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Athens News Agency: News in English, 01-12-12
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Andrew Athens re-elected SAE president12/12/2001 22:53:56
Andrew Athens was re-elected on Wednesday for the third consecutive time as president of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE).
His re-election came at the end of the sessions of the 4th SAE World Congress which was held in Thessaloniki.
Stephanos Tamvakis was elected Alternate President, succeeding Constantine Papas.
 Gov't offers tax breaks to boost mergers12/12/2001 21:45:22
The government is to offer tax breaks to spur mergers and business activity in a bill destined for parliament in coming days, National Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis told a news conference on Wednesday.
The measures, which come into effect on January 1, include a drop in tax on corporate profits of companies that merge by 10 percentage points for the year following the merger.
In the second year after the merger, the drop in tax on corporate earnings will be five percentage points.
The tax relief applies to mergers carried out between January 1, 2002 and December 31, 2005, and does not apply to affiliates, Christodoulakis said.
Also eligible for the tax relief are farming cooperatives that merge.
 14 'plane spotters' released on bail12/12/2001 21:43:13
All 14 British and Dutch ?plane spotters? held in custody over the past month on espionage charges were released on bail by a three-member panel of judges in Kalamata on Wednesday.
Bail for each member of the group 12 British nationals and two Dutchmen was set at five million drachmas (roughly US$ 13,000), while charges were reduced.
A Kalamata investigating magistrate and a public prosecutor late last month decided to refer to the case to the panel of judges after Greek intelligence officials pointed to espionage in their report to court officials.
Conversely, the 14 foreign nationals 13 men and one woman -- have continued to maintain throughout that they were on a ?plane spotting? vacation when arrested outside a military airbase near Kalamata.
Photographing military installations is prohibited in Greece, although the 14 say they had an invitation to attend an air show in Kalamata.
They were arrested on Nov. 8 in the port city, three days after being briefly detained at an airbase north of Athens for photographing the site.
 Public order ministry unveils draft bill to combat sexual exploitation12/12/2001 21:43:05
Criminal activities including the trade in human beings, the sexual exploitation of children and women and pornography with the depiction of children will soon be considered as part of the categories labeled organized crime, according to a draft bill of the public order ministry.
These crimes will also be included in the list of crimes of the trafficking and money laundering legislation now in force.
This draft bill establishes the witness protection institution, it institutes special penalties for the "clients" of children's sexual exploitation, it raises the age limit of protection for minors to 18 years of age and provides for the social support of victims.
Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis said that this bill is a necessary step in Greece's course to harmonization with the international practice, as the country is not just a path of immigrants to other countries but one of permanent residence for them.
 Local gov'ts reach out to US and Afghan children in the spirit of Christmas12/12/2001 21:42:58
The Christmas spirit touched local administration as the Central Union of Greek Municipalities and Communities (KEDKE) decided to host children from the United States that lost their parents in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and children from war torn Afghanistan.
The program was organized by KEDKE in cooperation with UNICEF and the part that regards children from the United States will take place next summer in cooperation with the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE).
KEDKE President Paris Koukoulopoulos also announced that three dialysis machines will be donated to an equal number of hospitals in Athens and computers will be donated to all single teacher schools of Greece.
As for the Afghani children, he said that KEDKE aims to initially host 500 students and their teachers from the war torn country, but noted the difficulties in accomplishing this task.
 Gov't urges smaller firms to get euro supplies quickly12/12/2001 18:41:25
National Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis on Wednesday urged small and medium sized enterprises to ensure their supply of euros before the single European currency is launched in physical form on January 1.
The minister told reporters that most large enterprises were ready for the euro's launch, but that smaller firms would be the main channel of distribution to business and the public for the new currency.
Drachma deposits in banks will automatically be converted into euros on December 31, he added.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - Thursday12/12/2001 18:23:52
Indicative tourist buying rates
U.S. dollar 378.190
German mark 172.829
French franc 051.531
Pound sterling 544.581
Irish punt 429.202
Belgian franc 008.379
Luxembourg franc 008.379
Dutch guilder 153.389
Italian lira (100) 017.457
Austrian schilling 024.565
Danish kroner 045.378
Swedish kroner 036.023
Finnish mark 056.852
Spanish peseta 002.032
Portuguese escudo 001.686
Japanese yen (100) 300.193
Swiss franc 229.337
Norwegian kroner 042.218
Cyprus pound 588.088
Canadian dollar 241.358
Australian dollar 196.126
 Nireas buys stake in Norwegian fish farmer12/12/2001 18:17:56
Management of Nireas, which is quoted on the Athens bourse, on Wednesday decided to acquire an 11.05 percent stake in Aquacon AS of Norway, which operates in fish hatcheries and franchising.
Fish farmer Nireas will inject 1.5 million Norwegian kroner, equal to about 60 million drachmas, into a share capital increase held by Aquacon, thus acquiring the stake, the Greek company said in a statement.
The Norwegian firm also operates in Malaysia.
 Credit Agricole eyes new stake in Commercial Bank of Greece12/12/2001 17:49:08
Credit Agricole of France has said that it is interested in boosting its stake in state-owned Commercial Bank of Greece, the domestic bank's president, Yiannis Stournaras, told reporters on Wednesday.
The new share purchase would be sought after Credit Agricole, which has owned a 6.7 percent stake in Commercial since the middle of 2000, completes its entry into the Paris bourse, Stournaras said.
Commercial Bank's majority shareholder is the state, with a chunk of shares floated on the Athens Stock Exchange. The government has not said whether it would be willing to lower its holding in Commercial.
In addition, a new consumer credit company is expected to begin operations in the domestic market at the end of the first half of 2002, owned by the two banks, Stournaras added.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks slump in glum trade, PPC drops12/12/2001 17:32:41
The Athens bourse finished lower on Wednesday with pressure seen on stocks across the board, including state-owned Public Power Corporation (PPC), which plunged 5.04 percent on its trading debut.
The general share index shed 1.52 percent to end at 2,605.30 points. Turnover was 381.38 million euros, including a large chunk of turnover from transactions in the PPC.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 1.64 percent down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalisation paper 2.15 percent lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap equities 2.64 percent down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 323 to 23 with nine issues remaining unchanged.
 Weather Forecast: Rain, storms, snow on Thursday12/12/2001 17:05:52
Rain and storms are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday with snow on high ground and in low lying areas of the centre. Winds variable, moderate to strong, with storms at sea. In the north, temperatures will range from -5C to 4C; in the centre from -1C to 8C; and in the south from 5C to 12C. Rain in Athens with snow on high ground. Temperatures between 4C and 8C. Snow in Thessaloniki with temperatures from -2C to 3C.
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