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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-05-07

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

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

Saturday, 7 May 2011 Issue No: 3781

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM: State will retain control of PPC, EYDAP
  • [02] PM clashes with opposition in Parliament over privatisations
  • [03] PM Papandreou to visit Meganissi, Lefkada on Saturday
  • [04] PM on one-year anniversary of Marfin Bank deaths
  • [05] Papandreou meets with Archbishop Ieronymos
  • [06] Report on exit from euro categorically denied
  • [07] Finance ministry on Spiegel report on Greece's exit from Eurozone
  • [08] Berlin denies report on Greece's return to drachma
  • [09] FM addresses int'l conference in Sofia; focus on Mideast
  • [10] Minister: municipalities not underfinanced
  • [11] ND on Austrian Parliament snub of composer Theodorakis
  • [12] Announcement on 'censorship' case regarding Mikis Theodorakis
  • [13] Commissioner Damanaki calls on Athens to improve absorption of fisheries funding
  • [14] OTE reports lower Q1 results
  • [15] Poor compliance with petrol price ceiling
  • [16] ELPE union federation insists on strike action
  • [17] S&B Group reports improved first quarter results
  • [18] Business Briefs
  • [19] Stocks down 4.5% in week
  • [20] Greek bond market closing report
  • [21] ADEX closing report
  • [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday
  • [23] Arrests in motorcycle officers' killings
  • [24] Prosecution launched in Rendi case
  • [25] Municipal day care closed in protest at longer hours
  • [26] Riot police push protesting doctors out of health ministry
  • [27] Amyntaio residents to block goods train in protest
  • [28] Jail term for self-styled anarchist bank robber upheld
  • [29] Bonuses axed over Cup final violence
  • [30] Panathinaikos qualifies for Euroleague basketball final
  • [31] Fair on Saturday
  • [32] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM: State will retain control of PPC, EYDAP

    Despite selling its majority share, the state will not relinquish control of strate-gically important public utilities, such as the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the Athens water and sewage company EYDAP, Prime Minister George Papan-dreou stressed in Parliament on Friday.

    He stressed that the government aimed at strategic alliances that would benefit the country and its citizens rather than small, privileged groups.

    Papandreou was replying to a questions tabled by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis during the prime minister's question time.

    Responding to Karatzaferis' claim that "half the cabinet" opposed the prospect of reducing state control of these public utilities to less than 51 percent, Papandreou emphasised that he "demanded that ministers speak their mind during cabinet meetings" and invited him to pay attention to what the ministers were saying rather than just reading headlines.

    He linked a decision to sell of a tranche of the PPC that would reduce the state's majority share to less than 51 percent with "a major shift that has been decided and is being carried out in the country's energy policy in favour of renewable energy sources".

    Greece had to depend on its own strength and its own strategic advantages and was therefore changing the country's energy orientation through private investments in RES that would amount to nearly 16.5 billion euro in the next few years, Papandreou stressed. He said this would be equivalent to the creation of 100,000 new jobs in the RES sector.

    The prime minister went on to announce upcoming legislation to generate power using natural gas and the deregulation of the natgas market.

    He stressed that the 17 percent stake in the PPC that the government intends to sell "is not measured with strictly fiscal indices, nor are we talking about bargain prices".

    "We are not relinquishing control but seeking strategic alliances for the country," Papandreou added, inviting PPC trade unionists to support the government's plans.

    Karatzaferis on his part, insisted that relinquishing the state's majority share would be unwise and pointed out that the entry of private investors in other countries had led to a tripling of electricity rates.

    He also urged the prime minister to act seriously and not under pressure, which would lead to a sell-off, noting that it had taken Greece 60 years to build the PPC and at great cost.

    [02] PM clashes with opposition in Parliament over privatisations

    Prime Minister George Papandreou clashed in Parliament on Friday with two leaders of smaller opposition parties during a debate of the government's ambitious and EC-ECB-IMF-mandated privatisation programme.

