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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-07-26

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

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

Thursday, 26 July 2012 Issue No: 4131

CONTENTS

  • [01] FinMin briefs US assistant treasury secretary Charles Collyns
  • [02] Deputy FinMin meets with US counterpart
  • [03] PASOK leader calls for end to European speculation targeting Greece
  • [04] PM confers with health minister
  • [05] SYRIZA tables 'new seisachtheia' bill for relief of overindebted household
  • [06] Gov't spokesman: Tsipras undermining nat'l effort for recovery
  • [07] Independent Greeks party leader accused gov't of forgetting renegotiation option
  • [08] Independent Greeks submit draft bill to annul Siemens deal
  • [09] Lt-Gen Constantine Ginis new Chief of Army General Staff
  • [10] Spat with deputy minister preceded army chief's resignation, sources say
  • [11] Education minister and university rectors discuss problems with framework law on higher education
  • [12] Greek FM reacts to fYRoM announcement
  • [13] Stavros Lambrinidis appointed first EU special representative for human rights
  • [14] Navy monitors Turkish frigate passing through Cyclades
  • [15] Finance ministry names new chairman, CEO of Greek privatisations fund
  • [16] E-governance a precondition to exit crisis, dep. minister stresses
  • [17] Deputy environment minister meets with TAP delegation
  • [18] Business Briefs
  • [19] Stocks end slightly higher
  • [20] Greek bond market closing report
  • [21] ADEX closing report
  • [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [23] Doctor resignations may lead Serres General Hospital to close
  • [24] Kavala General Hospital outpatient clinics suspended indefinitely due to doctors' strike
  • [25] More ancient shipwrecks found off Makronissos
  • [26] Wildfire along Athens-Patras nat's hwy under partial control
  • [27] 2 foreign tourists arrested on Crete for thefts, break-ins
  • [28] Fake blind man arrested for defrauding state
  • [29] Drugs arrests
  • [30] HOC deems Greek athlete's tweet 'racist', disqualifies her from Olympic team
  • [31] PM sends letter wishing success to Greece's Olympic mission
  • [32] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] FinMin briefs US assistant treasury secretary Charles Collyns

    Finance minister Yannis Stournaras on Wednesday briefed visiting US assistant treasury secretary Charles Collyns, who holds the International Finance portfolio, on the new measures planned for spending cuts of 11.5 billion euros over the next two years and on the government's denationalizations programme.

    According to ministry sources, Collyns informed the finance minister of US interest in the privatisations contained in the denationalizations programme.

    Stournaras further outlined the country's fiscal situation and the challenges that the Greek economy must deal with in the coming period.

    Collyns also met with deputy finance minister George Mavraganis on Tuesday evening and discussed matters related to the policy coordination of the taxation system applied by the government, so as to render more efficient the collection of state revenues and to deal with tax evasion.

    [02] Deputy FinMin meets with US counterpart

    Deputy finance minister George Mavraganis met Tuesday evening with visiting US assistant treasury secretary Charles Collyns, who holds the International Finance portfolio. The two men discussed matters related to the policy coordination of the taxation system applied by the government, so as to render more efficient the collection of state revenues and to deal with tax evasion.

    [03] PASOK leader calls for end to European speculation targeting Greece

    PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday warned against "the daily publicity stunts targeting a weak EU partner", an indirect reference to Greece, which is "experiencing a very difficult fiscal adjustment phase."

    Venizelos, the previously finance minister, added that "those who think that this way they are doing service to the euro or their country are making a tragic political and economic mistake and appear to be ignorant of the economic history of major crises."

    Addressing the party's organising committee, Venizelos said"this is the message that should be sent to our friends in the eurozone and the international financial organizations." He said that "the crucial problem of the eurozone is its modus operandi and future prospects and not Greece or its macroeconomic and economic indices," adding that "the momentum of the economic crisis calls for bold, definitive and credible decisions."

    Referring to his meeting with the Hellenic Bank Association (HBA) board, he said his demand for the adjustment of the terms of "Tiresias", Greece's credit ratings company, to meet current circumstances was positively received and a relevant proposal will be presented by the banks by the end of August or early September. He also called for relief measures designed to relieve debt-ridden households.

