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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-09-09
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Karamanlis repeats call for clear majority, rules out cooperationPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis once again asked voters to give him and the New Democracy party a clear mandate in next week's general elections, during a press conference held on Sunday at the 72nd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF). He repeated earlier warnings that "a negative vote leads nowhere" and stressed that the lack of a one-party majority would necessarily trigger another round of elections, ruling out all prospects of cooperation with the other parties likely to be elected to Parliament.
At the same time, he expressed conviction that voters "will honour him with their trust and give ND the mandate to continue its work and the reforms that the country needs."
Clarifying his statements about the inevitability of repeat elections in the case of a hung Parliament, Karamanlis stressed that this was not a form of pressure of 'blackmail' but a simple statement of fact.
"Objectively, with regard to ND the possibility of cooperation does not exist and it is therefore obvious that we will be led to elections," he said.
According to Karamanlis, the electorate demanded that the government move more decisively and at a more intense pace, while he disagreed that the upcoming elections would be a close-run race, predicting that ND would once again receive a clear majority.
Asked whether he would press ahead with reforms in the case that this majority was marginal, he stressed his "political will to go ahead with the changes and radical reforms the country needs," stressing that it was not a question of numbers but political will.
Assessing his government's performance since its election in March 2004, the prime minister conceded that not everything had been perfect and that he himself was not satisfied but stressed that important steps forward had been made and that the government was on the right track.
During the press conference, Karamanlis also emphasised his determination not to be dragged into a polarisation of the political climate and the fanaticism that he said had proved harmful to the country in the past. According to the premier, the recent tragedy with the destructive fires had given rise to a new social solidarity and a new patriotism that had sealed his decision not to succumb to party political wrangling.
Regarding his refusal of a request by PASOK leader George Papandreou for a meeting of the political party leaders to discuss the recent fires, meanwhile, he said the demand had been an attempt to create impressions at a time when Greece was facing a huge crisis.
Asked why he had not replaced the people responsible for dealing with the fires, Karamanlis stressed that these were not decisions to be taken in the heat of the moment but required careful thought and wisdom. The end object was not to find a scapegoat or pander to public opinion but to increase efficiency, he underlined. He stressed, meanwhile, that the government had been very fast and efficient in the decisions and measures taken for the relief of fire victims.
Questioned on his plans if re-elected, the prime minister said that he aimed for a more flexible Cabinet but added that the time and place had to be chosen carefully in order achieve the goal of efficiency.
Asked whether election laws should change, he said this was a possibility but pointed out that it had been discussed during 2007 and that he had then decided not to carry out any changes. The new election law in place for these elections must first be tried out once and a decision on whether it should be changed would be based on the results, he added.
Regarding his plans in the event that his party was defeated, Karamanlis made it clear that he had no intention of pulling out of politics at just 51 years old, stressing that "we have a difficult task and important steps to carry out and we are in the midst of an uphill struggle".
Questioned about whether he had a "number two" within his party, the premier said that there were many members of the party that might occupy that position and that he personally felt like a "first among equals". He underlined that the climate among the top echelons of the party was very good, much better than that of past governments.
At the same time, he let it be understood that there would be a renewal of the government members if the party emerged victorious and repeated earlier positions for the voluntary mergers of local authorities after talks among the bodies concerned.
On the government's attempts to revise article 24 of the Constitution that governs the status of forests and forested lands, he said his party had attempted to more effectively protect real forests but left open the possibility that the attempted reform might be shelved, saying that there were "reasonable concerns".
He also gave guarantees that the specifications for protecting the environment around the oil and natural gas pipelines in the Alexandroupolis area would be fully met.
To questions on the mobile phone-tapping affair, meanwhile, Karamanlis noted that he "was the first person who would like to know who was eavesdropping on my phone".
The prime minister also defended the government's actions regarding the controversial history book for the last year of primary school. While noting that he personally disagreed with many of the references in the book, he underlined that a "serious government" that respected laws and institutions could not simply withdraw it.
Karamanlis pointed out that the book had been sent for evaluation to the Athens Academy and that all the observations it had made had been incorporated in the amended version, while a book by Dido Sotiriou on the Asia Minor disaster was also circulated for free in order to give students a broader background on the events of that time.
If the book was found wanting after an evaluation of the amended version during the current academic year, it would then be withdrawn and a tender for a new book would be declared, the prime minister added.
Questioned on the status of the minority groups in northern Greece - and a statement by a Moslem ND deputy that he considered himself Turkish - Karamanlis repeated that the status of the Moslem minority was governed by the provisions of the Lausanne Treaty and that Greece had a "clearcut policy for minorities".
He noted that the Human Rights Charter included a reference to the right of self-determination but stressed that Greece accepted self-determination on an individual but not a group basis. He also pointed out that the Moslem minority was made up of a number of ethnic groups that included Pomaks, gypsies and those of Turkish origin.
Premier outlines foreign policy positions
Responding to questions on foreign policy, Karamanlis stressed that the Greek side had shown good will toward the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) concerning the dispute over that republic's chosen name and now expected FYROM's government to do the same.
He had been asked whether the government intended to veto FYROM's entry into NATO and the European Union if a solution to the name issue was not found.
"If it does not do this, we cannot in practice support its EuroAtlantic prospects," Karamanlis emphasised, adding that Greece would use every means at its disposal.
"This is the framework, this is if you like the clearcut message I am sending the other side. Beyond that, we will not reveal all the manoeuvres that the government can and must carry out on such an issue in advance," he told reporters.
"I do not question anyone's patriotism but I will not allow anyone to present himself as more sensitive on this issue related than me," said Karamanlis, who hails from Serres in the northern Greek province of Macedonia.
With respect to Turkey, Karamanlis repeated the government's standing position for "full compliance, full accession" and with regard to Kosovo he called for a solution that was not imposed from above and formed part of the prospect of a European future for all countries in the region.
Asked whether cooperation with Russia in the energy sector might disrupt Greece's relations with the United States, Karamanlis said the government felt at this time that this was a policy that would benefit the country's interests without affecting its relations with other partners and allies.
He also stressed that Greece was a very safe country, even after the recent fires, and that this was something that was internationally established, pointing out that even as voices in Greece were raising these concerns the U.S. had begun a process where Greeks visiting the U.S. would not need visas.
Caption: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis held a press conference and asked for a clear mandate in next week's elections on the sidelines of the 72nd Thessaloniki International Fair on Sunday, 9 September 2007. ANA-MPA/
 Two-party system the enemy, Papariga saysVoters should not fear the prospect of a hung Parliament but consider the harsh measures of a strong government serving the profitability of capital, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said in an interview appearing in the Thessaloniki-based newspaper "Aggelioforos" on Sunday. Papariga is due to address a KKE pre-election rally in Thessaloniki on Sunday night at 21:00.
She said the electorate should not judge ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK by their pre-election promises but by their actions, while she dismissed the Coalition of the Radical Left as "a party after the fact".
"Our goal is that ND and PASOK should be lower and the KKE as high as possible. This is what serves the interests of the people, this is what concerns the plutocracy that wants new harsh measures against workers, the self-employed, small and middle-sized farmers to be taken on the day after the elections so that it can continue making profits unobstructed," she said.
The stronger and harsher the two-party system, the weaker the people would be, Papariga added.
Commenting on the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, meanwhile, she called it a party with reactionary, nationalist and anti-communist positions and warned that its "demagoguery must not fool anyone".
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