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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-07-20

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Wednesday, 20 July 2011 Issue No: 3842


  • [01] PM chairs meeting on Thursday's Eurozone summit; selective default not a preferred solution, gov't sources say
  • [02] PM briefs opposition leaders over pending Eurozone summit
  • [03] PM in Brussels on Wednesday
  • [04] 'Worst scenario is no solution', finmin tells PASOK MPs concerning Thursday Eurozone summit
  • [05] Greek FM on Turkish PM's statements regarding Cyprus
  • [06] Defence minister received by Cyprus President
  • [07] Martens slams European Socialists, Papandreou for statement on debt crisis
  • [08] Former Argentine FinMin Cavallo warns against Greek eurozone exit
  • [09] Petalotis represents Greece at informal EU Justice and Home Affairs Council.
  • [10] FinMin in AP interview: European debt deal attainable at Thursday's summit
  • [11] Unemployment at 15.8pct in April
  • [12] Greek banks' presence in SE Europe remains strong
  • [13] Greece raises 1.6 bln euros from 3-month T-bill auction
  • [14] Stocks end 11-day decline
  • [15] ADEX closing report
  • [16] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [17] Seven found guilty in 'Conspiracy of Cells of Fire' terror group trial, face 11-25 years imprisonment
  • [18] Taxi owners announced indefinite strike
  • [19] Gov't on taxi owners' strike
  • [20] Taxi owners march to parliament
  • [21] Doctors, nurses nationwide to hold strike on Wednesday
  • [22] British youth's death attributed to natural causes by coroner
  • [23] Foreign nationals with forged Spanish passports intercepted at port
  • [24] Drug dealers arrested in Athens
  • [25] Foreign national arrested on Corfu on Interpol warrant
  • [26] Major fire breaks out near city of Ioannina
  • [27] Wildfire in Messinia
  • [28] Mini heatwave to continue in coming days
  • [29] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [30] Leaders agreed on intensive talks, twice a week, President says
  • [31] Omirou: Erdogan's illegal visit another sign of Ankara's lack of will
  • [32] Foreign Minister resigns after deadly blast in Naval Base

  • [01] PM chairs meeting on Thursday's Eurozone summit; selective default not a preferred solution, gov't sources say

    Selective default is not a solution chosen by the government and it is not using it as a starting position in negotiations, a high-ranking government source stressed on Tuesday after the conclusion of a government meeting chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou.

    The meeting was held at the prime minister's offices and attended by key government ministers, including government Vice-President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos. Government sources said that it focused on the progress of complex negotiations underway in the European Union to agree on a sustainable solution for tackling Greek debt.

    The Greek side is apparently aiming for a worst-case solution that, at minimum, combines lower interest rates and deferred repayment with protection of the income and savings of Greek citizens. Sources would not discuss what Greece would consider an "optimum" solution.

    The same sources stressed that "the necessary alternative technical approaches" had been worked out ahead of the emergency Eurozone summit on Thursday, outlining the costs and benefits of each proposal that might be put forward during the negotiations.

    They noted that the Greek government desired a long-term and effective solution to arise at Thursday's summit meeting. Asked whether Papandreou might veto a solution that was less than satisfactory, they stressed that the government was not going to the meeting with a fixed position decided in advance.

    "Anyone who goes to negotiations with a predetermined position does not get results. You set off with the aim of finding a solution and not with such a position," they added.

    The government will continue to avoid public discussion on the various scenarios and solutions seen in the media, for fear that some comment might prevent a positive outcome, they added.

    [02] PM briefs opposition leaders over pending Eurozone summit

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday held a round of telephone contacts with the leaders of Parliament-represented political parties, ahead of a crucial Eurozone summit on Thursday.

    Papandreou spoke with main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) president George Karatzaferis and Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras.

    [03] PM in Brussels on Wednesday

    Prime Minister George Papandreou will depart for Brussels on Wednesday to take part at Thursday's European Union Summit.

    Papandreou is expected to hold separate talks with European leaders ahead of the summit.

    [04] 'Worst scenario is no solution', finmin tells PASOK MPs concerning Thursday Eurozone summit

    "The worst scenario for Thursday is that of finding no solution," government Vice-President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Tuesday, while brieing MPs in PASOK's Parliamentary Working Sector for Economic Affairs on the finance ministry's omnibus bill.

    "Even the worst solution will be a solution," he added, while referring to general developments and Thursday's Eurozone summit in Brussels to find a solution for the debt crisis.

    Venizelos was critical of the stance adopted by main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and his opposition to involving private investors in any bailout scheme during his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    [05] Greek FM on Turkish PM's statements regarding Cyprus

    Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis on Tuesday reiterated that the Cyprus issue is a top priority of Greece's foreign policy, as the end of the illegal Turkish occupation of one-third of the island constitutes a condition for the full normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations.

