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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-04-05

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

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

Thursday, 5 April 2012 Issue No: 4039

CONTENTS

  • [01] Gov't promotes measures to lure more investments
  • [02] FinMin: We need stable gov't after elections
  • [03] Gov't spokesman: Nothing has changed on election date
  • [04] Gov't spokesman: Announcement of general elections next week
  • [05] Greek FM: government dissatisfied over stalemate in Cyprus talks
  • [06] Cyprus President comments to AMNA ahead of Papademos visit
  • [07] PASOK leader meets with EU energy commissioner
  • [08] PASOK leader addresses event for intellectuals
  • [09] KKE categorically rejects Athens mayor's proposals on demonstrations
  • [10] Leftist leader says election delay unthinkable
  • [11] Tsipras demands Greece rescind signature from ACTA
  • [12] 'Independent Greeks' posts policy platform on Internet
  • [13] PASOK deputy declares as independent
  • [14] President receives AHEPA delegation
  • [15] Die Linke MEPs received by Papoulias, FinMin
  • [16] Papandreou meeting with Clinton
  • [17] Papandreou addresses 'Stiglitz Committee' meeting
  • [18] Country shocked by pensioner's suicide in Syntagma Square
  • [19] Crisis has increased workplace discrimination against women, ombudsman reports
  • [20] PPC management, unions charged with embezzlement
  • [21] Public sector evaluation process opposed by civil servants' union
  • [22] Development ministry invites seamen to talks in bid to avert Easter week strike
  • [23] State debt to private sector up to 6.32 bln euros in Feb
  • [24] Bussiness Briefs
  • [25] Stocks remain under pressure
  • [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [27] Antikythera wreck exhibition opens at Nat'l Archaeological Museum
  • [28] Church-supported free clinic sees 600 patients in first month, 70 pct Greeks
  • [29] Roberto Benigni proclaimed honourary professor at Thessaloniki University
  • [30] Two arrests for major arms cache; 8 warrants
  • [31] Police confirm explosion outside former PM's office was caused by incendiary device
  • [32] Tension in Athens' Law School
  • [33] Drugs found in car, driver escapes
  • [34] Bus with Albanian plates crashes, five injured
  • [35] Man's body found in gorge with gunshot to the head
  • [36] Ninety four illegal migrants repatriated
  • [37] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Gov't promotes measures to lure more investments

    Greece on Wednesday announced a package of measures aimed at facilitating and attracting more investments in the country.

    Development, Competitiveness & Shipping Minister Anna Diamantopoulou, in an amendment tabled to Parliament, recommended improvements in a development law such as abolishing a minimum level of 100,000 euros for new investments to be included in the legislation.

    The amendments also aimed at combating bureaucracy and corruption, strengthening transparency and accelerating procedures.

    The new changes also include the introduction of a scaled-subsidy for investments in photovoltaic projects regaradless of size, re-examination of hundreds of investments turned down because of bureaucratic reasons, reconstruction of an advisory commission in the ministry, offering a 12-month extension for the completion of all investment plans and introducing a regime of offsetting debts between the public sector and private companies.

    Meanwhile, the ministry announced the operation of a website (www.ependyseis.gr <http://www.ependyseis.gr>), which combined with investor service offices operating around the country, will enable investors to submit their investment plans by April 30, 2012. Under the investment programme for 2012, the government will offer 2.7 billion euros in financial support in the form of tax breaks and another 1.0 billion euros in subsidies.

    [02] FinMin: We need stable gov't after elections

    Finance Minister Filippos Sahinidis stressed on Wednesday that "we need a stable government after the elections in order for the economy to restart", speaking to private television station MEGA, and appeared negative to the possibility of new elections if a self-sufficient government is not elected, noting "we will not leave the country without a government".

    "If we proceed with the commitments we have undertaken, a third support package will not be necessary and the danger of new measures and new cuts will be reduced," he said, and estimated that "if everything goes well then in 2013 we expect and foresee the country's turn towards development".

    Sahinidis was on the size of the Greek deposits in banks abroad and said that discussions with Swiss officials will begin on the issue, adding that the agreement on bank accounts taxation may be signed before the general elections. Currently, a series of checks and cross-checks are underway to determine which incomes (deposited abroad) have not been taxed in Greece, he said.

