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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-03-28

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

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

Monday, 28 March 2011 Issue No: 3752

CONTENTS

  • [01] Droutsas: Libya, EU summit discussed in Obama-Papandreou talks
  • [02] White House on Obama telephone call to Papandreou
  • [03] ND to take parliamentary initiative on submarine kickbacks scandal
  • [04] KKE accuses EU governments of pushing the peoples to abyss of capitalistic impasses and wars
  • [05] LAOS: Breather, but in austere framework
  • [06] Papoutsis at Greek Independence Day march in New York
  • [07] Greek Independence Day at White House
  • [08] Finmin to sue paper over 'Express Service' claim
  • [09] Judges mulling slowdown over benefit cuts, union president says
  • [10] Radioactivity readings show miniscule concentrations
  • [11] Annual memorial service for Eleftherios, Sophocles Venizelos in Crete
  • [12] ND honorary president Constantine Mitsotakis also attended the event.
  • [13] Road toll 'won't pay' protest at Malgara
  • [14] Contract worker unions reject Athens mayor's offer, continue sit-in
  • [15] Animal rights groups protest outside Fur Show
  • [16] Fire guts travel agency in Halandri
  • [17] Two caught for migrant trafficking
  • [18] Light quakes off Lesvos, Halkidiki
  • [19] Two arrested on weapons charges

  • [01] Droutsas: Libya, EU summit discussed in Obama-Papandreou talks

    Developments in Libya were the main issue discussed in talks between U.S. President Barack Obama and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, according to Greece's foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas.

    In an interview with the state television channel NET on Saturday morning, Droutsas said the issue of what would happen next and what role Greece might play due to its strategic significance in the region dominated their discussion.

    Pointing out that the Greek prime minister had called for continuing diplomatic efforts at the international meeting on Libya held in Paris, Droutsas said that all sides recognised Greece's special position and also the potential role that the prime minister might play. He referred to the good relations that Greece maintains with both the Arab world, Israel but also Turkey, in this regard.

    Another important issue covered in the Obama-Papandreou phone conversation were the decisions at the European Council, with Obama asking to be briefed by Papandreou and once again acknowledged the efforts being made by Greece and its people to exit the crisis.

    Referring to a meeting on Libya that will take place in London next Tuesday, with the participation of NATO member-state and Arab foreign ministers, Droutsas said that Greece would be presenting its own positions and proposals for the "following day".

    [02] White House on Obama telephone call to Papandreou

    The White House issued a readout on Friday of US President Barack Obama's telephone call to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou earlier in the day.

    "President Obama called Prime Minister Papandreou today (Friday) to congratulate him and the Greek People on the 190th anniversary of Greek independence," the statement said

    "The two leaders discussed developments in North Africa and their support for the Libyan people. The President noted Greece's solidarity as a NATO ally and the critical role NATO will be playing in implementing UNSCR 1973. He thanked Prime Minister Papandreou for Greece's important support of coalition operations to enforce the resolution," it added.

    "The President also recognized the Prime Minister's leadership in implementing an ambitious economic reform program. President Obama and Prime Minister Papandreou agreed that the United States and Greece would continue to consult closely as events unfold across the Middle East and North Africa," the readout concluded.

    [03] ND to take parliamentary initiative on submarine kickbacks scandal

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) will take an initiative for the establishment of a parliamentary fact-finding commission into the case of possible kickbacks paid by German companies in the purchase of submarines by Greece, ND press spokesman Yiannis Michelakis announced on Saturday.

    Michelakis also left open the possibility of ND also submitting a proposal in parliament for the establishment of a parliamentary preliminary investigation committee into the same case.

    "Although Greek justice has submitted to parliament the case file on the submarines scandal and ongoing revelations certify an immense looting of public monies, the government has not dared, as it is its duty, to take any initiative for investigation of the scandal by parliament," Michelakis said in an announcement.

    The case, he explained, concerns a direct assignment by the then PASOK government, "the advancement and implementation for which tens of millions of euros were given out, as it has been revealed," the ND spokesman explained.