    Commenting on the 37th anniversary of the Turkish invasion on Cyprus (July 20, 1974) and on statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Lambrinidis also noted that Athens "strongly supports Cyprus President Demetris Christofias' initiatives and efforts for achieving a just, viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem, one based on UN Security Council's resolutions and on the EU's principles, values and acquis.

    "The people of Cyprus must know that they will always have Greece by their side in the just struggle for their country's reunification," the Greek foreign minister added.

    Referring to Erdogan's statements, Lambrinidis said that "just before his illegal visit to the occupied areas in Cyprus, the Turkish Prime Minister 'threatens' with the freezing of Turkey's relations with the European Union, with plan 'B' regarding the solution of the Cyprus issue and, as an owner of part of the territory of Cyprus, with no return of the areas of Morphou and Rizokarpasso. These declarations show yet again that the essence of the Cyprus issue is the invasion and the ongoing occupation," he said, adding:

    "Instead of showing the necessary political will for a mutually accepted solution of the Cyprus problem, Turkey tries in vain to dictate to the EU its composition and its way of functioning," the Greek foreign minister concluded.

    Erdogan, who was due to visit the occupied areas on Tuesday afternoon, repeated that Turkey does not recognise Republic of Cyprus, a UN and EU member-state, adding that no one should expect any move by Ankara regarding the fenced off area of Varosha.

    [06] Defence minister received by Cyprus President

    NICOSIA (ANA-MPA - A. Viketos)

    Greek Defence Minister Panos Beglitis was received by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias during his visit to Cyprus on Tuesday, conveying Greece's support for Cyprus after the disastrous fatal accident that rocked the island country some days ago.

    "We stand at the side of Cypriot Hellenism, much more during this exceptionally difficult period and after this tragic accident," he said.

    After the meeting, Beglitis said that he had also conveyed the Greek government's unstinting support for Christofias' diplomatic and negotiating efforts for a solution to the Cyprus problem. He said that they had exchanged views with Christofias on a broad range of issues, including bilateral relations between Greece and Cyprus in defence issues.

    Christofias also briefed him on the latest developments in the Cyprus issue, while they discussed European developments in view of the emergency Eurozone summit on Thursday in Brussels.

    Addressing reporters after the meeting, Beglitis stressed the need for "broader national unity" and "respect for institutions" both in Greece and in Cyprus, referring to recent "voices" that were tending to lead to an "instability that is a luxury for Cyprus and Greece".

    He underlined that Greece and Cyprus had to fight together and that his own presence on Cyprus was intended as a message of this, of Greece's support to Cyprus as it struggled to recover from the latest accident and in its national struggle to solve the political problem on the island.

    In addition to Christofias, the minister had separate meetings with the Cyprus Parliament speaker Yiannakis Omirou and the leaders of Cyprus political parties.

    [07] Martens slams European Socialists, Papandreou for statement on debt crisis

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)

    European People's Party's (EPP) President Wilfried Martens on Tuesday strongly criticised a joint statement issued by Party of European Socialists (PES) Eurozone members at the weekend, which attacked the way the Eurozone's conservative majority were handling the European debt crisis.

    Martens expressed confidence that the Eurozone summit will contribute to the stabilisation of the financial situation in Europe, in a written statement released on Tuesday.

    "I am certain that the Eurozone Heads of State and Government understand fully the complexity of the situation and will respond with a solution that restores market confidence. The EPP leaders are working hard to safeguard the European interest and will also tackle the different challenges that some Eurozone member countries are currently experiencing. EPP stakeholders in the EU institutions are coordinating regularly at all levels and are acting with determination and responsibility," said the EPP President.

    In the same statement, he was scathing about the European Socialists attack on the EPP and especially the involvement of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who is also president of the Socialist International, who he stressed was the only EU prime minister associated with the PES initiative.

    "The PES statement was neither coherent nor substantial and its only purpose was to attack the EPP. It's a superficial statement from a superficial 'meeting' and it proves once again that the PES has an archaic understanding of economics. The PES claims to be progressive but its statements and policies are actually regressive and out of touch with reality," he underlined.

    "I was flabbergasted to see Mr Papandreou in particular, talking on behalf of the PES about the lack of political will in Europe. Instead of wasting time on nonsensical political maneuvers with his Socialist colleagues, Europe expects Mr Papandreou to put all of his time and energy on implementing the agreed measures and reforms which Greece urgently needs," Martens concluded.

    The socialist leaders of the Eurozone on Saturday issued a joint statement urging European governments to "reassert their primacy over financial markets" or risk placing Europe's sovereignty at risk.

