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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-02-02

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

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

Thursday, 2 February 2012 Issue No: 3987

CONTENTS

  • [01] Gov't: Negotiations on new loan agreement, PSI in critical phase
  • [02] Troika's IMF chief unwavering on private sector minimum salary reduction
  • [03] ND: Unilateral decisions by gov't ministers won't be accepted
  • [04] PASOK parliamentary group to convene Thursday
  • [05] PASOK party leader Papandreou and FinMin Venizelos to meet on Thursday
  • [06] PASOK MP warns he will 'find it hard' to vote for abolition of 13-14th salaries
  • [07] Karatzaferis: If decriminalisation of narcotics law tabled in parliament, LAOS will withdraw from gov't
  • [08] Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee requests file on financial prosecutors' resignation
  • [09] Omonia organisation in Albania to carry out Greek minority census in June
  • [10] Pakistan envoy received by Parliament president
  • [11] FinMin: Bond swap deal will be brought to parliament
  • [12] Cross-party committee fails to agree on proposed pension cuts
  • [13] GSEE accuses private power companies of racking up debts exceeding 200 mill. euro
  • [14] Sector unions seek to overturn heavy, hazardous professions ruling
  • [15] Hike in private label product prices as market share rises, development ministry report shows
  • [16] French-Hellenic Chamber cites increased interest in N. Greece resorts
  • [17] Canadian ambassador in Greece meets Greek Canadian businessmen
  • [18] Business Briefs
  • [19] Stocks end flat on Wed.
  • [20] Greek bond market closing report
  • [21] ADEX closing report
  • [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [23] Snowfall in Athens and sub-zero temperatures continued in Wednesday
  • [24] Exhibition of Greek and French architects at Benaki Museum
  • [25] ODIE managing director arrested for company debts to state
  • [26] Ten arrested for stealing railway rails
  • [27] Two arrested for smuggling contraband cigarettes
  • [28] Robbers hold up postman, make off with pension money
  • [29] Judge jailed for sexually abusing own son
  • [30] Tension at Athens Municipality Cultural Centre after takeover
  • [31] Thessaloniki schools to start issue of 'snacks' from next Monday
  • [32] Body of dead illegal migrant found on shores of Evros River
  • [33] Wildcat found dead on highway
  • [34] Rider on AEK FC stadium signed by 82 MPs
  • [35] Cloudy with snow on Thursday
  • [36] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Gov't: Negotiations on new loan agreement, PSI in critical phase

    An agreement with the troika (EC-ECB-IMF) on the country's new loan programme is expected to be reached shortly, and will be completed in principle with a joint decision by political party leaders, government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said on Wednesday.

    He added that a joint meeting chaired by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos will be held within the next few days before a agreement with the country's creditors is reached. "Messrs Papandreou, Samaras and Karatzaferis will be called on to make very important decisions," he stressed.

    Kapsis pointed out that "negotiations with the troika representatives on the new loan agreement and the PSI are at a critical phase," adding that very important steps have been made.

    As regards the objections raised by New Democracy (ND) and Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) to the draft law on prison decongestion and their decision to walk out of parliament, Kapsis said that such problems are not unusual in a government made up of three political parties that do not agree on everything.

    Responding to questions on the status of the bank shares, and whether the law providing that they will be ordinary and not preferred will be changed, he stated that "placing the banks under state management is not the goal".

    Earlier, a finance ministry official stated that definitive announcements on the "haircut" and the PSI, as well as the new programme ordered by the troika are likely to be made by the end of the week, allowing the issues to be discussed in the Eurogroup on Monday.

    According to the same source, the most crucial issue is the new measures in the memorandum considering that there is serious disagreement between the political parties backing the government and between Greece and the troika.

    [02] Troika's IMF chief unwavering on private sector minimum salary reduction

    International Monetary Fund (IMF) European deputy director Poul Thomsen, who heads the IMF mission in the EU-IMF 'troika' is unwavering on the reduction of the minimum wage in the private sector, but flexible on the issue of abolition of the so-called 13th and 14th salaries (the full-salary Christmas bonus and half-salary Easter and summer holiday bonuses) in the private sector, in an interview with an Athens daily newspaper appearing on Wednesday, while he also proposes the closure of public organisations and dismissal of employees.

    Thomsen, in an interview with Kathimerini newspaper, also stresses the need for reduction of the salary cost so as to render the Greek economy more competitive.

