|Sunday, 18 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-04-06
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 6 April 2012 Issue No: 4040
 Greek PM, Cyprus President coordinate efforts on Cyprus issue and energyNICOSIA (AMNA.A.Vikettos/CNA)
President of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and visiting Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos reviewed, during a meeting they held hera Thursday, their next steps as regards the Cyprus issue and reaffirmed the excellent level of bilateral ties.
The Greek Prime Minister, who pays Cyprus an official visit, held tete a tete meeting with President Christofias, followed by official talks with the participation of Cypriot and Greek delegations.
They also discussed energy issues, the economic crisis and the assumption of the presidency of the EU Council of Ministers by Cyprus in July.
In statements at a press conference, which followed, President Christofias said that the visit of the Greek PM constitutes one more proof of the excellent and fraternal relations between the two states.
He added that they exchanged views on the next steps as regards the Cyprus problem and thanked the Greek Prime Minister for his support towards Cyprus' policy on the Cyprus issue.
Prime Minister Papademos said that the close cooperation between Cyprus and Greece is the cornerstone of Athens' policy as regards the Cyprus issue, stressing that the positions of both countries on Cyprus are "identical".
"Technical timeframes and alternative plans B are counter-productive", he underscored.
Greece and Cyprus, he added, strive for the achievement of an overall and mutually agreed solution on the basis of a bicommunal, bizonal federation, with one international personality, one citizenship and one sovereignty, under UN auspices.
Referring to the assumption of the presidency of the Council of the EU by Cyprus in the second half of 2012, he said that Greece's support is given.
Furthermore, he noted that Cyprus' participation in the EU has opened up new political and economic opportunities for the island.
He noted that new prospects arise for the economy of Cyprus after the recent results of the exploratory research for hydrocarbon reserves in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone.
"Threats which question the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus are totally condemnable", the Greek Prime Minister stressed.
He said that Greece goes through a difficult economic period, adding that the full implementation of the new financial package and the expected enhancement and restructuring of the Greek banking system would have a positive effect on the economy of Cyprus as well.
Papademos also thanked Cyprus for its solidarity to the people of Greece who suffer the consequences of the economic crisis.
Earlier on, the Greek Prime Minister signed the book of visitors at the Presidential Palace, in which he wrote, "Greece will continue to fully support Cyprus and the termination of the Turkish occupation of the island. Greece will support the achievement of a viable solution in Cyprus based on the UN decisions and the EU principles and values".
"Fraternal relations between the two peoples, the continuous consultation and coordination of actions guarantee the realization of our efforts", Papademos added.
"The Cyprus issue and the course of the Cyprus talks, or to be exact, the stalemate of the negotiations, was one of the main issues we discussed", President Christofias told reporters.
He noted that they exchanged views and reviewed the next steps, taking into consideration Ankara's intransigence.
He said he underlined his commitment to the achievement of a solution that would end the Turkish occupation of Cyprus and Ankara's policy of illegally bringing to the island Turkish settlers, in an attempt to change Cyprus' demographic structure.
"The solution of the Cyprus problem should restore human rights and fundamental freedoms for all Cyprus and strengthen the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus", President Christofias stressed.
As regards Turkey's stance towards the Cypriot EU presidency, he said that Nicosia expresses its disappointment over Turkey's policy to threaten the EU and freeze its relations to the EU during Cyprus' presidency, urging Ankara to fulfill its obligations and respect the EU institutions.
During the meeting, Premier Papademos and President Christofias reviewed energy issues emphasizing on Turkey's threats and aggressiveness to Cyprus' sovereign right to conduct exploratory research for hydrocarbon reserves in its Exclusive Economic Zone.
"Turkey has the obligation to respect the sovereignty and the international law, especially since Ankara declares its interest for peace and stability in the region", Christofias stressed.
Concluding, he expressed Cyprus' solidarity to the Greek people.
The Republic of Cyprus is divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and since then occupy 37% of Cyprus' territory. Cyprus, which entered the EU in May 2004, will assume the six monthly rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in July.