    A key proposal of their plan included a European 'stability' agency to reprofile the debt of Eurozone member states and help get them back on track when they were at risk of losing stability, as well as the issue of Eurobonds as a tool in this effort.

    The plan was worked out during a phone conference on Saturday between Eurozone leaders belonging to the Party of European Socialists, including Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, and was later released as a joint statement entitled "A Eurozone based on Democratically accountable economic policy".

    Papandreou welcomed the PES initiative stating that: "the European Union has great economic potential but under conservative leadership there is a lack of political will to turn it into policies".

    [08] Former Argentine FinMin Cavallo warns against Greek eurozone exit

    (ANA-MPA / E. Karanassopoulou)

    Argentine politician and former finance minister Domingo Cavallo this week voiced opposition to the prospect of Greece's exiting the euro, stressing that such a move would be "wrong", in a commentary published in the European policy portal ( <>) on July 15.

    Cavallo, who served as minister during the major debt crisis in the Latin American country, maintained that "Argentina's growth recovery after it de-pegged the peso was due to exogenous developments in global commodity prices - not to the peso devaluation" and suggested steps "for an orderly restructuring of Greek debt".

    He underlined that the Greek political leadership should get "clear commitments from Europe and the IMF that the 'Greek Orderly Debt Restructuring Process' will not be interrupted mid-course."

    According to the five-point road map suggested by Cavallo in the case of Greece, "the easiest way to conduct a Greek restructuring would be to offer a swap between non-official Greek debts with these valued at the market rate of the day before to the announcement of the restructuring. This would allow Greece and Europe to capture the debt haircut that the markets have already conceded. The loss for the bond holders would not be larger than that that is already reflected in the market value of the Greek bonds.

    To allow the banks to continue with the current procedure of delaying the registration of their losses, the regulatory authorities could authorise the amortisation of those losses in various years. The situation would be no different than what it is today, when the financial institutions are not reflecting the market value of their bond holdings in their balance sheets."

    He underlined that "the European bonds that Greece would use to conduct the massive repurchase operation should be lent to Greece by the European Stabilisation Fund which would take as collateral Greek property that is available for privatisation. But the selling of the assets should be done at an adequate gradual pace as to avoid fire sells."

    Cavallo stressed that "Greece should stay committed to introducing all necessary fiscal and structural reforms needed to regain competitiveness and renewed growth. But it will be much easier to find the political and economic support once the debt overhang disappears. Nobody would be able to argue that austerity measures have the only purpose of meeting creditors' demands and the argument that Greece has to follow the Argentinean way of inflating its debt away by abandoning the euro would become obsolete."

    Finally, he pointed out that "Greek and European authorities should be prepared to fund the banks that will inevitably suffer runs against their deposits while Greece conducts its debt restructuring program. If the depositors fear that the lender of last resort may finally abandon those banks, the run will prove hard to stop and that may by itself precipitate the collapse not only of Greece but of many Greek and European Banks with severe contagious effects on other European economies."

    Domingo Felipe Cavallo is an Argentine economist and politician, best known for implementing the Convertibilidad plan, which fixed the dollar-peso exchange rate at 1:1 between 1991 and 2001 and brought the Argentine inflation rate down from over 1,300 pct in 1990 to less than 20 pct in 1992 and nearly zero during the rest of the 1990s.

    He is also well known for implementing the "corralito", the economic measures that almost completely froze bank accounts and forbade withdrawals from US dollar-denominated accounts, restraining savers from withdrawing their own money from bank accounts. It was followed by the December 2001 riots and the fall of Argentine President Fernando de la Rua.

    [09] Petalotis represents Greece at informal EU Justice and Home Affairs Council.

    Deputy Justice Minister George Petalotis represented Greece at the informal EU Justice and Home Affairs Council in Poland, which focused on the protection of crime victims.

    According to a justice ministry announcement on Tuesday, Petalotis said that the EU must continue initiatives to promote a package of legislative measures for the protection of crime victims' rights to protection support and access to justice.

    In this framework, he said that Greece agreed to giving priority to completing work on a European Protection Warrant and establishing minimum standards concerning rights, support and protection of the victims of crime.

    The informal EU Justice and Home Affairs Council was held in Sopot, Poland on Monday.

    Financial News

    [10] FinMin in AP interview: European debt deal attainable at Thursday's summit

    A European debt deal is attainable at Thursday's EU summit, Greece's finance minister and government vice president Evangelos Venizelos said in an interview with the Associated Press (AP) news agency in Athens, appearing on Tuesday.

    "Reaching a solution is attainable because this solution does not only include Greece," Venizelos told AP during an interview in his office on Monday. "At issue is the euro and the resilience of the eurozone. That is why protection of Greece is a self defense mechanism for the eurozone. That will help us avoid a domino effect," he said.