    Venizelos said the demand for no more cuts in municipality budgets will be conveyed in the political party leaders' meeting on Thursday and also in the meetings he will have with the leadership of the ministry of finance, stressing that the 2.7 billion euros in funds they are about to receive are necessary to perform their social mission.

    [04] PM confers with health minister

    Health minister Andreas Lykourentzos said his ministry's target was to reduce expenditure while at the same time providing a high level of healthcare services, following a meet Wednesday with prime minister Antonis Samaras.

    "The health serviced provided will be maintained at a high level of quality, and the available resources will be used in a rationalized way and processes, so that they will produce the optimum results," the minister told reporters after the meeting.

    He said the government is determined to meet its targets.

    [05] SYRIZA tables 'new seisachtheia' bill for relief of overindebted household

    Main opposition SYRIZA parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday tabled in parliament a SYRIZA draft law for the relief of overindebted households from loan obligations.

    The bill will be put to public deliberation until August 3.

    Tsipras said that the draft law for a "new seisachtheia" aims at relieving and ridding the overindebted households from loan obligations to banks "given that citizens today are unable to repay the loans they took out in the past".

    The bill proposes full write-off of the loan obligations to banks of borrowers whose individual or family income is below the poverty level (7,178 euros individual income or 15,073 euros for a four-member family).

    Other provisions include partial write-off of loan obligations to banks of borrowers who have suffered a reduction in their nominal income, with the write-off corresponding to the percentage of reduction of the income from January 1, 2010 to the present.

    A third provision is the reduction of total loan obligations to banks of an individual borrower or family so that the monthly payment of installments to all banks collectively will not exceed 30 percent of the monthly individual or family revenues. The remaining sum above the 30 percent of the borrower's annual obligations will be permanently written off. The reductions will be effected on an annual basis and reviewed at the end of each year so as to include prospective changes in the total annual income.

    Further provisions include 'rationalization' of interest rates, chiefly on consumer loans, credit cards and overdraft limits; a freeze on all procedures of banks' claims on borrowers' property; and the institution of obligatory rules of settlement for banks so that borrowers will not be dependent on time-consuming and expensive court procedures.

    Presenting the main points of the bill, Tsipras said that the banks were making up the losses from bad debts (loans) through their recapitalization from the Credit Stability Fund. In other words, from the 50 billion euros package, he said, but without the borrowers benefiting because the banks continue to demand the repayment of the delayed installments, regardless of the fact that those loans have been classified as bad debts and are taken into account by the recapitalization.

    [06] Gov't spokesman: Tsipras undermining nat'l effort for recovery

    Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Wednesday accused main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras of undermining the national effort for recovery.

    Responding to earlier statements, the government spokesman stressed that "Tsipras' only intention is to reinforce the drachma advocates, both in the country and abroad, by undermining the national effort for recovery through his transformations - like another hero in an Ovid poem - his irresponsible political positions and the ongoing delirium against the government and the prime minister."

    [07] Independent Greeks party leader accused gov't of forgetting renegotiation option

    The renegotiation option belongs to the past for the prime minister, Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos stressed on Wednesday, accusing the members of the three-party coalition government of breaking their election campaign pledges.

    Addressing his party's parliamentary group, he accused the government of downgrading the parliament and predicted a new PSI "which will not benefit the Greek economy," adding that "taxes were not reduced but instead they increased leading to recession and unemployment." Referring to the privatisations, he said that the government has no plan.

    Kammenos said that he fears concessions will be made on the fYRoM name issue, adding that Greece is absent from developments in the Mediterranean and Syria, while as regards the EEZ, he stressed that the exclusion of Castelorizo will not be accepted.

    [08] Independent Greeks submit draft bill to annul Siemens deal

    Opposition Independent Greeks party on Wednesday submitted a draft bill to Parliament designed to abolish a relevant law article on the approval of a Draft Compromise Agreement between the Greek state and Siemens.