    Referring to competitiveness, Sahinidis said that it is a chronic problem of Greece and expressed his opinion that "the problem will not be solved by reaching Bulgaria-level wages".

    Asked about the bondholders issue, the Finance Minister said that the PSI is still in progress, and "we must protect the country from legal complications".

    Sahinidis reiterated that the talks are continuing with the Troika and the banks over 'possible' arrangements for borrowers, and noted that those who speak of reductions in the mortgage loans or consumer loans, without substantiating that position, are only "caressing ears".

    Finally, he said that the banks' recapitalisation will be decided with a Cabinet Act.

    [03] Gov't spokesman: Nothing has changed on election date

    Government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis on Wednesday put an end to speculations of a change in the elections date. "Nothing has changed, the legislative work will be completed within the next week and we will proceed normally," he said, speaking on public television station NET, adding "elections will be held in the weekends we have said", namely April 29 or May 6.

    Referring to the amendments issue, he underlined that the mandate is safe and no amendment will be accepted before it is passed through the prime minister's office. He noted, however, that among them are amendments that contain reasonable demands.

    "In a difficult moment, with a negative climate abroad and tension domestically, this government has advanced and completed this loan agreement that will allow us to deal with the problem of the economy and we will keep working until the day we will hand over the authority.

    Answering a question on the margins for renegotiation, Kapsis said that it is clear that "if we meet, for example, the target on tax evasion, it is obvious that we will need to make fewer cuts, and then a change of the programme is possible".

    The government spokesman referred to a 15 percent deficit in competitiveness, adding that "nobody is talking about Bulgaria-level salaries, not even Thomsen".

    "We are living a tragedy and a huge effort is needed in order to get out of it," he said, adding that easy solutions do not exist, and acknowledged that the major problem is "the abrupt and huge austerity that was imposed on us".

    [04] Gov't spokesman: Announcement of general elections next week

    Government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis on Wednesday reiterated that the announcement of the date of general elections will take place next week, during a regular press briefing, and ruled out the rumours that the elections will be postponed.

    Referring to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos' official visit to Cyprus on Thursday, he said that Greece's support for Cyprus is a given fact.

    [05] Greek FM: government dissatisfied over stalemate in Cyprus talks

    Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas has expressed his government's dissatisfaction over the stalemate in the direct talks to solve the Cyprus problem, stressing that the Turkish Cypriot side has shown continuous retreats in the course of the negotiations.

    Dimas, who will be accompanying Greek Prime Minister Loukas Papademos on his two-day official visit to Cyprus, beginning on Thursday, told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that the Cyprus issue remains an issue of invasion and occupation for the Greek government, stressing that Greece will continue to struggle for a just and viable solution and for the reunification of the island.

    He said that the negotiations must be Cypriot-led and Cypriot-owned and that the people of Cyprus should decide upon the future of their united country.

    Dimas also expressed Greece's discomfort over Turkey's threats as regards the assumption of the Presidency of the Council of the EU by Cyprus.

    Cyprus, an EU member since May 2004, will assume the six-monthly rotating EU Presidency in July 2012. Turkey, which does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, has threatened to freeze its relations with the EU when Cyprus assumes the EU Presidency.

    The Greek Foreign Minister also referred to explorations and the exploitation of Greece's natural resources, noting that the Greek government has shown its will to cooperate with neighboring countries, including Cyprus. He added that the brotherly relations with the Republic of Cyprus, as well as the steady cooperation with Israel, are the ideal basis for the further development of the collaboration.

    Asked about the Turkish threats on Cyprus' sovereign right to exploit its natural resources found in its exclusive economic zone, Dimas described these threats as unfounded, noting that the international community has condemned them.

    In his interview with CNA, Dimas also referred to the current economic situation in Greece, noting that there is a great deal of things that need to be done and therefore the next government's task is hard.

    Last December Cypriot President Demetris Christofias announced that exploratory drilling carried out by Houston-based Noble Energy in block 12 of the island's exclusive economic zone revealed a gross mean average of 7 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas.

    Turkey, whose troops occupy Cyprus' northern part since they invaded in 1974, does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus. Following a decision by Nicosia to begin natural gas and oil exploration in its exclusive economic zone, Ankara 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.

    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 stand to gain from any benefits that may come from oil drilling.

