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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-09-08

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] UN Cyprus envoy in Athens
  • [02] Rescue robot by Thessaloniki Univ.

  • [01] UN Cyprus envoy in Athens

    The UN's new special advisor on the Cyprus issue, Alexander Downer, met in Athens on Monday with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.

    Downer met with Bakoyannis at the foreign ministry, after which the two officials had a joint meeting with Karamanlis.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting with Karamanlis, Bakoyannis said Downer had visited Cyprus before coming to Athens, and had been present at the first meeting between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.

    On the Athens meeting, she said "we had the opportunity to reiterate the well-known message from all the political forces in Greece of support for this new and very important effort for resolution of the Cyprus issue".

    Downer, who is due to leave for Ankara in the afternoon for talks with Turkish officials, said "I did not come here to say alot, but to hear and record the views and experience of the Greek side", adding that he would also record the views and the issues put forward by Turkey during his Ankara visit.

    The UN envoy was also cautious in reply to a press question on whether he was worried over the different interpretation given by the two sides on Cyprus for the term "bizonal-bicommunal federation", saying that it was important to understand that the negotiations (the direct talks) "have just begun".

    "We are at the beginning, not the end. Differences are to be expected at the beginning. That's why negotiations take place," Downer said, adding that "we hope to reach a point of agreement".

    Downer was equally cautious in his reply to a question on Christofias' position that Greece and Turkey should step down as guarantor powers, noting that "That's Mr. Christofias' position. The Turkish Cypriot side has a different position, and that is one of the items of the negotiation".

    Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said that Bakoyannis outlined to Downer the Greek positions in detail, and described the aspects that comprise a just, viable and functional solution, stressing the European dimension that must be taken into consideration in a Cyprus solution, given that Cyprus is an EU member.

    He said the Greek side stressed that it supports the new effort for a Cyprus solution, as well as Cyprus President Christofias, "who has proved his constructive attitude for a positive outcome of the process".

    Caption: A file photo of former Australia foreign minister Alexander Downer in Singapore, 21 November 2007. ANA-MPA/EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA

    [02] Rescue robot by Thessaloniki Univ.

    A search-and-rescue robot, a system for monitoring electromagnetic radiation and a special piece of educational software for children suffering from autism were some of the innovations developed by the Thessaloniki University Research Committee and presented at the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).

    The robot was developed by PANDORA (Program for the Advancement of Non-Directed Roboting Agent) by 17 undergraduates at the university's electrical engineering and computer engineering department and earned them 9th place in an international competition held in China last July among 18 competitors.

    A small device measuring just 60 centimetres, the robot has 19 sensors to help locate victims of natural disasters like earthquakes, linked to a central processor, 13 motors and a special system allowing it to move on uneven terrain, an automatic navigator that also charts the territory it is covering by the use of scanner lasers, allowing it to alert rescue crews to the location of victims.

    The robot currently operates with a battery lasting 40 minutes and the team's efforts are now focused on further improvements.

    The broadband electromagnetic radiation counter was developed by the university's physics department and is the first such counter developed in Greece at a fraction of the cost of such counters currently imported from abroad.

    Apart from being roughly five times cheaper, it is also capable of taking measurements over the entire spectrum, from very low frequencies to the high frequencies emitted by 4th-generation mobile phones.

    Developers said it had high technical specifications for accuracy and was easy to install, able to operate autonomously and able to record electromagnetic pollution levels on a 24-hour basis through installed memory.

    An additional 30 Greek counters will be scheduled in public buildings in Greece to complete a nationwide radiation monitoring network that already has 130 counters. The next step planned is the development of an individual portable radiation counter to be used chiefly by those working with telecommunications systems.

    The educational software system presented is especially designed for autistic children and can even be used without supervision by teachers and parents.

    The programme, aimed at primary-aged children over four, monitors the biological reactions of the children through a special bracelet (heart rate, stress levels, perspiration and other indicators) and adjusts the difficulty of the games and questions accordingly. A small robot also watches the child's progress and rewards every successful attempt, contributing to psychological development.

    According to the chairman of the research committee Stavros Panas, the new software could prove a valuable tool for teachers in special schools, while strong interest has already been expressed by parents of autistic children.

    Caption: A view of the robot developed by the Thessaloniki University Research Committee, Monday, Sept. 8, 2008. ANA-MPA / STR.

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