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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-04-17

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

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

Wednesday, 17 April 2013 Issue No: 4337

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Samaras says Greece shall recover, signs of exit from crisis appearing soon
  • [02] 'SYRIZA guarantees an orderly and safe exit from crisis,' Tsipras tells Economist Conference
  • [03] Task Force chief: Gov't has determination, backing of European Commission
  • [04] FinMin: National target a primary surplus in order to further reduce state debt
  • [05] Finmin briefs President Papoulias on agreement with troika
  • [06] PASOK leader Venizelos addresses joint meeting of parliamentary group, political council
  • [07] PASOK leader meets with Council on Foreign Relations
  • [08] Tsipras retables question on the operation of HRADF
  • [09] SYRIZA parliamentary spokesman Papadimoulis' interview on AMNA WebTV
  • [10] Council on Foreign Relations members visit SYRIZA in Parliament
  • [11] Greek PM sends telegram of condolence to Obama after Boston bombings
  • [12] FM expresses abhorrence over Boston Marathon attack
  • [13] PASOK on the Boston Marathon bomb attack
  • [14] SYRIZA-EKM expresses 'abhorrence' for Boston bombings
  • [15] KKE condemns the Boston bomb attacks
  • [16] KKE congratulates new Venezuelan president on election
  • [17] KKE elects members of Political Bureau
  • [18] Deputy FM meets CFR delegation in Athens
  • [19] Defence Minister Panagiotopoulos met with Israeli ambassador
  • [20] Turkish fighter planes fly over Greek island, defence ministry reports
  • [21] Former PM Papandreou responds to investigation committee summons with memorandum
  • [22] Archbishop Demetrios attends Obama's Faith Advisory Council session in DC
  • [23] Greek authorities determined to move forward with privatizations
  • [24] Alt. Finance Minister reports encouraging rise in tax revenues in April
  • [25] Greek inflation lowest in the EU in March
  • [26] Greek banks cut funding from ECB, ELA in March
  • [27] Alpha Bank says share capital increase plan "key" for the country's banking system
  • [28] Alpha Bank's shareholders approve share capital increase plan
  • [29] PPC to raise electricity rates from May 1
  • [30] Car loading dock at Piraeus port ready by September
  • [31] Greek stocks continue moving lower
  • [32] Greek bond market closing report
  • [33] ADEX closing report
  • [34] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [35] 111 tons of horsemeat entered Greece in 2011-2012, document submitted to parliament says
  • [36] Tourism minister meets famous British actor Stephen Fry
  • [37] Papoulias visits Juvenile Prison Facility
  • [38] Prime Minister Samaras, Piraeus' chamber president, offer condolences for the death of George Kassimatis
  • [39] 42 pct of Greeks are overweight or obese
  • [40] Fire breaks out at Ierissos police station
  • [41] Prisoner who escaped from hospital in Thessaloniki apprehended
  • [42] Contraband cigarettes shipment seized on Crete
  • [43] Noted Greek painters' works to be auctioned at Sotheby's
  • [44] Cloudy on Wednesday
  • [45] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies Politics

  • [01] PM Samaras says Greece shall recover, signs of exit from crisis appearing soon

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, addressing the Economist's conference on Tuesday evening, sent a message of optimism that Greece shall recover and the signs of the exit from the crisis will be appearing soon.

    Samaras began his address with a reference to the Boston bombings, saying that "my mind turns to the saddening and inhuman events in Boston and I hope that such events will never be repeated".

    "We are viewing the future with greater certainty. We have not overcome the crisis, however the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. It is not only the quantitative indexes, but the qualitative ones as well, such as the competitiveness of the Greek economy. They say that the deepest darkness is shortly before dawn, it is beginning to dawn now, Greece's success shall be a message within Europe," the prime minister said.

    Samaras further said "a few months ago many predicted the ruin of the euro and took for granted Greece's exit. Today Greece is remaining and its state is becoming stabilised, while the euro appears more stable. It has not overcome some of its structural problems. A year ago Greece was considered the weak link, some were saying that it is the 'Iphigenia' of the eurozone, today Greece is achieving its targets, it is close to the first stage surplus, the programme is changing and its banking system is becoming stabilised, Greece is making reforms that it had not done for decades. And all these in conditions of crisis, with six years of recession and high unemployment. Today many are astonished".

    He referred to the main causes of the recession and added that today they are being reversed: "The recession that brought the Greek economy to its knees had as a cause the austerity measures, the fact that the state since 2010 made a halt in payments and the fact that for a year, liquidity in the banking system has gone dry. We now have the preconditions to overcome all three causes. From early May the banks will be fully capitalised, the state is paying off its obligations, the economy will start to move and businesses will be able to absorb the ESPA (National Strategic Reference Framework) capital. The causes of recession are being reversed. We do not only have austerity but we also have measures that balance the cutbacks and bring restarting to economic activity".

    "We are not making any discount in the structural changes. We restored Greece's reliabiity that was essential, while we also began to change the policy that had been imposed on us as well. Last year we changed the external conditions by reducing the debt and the loaning interest rates. We achieved the greatest debt restructuring that has taken place in history and without default. This was also the result of European solidarity. We are now changing the internal adjustment with measures of relief that do not slacken the effort nor adulterate targets but help society withstand the shock of adjustment and maintain social cohesion. Restructuring and recovery go and must go together," the prime minister also underlined.

    Samaras spoke, however, of social reactions: "The adjustment is causing two kinds of reactions, those who are justifiably complaining because they cannot stand the downgrading of their living standard due to the crisis despite the fact they had made wise planning and we must back them, and on the other hand those who had become complaisant in a parasitical state and a state-fed economy. We shall clash with them because they do not want anything to change while everything must change. All who are reacting are not unjustified, some are suffering but also all who are protesting are not justified".

    Concluding, the prime minister underlined that "it is essential that we change the tax system because it has collapsed in an orgy of tax evasion, but after the haircut it would be a mistake for us to keep taxation at the same height. We must reduce VAT in food services," adding that in income tax we have already taken small steps for the low incomes, while the target remains for a unified 15 percent tax rate for all business activity."

    [02] 'SYRIZA guarantees an orderly and safe exit from crisis,' Tsipras tells Economist Conference

    Speaking at the Economist Conference taking place in Athens on Tuesday, main opposition SYRIZA-EKM leader Alexis Tsipras offered assurances that his leftist party "guarantees an orderly and safe exit from the crisis, guarantees that it will change Greece."

