|Friday, 23 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-03-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 16 March 2011 Issue No: 3744
 FinMin: Foreign investor interest in Greek privatisations, real estate developmentBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/I. Karanassopoulou-M. Aroni)
Foreign investors have already expressed an interest in the Greek privatisation programme state property development, according to Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou.
Speaking to the ANA-MPA on the sidelines of an ECOFIN council here, Papaconstantinou clarified that investors' interest has to do with state enterprises as well as the public real estate.
Asked about the sustainability of the Greek debt, Papaconstantinou noted that "we have always believed that the Greek debt is fully sustainable. European decisions help the sustainability and also bring relief to the markets, which have expressed some doubt about whether the actual repayment schedule and the cost of servicing the debt are too high. Both the extension of the maturities and the lowering of the interest rates are in the right direction".
Regarding the high-profile 50-billion-euro programme, the Greek FinMin emphasised: "The action plan we are drafting will show the huge potential that exists out there. We have already had great interest by foreign investors, both for individual corporate entities, as well as for individual assets, in terms of public properties that would be available".
"The landscape is very different now," following the significant decisions for Greece taken in an EU Summit last week, George Papaconstantinou told reporters. He added that both a decision to extend the repayment period of the loans and a decision to lower the interest by one percentage point, covered the total loan of 80 billion euros offered by eurozone states. He noted that the extension would transfer around 50 billion euros from two difficult years (2014 and 2015) to the future, while the lower interest would cut around 6.0 billion euros from interest payments. "Both decisions send a message of viability to international markets," the Greek FinMin said, adding that a similar extension was examined by the International Monetary Fund for its loan facility, totalling 30 billion euros, to Greece.
Papaconstantinou said also a decision allowing the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) to purchase state bonds from primary markets was very significant for Greece, adding that in case that Greece asked the mechanism to buy its state bonds, it did not mean an additional memorandum. He said that Greece would need around 66 billion euros in 2012, of which 24 billion euros have been agreed with the Eurozone and the IMF. The FinMin emphasised that the country aimed to return to markets in 2012, if not as early as late 2011.
Papaconstantinou said an action plan to raise 50 billion euros from the more efficient management of state property - envisaging privatisations for the period 2011, 2012 and 2012 - will be ready by the end of March. The government will also draft a medium-term fiscal strategy programme - with a horizon of 2015 - by the end of the month, Papaconstantinou said, adding that this programme would be discussed with political parties and social partners.
He underlined that continuing a fiscal consolidation program, promoting reforms, efficiency in management of state property and a privatisation programme were preconditions for Greece to exit the crisis.
Finally, he said some details needed to be cleared out regarding wider decisions over the operation of a support mechanism in the Eurozone, although he stressed that there were pending issues regarding Greece.
"The European Union is completing a European structure by strengthening economic governance, competitiveness and debt management in the Eurozone," the minister concluded.
 PM: 'A victory was won in Brussels'Greece won a victory in Brussels and this victory belonged to the Greek citizens who daily lent their support to the effort underway, Prime Minister George Papandreou told PASOK's Parliamentary group on Tuesday.
Briefing PASOK MPs on the results of last Friday's Eurozone summit, Papandreou stressed that the government would "continue on the road of great changes" and said that he had boundless confidence in the strength of the Greek people.
The prime minister said the country had made superhuman efforts in the past 18 months, going up against difficulties both at home and abroad. He was scathing in his criticism of main opposition New Democracy and all those who persisted in adopting a querulous attitude to developments, including those complaining about the results of the Eurozone summit.
Papandreou stressed that mismanagement in Greece derived from the country's political leadership, while the present government's efforts to take the country forward after the 2009 elections were soon converted into an effort to save it.
The premier underlined the struggle to overcome the privileged groups within the country who did not want anything to change and acted as though the Memorandum had created all the problems, rather than the problems leading to the Memorandum.
He stressed that they had borrowed in the name of the Greek government, only to bail out when the time came to pay, leaving others to pick up the bill.
"We signed the Memorandum that they should have signed themselves, like the Irish did," he said, noting that the previous government had instead chosen to flee and let PASOK "pull the coals out of the fire" while they stood on the sidelines, criticising and prophesying doom.
Papandreou noted that Greece's EU partners had acknowledged the country's titanic effort and taken decisions at the EU summit that were favourable for all involved. He called the decision a vote of confidence in Greece and a message to speculators that strengthened the single currency.
He stressed, also, that the changes being made by the government would have been necessary even if Greece had no debt. Along the same lines, he said the 50-billion-euro privatisation programme was an issue that had been discussed in Greece for decades, not something imposed by "bad foreigners".
