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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-12-23
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Karamanlis briefed over OA, OSEPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday was briefed by Transport and Communications Minister Costis Hatzidakis, especially over the government's high-profile tender to privatise Olympic Airways (OA) and to rein in massive losses at Hellenic Railways (OSE).
According to Hatzidakis, there are seven candidates to assume OA's flight operations, seven for the national carrier's ground handling services and three for OA's coveted aircraft maintenance and technical services division.
The Greek government expects binding offers by investors interested in buying OA to be submitted by Jan. 30, 2009, a development announced after an inter-ministerial privatisation commission convened on Tuesday.
The Commission meeting, chaired by Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, included participation by Development Minister Christos Folias, Employment, Labour Minister Fani Palli-Petralia and Hatzidakis.
The privatisation procedure is entering the final stage of binding offers.
Regarding OSE, Hatzidakis said a major restructuring programme is in progress, one based on four axes, including rail network safety, for which he said an agreement has been reached with French railways.
Moreover, stepped up inspections are taking place in all facets of the organisation's operation, Hatzidakis said.
The minister said electric-driven train now reach Domokos, in central Greece, from the northern port city of Thessaloniki, with the greater Athens area's suburban rail network operating entirely on electricity by the summer. He also said a new Athens to Halkida line will be constructed.
Hatzidakis, moreover, did not back down from his eyebrow-raising statement terming OSE as the "most problematic rail organisation in Europe", saying the goal is to reduce an annual operating deficit from 455 million euros in 2007 to 80 million by 2010.
"All those in Greece who say they are in favour of a social policy should not react against such reforms, no matter where they come from," Hatzidakis said.
 Papandreou tours 'Doctors of the World' NGOMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou visited Medecins du Monde-Greece's (MDM-Doctors of the World, a non-governmental humanitarian aid organization), open polyclinic and hostel, where he spoke with the doctors, the staff and with migrants.
"We Greeks are a nation that knows what migration means, the pain of leaving one's homeland and immigration. For this reason I want to congratulate the Doctors of the World who are making a tremendous effort to provide shelter and medical care and to manifest humanity to those people seeking a different future and have came to Greece looking for a new homeland. We must take measures to integrate them, to assist them and support them. We must unite our forces," stated Papandreou after the visit.
"In a period of international crisis, which makes the conditions for migrants and refugees even harder, Greece must be a land that will set the example; and this is our goal," said the PASOK leader.
Speaking in Parliament on Sunday evening, Papandreou stressed that the economic crisis will deepen for as long as New Democracy party remains in power, charging that five years were enough to prove the major differences existing between ND and PASOK.
Papandreou stressed that those seeking an extension of the present crisis will find no helping hand from PASOK, while to those promoting scenarios of joint rule to "protect their privileges and their parasitical jobs, PASOK tells them outright to look elsewhere. Not to PASOK."
In a categorical way, the PASOK leader ruled out any prospect of a governing coalition with ND and called for the immediate holding of early elections, saying the "the ruling party is part of the crisis and not of the solution to the problems."
He further pointed out that "we are not interested in solutions that save ND in order to get some ministerial seats. We are interested in the future of Greece."
Papandreou went on to say that "if everything is going so well, why is the changing of the finance minister at the epicentre of the reshuffle. I don't know if you will find anyone to become a laughing stock to serve your economic policy. The result will be the same: You will not deceive anyone."
The PASOK leader also focused on the mobilisations of young people, saying that their voice "is in danger of being buried behind the clashes between the riot police and the hooded assailants."
He promised to call on the leaderships of the remaining opposition parties "to do all that we can to guarantee the rostrum for young people, without any intention of manipulation or party exploitation."
Lastly, Papandreou said "there is a mood for society to take its fate in its hands in the face of phenomena of violence. PASOK is here to define a new course. We shall shape new consensuses and with a treaty of confidence for the Greek man and the Greek woman we shall turn authoritarianism into dialogue."
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou
 Athens stores to remain open on Sun., Dec. 28The development ministry on Tuesday gave the "green light" to retail stores to remain open in the last Sunday of 2008, accepting a request by Athens merchants' association and the relevant chamber of commerce.
A ministry announcement said the measure will be valid only for this year and noted that employees opting to work on Sunday, Dec. 28, would be paid an additional 75 pct on their wages while they would also enjoy an extra day-off in January.
The Federation of Retail Enterprises of Greece said the measure would be applied throughout the country and not only for Athens, while the union representing retail employees said its members have not agreed with the proposal.
 Euro arrest warrant eyed in murder of foreign nationalThe homicide of a 32-year-old Albanian national, who was killed on Oct. 18 outside an internet cafe in central Athens over a parking space, has apparently been linked to a suspect, according to an announcement on Tuesday. A European arrest warrant will be issued against the suspect, a 30-year-old Albanian national who reportedly fled to Albania immediately after the slaying.
 Slight drop in passenger volume for N. Greece airports in '08The number of passengers who used the five airports of northern Greece between January and November 2008 appears slightly down (-2.22 percent) compared to the same period last year, according to figures released on Tuesday. A total of 4,412,192 passengers compared to 4,512,598 in the same period in 2007 passed through the airports of Thessaloniki, Kavala, Alexandroupolis, Kastoria and Kozani, according to the National Statistical Service (NSS). Most of the passengers (3,831,600) used Thessaloniki's Macedonia International Airport, down 1.56 percent compared to the same 11-month period in 2007. The airport of Kavala was used by 307,100 passengers (-7.83 percent); 266,630 passengers used the airport of Alexandroupolis (-5.19 percent); Kastoria recorded 5,053 passengers (up a spectacular 52.29 percent) and Kozani had 1,809 passengers (-29 percent).
 Time deposits up 50% in Oct., BoETime deposits recorded a substantial increase in October, the Bank of Greece announced on Tuesday, as uncertainty over developments resulting from the international credit crisis and a sharp increase in interest rates apparently led savers to time deposits.
The value of time deposits grew by 7.0 billion euros in October, of which 6.0 billion euros were households' money, while the remaining 1.0 billion euros were enterprises' reserves. On an annual basis, in October, time deposits by households grew 50 pct, to a total 104.7 billion euros, from 69.8 billion euros in October 2007. Total time deposits by households and enterprises were 134 billion euros.
Saving deposits by households fell to 66.7 billion euros in October from 72 billion in October 2007, for a decline of 7.4 pct.
The central bank, in a report, also said lay-offs surpassed 37,000 in October. The report also said that the central government's deficit totaled 13.6 billion euros, up 25 pct from October 2007, to 5.5 percent of GDP.
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