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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-02-09
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Gov't, PASOK square off over Constitution revisionThe government and main opposition PASOK party on Friday bandied cross-accusations over PASOK's decision to back out of supporting a proposed revision of the Constitution. Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros slammed PASOK as "irresponsible" - to which PASOK's Petros Efthymiou replied that "Mr. Antonaros must have been looking at himself in the mirror".
Antonaros was commenting on PASOK's stated intention not to participate in a vote on reforming certain articles of the Greek Constitution, both in the present and the next Parliament.
Rejecting Antonaros' criticism, PASOK's spokesman stressed that PASOK's positions on the issue of Constitutional revision were "responsible and crystal clear".
He counter-accused the government of leading the revision process into a complete deadlock by restricting its margins and not accepting any of PASOK's proposals.
Efthymiou also accused the ruling party of trying to impose its positions with "unprecedented Parliamentary putsches" - a reference to an incident a week ago when an ND proposal for Constitutional article 24 was nearly passed at committee without the required majority by improperly counting an MP that was not actually on the Committee. The MP later claimed he had coincidentally raised his hand to signal someone at the time when the vote took place.
The irregularity was picked up by opposition MPs on the spot and was one of the main arguments used by PASOK to justify last week's motion of no confidence in the government and its withdrawal from the vote on Constitutional reform that PASOK leader George Papandreou had earlier backed. PASOK has already participated in debates and voting on the proposed revisions at the Committee stage.
According to Efthymiou, PASOK's proposal for early elections simultaneously suspends the process of revising the Constitution and the parties will go to the elections faced with a dilemma over which political force - and in what direction - will adopt Constitutional principles that are in favour of society and the citizens.
He said that ND "was obliged to accept PASOK's position on this issue".
Parliament president seeks PASOK MPs signature on withdrawal from Constitution revision
In an exchange of letters with PASOK Parliamentary group secretary Dimitris Reppas on Thursday, Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki asked for a statement that PASOK is not participating in the remainder of the process for revising the Constitution, signed by all the party's MPs.
Otherwise, she warned, the proposals made by PASOK MPs will be included in the Revision Committee's report to the full Parliament.
In his reply, Reppas stressed that PASOK will not participate in the revision process in any way after the events in Parliament and that the party trumpeted its objections to such moves.
PASOK's position is that, in order for a revision of the Constitution to take place, an initiative must be begun from scratch by the next Parliament.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of PASOK spokesman Petros Efthymiou
 Parties denounce police, Polydoras announcementsGreece's Parliamentary opposition parties on Friday united in their denunciation of an announcement issued by Attica Police headquarters regarding Thursday's protest rally in Athens, which they described by turns as "provocative", an "anti-democratic deviation" and "politically unacceptable".
Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras responded by issuing another announcement that itself came under fire, in which he named several of the critics, including Coalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology (SYN) party leader Alekos Alavanos and main opposition PASOK spokesman Petros Efthymiou, while accusing them of "scare-mongering" with claims about the so-called establishment of a 'Police State'.
"The slanderers and distorters should not overestimate their powers and capabilities. The people can see and know the truth. And they judge us all," Polydoras warned.
The government gave full backing to the police force in response to questions on Friday, with alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros saying that it "acted within the framework of legality".
Antonaros stressed that Greece was a well-governed democracy in which institutions and authorities operated almost perfectly. He also pointed out that the police had briefed prosecuting authorities both verbally and in writing and that it was the responsibility of the police to prevent the disruption of law and order.
In a reply to Polydoras, main opposition PASOK spokesman Petros Efthymiou accused him of deliberately adopting a strategy of tension in order to "fish" for far-right votes and of collaborating with provocateurs in order to cultivate tension.
He also stressed that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis bore full responsibility for the "choices and repeated divisive deviations of Mr. Polydoras," and urged him to take action.
Asked if PASOK was seeking Polydoras' resignation, Efthymiou said that PASOK leader George Papandreou had made heavy charges against the public order minister during the debate on PASOK's no-confidence motion in Parliament last weekend, which should have "sent the minister home".
PASOK sector head for law and order issues, Alekos Papadopoulos, charged that the state of the police force was now "dangerous", with an explosive mixture of systematic partisanship, lack of meritocracy and proven operational inadequacy.
