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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-01-16
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM on Middle East, new warning to SkopjeThe government is proceeding with the interests of Greece as its sole criteria, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis reiterated on Friday in Parliament, while at the same time sending another strict message to Skopje, warning that as long as the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) continues a policy of intransigence, its road toward the EU and NATO would remain closed.
Karamanlis' latter statement came in reply to a question tabled by the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party during the "Hour of the Premier" session in Parliament.
The Greek PM also said that Athens continues to advocate the achievement of a lasting solution in the Middle East with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state that will live peacefully side-by-side with the State of Israel, in reply to another question tabled by Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos.
Karamanlis noted that Greece had been among the first European countries to back the three-point solution comprising an immediate and lasting ceasefire, the creation of humanitarian corridors and the solution of two independent states -- that of Israel and a Palestinian state.
"It goes without saying that the interventions of every European country are more effective if they are part of a unified European framework," Karamanlis added.
Greece, he continued "was among the first, if not the first, to send humanitarian aid (to Gaza)", while he also categorically denied the existence of a trans-shipment of (US) war supplies to an Israeli port via the western Greek port of Astakos. Karamanlis explained that a relevant request had been submitted, but "no trans-shipment was ever made".
"Let me stress, once again, the need for an immediate truce. We condemn violence from wherever it originates," the prime minister stressed.
Addressing himself to Alavanos, specifically, Karamanlis said that "no service is done to the country's interests with vilifications and fireworks", while he reiterated that "no trans-shipment of materiel has taken place at any Greek port".
"No one can dispute the credibility of Greece, a Greece that developed and is developing the role, one that has been acknowledged by everyone over the times," the premier stressed.
Karamanlis clarified that "indeed, last November, when there was no military involvement in our region, the US side put forward an issue of trans-shipment of US at the (Greek) port of Astakos, with the designation that the supplies were destined for a US stockpile in Israel."
"The (US) ship approached off Astakos early in the month. However, there was no permit from the Merchant Marine, Aegean and Island Policy ministry and no trans-shipment was made. In brief: Yes, there was a request. Yes, the ship arrived off Astakos, but no trans-shipment was carried out and the vessel departed."
"The fact cannot be ignored that the request for trans-shipment of materiel by a country for its own forces was submitted in an unsuspicious period ... the request submitted in November by the US side categorically stressed that the trans-shipment of material was between American stockpile units and that this material would remain in the custody of the US government, without transfer of either the custody or the proprietorship to the Israeli government".
On his part, Alavanos sharply criticised the government for not condemning the latest Israeli bombings of hospitals, UN officers and international media offices (in Gaza), and also called on the prime minister to deny a report appearing on the US army's Surface Deployment and Distribution Center's website on the trans-shipment of 690 containers from Astakos to Israel in September 2007.
He further demanded that Greece's ambassador to Israel be recalled for consultations, and that the 1993 military cooperation agreement between Greece and Israel be 'frozen', so that Greece would not lose its credibility in the Muslim world, as he said.
Replying, Karamanlis warned that although over-simplification and distortion could benefit those who "invest in populism", they did not, however, serve the interests of the country.
He reiterated that there had been no issue, nor would there be an issue of trans-shipment, nor could anyone dispute the foreign ministry statement immediately after the relevant press speculation had appeared, adding that "this was also explicitly acknowledged by the US Defense Department's press spokesman".
The premier further characterized as "at the least unfair for Greece any attempted aimed at making the country appear distanced from its steadfast positions for peace in the Middle East', and "at the least strange that unilateral actions are proposed that do not guarantee any positive result for the suffering people of Gaza".
"No one can accuse Greece of lack of sensitivity or quick diplomatic reflexes, nor of lack of initiatives for putting an end to the tragedy," Karamanlis stressed.
Strict warning to FYROM leadership
Meanwhile, Karamanlis sent a terse warning to FYROM on Friday that so long as the neighbouring country's leadership continues to cultivate an atmosphere of provocations, nationalism and intolerance, not a single euro would be forthcoming from Greece towards the financing of the pan-European "Corridor X" road axis, "the renaming of which the country (FYROM) provocatively took".