    "The initiative was a pledge undertaken by the Independent Greeks and its leader Panos Kammenos," a party statement underlined.

    [09] Lt-Gen Constantine Ginis new Chief of Army General Staff

    Lt.-Gen. Constantine Ginis was named Wednesday as Greece's new Chief of the Army General Staff (GES) by the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA), during a scheduled morning meeting chaired by prime minister Antonis Samaras.

    Ginis, up to now commander of the First Army Corps and Army General Inspector, and the second in the line of hierarchy in the Army, replaces Lt.-Gen Constantine Ziazias, who tendered his resignation as GES chief earlier on Wednesday.

    "With respect for the personnel I had the honor of commanding for nine months", Ziazias submitted his resignation "for reasons of ethics and dignity, both mine and the Army's," a GES announcement said.

    [10] Spat with deputy minister preceded army chief's resignation, sources say

    An intense verbal exchange with Deputy Defence Minister Panagiotis Karambelas over promotions within the army preceded the resignation of Greek Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Constantinos Ziazias on Wednesday, AMNA sources said.

    During a meeting on Tuesday evening, Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos had relayed the government's faith in the former army chief in order to begin discussion on the issue of promotions, due to be decided at a meetin of the Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) on Wednesday. At the same time, however, Karambelas had entered into a heated discussion with Ziazias concerning which officers should be promoted to which positions, prompting the former to announce his resignation and walk out of the minister's office at around 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

    The same sources claim that Panagiotopoulos later contacted Ziazias on the telephone in an effort to dissuade the former army chief from resigning but the latter was adamant and made his decision public in the morning.

    The KYSEA meeting chaired by prime minister Antonis Samaras later named Lt.-Gen. Constantine Ginis as Greece's new Chief of the Army General Staff (GES). Ginis was commander of the First Army Corps and Army General Inspector, and the second in the line of hierarchy in the Army after Ziazias.

    In an announcement issued by GES, Ziazias said he resigned "for reasons of ethics and dignity, both mine and the Army's."

    [11] Education minister and university rectors discuss problems with framework law on higher education

    Education Minister Kostantinos Arvanitopoulos on Wednesday had a meeting with representatives of the university rectors' Conference to discuss improvements in the framework law for higher education and the way this is implemented. The meeting was attended by the ministry general secretary Thanassis Kyriazis.

    Afterward, the minister said the meeting was conducted in a friendly climate, with detailed discussion of the issues and the views of the rectors, in line with the government's pre-election pledge to make the law more workable and effective.

    The chairman of the rectors' conference Constantinos Feggeros, rector of the Agricultural University, said that there was a constructive discussion but stressed that the rectors had not yet made their final proposals that would be announced on Thursday.

    He said that universities were waiting for the budget for the current year to be made independent of the election of officials, adding that universities were now awaiting the decisions of the ministry.

    Most higher education institutes in Greece are currently facing major financial difficulties, warning that soon they will be unable to cover basic bills, such as the power and phone bills.

    [12] Greek FM reacts to fYRoM announcement

    The Greek foreign ministry issued a statement Wednesday night responding to an announcement by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's office after his meeting in Skopje earlier in the day with United Nations SG Ban Ki-moon.

    "Greece has repeatedly and effectively showed its readiness for the finding of a solution to the (fYRoM's) name issue, in the framework of negotiations, as defined by UN Security Council resolutions and as underlined by the Hague International Court," the statement of the Greek foreign ministry noted.

    "Mr. Gruevski welcomed the formation of the new Greek government with insulting attacks and unfounded accusations. Our side does not enter in the logic of artificial crises which Mr. Gruevski is trying to provoke for internal reasons. We say the self-evident: that for achieving a solution, the government of Greece is searching for a reliable and sincere interlocutor. This is what Skopje ought to prove by acts," the statement added.

    [13] Stavros Lambrinidis appointed first EU special representative for human rights

    BRUSSELS (AMNA / V. Demiris)

    Former Greek foreign minister and former European Parliament vice-president Stavros Lambrinidis was appointed as the first EU Special Representative for Human Rights (EUSR) by EU foreign ministers on Wednesday after being recommended by High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.