    In the face of the "suspicious silence and inaction on the side of the government", ND "is undertaking an initiative, with the tabling of a relevant motion, for the establishment of a Fact-Finding Commission so that the truth may shine and the blame will be attributed where it belongs," he said.

    In any case, Michelakis added, after studying the evidence contained in the case file and exhausting the abilities provided under the current legislation, ND does not rule out of prospect of immediately seeking the establishment of a parliamentary preliminary investigation committee.

    [04] KKE accuses EU governments of pushing the peoples to abyss of capitalistic impasses and wars

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) accused the EU governments of "pushing the peoples to the dark abyss of capitalistic impasses, clashes and wars", commenting on the decisions of the two-day EU summit that ended on Friday in Brussels.

    A KKE announcement said that the EU 27, "in full unanimity, decided the escalation of the war on salary scales, labor relations and social security rights in order to boost the competitiveness of the European monopolies with the Pact on the Euro and the Stability Pact".

    On the matters of direct Greek interest, the KKE said that the Greek government's usual celebrations of Greek victories and acknowledgement of the sacrifices of the Greek people, and main opposition New Democracy's (ND) positions for change of the conditions of the Memorandum, "can no longer conceal the devastation that their common strategy brings to the people's interests".

    On the EU decisions on the crisis in Libya, the KKE said that "the leading role of the EU forces in the imperialist war against the people of Libya shows that the monopolies and their governments are equally aggressive both internally and abroad".

    The KKE stressed that "the working class and popular strata can raise obstacles and finally topple the capitalistic barbarity, creating their own alliance for popular authority, socialisation of the monopolies, for a planned growth, thus ridding the country of the imperialistic organisations and imperialistic wars".

    [05] LAOS: Breather, but in austere framework

    The Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party said the EU summit decisions in Brussels gave Greece "a breather, but in a very austere framework".

    LAOS stressed the need for "a bold policy which, however, as the year of the Memorandum that passed has proved, the (Greek) government does not have".

    It added that prime minister George Papandreou, "who, under the Constitution, bears the exclusive responsibility, must undertake initiatives for the country to acquire a more determined, credible and efficient government".

    [06] Papoutsis at Greek Independence Day march in New York

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA - P. Panagiotou)

    Greece is fighting its own battle under difficult conditions, on a global level, to distinguish itself on the European scene, for peace, security and cooperation in its region, Greek Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis said here on Sunday. He was speaking during a mass held at the Holy Trinity Church in Manhattan to celebrate Greece's March 25 Independence Day holiday, led by Archbishop of America Demetrios.

    The mass was attended by visiting politicians, MPs and diplomats from Greece and Cyprus, local officials and members of the Greek-American community. Papoutsis is representing the Greek government.

    Papoutsis stressed that Greece was reinforcing ties of friendship with all peoples in its neighbourhood, while at the same time demanding respect for international law and the decisions of the United Nations in all cases, especially in Cyprus for the departure of Turkish occupation troops from the island.

    The mass was followed by a reception at a hotel in the city and then the Greek parade on 5th Avenue, with the central slogan 'Visit Greece'.

    [07] Greek Independence Day at White House

    US President Barack Obama greets Archbishop of America Demetrios on Saturday, March 26, 2011, on the occasion of a special ceremony hosted at the White House in Washington D.C. to commemorate the 190th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence against Ottoman rule, which was celebrated on Friday, March 25, in Greece and throughout ethnic Greek communities around the world.

    The contribution of Greece, the birthplace of democracy, to the founding and enrichment of the national character of the United States was stressed by Obama in a proclamation entitled "Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy", issued on Friday.

    In the proclamation, Obama also underscored the role played by the Greek American community as a bridge between the two countries and also as one of the most dynamic elements of American society.

    General News

    [08] Finmin to sue paper over 'Express Service' claim

    Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou intends to sue the newspaper "Proto Thema" for libel over its front-page item under the headline 'express service minister', according to an announcement made by the finance ministry on Sunday.

    According to the newspaper, the minister signed off on decisions to write off taxes owed by Yiannis Raptopoulos, the owner of the auto assistance company "Express Service". It also accused the minister of signing off on decisions to lift measures to freeze the company's bank accounts, taken by the tax office to ensure payment of outstanding tax debts.