    In a tabled question to the prime minister, the head of the left-wing Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group, Alexis Tsipras, accused Papandreou of "selling-off" state assets and of placing the country under the control of the EC-ECB-IMF 'troika' "based on an organised plan" as well as "of playing the game of the Americans and local oligarchy".

    In a sharp reply, Papandreou countered that he did not need to "prove his political credentials" and that the memorandum agreement for loans to Greece saved the country from bankruptcy and the sort of scenes and instability that had occurred in Argentina.

    Tsipras, however, retorted that Argentina's collapse was brought about precisely because it had resorted to the IMF and adopted what he termed as "neoliberal policies".

    "You are selling off PPC, EYDAP, EYATh and OPAP. This is a major scandal in the sense that the country does not have the possibility of standing on its feet, even if it should recover," Tsipras claimed.

    He also criticised plans to privatise Agricultural Bank of Greece, where two thirds of Greek land were currently mortgaged and Hellenic Post Bank.

    In answer to the charges, Papandreou said that despite selling its majority share, the state will not relinquish control of strategically important public utilities, such as the Public Power Corp. (PPC) and the Athens water and sewage company EYDAP.

    He stressed that the government aims at "strategic alliances" that will benefit the country and its citizens rather than small, privileged groups.

    Papandreou was also replying to a questions tabled by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis.

    Responding to Karatzaferis' claim that "half the cabinet" opposes the prospect of reducing state control of these public utilities to less than 51 percent, Papandreou emphasised that he "demands that ministers speak their mind during Cabinet meetings" and invited him to pay attention to what the ministers were saying rather than just reading headlines.

    He linked a decision to sell of a tranche of the PPC that would reduce the state's majority share to less than 51 percent with "a major shift that has been decided and is being carried out in the country's energy policy in favour of renewable energy sources".

    Greece had to depend on its own strength and its own strategic advantages and was therefore changing the country's energy orientation through private investments in renewable energy sources that would amount to nearly 16.5 billion euro in the next few years, Papandreou stressed. He said this would be equivalent to the creation of 100,000 new jobs in the RES sector.

    The prime minister went on to announce upcoming legislation to generate power using natural gas and the deregulation of the natgas market.

    He stressed that the 17 percent stake in the PPC that the government intends to sell "is not measured with strictly fiscal indices, nor are we talking about bargain prices".

    "We are not relinquishing control but seeking strategic alliances for the country," Papandreou added, inviting PPC trade unionists to support the government's plans.

    Karatzaferis, on his part, insisted that relinquishing the state's majority share would be unwise and pointed out that the entry of private investors in other countries had led to a tripling of electricity rates.

    He also urged the prime minister to act seriously and not under pressure, which would lead to a sell-off, noting that it had taken Greece 60 years to build the PPC and at great cost.

    [03] PM Papandreou to visit Meganissi, Lefkada on Saturday

    Prime Minister George Papandreou will visit the Ionian islands of Meganissi and Lefkada on Saturday.

    On Saturday morning, the prime minister will be addressing the 4th National Conference of Small Islands on the theme of "Travelling with Kallikratis in the Small Islands", at Meganissi.

    Afterwards, at 12:30 noon, the prime minister will be having a meeting with representatives of Lefkada agencies at the Cultural Centre of the municipality of Lefkada.

    [04] PM on one-year anniversary of Marfin Bank deaths

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday expressed grief and support to the families of the victims in the Marfin Bank blaze, which erupted on May 5, 2010 during street protest in Athens against austerity measures.

    Speaking in Parliament, Papandreou said "a year ago three young people lost their lives. This day of brutality will never be forgotten. It appears that police investigation is almost completed even though the pain for the families of the victims is incurable".

    Three or more masked suspects broke the bank branch's glass storefront before throwing firebombs inside. The self-styled anarchist suspects had infiltrated the protest march as it passed the bank.