 Greek PM meets Cypriot political leadersNICOSIA (AMNA/A.Vikettos)
Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, currently on a two-day official visit to Cyprus, met late Thursday afternoon Cyprus parliamentary parties' leaders and representatives, DHSY leader Nikos Anastassiades, ruling left-wing AKEL party Secretary General Andros Kyprianou, DHKO President Marios Karoyan and Socialist EDEK party alternate president Kyriakos Mavronikolas. He had held earlier in the day talks with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias at the Presidential Palace.
No statements were made after the meetings.
Later in the evening, Papademos attended an official dinner hosted by President Christofias.
 PM Papademos says Greek banks recapitalisation to start soonNICOSIA (AMNA/A.Vikettos)
The recapitalisation of the Greek banks will begin immediately with a cabinet decision on April 20 and is expected to conclude at the beginning of September, Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said here Thursday.
Addressing a joint press conference with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias after talks at the Presidential Palace, Papademos said that "there is not even one day to be lost and no question for the government's work easing off," adding that Greece's new economic programme foresees reforms and other measures, the implementation of which will gradually lead to the country's economic recovery.
Papademos underlined that consistency is needed regarding economic adjustment and the introduction of reforms, which aim at improving the economy's functioning, cutting down of expenditures and upgrading the quality of public administration.
The Greek economy is in a state of recession for the fifth consecutive year, the Greek premier noted, indicating that unemployment has reached unacceptable high levels.
He also expressed his certainty that his government, as well as the next Greek government, will continue taking additional measures to handle restricted liquidity in the banking system and to support employment in an effort to accelerate economic recovery.
The prime minister reiterated that predictions by international organisations lead to the conclusion that in 2013 there will be tangible proofs of economic recovery and, in two years, growth rates are expected to attain 2.5 and 3% levels.
Responding to a question by AMNA regarding the delimitation of Greece's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with Cyprus and Egypt, Papademos said that each country has the right to do so. "We are examining this issue in cooperation with neighbouring countries and particularly with Cyprus."
 PM arrives in Cyprus, reaffirms Greece's steadfast supportNICOSIA (AMNA)
Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos reaffirmed that Greece will remain steadfast in its support for Cyprus in the coming critical period, upon arrival in Cyprus on Thursday for a two-day visit.
In an airport statement in Larnaca, Papademos said that it was a great joy and honour to visit Cyprus.
"This visit comes at a very important and difficult period for Greece and also for Cyprus, which assumes the European Council presidency in June," Papademos noted.
He further said that he looks forward to a substantive and very useful exchange of views with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and other officials, aiming at "achieving the best possible coordination of our efforts for a resolution of the Cyprus issue, dealing with the consequences of the economic crisis, and strengthening our cooperation in the energy sector".
After the brief statement at Larnaca Airport, Papademos left for Nicosia, where he will be officially greeted by Christofias, after which the two leaders will hold talks.
 State Minister: Rumours for postponment of elections groundlessMinister of state Giorgos Stavropoulos denied rumours that the general elections will be postponed, speaking on Thursday on state radio NET.
"I can't understand who spreads the rumours that the general elections will be postponed," he said
"Only for institutional and ethical reasons, the general elections should not be announced" before prime minister Lucas Papademos finalises the issue with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias. On Saturday night, "when the prime minister returns from his visit to Cyprus, he will hold contacts with President Papoulias, which means that whatever is to be done will be inside next week", he added.
Stavropoulos also said the government's legislative work must be completed.
Referring to the wave of amendments tabled in the last days in parliament, he reiterated that prime minister's political volition is that none of them will be accepted without prior approval from the prime minister's office.
 Venizelos meets with US ambassadorNew PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos met on Thursday with US ambassador Daniel Bennett-Smith at the PASOK headquarters in downtown Athens for talks encompassing the situation in Greece, the US and Europe, Greek-American relations, the lead up to elections in Greece, implementation of the stability programme in Greece and completion of the PSI.