    UN-backed talks for a settlement to the Cyprus problem began in September 2008. (CNA/AMNA)

    [06] Cyprus President comments to AMNA ahead of Papademos visit

    NICOSIA (AMNA / A. Viketos)

    Bilateral, European as well as international issues will be the focus of talks between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos during the latter's two-day visit to the island republic, which begins on Thursday.

    In statements to AMNA, President Christofias underlined that Greece constitutes the main supporter of Nicosia in its effort to solve the protracted Cyprus problem. Christofias further noted that the problem is at a very crucial point, while making it clear that Cyprus and Greece resolutely reject whatever plans regarding a four-party conference on Cyprus.

    Regarding the possibility of holding an international conference on the Cyprus issue, after an agreement is reached on several internal aspects of the problem, the Cyprus president stated that the composition of such a conference would be the object of discussions.

    Clarifying his view further, Christofias said the international conference should comprise the UN Security Council's permanent members, the European Union, the guarantor powers (Greece, the United Kingdom and Turkey), the Cyprus Republic and the two communities of Cyprus.

    [07] PASOK leader meets with EU energy commissioner

    PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos met on Wednesday with visiting EU energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, with whom he discussed matters related to energy policy.

    The talks included ways in which the European Commission can help the needed developmental initiatives so as to contribute to halting the deep recession in Greece and the country's speedy return to positive growth rates.

    [08] PASOK leader addresses event for intellectuals

    PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos addressed on Wednesday evening an event for scientists, writers and artists at the Benaki Museum in Athens.

    "We have the obligation, in conditions of crisis and under the pressure of the new programme and the loan contract, to prepare and implement a comprehensive plan of reconstruction," Venizelos told his audience.

    "We must take things in our hands," he said, adding that the upcoming elections constitute the "hour of truth". He also said that the elections do not concern parties and persons "but the fate of the country, the fate of the most weak citizens."

    [09] KKE categorically rejects Athens mayor's proposals on demonstrations

    The Communist Party (KKE) on Wednesday categorically rejected proposals on the demonstrations in downtown Athens, made recently by Mayor Giorgos Kaminis.

    A KKE statement underlined that the mayor's proposal for a draft law regulating protests is an effort to "limit and ban popular demonstrations and mobilisations ... it attempts to link popular mobilisations with arsons, destruction and looting, which are the work of mechanisms of provocation".

    [10] Leftist leader says election delay unthinkable

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday charged that any delay in pending elections is "unthinkable", a statement directly linked to press speculation.

    Tsipras said he raised the issue in a meeting with President Karolos Papoulias during his visit to the presidential mansion. He underlined that "Greece is a sovereign state and Greeks should decide as a sovereign people. The prime minister should make a statement."

    Tsipras accompanied a group of German MEPs in a visit to Papoulias.

    On his part, Die Linke Parliamentary group leader Gregor Gysi voiced solidarity with the Greek people and underlined that there are forces in Europe that want Greece out of the Euro-zone.

    He expressed strong doubts over the policy Athens was forced to implement and wondered "how Greece can move forward when it cannot have revenues from taxes due to recession." He also expressed concerns that the same situation can be witnessed in Italy, Spain and Portugal.

    Gysi called for policies aimed at reducing defence spending, combating tax evasion and increasing taxation for the wealthy.

    [11] Tsipras demands Greece rescind signature from ACTA

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) leader Alexis Tsipras demanded on Wednesday that Greece rescind its signature from the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), in a question tabled in parliament addressed to the ministers of justice and infrastructures.

    Tsipras charged that the ACTA, which was signed by Greece on January 26 together with 21 other EU member states, "which supposedly concerns the imposition of measures for the international protection of intellectual property rights" was, "in reality, a behind-the-scenes effort at global legislation, so as to once again limit the citizens' rights in favour of the large businesses lobbies".

    According to Tsipras, the purpose of the ACTA is to "inflate the profits of the content industries, the pharmaceutical industries and biotechnology companies, but in the bottom line to also introduce the political surveillance of the Internet".

    "It is one more international agreement made to circumvent democratic deliberation and public discussion on the encompassed issues in every country," Tsipras charged.

    [12] 'Independent Greeks' posts policy platform on Internet

    The newly formed Independent Greeks party led by Panos Kammenos on Wednesday posted its policy platform for the upcoming elections on the Internet for public consultation. Among others, this calls for changes to the fundamental structure of the Greek state.

