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The Hellenic Radio (ERA): News in English, 09-01-14

The Hellenic Radio (ERA): News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Hellenic Radio (ERA) <www.ert.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Cuts in Public Expenditures
  • [02] Priorities of the Greek OSCE Chairmanship to Be Unveiled
  • [03] Wrangling on Astakos Issue
  • [04] We Are after Improving Ties with Ankara
  • [05] Foreign AffairsÔ Ministry Dismisses Press Claims
  • [06] PapouliasÔ Apparent Interest in Gaza
  • [07] New Turkish Provocation
  • [08] KYSEA Focuses on Greek-Turkish Relations
  • [09] Focusing on Evidence and Clues
  • [10] Karamanlis-Pavlopoulos-Markogiannakis' Meeting
  • [11] Wrangling over the Incidents
  • [12] Wrangling over Agathonissi Island
  • [13] G. Papandreou: Elections, the only Way Out
  • [14] R. Castro Ready to Hold Direct Talks with Obama

  • [01] Cuts in Public Expenditures

    Interior Ministry draft bill, including operational plan on Public Administration was the focus of talks during the Inner Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, chaired by Prime-minister, Kostas Karamanlis. Cut in expenditures is among the aims of the draft bill. Interior Minister, Prokopis Pavlopoulos stressed that reduction of bureaucracy and cost of bureaucracy was the target for 2009 while the government's General Secretariat has assumed a special role for the better evaluation and implementation of legislation. On his part, Development Minister, Kostis Hatzidakis referred to draft bill on modernization of commercial law and strengthening of business competition while he also referred to the ministry's initiative for drastic reduction of bureaucracy regarding procedures for the setting up of new businesses.

    Administrational Reform

    Following the meeting, Interior Minister, Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that talks focused on administrational reforms, promotion of National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) for 2007-20013 regarding reduction of bureaucracy and bureaucracy cost as well as the course for the implementation of the program in 2009.Mr. Pavlopoulos referred to the Prime-minister's instructions for good legislation, underlining that legislation must be evaluated on its targets and its implementation. He also spoke about citizens' daily problems and their facilitation in all sectors while he underlined that measures would be taken for significant reduction of time and cost for the setting up of middle-sized businesses. The Interior Minister said that issues regarding Civil Protection in view of extreme natural phenomena were also discussed.

    On his part, Development Minister, Kostis Hatzidakis underlined that the government's target is to facilitate businesses, adding that a draft-bill on modernization of commercial law and omission of bureaucracy for the setting up of businesses is being promoted. Mr. Hatzidakis said that Chambers-that would be strengthened- would bear the burden. In the meantime, to avoid waste of time, procedures for the setting up of businesses with "one office stop" will start through the Citizens' Assistance Centers

    Sources: ═┼ď, ┴NA-╠PA

    News item: 17700

    [02] Priorities of the Greek OSCE Chairmanship to Be Unveiled

    Politics

    The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, will unveil the priorities of the Greek OSCE Chairmanship at the Permanent Council of the 56 OSCE member states on Thursday. Due in Vienna on Wednesday noon, Bakoyannis will hold talks with the members of the Greek Permanent Representatives. On Thursday morning, the Greek Foreign Minister will outline her priorities at the winter palace of the Habsburgs. Greece took over the OSCE chairmanship on 1 January 2009, succeeding Finland.

    After the Permanent Council Summit, Bakoyannis will give a press conference. She will then attend a banquet to be hosted in her honour.

    Later on, her agenda includes bilateral talks with the heads of the Organisation's 19 missions to several nations.

    On Friday morning, Dora Bakoyannis will have talks with her new Austrian counterpart, while meetings with the rest heads of the permanent missions to the OSCE are also likely to take place.

    News item: 17671

    [03] Wrangling on Astakos Issue

    Greece -

    Politics

    Press reports claiming that the Israeli army is being supplied with US ammunitions via the Greek port of Astakos have triggered a fierce political wrangling. "Never has Greece given permission to such shipments," stressed Tuesday government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, prompted by the statements of a US Pentagon spokesman, whereby the planned shipment of US ammunitions through Astakos had been cancelled due to the Gaza conflict. Greece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis denied Monday relevant press reports, however, both KKE (Greek Communist Party) and SYN (Coalition of the Radical Left) warned to hold street protests in the area in the days to come.

    Statement by US Pentagon

    Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said the USA had been considering using the Greek port of Astakos to ship ammunitions to the Israeli port of Ashdod. However, he added, the shipment had been postponed because Ashdod is located near Gaza.

    Protests

    PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) spokesman Mr Papakonstantinou blamed Bakoyannis for failing to provide the information requested, noted that the information came from the US administration and that all the developments in the matter took place with the Greek government having no clue.