    [05] Papandreou meets with Archbishop Ieronymos

    Prime Minister George Papandreou had a scheduled meeting at the Maximos Mansion government headquarters in Athens on Friday with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece and a Church of Greece Holy Synod delegation.

    Papandreou underlined the importance of state-Church cooperation in this difficult time for the country, stressing however, that each side has its own special role.

    "Greece should enter a different course if we wish to produce solutions that will bring hope and optimism," he added.

    On his part, Archbishop Ieronymos agreed with the comments made by the premier and stressed that "the people agonise over the future and want the crisis to be overcome. We should make decisions that will bring relief to the people."

    [06] Report on exit from euro categorically denied

    The government categorically denied on Friday a report in the electronic page of the German magazine "Der Spiegel", according to which Greece is discussing its exit from the euro.

    According to government sources, the report on the country's exit from the euro, apart from being untrue, is written with frivolity, despite the fact that it has been denied categorically by the Greek government and by other eurozone member-states. Such reports, according to the same government sources, undermine the effort of Greece and of the entire eurozone and serve profiteering games.

    Meanwhile, a spokesman for Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker denied, in statements to the ANA-MPA in Brussels, the Der Spiegel's report on an urgent meeting on Friday evening in Luxembourg to discuss Greece's exit from the Eurozone.

    "There is no such meeting," Guy Soulere said, clarifying that according to his knowledge, German Finance Minister ?????????????????????Wolfgang Sch?uble was not in Luxembourg as the German magazine claimed in its report.

    [07] Finance ministry on Spiegel report on Greece's exit from Eurozone

    The Finance ministry on Friday termed as "provocation" the report by the German magazine Der Spiegel on Greece's impending exit from the eurozone.

    The ministry stresses in an announcement that "apart from being untrue, it is written with inconceivable frivolity despite the fact it has been denied repeatedly by the Greek governmment, as well as by the governments of the other member-states of the EU."

    It adds that such reports constitute a provocation, they undermine the effort of Greece and the Euro and serve profiteering games.

    [08] Berlin denies report on Greece's return to drachma

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/G. Pappas)

    The Berlin government denied reports on discussions on Greece's return to the drachma.

    The relevant report by Spiegel online was denied by the spokesman of the German government who stated to the Bloomberg agency that "there is no such question and such an issue was never raised for discussion at European level."

    [09] FM addresses int'l conference in Sofia; focus on Mideast

    SOFIA (ANA-MPA / B. Borisov)

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Friday addressed an international forum here and underlined the importance of analysing the "dynamic developments" in North Africa and the Middle East.

    Speaking at the Sofia Platform Forum on the subject of "Bridging Europe and the Middle East: Central and Eastern Europe's Experience and Change in North Africa and the Middle East", Droutsas pointed out that "developments in North Africa and the Middle East are still on-going and nobody can foretell the final outcome," expressing regret because the dramatic "developments in Libya are now short of overshadowing developments in Egypt and Tunisia."

    In reference to the EU, he cited what he called "enlargement fatigue" and underlined that the "Agenda 2014" initiative undertaken by Greece over a year ago is aimed at giving a new political momentum to the EU accession course of the western Balkan states.

    The foreign minister underlined that misinterpretations and unsubstantiated comments alleging that the EU is attempting to "dictate or impose" solutions on the Arab countries should be avoided.

    Droutsas stressed that "economic growth in the Arab countries should be encouraged because it could translate into economic growth for the EU itself". He also added that EU activation in this direction could serve as substantive precautionary measure that could limit and discourage alarming trends and phenomena, such as the increase flow of North African migrants into Europe.

    Droutsas later met with his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolai Mladenov on the sidelines of the international conference and discussed developments in the region.

    "Greece as well as Bulgaria have constructive thoughts, ideas and proposals, they are taking initiatives in this direction ... we exchanged views on developments in the region as well, the Balkans where we are sharing the common goal of seeing as soon as possible all their countries becoming member-states of the EU. We have developed close cooperation with Bulgaria on the Greek initiative also, known as Agenda 2014.

