were reported sans a broken door of the adjacent office.

    [29] Duo arrested for attempting craps games heist

    Two suspects, a 19-year-old repatriated ethnic Greek from the former Soviet Union and a 22-year-old foreign national, were arrested and charged with attempting to rob five foreign nationals shooting dice at a construction site in downtown Thessaloniki, police announced on Tuesday.

    A third suspect is still wanted, accused of masterminding the holdup ostensibly in revenge for losing a large sum of money in a game of craps with the intended victims a few days ago.

    Police said the two suspects were armed and had their faces covered. Shots were fired into the air when the robbery victims tried to resist.

    [30] Drug arrest in NW Greece

    A 46-year-old local man, a resident of Athens, was arrested in the region of Karteri, Thesprotia prefecture, in NW Greece, after a police discovered 99 kg of unprocessed cannabis he had allegedly picked up at the Greek-Albanian frontier supplied by Albanian drug traffickers, authorities announced on Tuesday.

    The suspect will be led before a prosecutor.

    [31] Dead sea turtle washes ashore in Pieria

    A dead Caretta caretta sea turtle was washed ashore in Leptokaria, Pieria prefecture, in northern Greece, the third such incident in the last four months, it was reported on Tuesday.

    According to the vet that examined it, apparently it was the victim of a ship propeller.

    [32] Book on Nazi massacres in Greece during WWII

    A book entitled "Greek Holocausts -- 1940-45", chronicling the massacres committed by Axis occupation forces in 90 towns and villages across Greece was unveiled by the recently formed Network of Martyr Cities and Villages of Greece During WWII.

    The 414-page book (Livanis Publishing House) includes detailed evidence on the reprisals unleashed by the German, Italian and Bulgarian occupation forces against civilian populations.

    Notes signed by the mayors or local community presidents of each city or village mentioned pay tribute to the victims of the massacres and demand compensation for the losses.

    [33] Tree planting in Xanthi in memory of journalist

    A tree planting ceremony will be held in Xanthi, northeast Greece, on March 21 in memory of noted Greek-American journalist Lambros Papantoniou, who died in Washington DC in May 2009.

    The event is organised by the Greek-American group "Plant your roots in Greece".

    A park named after Papantoniou will be inaugurated in November in the village of Mandra, where he is buried.

    [34] Folklore exhibition dedicated to Estonia

    An exhibition with traditional knit gloves from Estonia will be held at the Cultural Centre in Tripolis, southern Greece, on March 11-20.

    The gloves on display are copies of exhibits at the National Museum of Estonia. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about Estonia, listen to its folk music, see photographs on display or watch an English-language film on the country's history. A knitting workshop for adults will be open in the afternoons.

    The exhibition is organised by the Greek Guide Association in cooperation with the municipality of Tripolis.

    Weather Forecast

    [35] Cloudy on Wednesday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 4-9 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -7C and 10C. Cloudy with possible local snowfall or sleet in Athens, with northerly 5-8 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from -2C to 5C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -3C to 5C.

    [36] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Economic issues and reactions to Moody's downgrading of Greece's credit rating were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Tuesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The government in state of full dissolution..."

    AVRIANI: "The sooner we default, the better for the country".

    ELEFTHEROS: "What George's (Papandreou) participation (as member) in the Ghaddafi Foundation hides".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Loophole for retirement 4-7 years earlier".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The lenders divided into two camps, Athens insists".

    ESTIA: "Beneath the circumstances".

    ETHNOS: "Which professions remain in the 'heavy and hazardous' work category".

    IMERISSIA: "Suspicious blow from Moody's".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "The unexpected downgrading (of Greece's credit rating by Moody's) causes reactions".

    TA NEA: "Changes/breathers to the social security system".

    VRADYNI: "Downgrading, with the 'family silver' as the target".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [37] President Christofias: Famagusta is a test of Turkey's intentions

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The issue of Famagusta has great significance because it is a test whether the Turkish side is actually ready to move towards the reunification of Cyprus and to end the occupation, President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has stressed.

    Speaking Tuesday during a reception given at the Presidential Palace on the occasion of the International Women's Day, President Christofias said that if Turkey ''does not take this step, everyone may doubt about the good intentions of Turkey''.

    Referring to the initiative on the issue of Famagusta undertaken in July 2010, he added that a special proposal was also made.

    UN Security Council resolution 550 (1984) considers any attempts to settle any part of Varosha (the fenced off area of Famagusta) by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the UN.

    Famagusta was captured by the advancing Turkish troops during the second phase of the Turkish invasion, in mid August 1974. Since then, it has remained sealed off, under the control of the Turkish military.

    As regards the International Women's Day, President Christofias said it is a day of celebration for the two genders and for all who are interested in equality within the society.

    He congratulated Cypriot women for their struggle for the freedom of Cyprus, for social justice, democracy and for being pioneers to end occupation and to reunify Cyprus.

    President's spouse Elsi Christofia said that March 8 should signify a universal struggle for improving working conditions, family conditions, care for children and elders.

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