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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-09-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 26 September 2011 Issue No: 3899
 Greek FinMin Venizelos meets IMF's LagardeNEW YORK (AMNA/P.Panayiotou) Greek government vice president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos began his meeting with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde in Washington late Sunday night (Greek time), earlier than scheduled.
Also present at the meeting was IMF head of the EC-ECB-IMF troika delegation in Greece Poul Thomsen.
In statements on the sidelines of the last day of the sessions of IMF's annual congress, Lagarde stressed that if the Greeks "do not want our advice, then we cannot do anything for them."
Ahead of his meeting with Lagarde, Venizelos met with the Managing Director of the Institute of International Finance (IIF) Charles Dallara with whom he discussed the implementation of the 21th July Eurozone summit decisions.
The Greek government vice president and Finance minister also addressed the IMF's lunch on the issue "Breaking the vicious circle".
Venizelos referred to the reasons and the results of the Greek and European crisis and presented the Greek government and people's efforts and actions for major structural reforms that would create the conditions for Greece to exit from the crisis.
 IMF statement on Venizelos-Lagarde meetingThe International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued the following statement, after a meeting between Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, late Sunday night in Washington:
"The Managing Director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, met with Greece's Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos today in Washington. They discussed the terms under which the IMF mission would return to Athens to undertake the fifth review of Greece's economic program--most likely this coming week."
 Venizelos: Greece will always be in Eurozone; no defaultNEW YORK CITY (AMNA / P. Panayiotou)
Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos appeared confident here on Saturday -- a day before his meeting with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde -- over the battered Greek state's finances, predicting that an EC-ECB-IMF delegation will soon return to Athens and that the sixth tranche of a bailout package will be disbursed as scheduled.
Venizelos, who also holds a deputy premier's portfolio in the Greek government, again emphasised that Athens will also dutifully meet obligations stemming from the July 21 Eurozone decisions.
In driving home the point, the Greek minister said the clear message from his meetings with Eurozone and third country counterparts on the sidelines of the annual IMF summit in Washington D.C. is that "Greece is and will always be part of the euro, a member of the Eurozone."
Among others, he met with the German, French, Italian and Belgian finance ministers.
"We are now answering the negative stereotypes that have been circulating internationally about Greece, now that we are taking significant and harsh decisions, now that the Greek people are subjected to new sacrifices ... A series of events will follow: the (EC-ECB-IMF) 'troika' will return; the sixth tranche is disbursed; July's decisions are implemented, thereby allowing us to reach a truly viable long-term debt within the implementation of the July 21 decisions. This plan is clear and it exists. We must do everything so that no one can pin the blame on us," he said.
Beyond the commitments to Eurozone partners, Venizelos repeated the still unresolved problems still plaguing the country, such as large "grey economy", tax evasion, statism and low competitiveness.
On Sunday, beyond the meeting with Lagarde, Venizelos will meet in Washington with Institute for International Finance (IIF) executives, IMF officials and possibly with ECB President Jean Claude Trichet and European Union Commissioner Olli Rehn.
"If you look carefully at the statements by all the relevant Eurozone officials and representatives of Eurozone member-states, you will see that there are two constant messages: Greece is and will be part of the Euro forever, and will not go bankrupt, because this would be catastrophic for the Eurozone and other countries beyond. This is also well-understood by the US administration, whose representatives I again met with here, such as the under-secretaries of State and the Treasury, following my recent meetings with (US Secretary of State Hillary) Ms. Clinton and (US Treasury Secretary Timothy) Mr. Geithner."
 FinMin rejects Greek media reportsGreek government vice president and Finanace Minister Evangelos Venizelos reacted strongly on Sunday to Greek Sunday newspapers' reports regarding the tackling of the Greek public debt.
In a statement from Washington, where he was due to meet with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, and released by the finance ministry, Venizelos rejected the reports as "a petty politics novel of bad quality".
"Despite my categorical statement last Friday, regarding various scenarios on the management of the Greek public debt, despite the fact that the Greek government's basic position is the need for the immediate and full implementation of the July 21 (Eurosone Summit) decisions and despite the fact that this is the position which I present in all my meetings and speeches in Washington, Greek Sunday newspapers repeat these scenarios as emanating from the Greek government and not as rumors emanating from other sources and reproduced by international media," Venizelos said.
