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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-12-08
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 ND leader: We will back PapouliasPresident of Republic Karolos Papoulias received on Tuesday the newly-elected main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras at the Presidential Mansion.
After the 40-minute meeting, Samaras said to reporters that ND's commitment to support Karolos Papoulias for a second term as President goes without question.
Samaras noted that "in the start of my new duties, I felt the need and obligation to share my thoughts and concerns on the country's course with the President of the Republic".
Earlier, while entering to the meeting hall, Samaras had a brief dialogue with Papoulias, who congratulated the former on his election and also noted Samaras' planned departure on Wednesday for the European Peoples Party conference in Bonn.
Samaras, referring to the issues that will be discussed at the conference, stressed: "It will be interesting, it will focus on the social dimension of the economic development which is extremely important and is the main issue".
 EU FMs' conclusions on FYROM "satisfactory" for Greece's positionsBrussels (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris) -- Greek foreign ministry sources described as "satisfactory for Greece's positions" the reference to FYROM contained in the text of conclusions of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers-General Affairs adopted on Tuesday morning by the EU foreign ministers following the political agreement they reached on Monday after long deliberations.
More specifically, the text agreed does not contain any reference to commencing EU accession negotiations with FYROM in March, but instead states that the Council will return to the issue during the next EU presidency, which is assumed by Spain on January 1, 2010.
The Council of Ministers, in its conclusions, welcomed the progress achieved by FYROM in a number of important issues and the fact that the country has to a large degree faced the fundamental priorities of the partner relationship. The smooth implementation of the Stability and Association agreement is expected to facilitate further steps, according to the conclusions, while the presidential and local elections of 2009 fulfilled most of the international standards.
It further said that implementation of the Ochrid Framework Agreement remains an essential element of democracy and a just state, and stressed that the reform program must continue.
More specifically, the conclusions said, continuation is necessary of the effort to combat corruption and ensure the independence and objectivity of Justice.
The Council of Ministers further noted that the European Commission has recommended the commencement of accession negotiations with FYROM, and that it will come back to this issue during the course of the next EU presidency.
The conclusions further stressed that the maintenance of good neighborhood relations, including a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue following negotiations under the auspices of the UN, remains essential, adding that the Council of Ministers encourage the recent positive developments in relations between Greece and FYROM.
 Voio: A place where natural beauty is beyond wordsVoio is a mountain of exquisite beauty. Situated between Southern Macedonia and Epirus, and running through southwestern Kastoria and western Kozani prefecture, it forms a natural border between the two regions. It is called "the door to Pindus" because from there the visitor may access the Pindus mountain ranges and the source of Greece's largest river, the Aliakmonas.
Forests dominate the low lying areas of the mountain, which is thickly vegetated with pine and spruce trees. The area surrounding the mountain is dotted with villages and forest roads, as well as hiking trails.
The University of Southern Macedonia, the municipality of Kozani together with the prefecture's Environmental Center and the Arctouros wildlife protection organisation commenced in 2009 a major effort to establish a network of trekking and hiking paths in Kozani prefecture linking 40 mountainous traditional villages with stone houses at altitudes ranging from 750 to 1450m. Included are several ancient paths, while the "Pindus" project also foresees the creation of mixed routes suitable for mountain biking, horseback riding and other mild mountain sports.
The project, slated for completion in end-2011, further foresees the creation of a website and interactive infokiosk.
 Levitin on Greek- Russian relationsMoscow (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos) -- Russian transport minister Igor Levitin expressed his conviction that Greek-Russian relations will develop further, stressing that Greece is a reliable friend and steadfast partner of Russia, in exclusive statements to ANA-MPA ahead of his arrival in Athens on Tuesday for talks with his Greek counterpart Dimitris Reppas and co-chairman of the Greece-Russia Interministerial Cooperation Committee deputy foreign minister Spyros Kouvelis.
"I am convinced that, with the assumption of authority by the new government under (prime minister) George Papandreou, the relations between the two countries will not only not lose their momentum of the recent years, but will also develop even further. All the necessary conditions exist, including the economic prerequisites," Levitin said shortly before his departure from Moscow for Athens.
"Greek-Russian relations have a long tradition, and have always been built on the firm foundation of mutual confidence and rapport. Today, we are actively developing our cooperation, which is characterised by its high level in a wide variety of sectors," he added.
On the meetings he will have in Athens, Levitin said he intends to discuss with Kouvelis the broad range of bilateral relations, and also the measures being taken by the governments of Greece and Russia to tackle the repercussions of the global crisis.
More specifically, the dates will be set for the regular meeting of the Interministerial Greece-Russia Cooperation Committee, while matters related to the construction of the Olympic projects (2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics) in Sochi will also be discussed, given the interest manifested by the Greek side for participation in those plans.
He also said that transport and communications issues will be discussed more specifically with Reppas, since "Russia and Greece have great prospects in this field".
Listing the areas of interest of the bilateral cooperation committees, including energy, transports, commerce and industry, agricultural economy, and tourism, which he described as the "basic tool for implementation of the strategic economic interests of Greece and Russia", Levitin opined that "it is necessary that we supplement our cooperation with new sectors".
He further said that the Business Council set up by the Russian and Greek industrial federations should play an important role in the development of bilateral business relations.
Commenting on the global financial crisis, Levitin noted that 2009 has been the hardest period for the Russian economy since the 1998 crisis, and stressed that the Russian government was making efforts to contain the decline in GDP to 8.5 percent through a specialised program of measures drafted in November 2008.
He added that the anticipated rise in industrial production (metallurgy, chemicals, petrol products) and in the Russian agrarian economy, which has posted good results, give rise to optimism. "We are optimistic, and we are convinced that the condition of the crisis will not affect the Greek-Russian partner relationship," the Russian minister concluded.
Caption:ANA-MPA/EPA/ An undated file picture shows a view of the Moscow Kremlin, Russia. Kremlin and Red Square EPA/YURI KOCHETKOV
 Alexandria Patriarch honouredPatriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodore II, who is paying an official visit to Greece, was honoured on Tuesday with the Grand Cross of Apostle Paul during a special session of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece.
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, who welcomed warmly the head of Alexandria Patriarchate, expressed the Church of Greece's commitment to continue to support the substantial and quiet missionary work of the Alexandrian Church. He also characterised Theodore II an 'exceptional personality' and an example of 'ministration, love and sacrifice'.
On his part, the Alexandria Patriarch thanked for Greek Metropolitans and Church of Greece's support in the difficult missionary work and also the Greek state that always stands by them in difficult times.
Theodore II referred to the mission's problems, emphasising that the people of Africa are faced with several diseases and particularly with HIV, while there is also a shortage in drinking water.
He offered to the Holy Synod as a gift, the first Gospel written by the children of Madagascar in their language.
Later the Patriarch of Alexandria visited the Rizareios Ecclesiastical School, of which he is a graduate.
Caption: Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodore II (L) and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos(R) before entering a special session of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece in Athens on Tuesday 7 December 2009. ANA-MPA/KATERINA MAVRONA
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