    The head of the IMF mission to Greece recommends a "containment of the minimum wage", albeit temporarily, noting that the minimum wage in Spain and Portugal is lower than in Greece.

    He further proposes the closure of public organisations and layoff of employees, and notes the importance of the commitment by the leaders of the three political parties (PASOK, ND, LAOS) backing prime minister Lucas Papademos' interim government for adherence to the new economic programme for Greece.

    Thomsen further notes the mistakes that have been made, such as the emphasis placed on taxation, and indirectly advocates a recapitalisation of the banks with preference shares, warning that "we do not want the state to govern the banks".

    [03] ND: Unilateral decisions by gov't ministers won't be accepted

    The New Democracy (ND) party has sent a clear message in all directions that its leader has not provided a blank cheque to anyone and will not support Prime Minister Lucas Papademos' decisions if they conflict with the party's principles and are outside the specific margins for which the current government was formed.

    ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis reminded that party leader Antonis Samaras "has made it clear from the beginning -- ever since a meeting of political party leaders with President Karolos Papoulias -- that ND supports the specific mission of the Papademos government, referring to the PSI, a new loan agreement and general elections."

    "Unilaterally made choices and decisions will not be accepted," he said, stressing that this stance affects all issues raised by responsible government ministers such as illegal migration, laws on drug abuse, building outside urban planning zones, evaluation of armed forces' officers and appointments of general secretaries in government ministries.

    Mihelakis pointed out that government ministers cannot do whatever they please in terms of policy-making.

    [04] PASOK parliamentary group to convene Thursday

    The PASOK parliamentary group, chaired by party leader George Papandreou, will convene on Thursday. The meeting will focus on the theme: "The PSI and the new loan agreement negotiations - PASOK's contribution in the course for the country's exit from the crisis".

    [05] PASOK party leader Papandreou and FinMin Venizelos to meet on Thursday

    PASOK party leader George Papandreou will be having a meeting with Government Vice President and Finance Ministert Evangelos Venizelos in his office in Parliament at 11 on Thursday morning, for a briefing regarding negotiations on the new loan contract.

    Earlier on Wednesday, Papandreou held a telephone conversation with Venizelos, who briefed him on his siding with Health Minister Andreas Loverdos as regards PASOK's leadership race, while the Health minister had done the same earlier, in a telephone communication with Papandreou, who held telephone discussions with other cadres as well.

    [06] PASOK MP warns he will 'find it hard' to vote for abolition of 13-14th salaries

    PASOK MP Nikos Salagiannis warned in statements aired by the private radio station Vima on Wednesday that he will "find it extremely difficult" to vote for the abolition of the 13th and 14th salaries in the private sector or "similar horizontal cuts".

    Salagiannis also appeared doubtful about the possibility of redundancies in the public sector work force, which the government hopes to reduce by 150,000.

    "If I see that these 150,000 employee [departures] can arise through retirements in the following year and that we can have a reconstruction of public administration by a redistribution of staff, why go to redundancies," he said.

    The MP warned that matters were at a critical point and that MPs will not blindly support any measures placed before them.

    "If we consider that the measures that are being proposed to us, instead of leading to the country's exit for the hole it has entered are actually driving it deeper in and therefore, instead of an exit, were are being led to even greater dead ends, then these measures will not get past Parliament," he stressed.

    [07] Karatzaferis: If decriminalisation of narcotics law tabled in parliament, LAOS will withdraw from gov't

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) will not withdraw from the government, provided however that a bill for the decriminalisation of narcotics is not tabled in parliament, it was decided at an extraordinary meeting chaired by the party's leader George Karatzaferis with the four LAOS ministers participating in the interim government and other high-ranking LAOS officials.

    Karatzaferis said after the meeting that LAOS will not withdraw from the government despite the fact that it considers that the Justice Ministry draft law on the decongestion of prisons is not consistent with the agreement among the leaders of the political parties supporting the government, given that the conditions prevailing in the country continue to be critical and thus his party will continue to support prime minister Lucas Papademos' government.

    He said it was unacceptable, however, that despite the agreement among the party leaders that such a bill will not be tabled in parliament during the term of the interim government, it was finally tabled, adding: "In these hours that the country is waging a great battle, it is not possible to have such bills, especially when a previous agreement exists".