    "Lastly, we also discussed our bilateral relations that have reached a level, where there are no problems whatever, for which we shall be discussing any more, but to mainly discuss how to develop our cooperation even more, how to make it even closer. I think that a considerable step in this direction was the creation of the joint Ministerial Council between Greece and Bulgaria. We discussed the preparation of the second session of this joint ministerial council and we reached an understanding that this second meeting will take place in Greece, probably in early September," he said.

    [10] Minister: municipalities not underfinanced

    Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis on Friday underlined that "the municipalities are not underfinanced, can operate and make the necessary developmental steps using as tools the National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) and programme "Greece".

    Speaking in parliament in response to criticism made by main opposition New Democracy (ND) party MPs, who maintained that the "Kallikratis" local government plan is being undermined due to lack of funding, Ragoussis stated that "we have shaped a common rule based on which the economic problems of certain debt-ridden municipalities will be solved."

    Ragoussis also said that the option to enter a reform programme is open to all municipalities facing problems.

    [11] ND on Austrian Parliament snub of composer Theodorakis

    The main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Friday referred to a "provocative censorship and an insult to music composer Mikis Theodorakis, which can be perceived as an insult to the Greek people", in response to an Austrian Parliament decision on Thursday to cancel a scheduled performance of Theodorakis' song trilogy 'Mauthausen' -- during the annual memorial event for Nazi victims.

    ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis called on the government to take a stand, characterising its silence as absolutely incomprehensible.

    On an unrelated issue, Mihelakis described as inconceivable an education ministry decision to limit to three the examination centres for students with disabilities in view of the imminent nationwide university entrance exams. He accused the government of being thoughtless and of displaying social indifference.

    [12] Announcement on 'censorship' case regarding Mikis Theodorakis

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    The Austrian Parliament's press office, in an announcement on Friday reported also by the Austrian Nerws Agency APA, backs down on the decision by Austrian Parliament president Barbara Prammer to cancel the presentation on Thursday of the work "Mauthausen" by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, at the memory ceremony for the victims of Nazism at the Austrian National Assembly.

    According to the announcement, due to reports regarding the music programme at Thursday's memory event against violence and racism, Prammer took the following position on Friday:

    At the beginning the execution of the Mauthausen Cantada by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis had been planned. Before its manifestation the existence of a confrontation on supposed antisemite statements by Mr. Theodorakis became known. "Without me being in a position to check and to take in some way a position on the content of these accusations I decided the change in the music programme of the event. I considered important that this issue should not disorientate from the real meaning and content of this anniversary," Prammer stresses on the reasons for the taking of this decision of hers.

    As it was mentioned by the press and communications office of the Greek embassy in Vienna on Friday night, the Greek ambassador in Austria, Panayiotis Zografos, contacted the office of the Austrian Parliament's president before the issuing of the relevant announcement, requesting explanations on the whole issue.

    Financial News

    [13] Commissioner Damanaki calls on Athens to improve absorption of fisheries funding

    European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki on Friday referred to the slow absorption rate of EU fisheries grants observed in Greece.

    Speaking in Parliament, she underlined that three years before the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) programme expires (Dec. 2013), Greece has managed to absorb just six million euros out of a total of 208 million euros.

    Damanaki briefed the parliamentary standing committee on production and trade and the committee on European affairs as regards the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), putting an emphasis on the efforts made to enact special regulations as regards small boats to prevent the economic destruction of coastal regions.

    She pointed out that based on 2009 figures, the Greek fishing boat fleet numbers 17,270 boats, roughly 16,000 of which (96 pct) are small-sized, therefore, instituting special regulations in favour of small boats will contribute to the economic survival of coastal areas.

    [14] OTE reports lower Q1 results

    Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Friday said its consolidation turnover fell 12.6 pct in the first quarter to 1.225 billion euros, its EBITDA margin dropped 2.1 points to 32.1 pct, its operating earnings fell 35.4 pct to 130.3 million euros and net earnings dropped 54.1 pct to 30.2 million euros in the January-March period this year, compared with the same period in 2010.