    He underlined that his party was ready to undertake the historic responsibility of governing the country, for which it was planning to implement major, progressive structural reforms.

    "We are certain that we will succeed," he added, outlining his party's positions. He presented these as a strategic plan for exiting the crisis but also a reply to the prime minister's address on Monday concerning the outcome of negotiations with the EU-IMF troika.

    Tsipras accused the prime minister of deliberately attempting to "dress up" the currently grim reality and said that Samaras appeared to be preparing for "either a heroic exit or elections".

    "If it is the latter, we forgive him and encourage him to take the next step - it will be good for both himself and the country," SYRIZA-EKM's leader added.

    Tsipras was also highly critical of Germany's policy in the EU and expressed concern about the deepening north-south divide in Europe, saying that the Eurozone was "balancing on a knife-edge" as a result of Germany's actions. He accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of using the crisis as an opportunity to impose German economic hegemony via Roman-style tactics of "divide and rule".

    Noting the rise of a German party favouring the country's exit from the euro, SYRIZA-EKM's leader predicted that similar parties will arise in other countries, possibly even Greece, but stressed that SYRIZA-EKM was not among them and remained firmly Europhile, despite constant attempts to distort its positions.

    "Our choice is not a return to the national currency, our choice is to save Greece within the euro," he emphasised.

    Outlining his party's priorities, Tsipras stressed the need for an "immediate and radical change of course for the economy, a major political change, immediate suspension of the memorandum and abolition of the disastrous austerity policy." He also called for a renegotiation of Greece's loan obligations and a "vision for reforms and escape forward".

    A 'national salvation' government with SYRIZA-EKM as its core will replace the failed austerity memorandums with a national plan for restructuring production and economic growth, aiming to boost domestic demand and reverse the recession through rapid-return public investments, he said. He also repeated a promise to restore the minimum wage to the same level as on December 31, 2011 and radically overhaul Greek politics.

    Greece and the entire European south need a new plan for European public investments, a new Marshall Plan, in order to recover and thus bring about a recovery of the Eurozone's cohesion, he added.

    Gov't spokesman returns main opposition barbs on economy

    Up to a short while ago, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras "was promising to bring the minimum wage back to the levels of year 2009," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said on Tuesday. "Now he is saying he will bring it back to the 2011 level. We expect that in two or three weeks he will bring it to its present level."

    Kedikoglou was responding to criticism Tsipras levelled at Prime Minister Antonis Samaras during his address at the Economic conference taking place in Athens, charging him with "dressing up" the current grim reality and preparing for "either a heroic exit or elections."

    Responding to the main opposition leader, Kedikoglou said, "Once he used to say he would abolish, tear up and negotiate the memorandum; now he says he will just ask for its suspension. The only certain thing Tsipras has suspended is common sense and responsibility."

    [03] Task Force chief: Gov't has determination, backing of European Commission

    "The Greek government has the determination and ability to continue on the path of reforms for growth and employment, and they see this in Europe. The European Commission has the desire to support Greece on the recovery path, as they see in Europe that the government's intentions are serious," European Commission Task Force for Greece chief Horst Reichenbach told an Economist conference on Tuesday.

    Addressing the second-day of an Economist round-table on "Reforms in Greece for restoration of growth, employment and competitiveness" Reichenbach said in reply to a question that he is optimistic, following his contacts with the Hellenic Association of Banks and with members of the government on the recpitalisation of the banking system over the coming months, but added that there is still remains to be seen whether that decision will be attained.

    On the restoration of liquidity, he said there is a hopeful prospect that this will be achieved by 2015, adding that this hope is founded on the 4 billion euros annually t0 be forthcoming via the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), noting that 2 billion euro are available for small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), although the recapitalisation of the banks remains the 'key'. He also referred to the creation of a financial tool so that capital exceeding 8 billion euro could be utilized by the real economy.

    Reichenbach further noted the importance of efforts being made at all levels to simplify the licensing procedures, increase exports, improve the taxation and businesses climate and liquidity.

    The picture of a new, productive Greece is linked with merchant shipping and taking advantage of the uniquenesses of the Greek land morphology, Shipping and Aegean minister Costas Mousouroulis told the same conference, focusing particularly on utilizing the elements of shipping and tourism for the economy, while on the privatisations he said that everyone should know their role and keep to it, to enable results to come out of their collaboration.

    He said growth with realism is needed, noting that with changes made recently the registration of a vessel in the Greek Shipping Registry now takes only 10 days and requires 9 signatures, where 7 1/2 months had been needed before, and in a short while a vessel of any category will be able to be registered under the Greek flag with "just one click".

    As for the ports, he said "we need modern infrastructures, not so that they will meet their own expenses but in order for investments to be made", adding that a bill on marine tourism will soon be put to public deliberation.

    Deputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis underlined the importance of increasing the provision of technical support by the Task Force and, commenting on the efficient operation of the sate on the course of reforms, he said "it is not important for everyone to hang on to their castle but that there is group effort".

    He announced that in the coming weeks announcements will be made for the public-private sector cooperation tender for a cruiseship port in Attica prefecture.

    [04] FinMin: National target a primary surplus in order to further reduce state debt

    Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras set out achievement of a primary surplus this year as a "national target" in order to activate the Eurogroup clause for a further reduction of the state debt, at a press conference on Tuesday during which he itemized the 17-point agreement reached with the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika of Greece's international lenders.

    Stournaras said that the agreement "sends out a message of optimism, but the road is rugged until Greece returns to the markets."

    "The government now anticipates the smooth disbursement of the tranches (1.8 billion euro remaining from December and 6 billion euro in the first quarter of 2013) and the 7.2 billion euro that have been approved for the recapitalisation of the banks.

    The troika's next review will be in June, when a reduction of VAT on restaurant services to the 13 percent bracket will be examined, he said, while, according to the government's economic staff, if the fiscal progress continue in the first quarter of the year, there will be no fiscal shortfall for 2013 in June either. He said that the fiscal shortfall for the period 2015-2016 is estimated at 2.5 euro and a better execution of the 2013-2014 budget can more than make up for it.

    The full text of the agreement with the troika will be made public in approximately two weeks.

