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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-02-04
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Gov't sternly defends decision to prevent tractors from Athens' centreGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed that police did not use tear gas during the presence of main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou at the port of Piraeus on Tuesday, pointing out that according to the PASOK party spokesman there was no advance notification as regards Papandreou's itinerary. He also stated that Deputy Interior Minister responsible for public order Christos Markoyiannakis has the government's support. Responding to a question on the decision not to allow Cretan farmers to protest with their tractors in the centre of Athens, Antonaros said the decision was based on common sense, keeping the general public's best interests in mind. "It is unacceptable for the few to bring the city to a standstill by use of disproportionate means," he stated, adding that the majority of the people support the government moves. Responding to a relative question, he stated that the government had condemned roadblocks on national motorways, which was not done in an equally clear manner by the main opposition party. Meanwhile, farmers in Hania, Crete decided to suspend mobilisations and end their protests at various public sites in the city and a major highway on the island.
 Private guard outside US envoy's residence shot by policeman (RECASTS)A private security guard on duty outside the official residence of the US ambassador in Athens was seriously injured shortly before noon on Wednesday when a police sentry fired two shots at him under still undetermined circumstances.
Hours later, Greek Police (EL.AS) announced that two top police commanders were suspended in relation to the unprecedented incident, while a third was transferred to another post. The apparent shooter, who remained in custody, was also suspended. Specifically, a deputy commander in Athens' police headquarters along with the senior officer in charge of the Ambelokipi precinct were suspended.
Earlier, police spokesman Panagiotis Stathis said the 38-year-old police sergeant on duty outside the US ambassador's residence fired his service revolver and wounded the 31-year-old private security firm employee in the throat.
The injured man was rushed to the nearby Hellenic Navy Hospital, where he was reported in serious condition. The US ambassador's residence is roughly two blocks away from the US embassy in Athens, with the hospital another block away.
Describing the incident according to information gathered by the early afternoon, Stathis said the policeman was at the entrance of a guard post when the security employee exited the diplomatic compound and turned in the opposite direction, at which time the police sergeant fired one round. When the security guard turned around to see what had happened, the alleged perpetrator fired a second shot, which hit the former in the throat.
Stathis added that the policeman had not, up until the afternoon, provided clear answers as to the reason he opened fire.
Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros described the incident as "unfortunate", adding that a preliminary examination would be held.
The arrested officer joined the police force in 1995 and was stationed at the Ambelokipi police precinct in central Athens, whose jurisdiction apparently encompasses the area where the embassy is located.
In a later statement regarding the incident, US ambassador to Greece Daniel Speckhard expressed his sympathy for the guard and his family, and wished him a speedy recovery.
Speckhard also spoke by phone with Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos over the phone regarding the incident.
US embassy operations were not affected.
 CoE report calls for major improvements in Greek asylum policy; Turkish inaction criticisedSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA) -- The Council of Europe's (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday issued his report, headlined as ?the situation of asylum seekers in Greece is critical", outlining the situation with prospective asylum-seekers, refugees and would-be migrants -- practically all hailing from Third World countries-- vis-?-vis the Greek state.
"The authorities must urgently improve the asylum system, guaranteeing the full respect of international human rights standards. The problems in Greece also call for further efforts to coordinate European policies on mixed migration," Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights stated in his report.
Hammarberg toured various sites in Greece between Dec. 8 and 10 late last year.
According to a CoE press release, the report makes an overview of the main features of the Greek asylum system, identifies shortcomings and set concrete recommendations to improve the protection of asylum-seekersā human rights.
"While commending the recent legislation aimed at providing a comprehensive protection regime for asylum seekers, the Commissioner stresses the need to improve refugee protection and access to the asylum procedure, especially in border areas such as the Evros department. āThere are grave and systemic deficiencies in the Greek asylum practice' ... 'This situation puts at risk the fundamental right to seek asylum'." Hammarberg, who met with Greek officials, including Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and then Deputy Minister Panayiotis Hinofotis, called on Greek authorities to "effectively incorporate into asylum practice the international standards on foreign nationalsā detention and forced return and to revisit the existing readmission agreement with Turkey."
He also cited insufficient reception capacity for refugee applicants, including minors, and pointed to the fact that minefields still exist in Evros prefecture, a threat for the safety of illegal immigrants entering Greece in an "irregular" manner.
Additionally, the CoE Commissioner's report was detailed EU candidate Turkey's utter failure to fulfil a migrants' readmission protocol it signed with Greece in 2001.
"This Protocol was signed on 08-11-2001 in the framework of Police Cooperation. It was ratified by Law 3030/2002. From the data listed below, it results that the Turkish side does not fulfils its obligations." the report states, adding:
"...Until today 3,936 requests were submitted regarding the readmission of 56,730 illegal immigrants of various nationalities. The Turkish Authorities accepted the return of 7.442 aliens, from whom only 2.170 were transferred.
"Unfortunately, the Turkish side neither complies with the obligations deriving from the Protocol nor cooperates in readmission issues.
"Specifically: Their answers are usually rejective, despite the submission of strong evidence (i.e. arrest of Turkish smugglers, passport Visas, Turkish currency and transportation tickets, photographs in Turkish sites etc.).
They choose to reply a long after the deadlines without any justification, the(y) deny receiving illegal aliens, when these persons state on purpose different nationality, with obvious scope (being) the annulment of the readmission," article 10 of the report concluded.
 Greek stocks end 0.76% upGreek stocks ended moderately higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, in line with a strong advance of prices in other European markets. The composite index rose 0.76 pct to 1,744.05 points, with turnover at 128.2 million euros, of which 10.2 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher, with the Healthcare (4.36 pct), Media (3.28 pct) and Telecommunications (1.72 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains, while Chemicals (1.24 pct), Utilities (0.92 pct) and Industrial Products (0.84 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 0.92 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.93 pct up and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.09 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 102 to 79 with another 60 issues unchanged.
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