    Operating expenses, excluding amortizations, write-off and voluntary retirement costs, totaled 794 million euros, down 11.2 pct from 2010, while investments on fixed assets fell 13 pct to 166.5 million euros. Turnover from fixed telephony services in Greece fell 13.4 pct, in Romania was down 10.9 pct, while turnover from mobile telephony services in Greece fell 18.8 pct and in other Balkan states it fell by 6.8 pct.

    In Greece, OTE suffered a 10 pct loss in fixed-telephony lines, with around 99,000 disconnections in PSTN and ISDN lines recorded in the three-month period, although ADSL lines rose in the same period.

    In Romania, Rom-Telecom fared better in the January-March period with ADSL and subscription TV customers rising by 24.5 pct and 14.9 pct respectively.

    Cosmote, OTE Group's mobile telephony subsidiary, failed to offer the expected results despite an aggressive commercial policy adopted by the company. Revenues from mobile telephony operations in Greece and Albania (Cosmote and AMC respectively), fell by 18.5 pct in the first quarter, while in Bulgaria and Romania, revenues fell by 7.3 pct and 6.5 pct, respectively.

    OTE successfully issued a common bond loan worth 900 million euros, of which 600 million euros were used to repay part of its debt and the remaining 300 million euros will be used as a safety credit line. OTE also successfully completed a bookbuilding process to issue three-year bonds worth 500 million euros. The issue will carry an annual coupon of 7.250 pct.

    [15] Poor compliance with petrol price ceiling

    Only in four of the 13 Greek prefectures where the government imposed a ceiling on retail prices for unleaded petrol was there full compliance with the price limits on Friday.

    According to the regional development ministry's price observatory, in six of the 13 prefectures the average retail price was around the government-set ceiling but individual petrol stations were selling at prices above those allowed.

    On the islands of the Dodecanese, Samos and Cephallonia, meanwhile, the average price was above the price ceiling.

    The prefectures that had fully complied with the new ceiling were those of Lasithi on Crete, Chios, Evros and Evrytania. The six where average prices were around the government level were Rethymno, Grevena, Corfu, Cyclades, Lesvos and Fokida.

    Nationwide, unleaded petrol was selling at an average retail price of 1.717 euro per litre.

    Several petrol stations in areas where the price ceiling was imposed remained shut on Friday, protesting that the maximum retail price was actually lower than the price for wholesale and required them to sell at a loss.

    A meeting between retail fuel vendors and the regional development ministry is planned for Friday to discuss the price ceiling, with fuel vendors demanding that this is either lifted or a similar price ceiling imposed on wholesale prices as well.

    In three prefectures where limits have also been set on wholesale prices - namely, the Dodecanese, Rethymno and Samos - the retail prices nevertheless remain higher than the government-set limit.

    [16] ELPE union federation insists on strike action

    Management and trade unionists at Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) remained at battle stations on Friday, despite a court decision that ruled a strike by the ELPE workers union scheduled to begin the same day illegal and abusive.

    Immediately after the court ruling was announced, the refinery workers' union federation responded by declaring yet another strike and rejected management arguments that the court decision applied to a strike by the federation as well.

    Trade unionists on Friday issued an announcement urging workers to "ignore threats and support the union" while pointing out that the management were not judges and not competent to decide what was legal or illegal.

    The union also announced the launch of efforts to join forces with a regional network of energy-sector trade unions in southeastern European (Cyprus, Montenegro, Serbia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) in order to set up a common "strike front".

    The management, meanwhile, told the ANA-MPA that it intends to take all legal action to protect the company's interests and stressed that the majority of the workforce were at their posts and there was no serious problem with the operation of the refinery.

    "Trade unionists are interfering illegally, trying to prevent the safe operation of units and putting unbearable pressure on the workers," they claimed.

    In an earlier statement, ELPE's management had reported that the refineries were operating without serious problems and that the only delays were in loading tanker-trucks with fuel.