    More specifically, the agreement foresees that the number of civil servants will have been reduced by 160,000 (chiefly due to the ratio of one hiring per five departures and the mandatory departures). The minister believes that with the mandatory of 15,000 civil servants (4,000 this year and 11,000 in 2014), there will be a very great benefit, chiefly due to their replacement with an equal number of youth with degrees.

    On the overdue debts to the Tax Bureau and social security funds(which have been created up to December 31, 2012), the new arrangement provides for their repayment in 48 installments, while all natural entities, in agreement with the tax officer and depending on their financial abilities (unemployed, etc). will be able to increase the number of installments.

    For legal entities and the self-employed, the 48 installments will be strictly held to, while those who had entered into an older arrangement will not be able to make use of the new arrangement. But for legal entities, there will be a reduction (for debts incurred up to 31 December 2012) of 50 percent of the increment.

    For debts above 75,000 euro, an accountant's signature will be required, while for debts above 300,000 euro collateral will be required.

    The Finance Ministry anticipates revenues of more than one billion euro from the new arrangement on the overdue debts.

    Also being examined is increasing the minimum for instituting legal proceedings from 5,000 euros to 10,000 euros. In the first 10 days of April, the Finance Ministry paid out an additional 200 million euro in outstanding state debts to the private sector, and a total of 600-700 million are expected to be paid out by the end of the month.

    Stournaras further said that there will be an across-the-board reduction of 15 percent in the new, single real estate tax that will replace the extraordinary surtax on real estate (EETHDE). He added that there will be no tax-free limit this year, while the possibility of a tax-free sum will be considered for 2014, depending on the course of revenues.

    He further said that the recapitalisation of the banks needs to be completed by the end of April, while the 50 billion euro that have been earmarked for this purpose were adequate. In the period April-July, the four systemic banks could incorporate the smaller banks via buy-outs. To date, there has been no interest in the Greek banks by foreign investors, he said, adding "would that there was".

    Stournaras noted that 20 billion euro in deposits have returned to Greek banks since last June, adding that the role of the Secretariat General for Revenues was being enhanced, as preventive audits by the financial crimes squad (SDOE) were being transferred to the secretariat.

    The Finance Minister also announced that the new taxation bill will be unveiled in May.

    According to the government's economic team, the priorities set out are improvement of the tax administration, supporting growth and employment, and creating a social protection network.

    The other points of the agreement with the troika include efficiency of expenditures, tax incentives for investments and Renewable Energy Sources (RES), adequate liquidity for the market, boosting the Hellenic Fiscal Stability Fund (HFSF), advancing structural changes (expansion of the liberalisation of professions, retail trade, boosting exports), and accelerating the procedures for the privatisations.

    [05] Finmin briefs President Papoulias on agreement with troika

    Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Tuesday paid a visit to President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, in order to brief him on the details of the programme negotiated by the Greek government and the troika of Greece's lenders (the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund).

    "We did the best we could, under the circumstances," the minister told the president when asked about the outcome of the negotiations. "In the Eurogroup they told me plainly: if you don't solve it, the money is blocked. The prime minister took it upon himself and the issues were resolved."

    Replying to Papoulias' questions concerning the National Bank of Greece, Stournaras said the government would wait and see whether the bank would succeed in raising 10 percent of the recapitalisation money needed from the market and that, otherwise, it will have to go to the Financial Stability Fund.

    In statements as he left the meeting, Stournaras told reporters that he had briefed the president on the outcome of the talks with the EU-IMF troika, when Greece might expect the disbursement of the next tranches of bailout loans and the difficulties that arose during the course of the talks.

    He denied that there was any "issue" outstanding with Greek banks and said he did not fear the prospect of more austerity measures when the troika returned in June.

    "No, I do not fear new measures. The troika's review, in any case, expressly mentions that new measures aren't necessary, provided we do the things we have promised to do," Stournaras stressed.

    The minister appeared confident that the May tranche of bailout loans will be disbursed as planned, repeating that the prime minister had stepped in to save the day.

    "There are, of course, the public sector prior actions that, I have to say, gave us great difficulty. Right up to the last moment we failed to find a compromise solution with the troika. At the Eurogroup I was given a clear warning, I informed the prime minister and he did, in fact, take it on himself and solved the issue, because it had put us in a really difficult position," Stournaras explained.

    He did not offer any details on how Samaras had resolved matters, however, and in response to reporters' questions replied only: "You will see".

    The minister was also asked whether a failure to dismiss 4,000 public-sector employees by June might be a thorn in the June negotiations with the troika and clarified that the deadline for the 4,000 dismissals was actually the end of the year, though a percentage will have to be carried out sooner.

    [06] PASOK leader Venizelos addresses joint meeting of parliamentary group, political council

    PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, president of one of the two junior parties supporting Greece's coalition government, on

    Tuesday addressed a joint meeting of his PASOK's political council and parliamentary group.

    According to Venizelos, the completion of the negotiations with the (EC-ECB-IMF) troika was a "positive event" which, however, "should have taken place sooner".

    Venizelos said that the goal of the negotiations was not met 100 percent but two very important results were reached. Firstly, the troika had acknowledged that the country and its society cannot withstand additional fiscal measures and taxation and secondly, the partners' commitment for an additional haircut of debt was rekindled, considering that "we are close to achieving a primary budget surplus".

    He also said that a strategic planning national committee will have to be set up to address all political powers and the powers of real economy.

    The leader of PASOK noted that the positive points of the agreement with the troika should be utilized putting an emphasis on structural changes.

    He criticized the leadership of main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) by saying that "if they believe that the lessons received in the past few weeks confirm that an alternative plan is possible, then we do not live in the same world."

    Venizelos pointed out that the Cyprus experience tested the "easy theories" and stressed that "there is no plan B unless we are talking about leaving the eurozone like the Communist party and (former SYRIZA leader Alekos) Alavanos".

    [07] PASOK leader meets with Council on Foreign Relations

    PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos reviewed Greek, European and international relations during a working breakfast he hosted for a visiting delegation of the think-tank Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) on Tuesday.

    A PASOK announcement said that the topic of the "very interesting" discussion with the CFR, headed by Ambassador Richard Haas, was the political situation in Greece, the prospects of the governmental collaboration, the crisis in the Eurozone, the Euro-Atlantic relations as they are developing in the context of the current economic and fiscal crisis, the role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a review of NATO's and the IMF's role in relation to security and defence policy and economic and monetary policy, respectively, and the wider framework of Greek-American cooperation.