    Lambrinidis served as Greece's foreign minister from June to November 2011. He was elected to the European Parliament and headed PASOK's MEPs in 2004-2011. He was a vice-president of the European Parliament in 2009-2011. From 2004 to 2009, he served as vice-president of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee.

    The EUSR will have a strong, independent, flexible and sufficiently broad mandate reflecting EU human rights policy and cover areas including strengthening democracy, international justice, humanitarian law, abolition of the death penalty, freedom of expression, gender issues and children and armed conflict.

    [14] Navy monitors Turkish frigate passing through Cyclades

    A Turkish frigate, identified as the "Gokova", followed a route through Greek territorial waters on Wednesday while sailing from the eastern Mediterranean to the Dardanelles, with the vessel's bridge reportedly citing "harmless passage" to justify its course.

    According to a national defence general staff announcement, the foreign warship entered the Aegean between the islands of Kasos and Crete on Tuesday before noon, while at 14.15 (12.15 GMT) it entered Greek territorial waters between the Cyclades islands of Mylos and Folegandros, sailing north between Sifnos and Antiparos.

    The vessel exited territorial waters at 18.49 while sailing between the Cyclades islands of Tinos and Mykonos, with a northeastern course.

    A Hellenic Navy frigate, a navy helicopter and two fighter planes were monitored the Turkish vessel's course, reports state.

    Financial News

    [15] Finance ministry names new chairman, CEO of Greek privatisations fund

    The government on Wednesday appointed a new head for the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), which is tasked with carrying out an ambitious privatisation programme in order to help pay down Greece's debt.

    The finance ministry announced that Piraeus University professor Takis Athanassopoulos, a former president of the Public Power Corporation and vice-president of the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) will take over as the Fund's new president and board chairman, while the new CEO to replace Costas Mitropoulos will be Yiannis Emiris, until now the head of the investment banking branch of the Alpha Bank group, 'Ependytiki Trapeziki'.

    Mitropoulos sent a letter of resignation last Friday, effective as of August 10 to enable a full briefing of his successor.

    In his letter, Mitropoulos predicted that revenues from privatisations in 2012 will not exceed 300 million euros, and complained that the new coalition government had not provided the support the HRADF needed in present conditions.

    The last board chairman Ioannis Koukiadis had offered his resignation to the caretaker government finance minister George Zanias on June 19, just two days after the elections and left his post on June 27, citing "personal reasons".

    [16] E-governance a precondition to exit crisis, dep. minister stresses

    Administrative reform and e-governance should go together, Deputy Administrative Reform Minister Manoussos Voloudakis on Wednesday stressed, adding that the simplification of procedures and structures is necessary and should be measurable. A precondition for simplification is to ensure horizontal cooperation between government ministries, he said.

    Addressing a conference on e-governance, he said that reforms are aimed at the smooth operation of public administration, adding that the operation of the "Cl@rity" programme, that allows the government ministries to upload their decisions on the internet, will have to be ensured. The Cl@rity programme covers all public institutions, regulatory authorities and local government.

    He stressed that the goals of the reforms include offering greater service to citizens, maximize the effectiveness of the state and create digital development conditions in public administration.

    The deputy minister underlined that 40 of the roughly 200 suggested organizational reforms in the public sector that are included in the memorandum, either directly or indirectly, concern operational reforms that cannot be implemented unless e-governance is introduced.

    [17] Deputy environment minister meets with TAP delegation

    Deputy Environment, Energy & Climate Change Minister Makis Papageorgiou on Wednesday expressed the government's firm position that pipelines should serve the country's strategic interests in a meeting with a Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) delegation.

    On his part, TAP Greece Manager Rikard Scoufias stressed that the meeting was constructive and repeated that the venture is open to cooperation with Greek enterprises.

    [18] Business Briefs

    -- OPAP on Wednesday said it selected GTECH/G2 - a member of Lottomatica Group - as a preferred strategic partner to launch its lottery games through the internet, while it said it will proceed with an international tender to seek an IT supplier by accepting Intralot's offer.