Beginning his speech, Papandreou had also referred to the nuclear accidents in Japan and expressed Greece's full support for the Japanese people during this time, when they were being visited by yet another nuclear tragedy. He particularly praised the small number of workers that had remained at the failing power plants and were doing their utmost to contain the disaster. He noted that the developments in Japan had confirmed the correctness of Greece's decision to avoid the use of nuclear power and called for stress tests for the numerous nuclear power stations in Europe.
The disasters in Japan were strong confirmation of humanity's vulnerability and that control of nuclear energy was a major wager for democracy, Papandreou added.
 PM to brief parliament on EU summit outcomePrime minister George Papandreou will brief parliament on Friday on the results of last week's informal eurogroup and extraordinary EU summits in Brussels, which decided to extend the repayment period for Greece's 110 billion euro EU/IMF support loan and a reduction of the interest rate.
Papandreou on Tuesday submitted to parliament president Filippos Petsalnikos a relevant request, by virtue of Article 142 A of the Rules of Parliament, which provides that ?the prime minister or government may seek to make announcements or statements to the House at any given time on a serious public matter, for prompt and responsible briefing of the parliament", outside the procedures of an off-the-agenda debate.
The procedure set out in the Rules of Parliament provides for an announcement or statement of the government, by the prime minister, which cannot exceed 10 minutes, and the leaders of the parliamentary groups may state their views for a duration of not more than five minutes each. The prime minister may reply to the leaders, and the reply cannot exceed five minutes. The opposition leaders have the right to a counter-reply not exceeding three minutes each, while the prime minister closes the discussion in a final statement that does not exceed five minutes.
 Government replies to ND, denies 'secret agenda'The government on Tuesday dismissed main opposition New Democracy's accusations concerning a "secret agenda," which ND said included a series new measures that Greece had agreed to during Friday's Eurozone leaders' summit.
"Of course there is no secret agenda. We are pressing ahead to support the country's interests," government spokesman George Petalotis underlined in reply. Prime Minister George Papandreou would outline the results of the Summit during Wednesday's discussion in Parliament, during which the positions of the political party leaders will also be heard, the spokesman added.
Petalotis went on to criticised ND, saying that talk of a 'secret agenda' was its new tactic for trying to belittle any success the country or its government might have.
Asked to explain the statements of a German government spokesman, who said the decisions of the informal summit were taken after Greek promised further cuts and austerity measures, Petalotis said the government went to the summit with a "clear" position, presented the country's true situation honestly, carried out tough negotiations with 17 countries that had often conflicting interests and achieved the results it did "because what we have done but also the prospects we are creating for our own country were recognised".
He suggested that the German spokesman was referring to the government's pre-existing commitment to raise 50 billion euro through exploitation of state assets in an ambitious privatisation programme, which the government had taken itself.
"We are operating in a situation where there are special circumstances. We can make positive steps and get credit for them but unless we continue the same effort with even greater dedication and at even faster rates, it is not certain that we will emerge from the crisis," he said.
The spokesman pointed to figures showing a 40 percent increase in experts in January, saying that these indicated a new extroversion in Greek businesses, proving that Greece had comparative advantages that it had a duty to exploit.
ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis had earlier accused the government of having a 'secret agenda' based on the statements made by German government spokesman Steffen Seibert, who had referred to a "series of commitments" for further cutbacks and reforms in Greece, Portugal and partly in Ireland.
"We ask to know if there are new terms and what commitments the government has made for new measures," he stressed, noting that the German spokesman referred specifically to Greece.
 Alternate DM addresses SEECP meetingBudva, Montenegro (ANA-MPA/G. Milionis)
There are two axes that lead to the cementing of security in the region, the first being enhancement of the relations among the SEECP and the international community and acceleration of the efforts of the countries wishing to join the EU or NATO, Greek alternate defence minister Panos Beglitis said Tuesday, addressing a meeting of the SEECP defence ministers in the Montenegrin city of Budva.
Although the 'odyssey to Ithaca' entails difficulties, incorporation in the Euro-Atlantic family is of great importance for the peoples of SE Europe, as it creates a safe framework for peace and stability in the region.
Greece, he said, fully aware of the fact that regional security and stability are indelibly connected with internal security, commits itself to the prospect of all the Balkan countries joining the EU, and in that respect Greek prime minister George Papandreou launched the "2014 Agenda".
The second axis for consolidating security in the region is joint regional initiatives and participation in the necessary international peacekeeping missions aiming at minimizing the last remaining spots of destabilisation, and the development of mutual trust and cooperation, Beglitis said.