According to a PASOK announcement, Venizelos told Bennet-Smith that he looks forward to good cooperation between the two countries at both bilateral level and with respect to the EU and the International Monetary Fund.
Discussing the situation in Greece ahead of the upcoming elections, Venizelos pointed out that the correlations in the Greek society were difficult, the people were angry and fed up, and for that reason PASOK's approach is that it is necessary to speak only the truth. the PASOK announcement said.
On the course of the economy, Venizelos said that Greece will go ahead with the necessary structural changes, and also referred to the PSI, which he said was an immense venture and thanks to which Greece has been given the opportunity to complete its efforts for the revival of the Greek economy, the announcement said.
 Samaras in WSJ article: Growth key to Greek comebackNEW YORK CITY (AMNA)
The only way for Greece to make a comeback from the crisis is a return to growth, New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras emphasised in an article he published in the Wall Street Journal, stressing that the austerity policies imposed on the country simply hadn't worked.
In the interview published on Wednesday, Samaras also underlined that Greece was not a "lost cause" for the European Union but a valuable asset that was capable of recovery.
Samaras emphasised that the harsh austerity imposed on Greece simply wasn't having the desired effect.
The article, published under the headline "Making Greece Work", and with a subhead of "With the support of our fellow Europeans, the country can still make a spectacular comeback," reads:
"When Galileo Galilei was forced by the Catholic Inquisition to recant his heliocentric beliefs in 1633, the Italian astronomer was said to have uttered, 'And yet it moves.' Since then the phrase has become shorthand for defending counterintuitive truth in the face of deep-rooted prejudice.
Since Galileo's day, we Europeans have learned to question things beyond the obvious and to look beneath the surface. We have learned to search for clues, not evils-for answers, not culprits.
What is obvious in the European debt crisis is that many member states have lived beyond their means for years, accumulating debt that exploded out of control. My country, Greece, is a long-term fiscal failure and currently in its fifth year of recession. It has lost 16%-18% of its GDP since 2009.
More recession has meant more stubborn deficits and ever-exploding debt. Greece has already implemented deficit-cutting measures of around 20% of GDP to curtail a deficit of 15% of GDP in 2009. Two years later, and despite all these measures, Athens's deficit was still around 10% in 2011. Three quarters of deficit-cutting produced more recession, not less deficit.
Meanwhile, Greeks' standard of living has dropped precipitously since before the crisis. They shifted abruptly from one extreme to the opposite: from too much consumption with insufficient production, to bottomless austerity with insufficient adjustment and no real progress.
Greeks should adjust -- no question about it. But what country can lose so much in such a short time? And what democracy can sustain so great a shock with such poor results?
The Greek experience suggests that adjustment and structural reforms will not enhance competitiveness without one more vital ingredient: measures to assist recovery and promote sustainable growth. Without recovery you cannot accomplish much. Things will most probably worsen.
This is exactly what has happened in Greece. It took 30 years of frivolous public spending to bring the country to a debt-to-GDP ratio of 120%. Two years of severe austerity brought debt to 168% of GDP. Obviously the medicine didn't work.
We are resolved to tackle the crisis. We should not hesitate in the face of hardships, but neither should we postpone changes and reforms long past due. Rather, we should make them more efficient and ameliorate some of their most toxic side effects by simultaneously applying recovery measures. We need time so that structural changes can work their way toward improving competitiveness. But we should not undermine these reforms in the short run while expecting them to work in the long run.
For instance, how competitive can an economy be when its tax rates are twice those of its neighbors' and far above the average of its trading partners? In the past two years the employment costs of the Greek private sector have decreased by more than 15% while the tax burden has increased by 50%, energy costs have increased by 450%, and there is no more liquidity in the market. Even if you could make people work for free, nobody would hire them in such an environment.
We need to allow for a recovery to jump-start the Greek economy. We made a commitment to fulfill the objectives and the targets of the European Union program for Greece, and we want to honor our obligations to the letter. But the longer we are stuck in such a self-perpetuating recession, the more we will drift away from our targets. We want to reverse this trend. We want to break out of the vicious cycle.