    -- Grimaldi group, one of the largest shareholders in Hellenic Seaways, on Wednesday strongly criticised company chairman Yiannis Vardinoyiannis over the sale of sea routes and the vessels serving various Saronic Bay destinations -- near the greater Athens area -- to Sea Jet, which is owned by the Eliopoulos group.

    -- Plaisio Computers on Wednesday reported a 26-pct increase in its after-tax profits in the first half of 2012, to 3.4 million euros, despite a 15.5-pct decline in sales to 132.9 million euros.

    -- Alpha Trust Andromeda on Wednesday said its after tax profits totaled 1.0 million euros in the first half of 2012, after losses of 3.64 million euros in the same period last year.

    [19] Stocks end slightly higher

    Stocks ended slightly higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, reflecting strong buying interest in the shares of Piraeus Bank and PPC. The composite index of the market rose 0.25 pct to end at 588.09 points, off the day's highs of 592.24 points. The index fell as much as 0.98 pct in midday trading. Turnover remained a low 22.540 million euros. The Big Cap index fell 0.48 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.40 pct higher. Utilities (4.23 pct), Constructions (1.51 pct) and Industrial Products (1.32 pct) were top gainers, while Personal Products (4.62 pct), Commerce (2.81 pct) and Travel (2.16 pct) were top losers. Piraeus Bank (7.50 pct), PPC (5.60 pct) and Metka (2.36 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Cyprus Popular Bank (29.58 pct), Cyprus Bank (6.67 pct) and Jumbo (5.02 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 54 to 46 with another 26 issues unchanged. Sciens Holding (20 pct), Teletypos (19.89 pct) and Atti-kat (18.18 pct) were top gainers, while Cyprus Popular Bank (29.58 pct), Spider (18.95 pct) and Maillis (15.56 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +1.32%

    Commercial: -2.81%

    Construction: +1.51%

    Oil & Gas: +0.24%

    Personal & Household: -4.62%

    Raw Materials: -1.84%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.16%

    Technology: -2.06%

    Telecoms: -0.48%

    Banks: -1.58%

    Food & Beverages: +1.00%

    Health: +0.05%

    Utilities: +4.23%

    Financial Services: -1.71%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, PPC, OTE and Bank of Cyprus.

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.02

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 2.45

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.28

    National Bank of Greece: 1.12

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.60

    OPAP: 4.80

    OTE: 2.09

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.22

    Titan: 12.70

    [20] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 26.54 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 25.46 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 27.70 pct and the German Bund 1.26 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate was 0.99 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.71 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.42 pct and the one-month rate was 0.16 pct.

    [21] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.60 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 4.699 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 1,604 contracts worth 1.678 million euros, with 23,481 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 19,328 contracts, worth 3.021 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,283), followed by Alpha Bank (3,258), OTE (2,376), PPC (2,455), OPAP (1,749), Piraeus Bank 662), Hellenic Exchanges (336), Cyprus Bank (1,323), Cyprus Popular Bank (2,155), Intralot (59), Hellenic Postbank (92) and MIG (71).

    [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.231

    Pound sterling 0.794

    Danish kroner 7.550

    Swedish kroner 8.586

    Japanese yen 96.39

    Swiss franc 1.219

    Norwegian kroner 7.48

    Canadian dollar 1.254

    Australian dollar 1.196

    General News

    [23] Doctor resignations may lead Serres General Hospital to close

    The Serres General Hospital on Wednesday warned that it may be forced to close within two weeks if 10 supervising pathologists are allowed to resign. The head of the Hellenic Hospital Doctors' Union Dimitris Varnavas, in a press conference on Wednesday, appealed to Serres residents and political forces to take action in order to avert the threatened resignations that he says will force the hospital to close.

    The doctors are determined to go ahead with the resignations, however, unless authorities meet their demands for a return to the overtime pay regime existing until the end of 2011, an increase in the sums available for emergency duty rosters, an end to the current limit on extra overtime shifts and the immediate hiring of more specialist doctors.