    Venizelos also said that Greece's target is to avoid being placed under selective default by ratings agencies, adding that proposals being considered already "combine all the different approaches" in a way acceptable to Greece.

    "I believe we will be able ... to achieve something which will be secure, positive for the viability of the public debt, and will safeguard Greece as a country and the Greek banking system," he said.

    On a second EU bailout package for Greece, the finance minister said: "We want a solution that makes our national debt sustainable ... guarantees Greece's borrowing needs until in mid-2014 when we foresee our return to the markets, and guarantees the liquidity of Greek banks."

    Venizelos also noted that Greece has already taken the toughest measures needed to steer the economy back to fiscal health.

    With respect to the pressures on the cost of borrowing for Italy and Spain, Venizelos said the came from the wagers of speculators against those countries and against the euro, charging organised attacks on countries with very good macroeconomic figures, such as Italy. There was no panic, he explained, just a calm and well-organised attack.

    On the country's fiscal targets, Venizelos said that Greece was on course to achieve a primary surplus in its budget next year, despite the fact that the fiscal targets for 2011 have not been achieved thus far.

    [11] Unemployment at 15.8pct in April

    The unemployment rate in Greece rose to 15.8 percent in April, up four percentage points from the corresponding month in 2010, according to figures released on Tuesday by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

    In a Labour Force Survey, ELSTAT said that the unemployment rate in April 2011 was 15.8% compared to 11.9% in April 2010 and 16.2% in March 2011.

    The number of employed amounted to 4,183,332 persons while the number of unemployed amounted to 786,459 and the number of inactive to 4,365,072.

    The number of employed decreased by 240,567 persons compared with April 2010 (a 5.4% rate of decrease) and by 1,993 persons compared with March 2011 (a 0.05% rate of decrease).

    The number of nemployed increased by 207,736 persons (a 35.9% rate of increase) compared with April 2010 and decreased by 24,881 persons compared with March 2011 (a 3.1% rate of decrease).

    [12] Greek banks' presence in SE Europe remains strong

    Greek banks' presence abroad remains strong, despite a punishing domestic crisis, focusing on activities in southeastern Europe and particularly in the Balkans.

    Some banks, however, recently announced they were cutting their international presence, or their intention to cut their equity participations in foreign banks in a move aimed at boosting their capital adequacy.

    Despite these announcements, Greek banks have established their international presence, particularly in southeastern Europe, and have increased their presence in the last three years.

    According to a report by the Hellenic Bank Association, Greek banks have established activities in 16 countries through 48 subsidiaries and branches, up from 15 countries and 45 subsidiaries and branches in 2007 before the crisis erupted.

    Over the last few years, most Greek banks have developed significant activity in the Balkans, implementing a strategy aimed at boosting Greek business activity in regional level and at the same time supporting exports and the Greek economy's international competitiveness in a difficult period for the economy.

    Greek banks' assets totaled 90.4 billion euros at the end of 2010, up 3.0 pct from the previous year, while pre-tax earnings totaled 790 million euros and deposits grew 15 pct to 43.5 billion euros. Loans totaled 61.3 billion euros, while the loans/deposits ratio fell to 141 pct in 2010 from 164 pct in 2009. Greek banks operated a branch network of 3,496 units, 5,710 ATMs and a workforce of around 50,000.

    Greek banks' presence in several countries in the region, such as Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, fYRoM and Albania is very significant, with their market share in Romania and Serbia approaching 20 pct and surpassing this level in Albania, Bulgaria and fYRoM.

    [13] Greece raises 1.6 bln euros from 3-month T-bill auction

    Greece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bills issue raising 1.25 billion euros from the market at a slightly lower cost.

    The Public Debt Management Organisation, in a statement, said the issue was 3.08 times oversubscribed with bids submitted totaling 3.845 billion euros. The organisation accepted bids worth 1.25 billion euros at an interest rate of 4.58 pct, down from 4.62 pct of the same auction in June 21.

    The auction was made through the market's primary dealers and settlement date was set Friday, 22 July. The organisation also accepted non-competitive bids worth 375 million euros, while it reserved the right to accept additional non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum.

    [14] Stocks end 11-day decline

    Stocks ended higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, halting an 11-day decline of prices which pushed the composite index of the market 10.45 pct down. The index rose 1.37 pct to end at 1,187.74 points, with turnover remaining a low 66.169 million euros. Market sentiment was encouraged by a positive climate in other European markets.

    The Big Cap index rose 1.42 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.44 pct higher and the Small Cap index ended 0.89 pct up. Mytilineos (4.10 pct), Eurobank (3.47 pct), Coca-Cola 3E (3.45 pct) and National Bank (2.59 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, with Jumbo (2.20 pct), PPC (2.09 pct) and MIG (1.92 pct) ending lower.