We want to make Greece work. We want to set an unprecedented positive example for the euro zone.
To accomplish this, we need the help and understanding of our fellow Europeans. Some of our European partners have not hesitated to call Greece a burden that the EU should cast off. And yet it moves.
I am absolutely confident that Greece is not a lost cause. Greece is not a liability; it is an asset. Greece can still make a spectacular comeback," he concluded.
 ND lashes out at PASOK leader; ministerNew Democracy (ND) on Thursday sharply lashed out at new PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, accusing him of being a leading advocate of the memorandum policy implemented in the country.
ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis accused Venizelos of saying nothing or not telling the truth about the two "catastrophic" years for the country when PASOK was in power.
Mihelakis referred to comments made by MP Vasso Papandreou, who referred to "crimes which finished off" the countr, and which were committed in the two years George Papandreou was the prime minister. The ND spokesman directly accused Venizelos, stating that as a government vice-president was the main executor of the memorandum and a leading advocate of the referendum proposal which he characterized as "opportunist" move.
ND called on Venizelos to answer to revelations made by Environment Minister George Papaconstantinou who said that Venizelos participated in the shaping of the memorandum as a law expert and not simply as a member of the government. ND also called for answers in response to a statement made by IMF's Paul Thomsen that taxation, wage and pension cuts "the whole package belongs to the government" in which Venizelos was a vice-president.
Referring to statements on a government alliance made by Papaconstantinou, the ND spokesman commented that he should be led before a parliamentary investigation committee, underlining that it "is a provocation to hear him suggesting the formation of a government alliance instead of apologizing for the crimes he committed against the country".
Mihelakis also called on the president of PASOK to respond to statements made by Yiannis Ragoussis, a leading member of the Papandreou government, who spoke about political personnel that "appeared to be unjustifiably hesitant to touch small oligarchies".
 KKE leader urges voters to 'lead system to political suicide'The people will not choose the path of "political suicide" when the elections take place, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said on Thursday, during a press conference held in the northern Greek city of Kozani where she is currently on a two-day tour.
"With their vote, they must lead the system to political suicide," she added, urging voters to back her own party "against the power of monopolies" rather than the establishment New Democracy and PASOK parties.
Concerning the overtures made by other leftist parties seeking pre-election collaboration, Papariga stressed that they did not have convincing proposals and positions and said that KKE would not accept minor posts "in a neoliberal government, a progressive, democratic, left or leftish government".
She also attacked the "vile speculation" on the suicide of a 77-year-old pensioner in Syntagma Square, noting that the pensioner had himself sent a political message but that the answer was not suicide.
Papariga also commented on the issue of illegal migration, saying that KKE was in favour of "open" reception centres for migrants away from the capital but stressing that the party's proposal bore little relation to that of the current minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis.
 Tsipras: Turn indignation into upset voteCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday urged the Greek people to turn their indignation into a political proposal and upset vote, during a press conference held after Wednesday's suicide by a retired pharmacist in public across the street from the Greek parliament, which Tsipras described as a "conscious political act".
He attacked the interim government, accusing it of lacking democracy and transparency with respect to the banking system, the over-indebted households and the farmers' debts.
Tsipras further called on the government to stop its hypocritical policy and on the Greek society to continue to react.
He also presented SYRIZA's platform for a settlement of the debts of households, farmers and small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), warning that the continuing reduction of incomes has made it impossible for repayment of their loans and stressing that without arrangements and partial write-off ?? the households' debts the problem cannot be resolved.
On the SMEs, he said that according to official figures some 68,000 SMEs went out of business in 2011, while it is estimated that another 62,000 will pull down the shutters, leaving hundreds of thousands of workers unemployed.
 Gov't flatly dismisses report claiming Greek 'no show' at OlympicsThe government on Thursday flatly denied a report, carried in the "Financial Times", that Greece would not send teams to this summer's Olympic Games in London, with a top sports official blaming the Greek athletics federation (SEGAS) for generating "misinformation" that caused the negative press.