He noted that deterrence and security, in the face of new risks such as "cyber threats" (electronic crime and internet attacks), can no longer be based exclusively on the traditional weapons of tanks, bombings and missiles, and therefore "new, effective mechanisms and tools" need to be developed.
One of the most significant matters for the security of the SEECP countries is prevention of prospective threats through an efficient exchange of information.
He also noted the economic aspect of security, "which has been affected by the economic crisis" and has led countries, "due to reduced defence spending", to seek out economically effective ways to develop and maintain the required security abilities.
In that direction, it is urgently necessary for the SEECP countries to exhaust all prospects of cooperation by setting out priorities, coordinating efforts, where possible, and sharing the potential in a series of sectors such as training maneuvers, confrontation of natural or man-made disasters, and climate change, Beglitis elaborated.
He noted that the SEECP has enhanced the security, political dialogue and cooperation among its member countries, which have also committed themselves to resolving their differences peacefully and to cooperation in relevant initiatives, which is of major importance and perhaps the most important contribution to a secure environment, given that no country can on its own tackle today's complex problems.
Greece, he stressed, under the aegis of the UN, participates in all the peace missions in the Balkans for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity, adding that we aim to adhere to this commitment to the end.
 Foreign ministry: No confirmation of purported Greek-flag ship unloading weapons at Libyan portThe Greek foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it has no information confirming an Al Jazeera tv station claim purporting that a Greek-flagged vessel unloaded weapons at a Libyan port last week.
The full text of the foreign ministry announcement follows:
"Arabic-language Al Jazeera TV yesterday (Monday) made the 'eye-witness' claim that a vessel sailing under the Greek flag unloaded weapons at the Port of Tripoli on Friday, 11 March.
Those responsible at the channel failed to contact the Greek Foreign Ministry or any other authority to crosscheck the reliability of this claim.
A relevant inquiry carried out by the competent Greek authorities elicited no information confirming this claim.
Greece welcomed the adoption by the UN Security Council of Resolution 1970 and is implementing it thoroughly, given that it is the principle tool for exerting pressure on the Qaddafi regime to stop the bloodshed.
At a critical time for stability and peace in the region of the Middle East and North Africa, it is everyone's obligation - and particularly that of the news media - to show responsibility and respect deontological ethics when practicing their profession. The attempt to defame Greece is unacceptable."
 Over 29,000 people carried in ships from LibyaAt least 29,000 people have been carried in ships from Libya to Greece and other destinations, according to information from the Operations Centre of the Greek Coast Guard Harbour Corps.
Ten Greek ships participated in the operation to remove foreign and Greek citizens, including a tanker, two from Cyprus one from China and one from Saint Vincent.
Most of them, about 16,000, were Chinese, 3,211 from Bangladesh, about 3,200 Syrians, 2,189 Filippinos, 2,128 Egyptians, 30 Greeks, etc.
 Education ministry defends school mergers"Schools in the academic year of 2011-2012 will offer more to learning", a ministry of education announcement on Tuesday underlined, adding that the goal is to have "schools that will be able to implement the unified reformed curriculum and the innovative actions promoted within the framework of the materialisation of the new school".
Referring to the merger or establishment of elementary and secondary school units in the next academic year, the statement underlined that "the specific process is being completed after two months of consultations and following a meticulous study of each school case."
The ministry's plan to eliminate nearly 1,900 separate schools -- some housed in the same complex -- around the country via mergers has generated increased criticism by educators' unions, municipalities and parents' assocations.
In elementary schools, the maximum number of pupils per class will be 25, whereas in secondary schools will be 25 pupils plus 10 pct. Each school unit will have less than 400 pupils enrolled in total, the announcement stated.
 Athens mayor on situation in capitalAthens Mayor George Kaminis sounded the alert over the risk of many districts in Athens becoming "inaccessible", stressing that "there is not even a minute to lose" since "the capital's crisis has emergency characteristics." At the same time he stressed the need for short-term measures, such as the turning of closed hotels into student hostels and providing incentives for young couples and businesses.
Briefing the Parliamentary Environment Committee on the plans and priorities of the Athens municipality, Kaminis spoke of a deep feeling of insecurity among citizens that must be remedied immediately, as well as a picture of abandonment in regions that must be revived before the phenomenon takes on nightmarish dimensions.
However, he appeared reservedly optimistic regarding the project of the double reshaping of Votanikos and Alexandras avenue, noting that "at this moment everything is up in the air" and revealed that together with all the members of the municipal council they will be visiting the region of Votanikos to be able to form an overall pictrure, while adding that "we shall be called on to take a difficult decision because there is no investment plan."