    Venizelos expressed his abhorrence for Monday's "dramatic and provocative" events in Boston and expressed the Greek people's sentiments of friendship and support for the American people.

    [08] Tsipras retables question on the operation of HRADF

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday retabled a question in parliament addressed to the prime minister charging that the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) operates in violation of the Constitution and the national legislation.

    Tsipras characterized HRADF as the "vehicle for the implementation of the extreme programme of selling off the state property" operating with procedures that are not transparent.

    He also noted that "the initial goal of creating the HRADF was the collection of monies to pay off the state debt, which is now considered not sustainable and will not become sustainable without a generous haircut, regardless of the sell off of state assets".

    Tsipras said "the appraisal of the state assets has no relation whatsoever to the initial appraisals, since, according to the 2013-2016 denationalisations programme, it is just 9.6 billion euros, while the initial programme of the first Memorandum anticipated the collection of 50 billion euros, and before 2010 these assets were appraised at a minimum of 285 billion euros".

    He charged unprecedented circumvention referring to the HRADF board's omission in making public, on the internet, its quarterly reports as required by law, noting that the parliamentary parties have no access to the minutes of the HRADF board's meetings.

    [09] SYRIZA parliamentary spokesman Papadimoulis' interview on AMNA WebTV

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) parliamentary spokesman Dimitris Papadimoulis on Tuesday said that imminent layoffs in the public sector will result in "a new Klafthmonos Square," though possibly to a lesser extent than a century ago, when civil servants were fired on mass every time there was a change in government.

    Klathmonos Square in downtown Athens took its name from the weeping civil servants who had lost their jobs with the change in administration.

    Speaking on AMNA WebTV, he stressed that "we have a government that says it negotiates but, in the end, the troika does what it wants."

    Papadimoulis strongly criticized Democratic Left (DIM.AR), a junior partner in the coalition government, saying that it has become the "deodorant of a tough neoliberal memorandum policy and has shifted notably to the right".

    He also predicted that elections will be held before the end of the present government's four-year term, adding that SYRIZA will seek political and social alliances, even if it wins enough votes in the next elections to form a majority government.

    [10] Council on Foreign Relations members visit SYRIZA in Parliament

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras and a party delegation met with the visiting delegation of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday.

    A party press announcement said that the visiting think-tank delegation met with the main opposition party in the Parliament building, where Tsipras described elements and facets of the

    Greek and European crisis and the party's alternative proposals to exiting the crisis and the visitors had the opportunity to have their queries answered.

    [11] Greek PM sends telegram of condolence to Obama after Boston bombings

    Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Tuesday sent a telegram to U.S. President Barack Obama, expressing the condolences of the Greek government and the Greek people for the deaths caused by twin bomb blasts during the annual marathon organised in Boston.

    "It is with great sorrow that I was informed about the bomb attacks on Boston's Marathon, which resulted in the loss of human lives and many injuries. Such heinous actions, whose targets are innocent citizens, are absolutely condemnable.

    "On behalf of the Greek government and the Greek citizens, who have suffered similar cowardly acts of violence, I want to extend by deepest, heartfelt condolences to the American people and my sincere sympathy to the families of the victims," the Greek premier's message said.

    [12] FM expresses abhorrence over Boston Marathon attack

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Tuesday expressed the Greek government's absolute abhorrence of the 'barbarous attack" at the Boston Marathon, in a statement from London, where he will attend former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's funeral.

    "The Greek government expresses its absolute condemnation and abhorrence of the barbarous attack on the Boston Marathon," Avramopoulos said.

    "It is an attack against all of us. Against the symbolism of the Marathon and the values it represents. In these difficult hours, our thoughts are with the injured and the families of the victims. Greece stands at your side," he added.

    [13] PASOK on the Boston Marathon bomb attack

    PASOK, a junior partner in the coalition government, on Tuesday expressed "self-evident indignation" for Monday's bloody and provocative events" in Boston, pointing out that "indiscriminate acts of violence, like those in Boston, during an international celebration of sports and peace, target all free democratic societies."

    PASOK offered "condolences, honest friendship and support to the American people who are being tested once again".

    [14] SYRIZA-EKM expresses 'abhorrence' for Boston bombings

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) party on Tuesday expressed its abhorrence for the bomb attacks in Boston.

    A party statement also expressed unreserved solidarity with the families of the innocent victims.

    [15] KKE condemns the Boston bomb attacks

    Opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Tuesday condemned the bomb attacks in Boston, which killed three people and injured dozens.

    KKE expressed solidarity with the victims' families, underlining that it is important to find out who is behind the attacks.

    [16] KKE congratulates new Venezuelan president on election

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Tuesday congratulated the new Venezuelan President Nicol?s Maduro on his election, in a message from KKE's central committee to the Communist Party of Venezuela.

    The KKE "will always stand by the side of the Communist Party of Venezuela and the people of Venezuela against all imperialist intervention and threat," the message stressed.

    The Communist Party also sent a message to Venezuelan ambassador in Athens, expressing congratulations for Maduro's election. The KKE said that it "condemns the efforts of the Venezuelan 'opposition' and American imperialism to dispute and annul the people's will, as this was expressed in the presidential elections for the second time in a short period of time."

    [17] KKE elects members of Political Bureau

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Central Committee elected on Tuesday its 11 member Political Bureau.

    The members elected are:

    Dimitris Koutsoumbas, secretary general of KKE, already elected in the first session of the Central Committee.

    Costas Avramopoulos, Dimitris Arvanitakis, Dimitris Gontikas, Tilemachos Dimoulas, Theodossis Constantinidis, Giorgos Marinos, Eleni Bellou, Costas Paraskevas, Louisa Razou and Nikos Sofianos.

    Moreover, the party's central financial committee elected Chryssa Kakoulidou as president.

    [18] Deputy FM meets CFR delegation in Athens

    Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas on Tuesday met with a delegation from the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Think Tank, which is considered to have a powerful influence in shaping U.S. foreign policy.

    The meeting focused on developments in the European Union and the Eurozone, Greece's upcoming EU presidency in 2014 and its priorities, illegal migration, EU-U.S. relations and the possibility of a free trade agreement between them, the Arab

    Spring and developments relating to Cyprus and Turkey.

    The head of the 15-member delegation was CFR President Richard Haass, a former director of policy planning in the U.S. State Department and a close advisor to former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Among the think tank's 4,700 members are former U.S. government officials, including former defense secretary Chuck Hagel, Powell and his predecessor Madeleine Albright, academics and senior business executives.