    This includes the creation of a National Security Council chaired by the prime minister, designed to ensure a cross-party approach on strategic issues of national security, and a General Secretariat of Greeks Abroad to help develop financial and cultural ties.

    Other proposals are for a Strategic Support Council to generate and review strategic plans for all national goals, which it will submit to a Council of National Strategy and Crisis Management, made up of the PM, foreign minister, finance minister, National Security Council and Strategic Support Council.

    Other innovations including a 'legislation charting' service that will examine the ramifications and interaction of legislation, an audit service to monitor payment of Greece's debts and determine their true size, a committee to organise claims for war reparations and a maritime affairs committee to delineate the continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone.

    The party's policy platform includes making the finance minister expressly responsible for failure to properly execute the budget and provisions for a 'haircut' of individual and company debts to banks, abolition of tax relief with the exception of those targeting an increase in birth rates, employee contributions and disability benefits.

    The party promises to abolish unpopular measures, such as the surtax on property, VAT on construction and a higher tax-free allowance pegged to the European poverty line, with five income tax brackets, the highest set at 25 percent.

    It also calls for tougher penalties for tax evasion, an income tax for businesses and commercial activity, 'rationalised' tax office fines, a uniform VAT rate of 15 percent for all products and services and a Greek investment bank to fund major projects and provide businesses with cash.

    [13] PASOK deputy declares as independent

    Aria Agatsa, a PASOK deputy for Viotia prefecture, north of Athens, in a letter on Wednesday to Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos, announced her decision to leave the party's parliamentary group.

    According to reports, Agatsa intends to retain her seat in the Parliament as an independent MP.

    The exact contents of her letter were not disclosed.

    [14] President receives AHEPA delegation

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias said on Wednesday that he has no fear that Greece will overcome the crisis as he greeted a visiting delegation of the American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA) headed by association supreme president John Grossomanides

    "With the courage it (Hellenism) has in facing difficult situations, we will overcome this crisis, too. It is in our hands to overcome it. All of us, however, as a family. This is what is very important. Wherever Hellenism waged battles as a family it on. Wherever Hellenism had the worm of division and clash, it failed," Papoulis said.

    The President stressed his faith in the "power of the spirit we have inside us, that the Greeks have inside them", although there was a bit of a worm as well.

    "But I have no fear, we will overcome the crisis. Just remember from where your grandparents set out. They went to a big country, alone, almost barefoot, and created, worked hard and made you, their grandchildren. You are a prospering group in a large society, such as is that of the United States of America and Canada, where you are excelling not only in the business sector, not only in the intellectual sector. Just think about how many hundreds of professors we have in the American universities -- recently I received our friends from Canada as well -- and how many doctors we have and how many eminent scientists and artists, and how Greece's name is heard all over this great country," Papoulias added.

    [15] Die Linke MEPs received by Papoulias, FinMin

    President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received a visiting delegation of German Die Linke party's MEPs headed by its Parliamentary group leader Gregor Gysi. The delegation was escorted to the presidential mansion in Athens by Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras.

    Earlier, the Die Linke parliamentary group leader was received by Finance Minister Filippos Sahinidis, as their meeting focused on political and economic developments in Greece, as well as on initiatives aimed at managing the economic crisis.

    [16] Papandreou meeting with Clinton

    NEW YORK (AMNA/P. Panagiotou)

    Socialist International (SI) president and former PASOK leader and prime minister George Papandreou, in New York to chair an SI meeting on global financial issues, met on Tuesday with former US president and environmental activist Bill Clinton, for talks that encompassed the Greek and global economic crisis and the latest developments in Greece and the euruzone.

    During the meeting, the two men also exchanged views on the 'progressive responses' to the crisis and placed emphasis on growth, employment and dealing with the problem of unemployment.

    They further discussed the situation in the wider Mediterranean region and agreed on the need to advance democracy, as well as Clinton's initiative on climate change.

    Papandreou also briefed Clinton on the SI's priorities and initiatives, and on the recent SI meeting on the Arab world held in Istanbul.

    On Wednesday, Papandreou will chair meeting of the SI Commission on Global Financial Issues to be held at the UN building, while on Thursday he will be a central speaker at an event on the Global Economy organised by the New America Foundation.

