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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-06-08

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Strong quake rocks Greece; 2 deaths reported
  • [02] Karamanlis meets Austrian leaders on Mon.
  • [03] Sarkozy visit to Athens
  • [04] Athens Newspaper Headlines

  • [01] Strong quake rocks Greece; 2 deaths reported

    An uncharacteristically strong earthquake rocked much of southwest Greece on Sunday afternoon, with local seismologists pinpointing an intensity of 6.5 on the Richter scale, possibly the strongest quake in modern Greece's history. The earthquake was recorded at 3:26 p.m. (13.26 GMT) local time and was felt as far away as Athens, some 230 kilometers to the east of the epicentre.

    Two quake-related fatalities was reported in Achaia prefecture, with one 55-year-old man crushed under the weight of a collapsed roof in the village of Kato Achaia, along with more a dozen injuries in the immediate vicinity. A couple provincial roadways were also blocked off in the region from cracks in the pavement and from at least one landslide. Power outages were also reported throughout Achaia and Ileia prefectures.

    In the Ileia prefecture village of Fostena four members of an immigrant family were pulled from beneath the rubble of their collapsed stone residence. A total of 37 injuries were reported as a result of the tremor, with many of the injured sustaining fractures in their haste to exit swaying buildings.

    An hour after the quake, the head of Greece's Earthquake Risk Assessment Committee, Prof. Gerasimos Papadopoulos, speaking outside the Athens Observatory to several dozen reporters and television crews, said the earthquake was "shallow", occurring roughly 10 kilometres beneath the earth's surface and with an epicentre near the town of Andravida -- 30 kilometres southwest of the western port city of Patras in southwest Greece. The earthquake was the strongest to hit the area since 1802, according to reports.

    The quake also lasted between 20 to 25 seconds, according to the first eyewitness accounts, and was followed by a strong aftershock of 4.7 on the Richter scale, recorded at 3:55 p.m. (local time).

    At least one decades-old building was reported to have collapsed in Patras, with the majority of calls for assistance from the fire brigade coming from Ileia and Achaia (greater Patras) prefectures.

    A nationwide mobilisation of civil defence and fire brigade units commenced after the natural disaster.

    Finally, schools were also ordered closed on Monday in the affected areas.

    Karamanlis statement, first financial assistance

    In a statement from Vienna in the evening, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis emphasised that "our thoughts at this moment are with our fellow citizens who are affected (by this natural disaster). In expressing the grief of all of us over these developments and loss of life, I want to underline that the State will again stand by those in need ... I have already issued instructions to relevant ministers to initiate the same procedures that were followed last year after the devastating wildfires, so that anyone who lost their permanent residence is provided with initial financial assistance," the prime minister stated.

    In an earlier press conference, Interior & Public Administration Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said authorities at all levels have been instructed to record damages, while announcing that the government will initially allocate 3,000 euros to eligible quake sufferers.

    Athens Mayor and Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) President Nikitas Kaklamanis later announced a 2,000 per eligible quake victim allocation on top of the central government assistance.

    Caption: A quake-damaged home in the Kato Achaia community in the western Peloponnese, southern Greece, hours after a 6.5 on the Richter scale quake shook much of the east Mediterranean country in the eary afternoon. ANA-MPA / YIOTA KORBAKI.

    [02] Karamanlis meets Austrian leaders on Mon.

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed on Saturday by Employment and Social Insurances Minister Fani Palli-Petralia regarding the all-important course of pension reform for the country's creaky social security sector.

    Afterwards, Petralia said three pension funds have merged by June 1, with another 28 funds merged by Aug. 1. She pointed to Oct. 1 as the date for completely various mergers of Greece's numerous state-run pension funds. Moreover, she flatly dismissed opposition criticism that funds' reserves have decreased, saying the planned mergers do not affect funds' guaranteed reserves.

    Meanwhile, the prime minister will be in Austria on Monday, where he will be received by Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Vice-Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer. Additionally, the Greek PM will meet with the head of the Austrian Peoples Party (├VP) Wolfgang Sch├╝ssel.

    On Tuesday, Karamanlis will be in Salzburg to watch the Greece-Sweden match for the Euro 2008 football championship first round.

    Caption: File photo of Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. ANA-MPA

    [03] Sarkozy visit to Athens

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday referred to a "new Greece-France alliance" in a head-of-state address to the Greek Parliament, as well as to a series of issues of heightened importance for Greek leadership.

    A beaming Sarkozy, among others, first referred to his Thessaloniki-born maternal grandfather, telling a packed Parliament chamber that his late grandfather would have been very proud today to see his grandson return to Greece as a president of France.

    In hinting at the main cornerstones of the soon-to-begin French EU presidency, the high-profile French leader cited the problem of illegal immigration in the Union, as well as Paris' proposal for the establishment of a Mediterranean Union.

    Additionally, he reiterated his views on Europe-Turkey relations, repeating that France favors a "special relationship" with Ankara that is short of full EU accession.

    Ahead of his visit to Beirut, Sarkozy expressed his government's full support for Lebanon's stability, while again calling for a viable two-state solution in the Mideast.

    Turning to a sensitive issue for Greece, the president of France said the wall separating Nicosia "must fall", in reference to a fair and viable solution for Cyprus.

    Sarkozy also didn't mince his words in supporting Athens' position vis-?-vis the nagging "name dispute" with the landlocked Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), saying France supports ally Greece and won't change its position.

    The French leader arrived in Athens for talks with the state and political leadership of Greece, including President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    Sarkozy was greeted by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis at the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport of Athens, laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier shortly after his arrival, before delivering an address in Parliament.

    President Sarkozy and the French delegation departed from Athens early Saturday morning for Beirut.

    Caption: French President Nikola Sarkozy inspects an honor guard in Athens on Friday, June 6, 2008. ANA-MPA / ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU.

    [04] Athens Newspaper Headlines

    The Sunday edition of Athens' newspapers at a glance

    The Siemens investigation and its possible reverberations on Greece's political system were the main front-page items in Athens' newspapers on Sunday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Greece's stance negative at Monday summit of EU employment ministers' meeting to consider more flexible work contracts".

    APOGEVMATINI: The newspaper banners a front-page article featuring an interview with Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos regarding mostly public administration and local government reform.

    AVGHI: "At the mercy of a high cost of living. Inflation rate reaching 5 percent".

    AVRIANI: "There will be an earthquake (metaphorically speaking) when it's revealed who took the kickbacks for the C4I (Siemens contract)".

    CHORA: "(Prime Minister Costas) Karamanlis' European vision strengthens Greece's profile".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Political parties, politicians hostage to Siemens (bribery, kickback) scandal".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "In Siemens' oven. Evidence burns ND, PASOK".

    EPOCHI: "Grants, kickbacks and ... refrigerators. ND, PASOK implicated in Siemens scandal".

    ETHNOS: "Government ... slacking due to Euro 2008 football tournament".

    KATHIMERINI: "Revelations in Munich, darkness in Athens over Siemens affair".

    LOGOS: "Oil, interest rates, profiteers attacking citizens' wallets".

    NIKI: "Everything (in public sector) being sold for a handful of euros".

    PARON: "Secret agreement between (FinMin George) Alogoskoufis and (MIG vice-president Andreas) Vgenopoulos".

    PROTO THEMA: "Siemens furor touches Constantine Mitsotakis Foundation, while revelations linking PASOK also pending".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Price cuts by food producers a fraud".

    TO VIMA: "Siemens file: Whispers, revelations of invoices".

    VRADYNI: "In Siemens' web. Political system held hostage".


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