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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-10-09
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM inspects flood-ravaged regions around Thessaloniki prefecturePrime Minister Costas Karamanlis left urgently for Thessaloniki shortly before noon on Monday to meet up with a team of senior government officials who arrived early in the day to visit the regions in northern Greece hard hit by torrential rains and flash floods over the weekend.
Karamanlis later presided over a meeting with the government team and local officials on confronting the problems caused by the inclement weather.
Karamanlis' scheduled noon-time meeting with Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyannis was postponed for Tuesday morning.
The team of government officials, headed by interior, public administration and decentralisation minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, assessed the damage caused by the torrential rainfall throughout the weekend during a meeting at the Stavros Town Hall in Halkidiki. The meeting, chaired by Pavlopoulos, was also attended by agricultural development and food minister Evangelos Basiakos, among others.
Damage assessment got underway on Sunday, and losses will be compensated quickly to help the affected people solve the serious problems they face, while the government has pledged to approve larger compensations than usually approved in cases of natural disasters because of the extent of the phenomena, according to Macedonia-Thrace minister George Kalantzis, who visited the flood-stricken areas early in the day.
The villages of Nea Apollonia, Modi, and Varvara were without power on Monday morning, while fire brigade crews continued to pump out flooded homes in Vrasna, Stavros and Olympiada.
The weather in Thessaloniki and Halkidiki has slightly improved since the early morning hours, but the state mechanism was still in a state of alert, while rain continued in western Macedonia, but without causing serious problems.
Road axes cut in two, flooded basements and stores, destroyed infrastructures, livestock and crops, and desperate residents trying to remove the waters from their flooded homes formed the picture of regions of Thessaloniki and Halkidiki on Monday morning.
A state of emergency was declared in the region on Sunday.
Caption: A bridge on the old Thessaloniki-Kavala highway was washed away by flood waters from torrential rains on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2006. ANA-MPA photo / N. Arvanitidis.
 Gov't warning over school takeovers; strike con'tThe teachers' union on Monday continued its strike, which entered a fourth week, with a rally outside the education ministry in downtown Athens as minor scuffles were reported after several dozen protesters attempted to enter the ministry for a meeting with Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou.
Among others, the teachers' union is demanding a more than 40-percent salary increase in the base pay of educators, along with a dedicated 5 percent of GDP towards the education sector. Junior and high school teachers along with some university students' groups and a professors' union have also warned that they may join the mobilisations.
Beyond pay hikes, educators' unions are also unanimously opposed to the repeal of a constitutional amendment (Article XVI) banning the founding and operation of private, non-profit universities in the east Mediterranean country -- a situation that the government has promised to overturn.
Meanwhile, during a regular press briefing the same day, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos roundly condemned the possibility of "takeovers" of high schools by pupils, following several days of speculation and various reports in the press.
"The practice of taking over schools has been repeatedly condemned by public opinion ... no one has the right to play with our children's future," the spokesman said.
Moreover, Roussopoulos called on all political parties to clarify their positions regarding "this phenomenon, which is apparently being incited by some".
Asked what the government would do in case of threatened takeovers, Roussopoulos said:
"The government respects every view, as long as a relevant decision is within the framework of constitutionality," he said, while at the same time pointing directly to an incident over the weekend at the University of Athens' main administrative offices, the neo-classical Propylaea building next to the Athens Academy that served as the first university in modern Greece.
"...we saw a takeover of the university's main administrative building by people that raised a banner promoting a demand that prisons be disbanded and that a member of N17 (the ultra-leftist terror gang) be freed. What democratic conscience isn't enraged by such a demand?" he asked.
In a later reaction, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) reiterated that it backs educators' demands and mobilizations by students and pupils, while "condemning the government's stance and a policy of suppression".
On its part, the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party took umbrage with a reference to its leader, Alekos Alavanos, by the government spokesman during the latter's press briefing.