In parallel, the Athens mayor stressed that "there is no question of major projects taking place without the participation of private initiative" and added that "I am not demonising private initiative. I place great importance on the municipality's development course, with rules of transparency and explicit."
He also placed emphasis on the issue of transparency, revealing that as of Tuesday the municipality of Athens is entering the Transparency programme.
Kaminis also expressed support for the finding of a legislative solution for demonstrations so that the streets of Athens will not be closed and the already burdened economic state of the commercial stores that are also dealt a blow by illicit trade will not worsen in this way. He also called on all the political forces to assume their responsibilities and vote a law on political gatherings, stressing that he was never in favour of "couch democracy" but everything must take place with a sense of measure and with respect for constitutional legality.
 Yiannis Kapeleris appointed Finance ministry secretary generalThe Economic Crime Squad's (SDOE) special secretary until now, Yiannis Kapeleris, has been appointed by a joint decision of Prime Minister George Papandreou and Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou the new secretary general of the Finance ministry's Taxation and Customs Issues.
Kapeleris will also continue to exercise the duties of SDOE special secretary until a new chief is appointed at the squad.
Kapeleris replaces Dimitris Georgakopoulos who resigned recently.
 New secgen at Environment MinistryThe new secretary general of the Environment, Energy and Climate Change ministry is Crete University Political Sciences department professor of "Political Analysis" Aris Alexopoulos, it was announced on Tuesday.
 IMF approves 4.1bln euro 4th tranche of bailout loanThe International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced late Monday that it is releasing the fourth tranche, 4.1 billion euros, of its share of the 110 billion euro EU/IMF support loan to Greece.
An announcement said the IMF Executive Board has voted in favor of disbursement of the above sum to Athens.
A total of 14.6 billion euros of the IMF's total 30 billion euro share of the support loan has already been disbursed.
The loan to Greece, the largest ever given out by the IMF, was agreed in May 2010.
The majority of the Executive Board expressed satisfaction with the progress achieved by Greece thus far, but noted that structural changes need to be sped up for the successful implementation of the Greek economy's stabilisation program.
Greece's representative to the IMF, Panagiotis Roumeliotis, briefed the Board on the outcome of last Friday's eurogroup summit and the positive effects of the eurozone decision to extend the loan repayment period and reduce the interest rate for Greece, and in that respect asked the IMF to follow suit regarding its share of the EU/IMF loan, something that the Fund's general director Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been endorsing in recent months.
According to the IMF announcement, Greece has made further progress on its vital targets, which include putting the country back on a track of sustainable growth with the promotion of competitiveness, boosting the stability of the monetary and credit sector and securing viable fiscal finances.
The underlying fiscal and wider reforms necessary for achieving the middle-term targets of the program are gradually being put in place, although some important reforms need to be planned and applied for the creation of a critical mass that is necessary to support fiscal viability and economic recovery, the IMF said.
After the Executive Board meeting, IMF first deputy managing director John Lipsky said the Greek program made further progress towards achieving its targets and the performance remains close to the planned levels.
Along general lines, a measure of stabilisation has been achieved, Lipsky said, adding that greater emphasis needs to be placed on underlying reforms in the period ahead.
 Moody's downgrades OTE's ratingMoody's on Tuesday downgraded Hellenic Telecommuni-ations Organisation's (OTE) long-term issuer rating by on notch to Baa3 from Baa2, wile keeping OTE's ratings on review for possible further downgrade.
The rating action was triggered by Moody's recent downgrade to B1 from Ba1 of Greece, Moody's senior vice president and lead analyst for OTE Carlos Winzer said, adding that "this resulted, amongst other things, from a rapid deteriorating in consumer spending in Greece and increasing concerns regarding the macroeconomic environment in the country, with its GDP expected to decline this year by 3.0 percent", following a 4.5 percent decline in 2010, which will "continue to affect OTE's performance in the medium term".
 Greek CDS, spreads, rise again on TuesdayThe Greek CDS rose again on Tuesday, after Monday's sharp decline, while Greek bond yields moved higher as well, reflecting pressures in capital markets worldwide in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Japan.
Greece's credit default swaps grew 21 basis points to 980 bps, after falling as much as 85 bps on Monday. Market analysts said investors generally seemed to avoid taking any risks. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened again to around 940 basis points in early trading, with the 10-year German Bunds yielding as much as 13.7 bps lower -the biggest daily decline since last August.
 General government outstanding debt 4.5 billion euros in 2010The outstanding debt of government ministries and the country's regions totaled 832.53 million euros at the end of 2010, up from 718.21 million euros in November 30 and 621 million euros in October 31, 2010, a finance ministry report showed on Tuesday.
