|Sunday, 19 August 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-10-13
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 13 October 2011 Issue No: 3913
 Papandreou: 'We are at the centre of a global upheaval'Greece was currently at the centre of a global upheaval, in which Europe and particularly the Eurozone were tasked to first come up with answers to the problems arising in an unstable global environment, Prime Minister George Papandreou said on Wednesday during a meeting of the cabinet.
He underlined the need to convey a spirit of calm collectedness to the country and strongly criticised main opposition New Democracy (ND) for its failure to contribute to such a climate. He accused the main opposition party of undermining every effort and not hesitating to employ even downright lies in order to exploit the anxiety and concern of the Greek people in its favour, proving itself to be lesser than the occasion demanded and failing to accept its own large share of responsibility.
Papandreou asked the members of his government to deal agressively with ND lies and referred to the decisions taken by EU leaders on July 21, stressing that these secured support for the Greek economy, a partial lightening of the country's debt burden and support for its return to growth.
The premier also said that in the international environment, the government has as its primary target to serve the country's interest, stressing that the fact that there is an unfair global system does not justify a logic "that the resistance to a bad international system, is the resistance to all that we are doing, as a country, to put our house in order and decreasing the deficits."
The prime minister further said that "the resistance, violence, unlawfulness and the effort for the derailment of the budget and tax evasion, are neither progressive nor revolutionary" and "undermine the country's course, its independence and the effort for us to exit from the supervision put on us by ND" and disputed the patriotism of those moving with these logics.
Referring to the debt in particular, Papandreou said "we are negotiating in every way to make this debt lighter", adding that "this is the big negotiation and the big problem". He further noted "what we cannot negotiate is for us to produce new deficits."
The prime minister also focused on the October 23 summit, expressing the hope that its decisions will provide a final solution to the eurozone's problems. He added that the eurozone's failure to solve the problem definitely has created insecurity in Europe.
Papandreou also referred to the need for great changes in the treaty for the European Union and for the discussion on the economic governance of the eurozone to go ahead.
Lastly, he referred to existing difficulties, due to the vote in Slovakia's Parliament.
 Opposition parties on PM's cabinet meeting addressPrime Minister George Papandreou's address during Wednes-day's cabinet meeting drew strong reaction from opposition parties.
"Mr. Papandreou is pretending not to see where he has led the country. He never negotiated until today. He did not take decisions except for tax increases and salary cutbacks. He did not decrease the extravagant state, as he should have. He did not even proceed with the structural changes that are moving in the correct direction and that we have supported," said main opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said on its part that "the prime minister never said what is being negotiated in the EU and nor is he going to tell it. His confession, however, that 90 percent of the reactionary restructurings that he is implementing are options of his government and that it was in his election programme are entirely true."
The Coalition of the Left (SYN) said that "at the same time that the prime minister is hypocritically speaking of tough negotiations, he is exchanging secret letters with the troika and is intensifying the tough extortions towards the Greek people. The government of extortions, of suppression and bankruptcy must go."
 PM to meet with Juncker, Rompuy in BrusselsPrime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday spoke by phone with Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker, with talks focusing on the latest developments in Europe. The two men will meet in person on Thursday afternoon in Brussels.
Papandreou is also scheduled to meet on Thursday with European Council President Herman van Rompuy.
 PM phone contact with IMF chiefGreek prime minister George Papandreou had a telephone discussion on Tuesday night with International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde.
The discussion focused on preparation for the upcoming EU summit and G20 summits, the major issues that will be discussed and the pending decisions on the future of the eurozone, such as the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), banks, and enhancing economic governance, as well as issues concerning the Greek debt, the economic situation in Greece, the EU-IMF troika's progress report on the Greek economy, and the 6th tranche of the EU-IMF bailout loan.
Papandreou and the IMF chief will be in constant contact in light of the EU summit, according to a government announcement.
 PM Papandreou to have new telephone contacts with Lagarde, GeitnerPrime Minister George Papandreou will be having new telephone contacts with the IMF's managing director Christine Lagarde and the Economy Minister of the United States Tim Geitner in the coming days.
According to the prime minister's press office, Papandreou "will also have whatever other contacts are considered necessary also in light of the sessions of the European Council and the G20".
 Commission president Barroso on Greek debt issueBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Spinthourakis)
European Commission President Jose Barroso, speaking before the European Parliament Plenum here on Wednesday, said the present crisis is complete, there is the danger of it taking on systemic dimensions and complete answers are required from the European Union.
The Commission president linked directly the arrangements that should be brought about in relation to the Greek state debt, with the issue of the recapitalisation of banks, saying characteristically that the two issues are interrelated.
Barroso also said that a decisive solution is necessary for the issue of the Greek debt that will allay the concerns of markets and stressed that the basic elements of this solution must be the providing of the next tranche to Greece, the full implementation of the programme and the additional financing of the Greek economy with the aim of growth.