Sports general director head Panos Bitsaxis, whose post comes under the culture ministry's portfolio, told an Athens radio station that Greece's participation in the upcoming Summer Games will be exceptional, with nearly 100 Greek athletes set to participate.
"I am witnessing SEGAS misinform the international press with a bogus report, namely, that the Greek teams will not go to the Olympics. The Greek presence at the Olympic Games will be exceptional," Bitsaxis said, adding that the government is not neglecting SEGAS or athletics.
"Certain gentlemen in SEGAS should take under consideration the time and place in which we live. It is undeniable that the crisis cannot leave Greek sports untouched; resources have been cut. However, from the era of waste and wholesale grants, we've moved into an era of a more rationale management of money," he concluded.
 Interior minister receives German Dep. Minister; Stuttgart mayorInterior Minister Tassos Yiannitsis underlined that cooperation on local administration level is "mutually beneficial" in the meeting he had on Thursday with visiting German Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Labour and Social Affairs Hans-Joachim Fuchtel and Mayor of Stuttgart and Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CCRE - CEMR) President Wolfgang Schuster.
Yiannitsis stressed that Germany has a great deal to offer on local administration issues, adding that the ministry of interior is willing to support bilateral cooperation.
He also underlined that the efforts made in Greece are important and European confidence in the country should be restored.
 Finmin says search underway in archives for evidence to back war reparations claimsFinance Minister Filippos Sahinidis on Thursday informed Parliament that he had ordered the archives of the General Accounting Office to be searched for evidence to support Greece's claims against Germany for war reparations that have been outstanding since the period of the Nazi occupation in WWII.
Sahinidis said that finance ministry officials had already found dossiers with the details of Greeks who had received compensation from Germany in the 1960s, while the search of the archives would continue and any documents found would be utilised and converted to digital form in order to ensure that it would not be lost.
 Cooperation agreement signed by mayors of Thessaloniki and DurresTIRANA (AMNA / I. Paco)
Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, currently on a visit to Albania, met on Thursday with Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako and signed an agreement of cooperation between the two major seaports in the greater region.
Both officilas stressed that the cooperation agreement, which precedes the twinning of the cities to take place during a visit to Thessaloniki by the mayor of Durres scheduled for the next few months, will cover economic, cultural and tourist sectors.
Boutaris on Wednesday met with Prime Minister Sali Berisha and invited him to visit Thessaloniki. He also met with Tirana Mayor Ljuljzim Basa, Culture Minister Aldo Bumci and Archbishop Anastassios of Albania.
 Parliament ratifies settlement agreement with SiemensThe Greek Parliament on Thursday ratified a 270-million-euro settlement agreement with the German multinational Siemens. In exchange, the Greek government will waive any compensation from civil action or administrative fines in relation to a bribery and corruption scandal dating back roughly a decade.
The deal, ratified by a majority of 164 MPs from the PASOK and main opposition New Democracy parties, does not make Siemens exempt from the possibility of prosecution in a criminal court.
Under the deal, Siemens will waive claims of 80 million euro for implemented projects and equipment delivered to the Greek state. It will also pay 90 million euro to fund academic and research programmes and, according to a Siemens press release, "transparency initiatives and anti-corruption programmes".
Lastly, the company is required to invest 100 million euro in Greece, through its Greek subsidiary Siemens Hellas, and "examine the construction of a local manufacturing plant to generate jobs".
A Siemens press release said the company will spend the amount to "enhance its activities in Greece and preserve a significant number of jobs in the local market".
The Greek government last year demanded compensation from the German giant which has admitted keeping a slush fund to obtain foreign contracts. A Parliamentary inquiry conducted in Greece estimated that the damage to the Greek state from the bribery and kickbacks scandal was in the region of two billion euro.
 House endorses bill on entrepreneurial environmentThe Greek Parliament on Thursday evening endorsed a Development ministry bill on the improvement of entrepreneurial environment.