"Apparently, those who write (these scenarios) do not realise how serious and dangerous is the situation for the country," the Finance minister concluded.
 PM and SI president sends message to SI's presidium meetimgGreek Prime Minister and Socialist International (SI) President George Papandreou addressed on Sunday a message to a meeting of the SI's presidium taking place in New York.
Explaining the reasons of his absence from the presidium's meeting, Papandreou referred to his "urgent obligations in Greece" and the ongoing negotiations regarding the economic crisis.
"From the very first moment of the (economic) crisis, our organisation elaborated a series of concrete ideas and initiatives that could stop it. Unfortunately, both the international community and the European Union appeared too slow and divided in their reaction," Papandreou noted in his message.
"Today, the global economic situation becomes more and more fragile and the end of the crisis seems yet too far. It threatens the banking sector, the stability of developed economies and undermines international efforts for achieving the UN's Millenium Targets" the Greek premier added.
Referring to the Greek crisis, Papandreou noted that his government and the Greek citizens "are faced with tremendous challenges. In this extremely adverse economic environment we are materialising a very strict, restrictive, programme promoting in parallel a series of unprecedented reforms. In answer to all those that question our efforts, we are proud to say hold that in the year 2010 we achieved the greatest deficit decrease in the Eurozone, a decrease of 5%, from 36 billion euros to 24 billion. Primary state spendings decreased by 10 billion euros."
"Nevertheless, many things remain to be done. Not only in the sector of fiscal reform but in structural reforms as well, reforms that will again make our country a competitive country and will allow us to achieve growth, viable debt and new jobs," the SI president also said.
Papandreou underlined that "the settlement of the Greek debt is not enough in handling the broader repercussions and the real causes of the economic crisis in Europe. Greece represents only 3% of the Eurozone's debt and only 2.5% of the Eurozone's GDP," noting "the urgent need for strategic decisions that would shield European Union member-states against similar crises in the future."
"We need permanent stabilising mechanisms and new fiscal tools in order to promote solidarity and social justice," Papandreou stressed in his message.
The Greek premier concluded by appealing for an immediate action as regards climate change.
"We must act immediately if we want to protect future generations," he underlined.
 Greek FM expresses Athens' concerns over recent developments in E. MediterraneanAMNA (NEW YORK CITY)
Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis late Saturday expressed Athens' concern over what he called Ankara's "threats and hostile actions against the Republic of Cyprus, speaking from the podium at the 66th UN General Assembly.
Lambrinidis sternly condemned what he called Turkey's hostile "rhetoric" and reiterated Greece's support for the UN-brokered peace process to unify the island republic.
He further juxtaposed Turkey's polemics with Athens' stance, stressing the latter's commitment to exploratory talks with Turkey on the issue of delineating the Aegean's continental shelf, adding however, that in case Turkish leadership decides against cooperation, then the issue should be referred to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
In other points raised during his address, Greek foreign minister referred to the need to broaden and deepen international cooperation in order to face whatever challenges, such as climate change and desertification, along with security threats, such as nuclear proliferation, terrorism and piracy.
Closer to home, he cited Athens' standing "Agenda 2014" initiative to promote the European prospects of the western Balkans, while also referring to increased cooperation at the regional and trans-regional level.
Turning to developments in the wider region, Lambrinidis expressed Greece's complete support for the "Arab Spring" and what he said was the "rights of peoples" for democracy and a better life, touching particularly on Greek actions vis-a-vis the recent conflict in Libya, such as the evacuation of thousands of third country nationals from the North Africa country, support of the NATO 'no fly' decision and a continuous Greek diplomatic presence in Benghazi.
Regarding the timely issue of the Palestinian Authority's request for recognition of independence by the UN body -- a matter that dominated the limelight at the 66th General Assembly -- Lambrinidis repeated Greek policy in support of Palestinians' right to their own nation, as well as in their right to petition for such recognition.
"Palestine has the right to exist as an independent state, just as Israel has the equal right to exist in complete and unwavering security," he emphasised.
In another matter, Lambrinidis said Greece will be a candidate for a seat on the Council of Human Rights for 2012, and as such, requests the support of the UN's member-states for the slot.