 FinMin: Troika role upgraded, now also representative of German chancellor, French presidentArticle 37 of the finance ministry's omnibus bill, which article concerns collective labour agreements, has been "totally agreed" with the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) 'troika' precisely as it has been stipulated in the bill, and if it is changed the danger exists that the troika report for approval of the 8 billion euros 6th tranche of the 110 billion euro EU-IMF bailout loan to Greece will not be positive, finance minister Evangelos Venizelos told a ruling PASOK parliamentary committee on internal and economic affairs late Tuesday, according to sources.
Further, Venizelos told the committee that the troika's role has been upgraded, and in addition to the EC, ECB and IMF it now also represents German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
 Finance ministry omnibus bill serves fiscal, nat'l goalsA finance ministry omnibus draft law serves very specific and urgent fiscal targets but it is equally important for national security and independence, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Wednesday while speaking in Parliament.
He stressed that the administrative reform promoted by the draft law is imperative adding that it could have taken place under better fiscal circumstances but "doubted if such major reforms would have found fertile ground" in the past.
As regards the labour reserve measure, he reminded that it is already implemented in countries like Belgium, which could offer Greece the necessary know-how to guarantee objectivity and credibility.
Finally, Venizelos cited the labour reserve version proposed by main opposition New Democracy (ND) party, claiming that ND leader Antonis Samaras briefed the troika (EC-ECB-IMF) on the specific model, underlining that the "troika's reaction was negative".
 Opposition MPs blast omnibus bill for salary scale, labour reserveOpposition party MPs on Wednesday levelled ruthless criticism against the omnibus bill introducing the uniform public-sector salary scale and labour reserve measures, during the debate on the draft bill in Parliament's Economic Affairs and Public Administration Committee.
Main opposition New Democracy MP Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a former interior minister, slammed the bill as an "act of deperation" by the government in order to secure the 6th tranche of the bailout loans, by which it was sacrificing public administration, civil servants but also private-sector workers with measures that were ill planned and directly contravened international conventions on labour and human rights.
Even ruling PASOK MPs on the committee did not fully support the bill, deploring the new salary scale as a 'poverty scale', criticising the labour reserve measure as "harsh" and likely to be contested in courts when the people involved might more simply be allowed to retire early, and deploring the abolition of sectoral labour agreements as leading to a 'labour dark ages'.
The head of the Democratic Alliance party Dora Bakoyannis accused the government of being inactive for two years and then presenting the bill "in a state of panic", without proper criteria or preparation, laying off people in crucial positions who were valuable to the state.
"We ended up with this model because for the past two years you have not proceeded to shut down unneeded organisations or to privatise those organisations that we could, such as the Greek Railways or Athens public transport. In this way we ended up with the most unfair model that helps no restructuring goal".
 ND bashes gov't over public sector hiringsA main opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman on Wednesday again referred to the issue of hirings in the public sector by ruling PASOK since it came to power in October 2009, condemning "the creation of new state structures that constitute a morbid version of partisanship and nepotism".
ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis stressed that "the government is implementing a plan of mass layoffs and at the same time insists an inflated and extravagant state by setting up roughly 70 new state structures; proceeding with illegal hirings in 2010; increasing the number of employees transferred to ministers' offices and planning more hirings. Such practices create a major economic, political and ethical issue and constitute a blatant injustice to thousands of employees."
Referring to recurring speculation over political consensus between the two mainstream parties, Mihelakis said that "we are witnessing consensus, on behalf of PASOK MPs, vis-?-vis the positions expressed by ND".
On the unrelated issue of tons of uncollected garbage in the country's major cities as a result of a sanitation workers' strike, he said "the situation is tragic ... and the government's position is unacceptable".
Finally, as regards the discovery of possible natural gas deposits within Cyprus' EEZ, Mihelakis said "the development is very positive and its benefits are present, because Cyprus acted quickly in declaring its EEZ".
 ND leader meets taxi owners presidentMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras met on Wednesday with the president of the taxi owners' federation Thymios Lymberopoulos at ND's offices in Athens.
After the meeting, Lymberopoulos expressed his satisfaction with Samara's response on the taxi owners' demands, and also underlined that their struggle.
He also opined that the government's bill on the deregulation of closed professions will not succeed.
 Greek, Egyptian FMs meet in Cairo, discuss cooperation in energy, Cyprus EEZCAIRO (AMNA - C. Poulidou)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr on Wednesday said that Egypt will "undoubtedly" respect an agreement delineating the Exclusive Economic Zone with Cyprus, in statements after his meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis in Cairo.
Amr said that the issue was discussed during his talks with Lambrinidis and that Egypt "will honour every commitment, every agreement and disagreement it has made, as well as every commercial agreement," sticking to this stance "independently of any situation".
During the meeting, Lambrinidis said that Athens considers Egypt a "major pillar of geopolitical stability" and that the two countries shared the same values and principles, the same respect for international law.