    General News

    [17] S&B Group reports improved first quarter results

    S&B Industrial Minerals Group on Friday reported a 17.4 pct increase in its first quarter sales to 111.832 million euros, from 95.232 million euros in the same period last year and said its pre-tax profits rose 20 pct to 7.164 million euros from 5.972 million euros over the same period respectively.

    EBITDA rose to 16.3 million euros and operating earnings rose to 9.2 million euros. Net earnings distributed to shareholders totaled 4.1 million euros while earnings per share totaled 0.08 euros, up 2.0 pct and 2.5 pct, respectively.

    The Group's board will seek shareholders' approval to a plan to return capital to shareholders worth 0.25 euros per share.

    [18] Business Briefs

    --Emporiki Bank on Friday said net losses fell to 160.1 million euros in the first quarter of 2011, down from 209.3 million euros in the same period last year, attributing this development to a significant decline in bad debt provisions, a further cut in operating spending and higher net income. The bank said its net income was down 5.3 pct and net losses rose 25 pct in the January-March period, compared with the fourth quarter of 2010, hit by adverse economic conditions prevailing in the country.

    --Greece will auction a six-month Treasury bills issue next Tuesday, seeking to raise 1.25 billion euros from the market. The issue will be offered to individuals tax-exempt on the precondition that they hold the bonds until their maturity.

    --Korres Group on Friday said its sales rose 0.6 pct in the first quarter to 10.3 million euros despite adverse conditions prevailing in the market because of strike mobilization by pharmacies around the country in the first two months of the year. Net earnings, after tax and minorities totaled 500,000 euros, down from 1.5 million euros in the same period in 2010.

    [19] Stocks down 4.5% in week

    Greek stocks ended lower during the last trading session of a negative week at the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday. The composite index ended 0.58 pct down at 1,370.10 points, for net loss of 4.5 pct in the week. Turnover remained a low 77.892 million euros. The Big Cap index fell 0.66 pct, the Mid Cap index rose 0.06 pct and the Small Cap index dropped 1.13 pct. Jumbo (2.01 pct), OPAP (1.75 pct) and Viohalco (1.55 pct) were top gainers, while Titan (3.91 pct), Alpha Bank (3.34 pct), Coca-Cola 3E (3.22 pct) and Eurobank (2.94 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses among blue chip stocks.

    The Media (2.22 pct), Insurance (1.75 pct) and Travel (1.62 pct) sectors scored gains, while Food (3.10 pct), Constructions (2.76 pct) and Banks (1.34 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 66 to 56 with another 60 issues unchanged. Unibios (16.67 pct), Mohlos (10 pct) and PC Systems (9.09 pct) were top gainers, while Altec (16.67 pct), Moda Bagno (14.29 pct) and Vovos (12.79 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.75%

    Industrials: +0.56%

    Commercial: +0.10%

    Construction: -2.76%

    Media: +2.22%

    Oil & Gas: +0.75%

    Personal & Household: +1.04%

    Raw Materials: -2.34%

    Travel & Leisure: +1.62%

    Technology: -1.32%

    Telecoms: +1.37%

    Banks: -1.34%

    Food & Beverages: -3.10%

    Health: -0.57%

    Utilities: +1.22%

    Chemicals: -1.28%

    Financial Services: +0.37%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, OTE and Coca Cola 3E.

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

    Alpha Bank: 3.47

    ATEbank: 0.46

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.10

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.42

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.92

    National Bank of Greece: 4.92

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.30

    OPAP: 14.50

    OTE: 7.40

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.01

    Titan: 17.18

    [20] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds ended the week at 12.34 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market, slightly up from 12.32 pct on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 15.51 pct and the German Bund 3.17 pct. Turnover in the market remained a low 20 million euros, of which 11 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 9.0 million euros were buy orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 6.0 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved slightly down. The 12-month rate eased to 2.15 pct, the six-month rate fell to 1.70 pct, the three-month eased to 1.41 pct and the one-month rate remained at 1.25 pct.