Finally, the veteran diplomat touched on the thorny and still unresolved "name issue" involving Greece and the neighbouring former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), reiterating Athens' desire for a solution via a "fair compromise" that includes a name with a geographic determinant, for use by all (erga omnes).
"We want a resolution to the matter so that we can develop the huge prospects entailed in relations between our two countries, on the basis of directness and sincerity," he said.
 Greek Education Minister at "Pontignano Conference" in RomeROME (AMNA/Th. Andreadis-Siggelakis)
Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou participated in a debate here on the economic crisis and Europe's future.
The in-camera meeting was organised by the British Council and the British Embassy, in collaboration with the Italian Embassy in London, the University of Siena and St Antony's College Oxford within the framework of the nineteenth "Conference of Pontignano" chaired jointly by former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato and Chris Patten (rector of Oxford University, and former European commissioner).
Diamantopoulou told AMNA that she presented specific data regarding Greece's great reforms effort and underlined that these reforms cannot yield complete results in eighteen months, given that they concern a whole generation.
Moreover, the Greek minister noted that "it is of Europe's interest and not only of Greece, to remain in the eurozone."
 ND lead in three latest opinion pollsMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party appears comfortably ahead of ruling PASOK in three recent opinion polls commissioned for separate Sunday newspaper editions.
Specifically, ND garnered the support of 21.3 percent of respondents to PASOK's 15.5 percent, a lead of 5.8 percent. Results of the poll will be published on Sunday by the Athens weekly "Proto Thema".
In terms of smaller opposition parties, the Communist Party picked up 7.4 percent; the Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) 5.6 percent and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) 5 percent. The only party exceeded the 3-percent limit for entering Parliament, according to the survey, is the current out-of-Parliament Ecologists-Green party, given 3.5 percent.
Interestingly, the number of respondents identified as undecided, abstainers or those intending to cast blank and invalid votes reach 32.6 percent.
If correlating the number of valid votes, then the figures are 29.3 percent for ND and 21.3 percent for PASOK, according to the poll, conducted by the firm Alco.
Additionally, 79 percent of the respondents said recent sacrifices entailed by a series of austerity measures have been wasted, while six in 10 respondents is concerned they will lose their jobs.
In another opinion poll to be released by the Sunday edition of the Athens daily "Eleftheros Typos", ND is ahead of PASOK by six percentage points -- 21.5 percent to 15.5 percent.
KKE is picked by 9 percent of respondents; 5.5 percent for LA.O.S and 5 percent for SYRIZA. Only the newly created Democratic Left party reaches the 3-percent mark. Thirty percent of respondents said they were undecided.
Core support by PASOK supporters is at 36 percent, 60 percent for ND.
Moreover, 59.5 percent of respondents in this opinion poll, conducted by the firm Pulse, said neither Prime Minister George Papandreou nor ND leader Antonis Samaras was most suited to be premier. Nevertheless, Samaras led Papandreou by 24 percent to 15 percent.
Finally, ND is given a 4.3-percentage point lead over PASOK in a poll unveiled by the weekly "To Paron" -- 25.1 to 20.8 percent.
Further down, KKE picks up 8; LA.O.S 5.2; SYRIZA 4.1 and two smaller parties are given percentages, which if proved true at the ballot box, would allow them to enter Parliament -- the Democratic Left with 3.2 and the Ecologists with 3.1 percent.
PASOK supporters, meanwhile, appear to favour Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, 28.7 percent, over PM George Papandreou, 11.07 percent, on the question of who has a better chance of leading PASOK to a repeat re-election. Conversely, 51.3 of respondents in the poll, conducted by the Rass firm, responded "neither".
 Two PASOK MPs hint at resignationTwo ruling PASOK party MPs have issued an open letter to Prime Minister George Papandreou warning that they may resign from the Parliament seats "under the weight of pressure from the currrent situation".
The letter was signed by Odysseas Voudouris, a deputy from Messinia prefecture, and Athanasios Economou, who is elected from Ioannina prefecture.
Both men nevertheless said they support the government, allow decision have not been implemented with the necessary speed.
 Ecumenical Patriarch tours Valia Kalda nat'l parkEcumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (Vartholomeos) on Sunday continued his tour of northwest Greece, visiting the Valia Kalda national park in the prefecture of Grevena and a historic local monastery, before heading to the Panaghia Soumela Monastery on Mt. Vermio.
