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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-01-26

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

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

Thursday, 26 January 2012 Issue No: 3981

CONTENTS

  • [01] Employers, trade unions begin social dialogue
  • [02] Labour minister satisfied with development of social dialogue
  • [03] Greek FinMin meets troika heads
  • [04] PM receives abour labour minister
  • [05] Gov't spokesman calls for 'responsibility' from entire political system
  • [06] Samaras in Moscow, meets with Ivanov
  • [07] fYRoM Dep. PM Arifi in Athens, meeting with Pangalos
  • [08] PASOK party Parliamentary Group convening on February 2
  • [09] KKE party leader on government, economic crisis
  • [10] Parliament rejects deregulation of pharmacies' working hours
  • [11] Health minister to reintroduce pharmacies' work hours clause
  • [12] Stay or not of two economic crime prosecutors to be decided on February 9
  • [13] PAME stages protest outside troika delegation's hotel
  • [14] Thessaly regional governor holds meeting with ambassador of Venezuela
  • [15] PSI talks near agreement, Commission says
  • [16] Greek trade deficit down 27.1pct in Jan-Nov 2011
  • [17] Business Briefs
  • [18] Stocks end strongly higher
  • [19] Greek bond market closing report
  • [20] ADEX closing report
  • [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [22] Award-winning filmmaker Angelopoulos dies from traffic accident-related injuries
  • [23] International 'Theodoros Angelopoulos' Award to be established in memory of great film director
  • [24] Thebes farmers distribute free produce in downtown Athens
  • [25] Businessman commits suicide in Thessaloniki
  • [26] Man arrested for more than 62 million euros debt to state
  • [27] Foreign nat'l, fugitive from Austria, arrested
  • [28] Heroin lab raided in Athens
  • [29] Super League, Basketball League to maintain organising status
  • [30] Super League results
  • [31] Rainy on Thursday
  • [32] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [33] UN chief urges leaders to make decisive steps towards solution
  • [34] Greek Cypriot positions evident within UNSG's statement Politics

  • [01] Employers, trade unions begin social dialogue

    Employers' and trade unions' representatives on Wednesday agreed to continue dialogue aimed at resolving the country's structural competitiveness problems.

    The representatives from major employers' unions and GSEE - the country's largest trade union umbrella - agreed at their first meeting on the necessity of protecting the minimum wage and of the so-called 13th and 14th wages, but also on the need to cut non-payroll costs.

    The two sides also agreed to preserve a current National Collective Labour Agreement by the end of 2012 and to pay a 2.6 pct wage increase envisaged in the agreement. Employers and trade unions disagreed over a proposal to freeze pays for one or two years, although they agreed that private sector wages were not the biggest problem for the country's structural.

    Speaking to reporters, after their first meeting, the heads of the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEB) Dimitris Daskalopoulos, GSEBEE -small manufacturers' union- Dimitris Asimakopoulos, ESEE -national commerce association- Vasilis Korkidis and GSEE Yiannis Panagopoulos, said that the dialogue was made in a good climate, it was fundamental and covered all issues.

    All sides said their aim was to meet with the government to ratify their agreements after completing their negotiations in the next 15 days.

    [02] Labour minister satisfied with development of social dialogue

    Labour and Social Security Minister George Koutroumanis expressed his satisfaction over "the substantive dialogue taking place between the social partners."

    The minister added that "the achievement of the difficult targets we have set as a country requires understanding."

    [03] Greek FinMin meets troika heads

    Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday met with the heads of a troika delegation in Athens to review progress of negotiations towards reaching a new lending agreement for Greece. The two-hour meeting focused on all aspects of talks (fiscal, labor, pension and structural).

    Ministry officials, speaking to AMNA stressed that the meeting finalized the timetable of talks -which will intensify in the coming days- both regarding PSI talks and agreeing on a new support package for Greece. According to the timetable, talks over a PSI program will resume on Thursday, while meetings over fiscal, labor, pension and structural issues will be held by Saturday morning.

    [04] PM receives abour labour minister

    The representatives of New Democracy (ND) and Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) will be invited to participate in the negotiations with the troika (EC-ECB-IMF) on all levels, Labour Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis told reporters after his meeting with PM Lucas Papademos at Maximos Mansion government headquarters on Wednesday.

    Koutroumanis briefed the prime minister on the course of the social partners' dialogue and on all possible scenarios, while on Thursday or Friday at the latest he will meet with the heads of the troika.