The report attributed this increase to a change in the way these debts were recorded. More analytically, of the total 832.53 million euros of outstanding debt, 435.5 million covered the public investments program and 397 million euros the regular budget. Legal entities' debt to third parties totaled 4.520 billion euros, of which 551.9 million were local government organizations, 2.225 billion euros were hospitals, 1.583 billion were social insurance organizations and 159.4 million euros other legal entities. Legal entities' total debt obligation to third parties totaled 8.6 billion euros, while the general government's deficit totaled 23.1 billion euros in 2010.
 Talks to resolve OLP-Cosco differencesTalks between the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) and the Piraeus-Cosco Containers Terminal to resolve whatever discrepancies contained in the award contract of pier II and II to the Chinese side will be reached "in an amicable manner" within 10 to 15 days, OLP president and managing director George Anomeritis said Tuesday.
"If a solution is not found then we shall move to the next stage, which is arbitration, with a Greek citizen serving as arbitrator," Anomeritis stressed.
He also referred to an international tender for a transport and container hub in the Thriassio industrial district, west of Piraeus.
 Number of persons employed in retail trade in Q4 2010 drops 9.9pctThe number of persons employed in retail trade decreased by 9.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared with the corresponding quarter in 2009, according to figures released by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) on Tuesday.
More specifically, the Index of Number of Persons Employed in Retail Trade (including the persons employed in the automotive fuel sector) in the 4th quarter 2010, compared with the 4th quarter 2009 decreased by 9.9%. The index in the 4th quarter 2009 recorded an increase of 1.8 % compared with the 4th quarter 2008.
 Credit conditions worsen in Feb.Credit conditions worsened in Greece last month (February), with the value of bounced checks totaling 182 million euros, up 5.64 pct compared with the previous month and a spectacular 365 pct higher compared with the same month, official figures showed on Tuesday.
A report by Teresias SA, the credit market watchdog, said that bounced checks totaled 16,663 in volume, down 6.6 pct from January but up 315 pct compared with February 2010. In the two-month period, from January to February, the value of bounced checks totaled 354.3 million euros and in 34,514 in volume.
Unpaid bills totaled 13,247 in volume, up 4.2 pct from January, and up 208 pct from February 2010, while in value they rose 20 pct from the previous month and 211 pct from February last year. In the first two months, the value of unpaid bills totaled 45 million euros.
 Corruption also hit by recession, Transparency Int'l survey showsCorruption was another unexpected 'victim' of the economic crisis in Greece, with the number of incidents falling for the first time ever in 2010.
This was revealed in a survey released by Transparency International Greece on Tuesday, which showed a decline in both the number of households reporting incidents of corruption (from 13.4 percent in 2009 to 10.4 percent in 2010) and in the total estimated sums involved (632 million euro in 2010, from 787 million euro in 2009). Overall, corruption was estimated to have cost Greece 155 million euros less in 2010 than in 2009.
As in previous years, hospitals remained the undisputed corruption 'champions', while tax offices outstripped town planning departments for second place following a significant slump in building activity, measures to 'legalise' unlawful building conversions and new tax measures.
The going rate in 2010 for a 'better quality service' from a state hospital surgeon ranged from 150-7,500 euro, while the going rate for a doctor's visit ranged from 50 to 1,500 euro. Getting one's books passed by the tax man could cost anything from 300 euros to 15,000 euros, while a favourable tax settlement might set one back anything between 100 and 3,500 euro.
Greasing the wheels in a town planning department to obtain a building permit cost between 200 and 9,000 euros, while simply speeding up the process cost 500 to 1,000 euros.
Overall, the public sector accounted for 7.2 percent of corruption incidents reported by households in 2010 and the private sector 4 percent. The equivalent figures in 2009 were 9.3 percent for the public sector and 5.3 percent for the private sector.
While less extensive, private-sector bribes were generally more expensive, according to the findings of the survey. The cost of the average bribe in the private sector was 1,623 euros in 2010, compared with 1,492 euros in the state sector. Indicatively, illegal payments to a private-sector surgeon ranged from 250-15,000 euros, whereas for a visit to a private doctor the cost might range from 500-6,000 euros. In the private sector also, health services took the lead in corruption, followed by lawyers, while incidents of corruption in banks was significantly reduced.
The average cost of a private-sector bribe actually fell by 48 euros, however, whereas public-sector bribes continued to rise, increasing by 137 euros or 9.2 percent.
Other hotbeds of corruption were prefectures, IKA, driving licence services, the power company, municipalities, banks and the finance ministry in the public sector. In the private sector, they included driving schools, private testing centres for vehicles, car dealerships, garages, contractors, civil engineers, architects, construction companies and real estate agents.