    Karatzaferis further warned that that if a draft law providing for the decriminalisation of narcotics is tabled in parliament, then LAOS will "automatically? pull out of the government.

    [08] Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee requests file on financial prosecutors' resignation

    The chairman of Parliament's Standing Committee on Institutions and Transparency Thanassis Tsouras on Wednesday sent a letter to Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou, with which he asked that the file on an investigation into claims of interference in the work of financial prosecutors Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis be forwarded to the committee.

    In his letter to Papaioannou, Tsouras stressed that the committee members had unanimously agreed on the need to fully sheld light on the claims made by the two financial prosecutors.

    The two financial prosecutors had offered their resignations at the end of 2011, citing attempts by the finance ministry to remove them and also attempted outside intereference in their work. The case was shelved following a preliminary investigation by Supreme Court Deputy Prosecutor Fotis Makris, who found there was no evidence to support charges and that their resignations had been prompted by "excessive sensitivity" to a finance ministry amendment that would have replaced them.

    After examining the file with the evidence and testimony collected by Makris during his preliminary investigation, the Institutions and Transparency Committee will decide if there are grounds for summoning Supreme Court Prosecutor Ioannis Tentes or any other judicial official to testify concerning the affair.

    [09] Omonia organisation in Albania to carry out Greek minority census in June

    TIRANA (AMNA - I. Pacho)

    The Democratic Union organisation of the ethnic Greek minority in Albania "Omonia" announced its decision to carry out the census of all Greeks living in this country.

    Following the session of the organisation's directorate in Sarande, the starting of the process for the preparation of the completion of the census between June and October 2012 was decided unanimously.

    "Following the absolute failure of the census process that was carried out by the state, that did not give our community the opportunity to prove its momentum, as it has been shaped after 20 years of freedom and democracy in the country, the initiative by Omonia aims at giving it this possibility," an announcement by the Greek minority's organisation says among other things.

    [10] Pakistan envoy received by Parliament president

    Parliament president Filippos Petsalnikos on Wednesday received Pakistan's ambassador to Athens Irfan-ur-Rehman Raja, who paid him a courtesy call.

    Petsalnikos referred to Pakistani nationals living and working legally in Greece, as well as to the problem of illegal migration, which, as he reminded, constitutes an unbearable burden for the country. He also referred to the notable Greek participation in humanitarian aid programmes in Pakistan.

    The Pakistani envoy conveyed an invitation by Petsanikos' counterpart to visit Pakistan at the head of a parliamentary delegation.

    Financial News

    [11] FinMin: Bond swap deal will be brought to parliament

    The terms of the bond swaps deal that Greece will reach with its private creditors and for the issue of the new bonds will be set out in a draft law that will be tabled in parliament, finance minister Evangelos Venizelos said during a briefing of parliament's standing committee on the economy, adding that the bill should be voted on by February 13.

    Venizelos said that the government will take care so that the losses of small-scale investors from the haircut process will be contained, clarifying however that all cases will be treated fairly and individually, given that state bonds were purchased on the primary market with a nominal value whereas on the secondary market 'minor moves of easy profit' were made.

    "All are in the game, but also all will be treated fairly and separately," he said.

    Venizelos further said that "the PSI, too, will be brought to parliament".

    [12] Cross-party committee fails to agree on proposed pension cuts

    A cross-party expert committee set up to discuss proposed pension reforms concluded its meeting on Wednesday without reaching agreement on a 15 percent cut in supplementary pensions sought by the labour ministry, which was represented by the general secretary for social insurance Athina Dretta.

    Representatives of the main opposition New Democracy and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) parties appeared willing to sign off on a full merger between the five existing employee supplementary pension funds and various sectoral funds.

    They drew a line at the proposed pension cuts, however, pointing out that there had been previous cuts in pensions over the past months and that the viability of the social insurance funds had not been ensured.

    The labour ministry had proposed a 15 percent cut in supplementary pensions on average and even greater cuts for funds that had deficits and were paying out pensions that exceeded 20 percent of pension income.

    [13] GSEE accuses private power companies of racking up debts exceeding 200 mill. euro

    The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation, on Wednesday denounced the practices employed by private, alternate power providers Energa and Hellas Power that it said were "trampling on the laws".

    "The debts of these two private companies, the alternate suppliers, to the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the Hellenic Transmission System operator (DESMHE) exceed 200 million euro - money that Greek citizens will once more be called upon to pay," a GSEE announcement said.