    He expressed optimism that all pending issues will be closed by the end of the week, including the supplementary pensions' issue which is still raised by the troika.

    [05] Gov't spokesman calls for 'responsibility' from entire political system

    Government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis on Wednesday called for "responsibility" on the part of the entire political system in this critical moment of negotiations for the Greek bond swaps (PSI) and a second EU-IMF bailout loan.

    Prompted by the rejection of several provisions contained in a finance ministry omnibus bill in parliament on Tuesday by MPs from the three political parties -- PASOK, ND, LAOS -- supporting prime minister Lucas Papademos' interim government, Kapsis said: "At this delicate stage in the negotiations on the PSI, the new loan agreement and the stability programme, seriousness is required from the entire political system."

    He added that in view of upcoming parliamentary votes on what will be agreed in the ongoing negotiations "the government expects their ratification by a large parliamentary majority".

    Specifically regarding the thorny Article 29 of the bill foreseeing deregulation of pharmacy working hours, which was rejected in Tuesday's parliamentary vote, Kapsis said that "the course of the government and its legislative work is not changing", adding that the issue will be brought again before the Cabinet and will be pushed ahead as a draft law (rather than as an Article in another draft law).

    He further denied press speculation that Papademos was considering quitting the post: "There is no such issue. The exclusive issue on the prime minister's mind is completion of the PSI and negotiation of the new loan agreement and the Greek economy's stabilisation programme. The main issue is not resignation, but the entire political system moving forward in order for the country to stand on its feet."

    Asked whether guarantees have been demanded with the signature of the leaders (of the parties backing the government) on the new loan agreement, Kapsis said that there is no specific timetable nor has a specific manner been determined for the commitments that will be asked for.

    [06] Samaras in Moscow, meets with Ivanov

    MOSCOW (AMNA/Th. Avgerinos)

    New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras urged a rekindling of Greek-Russian relations, during his official reception at the Kremlin on Wednesday where me met with the Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration of Russia Sergei Ivanov, a former defence minister and deputy prime minister.

    "We want to rekindle the historic relations that have always existed between Greece and Russia," Samaras said, thanking Ivanov for his warn reception and "for the friendship that we once again ascertain exists between our peoples and also between the political representatives of the two countries and the New Democracy and ruling United Russia parties.

    "It is especially necessary to develop our relations, particularly now, which is a difficult time for humanity but also for the Greek economy. Cooperation is needed so as to restore the harmonious relationship between Greece and Russia," Samaras continued, and cited energy, tourism, investments and Russian imports of Greek farm products as areas of priority.

    Ivanov welcomed Samaras as a "leading political force of Greece" and praised the close cooperation between ND and United Russia both at party level and at leader level, noting that there is a wide range of prospects for the development of relations between the two countries in all sectors, including the economy, politics and culture.

    [07] fYRoM Dep. PM Arifi in Athens, meeting with Pangalos

    Common interesst by Greece and the neighbouring former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), such as greater cross-border and economic cooperation, dominated a meeting in Athens on Wednesday between government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos and his fYRoM counterpart Teuta Arifi.

    Arifi, a deputy prime minister in charge of European affairs for the Skopje government, is currently on a visit to Athens.

    Afterwards, Pangalos said each side expressed its views and common conclusions were reached, adding that an effort will be made for their implementation in the immediate future.

    On her part, Arifi said she wanted to send a strong message in favour of bilateral cooperation, because this is the only answer to problems faced by the two countries.

    Arifi also handed Pangalos a letter by fYRoM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski addressed to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, the content of which were not revealed.

    "Greece plays an active role in the economy of the neighbouring country. We have important investments and many businesses are active there. Our trade increases, as well as tourism," Pangalos said.

    He also expressed Athens' will to assist Skopje in its European accession course through the utilisation of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), with services that will facilitate talks with the EU.

    "We appreciate the experience Greece has in the EU and we wish to utilise this knowledge," Arifi said, underlining the importance of cross-border cooperation for residents on both sides of the border.

    She also referred to the "Agenda 2014" initiative for the European integration of the western Balkans and expressed a hope that "through the European integration all the region's problems will find their solution".

    Arifi, who was elected with the DUI party in the neighbouring country, also briefed Pangalos on the reforms implemented in fYRoM, ones aimed at meeting the criteria for EU accession.

    The Ochrid peace agreement was among the issues discussed with Arifi expressing satisfaction for the goals met since its implementation.