    [21] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.42 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover shrinking further to 17.861 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index was 4,414 contracts worth 13.457 million euros, with 33,443 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 9,276 contracts worth 4.404 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,901), followed by Eurobank (880), OTE (577), OPAP (314), Piraeus Bank (369), GEK (1,223), Alpha Bank (607) and Titan (144).

    [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.471

    Pound sterling 0.897

    Danish kroner 7.568

    Swedish kroner 9.156

    Japanese yen 118.25

    Swiss franc 1.285

    Norwegian kroner 8.064

    Canadian dollar 1.418

    Australian dollar 1.378

    General News

    [23] Arrests in motorcycle officers' killings

    Police on Friday announced that 35 suspects were taken into custody during a massive law enforcement sweep revolving around the ambush of a motorcycle police patrol in the working-class district of Rendi, Piraeus last March, an incident that left two officers dead.

    Another two motorcycle officers were injured during an initial car chase, when fleeing suspects opened fire on police in pursuit.

    Authorities said they cracked the case in cooperation with the counter-terrorism unit and even assistance from the intelligence service.

    According to initial reports, four main suspects -- two Albanian nationals and two repatriated Greeks from the former Soviet Union -- are considered as the perpetrators in the double homicide.

    Out of the 35 arrestees, 11 suspects will be led before a prosecutor on charges related to the deadly incident.

    According to a police spokesperson on Friday, four gunmen participated in the bloody clash, of whom a 36-year-old and a 28-year-old have been arrested, while another two remain at large and believed to have skipped the country.

    According to DNA material found on the assault rifle left in the stolen car after the clash, at least one of the shooters was the 28-year-old.

    [24] Prosecution launched in Rendi case

    A prosecutor launched legal proceedings against the 11 persons arrested, including a woman, in the case of the robbery in Menidi which, following a chase, had resulted in a bloody confrontation that cost the lives of two policemen of the DIAS group in the district Rendi.

    According to the prosecution launched, two of those arrested are charged with willful homicide and multiple attempts, concerning the fatal wounding of the two policemen. The file of proceedings mentions that fingerprints of the two were found in the magazine of the Kalashnikov weapon fired at the policemen.

    Another two of the perpetrators are wanted on the same charges.

    The prosecutor also launched legal proceedings against two of those arrested for the procurement and possession of drug substances for their own use.

    [25] Municipal day care closed in protest at longer hours

    Municipal day care centres throughout the country will be closed from noon on Friday until next Thursday, due to strikes protesting against government plans to increase working hours in the public sector to 40 a week.

    The local authority workers' union POE-OTA has declared a four-hour work stoppage from noon until 4:00 p.m. on Friday and a 48-hour strike on Monday and Tuesday. Day care centres will also be closed on Wednesday due to the May 11 general strike organised on that day by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants' union federation ADEDY.

    The association of nursery and pre-school teachers is planning a protest rally at Syntagma Square at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and a rally outside the offices of POE-OTA in Karaiskaki Square at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, followed by a march to the interior ministry.

    [26] Riot police push protesting doctors out of health ministry

    Scuffles broke out during a protest by doctors, nurses and ambulance staff outside the health ministry at around noon on Friday, when riot police were called in to prevent them from forcing their way into the building.

    The protest was prompted by the arrest of a doctor on night duty at Attiko Hospital after a complaint was filed by a relative that a patient's life had been placed at risk because there was no bed available.

    After the demonstration outside the ministry, doctors demanded to meet the minister and, when this was ruled out, asked instead to meet one of the ministry general secretaries. When this demand too was flatly refused, they attempted to force their way into the building but were pushed back by riot police.

    The protestors then left and marched to Parliament.

    [27] Amyntaio residents to block goods train in protest

    Residents of Amyntaio on Friday announced their decision to block the passage of a goods train going through their town in protest against the rail company's decision to scrap the passenger services between Amyntaio and the nearby cities of Edessa and Florina.