"This message has rendered the police paralysed," he added.
Following on the heels of PASOK, which on Thursday night slammed the police announcement as an "anti-democratic deviation" and a "direct violation of fundamental Constitutional principles", the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Friday said that it "indicated the escalating operation to terrorise the popular movement, for which the government is responsible".
This had been further exposed over the past days by revelations that student associations were being slandered and under surveillance and by a photograph published in the Greek newspaper 'Rizospastis' that showed the familiar masked troublemakers that habitually wreaked havoc in Greek demonstrations engaged in transactions with uniformed police at the Macedonia-Thrace ministry, a party announcement said.
In the wake of the statements by Polydoras, meanwhile, SYN's Alavanos said the government had exceeded "political limits":
"A government is neither democratic nor responsible when its public order minister, with the toleration of the prime minister, accuses the president of a Parliamentary party firstly of being unlawful, then of operating outside a Parliamentary framework and now returns with open threats and abuse," Alavanos said on the sidelines of an event on university reforms and article 16 of the Constitution.
His statement was echoed by the president of the Pan-Hellenic Federation of University Teachers' Associations (POSDEP) Lazaros Apekis - which the controversial police announcement named as "responsible" for bringing 13 coaches of protestors from around the country to join Thursday's rally in Athens - who asked what the government's next "hostile move" would be and announced that a long-term strike by university teachers will continue.
National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) teacher Nikos Belavilas called for the public order minister's resignation and said that Polydoras' announcement on Friday was a new slip that had "added fuel to the flames", adding that the academic community considered him unfit for his position.
"Polydoras should resign," Panteion University teacher Alkis Rigos seconded.
In comments on the police announcement on Thursday, meanwhile, SYN strongly objected to the singling out of Apekis and called it a "monumentally improper and politically unacceptable announcement by a state service that should be the first to recognise the extent of the repercussions and dangers that this unacceptable targetisation can bring."
In its announcement before the start of the rally on Thursday, Attica Police headquarters said that POSDEP and Apekis were responsible for arranging the transport of coach loads of protestors to Athens to take part in a rally against a revision of article 16 of the Constitution and planned university reforms.
It said that police services had been mobilised and were on full alert to "prevent uncontrolled delinquent behaviour by the protestors on board, among whom are individuals of EAAK [a radical left-wing group] and of the anti-authority/anarchist scene," and that prosecuting authorities had been informed about the "behaviour of participants in the above rally, with the responsibility of the POSDEP organising committee and its president."
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo depicting Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras.
 Greece, India eye boost in trade tiesNational Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis wound up an official visit here on Friday following wide-ranging talks with Indian leadership on significantly boosting bilateral trade and economic ties.
Additionally, the Greek minister reiterated Athens' volition to promote the WTO's Doha Round of talks, a position also shared by the Indian side.
Alogoskoufis referred what he called major potential in building material exports and in joint construction projects. Other talks focused on shipping, energy and air transportation. Alogoskoufis stated that there is increased interest by Greek shipping companies to participate in India's maritime transports.
In the energy sector, Alogoskoufis cited Athens' interest in supplying liquefied natural gas to India and in participating in projects to develop renewable forms of energy in that country (wind, biofuels etc.) Air transport was also discussed, particularly with the establishment of direct flights between Greece and India and the likelihood of a London-Athens-New Delhi route.
No exact dates have been set yet for a visit by Indian President Abdul Kalam to Greece as well as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' visit to India, which is expected to take place by the end of the year.
Finally, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia are also scheduled to visit India.
Caption: Alogoskoufis addresses a India-Greece business forum in New Delhi on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007. ANA-MPA / STR
 Hellenic Petroleum to 'green up' refineryHellenic Petroleum SA on Friday said it would invest around 130 million euros in a series of projects aimed to produce more environmentally-friendly fuels, ahead of the country's harmonization with EU directives on desulphurised fuel.
The modernization investments on its refineries include all necessary changes and additions in its refinery, desulphurization, storage and distribution facilities and the replacement of its existing naphtha unit.
Hellenic Petroleum said the project was of environmental nature as it would achieve a significant improvement of energy performance, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 55 percent and particles by 45 percent.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of new ELPE power plant opened in March 2006.
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