    [08] PASOK party Parliamentary Group convening on February 2

    PASOK party president George Papandreou convened the party's Parliamentary Group for Thursday February 2.

    The issues to be examined during the meeting will be: "Briefing on the course of the negotiations concerning the loan contract and the PSI - Support for the government's work."

    [09] KKE party leader on government, economic crisis

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, speaking to the Real radio station on Wednesday, said that "this government did not deceive the people that it will make the crisis softer."

    Papariga added that in essence there is no considerable change from all that the Papandreou government did.

    "At least it did not deceive the people that it will make the crisis softer and will shorten it. A banker assumed the leadership, who has greater personal experience and knows persons," she said and reiterated KKE's steadfast position that the reversal can come through the elections, if the people abandon the two big parties and strengthen KKE.

    The KKE secretary general expressed the view that the recession will deepen. "The recovery is delaying. And when it comes it will be of a low flight, it will entail the danger of a new crisis and will take place on the ruins from the rights of the working people."

    [10] Parliament rejects deregulation of pharmacies' working hours

    The Greek parliament late Tuesday voted against the thorny Article 29 on the deregulation of pharmacies' working hours contained in a Finance Ministry omnibus bill.

    Just 101 among the 253 MPs of the 300-member House that were in attendance voted in favour of Article 29, 65 voted against and 87 simply stated their presence.

    Government sources, commenting the outcome of the vote, stressed that "we expected the leakage, however it is clear that the guilds have a strong influence on the deputies...the government will return with a new legislative initiative" on the pharmacies' working hours issue.

    [11] Health minister to reintroduce pharmacies' work hours clause

    The rejection in Parliament of a new pharmacies' working hours deregulation clause is unrelated with PASOK's internal issues, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos on Wednesday said, underlining that the clause in question will be reintroduced for approval.

    Speaking to an Athens-based private radio station, Loverdos said that just before the vote took place he was urged to step back but he refused to do so.

    Commenting on the statement made by competitiveness minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis that he did not read the memorandum because he was busy with issues that concerned the government post he occupied then, Loverdos stated that he is aware of the memorandum and assumes responsibility.

    Referring to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (EL.STAT) case and the allegedly intentional inflation of the budget deficit, he spoke about "political vendetta" and defended comments he had made, explaining that they concerned the political and not the judicial dimension of the case. He also said that the two prosecutors rightfully requested that the case file be forwarded to Parliament for further investigation.

    [12] Stay or not of two economic crime prosecutors to be decided on February 9

    The replacement or not of Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis at the posts of financial crime prosecutors will be decided on February 9, 2012, at the Supreme Court's Supreme Judicial Council.

    The date for the discussion of the question, as it is said, of Justice Minister Miltiades Papaioannou on whether or nor the resignations (replacement appeals) submitted by the two financial crime prosecutors was determined by the Supreme Court's president and president of the Supreme Judicial Council.

    [13] PAME stages protest outside troika delegation's hotel

    Members of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) affiliated PAME labour organisation staged a protest on Wednesday morning outside a central Athens hotel where the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) 'troika' delegation is staying.

    Troika representatives have asked for a prosecutor's intervention to enable them to exit the Athens Hilton hotel.

    A police contingent is deployed in the area surrounding the hotel.

    PAME, in an announcement, called on all trade unions and working people to decide on new strike action in order to obstruct the government, employers and troika from taking new measures.

    [14] Thessaly regional governor holds meeting with ambassador of Venezuela

    Thessaly regional governor Costas Agorastos held a meeting on Wednesday with the ambassador of Venezuela in Athens Rodrigo Osvaldo Chavez Samudio.

    The purpose of the visit, according to Chavez, is the embassy's acquaintance with the region's authorities and examining possibilities of cooperation, mainly at educational, cultural and tourist level.

    Financial News

    [15] PSI talks near agreement, Commission says

    BRUSSELS (AMNA / M. Aroni)

    Negotiations over a Greek state bond swap programme (PSI) are nearing an agreement, an European Commission spokesman said on Wednesday.

    Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesman for EU Commissioner Olli Rehn, said there was a way to achieve significant progress in talks between Greek authorities and financial institutions, based on the Oct. 26 decisions and noted that talks must continue and come to an agreement, preferably within the month.

    Commenting on a statement made by IMF head Christine Lagarde, namely, that the public sector might have to participate in a PSI programme, the Commission spokesman said that participation of the public sector in a second support package for Greece will be accompanied by the participation of the private sector and that has not changed.

