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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-07-30
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Second PASOK committee meets over firesThe second committee set up by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou to discuss the devastating fires that swept the country in July met in Athens on Monday. In statements afterwards, PASOK spokesman Petros Efthymiou said the government was to blame for the extent of the problem and was seeking to "cover up its inadequacy with communications gimmicks".
Efthymiou criticised the way that the government had handled the loan of a Russian fire-fighting aircraft, noting that it was met in "a pompous manner and with head of state honours". He said this was "unprecedented" and in complete contrast to the low-key reception offered to the same aircraft when it was loaned by Russia in 1998 for the same purpose.
The spokesman called on PASOK supporters and members to provide assistance in preventing and extinguishing fires, as well as in the work of awarding compensation.
The head of the committee Andreas Loverdos said PASOK teams would be set up to monitor developments where fire damage had occurred and said that the government would be given until the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in September in order to carry out promises to provide compensation for the damages incurred both this year and the last.
Others noted that the measures announced by the government were in any case imposed by existing laws, such as in the earthquakes of 1999. Efthymiou criticised a promise by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis that "everything burnt would be reforested" on the same grounds, noting that this was in any case dictated by the Constitution in article 24, which Karamanlis was trying to revise.
Replying to PASOK's criticism, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos stressed that the prime minister's pledge to carry out reforestation would not have been necessary if it had not been preceded by two decades in which Constitutional provisions for reforestation had been flouted by PASOK governments.
"Unfortunately, PASOK neither remembers what it did as a government nor does it now dare, as the opposition, to stray even a little from its familiar path of irresponsibility and populism," he said.
CAPTION: ANA-MPA file photograph of main opposition PASOK's spokesman Petros Efthymiou.
 Seminar for Greek ambassadors at foreign ministryA two-day seminar for Greece's ambassadors abroad began at the foreign ministry on Monday, with an opening speech by Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis on Greece's foreign policy. The seminar aims to fully brief the ambassadors and improve coordination between the ministry and the embassies on foreign policy issues.
Special briefings were then given by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis.
In his speech, Valinakis emphasised the importance of the "European choice" in Greece's foreign policy and expressed the ministry's overall satisfaction with this course, while noting that there was still a lot of work ahead.
Commenting on the Inter-Governmental Conference for the EU Reform Treaty, meanwhile, he stressed the need to adhere strictly to the agreements made, so that by the end of 2007 the EU would have a renewed institutional and political countenance and be ready to move forward functionally and effectively, internally stronger and with a more important international role.
The Reform Treaty ensured enough new conditions providing flexibility and effectiveness, which were necessary in an enlarged Europe, Valinakis said. Settling the loose ends concerning EU institutions would allow the Community to try to restore the lost balance between deepening and enlargement, he added.
The minister emphasised that Greece wanted a European course for the western Balkans and Turkey to remain but its support for the candidacy of these countries depended on their fully meeting the criteria that had been set.
Noting that Turkey should view its European course as a "great opportunity", Valinakis said that Greece expected the new government in Turkey to strongly and decisively carry out the necessary reforms and changes.
In this framework, the minister referred to the issue of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and said that Greece was raising this as an issue on all levels, while stressing that Turkey had an obligation to respect the Patriarchate's ecumenical status, its role and the historic reality that it represented.
On the policy followed by Greece with regard to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Valinakis said that this was "decisive and realistic".
Greece was trying to achieve a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the name in the framework of negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations Secretary General, since only such a solution would result in strengthening the bilateral ties between the two countries, stability in the region and FYROM's unobstructed entry into the EU and NATO.
"Our position toward Skopje is absolutely clear: there is no question of a selective application of the interim agreement," the minister added.
The development minister outlined the basic lines of Greece's new energy policy, describing this as "aggressive and outgoing" and one that boosted Greece's international prestige.