Reporting on his talks with the Greek minister, Amr said that they examined issues relating to the Middle East, especially the Palestinian problem, and matters of bilateral cooperation, such as in energy where they considered the supply of energy to Europe via Greece.
The Egyptian minister also referred to his upcoming visit to Athens and underlined that Egypt saw cooperation with Greece as a "strategic relationship".
Lambrinidis said that bilateral cooperation with Egypt will be intensified and that Greece will play a decisive role in the development of European cooperation with Egypt.
 FM meets with Arab League SecGen in CairoCAIRO (AMNA / C. Poulidou)
Greece's willingness to play an important role in Middle East and the creation of stronger ties between Athens and the Arab League dominated a meeting here on Wednesday between Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis and Arab League Secretary General Nabil El Araby.
The meeting was held within the framework of Lambrinidis' visit to countries in the region.
Lambrinidis underlined the need for stronger relations between Greece and the Arab League, which "at this crucial conjuncture plays a decisive role due to the respect it enjoys on behalf of the countries in the region," adding that Athens seeks to forge "strategic cooperation" with the Arab League.
On his part, the Arab League SecGen praised Greece's understanding of the region's problems and the government's willingness to play an important role.
They also discussed regional developments, including the Palestinian issue and an Oct. 23 deadline set by the "quartet" for the resumption of peace talks.
Lambrinidis underlined that, hopefully, the Palestinian problem will be solved with the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state existing, with security, next to Israel.
On developments in Libya and the gradual democratisation of the country, Lambrinidis underlined that the international community and the EU in particular, are willing to contribute to the restoration of normalcy in the country. Lambrinidis and El Araby stated that developments in Syria show no positive prospects.
The Arab League GenSec is scheduled to visit Greece shortly.
 ND's Avramopoulos departing on trip to U.S.Main opposition New Democracy party vice-president Dimitris Avramopoulos is due to depart for a visit to Washington and New York on Wednesday.
During his visit he will have meetings with U.S. senators, U.S. Undersecretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Eric Rubin, Brookings Institution Managing Director Bill Antholis and the Greek-American chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus.
He is also due to attend a dinner in New York attended by business people and members of the Greek community given in his honour by Greek-American businessman John Katsimatidis and an annual dinner given by the Order of St Andrew Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate that will also be attended by Archbishop of America Demetrios.
 Railroad trade unionists pull out of PASOK partyAll members of the railroad workers trade union faction PASK, which is affiliated to the ruling PASOK party, on Wednesday announced their decision to pull out of both PASK and resign as members of the PASOK party.
The announcement was made in a letter sent to PASOK's president, Prime Minister George Papandreou, as well as the party's secretary and the secretary of PASOK's Parliamentary group.
They stressed that the policy followed by the government is leading the overwhelming majority of Greeks to extreme poverty, bears no relation to the party's pre-election platform and profile, while contravening its ideology and crushing the hopes of Greek people.
According to the trade unionists, the measures taken in the name of avoiding default had no political legitimacy from either society nor the party itself.
The PASK trade unionists noted that the past two years had seen their members' wages slashed by 40 percent, the workforce at the Greek Railway Organisation similarly reduced by 40 percent and now faced the prospect of losing their jobs via the labour reserve measure, as well as further wage cuts.
 48-hour AMNA strike beginning on ThursdayAll Athens News Agency (AMNA) services will be off-line between 06.00 (04.00 GMT) on Thursday, Oct. 13, until 06.00 on Saturday, Oct. 15, due to a 48-hour strike called by the Athens Journalists Union (ESIEA) in protest against government efforts to institute a "unified pay scale" that would affect the Agency.
The Agency apologises for any inconvenience.
 Cabinet agrees on 5,000-euro ceiling for taxi, truck licencesThe cabinet on Wednesday approved a 5,000 euro ceiling on fees for the acquisition of a licence to operate a truck or taxi. It also authorised Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Yiannis Ragoussis and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos to negotiate over a specific clause in the draft bill that will control the flow of licences issued in the first half of 2012.
During a meeting chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou, the cabinet unanimously approved the transport minister's draft bill for liberalising the trucking and taxi sectors. The first is fully deregulated on January 1, 2012, while holders of a taxi licence obtained up until July 2, 2011 are given the right to transfer this to one of their children.
 Taxi owners to hold 24-hour strike on FridayTaxi owners have called a new strike in the wake of Wednesday's announcements by the Infrastructures, Transport and Networks minister regarding the bill on the deregulation of the specific profession, that was approved during the cabinet meeting.
The taxi owners decided to hold a 24-hour strike on Friday, a gathering outside their Federation's offices and a march to Parliament. Their Federation's Administrative Council will convene again on the same day to decide on the sector's further moves.
 Civil Servants federation proposes turning Oct. 19 24-hour strike to 48-hour actionThe civil servant unions' umbrella federation ADEDY on Wednesday proposed to its fellow umbrella federation representing the private sector GSEE (General Confederation of Workers of Greece) that they convert their jointly called 24-hour strike on October 19 into a 48-hour strike to include the following day as well.