    [16] Greek trade deficit down 27.1pct in Jan-Nov 2011

    Greece's trade balance deficit fell a further 28.6 percentage points in November, containing the deficit by 27.1 percent in the 11-month period in 2011, according to provisional figures released by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) on Wednesday.

    ELSTAT, in a report, said that the total value of imports-arrivals, excluding oil products, in November 2011 amounted to 2584.4 million euros (3493.0 million dollars) in comparison with 3110.7 million euros (4236.9 million dollars) in November 2010, recording a drop, in euros, of 16.9%.

    The total value of exports-dispatches, excluding oil products, in November 2011 amounted to 1409.6 million euros (1916.4 million dollars) in comparison with 1465.0 million euros (2007.5 million dollars) in November 2010, recording a drop, in euros, of 3.8%.

    The deficit of the trade balance, excluding oil products, in November 2011 amounted to 1174.8 million euros (1576.6 million dollars) in comparison with 1645.7 million euros (2229.4 million dollars) in November 2010, recording a drop, in euros, of 28.6%.

    The total value of imports-arrivals, excluding oil products, for the 11-month period from January to November 2011 amounted to 29576.2 million euros (41239.6 million dollars) in comparison with 33821.2 million euros (44796.8 million dollars) for the corresponding period of the year 2010 recording a drop, in euros, of 12.6%.

    The total value of exports-dispatches, excluding oil products, for the 11-month period from January to November 2011 amounted to 14538.3 million euros (20397.6 million dollars) in comparison with 13181.9 million euros (17540.9 million dollars) for the corresponding period of the year 2010, recording an increase, in euros, of 10.3%.

    The deficit of the Trade Balance, excluding oil products, for the 11-month period from January to November 2011 amounted to 15037.9 million euros (20842.0 million dollars) in comparison with 20639.3 million euros (27255.9 million dollars) for the corresponding period of the year 2010, recording a drop, in euros, of 27.1%.

    [17] Business Briefs

    -- The European Commission on Wednesday approved a state subsidy worth 52 million euros from the Greek state to Hellenic Post Office, allocaed for the modernisation of its infrastructure and improving its services.

    -- Greek exports surpassed 20 billion euros in value in the January-November period last year, rising to record levels for the last 10 years, a report by the Panhellenic Federation of Exporters said on Wednesday.

    -- Electricity providers Hellas Power SA and Energa SA on Wednesday said they would resort to European competition authorities against the Greek electricity grid regulator's decision to suspend contracts with the two private companies.

    [18] Stocks end strongly higher

    Stocks strongly resumed their upward trend at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, after Tuesday's sharp correction, boosted by renewed expectations of a positive outcome in a PSI talks between Greek authorities and international banks in the next few days.

    The composite index of the market rose 4.81 pct to end at 737.26 points, with turnover easing slightly to 56.487 million euros. Bank shares were at the focus of buying activity with the relative index soaring 12 pct. The Big Cap index jumped 6.08 pct, the Mid Cap index rose 3.55 pct and the Small Cap index eased 0.25 pct.

    Banks (12.04 pct), Telecoms (5.48 pct), Chemicals (5.43 pct) and Utilities (5.34 pct) were top gainers. Titan (-0.15 pct) was the only blue chip stock to end lower, while Piraeus Bank (21.13 pct), Alpha Bank (20.71 pct), Eurobank (18.59 pct), National Bank (12.71 pct) and Hellenic Postbank (11.81 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 112 to 50 with another 24 issues unchanged. Dias Fish Farms (29.29 pct), Nakas (27.42 pct) and CPI (23.26 pct) were top gainers, while Attica Publications (30 pct), Akritas (29.98 pct) and Mohlos (20 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +3.45%

    Commercial: +0.14%

    Construction: +0.95%

    Oil & Gas: +0.94%

    Personal & Household: +1.09%

    Raw Materials: +2.62%

    Media: -1.74%

    Travel & Leisure: +4.39%

    Technology: +4.56%

    Telecoms: +5.48%

    Banks: +12.04%

    Food & Beverages: +4.71%

    Health: +1.18%

    Utilities: +5.34%

    Chemicals: +5.43%

    Financial Services: +5.10%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 0.88

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.60

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.90

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.11

    National Bank of Greece: 2.04

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.59

    OPAP: 7.38

    OTE: 3.08

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.34

    Titan: 12.93

    [19] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was unchanged at 25.79 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 27.75 pct and the German Bund 1.96 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month rate was 1.77 pct, the six-month rate was 1.44 pct, the three-month fell to 1.14 pct and the one-month rate 0.74 pct.

