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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-12-16

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From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Parliamentary debate on the 2008 state budget begins
  • [02] Greek support for Lebanon reiterated

  • [01] Parliamentary debate on the 2008 state budget begins

    The Parliamentary debate on the 2008 state budget began on Sunday evening in the presence of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    Ruling New Democracy (ND) general rapporteur Marios Salmas stressed that ?the 2008 state budget serves the policy of changes and reforms which started four years ago and implemented to the full are all the important commitments which we undertook before the (general) elections.?

    According to NDās Etoloakarnania deputy, the new budget ?strengthens the social state and the income of the economically weaker individuals with targeted actions and grants, while indicative also of the decisiveness and the government's pace is the immediate tabling and voting in the first three months since the elections of five important economic draft laws which we had announced before the elections. The new system of management of the EU funds of the new program period, the National Social Cohesion Fund, the provisions for the combating of tax evasion, the increases in pensions and the tax adjustments on fuel and real estate are already laws of the state.?

    Salmas criticized the main opposition PASOK party of ?fabricating the fiscal figures," when it was in power and noted that ?we always find before us in the planning of the future the mistakes of the past.?

    He praised Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, saying that the ministerās effort is bearing fruit. ?All the reports which to date have seen the light of publicity, as the per capita GDP in purchasing power is assessedd to have been increased in relation to the average limit of the ā15ā of the EU, while the index of the economic climate in Greece remains very close to the EU average level and exceeds significantly the average in the Eurosone,? Salmas said.

    The Parliamentary debate on the 2008 state budget will come to an end on Friday midnight with a vote.

    [02] Greek support for Lebanon reiterated

    Greece is always at the side of Lebanon and supports the efforts of the government of prime minister Fouad Siniora for de-escalation of the political crisis that still plagues the country, Greece's deputy foreign minister Theodoros Kassimis conveyed to Siniora and ministers of the Lebanese government during a three-day visit to the country that wound up on Sunday.

    The visit took place during a very critical time, amidst a new tragic blow with the assassination of Lebanese Armed Forces deputy commander, General Francois El Hajj and other soldiers in a morning rush-hour car bomb attack in Baabda, Lebanon, which increased the existing worry and uncertainty over the country's future.

    The talks with the political leadership of Lebanon were held in a spirit of friendship, mutual respect and confidence that pervades the realtions between the two countries, according to diplomatic sources. Kassimis was briefed on the situation and the crucial issue of the election of a President of the Republic in Lebanon, which has divided the government and opposition, thus increasing the risk of destablisation of Lebaonon.

    In his talks with prime minister Siniora and foreign minister Fawzi Salloukh, and also with minister of information Ghazi Aridi and minister of culture Tareq Mitri, Kassimis reiterated the firm positions of the Greek government supporting the independence and political sovereignty of Lebanon and the unity of the Lebanese people and political forces who were trying to find a solution to the country's political problem from within the constitutional framework and the democratic principles governing the country's form of government.

    The election of a President in Lebanon will be the first fundamental step on the way to resolving the political crisis, according to the ministers who met with Kassimis, and who appealed for a consensus solution and compromise.

    On Lebanese-Greek relations, both sides described them as excellent and mutually supportive in the international organisations, while, in the context of the meetings, the two sides also examined further prospects for strengthening the bridges of friendship and cooperation between the two countries in the economic, cultural and educational sectors.

    The Lebanese government also thanked Greece for its humanitarian and developmenta aid to Lebanon both during the war and afterwards.

    During his visit, Kassimis also met with the small but robust Greek communities in Beirut and Tripoli, and with the Metropolitans of the two cities, and the deputy minister was declared an official member of the Greek community of Beirut, during a reception in his honour, in a gesture of gratitude for the efforts of the Greek government and Kassimis himself throughout the crisis of the summer of 2006, when Greece was a protagonist in the evacuation of civilians wishing to leave Lebanon, while after the war ended Greece was also the first country to send humanitarian aid.

    Kassimis further visited the University of Balamand, which has an Orthodox Theology School, and promised to study a request for the establishment of a Greek Language and Culture Centre at the university.

    He said that the Greek government was trying to reinforce the activities of the Greek communities, and of the associations of Lebanese graduates of Greek universities and all the orther organisations with Greek links that are in Lebanon.

    Kassimis announced that, as of the next academic year, the number of scholarships for Lebanese students at Greek universities would be increased, as would the number of Lebanese children hosted every summer at the camps belonging to the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad.

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