For the first time since the survey began to be conducted in 2007, people taking part appeared less tolerant of corruption in general. The percentage of those who disagreed that it was acceptable to give a bribe in order to get a job done increased to 83 percent, compared with 77 percent the previous year.
Also increased was the percentage of those who disagreed with the opinion that breaking the law was OK as long as no one was looking, rising from 86 percent in 2008 to 88 percent in 2010.
For the first time, 94 percent of those taking part in the survey disagreed with the statement that taking bribes was acceptable, even when it happened right in front of their eyes, as long their personal interests were not harmed as a result.
The survey was conducted by the company Public Issue, whose CEO Yiannis Mavris noted that 409,000 households out of a projected 3.6 million were victims of public or private-sector corruption in 2010. It had a sample of 6,114 people interviewed by phone from July to December and had a margin of error of 1.3 percentage points.
 Greek enterprises paid 1.5 mln euros in compensation for illegal software programsGreek enterprises paid around 1.5 million euros last year in compensations for using non-licensed software programs, Business Software Alliance (BSA) said on Tuesday. BSA, a body representing the global commercial software industry, has established activities in 80 countries and its efforts have resulted to a 58 pct decline in software piracy in Greece, with the country ranking third in the European Union.
BSA's report showed that several businessmen ignored the risks of using illegal software programs, often believing it was a cheaper way to do their job and stressed that this view was wrong, as enterprises had to pay double the money to replacing illegal software programs for authentic ones, along with legal compensations.
The cost of software piracy for enterprises in the region of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), surpassed 13 million euros last year, up 110 pct compared with 2009.
 Stocks end sharply lowerStocks came under strong selling pressure at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, as sentiment on the market was hit by turmoil in international markets, amid worries over the impact of a nuclear crisis in Japan. The composite index of the market fell below the 1,600 level, ending at 1,590.44 points, off 4.33 pct. Turnover was a moderate 159.512 million euros.
The Big Cap index plunged 4.49 pct, the Mid Cap index fell 3.92 pct and the Small Cap index ended 3.43 pct lower. All blue chip stocks ended lower with Alpha Bank (6.29 pct), Cyprus Bank (6.08 pct), Eurobank (5.64 pct), Ellaktor (5.42 pct) and Piraeus Bank (5.03 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses.
All sectors ended lower with the Commerce (6.34 pct), Banks (5.29 pct) and Food (4.80 pct) suffering heavily. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 143 to 38 with another 35 issues unchanged. Attica Publications (19.05 pct), Neorio (19.05 pct), Unibios (14.29 pct) and Mathios (12.86 pct) were top gainers, while Nakas (16.49 pct), Allatini Ceramics (12.9 pct) and Alpha Trust (10 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -3.05%
Personal & Household: -4.24%
Raw Materials: -4.29%
Travel & Leisure: -4.29%
Food & Beverages: -4.80%
Financial Services: -2.87%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.92
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.03
HBC Coca Cola: 19.23
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.46
National Bank of Greece: 6.82
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.85
Bank of Piraeus: 1.51
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bond widened to 937 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 915 bps on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.49 pct and the German Bund 3.12 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 58 million euros, of which 23 million were buy orders and the remaining 35 million euros were sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month rate was 1.91 pct, the six-month 1.47 pct, the three-month 1.16 pct and the one-month rate 0.88 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.65 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover jumping to 132.438 million euros.
Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 29,096 contracts worth 108.999 million euros, with 29,881 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 55,681 contracts worth 23.439 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (10,376), followed by Eurobank (3,224), MIG (5,679), OTE (3,312), PPC (1,341), Piraeus Bank (6,582), Hellenic Exchanges (477), GEK (875), Alpha Bank (6,980), Intracom (1,890), Marfin Popular Bank (5,524), Intralot (541), Mytilineos (948), Cyprus Bank (1,597), Hellenic Petroleum (599), Hellenic Postbank (2,191) and ATEbank (1,272).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.399
Pound sterling 0.874
Danish kroner 7.518
Swedish kroner 9.050
Japanese yen 113.29
Swiss franc 1.285
Norwegian kroner 7.977
Canadian dollar 1.388
Australian dollar 1.421
 Six terror suspects arrested in Athens, Volos formally chargedSix individuals arrested in Athens and Volos early Monday in an ongoing investigation into the "Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire" urban guerilla group are apparently linked with the six suspects arrested last December in Athens' Nea Smyrni district and Piraeus, based on allegations contained in a case file forwarded to examining magistrates on Tuesday.