    [20] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 1.81 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 22.027 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,049 contracts worth 12.951 million euros, with 22,482 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 56,439 contracts worth 9.076 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (29,609), followed by MIG (597), OTE (879), PPC (930), OPAP (657), Piraeus Bank (1,167), Alpha Bank (13,458), Marfin Popular Bank (749), Mytilineos (846), Cyprus Bank (2,831), Hellenic Postbank (603) and ATEbank (2,586).

    [21] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.313

    Pound sterling 0.844

    Danish kroner 7.545

    Swedish kroner 8.983

    Japanese yen 102.54

    Swiss franc 1.225

    Norwegian kroner 7.797

    Canadian dollar 1.331

    Australian dollar 1.255

    General News

    [22] Award-winning filmmaker Angelopoulos dies from traffic accident-related injuries

    Award-winning filmmaker Theodore (Theo) Angelopoulos died late Tuesday at the age of 76 after being seriously injured in a traffic accident hours earlier, while shooting scenes for his new film "The Other Sea" in a road tunnel near the port of Piraeus.

    Angelopoulos, who was hit by a motorcycle on Tuesday afternoon while filming on location in the working-class district of Drapetsona, died hours later at an Athens hospital, suffering from severe injuries to the head and spleen.

    The 'elegiac poet' of Greek cinematography, with a career spanning more than four decades, Angelopoulos was born in April 1935, and studied law at the Athens University before leaving for Paris to attend the Sorbonne, where he initially studied philosophy, cinematography and ethnology. He soon dropped out to study film at the Institute of Advanced Cinematographic Studies (IDHEC) and at the Musee de l'Homme Paris-based Museum of Man research centre.

    Upon his return to Greece in 1964 and up until 1967 he worked as a journalist and film critic, while in 1978 he was a jury member at the 28th Berlin International Film Festival.

    His first feature film, "The Reconstruction" (I Anaparastassi, 1970), marked the beginning of the so-called new Greek cinema phase, winning the top award (Critics' Award) at the International Thessaloniki Film Festival, as well as the awards for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film and Best Actress, while it further received several distinctions abroad, including the 1971 Georges Sadoul Award as "Best Film of the Year Shown in France" and the 1971 Best Foreign Film Award at the Hyeres Film Festival.

    He developed a trademark style marked by slow, episodic and ambiguous narrative charasterised by long takes such as in "The Travelling Players", which consists of just 80 shots in some four hours of film.

    Condolences

    President Karolos Papoulias expressed deep regret over the filmmaker's death, describing him as a "luminous part of our country".

    "The atmosphere in his films, the symbolism and historical perspective in his narration took the art of cinema a step further and helped young filmmakers find their own artistic paths. His unexpected passing happened at a time when he was extremely creative and when the country needed his viewpoint the most. This made his absence even more painful," the president's statement concluded.

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos expressed deep regret and underlined that Angelopoulos' movies "reflected the drama of post-civil war Greece and contributed to a deeper understanding of modern history. The country has lost a great artist in difficult times. His work is a legacy that will always be a priceless chapter of our cultural history."

    PASOK president George Papandreou said "a great artist and a great Greek is no longer with us...he highlighted the social reality in a unique way...and raised our standards."

    New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras stressed that Angelopoulos' death caused worldwide regret and underlined that "in the difficult times we live such losses make the 'fog' that has covered our lives even thicker."

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga noted that "his work has occupied an important place in the history of Greek and world cinema."

    "The art and culture have lost a great creator," Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras stressed.

    A statement issued by the Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) press office stressed that his death "has shocked the world".

    Angelopoulos will be buried at the Athens First Cemetery at 4 p.m. on Friday.

    Culture and Tourism minister

    Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos, referring to the death of film director Theodoros Angelopoulos, said "one of the most important creators of the seventh art and leading ambassador of Greek culture was lost unexpectedly yesterday (Tuesday) night."

    The minister added that "he may have not had time to complete the last film of his life, the 'Other Sea', but Angelopoulos probably made us travel more than any other Greek film director with his work. We all owe him a huge 'thank you'."

    Lastly, he said "in his case, the word 'irreplaceable' acquires a real content."