    The Food (3.41 pct), Raw Materials (2.48 pct) and Banks (2.02 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Utilities (1.82 pct) and Personal Products (1.26 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 86 to 44 with another 47 issues unchanged. Nakas (9.68 pct), Sfakianakis (9.52 pct) and MIG Real Estate (9.43 pct) were top gainers, while Technical Publications (9.76 pct), FG Europe (9.09 pct) and Alumil (8.33 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +2.13%

    Industrials: +1.12%

    Commercial: +0.39%

    Construction: +1.20%

    Media: Unchanged

    Oil & Gas: +2.00%

    Personal & Household: -1.26%

    Raw Materials: +2.48%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.75%

    Technology: +1.08%

    Telecoms: -0.35%

    Banks: +2.02%

    Food & Beverages: +3.41%

    Health: -0.95%

    Utilities: -1.82%

    Chemicals: +1.00%

    Financial Services: -0.90%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 2.95

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 8.90

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.19

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.24

    National Bank of Greece: 4.36

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 2.68

    OPAP: 10.88

    OTE: 5.62

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.85

    Titan: 15.40

    [15] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.37 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover remaining a low 22.731 million euros.

    Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,898 contracts worth 17.680 million euros, with 29,845 short positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 15,549 contracts worth 5.051 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,377), followed by Eurobank (2,425), Piraeus Bank (1,146), Alpha Bank (2,770), Cyprus Bank (1,507), ATEbank (826), PPC (524), Marfin Popular Bank (113) and Hellenic Postbank (124).

    [16] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.437

    Pound sterling 0.892

    Danish kroner 7.568

    Swedish kroner 9.368

    Japanese yen 113.45

    Swiss franc 1.178

    Norwegian kroner 7.979

    Canadian dollar 1.373

    Australian dollar 1.347

    General News

    [17] Seven found guilty in 'Conspiracy of Cells of Fire' terror group trial, face 11-25 years imprisonment

    An Athens criminal appeals tribunal on Tuesday found six of nine defendants in the trial for the "Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire) terror group guilty of felonies and a 7th defendant guilty lesser charges, while acquitting the two other defendants, handing down sentences of 11 to 25 years imprisonment.

    In a stricter ruling than that initially sought by the prosecutor in the case, the court found two of the defendants, Haris Hatzimihelakis and Panagiotis Argyrou, guilty of setting up a terrorist organisation, possession and construction of explosives, and moral instigation of three bomb explosions: at the home of former deputy interior minister Panagiotis Hinofotis on July 12, 2009, at the offices of the Macedonia-Thrace ministry on September 2 that same year, and at the home of PASOK (the main opposition party at the time) official (and later minister) Louka Katseli a few weeks later, on September 23, 2009.

    The court also found four defendants, Giorgos Karayiannidis, Panagiotis Massouras, Konstantina Karakatsani and Alexandros Mitroussias, guilty of membership in a terrorist gang, aiding the explosion at Katseli's home, violation of the law on explosive materials, and construction and possession of the explosive device placed at Katseli's home.

    Additionally, the court found one defendant, Emmanuel (Manolis) Yiospas guilty of robbery, theft and forgery.

    The court further acquitted Nikos Vogiatzakis and Errikos Rallis due to doubts.

    According to the court ruling, the physical perpetrators of the explosions remain unknown.

    The prosecutor, Dimitris Dassoulas, had last month recommended the acquittal of Yiospas, Rallis and Vogiatzakis, and guilty rulings for the remaining six on felony and misdemeanour charges including participation in a criminal organization, possession of explosive materials and causing explosions.

    According to the court ruling, Hatzimihelakis and Argyrou were each served with a total of 77 years imprisonment running concurrently, with incarceration set at 25 years, Karayiannidis was served with 32 years (20 years incarceration), Massouras with 19 years (to serve 11 years and 6 months), and Mitroussias and Karakatsani with 19 years (to serve 11 years).

    Yiospas, who was not found guilty on terrorism charges but on three misdemeanours, was served a sentence of 2 years and 9 months with a three-year suspension.

    [18] Taxi owners announced indefinite strike

    Taxi owners on Tuesday decided to escalate labour action in view of the tough stance adopted by the Infrastructure, Transport and Networks ministry, announcing an indefinite strike.

    The decision was taken by the taxi-owners' association SATA late on Tuesday afternoon and overturned an earlier decision to prolong the strike by just 24 hours, until 5:00 a.m. on Thursday.

    An announcement on SATA's website dismissed news reports that the strike will end on Friday as unfounded and untrue.