    The CFR organises meetings, carries out research and publishes analyses, as well as the magazine Foreign Affairs dealing with U.S. foreign policy and international affairs.

    A CFR delegation met with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Monday to discuss the state of the Greek economy and investment prospects in Greece.

    [19] Defence Minister Panagiotopoulos met with Israeli ambassador

    The ministries of defence in Greece and Israel will continue forging closer cooperation following specific steps, Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos and Israeli Ambassador to Athens Arye Mekel commented after meeting at the ministry of defence on Tuesday.

    The Israeli ambassador said that "Greek-Israeli relations have strong foundations and do not depend on developments in the Middle East or on Israel's relations with any other country in the region," adding that bilateral cooperation is very strong "to be exact, it has reached an unparalleled level and will continue in several sectors, such as defence, energy, tourism and business."

    Issues concerning the greater southeast Mediterranean region were also examined.

    Defence Minister Panagiotopoulos has extended an invitation to his Israeli counterpart Moshe Yaalon to visit Greece and arrangements are being made via diplomatic channels.

    [20] Turkish fighter planes fly over Greek island, defence ministry reports

    After a hiatus of 14 months, Turkish fighter planes on Tuesday flew over a Greek island, the Greek armed forces general staff announced. A formation of four Turkish fighter planes, made up of two F-4s and two F-16s, entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) between the Aegean islands of Samos and Chios at 10:53 a.m. and flew over the islet Anthropofagi in the Fournes island complex at 11:06 a.m. at a height of 1,000 and 3,000 feet, respectively.

    The formation exited the Athens FIR at 11:11 a.m. and, in each case, the Turkish aircraft were intercepted and identified.

    The last occasion when Turkish fighter jets flew over a Greek island was on February 15, 2012 when two planes had flown over the southeast section of Lesvos at 2,700 feet.

    A Turkish T-38 training aircraft had flown over the island of Agathonissi at 15,000 feet on November 14, 2012.

    [21] Former PM Papandreou responds to investigation committee summons with memorandum

    Former prime minister George Papandreou responded to a summons by the preliminary investigative committee of Parliament on the Lagarde list by resubmitting on Tuesday the same four-page memorandum he had originally submitted, following a telephone communication with the committee's chair Christos Markogiannakis.

    "This memorandum, which you have access to, contains in full and clearly all information I have to present before the committee in terms of the case under investigation," Papandreou said in a letter to the committee members.

    In the memorandum, he said he had never been briefed on the contents of the so-called Lagarde list of large depositors abroad who may be liable for tax evasion.

    Meanwhile, a proposal by main opposition SYRIZA to reissue a subpoena to Papandreou did not make majority vote.

    [22] Archbishop Demetrios attends Obama's Faith Advisory Council session in DC

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/ P. Panagiotou)

    Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church of American took part in a two-day meeting of President Barack Obama's faith advisory council at the White House.

    Archbishop Demetrios is one of the 15 religious and secular leaders appointed by Obama to his Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

    "On April 9-10, Archbishop Demetrios participated in the meetings of The President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to which he had been appointed by President Barack Obama. The Archbishop is one of the 15 members of this Council, ?a Greek Orthodox Archdiocese statement said.

    "The two-day meetings took place at the Eisenhower Executive Building of the White House in Washington, D.C. The purpose was to submit the Council's Final Report of Recommendations to the President concerning the building of partnerships between the government and faith-based and neighborhood organizations to eradicate modern-day slavery. Comprised by leaders from diverse religious and non-profit backgrounds, the task of the Council was to produce, in the course of several months, a report which addressed issues of human trafficking at home and abroad, that is, the exploitation of children, women and men for compelled labor or sexual exploitation through the use of force, fraud or coercion," the announcement said.

    The Council worked in close cooperation with Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the Office of Faith- Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and his successor in the same Office Melissa Rogers.

    "The report contains 10 recommendations which, in partnership with the government, will help to combat and eventually eradicate modern-day slavery and bring healing and dignity in the life of those who have been victimized by it. Among the recommendations are the raising of public awareness to the problem, the appropriate education of the public, the sharing of information, the increasing support from the public, and the collaboration with federal agencies and organizations to combat human trafficking," the announcement continued, adding that President Obama met privately with the Council members in the West Wing, and thanked them for their dedication and input in the preparation of the report and its recommendations.

    Commenting on the work of the Council, Archbishop Demetrios said: "It has been a great honor indeed to be appointed by President Barack Obama to a Council of such importance, comprised of outstanding religious and civic leaders. The task has been awesome because we had to deal with the tragic condition of slavery in our own times, of human trafficking ruthlessly involving millions of innocent people. Now is the moment of decisive action to eliminate slavery from the face of the earth. Once and for all!"

    The final report was officially presented to the representative of the government, Cecilia Mu?oz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, for further utilization and incorporation in the policies of the US Administration, and it is available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/advisory_council_humantrafficking_report.pdf

    Financial News

    [23] Greek authorities determined to move forward with privatizations

    The Greek government and the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund are determined to move forward -with a sense of urgency without succumbing to petty-politics interests- with the implementation of a privatization programe, Stelios Stavridis, the Fund's president said on Tuesday.

    Addressing an Economist conference in Athens, Stavridis said it was a big mistake to link privatizations with the fiscal and not with the development leg of the country's economic programe. "Privatizations mean growth, new job positions, creating wealth and revenue for the state. A flattening of wages and incomes and a barbarous taxation are the results of three years of unwillingness and inability to move forward with privatizations. All those saying 'No' to privatizations, essentially say 'Yes' to cuts, taxes and deeper recession," Stavridis added.

    Commenting on the privatization of OPAP, he said that binding bids to buy a 33 pct stake in the organization will be submitted on Wednesday and that the results of an evaluation process will be announced early next week. He said that more news in the privatization of DEPA and DESFA were expected by the end of the month.

    "The price for buying DEPA-DESFA must be combined with European rules. Everyone involved in a tender to sell the group should know that they should accept EU's rules," Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Deputy Minister M. Papageorgiou said on Tuesday.

    Addressing the Economist conference in Athens, the Greek minister noted that EU authorities will clear their stance during the last stage of the privatization process. Final bids in the tender were expected to be submitted in April 29.

    Meanwhile, DEPA was in talks for the supply of natural gas from the Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan. DEPA's chairman and chief executive Chr. Sahinis, addressing the conference said the aim was to boost competition and achieving the best prices for DEPA's customers.