    [23] International 'Theodoros Angelopoulos' Award to be established in memory of great film director

    The Culture and Tourism ministry and the Thessaloniki Cinema Festival will establish an International "Theodoros Angelopoulos" Award in memory of the Greek film director, who died prematurely on Tuesday, according to an announcement by the ministry.

    The award will be given every November in the framework of the Thessaloniki Festival.

    [24] Thebes farmers distribute free produce in downtown Athens

    Farmers from the prefecture of Viotia set up a makeshift open-air produce market in Athens' central Syntagma Square on Wednesday and gave out free vegetables and fruit to passers-by.

    Producers, mainly from Thebes, decided on this symbolic move in protest to press reports claiming hazardous substances in the region's produce, countering that their products are of good quality and safe.

    Hundreds of Athenians lined up to receive some 20 tons of potatoes, carrots, cabbages and other fruits and vegetables.

    "Our products are pure and healthy, and have been defamed without reason. They are safe and may be consumed without fear," a representative of the producers told AMNA, citing a clean bill of health issued by the Agricultural Development ministry after checks for safe consumption were conducted.

    The farmers further distributed their produce to the City of Athens' Center for the Homeless, hospitals and Church-run food kitchens.

    [25] Businessman commits suicide in Thessaloniki

    A 58-year-old businessman commited suicide on Wednesday in the Thessaloniki district of Toumba. The man jumped off his third-storey apartment's balcony.

    According to police the man did not leave a suicide note, but police are examining the possibility that the suicide is connected with the loan sharkers ring which was dismantled recently in Thessaloniki.

    The businessman was allegedly a friend of the 'mastermind' of one of the four blackmail and loanshark rings.

    However, according to information up to now, the suicide victim was not facing financial problems.

    [26] Man arrested for more than 62 million euros debt to state

    A 42-year-old man was arrested in Athens on Wednesday for more that 62 million euros in overdue debts to the state.

    The man is the managing director of a company that owes a total 62,259,719,18 euros to the state.

    [27] Foreign nat'l, fugitive from Austria, arrested

    A 26-year-old Slovak national, identified as a fugitive from Austria, was arrested on Wednesday in Argos, southern Greece, on a variety of felony charges.

    The suspect was arrested after failing to break into a shop in Argos.

    A search of his residence reportedly turned up a handgun and 41 cartriges, along with numerous items believed to have been stolen in the region.

    The man was also wanted on a European warrant issued out of Austria.

    A 25-year-old Bulgarian woman was also arrested for harbouring a criminal.

    [28] Heroin lab raided in Athens

    Three Albanian nationals and a local man were arrested in the central Athens district of Neos Kosmosin an apartment they were using as heroin processing and packaging 'lab', police said on Wednesday.

    The arrests were made on Tuesday afternoon when drug enforcement officers raided the apartment acting on a tip-off.

    Roughly two kilos of heroin were confiscated, as well as, 1.255 grams of unprocessed cannabis, a small quantity of cocaine, 13,370 grams of an unspecified substance in powder form used as cutting agent in heroin adulteration, a pistol, cartridges, a silencer, three precision scales and equipment used in drug manufacturing.

    Sports

    [29] Super League, Basketball League to maintain organising status

    The Super League first division professional football entity and the pro Basketball League (ESAKE) will continue to be the organisers of football and basketball championships, respectively, after controversial articles 21 and 22, included in a sports-related draft law, were withdrawn on Wednesday.

    The draft law is up for debate in a parliamentary standing committee on cultural and educational affairs and the articles in question were withdrawn after a joint proposal tabled by political parties.

    As regards the operation of the committee on professional sports, it was clarified that it will keep all its powers and will have the authority to conduct detail checks on foreign investors interested in investing in the domestic pro football sector.

    Soccer

    [30] Super League results

    Panathinaikos Athens defeated Levadiakos Livadia 3-0 at home and Doxa Drama beat Asteras Tripoli 1-0, also at home, in games played for the Super League on Wednesday that had been postponed in the past.

    Standings after 18 weeks of play:

    1. Panathinaikos 45 points

    2. Olympiacos 40

    3. AEK 34

    4. PAOK 32

    5. Xanthi 29

    6. Atromitos 27 (17 games)

    7. OFI 26

    8. Aris 22

    9. Ergotelis 22

    10. Panionios 19

    11. Asteras 19 (17 games)

    12. Panetolikos 17 (16 games)

    13. Kerkyra 12 (16 games)

    14. PAS Yiannina 11 (16 games)

    15. Levadiakos 10 (14 games)

    16. Doxa 6 (14 games)

    Weather forecast

    [31] Rainy on Thursday

    Rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -1C and 13C. Rainy in Athens, with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 3C to 10C. Snowfall or sleet in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -1C to 5C.