    The ministry announcement said the article was part of an intimidation campaign launched by the newspaper's publisher Themos Anastasiades. It notes that the publisher has in recent weeks sent two solicitors' letters to Papaconstantinou, following the replies given by the minister in Parliament concerning "an unfinished investigation by the financial crimes squad, at the order of a public prosecutor, into Anastasiades' affairs". Papaconstantinou had replied to a question put by the head of the Democratic Alliance party Dora Bakoyannis.

    "These solicitors' letters are an unprecedented tactic and an obvious effort to intimidate and obstruct an investigation by the proper services," the ministry announcement said. The article in the newspaper was also in the same vein, it added.

    The announcement accused the newspaper of deliberately giving an incomplete picture and either concealing or distorting important facts, and finally providing misleading information in order to commit libel.

    The ministry noted that the decisions signed by Papaconstantinou did not concern the 'Express Service' societe anonyme but a private company in which Raptopoulos was sole owner. It added that the company was seeking the return of 27 million euro in VAT on the grounds that this should not have paid because the European Court of Justice considers that auto assistance subscription services is a form of insurance and therefore not liable for VAT.

    Pointing out that the VAT would rightfully be returned, following the necessary checks, and offset against the company's tax debts amounting to roughly 6.6 million euros and 7.0 million euros, the tax office had decided to partly lift measures to freeze 50 percent of the company's bank account balance until the amount of the return was decided.

    "This decision was taken so as not to put at risk the continued operation of a company that employs 1,300 people and so that it can meet its tax obligations," the announcement said.

    It also denied the paper's claim that the company owed some 70 million in taxes or that individuals working in the company had ties with Papaconstantinou. It further criticised the paper for failing to cross-check its information or apply to the ministry for necessary clarifications.

    "It is self-evident from the above that the finance minister will pursue a suit against the newspaper for libel," it concluded.

    [09] Judges mulling slowdown over benefit cuts, union president says

    Greece's judges and prosecutors may be moving toward a work slowdown or "white strike" in protest against government plans to cut a bonus for faster handling of cases and a library benefit. This was suggested by Supreme Court Judge Haralambos Athanassiou, the president of the Judges and Prosecutors' Union in an interview with the ANA-MPA on Sunday.

    During this, Athanassiou accused the government's economic team of passing measures that attempted to undermine and abolish the independence of Greek justice.

    "During the 'white' strike the judges will reduce the number of rulings issued each day by 75 percent, leading to exasperation of the public, offences becoming statute-barred and the country's condemnation for delays in administering justice," he said.

    The bonus for faster completion of cases is set at 870 euros a month and has already been reduced by 30 percent, as has the library benefit that varies according to years in service and the rank of the judicial official.

    Athanassiou accused the government of consistently undermining judges and warned that, if judges were converted into civil servants and the equal status of the three branches of power abolished, the state itself would be abolished.

    "The result of this will be the non-existence of independent justice but instead a justice that is manipulated by the desires of the given executive authority of the time," he said.

    Noting a divergence of opinion on this issue among members of the government, he called on the government to decide whether it wanted judges that were independent, equal and of equal status with the functionaries of other two branches, or whether it did not.

    [10] Radioactivity readings show miniscule concentrations

    The Hellenic Atomic Energy Commission (EEAE) on Saturday reassured that concentrations of radioactive elements that reached Greece in air masses on Thursday were miniscule and there was not a slightest affect on the health or the environment.

    There was no cause for concern, nor was any protective measure necessary, the commission said, adding that no concern has been expressed by any European country nor the taking of any measures has been proposed.

    The EEAE said that between March 24 and 25, readings in Greece showed concentrations of radioactivity (Iodine-131) in the atmosphere at 125 millionths of a becquerel (Bq) per cubic meter of air. This concentration, according to the EEAE, is equal to a dose of radiation of one-millionth of the annual dose from the natural radiation the average human is exposed to.

    The concentrations are so low that they are not even traced by the early warning stations, in other words the telemetric network of radiation readings in the environment.

