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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-01-12
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Athens discusses Gaza, Greek-Turkish tiesThe developments in Gaza, the latest clouds in Greek-Turkish relations following a series of Turkish military provocations in the eastern Aegean as well as the Greek peacekeeping force in Afghanistan dominated in a Government Council on Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) meeting on Monday, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, referring to the crisis in the Middle East, said that discussions focused on developments in the region and Greek diplomatic initiatives, pointing out that the goal is to ensure that 50 tons of humanitarian aid will reach the people, while safe passages will be opened to allow international organisations access to the region. She also referred to the initiative undertaken by Greece and Belgium, seeking the transfer of wounded children from Gaza to private and state hospitals in Greece for treatment. Responding to a question on whether Greece will participate in any potential EU monitoring force in Gaza, she stated that tat he moment a truce is unlikely and therefore, any such discussion is meaningless. On Greek-Turkish relations, the foreign minister pointed out that they were discussed based on the latest developments, and underlined that Greece seeks to improve bilateral relations, which in 2008 appeared stagnant, adding that Athens' objective in 2009 remains the same, namely, to improve relations with Ankara. Regarding the actual Turkish provocations and the likelihood of a "heated incident", Bakoyannis stressed that seriousness and poise are necessary, reiterating that Turkey's stance is being analysed by the foreign ministry, the defence ministry and the national defence general staff. Bakoyannis noted that, unfortunately, breaches and violations have been recorded over the past few years, which are being assessed by Greece, while at the same time Turkey's volition to become an EU member is also being evaluated. He pointed out that two Greek governments have backed Ankara's EU accession course, stressing, at the same time, that good neighbourly relations are among the necessary preconditions set. Touching on the Greek force in Afghanistan, the foreign minister stated that Athens will continue to be present in the UN fight against terrorism, in accordance with the terms defined by the ministry of defence and the military. In an unrelated development, Bakoyannis again dismissed press claims according to which Israeli is being supplied through the small western port of Astakos, pointing out that the issue is non existent. The foreign minister echoed a statement by foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, who commented on Saturday that "the relevant reports are groundless. There is no question of the Israeli army being supplied via the port of Astakos or any other location in Greece." On his part, Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, referring to the Turkish provocations, underlined that Greece is in a state of readiness and is watching developments closely. As regards the Turkish exercise currently in progress in the Aegean, he stated that it is a scheduled exercise held 3-4 times a year and "causes no concern". He pointed out however, that exercises held by the neighbouring country are being monitored closely. Responding to a question concerning an overflight by Turkish warplanes of the island of Agathonissi, Meimarakis recommended calmness and cautiousness, pointing out that "the Turks will come to realise that they cannot continue to carry out such practices." He stressed that all necessary demarches are being made, adding that "we are trying to explain to the Turks that the escalation of tension is not helpful and that they are responsible for the lack of progress."
 Papandreou meets with Palestinian envoyMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou on Monday underlined that solidarity to the Palestinian people is standing and unquestionable, in comments he made after meeting with the head of the Palestinian diplomatic delegation to Athens, Samir Abou Ghazaleh. The leader of PASOK stated in the meeting, held at the party's central offices in Athens, that he will "always support the struggle for an independent Palestinian state that can live peacefully and free next to Israel." Papandreou, who is also the president of Socialist International (SI), expressed support to Palestinian national council President Mahmoud Abbas and his efforts, which are already enjoying the organisation's support, while he reiterated that initiatives will be undertaken for an immediate ceasefire and truce in the region. "Everyone is shocked by the images of civilians being massacred," Papandreou said, adding that "a new crime is in process (of taking place) because of the absence of humanitarian organisations and aid in the region, which are prevented from reaching the civilian population." The leader of PASOK reiterated his appeal to Israel to allow humanitarian aid reach Gaza residents. On his part, Ghazaleh expressed hope that his people's efforts will be vindicated with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state before the end of the year.
 Eurobank unveils 950-mln-euro share capital hike planEurobank on Monday announced a 950-mln-euro share capital increase plan.
Nikolaos Nanopoulos, the bank's chief executive, addressing an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting, said the plan was part of a government-sponsored plan to boost liquidity in the economy.
Nanopoulos said new liquidity in the bank would be channelled to private, small-and medium-sized enterprises and predicted a 10-pct growth in the bank's lending portfolio this year.
He stressed that the board would recommend a dividend payment of 35 pct of the group's profits but noted that a new law on bank funding envisaged that dividend payment levels needed the approval of relevant economy minister.
 ATEbank approves 675-mln-euro share capital increase planATEbank on Monday said a general shareholders' meeting approved a board proposal for a share capital increase plan worth 675 million euros as part of a government-sponsored plan to boost liquidity in the economy and to deal with the impact from an international financial crisis.
Under the plan, ATEbank will issue 937,500,000 prefered stocks, worth 0.72 euros each. The shareholders' meeting also approved a plan to issue a covered bond loan up to 5.0 billion euros and medium-term MTN issue worth up to 5.0 billion euros.
Addressing the meeting, bank governor Dimitris Miliakos stressed that the Greek banking system proved capable of absorbing turbulence from a credit crisis, enjoying a strong savings base and a limited exposure to high-risk investment products.
 Greek economic sentiment to record lows in Dec.Greece's economic sentiment index fell for the 10th consecutive month in December 2008, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Monday. In a monthly report on the economic conditions in the country, IOBE said the economic sentiment index fell to 54.3 points in December, down more than 25 points from August 2008 (80.8 points).
The report said the December figure was the lowest ever recorded in Greece, while record low readings were also recorded in 17 EU member-states, including Spain, UK, Germany and Italy.
In the industrial sector, business expectations worsened over new orders and demand, while for the first time in three years forecasts were recorded over lower production levels in the next three-months. Inventories were up in December.
In the services sector, expectations over economic activity were negative -for the first time in five years- with forecasts saying that current demand was already down.
In the retail sector, pessimism prevails with negative expectations over current sales and higher inventories.
In the construction sector, expectations were even more pessimistic over employment.
The consumer's confidence index fell slightly in December. IOBE said Greeks were more pessimistic over the financial condition of their households in the next 12 months, remaining the most pessimistic in Europe. Consumers' forecasts over economic developments in the country in the next 12 months worsened slightly (78 pct in December from 74 pct in November), while consumers were largely pessimistic over developments in employment.
 Greek mutual funds' assets at 10.4 bln euros in Q4The Greek mutual funds market's value totaled 10.4 billion euros at the fourth quarter of 2008, following a decline in other international mutual funds markets amid a severe credit crisis, official figures showed on Monday.
The equity mutual funds category recorded a 2.26-pct increase in capital outflows in the October-December 2008 quarter, with December recording a 0.08-pct increase, to a total value of 1.79 billion euros. The category's 65 mutual funds recorded an average return of 57.8 pct in 2008, smaller compared with a 65.5 pct decline in the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange. Combined domestic and foreign category funds recorded returns of -28.83 pct and -25.35 pct in 2008, significantly smaller compared with the composite index of ASE, while the value of assets in the money market and fixed-income funds categories totaled 5.9 billion euros.
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