 Greek economic sentiment index improved in MarchGreece's economic sentiment index improved slightly in March to 75.7 points, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Thursday.
In a monthly report, IOBE said business expectations in the manufacturing and services sectors showed a slight improvement along with consumer confidence, while on the other hand expectations in the construction and retail sectors worsened further.
The lifting of monetary danger, a successful implementation of a PSI programme and expectations from a bank recapitalisation scheme, all contributed in the stabilisation of economic climate in the country. However, uncertainties over economic developments and the outcome of general elections in the country -expected to be held in May- prevailed in most economic sectors. The report noted that historically the economic sentiment index improved in pre-election periods in the country.
Specifically, business expectations in the industrial sector improved over the short-term development of production, while inventories remained at high levels.
In the services sector, expectations showed signs of improvement, despite the fact that forecasts over demand in the next three months remained stable.
In the retail sector, business expectations over current sales rose slightly, although forecasts over short-term sales deteriorated and expectations over inventories rose moderately.
In the construction sector, business expectations over the current programme of works fell steeply, although expectations over employment in the sector recovered slightly.
The consumer confidence index recovered in March over households' finances and expectations over the country's economy, although expectations over saving fell to new historic low levels.
Chief executive officers in Greece are more optimistic over economic developments in their companies and the country in general, a report by EASE in cooperation with Icap Group showed on Thursday.
The economic sentiment index rose to 93 points in the first quarter of 2012, from 84 points in the fourth quarter of 2011, with two in three CEOs saying they were unconvinced over the sustainability of Greek debt and underlining that an economic policy mix included in the second memorandum was not expected to offer but only a moderate improvement to competitiveness.
 G. Kotsalos receives businessman of the year awardGeorge Kotsalos, chief executive of Interamerican, on Thursday received the businessman of the year 2011 award during a ceremony organized by the Hellenic Management Association (EEDE).
Addressing the event, Konstantinos Labrinopoulos, president of EEDE, stressed that Greece was currently at the hardest moment of its history and that not because of the difficult economic situation but because of a lack of clear vision mainly and mainly from the lack of people who will commit themselves to following a bright leadership, which the country also is lacking.
"We talk about growth. Which growth? What vision? In which sectors? What plan? Which model?" Labrinopoulos wondered. He stressed that Greece must abandon the model on which this society lived and continues to live in the past 60 years and said that changes currently underway are both significant and rapid across the board. "The only thing that must remain stable is human values, those values that differentiate people from other living things," he added.
EEDE began offering the businessman of the year award in 2002.
 Skaramangas shipyard employees demonstrate against rotating workWorkers from the Hellenic Shipyards S.A. at Skaramangas staged a demonstration outside the National Defence ministry on Wednesday morning.
The employees are protesting the advancement by the Lebanese owners of rotating work of one day per week per worker.
 Florina-Edessa rail line to operate againThe infrastructure, transport & networks ministry on Thursday announced that the operation of the rail line linking the northern cities of Florina and Edessa is a matter of time.
The railway route had been abolished within the framework of reform measures taken by rail operator Trainose targeting loss-making routes in an effort to cut the company's operating costs.
According to the statement issued, Trainose is in consultation with local municipalities to guarantee the preconditions for the viable operation of the railway line.
 Bussiness Briefs-- Eurobank EFG is currently in advanced talks with Burgan Bank of Kuwait for the sale of its subsidiary bank in Turkey, Eurobank Tekfen, the Athens-based bank said on Thursday.
-- Car registrations dropped 40.9 pct in March (41.8 pct in passenger vehicles) despite sale offers, a car withdrawal scheme and the introduction of diesel engine cars in the country, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
 Stocks recover moderatelyStocks ended moderately higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, reversing an eight-day decline during which the market lost 8.89 pct. Renewed buying interest for bank shares helped the market in its recovery, pushing the bank index higher after 12 consecutive days of decline during which it suffered a loss of 33.7 pct. The composite index rose 0.52 pct to end at 707.60 points, with turnover remaining a low 22.923 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 0.84 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.69 pct and the Small Cap index rose 0.26 pct. The Banks (2.64 pct), Raw Materials (2.31 pct) and Food (2.19 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains while Media (3.70 pct), Telecoms (1.98 pct) and Chemicals (1.95 pct) suffered losses.