    "The announcement of the US Pentagon that it would cancelled the shipment to Israel via Astakos has exposed the government, holding it accountable," commented KKE, further underlining that postponement did not mean cancellation. KKE demanded all US ammunition be removed from the port and all agreements making it a war base be annulled, urging people to hold demonstrations on 14 January.

    Sounding on the same page, SYN has scheduled a demonstration on 15 January in Asrtakos.

    In his statements after meeting with Palestinian Groups in Greece, SYN head Alexis Tsipras urged the government to wake up from a state of lethargy and undertake initiatives and stop considering facilitating the attack on the people of Palestinian.

    "Any effort to assist will be postponed and cancelled because the people of Greece will not allow it, no matter what the Greek government is going to do. Staging a blockage that will send a message to the EU and the USA and the Greek government, the people of Etoloakarnania will give them the first answer on Thursday. No stretch of Greek land, no port, no airport will be at the disposal of the criminals," argued Tsipras.

    Source: NET, NET 105.8, ANA-MPA

    News item: 17658

    [04] We Are after Improving Ties with Ankara

    The developments in the Middle East and the Greek-Turkish relations ran high of the agenda of the Greek National Council of Foreign Policy that held a meeting Tuesday under the chairmanship of Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis. "Greece's goal is to further improve the Greek-Turkish relations in 2009," commented Bakoyannis after the meeting, also stressing that Athens expected a similar respond from Turkey. Socialist deputy Theodoros Pangalos requested the government take more actions when it comes to Turkish operation within international bodies, including the EU and UN. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) called for an immediate briefing of the Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Coalition of the Radical Left SYN, on the other hand, claimed that the recent developments required vigilance. A spokesman for the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) blasted the government for its slow response.

    "We Expect Turkey to Respond"

    Exiting the meeting, Bakoyannis said that the relations between the two nations remained stagnant during the course of 2008. As for 2009, she stressed that the firm goal was to further improve the ties with the neighbouring country, arguing, "We are expecting a similar response on the part of Turkey."

    Expressing the climate of consensus that prevailed throughout the sitting, the Foreign Minister claimed, "When it comes to major goals - and the defending of national affairs is a major goal - we Greeks are proved yet again that we are capable of serving this joint goal together with a very good dialogue."

    Touching on the Mideast row and the Gaza crisis, the Foreign Minister also underlined that Greece was the first country to send humanitarian aid and that a campaign for a ceasefire was underway.

    Representing the Socialist party (PASOK), Theodoros Pangalos termed the Greek National Council of Foreign Policy as a really useful and effective tool. He stressed, though, that he expected the Greek government to reacted quicker and refer Turkish provocations to international bodies, including the EU and UN. Commenting on Turkey's conduct, he dismissed it as "exceptionally displeasing." "There is no evidence that the Turkish leaders are changing their behaviour and stance," said he.He added, though, that abandoning the Helsinki Treaty was a wrong move, because it was quite useful.

    Socialist cadre and PASOK section head for foreign matters Andreas Loverdos underscored that Turkey had turned more aggressive. He then went on to call for a strategy to address Turkey's aggressiveness.

    SYN section head for foreign policy Panos Trigazis maintained that Greece should do anything in its power to avert a new tension in the Aegean and avoid getting involved in a new round of military armaments. Touching on the Gaza crisis, he said there was the danger of dashing the hopes for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and of destabilizing the wider region. He also blasted the government for not taking any initiatives.

    A spokesman for LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) reminded a statement by Dora Bakoyannis, whereby serious matters demanded seriousness, and added that cats were also required (to push mice back).

    New Violations of Greek Air Space

    Fifteen Turkish fighter jets entered Tuesday the Athens FIR, without having submitted fight plans. They then violated the Greek air space, flying over the northern Aegean islands of Limnos and Lesvos.

    In all cases, the Turkish jets were intercepted by Greek ones. Six Turkish jets were armed.

    News item: 17639

    [05] Foreign AffairsÔ Ministry Dismisses Press Claims

    Politics

    Foreign Affairs minister Mrs. Bakoyiannis 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." Giorogs Papakostantinou called on the government to give clear answers on the issue.

    PASOK representative on issues of National Affairs Mrs. Vaso Papandreou stated: "According to reliable sources, a big quantity of US ammunition is in Astakos port and will be shipped to Israel. This requires the approval of the government and is unacceptable". And continues: "the government instead of taking a clear stance and all necessary initiatives for immediate ceasefire of the genocide of Palestinians implicates with its policies our country to major dangers".