    It accused the two companies of enriching themselves at the expense of Greek consumers and state enterprises, trampling on all sense of law and obligations.

    GSEE called on the government and the ministries responsible for the electricity market to immediately intervene and redefine the role and responsibilities of regulatory authorities, as well as the operation and obligations of alternate power suppliers.

    [14] Sector unions seek to overturn heavy, hazardous professions ruling

    Eleven sector unions appealed to the Council of State (CoS), the country's highest administrative court, against a decision issued by the labour minister that defined the professions which, as of Jan. 1, 2012, are being labeled as "heavy and hazardous", it was announced on Wednesday.

    The decision, which excludes a number of professions include in the list over previous years, is characterised as "unconstitutional and illegal".

    The unions represent employees in the sectors of chemicals, production of baked goods, glassworks and film projector operators etc.

    [15] Hike in private label product prices as market share rises, development ministry report shows

    Private label products have increased their market share relative to brand name goods to about 20 percent, with one in five goods bought by consumers being private label. At the same time, their prices have risen faster than those of their brand name equivalents, according to figures presented by the Development, Competitiveness and Shipping ministry in Parliament on Wednesday.

    According to a document sent to Parliament by Alternate Development Minister Sokratis Xynidis, in reply to a question tabled in Parliament by PASOK MP Aphrodite Papathanassi, the private-label sector is expected to continue increasing its market share by one or two percentage points in supermarket and cash-and-carry sales in the next two years.

    In her question, Papathanassi had noted that prices of basic consumer goods had risen by 23.8 percent in the midst of the economic crisis and that this was caused by the rise in price for private label goods.

    Xynidis noted that private label products, including those distributed by supermarket chains under their own label and 'supply groups' created for smaller retail outlets, had increased their market share rapidly in recent years as consumers started to view them as comparable in quality and packaging as brand name goods.

    The growth of the private label market was also accelerated by the economic crisis until one in five products bought by consumers were private label.

    The dominant category in private label goods remains that of foodstuffs, where it occupies 61 percent of the market. Next in line are household consumables, such as detergents, paper, cleaning products with 16 percent, while households items and clothing hold 12 percent.

    Based on a phone survey conducted by the Athens Economic University marketing laboratory, the intention to buy private label products stands at 13 percent for alcoholic beverages, 12.5 percent for coffee, 10.2 percent for clothing, 29.3 percent for bread, 24.2 percent for milk and dairy products, 17.7 percent for non-alcoholic beverages, 70.7 percent for paper products, 14.7 percent for personal hygiene products, 40.5 percent for cleaning products, 35.3 percent for detergents, 57.1 percent for packaged foods and 20.1 percent for frozen foods.

    According to the Price Watch, however, for 1,100 products monitored in November 2011 the total price increase for brand name goods was 1.8 percent but that for private label products was more than 4 percent.

    Despite the increase, however, private label goods remain significantly cheaper than their brand name equivalents by up to 65 percent.

    [16] French-Hellenic Chamber cites increased interest in N. Greece resorts

    Tourist groups from France, including roughly 1,500 French Jews arriving for a Pesach (Passover) holiday, have reportedly booked reservations in several northern Greece resorts, the French-Hellenic Commerce and Industry Chamber announced on Wednesday in Thessaloniki.

    The visit by the specific groups to resorts in Halkidiki and Katerini in northern Greece, as well as in Loutraki, west of Athens, during the Pesach holidays on April 6-14 is regarded as a "barometre" for the number of tourist arrivals expected this summer season.

    [17] Canadian ambassador in Greece meets Greek Canadian businessmen

    OTTAWA (AMNA/I. Frangouli)

    Canadian ambassador in Greece Robert Peck, speaking during his meeting with Greek Canadian businessmen at the National Club in Toronto, in the presence of Greece's ambassador Eleftherios Angelopoulos and the general consul at Toronto Dimitris Azemopoulos, said that "Canada is celebrating 70 years of friendship with Greece this year, since in 1942 diplomatic relations between the two countries were concluded officially."

    Peck stressed that Greece may be in difficult moments, but there are opportunities for investments by businessmen from Canada, adding that Canadian businessmen have already made a big investment in gold mines in Halkidiki, while they are preparing for more dynamic investments in Greece.