The decision to make the proposal was taken at a meeting of the ADEDY general council on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, employees of the 151 public sector agencies and organisations that have been slated for merger or abolition staged a demonstration at noon Wednesday outside the Consumer General Secretariat at the former commerce ministry building in Kaniggos Square in downtown Athens, which has been occupied by the secretariat's employees for more than a week.
The demonstration will be followed by a march to parliament.
 OTE staff to strike on October 19The Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) staff union OME-OTE on Wednesday announced plans to hold a 24-hour strike next Wednesday, October 19, to coincide with a general strike declared by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE).
The union has called the strike in reaction to the government's economic policy and the stripping of labour entitlements built up over decades, including collective labour agreements, tenure in the public sector and the slashing of wages and pensions.
 Trade unionists occupy PPC bill-issuing centre, seek to block notices of property surtaxTrade unionists in the Public Power Corporation (PPC) trade union GENOP on Wednesday staged an occupation of the PPC centre for issuing electricity bills, in a bid to prevent notices of the new property surtax from reaching consumers.
In an announcement, the trade unionists outlined their objections to using the PPC electricity bills as a means of leverage in order to levy the surtax on property, saying that a social good such as electricity should not be used to blackmail unemployed, the poor and working class.
"The workers of the PPC and GENOP/PPC will not allow our poor fellow men to be left without electricity," the announcement said.
 Greece, Turkey eye joint tourism packages, promotionThe tourism sector has emerged as a pylon of economic growth and stability, a fact that will be confirmed with the signing of a protocol of cooperation between Greece and Turkey, it was underlined on Wednesday during the 8th Greece-Turkey Forum on Tourism.
Addressing the forum, Culture & Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos underlined that target markets for the two countries should include India, China, Japan and North America, while he focused on the obstacles that need to be overcome, namely, simplification of visa issuance procedures.
He also referred to the importance of joint travel packages offered by Greece and Turkey, ones that will feature common tourism products, such as familiarisation trips and promotion programmes.
On his part, Turkey's Culture & Tourism Minister, Ertugrul Gunay, praised the atmosphere existing between the two countries and underlined that the Aegean can serve as a "life vest" amid the economic crisis. He also said joint participation of the two countries in international tourism exhibitions in shared pavilions is very important move, one aimed at attracting specialised markets.
As regards the spectrum of bilateral cooperation, the Turkish minister stressed that it ranges from attracting investments to developing sea cruise and religious tourism, suggesting that a forum should be held at least every two years.
 Greece and Turkey sign tourism agreementGreek Culture & Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos and Turkey's Culture & Tourism Minister, Ertugrul Gunay signed on Wednesday night the Protocol of the 3rd Joint Tourism Committee and the Declaration of the 8th Greece-Turkey Forum on Tourism.
According to the agreements, Greece and Turkey must promote, with all suitable means, sustainable tourism as a new model of competitiveness.
 Intralot extends supply contract with Idaho state lotteryIntralot USA on Wednesday announced the extension of a seven-year contract with Idaho State lottery, ending in 2014, for at least three more years to 2017. The contract envisages the supply of a central on-line system to operate lottery services in the western US state.
Intralot will supply additional services, such as marketing, technical support and maintenance and logistics, along with its new internet lottery platform.
 Greek budget deficit at 19.163 bln euros in Jan-SeptGreece's budget deficit totalled 19.163 billion euros in the January-September period this year, slightly down from a revised 2012 budget target, but sharply up from 16.650 billion euros in the corresponding period in 2010, the Finance ministry said on Wednesday.
The ministry, in an announcement, said that state budget revenues rose by 5.0 million euros, compared with revised targets to 34.980 billion euros, for a growth rate of 4.2 pct in the nine-month period, down from 5.3 pct in the eight-month period of 2011. The ministry attributed this development mainly to higher-than-expected economic recession in the country. Public Investments Program's revenues grew 39.2 pct or 529 million euros compared with the nine-month period in 2010. The ministry said that slower revenue growth was expected to be covered in the fourth quarter of the year with the implementation of additional measures included in a medium-term fiscal program (2011-2015).
Regular budget spending grew 7.0 pct in the January-September period, compared with the same period last year, reflecting higher interest spending (2.381 billion euros), higher subsidies to social insurance funds and higher payments to state hospitals.
Primary spending grew 2.9 pct, or 1.050 billion euros, while Public Investments Program's spending fell 35.1 pct or 1.906 billion euros in the nine-month period.
 Central gov't cash deficit up in Jan-SeptThe central government's cash deficit in January-September 2011 reached 19,231 million euros, compared with 18,504 million euros in the corresponding period of 2010, the Bank of Greece announced on Wednesday.
In its monthly report, the central bank said that during this period ordinary budget revenue amounted to 35,257 million euros, down from 36,175 million euros last year.
Ordinary budget expenditures increased to 53,077 million euros from 48,894 million euros in January-September 2010.