During a reception in his honour at a local restaurant, the Patriarch publicly praised the owner of the business after learning that he was the father of a family of seven, noting that the issue of a low birth rate is a problem in 21st century Greece.
"We were four siblings, and my late father kept a coffee shop in our village (on the island of Imvros, in the NE Aegean), where in one corner was a barber's chair; that is how he raised us under the difficult living conditions of our village. We did not have electricity, no running water in our houses, we had to use the village spring," Bartholomew said in reminiscing of his own childhood.
His visit to the national park, in the central part of the Pindus mountain range, aimed to raise the environmental awareness of the pristine region.
"We want to continue to work in this direction, particularly amongst the youth. We want to increase sensitivity, love and respect towards God's creation," he added.
 NBG chief: No default if decisions implementedNational Bank of Greece (NBG) managing director Apostolos Tamvakakis in published statements on Sunday noted that if the country implements the decisions it has undertaken then no default will be forthcoming.
"We can avoid (default), absolutely. No one can push us into bankruptcy if we do not want to default. I am certain that we can make it if we all decide to individually see what is in our best interest and the country's best interests," he was quoted as saying in an interview published by the Sunday edition of the Athens daily "Kathimerini".
He emphasised that any "alternative" -- i.e. exit from the Eurozone and return to a national currency -- "will bring the country back decades".
 Foreign Exchange rates - MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.363
Pound sterling 0.885
Danish kroner 7.553
Swedish kroner 9.452
Japanese yen 103.85
Swiss franc 1.237
Norwegian kroner 8.003
Canadian dollar 1.406
Australian dollar 1.404
 Mass transit strike on MondayUnions representing workers at the state-run fixed rail mass transit providers in the greater Athens area (metro, electric rail and tram and suburban railway) have called yet another 24-hour strike for Monday. More ominously, the threat of a 48-hour strike is on the agenda of Monday's meetings.
Moreover, Air Traffic Controllers Union decided not to work overtime and to follow their daily timetable.
Bus and trolley workers' unions have also called for general assemblies on Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the former and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the latter, a development also expected to create congestion on greater Athens' roadways.
Finally, taxi owners have threatened to remove their vehicles from the roads on Wednesday.
 Illegals intercepted before entering Italy-bound ferry boatTwo foreign nationals, a 30-year-old female driver and her 40-year-old male companion, were arrested at the extreme NW port of Igoumenitsa on Saturday on charges of attempting to transport three using fake travel documents.
The alleged migrant smugglers and the illegals were intercepted just prior to boarding an Italy-bound ferry boat.
 Scattered clouds on MondayScattered clouds and northerly winds are forecast for Monday. Wind velocity will reach 8 on the Beaufort scale. Cloudy in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 10C-27C. Fair on the islands and the southern parts, 12C-30C. Sunny in Athens, 18C-29C, cloudy in Thessaloniki, 16C-27C.
 Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glancePolitical and economic developments ahead of a scheduled meeting in Washington D.C. between IMF head Christine Lagarde and Greek FinMin Venizelos, the ongoing recession in the country and its impact on society along with three separate opinion polls showing a growing lead for main opposition New Democracy (ND) party over ruling PASOK, were the main front-page items in Athens' newspapers on Sunday.
AVGHI: "Leave now (government) before you bankrupt us".
AVRIANI: "5,000 children and relatives of Parliament deputies have been appointed (to the public sector) illegally".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Memorandum of poverty brings controlled default".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Households declare default".
EPOCHI: "Debt in instalments".
ETHNOS: "German plan for major 'haircut' of debt".
KATHIMERINI: "Fraud artists will benefit if we return to drachma - Interview with National Bank Managing Director Apostolos Tamvakakis".
PROTO THEMA: "Second extraordinary tax contribution in Plan B".
REALNEWS: "Ground Zero for PASOK -- Thirty MPs at razor's edge".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Unending battle against unjust measures and hellish measures".
TO PARON: "They (opinion poll respondents) prefer FinMin Evangelos Venizelos to PM George Papandreou -- New Democracy in the lead, however, according to RASS opinion poll".
VIMA: "Our 'big haircut' - high stakes game with our (external) debt".
VRADYNI: "Retire to save yourself".
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