    [18] Business Briefs

    -- Lower consumption means lower turnover, lower taxed income, lower budget revenues, and a decline in the numbers of employers by 60,000 and by at least 100,000 less wage-earners this year, the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) said on Wednesday.

    -- Greece's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 41 points in January, down from 42 in December, reflecting a sharp decline in production and new orders in the first month of 2012.

    -- OSE Works SA - the construction arm of Hellenic Railways - on Wednesday signed a contract with the consortium of J&P Avax-AEGEK-Intrakat to build a new double railroad line in the Kiato-Rododafni section, in the Peloponnese.

    -- "Black" or undeclared labour is apparently thriving in Greece, with one in two enterprises employing workers without paying social insurance contributions, a report by the inspections agency of IKA-ETAM said on Wednesday.

    -- Greek mutual funds' assets grew 2.99 pct in January to 5.38 billion euros, from 5.29 billion euros in December 31, 2011, official figures showed on Wednesday.

    -- Greece is self-sufficient, up to an average of 94 pct, in a series of basic farm and food products in 2010, a report claimed on Wednesday.

    [19] Stocks end flat on Wed.

    Stocks ended flat at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with the composite index of the market rising 0.01 pct to close at 796.10 points.

    The index jumped as much as 4.36 pct and fell by 2.12 pct during the session in heavy trading. Turnover was an improved 167.668 million euros. The Big Cap index eased 0.06 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.23 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.05 pct. Alpha Bank (9.21 pct), Viohalco (9.09 pct), Folli Follie (7.58 pct) and MIG (7.14 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Cyprus Bank (5.70 pct), Marfin Popular Bank (3.50 pct) and PPC (3.27 pct) were top losers.

    The Commerce (7.47 pct), Financial Services (3.45 pct) and Industrial Products (3.29 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Travel (2.78 pct), Utilities (2.14 pct) and Technology (2.05 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 105 to 78 with another 22 issues unchanged. Zampa (24.41 pct), NEL (20 pct) and Douros (20 pct) were top gainers, while Ilyda (29.87 pct), Mathios (29.76 pct) and Interfish (20 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +3.29%

    Commercial: +7.47%

    Construction: +0.02%

    Oil & Gas: -0.99%

    Personal & Household: +0.71%

    Raw Materials: -0.87%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.78%

    Technology: -2.05%

    Telecoms: +2.47%

    Banks: +0.23%

    Food & Beverages: -1.36%

    Health: +1.52%

    Utilities: -2.14%

    Chemicals: -1.35%

    Financial Services: +3.45%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Cyprus and EFG Eurobank Ergasias.

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.66

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.85

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.72

    National Bank of Greece: 2.78

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.94

    OPAP: 7.60

    OTE: 2.90

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.68

    Titan: 12.78

    [20] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was 26.90 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 28.71 pct and the German Bund 1.81 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 11.75 pct, the six-month rate 1.53 pct, the three-month rate 1.15 pct and the one-month rate 0.70 pct.

    [21] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 1.25 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 48.404 million euros. Volume in the Big Cap index totaled 13,113 contracts worth 22.736 million euros and 22,957 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 116,357 contracts worth 25.668 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (46,808), followed by Cyprus Bank (9,364), MIG (2,618), OTE (3,963), PPC (1,592), OPAP (2,533), Piraeus Bank (10,559), Alpha Bank (27,257), Marfin Popular Bank (2,044), Mytilineos (1,842), Hellenic Postbank (3,343), ATEbank (1,000) and GEK (1,379).

    [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.337

    Pound sterling 0.843

    Danish kroner 7.545

    Swedish kroner 9.022

    Japanese yen 101.79

    Swiss franc 1.222

    Norwegian kroner 7.768

    Canadian dollar 1.335

    Australian dollar 1.249

    General News

    [23] Snowfall in Athens and sub-zero temperatures continued in Wednesday

    The cold front that has hit Greece continued on Wednesday with heavy snowfall and frost in most parts of the country. Snow was falling in the morning in the centre of Athens and the northern Athens suburbs were covered in white. The weather will worsen in the afternoon with heavier snowfall even in the southern parts of the country.

    Sub-zero temperatures prevailed in northern Greece, however the gusty northern winds subsided and the ship routes were running normally. Snow chains are mandatory not only in the mountainous area but also in areas of lower altitude.

    According to National Meteorological Service the snow front will abate on Thursday, with snowfall turning into rainfall in most parts of Greece and temperatures will record a small rise.