    Constantinos Frouzis, president of the Association of Pharmaceutical Enterprises of Greece, addressing the conference said that the state failed to achieve its goals in offering unlimited access of sick people to medicine, sustainability of business activity in the sector and a further rationalization of pharmaceutical spending. Frouzis said the pharmaceutical industry sector was one of the most important in leverage and growth that could lead to a higher GDP over the next years, although he noted a lack in the implementation of laws. Frouzis said that wrong prices in pharmaceutical products were not easily corrected over time adding huge problems to sick people and the economy. He noted there was a small war by the state against pharmaceutical innovations and research. "For the past 2.5 years we don't have the right to distribute our innovative medicines to Greeks, who were considered as second class citizens compared with other Europeans," he said.

    Nasos Zarkalis, president and chief executive of Wind Hellas said the company resisted the crisis by restructuring its debt twice over the past few years, while the company was sold to a group of international funds fully clear from borrowing. "We made two voluntary retirement plans, we cut our operating costs by 140 million euros, invested 200 million euros and currently we enjoy a very significant cash flow," Zarkalis said.

    Jerome Loubere, chief executive of Marinopoulos SA, acknowledged that changes made in the past 12 months surpassed those made in the previous 12 years and called for abolishing existing limitations in the distribution of certain goods to boost competition and lower retail prices in the domestic market.

    Constantinos Antonopoulos, chief executive of Intralot, addressing the conference said the group had two roads to follow in its effort to grow. The first, attracting investments in the domestic market and the second, through exports, although he noted "we need to attract strategic investors and not short-term investments".

    [24] Alt. Finance Minister reports encouraging rise in tax revenues in April

    Figures for April show encouraging signs of a recovery in tax revenues, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras told Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

    The minister particularly highlighted a 50 percent rise in revenues from Special Consumption Tax and VAT on tobacco products in the first 10 days of April, as compared with the same period in 2012, which he said showed signs of becoming entrenched.

    Presenting figures concerning the execution of the state budget in the first quarter of 2013, Staikouras said that revenues from a special consumption tax on fuel products had also increased by 55 million euros or 5.1 percent, while there were categories of revenue where targets had been exceeded.

    These included a 1.5 percent rise in income tax revenue (31 million euros), a 16.6 percent rise in property tax revenue (101 million euros) and an increase in the payment of indirect taxes from previous years by 75.8 percent (99 million euros), chiefly as the result of payment of overdue VAT.

    "We are closely monitoring this encouraging development, which offers a significant safety 'pillow' since revenues from indirect taxes to date have been below targets," the minister said.

    [25] Greek inflation lowest in the EU in March

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)

    Greece recorded a negative inflation in March, with the consumer price index falling to -0.2 pct from 0.1 pct in February, Eurostat said on Tuesday. The EU executive's statistics service, in a report published here, said that the average inflation rate in the Eurozone eased to 1.7 pct in March from 1.8 pct in February, while in the EU-27 the average inflation rate eased to 1.9 pct from 2.0 pct over the same periods, respectively.

    Greece (-0.2 pct), Latvia (0.3 pct) and Sweden (0.5 pct) recorded the lowest inflation rates, while Romania (4.4 pct), Estonia (3.8 pct) and Holland (3.2 pct) the highest rates.

    [26] Greek banks cut funding from ECB, ELA in March

    Greek banks further cut their dependence from European monetary authorities in March, the Bank of Greece said on Tuesday.

    In a report, the central bank said that Greek banks cut their dependence in funding from the European Central Bank and the Emergency Liquidity Assistance mechanism by around 4.0 billion euros in March compared with February. Greek banks' funding from ECB and ELA fell to 91.95 billion euros in March from 96.3 billion euros in the previous month. Funding from ECB fell to 70.73 billion euros in March, from 75.2 billion in February, while funding from ELA remained almost unchanged at 21.22 billion euros. This positive development reflected mainly a continuing fall in lending and a return of deposits to Greek banks. Finance Alternate Minister Christos Staikouras said that Greek banks have recorded a return of deposits of up to 20 billion euros in the period from July to March.

    [27] Alpha Bank says share capital increase plan "key" for the country's banking system

    Alpha Bank's chairman Yiannis Kostopoulos on Tuesday invited all shareholders to participate in a forthcoming share capital increase plan of the bank, as part of its recapitalization.

    Addressing an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting, Costopoulos said the success of the share capital increase plan was a "key" not only for the bank but for the country's banking system in general.

    Alpha Bank's board will convene soon to determine the terms of the share capital increase scheme, which is expected to be launched in May. The bank's officials expresss their confidence that Alpha Bank will successfully cover a 10 pct of private participation needed in the scheme.

    [28] Alpha Bank's shareholders approve share capital increase plan

    Alpha Bank's shareholders on Tuesday approved a board plan for a share capital increase scheme as part of the bank's recapitalization process. An extraordinary general shareholders' meeting approved the board plan which aims to cover 10 pct of the bank's recapitalization needs from private shareholders.

    Alpha Bank officials said the bank was progressing rapidly with a full operational unification with Emporiki Bank, with the aim to have completed the project before the end of the year. The bank is currently designing new joint products to be offered by the two banks' networks even before their full unification.

    [29] PPC to raise electricity rates from May 1

    The Public Power Corporation will raise its electricity rates from May 1st and proceed with a full liberalization of prices from July 1st, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Deputy Minister Makis Papageorgiou said on Tuesday.

    Addressing an Economist conference in Athens, the minister said that the introduction of a community directive calling for a liberalization of PPC rates from July 1 meant that electricity rates must be relative to production costs. "The first steps towards adjustment of electricity rates have been made in January 1 and the next step is scheduled for May 1. Rates are not expected to rise significantly, but rather slightly since we have achieved a smooth transition in the liberalization of prices. PPC, in any case, but take into account the opinion of the market's watchdog," Papageorgiou said.

    Commenting on hydrocarbon research currently underway, the Greek minister said: "We are assessing findings of seismic research to have a first image of domestic fields and to proceed with the next steps towards large scale exploitation".

    He underlined that Greece must expand its role in the energy market, taking advantage of its strategic geographic position as a cross-road linking East with West.

    [30] Car loading dock at Piraeus port ready by September

    The car terminal loading dock at the G2 Neo Ikonio area of the main Greek port of Piraeus will be fully operational by September of this year, according to authorities on Tuesday.