The six arrested on Monday face criminal charges for participation in the terrorist group "Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire" and felony charges for firearms possession. One of suspects, Olga Economidou, is facing additional charges for aggravated weapons possession. The specific charges concern last December's case file, based on the discovery of her fingerprint in one of the residences investigated.
Two of the suspects, Damiano (or Ntamiano) Bolano and Georgios Nikolopoulos, wanted in relation to an older case concerning 14 parcel bombs, were questioned on Tuesday ,refusing, however, to recognise the process. A third suspect, Christos Tsakalos is scheduled to provide a statement on Wednesday and is expected to adopt a similar stance.
All six are scheduled to appear before an investigating magistrate on Wednesday regarding the Volos case.
 Volos safehouse weapons not linked to terror attacksPolice on Tuesday said that the three kalashnikov assault rifles, 7 pistols and one revolver found in a suspected safehouse of the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire urban terror group in the town of Nea Ionia, in Volos, during a police raid at dawn Monday, in which six people were arrested, have not been used in any terrorist attacks, according to the ballistics findings on the weaponry.
The ballistics investigation is continuing to ascertain whether the weapons have been used in other criminal actions, police added.
 'Water Stories' exhibition at Athens' Syntagma Metro StationThe water element and the way it is depicted in paintings, collages, photographs and comic stories by elementary and secondary school students will be on display in an exhibition entitled "Water stories" that will be on display for the public at Athens' Syntagma Metro Station on March 17-20.
The exhibition, held on the occasion of the annual World Water Day celebrated on March 22, features 2,060 paintings that participated in a student competition hosted by the non-governmental organization Mediterranean SOS Network.
A Mediterranean SOS Network spokesperson told ANA-MPA that participation in this year's artistic creation student competition was unprecedented, stressing that a total of 3,432 pupils from 221 schools nationwide sent in their works.
 Kalamata symposium to investigate Roman Empire fashionAn international symposium focusing on fashion in the Roman empire is being organised this Friday in the southern Greek city of Kalamata by the universities of the Peloponnese, Crete and the local municipality.
The symposium is entitled "Modern approaches to the study of ancient fabrics: Techniques and sociological aspects of Roman dress". It is organised by the department of history, archaeology and cultural goods management of the University of the Peloponnese and the history and archaeology department of the university of Crete.
It is taking place under the aegis oc the European programme "Dress ID: Clothing and Identities. New Perspectives on Textiles in the Roman Empire.
 'Lotus' photo wins 1st placeBEIJING (ANA-MPA)
A photograph entitled "Lotus", submitted by Nicole Georgakelou, the wife of the Greek ambassador to China, won first place in the photographic exhibition "China in My Eyes - A Photo Exhibition of Female Diplomatic Envoys and Wives of Diplomatic Envoys in China", hosted here on March 7, a day before International Women's Day.
Le Aimei, the spouse of China's foreign minister, greeted the roughly 150 female ambassadors accredited to Beijing, the wives of foreign envoys in China, representatives of international organisations, the wives of China's foreign ministry leadership and Chinese female diplomats attending the photographic exhibition. (ANA-MPA)
 More bodies of missing Bangladeshis found in Souda BayAnother two bodies of Bangladeshi nationals, missing since March 5 after they jumped off the ship "Ionian King" into the sea, were found in Souda Bay, Crete on Tuesday.
A total of 7 bodies have been recovered in the region so far.
The "Ionian King" was carrying a shipload of Bangladeshis that had been evacuated from strife-torn Libya to Crete, where they faced extradition back to their own country. As the ship approached the harbour, 49 people on board the ship jumped into the freezing waters in a desperate attempt to escape the authorities. Three were recovered dead at the time and another 11 were missing.
 Papoulias receives drug treatment centre headPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday received the chairman of the Therapy Centre for Depended Individuals (KEThEA), Gerassimos Notaras, whom he congratulated for "a successfully performed work despite the difficulties".
Papoulias referred to the visits made to KEThEA treatment centres by his wife and asked to be briefed on the centre's programme in his hometown of Ioannina.
 Woman lightly injured as ferry rams into pier in Piraeus portA 54-year-old woman passenger was lightly injured on Tuesday morning after a car/passenger ferry rammed into a pier in the port of Piraeus.
The "Nefeli" was sailing into the port of Piraeus from the island of Egina with 128 passengers on board when the incident occurred.
The causes of the accident, which caused a small rift above the water line, are as yet undetermined.
The vessel did not take on water, nor did an oil spill result.
 Illicit trade in antiquities arrestA 32-year-old local man was arrested in Nemea, in the NE Peloponnese, on charges of illicit trade in antiquities and of growing cannabis plants on his farm, was announced on Tuesday.