    [24] Exhibition of Greek and French architects at Benaki Museum

    The 14F/21GR exhibition, that will be presented at the Benaki Museum in Pireos street as of Tuesday February 7, will record the characteristics of a younger generation of architects from France and Greece.

    The title of the exhibition refers to 14 French and 21 Greek architects and to the characteristics of architecture that developed in the two countries in both the urban and natural scene in the past decade, that began in conditions of optimism and growth to reach an unprecedented economic and social crisis.

    The exhibition is accompanied by a series of lectures with the participation of architects from France and Greece. All the events will be organised by the Hellenic Architecture Institute, the Athens French Institute and the Benaki Museum.

    The exhibition will last until March 24.

    [25] ODIE managing director arrested for company debts to state

    Hellenic Horse Racing Company S.A. (ODIE) managing director Alexandros Zacharis was arrested by financial police on Wednesday for non-attribution of ODIE debts to the state.

    The 45-year-old Zacharis is accused of non-attribution of to the state of taxes withheld from winning bets at the state-owned racetracks (Hellenic Racetracks-HR) totaling 277,200 euros, as well as from the collection of mutual betting, totaling 741,800 euros, both of which are felonies.

    ODIE's overall debt to the state exceeds 84 million euros.

    [26] Ten arrested for stealing railway rails

    Thessaloniki police on Wednesday reported the arrest of 10 Bulgarian nationals that were caught in the act of loading stolen railway rails onto a car.

    The 10 suspects, whose ages ranged from 22 years old to 53 years old, have been charged with colluding in theft and led before a Thessaloniki Misdemeanours Court prosecutor.

    Another five Greek nationals aged between 23 and 60 years old were also arrested for a similar offence in Platy, Imathia prefecture after they used a blow torch to remove part of the metallic frame of an ATEBank building, collecting 5.7 tonnes of metal.

    The gang had gradually removed pieces of metal that they then sold to the 39-year-old owner of a metal recycling plant, who was arrested for receiving stolen goods.

    Investigating officers found two trucks, loading equipment, a blow torch, four tanks of oxygen and 3.5 tonnes of metal in the possession of the suspects at the time of their arrest.

    [27] Two arrested for smuggling contraband cigarettes

    Two people were arrested in the district of Aharnes in the greater Athens region for possession of large quantities of contraband cigarettes, police announced on Wednesday.

    The two suspects, a 39-year-old local man and a 32-year-old Iraqi, were led before a prosecutor on Tuesday facing cigarette smuggling charges.

    Police found in the garage of the 39-year-old's private house a total of 402 cartons with 180,680 packs of cigarettes. Other 18 cartons, containing 9,000 packs of cigarettes, were found in a car driven by the Iraqi.

    [28] Robbers hold up postman, make off with pension money

    Three unidentified individuals, two armed with handgun, robbed a postman in a village in southern Greece on Wednesday, making off with roughly 30,000 euros in pension money destined for local farmers.

    The suspects stole the car while the postman was delivering a pension payment to an elderly woman in the village of Kerasitsa, who was also robbed.

    Police launched a manhunt for suspects' arrest. The car they used before the robbery, a white SUV, was found abandoned nearby. According to police, it was stolen in Athens' Vrilissia district last month.

    [29] Judge jailed for sexually abusing own son

    A Five-member Criminal Appeals Court on Wednesday sentenced a Greek judge to serve six years in jail for sexually abusing his five-year-old son. The court reduced the suspended 13-year sentence originally imposed by a lower-level court by seven years. Following the verdict, the judge was sent to prison.

    The sentence followed a lengthy hearing with damning testimony against the now divorced judge read out in court describing how he had sexually abused his son.

    Among the issues noted in the case was the fact that the judge, who did not preside over criminal cases, had not been suspended from duty following his first conviction and 13-year sentence but had continued to try cases and issue rulings since no authority had initiated procedures to suspend him until the final ruling in the serious charges against him.

    The case first came to trial last April when a Three-Member Criminal Appeals Court had issued its ruling and a date for an appeals trial was sent within a few months.

    [30] Tension at Athens Municipality Cultural Centre after takeover

    Tension was been created at the Athens Municipality's Cultural Centre in Academias street in downtown Athens since 3 in the afternoon on Wednesday after a group of about 40 people broke open the door leading to the canteen with the aim of using it to house homeless people.