The premier was referring to Skopje's renaming, as "Alexander of Macedon" no less, of the one-time Yugoslav republic's main highway, which that runs from Serbia in the north to the Greek border in the south, and for which 152 million euros have been earmarked in the Hellenic Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans (HiPERB).
Replying to a relevant question tabled by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis, the prime minister reiterated that Skopje's European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations would not be satisfied so long as the neighbouring country purposely continued its persistence on "a grey past and its leadership, with its unpredictable policy, does not care about the future but only about petty party benefits in view of elections".
Karamanlis further blasted the Skopje government's intransigence and its provocative decisions, as he said, referring to the "historically ungrounded renaming of sport stadiums, airports, roads and Corridor X".
The Greek premier warned that "this short-sighted policy is in conflict with the good neighbourhood principles and relations".
Karatzaferis charged that various Greek governments, despite the continuing provocations by Skopje over the past years, did not "block" the chanelling of funds towards the landlocked Balkan country, which he said have exceeded 1.11 billion euros.
"This means that we are financing Skopje's arrogance, impudence and cowboy tactics," Karatzaferis charged.
Karamanlis replied that "our positions and decisions are based always on the criterion of the country's interests, and everything is done with absolute transparency and crystal-clear positions".
"We say: a name with a geographical qualification for all purposes and uses. We call on Skopje to cooperate in seeking a mutually acceptable solution. We don't want them to find themselves excluded from the EU and NATO. The interests of the region mandate that the leadership of the neighbouring country abandons the grey past and return to its European future," Karamanlis elaborated.
"Greece has the means, it is not abandoning them, it is making use of them with prudence and reliability, at the appropriate time," the prime minister added.
 PASOK criticises gov't on foreign policyA main opposition PASOK party spokesman on Friday commented on earlier statements in Parliament by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, charging that the Greek premier is following a policy of double standards, something that is inconceivable in foreign policy.
Spokesman George Papaconstantinou said the prime minister spoke with bravado about the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) provocations, while remaining silent in the face of Turkish military provocations in the eastern Aegean.
On the question of developments in Gaza, the PASOK spokesman attributed to the prime minister a "policy of equal distances, vague reasoning and an absence of the country from the diplomatic and humanitarian sector."
In reference to debate in Parliament on Monday revolving around the Vatopedi affair and the establishment of an investigatory committee to probe possible criminal responsibilities of former minister, Papaconstantinou said the overall stance of ruling New Democracy party towards "scandals", as he put it, and their cover-up will be judged there.
 Swiss physicist receives Latsis 2008 awardGENEVA (ANA-MPA) - Physicist Franz Pfeiffer, a professor at the Paul Scherrer Institute and assistant professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), was awarded the Latsis Award of 2008 for an innovative method that provides greater clarity for X-rays produced by conventional X-ray machines, such as those equipping medical and hospital laboratories.
The Fondation Latsis Internationale is a non-profit foundation established in 1975. Since 1983 it has bestowed the Latsis Awards in Switzerland.
The Latsis national award, amounting to 100,000 Swiss francs, remains one of Switzerland's most distinguised prizes. It is awarded every year on behalf of the Latsis Foundation by the Swiss national scientific research fund to an academic or researcher under the age of 40, whose work contributes to the progress of various disciplines of science and technology.
 Sofia: Greece to cover natgas deficitBulgarian Finance and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov announced on Friday that Greece will supply Bulgaria with natural gas, adding that two million cubic metres of methane will also be imported from Greece on a daily basis.
He further said that a relevant understanding has been reached with Greece, according to which Bulgaria can use the gas contained in pipelines -- initially destined for the Greek market -- that pass through Bulgarian territory in order to cover its current needs. Similar negotiations are also taking place with Turkey, the Bulgarian minister revealed.
Dimitrov went on to say that Bulgaria is negotiating the purchase of liquefied natural gas from the terminal located near Piraeus, a reference to the Revythoussa islet plant.
Caption: A view of a gas pressure-gauge of the natural gas pipeline in the Boyarka village near Kiev, Ukraine, 02 January 2009. ANA-MPA / EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO
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