Police, acting on a tip-off, searched the suspect's house and farmstead and discovered ancient ceramic objects dated to the Mycenaean Period. The search also revealed a small cannabis plantation numbering a total of 179 plants.
 Cloudy on WednesdayCloudy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 4C and 22C. Periodically cloudy in Athens, with southerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 8C to 21C. Cloudy with local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 6C to 18C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe nuclear alert in Japan, the arrests of 'Cells of Fire' terror group members and the economy were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Tuesday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Safehouses of the 'Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire' in Volos, Holargos and Kallithea".
AVGHI: "Europe-wide referendum on Competitiveness Pact".
AVRIANI: "Papandreou blackmailing with (early general) elections if parliament does not pass Pact on Euro with reinforced majority of 180 votes in parliament".
DIMOKRATIA: "George's (Papandreou) fairy tales with proof and names".
ELEFTHEROS: "Petalotis (government spokesman) confesses lack of governance, with intimations against ministers".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Pamboukis plan for sell-off of 50 billion euros in state property".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Parents, teachers ready to take to the streets over planned mergers of secondary schools".
ESTIA: "Lessons from the Japanese - Country has suffered biggest disaster since WWI, but will rise again".
ETHNOS: "Handcuffs for the Cells of Fire 'troika' (masterminds)."
IMERISSIA: "Operation privatisations".
KATHIMERINI: "Nuclear agony in Japan".
LOGOS: "Danger of nuclear tsunami".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The stocks 'celebrated' the European decisions".
NIKI: "Greece now allowed to mint euros".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Uprising so that not a single school will close".
TA NEA: "700,000 SMEs head to their accountants for settlement of outstanding tax years".
VRADYNI: "Head hunters for debts to the state".
 Cyprus supports the creation of an independent Palestinian stateRAMALLAH (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias expressed Tuesday his admiration for President of National Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas stating that he is a constant and wise fighter for the perseverance of peace.
President Christofias who was talking during a joint press conference with Abbas after the signing of five treaties earlier on Tuesday also noted that he informed the latter of the recent developments regarding the Cyprus issue.
''I underlined that we want the achievement of a just, viable and functional solution which will end the occupation and the illegal settling, reunify the state and its people, its institutions and its economy based on international law principles within the framework of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality as described in the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council'', he said.
President Christofias went on to say that ''we are working towards the achievement of a solution which will provide for a single state, with a single sovereignty, a single international personality, a single nationality, in which human rights will be respected and the prerequisites of peace and prosperity for all the people of Cyprus will prevail''.
''Our leaderships and our people'' he said, ''are guided by basic principles and values such as the implementation of international law and the respect of UN resolutions and territorial integrity and national sovereignty''.
These are the principles, he added, upon which the peaceful settlement of both the Cyprus and the Palestinian problem ought to be based.
Speaking of the bilateral relations between the Republic of Cyprus and the National Palestinian Authority President Christofias said that the five agreements signed on Tuesday bear witness to the fact that they at an excellent level and are constantly deepening.
On the occasion of Tuesday's historic visit and as a gesture of the solidarity of Cyprus towards the Palestinian people President Christofias announced the donation of one million dollars to be used for the construction of a clinic.
Referring to the Israeli Palestinian conflict President Christofias said that Cyprus is strongly positioned in support of the creation of an independent, viable, sovereign state, adding that Cyprus supports a solution which will be in accordance with international law, the relevant UN resolutions, the Road Map, the agreements between the two parts and the Arabic peace initiative which as he said is the foundation for the prevalence of peace in the region.
''Cyprus, which has for the 37 years been a victim of the Turkish invasion and occupation and illegal settlement cannot accept the settlement of the occupied territories in the West Bank and Eastern Jerousalem or the existence of a dividing wall''.
''I had the opportunity yesterday (Monday)'' he said, ''to speak with the Israeli leadership and to share with them my thoughts for the need to settle all elements of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict''.
President Christofias also expressed his satisfaction because as he noted he has gathered that President Abbas is making sincere and substantial efforts towards the reconciliation between Palestinians.
As a sincere friend of the Palestinian people, he added, "I am unreservedly against its division which does not serve Palestinian interests and the prospects of peace of prosperity."
On his part Abbas thanked President Christofias and the Republic of Cyprus for giving hospitality and help to a number of Palestinian refugees from Iraq, adding, however that they ought to respect the law of the Republic and the customs of the country.
Responding to a question about the parallel development and deepening of relations of Cyprus with both Israel and the National Palestinian Authority he said that the Authority welcomes such actions, which as he noted, contribute to the resolution of problems.
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