    According to the police, representatives of the municipality went to the spot and tried to negotiate with them but they refused to leave. The representatives then filed a lawsuit at the local police station and riot police have taken up positions outside the Cultural Centre and are preventing people from entering or leaving.

    [31] Thessaloniki schools to start issue of 'snacks' from next Monday

    A programme to distribute early-morning snacks to school pupils that are unable to afford them due to the economic crisis will begin in Thessaloniki schools next Monday. The programme is being implemented by the Thessaloniki municipality in cooperation with school canteens, with a budget of 32,000 euro approved for this purpose.

    The municipality over the last week has recorded 600 pupils that arrive without having had breakfast, or roughly 1.9 percent of all children in the municipality's school system. The percentage is higher in primary school and middle school students (2.8 percent and 2.16 percent, respectively) and smaller among pupils attending technical schools and high schools (1.42 percent and 0.75 percent, respectively).

    The programme will run for the entire school year.

    [32] Body of dead illegal migrant found on shores of Evros River

    The dead body of a 25-year-old African woman, presumed to be an illegal immigrant, was found by police on the shores of the Evros River in an area known as Tyheros on Wednesday.

    The young woman is believed to have lost her life in the attempt to cross the river from Turkey into Greece, due to the poor weather conditions prevailing at the time.

    The search continued throughout the day for a nine-year-old girl and her 55-year-old grandfather that also went missing in the region of Orestiada in an attempt to cross the river into Greece, when their boat capsized and they were swept away by the strong current.

    [33] Wildcat found dead on highway

    A wildcat was found killed on the Ioannina-Kakavia highway, northern Greece on Wednesday. The wildcat is a protected species and according to the environmental organisation "Arcturos" it s a vulnerable species that is protected under European and Greek legislation.

    The wildcat weighs 4-7 kilos, is larger than a domesticated cat and when walking hold its tail high. The wildcat lives 12-15 years and is found in forests.

    This particular species is threatened by hybridism (crossbreeding) with the common cat because whenever it approaches inhabited areas it mates with common cats.

    Soccer

    [34] Rider on AEK FC stadium signed by 82 MPs

    Provisions aimed to resurrect the long-stalled project to construct a new football stadium for the popular Athens team AEK FC were included in an amendment tabled in Parliament -- as a rider -- on Wednesday.

    The amendment bears the signatures of 82 MPs from PASOK, New Democracy (ND), the Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) party and independent deputies.

    The rider allows for the construction of auxiliary facilities at prospective new facility, including a media centre, playground, exhibition areas as well as commercial spaces for cafes, shops, a conference centre, cineplex etc. The amendment specifically envisions exemptions from restrictions included in article 3 of a building code applicable in the Nea Philadelphia district of northwest Athens, where AEK's old pitch stood.

    The Council of State (CoS) previously blocked the construction of a new stadium, following a lawsuit filed by local residents and political opponents of the project.

    Weather forecast

    [35] Cloudy with snow on Thursday

    Cloudy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 4-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -8C and 15C. Cloudy with rain or sleet in Athens, with southerly 4-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 2C to 12C. Cloudy with periodic snowfall in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -5C to 2C.

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

    The government's negotiations with the troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund), the issue of succession in the PASOK leadership and the dramatic dimensions of unemployment in the eurozone mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Troika holding us at gunpoint..."

    AVGHI: "How all the 'Nein' turned into a 'Yes to everything."

    AVRIANI: "The salvation of the PASOK in Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos' hands".

    DIMOKRATIA: "If the 13th and the 14th salaries (holiday and vacation bonuses) are abolished, the social security funds and revenues will collapse".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "IMF plan for new heavy taxes".

    ESTIA: "The 'drachma nightmare' must be prevented by all means".

    ETHNOS: "The succession tango in PASOK".

    IMERISSIA: "Athens Stock Exchange anticipates better days".

    KATHIMERINI: "Head of the IMF mission in the troika Paul Thomsen leaves open a window on the 13th and 14th salaries".

    LOGOS: "They are tying the noose around our neck...".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "The harsh austerity sinks the eurozone into unemployment".

    NIKI: "Save your money from the 'haircut'."

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Alarm against the bill on drugs".

    TA NEA : "Plan for a smooth succession in PASOK".

    VRADYNI: "Reduction of debts for professionals and former businessmen".

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