    "The 48-hour warning strike will continue indefinitely since there has been no change and no meeting with the appropriate ministry," the announcement said, noting that the strike will continue and, for the time being, had no specific termination date.

    The association apologised to the public for being unable to cover its transport needs and said that a minimum number of vehicles throughout the country will be on call at taxi companies, available for phone bookings in the case of medical emergencies only.

    [19] Gov't on taxi owners' strike

    Government spokesman Elias Mossialos on Tuesday provided the government's full backing to Infrastructures, Transport & Networks Minister Yiannis Ragoussis' handling of the ongoing taxi owners' industrial action.

    Mossialos stressed that the minister "voices the government's position" and called on all political parties to clearly state if they are in favour or against the liberalisation of so-called "closed professions". He also invited parties to take a stand as regards the consequences of the taxi strike on the country's economy, considering that it takes place in tourism high season.

    The government spokesman also said that the taxi union federation's stance is "irresponsible", stressing that its representatives requested a meeting with Ragoussis on Friday, only to call a strike the next day.

    [20] Taxi owners march to parliament

    Striking taxi drivers staged a protest demonstration on Tuesday morning outside the federation of Attica taxi owners' unions (SATA) headquarters in downtown Athens, off Omonia Square, and from there marched on foot to parliament, in protest of the government's decision to fully liberalise the profession and lift all restrictions on the number of taxi licences issued.

    Taxi owners in Athens also plan to demonstrate outside the Infrastructures, Transport and Networks Ministry on Wednesday.

    SATA president Thymios Lymberopoulos said that the taxi owners would launch an indefinite strike if the ministry remained unwavering in its positions.

    Similar demonstrations were held Tuesday in other cities throughout Greece.

    The clash between taxi owners and government has scaled into a head-on collision following new Infrastructures, Transport and Networks minister Yiannis Ragoussis' decision to proceed immediately with full deregulation of the profession, disregarding a Presidential Decree that was being advanced by his predecessor at the ministry, Dimitris Reppas, with which the cab owners had agreed.

    [21] Doctors, nurses nationwide to hold strike on Wednesday

    The national union federations for doctors and nurses, OENGE and POEDHN, respectively, have declared a nationwide 24-hour strike of all medical personnel on Wednesday. The strike is being held to put pressure on the government to withdraw a bill merging hospitals and abolishing welfare units.

    Hospitals, health centres, the ambulance service and welfare services will operate with a skeleton staff, while the unions have organised a rally outside the health ministry at noon on Wednesday.

    The nurses union POEDHN said the plan unveiled by the government made the national health system smaller, while undermining and further privatising it, while not addressing shortcomings such as the lack of biomedical technology, a poor primary care system, lack of beds in intensive care and others.

    Both doctors and nurses stress that the ministry has failed to take necessary action to improve the system or to hire essential staff, even though 20,000 people have left and gone into retirement in the last two years. Instead, it was abolishing working rights and trying to cover needs by moving an "overworked and underpaid staff" between the linked hospitals, they added.

    They also stressed that in the current time of crisis, when the demands on the health and welfare system were constantly increasing, the minister's obligation was to make improvements.

    [22] British youth's death attributed to natural causes by coroner

    An 11-year-old British youth found dead by his parents in the hotel they were staying in at Syvota, Thesprotia prefecture on Monday died due to natural causes, a coronary report said on Tuesday.

    The boy was found unconscious by his parents on Monday in their hotel room, and was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital in nearby Filiata.

    The body was transferred to Ioannina Hospital for an autopsy.

    Medical examiner Theodoros Vougiouklakis ruled out criminal action, and attributed the death to natural causes.

    [23] Foreign nationals with forged Spanish passports intercepted at port

    Two Tunisian nationals, aged 31 and 41, were arrested at the port of Igoumenitsa, NW Greece, while attempting to board an Italy-bound ferry using forged Spanish passports, authorities said on Tuesday.

    The pair was allegedly supplied with the fake travel documents in Turkey after paying 3,000 euros. Both men will be brought before a prosecutor facing charges for forgery, accepting and distributing products of crime and attempting to illegally exit the country.

    [24] Drug dealers arrested in Athens

    Thessaloniki police dismantled a drug trafficking ring during an operation in the Halkidona district of Athens on Tuesday.

    Police arrested four Albanian nationals aged from 28-44, who were in possession of 10.5 kilos of hashish.

    The suspects transported the drugs with a taxi, which one of the dealers had legally rented and was driving.

    A second car accompanying the taxi was also seized.

    The four men will be sent before Athens prosecutor.

    [25] Foreign national arrested on Corfu on Interpol warrant

    A 33-year-old Albanian national wanted by Interpol on an international arrest warrant was apprehended at the port of the Ionian island of Corfu on Tuesday.