    Varnavas also strongly criticised the situation currently prevailing at the hospital, which he was dangerous for the patients receiving treatment due to a shortage of interns that meant that specialists were overworked and forced to cover consecutive shifts throughout the day in order to meet the needs of patients.

    [24] Kavala General Hospital outpatient clinics suspended indefinitely due to doctors' strike

    Outpatient clinics at the Kavala General Hospital in northern Greece were suspended indefinitely on Wednesday as a result of a doctors' strike over non-payment of overtime pay for emergency shifts.

    Hospital doctors have been carrying out strikes since early May and decided to escalate strike action after a recent general assembly of their union, refusing to work shifts in outpatient clinics and treating only special or emergency cases, such as post-operative patients.

    Doctors at the hospital have so far received only 75 percent of the overtime due to them for January and February and have received no reply on when they can expect the rest.

    [25] More ancient shipwrecks found off Makronissos

    Archaeologists have found and documented six well-preserved ancient shipwrecks in the sea region between the isle of Makronissos and the extreme southeast coast of Attica prefecture, it was announced on Wednesday. The discovery was made during an underwater reconnaissance research mission in the southern Evoikos Gulf, which took place in June and July.

    Four shipwrecks were spotted in depths ranging from 37 metres to 47 metres around Makronissos, and two were found off the coasts of the harbour town of Lavrio.

    The findings in the Makronissos shipwrecks are all ancient amphorae from North Africa, Sicily and Rhodes, dated between 2nd century BC and 4th century AD. Findings in one of the shipwrecks off the coasts of Lavrio showed that the vessel's cargo was construction materials dated between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, while the second vessel carried Hellenistic era amphorae.

    The latest discoveries are added to the 18 already documented south Evoikos shipwrecks, indicating that the region was a major sea lane in antiquity, linking north and south Aegean. The study and specific locations are expected to shed new light on maritime routes and trafficking of goods during antiquity.

    [26] Wildfire along Athens-Patras nat's hwy under partial control

    A wildfire that broke out near the Athens-Patras national motorway in early afternoon on Wednesday was quickly placed under partial control following the fire brigade's response.

    For roughly 40 minutes traffic on both lanes was diverted to the old national motorway at the intersections of Kiato and Xilokastro to facilitate firefighting efforts.

    [27] 2 foreign tourists arrested on Crete for thefts, break-ins

    Two German nationals, aged 20 and 21, were arrested during a police investigation into 10 different cases of thefts and break-ins reported in and around the city of Rethymno, Crete, it was announced on Wednesday.

    Acting on a tip-off, police arrested the two men after finding three laptops, three digital cameras, a video camera, a mobile phone, gold jewelry and other items hidden in their suitcase and backpack. Tools used for break-ins were found in their hotel room.

    During questioning it was established that they had broken into four rooms of the hotel they were staying at. The personal items they had stolen were later identified by their owners, police said.

    The two also reportedly confessed to other six thefts targeting hotel personnel from whom they had stolen mobiles phones, cash and personal effects.

    Both suspects will be led before a prosecutor on Thursday.

    [28] Fake blind man arrested for defrauding state

    A 60-year-old man was arrested in Thessaloniki by financial crimes squad SDOE officers accused of defrauding the state of 26,000 euros over the past five years by receiving benefits for the visually impaired even, though he had no eye problems, it was announced on Wednesday.

    According to a SDOE report, the man, who received benefits for the blind since June 2007, "was caught parking his 4.1-metre-long truck in a 4.5-metre-long parking space."

    The 60-year-old received two monthly benefits totaling 760 euros from the Social Insurance Fund (IKA-ETAM) and the Thessaloniki Social Welfare Office.

    An AHEPA Hospital doctor, who allegedly issued false certificates, is also implicated in the case, as well as, the 60-year-old's wife who allegedly received a benefit for being the caretaker of a blind person.

    [29] Drugs arrests

    Three people were arrested by Attica police late Tuesday and two more are wanted for possession and dealing of large quantities of heroin.