 AIA wins European distinctionAthens' International Airport (AIA) was voted as the second best airport in Europe within the framework of the 17th World Route Development Forum held in Berlin in Oct. 2-4.
AIA won the distinction - the tenth in seven years - in recognition of its dynamic support for developmental efforts and programmes launched by airline companies.
Athens shared second place with Amsterdam, while the top prize was given to the airport of Budapest.
 Business Briefs-- The absorption rate of EU funds, in the framework of the national strategic framework programme, totaled 6.03 billion euros so far this year, or 23 pct of total funds, Development, Competitiveness & Shipping Deputy Minister Thanos Moraitis told Parliament on Wednesday.
-- A merger between Alpha Bank and Eurobank is reportedly progressing according to schedule without delays, while work groups are focused on the smooth operation of the new bank, expected soon through the completion of a legal merger, sources from the two institutions said on Wednesday.
-- Capital outflows from the domestic mutual funds market fell by 34 pct in the third quarter of 2011 compared with the second quarter of 2011, the Association of Institutional Investors said on Wednesday.
-- National Insurance Group on Wednesday reported pre-tax losses of 78 million euros in the first half of 2011, from losses of 24 million euros in the same period last year, burdened by the participation of the company in a bond swap program. The company said its pre-tax and pre- write down earnings totaled 50.4 million euros in the January-June period, after losses of 18 million euros last year.
-- Jumbo group will propose to a general shareholders' meeting a capital return worth 0.17 euros per share scheme, instead of a dividend payment, its management said during an annual briefing of the Association of Institutional Investors.
 Stocks end strongly up in 'technical rebound'Stocks ended strongly higher at the Athens Stock Exchange, in what traders described as a technical rebound of the market after a 20-pct plunge in the bank index in the previous two sessions.
The composite index of the market jumped 475 pct to end at 759.89 points. The market reacted positively to speculation of a 30-35 pct haircut in Greek bonds, lower than earlier speculation of a 50-60 pct rate. Turnover, however, remained a disappointing low 55.512 million euros.
The Big Cap index jumped 6.23 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 4.03 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 3.05 pct.
Ellaktor (0.74 pct) and Titan (0.71 pct) were the only blue chip stocks to end lower, while Eurobank (21.25 pct), Alpha Bank (18.07 pct), National Bank (15 pct), Piraeus Bank (14.17 pct) and OTE (7.3 pct) were top gainers.
The Banks (12.66 pct), Health (8.6 pct) and Telecoms (7.3 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Constructions fell 0.25 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 122 to 50 with another 22 issues unchanged. SIDMA (30 pct), Unibios (30 pct) and Ilyda (28.52 pct) were top gainers, while TBank (30 pct), Spider (28.46 pct) and Dromeas (25 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +2.43%
Personal & Household: +2.81%
Raw Materials: +4.30%
Travel & Leisure: +5.76%
Food & Beverages: +1.07%
Financial Services: +5.43%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP and Coca Cola 3E.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.98
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.68
HBC Coca Cola: 12.94
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.16
National Bank of Greece: 1.84
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.68
Bank of Piraeus: 0.29
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased further to 15.87 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 15.96 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 18.04 pct and the German Bund 2.17 pct. There was no transactions in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 2.10 pct, the six-month rate 1.77 pct, the three-month rate 1.57 pct and the one-month rate 1.36 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.397
Pound sterling 0.888
Danish kroner 7.556
Swedish kroner 9.253
Japanese yen 107.36
Swiss franc 1.255
Norwegian kroner 7.899
Canadian dollar 1.420
Australian dollar 1.381
 Powerful bomb explosion causes extensive damage on Glyfada commercial street, no injuriesA powerful bomb explosion rocked the Athens southern suburb of Glyfada before dawn on Wednesday, in the heart of the suburb's commercial center, causing extensive damage to shops but no injuries.
The explosion, tentatively placed at 4:08 a.m., destroyed dozens of shops along the main commercial street in Glyfada, and blew out windows of apartments up to the third-storey and in a range of approximately 100 meters.
The 'Celestino' boutique outside which the explosion occurred was completely demolished, while more than 20 other shops suffered extensive damage.
The bomb left a crater about 30 centimeters deep on the sidewalk, and police said there were no victims because of the very late hour.
The explosive device contained up to 10 kilos of explosives, according to initial estimates by police.
The motives for the attack are as yet unknown, and police are examining all possibilities, but believe it was most likely the act of a ring of extortionists.
The area has been cordoned off until completion of the crime scene investigation.
Unconfirmed reports said security camera footage from shops and banks showed a man on a motorcycle stopping and putting down a paper bag on the street outside the boutique.
All possibilities were being examined by police.
 Self-styled anarchist activist acquitted of attempted homicideAn Athens court on Thursday unanimously acquitted self-styled anarchist Simeon Seisidis of attempted homicide charges.
Seisidis, who has been implicated in a string of urban terrorism-related crimes, lost a leg during a shootout with police in downtown Athens shortly after a department store robbery more than a year ago.