Sioufas listed the bilateral energy agreements that have already been signed, with the historic deal for the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline chief among them, while noting that talks were now underway for an agreement with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
He also pointed to the special global significance of the creation and operation of the energy community, which is expected to bring investments exceeding 30 billion euros. Investments that will reach 5.5 billion euros by 2010 are expected in Greece in the area of renewable energy sources as well, following the incentives introduced by the government.
These very good results were achieved through the high level of cooperation with the foreign ministry, Sioufas added.
Defence minister urges Turkey to stop violating Aegean
In his own address, Meimarakis took the opportunity to urge Turkey to stop "tactics of violations and infringements" in the airspace and waters of the Aegean. The minister stressed that these sort of actions benefited no one and expressed hope that wiser voices would prevail in the new Turkish government.
Our defence dogma is defensively deterrent, Meimarakis told ambassadors. He also noted Greece's steadfast support for the accession of the Balkan countries and Turkey to the EU, provided that they met the necessary criteria, and said that Greece was working to build relations of trust with its neighbour to the east.
The minister presented an overview of the contribution of the Greek Armed Forces in the Balkans and worldwide, noting that the armed forces had the operational capability to participate in multinational missions with 1600 men.
Closing, he stressed that investment in defence was an investment in peace and praised the excellent cooperation between the defence and foreign ministries.
Caption: Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis opened a two-day seminar for Greece's ambassadors abroad at the foreign ministry on Monday, July 30 2007. ANA-MPA/MARGARITA KIAOY
 Fires in Evros, Crete and PieriaThe fire that broke out just before noon on Monday near the village of Skafi, in the municipality of Eastern Selino in Chania on the island of Crete, was still in progress. Firefighters on the ground assisted by 2 helicopters were battling the blaze, while a request has been made for additional airborne assistance. The villages of Tzoukariako and Loukiana have been evacuated for precautionary reasons, while firemen were trying to prevent the flames from reaching the village of Skafi. Meanwhile, a major wildfire that broke out on Sunday in the Sikorachi-Avra region in the municipality of Alexandroupolis, Evros Prefecture, was placed under control in the early morning hours of Monday after destroying roughly 300 hectares of grassland. Firemen assisted by the army and a helicopter took part in the ongoing firefighting efforts. According to local residents, the fire broke out simultaneously in three areas, raising suspicions of arson. Meanwhile, a fire erupted earlier in the Aisymi Forest in Alexandroupolis, among the major green areas in the region. Strong firefighting forces assisted by two PZL firefighting aircraft and a helicopter are battling the blaze. Firefighting efforts in progress in northern-northwestern Greece Firefighters continued to battle the fire fronts in Western Macedonia, northwestern Greece on Monday, while in Central Macedonia, in the northern part of the country, the overall wildfire situation has improved, with the blaze in the region of Fteri, Pieria prefecture, being the only one in progress. The wildfires in Skra, Kilkis prefecture, and in Dorkada and Assiros, near Thessaloniki, have been extinguished but firefighting forces remained in the area for precautionary reasons. The fire in Fteri has subsided but firefighting efforts were being hampered by the region's rugged terrain. A total of 82 firemen, 16 fire engines and 4 aircraft were participating in the firefighting efforts underway. In the prefecture of Kozani, in the northwest, wildfires were in progress in the Katafigi borough in the municipality of Velventos and in the Imeron borough in the municipality of Servia. The picture was the same in the Kastoria prefecture fire fronts, where firemen continued to battle the flames in the community of Arrenon and in Palea Kotyli in the municipality of Nestorio. The fire front in the region of Kotyli extended over a large area and the firefighting efforts were being hampered by the existence of minefields in the region and the rugged terrain. Meanwhile, wildfires continued to rage in Florina prefecture in Varba-Sfika in the Lake Prespes region and in Smadersi in the municipality of Krystallopigi. Caption: Fire-fighters attempt to put out a fire that broke out in Stamata in Attica on Sunday, 29 July 2007. ANA-MPA/SIMELA PANTZARTZI
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