    Two women aged 32 and 23 and a 32-year-old man were arrested by the narcotics squad along the Athens-Corinth stretch of the national highway near Megara after 1.5 kilos of heroin and a cell phone were found in their possession and confiscated, along with their car.

    The suspects will appear before an Athens prosecutor.

    Olympic Games

    [30] HOC deems Greek athlete's tweet 'racist', disqualifies her from Olympic team

    The Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) on Wednesday announced that Greek triple jump athlete Voula Papachristou will not be allowed to compete in the London Olympics, following the stir caused by a tweet the athlete posted a few days ago, which the HOC deemed to be racist and "contrary to Olympic ideals". The decision to disqualify Papachristou was taken in spite of the athlete's public apology.

    Papachristou reportedly tweeted, in Greek, on her personal account that "With so many Africans in Greece ... At least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home-cooked meals", a reference to recent instances of the West Nile virus being detected in the country.

    According to an HOC announcement, the head of the Greek Olympic mission decided to remove Papachristou from the team "for statements that are contrary to the values and ideals of Olympism". It noted that Papachristou had not yet gone to London because she was expected shortly before the start of the athletics events.

    Papachristou immediately issued an apology, referring to an "unfortunate and tasteless joke".

    "Dear colleagues and friends. I would like to express my apology for the truly unfortunate and tasteless joke I published on my personal Twitter account. I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to insult (anyone's) human rights. My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their (Games') values. Therefore, I could never believe in discrimination between human beings and races..." Papachristou stressed that she copied the post from a Facebook account.

    The athlete also came under scrutiny from critics for following far-right Golden Dawn politicians, such as Ilias Kasidiaris, and having retweeted some his posts.

    The athlete's tweet initially prompted strong reactions from Greek political parties, with junior coalition government member Democratic Left (Dem.Ar) asking that she be recalled and not allowed to represent Greece in the Games. An announcement was also issued by PASOK, the second-largest party in the coalition government, condemning the athlete's post and expressing hope that her apology was sincere.

    An announcement by the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) welcomed the HOC's decision as correct and obligatory.

    HOC later issued statement stating that the Greek mission's leadership in London has briefed participating athletes that they are forbidden from making statements, to any mass media outlet or via any social network, that "do not refer to sports issues and the Olympic Games."

    Finally, an announcement by SEGAS, the Greek athletics Federation, subsequently announced that Papachristou will be referred to the federation's disciplinary committee for her post.

    [31] PM sends letter wishing success to Greece's Olympic mission

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday sent a letter to the Greek Olympic Committee President Spyros Kapralos, asking him to convey the premier's best wishes for the success of the Greek team at the London Olympics.

    "On the occasion of the Olympic Games in London (2012), I beg you to convey on my behalf to the Greek athletes, coaches and mission staff of our national mission my warmest wishes for success in the Games," Samaras said, expressing his conviction that the members of the team will ably represent Greece at the Games and his regret at being unable to attend in person.

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

    The 21 first mergers and abolitions of state agencies, government officials' meetings with the Troika, prime minister Antonis Samaras' address the first meeting of his New Democracy (ND) party's parliamentary group and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso's lightning visit to Athens on Thursday were the main front-page headlines in Athens' dailies on Wednesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Barroso coming tomorrow - Express visit in active support of Greek government's titanic effort".

    AVGHI: "Hanging on to the Troika".

    AVRIANI: "Germans predict dark days for Greece".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The message of Barroso's sudden visit to Athens: Take measures, you're in danger".

    ESTIA: "Honorary references to two Greeks".

    ETHNOS: "First wave with 21 'locks' in the public sector".

    IMERISSIA: "The country will win the euro wager".

    KATHIMERINI: "Negotiation in heavy climate".

    LOGOS: "End of era for 21 organisations".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Plan for recovery and renegotiation of Memorandum".

    NIKI: "What our money will be worth if we leave the euro".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Urgent issues for the relief of the workers and unemployed".

    TA NEA: "Austerity burning Europe".

    VRADYNI: "Buildings lacking permits: Thousands of owners trapped due to lack of forest maps".

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