    [17] Papandreou addresses 'Stiglitz Committee' meeting

    NEW YORK (AMNA/P.Panayiotou)

    Socialist International (SI) President and former Greek prime minister George Papandreou addressed here on Wednesday a meeting of the "Stiglitz Committee" on world economy.

    "Despite the fact that we have taken some very important decisions that concern not only Greece but Europe's future as well, the European Union and the Eurozone are still facing a great challenge," Papandreou said.

    "Nevertheless and based on my experience and tha fact that I have spoken with many people, I believe that we still have many things to do in Europe. We must answer to the following questions: How can we exit from recession if the programme followed is simply an austerity programme? How can we prepare a comprehensive growth plan for Europe? How can Europe, as a continent and as separate countries, become more competitive in a continuously changing, globalised environement?"

    [18] Country shocked by pensioner's suicide in Syntagma Square

    Hundreds of people gathered in Syntagma Square, opposite Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, around the spot where a 77-year-old retired pharmacist had ended his own life earlier in the day, reportedly because he was despondent due to financial problems linked to the economic crisis.

    Responding to a call made over social networking sites, people from all corners of the greater Athens area began to gather in Syntagma to silently protest, many under a banner reading "Let's not get used to death".

    "The way he chose is a statement of a political position and stance. If this man had killed himself at home there would not have been such a stir, as there had not been for the previous ... suicides. It is an incident that we must look at amongst many other incidents of suicide in our country, the country of sun and laughter," the head of the Attica Pharmacists' Association, Costas Lourantos, said in statements to the AMNA.

    Under the tree where the pensioner shot himself, the pharmacists' association, of which he had been a member, laid a wreath at the spot where he took his own life, while others laid flowers and notes alongside.

    According to a suicide note he left behind, the 77-year-old was pushed to despair by his dire financial situation.

    According to Lourantos, the pensioner had faced serious health problems and had been on the point of penury when he made the decision to take his own life.

    The 77-year-old had been a member of the association until 1994, when he had sold his pharmacy.

    He killed himself just before 9 a.m. on Wednesday, standing on the stairs across the street from Parliament and shooting himself in the head with a handgun.

    Police and an ambulance rushed to the scene but the man was already dead.

    Political reaction

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Wednesday evening termed as "tragic" the suicide of the pensioner.

    "It is a tragic event that one of our fellow citizens put an end to his life. In these difficult hours for our society we must, all of us, the state and citizens, support people by our side, who find themselves in despair," Papademos said.

    On his part, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said he felt "shock" at the incident.

    The ND leader also noted that this was not the first death of this kind that had occurred in recent months in Greece, where rates of suicide reached record levels, at least by Greek standards. "This is what I meant when I spoke of a national depression," he added.

    "Death is not just bankruptcy but for someone to live without hope," he said in a statement, stressing that this "makes even more urgent our obligation to extricate Greeks from the mire and from despair".

    PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos commented that the "suicide of the pensioner at Syntagma Square provokes mismatched and cheap comments, because some people do not have the same degree of sensitivity," he said, while addressing an event for writers and artists at the Benaki Museum in Athens.

    [19] Crisis has increased workplace discrimination against women, ombudsman reports

    A special report on gender discrimination in the workplace released on Wednesday by the Greek ombudsman found that complaints of discrimination against women in the private sector had increased 53 percent in 2011, up from 37 percent in 2010, due to the economic crisis and the demands of the Memorandums.

    The report also noted an increase in the number of calls from people seeking to learn their labour rights against a background of mass lay-offs in both the public and private sector, in which many companies replaced permanent employees with staff having more precarious labour relations, such as part-time or 'rented' staff and even by contracting out activities.

    According to the ombudsman, a higher percentage of women were being pushed into accepting these more flexible forms of employment.

    [20] PPC management, unions charged with embezzlement

    The managements of the Public Power Corporation (PPC) between 1999-2010 but also the leadership of the PPC trade union GENOP and the Organisation for the Social Activities of Employees (OKDE) were on Wednesday charged with embezzlement and breach of faith by two public prosecutors that investigating subsidies amounting to millions of euro given to the trade union.

    The preliminary investigation was conducted after Public Administration General Inspector Leandors Rakintzis concluded that excessive funds had been given to the union by the PPC.