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

    The voting by MPs against certain articles the finance ministry's omnibus bill, including Article 29 on the deregulation of pharmacies' working hours, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras' visit to Russia and the admission by PASOK high profile ministers that they for voted the Memorandum without having read it before, as well as the death of internationally acclaimed Greek film director Theodoros Angelopoulos, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "We voted the Memorandum without having read it!..".

    AVGHI: "Government operetta".

    AVRIANI: "Samaras will ask for help from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Mutiny in parliament".

    ESTIA: "The rising debt a continuing crime".

    ETHNOS: "Confusion and chaos in PASOK".

    IMERISSIA: "Ecofin demands signatures from the three political leaders that support the interim government".

    KATHIMERINI: "Games in parliament at a crucial hour".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Harsh European language on the Greek programme".

    NIKI: "10,000 layoffs right away".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Co-government, troika, employers and labour unions crush salaries and abolish collective labour agreements".

    TA NEA: "Venomous vote for the government".

    VRADYNI: "How to prevent foreclosures and prosecutions from banks for outstanding loans".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [33] UN chief urges leaders to make decisive steps towards solution

    NICOSIA (CNA/AMNA)

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus to make decisive steps towards a final agreement on the Cyprus problem, noting that at this state of the talks, to maintain the momentum and continue negotiations, even in an intensive manner, is not enough.

    Speaking after talks at the Greentree Estate in Long Island, New York, with President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, Ban said that at the end of March he would be hearing about the process from his Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer and, ''if his report is positive, consistent with the relevant Security Council resolutions and following consultations with the two sides, I intend to call a multilateral conference in late April or early May.''

    Ban thanked the leaders of the two communities for accepting his invitation to join him at Greentree over the last two days, noting that ''this has been our fifth meeting together to support the leaders' work to develop a comprehensive settlement for Cyprus, building on the steady efforts that have been made on the island since the resumption of negotiations more than three years ago.''

    ''When we met in Greentree last October, the leaders expressed confidence that they could reach a settlement. The two sides have continued their negotiations since that time to meet this objective. Just before this latest meeting at Greentree, I wrote to the two leaders pointing out that the talks have moved into the final phase. Substantive discussions at Greentree were an integral part of this phase, leading to a multilateral conference and an ultimate settlement. Both leaders responded by reiterating their commitment to a solution,'' he said.

    He pointed out that ''the two sides came to Greentree with three main challenges to resolve'' namely ''the election of the executive, property and citizenship.''

    ''I asked the leaders to use this time to make decisive moves. Discussions over these two days were robust and intensive, although limited progress was achieved. I reminded the leaders that this process is Cypriot-owned and Cypriot-led. The UN is not here to impose solutions upon the sides,'' Ban said.

    The UN Secretary General noted that ''in terms of next steps, I have proposed that the sides complete the exchange of data on property within the next two weeks, to which they agreed.''

    ''Today my Special Adviser Mr. Downer will brief the Security Council in informal consultations. I will be providing a report to the Security Council on the status of the negotiations at the end of February. At the end of March, I will seek a review of the process from my Special Adviser, Alexander Downer. If his report is positive, consistent with relevant Security Council resolutions and following consultations with the two sides, I intend to call a multilateral conference in late April or early May,'' he added.

    Ban noted that ''at this stage of the talks, to maintain the momentum and continue negotiations, even in an intensive manner, is not enough.''

    ''I have urged the leaders to make decisive steps to move to a final agreement,'' he added.

    Ban also said that ''the UN remains convinced that it is in the interest of all Cypriots to reach a durable settlement,'' adding that ''my Special Adviser and his team have been doing their utmost to assist the process and they remain ready to assist the sides in this important task.''

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    [34] Greek Cypriot positions evident within UNSG's statement

    NEW YORK (CNA)

    The clear prerequisites put forward by the Greek Cypriot side at the Greentree meeting between President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias, Turkish Cypriot Leader Dervis Eroglu and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon are evident within the UN Secretary General's statement, President Christofias has said.

    In statements he made to the press after the conclusion of the three-day meeting at Greentree, New York, the President said that 'discussions took place without the achievement of progress again," adding that this was due to the fact that "both sides remain firm on their positions."