Alpha Bank (5.12 pct), MIG (3.85 pct) and Cyprus Bank (4.02 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Ellaktor (2.44 pct), OPAP (2.03 pct) and OTE (1.98 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 67 to 66 with another 22 issues remaining unchanged. Elgeka (27.09 pct), Sato (20 pct) and HOL (19.8 pct) were top gainers, while Q&R (21.78 pct), Edrasi (19.88 pct) and Attica Holdings (18.84 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.19%
Personal & Household: +0.36%
Raw Materials: +2.31%
Travel & Leisure: -1.87%
Food & Beverages: +2.19%
Financial Services: +0.94%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and Bank of Cypsus.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.84
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.24
HBC Coca Cola: 14.15
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.82
National Bank of Greece: 1.65
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.52
Bank of Piraeus: 0.26
 Greek bond market closing reportsThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 20.3 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 22.04 pct. Turnover was a thin 1.0 million euros, all sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.40 pct, the six-month rate 1.06 pct, the three-month 0.76 pct and the one-month rate 0.41 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 1.39 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover shrinking to a low 8.803 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,694 contracts worth 4.949 million euros, with 17,718 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 31,932 contracts worth 3.854 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (12,124), followed by National Bank (11,072), MIG (381), OTE (322), PPC (293), OPAP (346), Piraeus Bank (604), Cyprus Bank (5,718), Mytilineos (256), Hellenic Postbank (252) and Hellenic Petroleum (145).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.326
Pound sterling 0.836
Danish kroner 7.551
Swedish kroner 8.945
Japanese yen 108.67
Swiss franc 1.220
Norwegian kroner 7.682
Canadian dollar 1.323
Australian dollar 1.290
 Police on trail of kidnappers that let abducted teen starve to deathThe Attica security police Crimes Against Life department on Thursday announced that they were on the trail of a band of kidnappers that had held an abducted teenage boy until he starved to death, in order to pressure his family into paying a ransom.
The band held the 17-year-old Pakistani boy without food for more than two months and finally dumped his lifeless body on a bench at Agious Anargyrous in Athens.
The evidence gathered during a police investigation points to eight Pakistani nationals as the culprits, one of which has been arrested while the others are being sought.
The teenager's abduction was carried out in late October 2010 and lasted until January 9, 2011 when his dead body was found by relatives living in Greece. A coroner's examination showed that he had been deprived of food by the kidnappers, in order to blackmail his relatives in Pakistan into paying more money for his release.
The 24-year-old Pakistani man who was arrested was the one negotiating with the relatives of the victim for the payment of ransom for his release and also guarded the 17-year-old during his captivity.
Investigating officers were told that the gang smuggled the 17-year-old and other illegal migrants into Greece from Pakistan and then held him illegally, initially demanding that his relatives pay 5,500 euro for his release. The family paid the ransom but the culprits continued to hold him, demanding more money.
On January 9, 2011 the kidnappers contacted the boy's relatives and told them to pick him up from the Agioi Anargyroi region, where he was found dead on a bench.
The man arrested will be led to an Athens First-instance Court prosecutor while an investigation continues to find and arrest his accomplices.
 Three arrested, 13 kilos of heroin seized in Acharnes districtTwo Albanian men and a Greek woman were arrested Wednesday night by police narcotics squad officers in the Athens district of Acharnes after nearly 13 kilos of heroin and quantities of cannabis were found in house the three were using to adulterate and repackage heroin.
The three were arrested after police received information that members of an organised ring were passing quantities of drugs to Roma and other small-time dealers, chiefly in the areas of Acharnes and nearby Zephyri.