    Amyntaio Mayor Makis Iosifidis stressed that the town was tired of waiting for the railway company to keep promises to restore the passenger service and had decided to obstruct the passage of highly profitable freight services to the area.

    The mayor stressed that the cost of the passenger service should be offset against the profits of the freight service, showing that the line was not running at a loss.

    [28] Jail term for self-styled anarchist bank robber upheld

    An Athens appellate court on Friday upheld a previous conviction against self-styled anarchist Giorgos Vogiatsis-Voutsis and sentenced him to eight years in prison for the robbery of a National Bank branch in Athens' Gyzi district on Oct. 3, 2007.

    The defendant, 25, was found guilty of robbing a bank and illegal possession of firearms.

    In his testimony before the court, he maintained that he has no regrets for his action, adding that he does not intend to repeat it. He also claimed that his "ideology" does not allow him to use force against people.

    The defendant's father, veteran leftist cadre Nikos Voutsis, told the court that only his son "can say why he did what he did. It is an act for which I cannot relate. I do not share this ideological direction. However, I understand the way young people react."

    Vogiatsis-Voutsis was apprehended by a passerby as he fled the bank with 23,000 euros, moments after holding it up along with a still undetected accomplice.

    Soccer

    [29] Bonuses axed over Cup final violence

    The government's latest campaign to stamp out hooliganism on Friday generated a decision by OPAP S.A. -- the state-run betting pools -- to withhold a 200,000-euro bonus to Super League Cupwinner AEK Athens.

    Runner-up Atromitos Athens and the football federation (EPO) will also lose money.

    "(The bonus money) ... will be provided immediately as a donation for a charitable purpose, which the board of OPAP S.A. will determine with a new decision, choosing from the many and considerable appeals that have been submitted to the company," an announcement stated.

    The Cup final on April 30 was marred by hooligan violence, before, during and after the game.

    Basketball

    [30] Panathinaikos qualifies for Euroleague basketball final

    Panathinaikos Athens qualified for the Euroleague basketball final after beating Siena of Italy 77-69 in the semifinal played in Barcelona on Friday evening. The 10-minute intervals had the following results: 17-21, 40-36, 56-47, 77-69.

    Panathinaikos will be playing at 17:30 in Sunday's final with the winner of the second semifinal between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Real Madrid that will be taking place later on Friday night.

    Weather Forecast

    [31] Fair on Saturday

    Fair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 6C and 24C. Fair in Athens, with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 21C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 9C to 20C.

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

    A statement by Infrastructure Minister Dimitris Reppas that 'a nincompoop at the finance ministry' was behind rumours that he had fallen out with 'Troika' experts and municipality finances dominated headlines in Friday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Municipalities of the country on their 'deathbed' financially".

    AVGHI: "'Troikanising' wages, pensions and unemployment benefits again". [play on words with IMF 'Troika' and similar-sounding Greek 'rokanizo' that means to slowly reduce].

    AVRIANI: "Country in a regime of cut-price sell-off after being turned over to IMF".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Papaconstantinou a 'nincompoop'."

    ELEFTHEROS: "Strauss-Kahn: [PM George Papandreou] naive, does not understand the problems".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The Portuguese aren't nincompoops".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "And the nincompoops in the middle".

    ESTIA: "Unbelievable chaos with tax statements".

    ETHNOS: "Departments scrapped at universities, TEI".

    IMERISSIA: "Mergers a shield for banks".

    KATHIMERINI: "Troika causing nervous breakdowns"

    LOGOS: "The nincompoop and the 'troika'...".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Framework for founding businesses modernised".

    NIKI: "Backdated cuts in supplementary pensions".

    PARASKEVI+13 (weekly): "George, no more lies".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Memorandum for municipalities that imposes new anti-popular measures".

    TA NEA: "Flexi-time work hours with fewer rights".

    VRADYNI: "Candidates for nationwide university entrance exams in limbo"

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