    Police said the suspect, wanted for robberies and other illegal activities, had attempted to enter Greece via Corfu.

    He was apprehended during the passport control process.

    [26] Major fire breaks out near city of Ioannina

    A major fire has broke out late on Tuesday near the city of Ioannina in northwestern Greece, between the areas of Asvestohori and Neohoropoulo and quite near the university campus and the city's university hospital. No residential areas have been seriously threatened so far.

    The fire began in a rural region of Asvestohori and may have been begun by livestock breeders burning dry grass in their pastures. Due to a stiff breeze of 4-5 Beaufort blowing in the area at the time, the fire quickly got out of hand and a front measuring several kilometres was formed, burning through areas of grass and brush.

    The fire brigade has deployed a strong force to put out the blaze, assisted by three Canadair water-bombing aircraft. Fortunately, the fire began a short distance from Ioannina Lake, allowing the aircraft to quickly refill their tanks between drops.

    On one side of the front, the flames headed toward houses in Neohoropoulo but were extinguished by fire-fighters and local residents. A second front heading toward the campus and the hospital was also stopped while a strong fire-fighting force has been deployed around the Douroupi dump site in order to prevent the flames reaching the piles of refuse, which would extremely difficult to put out.

    [27] Wildfire in Messinia

    A wildfire broke out shortly after 1 p.m. on Tuesday in the region of Karnassi in Messinia prefecture, extreme southern Greece, burning bushes and crops.

    Firefighters dispatched in the scene were battling the blaze, assisted by five water-bombing aircraft.

    The same region has been destroyed by fire again in the past.

    Weather forecast

    [28] Mini heatwave to continue in coming days

    A mini heatwave this week is expected to keep temperatures in much of mainland Greece at or near the 40C mark during the daylight hours.

    According to the weather service, temperatures will reach 40 on Wednesday in the greater Athens area. Cooler temperatures are forecast for the islands.

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

    The taxi owners' strike and eurozone's special summit on Thursday, mostly dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Taxis blocked ports and airports".

    AVRIANI: "European Central Bank chief Jean Claude Trichet is leading us to bankruptcy".

    ETHNOS: "Blow against tourism in the heart of the season".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Shipwreck in a 'yellow' (taxis) river".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Plan to reduce salaries to 500-900 euros".

    ESTIA: "Unbelievable self-depreciation".

    AVGHI: "Call for action against government and Memorandum".

    VRADYNI: "Taxis block Athens".

    KATHIMERINI: "Europe at the extremes because of Greece".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Protests on Wednesday against antisocial measures in public health sector ".

    TA NEA: "Outcry over the blockades (by striking taxis of airports and ports)".

    IMERISSIA: "The way for seven privatisations opens".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Government will ask for liquidity and development at the eurozone summit".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [30] Leaders agreed on intensive talks, twice a week, President says


    President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu on Tuesday came to a decision for the intensification of UN-led negotiations for the solution of the Cyprus problem.

    The community leaders have met with UNSG on July 7, with whom they agreed on the intensification of the talks.

    Speaking to the press at the Presidential Palace, after Tuesday's meeting with Eroglu at the presence of UNSG Special Advisor, Alexander Downer, President Christofias said that "we agreed that the intensive talks will be held twice a week, lasting all day, until the end of October", adding that there will be a break between August 7 to 21 and also during the UN General Assembly in September.

    President of the Republic expressed hope the Turkish side to "change behavior in order to have progress", noting that Tuesday's statements by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan "are absolutely condemnable and cynical and if this is the line that the Turkish side will pursue, there will be no prospect for any progress".

    President Christofias furthermore said that he senses that the UN are also offended by Erdogan's statements, noting that the UN also wish for genuine progress during the talks.

    Invited to comment on the information for a unilateral proposal on behalf of the Turkish side regarding the opening of Famagusta, the president said that "upon Erdogan's illegal visit to the occupied areas, the UN and others in the international scene, would have expect a positive move on his behalf rather than incendiary statements".

    He added that "if this is Turkey's official stance, it means they want recognition of the pseudostate".

    Erdogan who was due to visit the occupied areas Tuesday afternoon, said that Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus adding that nobody should expect any move on behalf of Ankara regarding the fenced off area of Varosha.

    President Christofias had put forward a set of 3 proposals on the Cyprus issue last summer.

    The second proposal calls for the implementation of Security Council resolution 550 which provides for the return of the fenced off area of Varosha, now under Turkish occupation, to the UN. The objective of the proposal is to restore the town and return it to its legitimate inhabitants. The proposal envisages also the opening of the city's port for trade for Turkish Cypriots, under the EU supervision, as well as the restoration of the walled city of Famagusta (old part of the city).