The court nevertheless found him guilty of misdemeanor charges for carrying a handgun, handing down an 18-month jail sentence, convertible to a cash fine corresponding to five euros per day.
His co-defendant Aris Sirinidis, who was arrested with Seisidis after the robbery, was found guilty of carrying a handgun and received a suspended sentence of 18 months.
 Police confiscate 26 kilos heroin in two separate arrestsThe Attica Police drugs squad on Wednesday announced that 26 kilos of heroin were confiscated in two separate drug busts, in which members of two different drug-trafficking ring were arrested. They also discovered a laboratory where drugs were being 'cut' and packaged in Nea Halkidona.
At the Nea Halkidona raid, authorities arrested two 27-year-old Albanian men that had turned their small apartment into a workshop and confiscated 10.490 kilos of heroin, a small quantity of hashish and equipment used to cut and package the drugs. Other evidence confiscated included five cell phones, 685 euro and a private car.
The second arrest was of a 24-year-old Albanian in Haidari, with 16.714 kilos heroin in his possession. Police also confiscated the sum of 1,270 euro, two knives, a cell phone, a set of precision scales and a car.
In a third drug-related arrest, a 46-year-old Greek man in Ilion was caught with 2.5 kilos of cannabis, 2,220 euro, two metal cylinders for crushing 'weed', a set of precision scales and four cell phones.
All the parties arrested will be led before an Athens first-instance court prosecutor on Wednesday.
 Bodies of illegal migrants found in Evros riverThe bodies of two illegal migrants were washed ashore on Wednesday on the banks of the Evros river, northeastern Greece, on the Greek-Turkish borders.
The first body was identified to be that of an 18 year-old Pakistani man and the other possibly of Asian nationality.
According to initial police estimations, the two young men drowned while attempting to cross the river in order to enter into Greece from Turkey.
Another illegal migrant's body was discovered on Tuesday in a farming area near Orestiada, close to Evros river.
 Heroin arrests near CorinthTwo men aged 43 and 52 were arrested on the Athens-Patras national road near Corinth on Wednesday, during a spot check on their car, on charges of drug dealing.
In the car, police found three packages containing a total 214 grams of heroin.
The drugs, the car and two mobile phones were confiscated and the two suspects will be sent before a Corinth prosecutor.
 Noted long-distance swimmer Tsianos, makes first-ever swim from Peloponnese to CreteGeorgios-John Tsianos, Greece's noted long-distance swimmer, recently became the first athlete ever to swim from the Peloponnese to Crete.
Tsianos, a veteran of numerous marathon swimming feats, considers his solo crossing of the English Channel in 2000 his crown accomplishment.
The now 35-year-old athlete, and doctor, is an adventurous spirit, and his accomplishments are not limited to the water, as he is also an avid mountaineer.
In fact, Tsianos is one of the only three people in the world to have achieved the Mount Everest and English Channel Adventure challenge, as he also climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest in 2004. An incredible feat, as only 3050 people have climbed Mt. Everest, while just 675 have swum across the English Channel.
Born in Athens in 1976, he started swimming at the age of 9, and the sport quickly became a way of life for him. At the age of 15, he moved to Florida, in the US, where he completed his secondary education without abandoning his beloved sport. After receiving his degree at Berkley University in California, he went to England for post-graduate studies, and from there to Scotland for his PhD in Human Medical Physiology under Adverse Environmental Conditions.
Tsianos then returned to Greece, where he studied at the Medical School of the University of Ioannina and also "completed my obligation to my country" by serving his conscription term in the Greek army.
As a young doctor, he chose to intern at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in South Africa, in one of the most destitute areas of the world, the Soweto area of Johannesburg, where AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis were rampant.
"My experience there humbled me as a human being because, as a doctor, I lived death as an everyday event. I saw children dying because they did not have anything to eat and people losing their lives from illnesses that are curable in the western world. And the most shocking of all, I saw people killing each other, because human life literally cost nothing," Tsianos reminisces to AMNA.
His dream, but also his duty, as he says, is to offer his services as a doctor, but also as a Greek citizen, to the country, after he completes his specialisation in surgery, in Scotland.
"I would like to return to Greece and work where I am truly needed, such as small villages or remote islands, where medical care is insufficient," he says.
Turning back to his beloved swimming, Tsianos notes his first open sea swimming adventure. Together with a few "cool guys" a few years ago, he braved the ice-cold waters of the Pacific Ocean from Alcatraz island.
Although dubbed a swimming super-athlete, Tsianos himself does not believe in championship sport but rather in mass sport. "I regret and am ashamed of bad championship sport where noble competition does not prevail," Tsianos says.
A landmark in his endurance swimming career is his crossing of the English Channel on August 5, 2000 with a time of 9 hours and 20 minutes, the best time worldwide for that year and the record for a Greek swimmer to date.