    [11] Annual memorial service for Eleftherios, Sophocles Venizelos in Crete

    A memorial service was held on Sunday at the monument and gravesides of 20th century statesmen Eleftherios and Sophocles Venizelos, near Hania, Crete.

    The government was represented by Deputy Environment Minister Nikos Sifounakis, while MP Olga Kefaloyianni represented main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras.

    [12] ND honorary president Constantine Mitsotakis also attended the event.

    [13] Road toll 'won't pay' protest at Malgara

    Drivers going through the Malgara toll posts did not have to pay road tolls for two hours after 4:00 p.m. on Sunday due to protest action organised by the "Committees against road tolls".

    Similar protest actions were also organised at the toll posts in Polymylos, Kozani and in Makryhori.

    [14] Contract worker unions reject Athens mayor's offer, continue sit-in

    Former contract workers for the Athens municipality continued their sit-in at Athens City Hall for the sixth day on Sunday, rejecting proposals made by Athens Mayor George Kaminis for a solution to meet their demands.

    Kaminis visited the protestors with a new set of proposals but failed to convince them to quit the premises so that the municipal council could vote on the municipality's budget on Monday.

    "I made the unions a very specific proposal: we will all sit down together to discuss a regulatory framework for contract workers that we will support and promote with the government. I also asked that the hand over the city hall to the municipal authority so that this can discuss and vote on the municipality's budget in conditions of complete freedom. Unfortunately, the unions all rejected my proposal. They displayed a stance that I am unable to understand from a trade union standpoint," Kaminis said.

    He went on to say that the municipality would go ahead with the vote on the budget and continue to work in the service of Athens residents.

    In the meantime, the contractors are in session within the building to decide on the future of their protest action.

    [15] Animal rights groups protest outside Fur Show

    Members of animal rights groups and independent organisations staged a protest demonstration on Saturday outside the venue where the 1st International Fur Show is being held in Athens.

    Minor tension erupted when demonstrators blocked participants from entering the trade fair's venue, the Expo Athens building, but quickly died down.

    "The organisation of such a fair in the midst of an economic crisis is an unprecedented and provocative action," Rita Anestopoulou, a member of the nationwide coordinating committee of animal rights groups, told ANA-MPA.

    According to rights groups representatives, an estimated 50 million animals are killed annually throughout the world for the fur trade.

    [16] Fire guts travel agency in Halandri

    Arsonists were behind a blaze that gutted the offices of the travel agency Aeroservices AEE, on the second floor of a five-storey building in the Athens suburb of Halandri. The fire was set on Sunday morning by the culprits, who broke through the ground-floor entrance of the office block and then into the trave agency itself.

    They used a incendiary device and the flames spread throughout the premises, damaging office furniture, office supplies and other equipment.

    The fire was finally put out by 14 fire-fighters using six fire-engines. Fire brigade experts then searched the scene and found the remains of gas canisters and other items used to make the incendiary device. An inquiry into the arsonist attack is being carried out by the police.

    [17] Two caught for migrant trafficking

    Two foreign nationals resident in Turkey, one from Somalia and the other from Sudan, were arrested by immigration police in Orestiada on Sunday after they were caught transporting eight illegal immigrants into Greece from Turkey in a boat.

    The boat and 2080 U.S. dollars found in their possession were confiscated and they were charged with migrant trafficking.

    [18] Light quakes off Lesvos, Halkidiki

    Two light earthquakes were recorded early Saturday off the island of Lesvos and the Halkidiki peninsula.

    According to the Thessaloniki Aristotle University's Geophysics Laboratory, a trembler measuring 3.0 on the Richter scale was recorded in the sea area northwest of the city of Mytilene (Lesvos) at 5:51 a.m., while a few minutes later, at 5:59 a.m., a trembler measuring 2.5 on the Richter scale was recorded in the bay of Ierissos, Halkidiki.

    According to seismologists, there is no need for concern due to the above phenomena.

    [19] Two arrested on weapons charges

    Two people were arrested by Thessaloniki police on Saturday after two kalashnikov assault rifles, two pistols and three handgrenades were found in their car during a check.

    The 45-year-old Greek driver and 39-year-old passenger, a foreign national, were arrested.

    Police are investigating the case.

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


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