In a search of the house, police found and confiscated 12.975 kilos of heroin, 398 grams of processed cannabis, 38 grams of unprocessed cannabis, a submachine gun and a revolver with ammunition, 4,390 euros in cash, precision scales and a fully equipped adulteration and packaging lab for narcotic substances.
The arrestees will appear before a public prosecutor on Thursday.
 Gang stealing trucks for parts arrestedPolice arrested on Thursday a gang that stole trucks from the wider Athens region, disassembled them and afterwards sold them as spare parts.
Three suspects were arrested, charged with grand theft and forgery and distribution of products from criminal actions.
A search in the village of Klitoria, Achaia prefecture, southwestern Greece, revealed that the arrestees and two other accomplices, who are wanted, stole trucks and then forged the licences and changed the plates. Afterwards they took the trucks to a garage where they disassembled them and sold them as parts.
During a police raid on the garage, the 59-year -old owner of the garage attempted to escape in his car, hitting and injuring a policeman in the legs in the process. A pursuit ensued and police finally arrested the suspect.
A search of the garage revealed three stolen trucks, a motorcycle from which the framework number was erased, 52 fake insurance stickers, 55 fake insurance documents and a number of truck parts.
Two other locals aged 56 and 45 were also arrested.
 Arrests for migrant smuggling via fake EU ID cards, boarding passesTwo Afghan nationals, aged 22 and 26, both alleged members of a criminal gang engaging in illegal migrant trafficking, were arrested on Thursday at Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport.
The two were arrested while attempting to put five Afghan illegal migrants aboard a flight to an EU member-state, after supplying them with fake travel documents and electronic boarding passes.
The investigation showed that the 22-year-old had a leading role organising, coordinating and supervising the trafficking of illegal migrants, after each of them paid a fee of up to 3,000 euros.
Police confiscated six fake EU identity cards and five boarding passes for a flight to an EU member-state found in the possession of the two migrant smugglers.
The two suspects and the five illegal migrants were led before an Athens prosecutor.
 Five face charges for forcing a teen girl into prostitutionFive individuals, three men and two women from Romania and Albania, respectively, are facing charges for forcing to prostitution a 19-year-old Romanian girl after the latter managed to escape and reported her ordeal to the Romanian consulate in Thessaloniki and local police.
The 19-year-old was forced to prostitute herself for two months, when she was kept prisoner by the gang members, initially in an apartment in Athens and later in Thessaloniki.
Last October, the young woman was lured to Greece by her captors who took advantage of her dire economic situation and convinced her to leave her country. Since her arrival to Greece she was held captive and forced to prostitution until January when she escaped.
 Two women perish in fire in AthensTwo women were found dead in a fourth-storey apartment that caught fire on Thursday morning in the Athens district of Pangrati.
The victims, one approximately 80 years old and the other younger, were found in the apartment's bedroom. The fire brigade put out the fire before it spread.
The bodies were sent to the mortuary and an investigation is being conducted into the circumstances of the accident.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe public suicide of a 77-year-old retired pharmacist, the charges against PPC's employees union (GENOP) and the organisation's former leadership and the adulteration and smuggling in the fuel market, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
AVGHI: "Cry for awakening".
AVRIANI: "These are the ones who sent me to the grave (refers to the suicide note left by the pharmacist)".
DIMOKRATIA: "National depression".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Pensioner a martyr of the Memorandum's occupation government".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Martyr for Greece".
ESTIA: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel's major about-face on the tax rate issue".
ETHNOS: "GENOP-TOURS face the docks over the 31 million euros".
IMERISSIA: "No to banks' nationalisation".
KATHIMERINI: "Lawlessness orgy in fuel".
LOGOS: "Continuous suicides shock....".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Banks' financing to market shrinks rapidly".
NIKI: "Ten golden pieces of advice to beat the banks".
RIZOSPASTIS: "With a strong Communist Party in the battle for cheap electricity and heating oil".
TA NEA: "Message of despair with a public suicide".
VRADYNI: "Bullet a cry against the political system".
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