    [21] Public sector evaluation process opposed by civil servants' union

    The public sector umbrella union, ADEDY, on Wednesday expressed its objection to the promoted regulations for the "evaluation of public agencies and their personnel".

    ADEDY claimed that the sole purpose of the specific model is the implementation of obligations stemming from the recently signed memorandum, and the reduction of the public sector's size by more than 150,000 employees before 2015.

    Financial News

    [22] Development ministry invites seamen to talks in bid to avert Easter week strike

    The development, competitiveness and shipping ministry on Wednesday invited the unions representing Greek seamen to begin talks in an effort to avert a potentially damaging two-day ferry strike announced on April 10-11, in the week before Greek Easter.

    In a letter to union representatives, the ministry emphasised the major repercussions of the strike on the Greek economy and noted that it had not received any letter from seamen raising any new issues or making new demands.

    Trade union sources said that the Panhellenic Naval Federation (PNO) executive committee will probably meet on Thursday in order to decide whether or not it should meet with the ministry. The likelihood of a meeting is considered high and ministry officials are sanguine that the strike can be averted.

    The decision to hold a strike in the midst of Easter week, when travel to and from the islands is likely to peak due to the upcoming holiday, was strongly criticised by local officials and MPs that said it condemned island communities to isolation and disrupted their economies at a time when thousands of businesses were struggling to survive.

    Seamen are demanding that the government withdraw two articles of legislation, one of which lifts cabotage for sea cruises and another making the seamen's healthcare organisation a part of the unified national healthcare services provider. They also want measures to combat unemployment among sailors, the signature of collective labour agreements in 2012 and an end to pension cuts.

    [23] State debt to private sector up to 6.32 bln euros in Feb

    State debt to the private sector rose in February, with overdue debt totaling 6.32 billion euros from 5.94 billion euros in January, the Finance ministry said.

    The ministry, in a report, said that pension funds were the biggest debtors with overdue debt of 2.79 billion euros, followed by state hospitals (1.46 billion), municipal authorities (1.045 billion), government ministries (731 million euros) and other legal entities (258 million euros).

    The general government reported a cash surplus of 2.17 billion euros in the first two months of 2012, up from a surplus of 964 million euros in the same period in 2011. Primary budget surplus was 3.085 billion euros in the January-February period, from 1.87 billion euros last year.

    [24] Bussiness Briefs

    -- Private capital should be offered the opportunity to participate in a bank recapitalization plan and to buy -in the near future - and in terms favourable to both sides the state's equity participation in commercial banks, the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) said on Wednesday.

    [25] Stocks remain under pressure

    Stocks remained under pressure, extending their decline for the eighth consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

    Selling focused on bank shares, such as Alpha Bank, Eurobank and National Bank. The composite index of the market fell 0.74 pct to end at 703.94 points, off the day's lows of 701.18 points, for a decline of 8.89 pct in the last eight sessions.

    Turnover remained a low 29.362 million euros. The Big Cap index fell 1.28 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.56 pct lower and the Small Cap index dropped 2.06 pct. The Chemicals (1.25 pct), Personal Products (1.25 pct) and Constructions (0.91 pct) sectors scored gains, while Telecoms (3.81 pct), Banks (3.40 pct) and Health (2.60 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses.

    Cyprus Bank (5.82 pct), Jumbo (1.90 pct) and MIG (1.56 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Alpha Bank (7.61 pct), Eurobank (7.39 pct) and National Bank (6.32 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 82 to 58 with another 14 issues unchanged. Atti-kat (20 pct0, Elbisco Holdings (20 pct) and HOL (19.80 pct) were top gainers, while Elgeka (26.45 pct), Progressive (15.25 pct) and Audiovisual (14.89 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +0.22%

    Commercial: +0.60%

    Construction: +0.91%

    Oil & Gas: +0.21%

    Personal & Household: +1.25%

    Raw Materials: +0.12%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.45%

    Technology: -1.63%

    Telecoms: -3.81%

    Banks: -3.40%

    Food & Beverages: -0.15%

    Health: -2.60%

    Utilities: -1.40%

    Chemicals: +1.25%

    Financial Services: +0.56%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and OPAP.