Roussopoulos' indirect mention of Alavanos' comments in Parliament late last week in response to a question regarding "incitement" of school takeovers generated a heated response by Synaspismos.
Finally, both the GSEE umbrella union grouping and the civil servants' union, ADEDY, on Monday announced a strike action for Wednesday, with the latter opting for a 24-hour nation-wide strike and the former deciding on a four-hour work stoppage.
Caption: Striking teachers and supporters chant slogans outside the education ministry in downtown Athens on Monday, Oct. 9, 2006. ANA-MPA photo / S. Pantzartzi.
 Gov't disputes Papandreou on ties with AnkaraThe government on Monday contradicted statements made by main opposition PASOK's president George Papandreou regarding the course of relations with neighbouring Turkey, during an interview appearing in Sunday's edition of the Athens daily "Ethnos".
According to government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, when the New Democracy government took over after the 2004 elections, a memorandum on the progress of Greek-Turkish exploratory talks presented to the then new foreign minister Petros Molyviatis by departing minister Tassos Yiannitsis had not indicated that any kind of progress had been made.
The spokesman was responding to questions regarding Papandreou's statement in the interview with "Ethnos", in which he said that the two sides "had reached a point where we would have agreed on a procedure through which Turkey would have withdrawn its 'grey-zones' type demands," and where all that was needed to reach an overall agreement was a "final push".
During the interview, Papandreou asserted that he and then prime minister Costas Simitis had discussed whether they should proceed with such an agreement but decided to wait until after the 2004 elections, when they would have a fresh mandate, because they believed that Costas Karamanlis would refuse to accept the deal and claim that it was not binding for him in the run-up to the elections.
Commenting on Papandreou's reference to talks on a "political level" with Turkey, Roussopoulos challenged PASOK's leader to reveal what these contacts were, who had made them, what their object and results were and whether Papandreou had informed anyone apart from then premier Costas Simitis.
He also noted that PASOK officials claimed that "as if by magic, all issues from Greek-Turkish relations to the Macedonia name problem, would have been solved by March 2004 or at the latest April 1 of 2004. And that everything stopped to move when ND became government."
"I would like to point out that Mr. Papandreou was deputy minister at the foreign ministry for two years and a minister for eight years," Roussopoulos added.
ANA-MPA file photo of Roussopoulos.
 PM tours Acropolis Museum construction sitePrime Minister Costas Karamanlis visited the under-construction new Acropolis Museum on Monday morning, accompanied by Culture Minister George Voulgarakis, Organisation for the Construction of the New Acropolis Museum president Dimitris Pantermalis, culture ministry officials and archaeologists. The prime minister was given a guided tour of both the old and the new section of the museum, while he also watched the Caryatids' casts -- marble figues of nymphs atop the Acropolis -- being put in place.
The prime minister said that the new museum provides a very powerful argument to Greece in support of the return of the Parthenon Marbles, adding that a very important step is being made toward the realization of a vision shared by all Greeks and all of Greece's friends around the world.
Karamanlis underlined that the new Acropolis Museum project has entered the finishing stretch, with construction slated for completion in the first half of 2007.
He said that it will be the most up-to-date archaeological museum in the world, and worthy of the Acropolis exhibits. Soon, said the prime minister, both Greek and foreign visitors will be able to admire up-close the archaeological treasures brought to light by excavations in the wider Acropolis area.
Caption: PM Karamanlis walks in front of the new Acropolis Museum on Monday, Oct. 9, 2006. ANA-MPA photo / P. Saitas.
 Dimas-Gore talks on climate changeThe US administration's stance on the issue of global climate change will be the primary issue during a meeting here on Monday between EU Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas and former American vice-president Al Gore.
According to a Commission press release, the 2000 US presidential contender will meet with Dimas shortly before a documentary on climate change and the "greenhouse effect", presented by Gore himself, debuts to a Belgian audience.
The screening will take place at the Belgian capital's Palais des Beaux Arts.
Caption: File photo of Al Gore in 2003. EPA/ANA-MPA.
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