"Marathon swimming is a very lonely sport, as you have no visual or acoustic incentives, nor do you speak with anyone. Most of your senses are lost, and all you have is your esoteric self to compete with and against. In such long ventures, you are accompanied only by your thoughts and from some point on your body follows only if your mind wants it," Tsianos says, adding that after completing each marathon swim, he always learns something more bout himself and his limits.
Apart from swimming, Tsianos is also one of Greece's most eminent mountaineers, and in 2004 took part in the Greek expedition "HellasEverest 2004" as a scientific advisor and first aid officer, but also climber, becoming the first Greek mountainclimber to attain the world's highest peak from the northern route from Tibet.
"I learned the ropes of mountaineering on my first climb on the Fuji volcano in Japan, which was followed by many others, the Rocky Mountains, the European Alps, the Highlands, and most of the Greek peaks," he reveals.
As for how he felt when he reached the "roof of the world", the peak of Mount Everest, Tsianos says: "There, I truly felt how small we are, and at the same time a complacency and tranquility that I had succeeded."
 Scam with fake hotel bookingsThe Electronic Crime Squad has solved a serious case of fraud with fake hotel bookings and the crediting of citizens' credit cards through the internet, following an investigation that began from reports by hotel owners in Greece and owners of cards who became victims of the frauds.
The investigation has revealed so far that thousands of people from all over the world have become victims, making advance payments through the internet for bookings in Greece and then ascertaining, when they came for a holiday, that they were cheated.
The amount of the scam has not yet been ascertained, but the Electronic Crime Squad's investigation has revealed that at least four people, who were detected in cooperation with Interpol and Europol, are reportedly the users of the same number of deceptive sites, through which the bookings took place.
The sites that were used are the following:
 Fair on ThursdayFair weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 9C and 28C. Fair in Athens, with southerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 14C to 26C. Local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 11C to 22C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe disbursement of the sixth tranche of the EU-IMF bailout loan in early November and European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) 'troika' report on the Greek economy as well as the mailing of the first PPC bills containing the extraordinary surtax on real estate, mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "New barrage of strikes".
AVGHI: "For the country's and people's salvation".
AVRIANI: "Eurogroup chief Jean Claude Juncker preannounced Greece's return to the 50s with over 60 percent haircut of the state debt".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Ruling PASOK splitting up in the last minute before the bankruptcy".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Double threat in PPC bill - Electricity bill and real estate surtax must be paid in full".
ESTIA: "Who is creating working positions - The prevailing labour regime is a counter-incentive".
ETHNOS: "The Public Utilities and Organisations (DEKO) that will not avoid the 'haircut'."
IMERISSIA: "European Central Bank chief Jean Claude Trichet's bomb".
KATHIMERINI: "Bankruptcy possibility a thorn".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The sixth tranch arrives together with new measures".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Danger for the public health the abolition of half the clinics in public hospitals".
TA NEA: "The big scam with the garbage".
VRADYNI: "Illegal buildings: What you will pay for them".
 UNSG: Cyprus leaders expected to increase frequency of their meetingsUNITED NATIONS (CNA/AMNA)
It is anticipated that the Cyprus leaders and their representatives will increase the frequency of their meetings held under the auspices of the United Nations, UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon said in his report on the proposed resource requirements for 2012 for six special political missions grouped under the thematic cluster of special and personal envoys and special advisers of the Secretary-General.
Ban said that "despite periods of intense activity, the talks have taken longer than was hoped. However, progress has been achieved on some of the issues, and a significant body of work has accumulated over more than two years of negotiations".
"Given the commitments made by the two leaders to the Secretary-General on 7 July 2011 in Geneva, it is anticipated that the talks between the leaders will continue, but will still require facilitation by the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, and that the leaders and their representatives will increase the frequency of their meetings held under the auspices of the United Nations," he said.
In addition, he added, "it is anticipated that the Security Council will continue to support the process and the Office of the Special Adviser. The Office will increasingly be called upon to support the Special Adviser to substantively facilitate the negotiation process, and engage regional and international stakeholders in support of the process."
Noting that in his latest meeting with the two leaders on 7 July 2011, the leaders agreed to increase the momentum of the negotiations and to accelerate their progress in order to achieve a mutually acceptable and lasting settlement on Cyprus as soon as possible, Ban said that as such, the activities of the Office of the Special Adviser are expected to also increase in order to facilitate the discussions between the two sides.
He added that his Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer will increasingly engage regional and international stakeholders on substantive issues in support of the process. He will be required to travel to regional capitals, in particular to the guarantor Powers.
Ban noted that his Special Adviser is employed on a "when-actually-employed" basis and is not permanently situated in Cyprus and that it is expected that the Special Adviser would spend the same amount of time in Cyprus as he did in 2011.
"The Secretary-General also made a commitment to the leaders, when he met with them in Geneva in January 2011, to make the expertise of other United Nations entities and programmes available where necessary. The leaders have welcomed this support," he noted.