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

    Alpha Bank: 0.80

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.24

    HBC Coca Cola: 13.85

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.82

    National Bank of Greece: 1.63

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.50

    OPAP: 6.88

    OTE: 3.03

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.25

    Titan: 14.50

    [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.333

    Pound sterling 0.840

    Danish kroner 7.551

    Swedish kroner 8.950

    Japanese yen 109.84

    Swiss franc 1.221

    Norwegian kroner 7.686

    Canadian dollar 1.327

    Australian dollar 1.297

    General News

    [27] Antikythera wreck exhibition opens at Nat'l Archaeological Museum

    All the findings of the Antikythera wreck, including the Antikythera Mechanism, will be on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens for a year within the framework of the exhibition entitled "The wreck of Antikythera - The ship, the treasures, the Mechanism" that will run until April 2013.

    Speaking in a press conference ahead of the formal opening of the exhibition on Thursday, the museum's director stated that many of the 378 findings, dated between 60-50 BC, will be displayed together for the first time, while others have never been on display before.

    The most famous of the findings, the Antikythera Mechanism, is believed to be an ancient mechanical calculator (also described as a "mechanical computer") designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was discovered in the Antikythera wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, between Kythera and Crete, and has been dated back to 150-100 BC. Technological artifacts of similar complexity appeared a thousand years later.

    The wreck was discovered sometime before Easter 1900 by sponge divers. The mechanism itself was discovered on May 17, 1901, when archaeologist Valerios Stais noticed that a piece of rock recovered from the site had a gear wheel embedded in it.

    [28] Church-supported free clinic sees 600 patients in first month, 70 pct Greeks

    Greeks account for 70 percent of the patients attending the 'Social Mission Surgery' for the uninsured set up by by the Athens Archepiscopate's non-governmental organisation 'Apostoli' and the Athens Medical Association (ISA), according to figures unveiled by the ISA on Wednesday.

    Since the clinic started operating on February 1, it has offered its services to more than 600 people, of which 70 percent were Greeks, 54 percent had lost their job in the last three years, 30 percent were former business owners and 7 percent had never had social insurance.

    The patients treated included 102 children, of which 82 percent were in need of vaccinations - something that doctors stressed was a "timebomb" for public health.

    ISA president George Patoulis also expressed sorrow that the health ministry had refused to provide free hospital treatment for uninsured patients with potentially life-threatening health issues, noting that 10 percent of the cases they had seen had needed further treatment in hospital for which there was no state provision.

    Patoulis noted that the 'Social Mission Surgery' had a large network of 207 doctors that were ISA members, while 87 volunteer doctors helped run the surgery on a daily basis. In addition to the doctors, there are also 27 volunteer nurses and administrative staff and 15 volunteer biopathologists that carry out lab tests in their private laboratories.

    He said that figures showed a sharp increase in the number of homeless and destitute people during the last year who had no access to health care because they owed money to either their social insurance fund or in overdue taxes and were unable to get a health book for those without income.

    The charity also collaborates with the 'Social Pharmacy', operated with the support of the Greek pharmacies association, which provided 79.8 percent of the medication needed by the patients examined by the clinic.

    [29] Roberto Benigni proclaimed honourary professor at Thessaloniki University

    Academy Award winning Italian actor, comedian, screenwriter and director of film, theatre and television Roberto Benigni was proclaimed honourary professor of the Thessaloniki Aristotle University, Department of Italian Language and Literature, during a ceremony on Wednesday evening.

    Benigni thanked, in Greek, the university for the honour bestowed to him. He also referred to the present economic crisis saying that "it is not Greece that owes, but the the entire world and Europe owe everything to Greece."

    The Italian actor spoke on the theme "Dante, Divine Comedy. Interpretation and comments on Inferno's Canto XI".

    [30] Two arrests for major arms cache; 8 warrants

    Arrest warrants have been issued for eight individuals related to a major arms cache found in an apartment building in the Artemida (Loutsa) coastal region, east of Athens, it was announced on Wednesday.

    Two individuals, a 56-year-old man and a 49-year-old woman, were arrested on felony charges of forming a criminal ring, trade and possession of arms.

    According to the indictment, the ring was established in 2004 and its members are allegedly engaged in the smuggling, transport and possession of firearms and military-grade weapons, mostly originating from Germany and the United States, and distributed in Greece.