    The announcement was made after a conference at the Port Authority of Piraeus (OLP) main offices between the managing directors of OLP, Giorgos Anomeritis, and ErgOSE, the large projects subsidiary of Hellenic Railways (TrainOSE), Kostas Spiliopoulos.

    Pending work on the container and car terminals will be completed by end-June, the officials said.

    Talks among TrainOSE, OLP, and shipping and logistics companies have continued ahead of the expected completion of the car terminal area by September. The cargo rail line linking the Thriasio valley (which includes the refineries towns of Elefsis and Aspropyrgos) with the facilities of Chinese-owned container company Cosco in Neo Ikonio, 17 km long, was completed in February. An extension will be added to OLP.

    The railway will convey goods and cars between OLP, through the Cosco container terminal, on to Thriasio, helping move merchandise and cars faster from Piraeus on to markets in the Balkans and Europe, and facilitate trade with Asia as well.

    Cars handled through the Piraeus port reached close to half a million cars in 2012 (458,755), of which 403,970 were conveyed through OLP to other ports in the Mediterranean, while 54,785 were imported to Greece. OLP said the figures show an overall increase of 9.8 pct over 2011. The number of cars sent through Piraeus to other Mediterranean ports went up by 22.8 pct in 2012, while domestic imports dropped by 38.2 pct.

    In March, Greece's state-owned TrainOSE signed a major agreement with Cosco and Hewlett-Packard to use the facilities in the distribution of the American electronic giant's products to European, African and Middle Eastern markets.

    [31] Greek stocks continue moving lower

    Greek stocks continued moving lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, reflecting losses in bank shares and other blue chip stocks, such as Coca Cola Hellenic. The composite index of the market fell 1.28 pct to end at 913.62 points, off the day's lows of 902.69 points. Turnover remained a disappointing low 50.592 million euros.

    The Big Cap index fell 1.67 pct and the Mid Cap index rose 2.08 pct. The Technology (5.37 pct), Financial Services (4.75 pct) and Raw Materials (4.67 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (6.06 pct), Food (5.23 pct) and Personal Products (2.05 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. MIG (7.87 pct), Mytilineos (4.65 pct) and Terna Energy (3.75 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Eurobank (15.22 pct), Alpha Bank (8.70 pct) and National Bank (7.85 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 76 to 61 with another 22 issues unchanged. Intertek (21.77 pct), Nutriart (19.75 pct) and PC Systems (19.51 pct) were top gainers, while G.E.Demetriou (23.08 pct), Alsinco (17.65 pct) and Eurobank (15.22 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +0.91%

    Commercial: -1.38%

    Construction: -0.65%

    Oil & Gas: +0.30%

    Personal & Household: -2.05%

    Raw Materials: +4.67%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.87%

    Technology: +5.37%

    Telecoms: -0.35%

    Banks: -6.06%

    Food & Beverages: -5.23%

    Health: +2.99%

    Utilities: +1.50%

    Financial Services: +4.75%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 0.74

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.60

    HBC Coca Cola: 18.80

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.13

    National Bank of Greece: 0.49

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.23

    OPAP: 6.99

    OTE: 5.66

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.18

    Titan: 14.46

    [32] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 10.13 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 9.87 pct on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.39 pct and the German Bund 1.26 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.53 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.43 pct, the six-month rate was 0.33 pct, the three-month rate was 0.21 pct and the one-month rate was 0.12 pct.

    [33] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 1.32 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover shrinking to 11.694 million euros.

    Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,077 contracts worth 7.544 million euros, with 31,177 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 24,743 contracts worth 4.150 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (7,434), followed by Alpha Bank (3,550), Piraeus Bak (1,596), Eurobank (897), OTE (1,321), PPC (5,654), Intralot (828), Ellaktor (628), GEK (475), MIG (394), Mytilineos (376) and Jumbo (103).

    [34] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.332

    Pound sterling 0.869

    Danish kroner 7.567

    Swedish kroner 8.508

    Japanese yen 130.3

    Swiss franc 1.234

    Norwegian kroner 7.634

    Canadian dollar 1.361

    Australian dollar 1.284

    General News

    [35] 111 tons of horsemeat entered Greece in 2011-2012, document submitted to parliament says

    A total of 111 tons of horsemeat entered Greece in the years 2011 and 2012, according to figures from the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) cited in a document submitted to parliament on Tuesday by alternate Agricultural Development and Foods minister Maximos Harakopoulos.

    According to the document, 37 tons of horsemeat entered Greece in 2011, of which 35 tons from Romania and 2 tons from Spain, while in 2012 the quantity of horsemeat entering Greece rose to 74.2 tons, of which 24 tons from Spain, 15.9 tons from Romania and 34.3 tons from Bulgaria.

    The data was forwarded to parliament following MPs' questions on food checks, and Harakopoulos notes in the document that the first official results of lab analyses for traces of horse DNA in food samples carried out with the method Real Time-PRC (Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction), adding that of the approximately 200 food samples sent for testing, 12 were found to be positive for horse DNA.

    He said all the measures provided by law were taken for the specific shipments from which the positive samples came, and the relevant sanctions will be imposed by the relevant services while, given the breadth of the problem at European level and the fake addresses that the supplier companies had declared, prosecution and police assistance (from the European countries) has been requested for the prosecution of the individuals responsible for these companies, and for inspections of these enterprises

    Harakopoulos noted that the veterinary services of the country have been instructed to conduct inspections not only on beef but also on all foods containing beef (minced meat, meat by-products, prepared foods containing meat).

    [36] Tourism minister meets famous British actor Stephen Fry

    Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni met on Tuesday with internationally-known British actor Stephen Fry and accompanied him on his tour of the Acropolis Museum.

    Fry, who is on holiday in Greece until the end of the week, was briefed during his tour on the history and culture of ancient Greece by the Museum's director Dimitris Pantermalis.

    Speaking after his tour, the tourism minister said "I am very pleased that the famous actor Stephen Fry came to Greece. The messages coming from abroad for tourism are optimistic. But we will not rest; a great deal of work remains to be done. Fry loves Greece and is a real friend of the country. Through Twitter, he reproduces the message that Greece is a safe and hospitable country. And this is very important for our country, at this crucial period".

    On his part, Fry said among other things that British tourists love Greece and look on it as an ideal, safe destination for holidays. World culture owes a great deal to Greece and we must never forget this, he stressed.