He said that following the meeting with the Secretary-General in November 2010, the pace of the talks increased and that in meetings held in Geneva on 26 January and 7 July 2011, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to finding a comprehensive solution as soon as possible and that in Geneva, on 26 January 2011, the sides agreed to intensify the negotiations.
The Secretary General reiterated that there was a need in the following months for a heightened sense of urgency. Progress on all core issues would need to be accelerated in order to maintain the momentum needed to drive the process towards a successful outcome, the report noted.
Ban also said that the technical committees have continued their work and that the technical committees on crime and criminal matters, cultural heritage, health, and environment continued to meet regularly with United Nations facilitation to develop and implement confidence-building measures that could ensure an atmosphere conducive for a settlement by improving the daily lives of Cypriots.
He went on to say that on 21 January 2011, the two leaders agreed to reconvene the three technical committees on crisis management, humanitarian issues and economic and commercial matters, which had been dormant since July 2008. The leaders have established an additional joint committee on the opening of new crossings, he noted.
Ban remarked that in line with the integrated approach of the United Nations presence in the country, UNFICYP will continue to provide logistical and administrative support to the Office of the Special Adviser with a view to ensuring the coherent and cost effective facilitation of the peace effort.
According to the report, the estimated requirements for the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary General on Cyprus for 2012 amount to $3,861,900 net ($4,341,500 gross). This amount would provide for the salaries and common staff costs for the continuation of 19 existing positions ($2,536,100), general temporary assistance ($44,400) and operational costs ($1,281,400) comprising consultants ($200,000), official travel ($407,500), facilities and infrastructure ($219,900), ground transportation ($93,200), air transportation ($10,200), communications ($112,400), information technology ($18,400), and other supplies, services and equipment($219,800).
Cyprus has been divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974. UN led talks have been underway between the two leaders since 2008 with a view to reunite the island under a federal roof.
 Fule stresses Cyprus' right for drillingBRUSSELS (CNA/AMNA)
EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule has stressed that the Republic of Cyprus - like all EU member states - has the right to conclude bilateral agreements for drilling in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Speaking Wednesday at a press conference, the EU Commissioner warned against threats or the use of military force which contradict the spirit of peaceful resolution of disputes.
The EU Commissioner was referring to Turkey, which following a decision by Nicosia to begin natural gas and oil exploration in its EEZ, has deployed warships in the Eastern Mediterranean and has signed an illegal agreement with the Turkish Cypriot regime in occupied Cyprus to delineate what it calls continental shelf.
Replying to questions, the Commissioner recalled that the government of the Republic of Cyprus began some weeks ago drilling for hydrocarbon reserves in its EEZ, stressing the sovereign rights of all EU Member States to enter into bilateral agreements in accordance with the EU acquis and international law.
He underscored that there is no room for threats, sources of tension or actions, which contradict the spirit of peaceful resolution of disputes, adding "there is no room for threats to use military force".
The EU Commissioner said that all efforts should concentrate on the UN-led ongoing Cyprus negotiations aiming at reaching a solution of the Cyprus problem, so that a solution is reached even before Cyprus assumes the six monthly rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2012.
He underlined the urgency for Turkey to fulfill the non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement and make progress towards normalising bilateral relations with Cyprus.
"This could clearly give a significant boost to the accession process", he stressed.
In addition, he reiterated the Commission's strong support to the comprehensive settlement talks on Cyprus.
"As we enter into this intensive phase of the Cyprus talks, it is essential that all parties exert restraint and do their utmost to ensure a positive climate that will facilitate a successful completion of the process", he underlined.
Referring to Turkey's accession negotiations, he said that regrettably, accession negotiations have not moved forward for more than a year.
"I believe it is time to work for a renewed positive agenda in EU-Turkey relations", he pointed out.
Turkish troops occupy Cyprus' northern part since they invaded in 1974. Ankara does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus.
Drilling in Cyprus' EEZ has already begun and is being carried out by Houston-based "Noble Energy", off CyprusT south-eastern coast.
Following Nicosia's decision to begin drilling in its EEZ, Ankara has deployed warships in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The government of Cyprus has protested to the UN and the EU Turkey's moves, saying it has a sovereign right to exploit its natural resources, pointing out that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will benefit from any benefits that may come from oil drilling.
Cyprus has signed an agreement to delineate the Exclusive Economic Zone with Egypt and Israel with a view to exploit any possible natural gas and oil reserves in its EEZ. A similar agreement has been signed with Lebanon but the Lebanese Parliament has not yet ratified it.
The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and the Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu began UN - led negotiations aiming at reaching a solution of the Cyprus problem and reunifying the country under a federal roof.
The Republic of Cyprus, which joined the EU in May 2004, is assuming the EU Presidency for the first time. The 18-month EU Presidency began on July 1st with Poland, followed by Denmark the first half of 2012 and Cyprus from July-December 2012.
Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, is the only divided capital in Europe. Turkey is the only country in the world which does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus and has said it will not talk to Nicosia, when it assumes the EU presidency.
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