    Based on the available evidence, a large part of the weaponry allegedly arrived by mail from Germany. A 53-year-old lawyer, a well-known member of the local community in the township of Spata, east of Athens proper, appeared as the recipient. The man in question had served as city councilor (1995-1998 and 1998-2000) and until last December was the president and primary backer of a local football club.

    The arms cache was discovered on Monday, with most of the weapons found inside their original boxes. The majority were AK-47s "Kalashnikovs", other military-grade weapons and handguns (MG-42, MP-44). Parts for weapons, ammunition and and combat fatigues were also found.

    A ballistics investigation is underway to determine if any of the weapons have been used in criminal acts.

    [31] Police confirm explosion outside former PM's office was caused by incendiary device

    Police confirmed late Tuesday night that an incendiary device was responsible for an explosion that occurred shortly before nine o'clock that same evening in the fifth floor of a building in where the office of former prime minister Costas Simitis (PASOK) is located, on Academias Street in downtown Athens.

    A large number of people were in other offices in the building at the time of the explosion, but no one was hurt.

    The resulting fire that broke out was extinguished by a team of 27 firefighters.

    Police investigating the home-made bomb attack said late at night that remnants of small propane canisters were found at the spot of the explosion, confirming their initial belief that the explosion was caused by an incendiary device.

    [32] Tension in Athens' Law School

    Unidentified individual occupied the Athens Law School building after breaking the locks early on Wednesday afternoon, demanding its reopening before it closes again on Friday for the Orthodox Easter holiday.

    The Law School was closed since Monday in response to information that events were being planned to take place inside the building, organised by unidentified individuals without the permission of the institution's administration.

    The occupiers remained at the Law School's courtyard, surrounded by police forces called in by its administrative authorities.

    According to reports, 12 people were arrested outside the school.

    [33] Drugs found in car, driver escapes

    Police are conducting an investigation to locate a driver who abandoned his car, in which 135 kilos of hashish were subsequently found hidden, and fled after a chase.

    The incident occurred on the Athens-Patras stretch of the national highway on Wednesday when police officers signaled to a car moving over the speed limit to stop. The driver did not stop and a pursuit followed. The driver later abandoned the car and fled on foot.

    A search of the car's cabin and the boot revealed 135 kilos hashish in 124 packages, a semi-automatic rifle and three cartridges with 90 shells.

    [34] Bus with Albanian plates crashes, five injured

    An Albanian-registered bus carrying out a route from the Albanian town of Vlore to Athens on Wednesday swerved off course and crashed at a site on the Athens-Ioannina national highway, resulting in the injury of four passengers.

    The bus driver, who was trapped in the vehicle, was seriously injured.

    According to initial reports, the bus swerved off the roadway due to slippery conditions on the pavement.

    [35] Man's body found in gorge with gunshot to the head

    The body of a man was found on Tuesday in a 10 meter deep gorge next to the Ioannina-Trikala old national highway, near the Zagori interchange (northwestern Greece).

    According to police the victim had been shot in the head with a machinegun.

    The body was found in a state of decomposition and it is believed to be that of a 36-year-old local who was declared missing in mid-February.

    Thessaloni Police are conducting an investigation.

    [36] Ninety four illegal migrants repatriated

    Ninety-four illegal migrants, who were arrested during a police sweep operation in Athens last week, were deported on Wednesday.

    Seventy-one of them are Pakistanis, sixteen Albanian, four from Iraq, two Moroccans and one from Nigeria.

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

    The VAT rebate, the date of the general elections and the burning issue of the generic drugs, mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    AVGHI: "Government of the Left for Greece and Europe".

    AVRIANI: "Troika presses for delay of general elections".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Germans taking the hospitals, too".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "PASOK's scam with the heating oil".

    ESTIA: "Socialists' lies - French President Nicolas Sarkozy invokes Greece's example".

    ETHNOS: "GENOP (PPC employees union) -TOURS".

    IMERISSIA: "VAT rebates a breather for the market".

    KATHIMERINI: "The 92 'night-time' amendments".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "3 billion euros VAT rebates will remain frozen".

    NIKI: "How to protect yourselves from the collection companies".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "PASOK, New Democracy, impose medicine based on the cost and not the treatment".

    TA NEA: "Block on 'new generation' illegal buildings".

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