    Referring to Tuesday's meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader, President Christofias said that both the UN and Eroglu expressed their condolences over the naval base blast on July 11, adding that "there was also an exchange of views over the electricity supply from the occupied areas".

    "The procedure followed did not involve any 'official sides', however I expressed my appreciation for the fact that the Turkish Cypriots stated their willingness to supply us with electricity at this crucial time, without demanding any direct or indirect recognitions of 'authorities' ", the president underlined.

    Arrangements for power supply from the occupied areas were made so as not to entail the upgrading of the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime, since the issue concerns a private initiative to buy electricity and re-sell it to the Electricity Authority of Cyprus. The arrangements followed the naval blast at Mari which caused 13 fatalities and destroyed Cyprus' biggest power plant at Vassiliko.

    President Christofias is engaged in direct talks with Eroglu, under the UN auspices, with a view to finding a negotiated settlement that will reunite the country under a federal roof. Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    [31] Omirou: Erdogan's illegal visit another sign of Ankara's lack of will


    President of the House of Representatives Yiannakis Omirou has stressed that the illegal visit of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the northern Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus is one more sign of Ankara's lack of will to change its stance as regards the Cyprus issue.

    The House President, who met Tuesday French Ambassador in Nicosia, Jean- Marc Rives, expressed the deep appreciation of the people of Cyprus to France for its firm support for justice on the island.

    According to an official press release, they both stressed the excellent relations between the two states as well as the possibilities to further enhance them in all fields.

    The French Ambassador expressed his deep condolences for the tragic incident in the Naval Base "Evaggelos Florakis", near Limassol, on July 11th, which resulted in the death of 13 people and damaged the island's main power plant in Vassiliko. He also expressed the readiness of his country to offer any possible help and support to Cyprus.

    Referring to the Cyprus problem, the House President expressed the sincere will of the Greek Cypriot side for a solution based on international law and the European principles and values.

    Unfortunately, Omirou pointed out, the increasing intransigence of Turkey has not allowed so far any substantive progress on the basic aspects of the Cyprus problem.

    Referring to the illegal visit of the Turkish Prime Minister to the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus on the occasion of the 37th anniversary of the Turkish invasion against Cyprus, Omirou said that this visit is one more proof of Turkey's lack of will to change its attitude as regards the Cyprus problem.

    Omirou said that the solution of the Cyprus problem should be a product of a free negotiation between the two sides and reiterated the stance of the Greek Cypriot side that it will not accept strict timeframes or arbitration in the process.

    ''Turkey should finally comply with international law and with its obligations to the EU and its member states, including Cyprus", he noted.

    During the meeting, the French Ambassador briefed the House President on the various activities and programs prepared by the Embassy of France with the aim to further promote French culture in Cyprus.

    [32] Foreign Minister resigns after deadly blast in Naval Base


    Minister of Foreign Affairs Markos Kyprianou submitted Tuesday afternoon his resignation to the President of the Republic Demetris Christofias.

    In statements to the press after a meeting with President Christofias, Kyprianou said that his decision to resign is final and thanked the president "for his trust as well as for the renewal of his trust by asking me to reconsider my resignation".

    Kyprianou's resignation came a week after the deadly blast in the Naval Base "Evaggelos Florakis", near Limassol, in which 13 people lost their lives. Shortly after the blast, on July 11th, Minister of Defence Costas Papacostas and National Guard Chief of Staff Petros Tsalikides stepped down.

    "My decision is final because as I explained to the President it is a decision dictated by my conscience, my morals, and the political perception of principles and values we have learnt in DIKO", he went on to say, referring to his party, the Democratic Party (DIKO) which is one of the two parties, along with the AKEL left wing party, which form the government, under President Christofias.

    Kyprianou added that the President had asked him to remain at his post for a few more days until his replacement.

    He also expressed the view that his decision to resign "helps the search for the real responsibilities", referring to the investigations carried out into the cause of the blast.

    Kyprianou said that his resignation will help the President as regards his decisions, initiatives and handling of the issue.

    Furthermore, he said that even after his resignation he remains ready to contribute to Cyprus' national struggle for justice on the island.

    "But I believe that the priority now must be the unhindered function of the institutions and the restoration of the citizens' confidence in the government and in the country's course", he concluded.

    On Monday 11th of July, thirteen people were killed by a huge blast, following a massive explosion at the Naval Base "Evaggelos Florakis", near Limassol.

    The explosion caused extensive damage to nearby Vassiliko power plant, leading to power shortage all over Cyprus. Communities in close proximity where also hit, while Mari village suffered most of the damage.

    The blast occurred in containers, full of munitions, which Cyprus had confiscated from "Monchegorsk", a vessel sailing from Iran to Syria in 2009, complying with UN sanctions against Iran.

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