    [37] Papoulias visits Juvenile Prison Facility

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias accompanied by Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis, on Tuesday paid a surprise visit to the Juvenile Incarceration Facility at Avlona Prison, at Roupakiotis' invitation.

    At Papoulias' request the visit took place without the presence of media or TV crews.

    The visit was initially scheduled to take place a couple of weeks ago but was postponed due to the recent events in Cyprus.

    During his visit, Papoulias visited the dormitories of the juvenile inmates and spoke with many pf them. Later he was briefed by the facility chief and the teachers on the operation of the high school in the prison, toured the classrooms and observed the education programme for the juvenile inmates.

    [38] Prime Minister Samaras, Piraeus' chamber president, offer condolences for the death of George Kassimatis

    Former president of the Central Union of Chambers of Greece George Kassimatis passed away early Tuesday at the age of 62, after a long struggle with cancer.

    Kassimatis, also a former president of Piraeus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, will be buried at the Keratsini Cemetery on Wednesday, while the memorial service will be held earlier at the Holy Trinity church in Piraeus.

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, in a message, expressed deep grief saying that the deceased was a creative man with proven social sensitivities and long contribution to the upgrading of the chamber institution dedicated to the efforts aimed at boosting entrepreneurship and the country's economic growth.

    The prime minister added that Kassimatis was a friend who honored the party of New Democracy with his presence and ideas. "He was a great Greek who had won everybody's respect. I extend my heartfelt condolences to his family," the prime minister's statement concluded.

    Professional Chamber of Piraeus President Giorgos Benetos noted that the deceased was "our teacher and companion in the trade unionist actions. An honest man with great courage and an endless desire for genuine contribution."

    [39] 42 pct of Greeks are overweight or obese

    Overweight and obese individuals account for 42 percent rate of the Greek population, according to the Greek Endocrinological Society, while the average for the rest of Europe does not exceed 38 percent.

    According to the Society's president, Giorgos Mastorakos, Greek children are the most overweight in Europe - about 3 in 10 teenage boys and 1 in 6 teenage girls are overweight, rates that have been increasing sharply in recent years.

    Obesity will be one of the main issues at the Society's 40th Panhellenic conference of the Society and the Panhellenic Union of Endocrinologists starting in Athens on Wednesday.

    Professor Mastorakos stressed that, according to the World Health Organisation, a Body Mass Index of over 30 is considered obese. The BMI results from dividing body weight in kilos by height in metres squared - for example, a person weighing 82 kilos and 1.74 metres tall would have a BMI of 27 (82:1.74:1.74). If the BMI is between 25 and 29.9, the person is considered overweight.

    [40] Fire breaks out at Ierissos police station

    A fire broke out at dawn Tuesday in the building that up to recently housed the Ierissos police station in Halkidiki.

    The fire, which broke out due to reasons as yet unknown, was extinguished by firefighters who rushed to the spot.

    The operation of the police station was suspended by order of police headquarters due to serious damage caused to the building Wednesday last week by residents of Ierissos village after two of their fellow-residents were arrested by police for involvement in the February arson attack against a Hellenic Gold mining facility in nearby Skouries.

    Police had announced at the time that the damage to the interior of the police station as well as its equipment and furnishings was extensive, and the remaining equipment and the staff were being moved to the police station in Polygyros, which has taken over the policing of Ierissos.

    [41] Prisoner who escaped from hospital in Thessaloniki apprehended

    A 32-year-old prisoner taken to Thessaloniki's Ippokration Hospital to undergo medical tests who managed to escape on Monday afternoon was fiound and apprehended at 2.50 a.m. in the Ampelokipi district of Thessaloniki.

    The 32-year-old Greek national of Georgian descent managed to escape in a taxi after slipping past his guards in the waiting room of the hospital's out-patient clinic. In slippers and with bandages on one leg, he left via the hospital's main exit and hailed a taxi, asking the driver to head west.

    The taxi driver's suspicions were aroused, however, and after letting the 32-year-old off at the location requested, he immediately informed the police. Thessaloniki police authorities had launched a manhunt to locate the fugitive and take him back into custody.

    The 32-year-old had been arrested a few days earlier for an outstanding conviction and eight-year prison sentence for theft and was being held at the Evosmos police lock-up.

    [42] Contraband cigarettes shipment seized on Crete

    Police on the south Aegean island of Crete seized 100,000 packs of contraband cigarettes under the brand name Royal Sarajevo which, according to information, were packaged in Kosovo, it was announced on Tuesday.

    The contraband cigarettes were found buried under a pile of stones outside a private business in the region of Elos, in Hania prefecture, by the owner who notified the police.

    Most likely, the illegal shipment arrived on Crete by sea and the smugglers for unknown reasons decided to hide it.

    A police investigation is underway to trace the culprits and determine the shipment's destination.

    [43] Noted Greek painters' works to be auctioned at Sotheby's

    Five works of noted Greek painters, Constantinos Volanakis, Nikos Hatzikiriakos-Ghika and Nikolaos Gyzis are included in Sotheby's European works of 19th century auction that will be held on May 23 in London.

    Hatzikiriakos-Ghikas' paintings "Nocturnal Hydra" and "Night outside a Church" have the highest estimated value between 35,200-59,000 euros among the works of the Greek painters.

    Weather forecast

    [44] Cloudy on Wednesday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday. Winds 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures between 5C and 21C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with northerly 3-7 beaufort winds and temperatures between 10C and 20C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 7C and 20C.

    [45] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies

    AVGHI: "Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' psychedelic message".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Raid on illegal buildings and parcel plots'.

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "The total subjugation".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Al Qaida double terror in USA".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Arrangement with bonus for thousands of borrowers".

    ELLADA AVRIO: "Samaras' exercises of optimism".

    ESTIA: "SYRIZA threatens with mobilisations".

    ETHNOS: "Marathon of terror in Boston".

    IMERISSIA: "Towards change of page - Agreement/breather for the economy".

    KATHIMERINI: "Lethal explosions in Boston".

    LOGOS: "One goes, one comes in public sector".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "IMF: Greece can't withstand more taxes and cutbacks".

    NIKI: "The final package for illegal buildings'.

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Forward with enthusiasm and spirit of struggle".

    TA NEA: "Terror returns to USA".

    VRADYNI: "The sacrifices now bearing fruit".

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