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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-06-27
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PASOK leader concludes contacts in Israel, Palestinian territoryMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou concluded his contacts in Israel and in the Palestinian territory late on Tuesday night, during the second stage of his Middle East tour, in his capacity as Socialist International President.
Talks with Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Jerusalem Patriarch Theofilos III and former Israeli justice minister and one of the protagonists of the Geneva Initiative, Yossi Beilin, as well as the telephone conversation he held with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, focused on new developments following the abduction of an Israeli soldier by the forces of Hamas, as well as on the escalation of tension, that appears to be a one-way street following the decision by the Israeli military to invade Gaza.
Peretz briefed him on the Israeli government's scepticism over the loss of control of the situation by the security forces of the Palestinian Authority in Palestinian territory and in the Gaza Strip in particular.
The Israeli defence minister also told Papandreou that following the abduction of the Israeli soldier by Hamas militants, an extensive operation in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army would be difficult to prevent.
Papandreou, on his part, stressed the need for both sides to show self-restraint, while expressing his concern over the escalation of the crisis.
During a meeting with Yossi Beilin, the two men discussed developments on the international political scene, while probing the Palestinian issue and possibilities of defusing the crisis in the Palestinian territory.
The meeting with Shimon Peres followed the same lines, while the increasing tension and the possible invasion of Gaza by the Israeli army obliged Papandreou to postpone his visit to the city of Gaza and his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The reason for the postponement of the meeting was the fact that neither Israel nor the Palestinians could guarantee his safe passage to the region. However, he held a telephone conversation with the Palestinian leader, who briefed him on efforts he is making to prevent matters from worsening, even at the last moment.
 OECD education ministers summit beginsEducation Minister Marietta Yiannakou on Tuesday inaugurated the OECD's education ministers summit at a hotel in Lagonissi, south of Athens.
Yiannakou, who presides over the summit, said "the aim of the presidency is the creation of preconditions for achieving a common target. For the qualitative upgrading and the best possible improvement of third stage education systems."
Yiannakou termed education as being "the most important guarantee for investing in the future", adding that "it is necessary for us to delineate challenges and outstrip retarding factors which dissociate higher education from wider society and decrease its social dividends. We also hope for the sensitisation of all sides."
The education minister went on to say that "the social and institutional mission of the university must be reconsidered through the prism of new social and economic factors and necessities."
She also stressed that a quality university "constitutes a factor promoting social cohesion by providing the equal possibility and participation in knowledge for the socially and financially weaker."
Yiannakou pointed out that "we are being called upon to secure the greatest possible consensus, guaranteeing the viability of an upgraded model of higher education that will meet the need for the continuous updating of knowledge and of the citizens' skills."
The education minister was followed by OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria, who expressed satisfaction because the summit is taking place in Athens, where the first Academy was created, adding that education issues will be discussed in a modern Academy.
Lastly, he said that, "unfortunately, many member-states have adopted higher education models which are largely financed by the state." He noted that solutions should be found, while the financially weaker students should be helped with subsidised loans and scholarships.
 Greece to continue participating in Cyprus' defenceGreece will continue to actively participate in Cyprus' defence issues until the situation on the island republic is normalised and a viable, functional and just solution for the reunification of the island is found, Greece's National Defence Minister Evagelos Meimarakis told reporters on Tuesday after talks with visiting Cyprus new Defence Minister Phivos Klokkaris.
"Greece's active participation in issues partaining to Cyprus' defence, until the situation becomes normal and a viable, functional and just solution for the reunification of the island is found, goes without saying," Meimarakis said.
As regards the joint defence pact between Greece and Cyprus, Meimarakis said that the Greek position "has been steadfast all these years".
"The visit today by the Cypriot defence minister sends a strong message that the two governments and the two defence ministers can cooperate with the best possible perspectives and orientations, extending the cooperation we had with the previous defence minister," the Greek minister added.
Klokkaris, on his part, said that the "security environment on the island is heavy due to the presence of the (Turkish) occupation forces and Turkey's intransigence, which does not fulfill its obligations towards the Cyprus Republic."
Greece's support in the building up of Cyprus' defence is very important and there is a common volition for the strengthening of these bonds, Klokkaris said.
Meimarakis noted that there were "movements on the part of the neighbouring country (Turkey) that are disappointing for the Greek people and which, we believe, are not helpful neither in Turkey's European Union accession course nor in good neighbourliness relations."
"We are steadfastly fixed to the peaceful resolution of issues, considering that we must have open channels of communication and a substantive dialogue for the finding of necessary solutions," Meimarakis said.
"When one becomes a member of a family such as the European Union one is obliged to respect the rules, principles and values set by all in order to live together. Consequently, I believe that anyone who desires cohabitation must adjust to these facts. Nobody is exercising pressure on nobody. The rules are a fact and one should accept them in order to participate," he said in relation to Turkey's EU accession course.
Regarding a U.S demand for the withdrawal of arms of U.S. origine from Cyprus, Meimarakis said that talks were still going on for a positive settlement of the issue.
The talks also focused on cooperation between the two countries on a European level, with the Greek minister saying that Cyprus could play an important role in the framework of European defence and security policy due to its geo-strategic position.
 World Gymnasiade 2006 beginsThe opening ceremony of the 13th ISF (International School Sport Federation) World Gymnasiade 2006 was held at the indoor Olympic Stadium in the Athens district of Galatsi on Tuesday evening in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
The event is being held in Greece for the first time, beginning on Wednesday and ending on Sunday July 2.
President Papoulias proclaimed the opening of the sports event in which 1,800 boys and girls from all over the world participate. Education and Religion Minister Marietta Yiannakou and Deputy Sports Minister George Orfanos were also present during the ceremony.
Yiannakou said in her address that "the Gymnasiade, created with the Olympiad as its model, is in essence a miniature replica of the Olympic Games, a celebration of sport and culture which is gathering young people from all the widths and breadths of the earth here in Athens."
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