    President Christofias expressed his point of view that the invitation of Ban to the two leaders was not justified as no progress had been made in the last two-and-a-half months.

    "We have so noted both in a letter we sent to the Secretary General and during a meeting we had with him," he said, adding that "we were clear that any progress achieved should be significant and resolving the internal aspects of the Cyprus issue." Then, he noted, "we can proceed - as is provided for by UN Security Council resolutions - with the possibility of an international conference."

    President Christofias explained that both sides are firm on their positions as regards issues of governance, not only as far as the executive power is concerned but also as regards external relations, international treaties and airspace.

    Referring to the property issue, he said that in all discussions held the issue is connected with the territory issue, expressing appreciation towards the UN Secretary General because in all his and his team's relevant remarks the connection between the two is emphasised.

    President Christofias also said that the Turkish side submitted certain data outside the deadline defined, adding that the data could also be found on the internet. This, he noted, constitutes a violation of the commitment of both sides for the creation of a committee which would discuss the relevant data confidentially.

    "Unfortunately the Turkish side did not respond," he said, adding that "the matter is still unresolved and the General Secretary's statement calls on both sides to exchange certain important data concerning the property issue and to simultaneously discuss the property issue."

    That does not necessarily mean that maps should be presented, he said, specifying that this is ''not what we are asking for.''

    ''We are asking for the Turkish Cypriot side's intention as regards our basic demand for territorial adjustments," he stressed, explaining that this means that 100,000 refugees from 1974 ought to be offered the possibility to return under Greek Cypriot rule and to have full ownership of their properties.

    This will greatly help in order to discuss with an open mind the issue of property as regards properties remaining under Turkish Cypriot rule, he said.

    Referring to the possibility of an international conference being convened and of timetables being set, President Christofias reiterated that he made it clear to the UN Secretary General that he will not accept a timetable for the international conference.

    "The Secretary General expresses intentions in his statement, but under specific prerequisites," he noted, adding that "the prerequisite is that significant progress will be achieved, which will meet with our approval and which Downer will report on."

    The Secretary General, President Christofias said, "will consult us on whether this progress exists and on whether the conference will be convened," stressing that the UN Secretary General's position "will be in accordance with the last UN resolution and all the others UN Security Council resolutions as regards an international conference being convened."

    He further said that he would have wished for progress to have been achieved, thus noting that he leaves from Greentree "not satisfied".

    Referring to Cyprus' EU presidency, which has been put forward as a milestone, President Christofias said that he has been very clear and decisive on this issue.

    "I have made it clear that there is no correlation between Cyprus' presidency - which is the presidency of the Republic of Cyprus and not of the Greek Cypriot side - and the possibility for an international conference to be convened or of the solution of the Cyprus issue,'' he said.

    President Christofias expressed the wish that the Turkish stance changes before July so that a solution can be achieved.

    "I think it will be very hard," he said, "having in mind Eroglu's persistence on various issues which we cannot accept."

    Unless Turkey is truly pressed to change its position there is no chance for an international conference to be convened and for the Cyprus issue to be resolved, he stressed.

    Commenting on the part of Ban's statement referring to the achievement of limited progress, President Christofias said that "if the fact that there has been agreement for the exchange of data can be considered progress, then let us call it progress."

    He noted however that no progress has been achieved on the substance of the various issues.

    The President also said that upon his return to Cyprus "we are fully ready and have all the necessary data which will be confidential."

    Replying to a question as to how it can be made sure that the UN Secretary General's Special Advisor for Cyprus Alexander Downer will move within the context of UN resolutions, since many were the times that he moved in the opposite direction, President Christofias noted that "there is always the Security Council."

    Despite the fact that Downer has acted in an adverse with UN Security Council resolutions manner in the past, the Security Council has on quite a few occasions ensured that the direction of the process is different from the one Downer wanted to follow, he pointed out.

    "We have a multifaceted and multidimensional foreign policy," President Christofias pointed out, adding that ''our contact with Security Council members is on a daily basis and it follows that we will be able to judge whether there is progress or not and to speak up about it in public."

    Moreover, President Christofias said that the Government will speak out if issues regarding the internal aspects of the problem are not resolved, stressing that "neither Downer nor any Downer can reach any arbitrary conclusions without being able to fall back on some evidence.''

    Referring to the process to be followed upon his return to Cyprus, he said that it will be the same as before, something which is not particularly to his liking.

    "We will keep to the specifications of the process with great diligence," he added.

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