    Aleka Papariga expressed her concern and added that she does not trust the denials of the government referring to the statement of the US Navy press representative who confirmed the information regarding Israel's supply.

    Synaspismos asked for immediate dismissal of press claims stating: "We are not reassured by the statement released by Foreign Affairs Ministry on Israel being supplied through the port of Astakos because on one hand the information still circulates and on the other hand the statement of the representative of the US pentagon was extremely vague", SYN minister on Foreign Affairs issues Giannis Balafas said.

    News item: 17603

    [06] PapouliasÔ Apparent Interest in Gaza

    Politics

    During his meeting with KKE (Communist Party of Greece) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, who visited Ramallah a few days ago, the President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias exhibited apparent interest in the situations prevailing in the Middle East.

    After his meeting with the Palestinian Ambassador to Athens, PASOK (Socialists) party President George Papandreou also appealed to Israel to open the passages, so as humanitarian aid could pass through, speaking of a crime against the Palestinian people.

    Ms Papariga demanded and end to Israel's attack, pointing out that the ceasefire puts the victim and the immolator on the same level, stressing that it is necessary for an independent Palestinian state to be created with Eastern Jerusalem its capital.

    In reply to a question on Astakos port issue, Ms Papariga referred to a US Navy spokesman's statement that confirms the transfer of ammunition from Astakos port, accusing the Foreign and Defence ministers of concealing real facts.In the morning, Ms Papariga met with the coordinating committee of the Palestinian community.

    After his meeting with the Palestinian Head of the Diplomatic Mission, Ambassador Samir Ghazale, Mr Papandreou spoke of a double crime at the Palestinian people's expense due to the civilians' massacre and the ban for access to humanitarian aid.

    In parallel, Mr Papandreou appealed to Israel to allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, expressing solidarity to the Palestinians' struggle for an independent state.

    News item: 17601

    [07] New Turkish Provocation

    Politics

    Turkey proceeded to new provocations today in Aegean Islands. Hellenic national defence general staff (GEETHA) announced that on Monday at 11:01 in the morning, 8 Turkish aircrafts (four F-16 and four F-4) entered Athens FIR without previously having filed flight plan. The incident was reported south of Samos Island. At 11:03 four F-4 flew above Fharmakonisi Island at 300 feet. All Turkish aircrafts were intercepted by Greek fighter aircraft near Ikaria.

    Source:NET,NET 105.8,ANA-MNA

    News item: 17600

    [08] KYSEA Focuses on Greek-Turkish Relations

    Politics

    After the Governmental Council of National Defence (KYSEA) meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis Monday noon, the ministers of Foreign Affairs and National Defence sent a stern message to Ankara. Dora Bakoyannis described Greek-Turkish relations stagnant, stressing that the developments should be examined with seriousness and lucidity, while Evangelos Meimarakis pointed out that Turkey's flights over the Aegean are not helping the climate it had created with its own responsibility. Furthermore, the Foreign minister ruled out Israel's military replenishment from a Greek port. KYSEA focused on all developments in the Middle East, Greek diplomatic initiatives, the dispatch of humanitarian aid and the nursing of children in Greek hospitals after being injured during hostilities. Specifically, it has been decided that Greek soldiers should extend their stay in Afghanistan and additional humanitarian aid to that sent by the EU in cooperation with Belgium should be dispatched. Earlier, Mr Karamanlis had met with Ms Dora Bakoyannis and Mr E. Meimarakis.

    Humanitarian Aid and Children Nursing

    After the meeting, the Foreign minister reported that developments on the Middle East crisis had been discussed, as well as the Greek diplomacy's initiatives and the problems encountered during the dispatch of humanitarian aid.

    Ms Bakoyannis stressed that KYSSEA has decided to take initiatives for the dispatch of humanitarian aid. In this way, 50 tons of humanitarian aid will reach their destination and ways will open so that international organizations and humanitarian bodies have access.Reference was also made to Greece and Belgium's initiative to transfer injured children from Gaza to Greek private and public run hospitals.

    In reply to a question as to whether Greece will participate in a EU peace-keeping force in Gaza, she reported that for the time being there is no eventuality for truce and thus no such discussion can take place, since not relevant proposal had been made. The Greek government, she added, is monitoring and analyzing all eventualities, pointing out that KYSEA had presented the general guidelines, so that if a similar issue arises to take stand.

    Regarding the Greece force in Afghanistan, Ms Bakoyannis reported that Greece would continue to be present at the fight against terrorism under the UN's shelter and on the basis of the terms determined by the National Defence Ministry and the General Staff.

    Finally, in reply to an other question as per which the Israelis are being replenished at Astakos port, the minister stressed that the Foreign minister had ruled out the issue of replenishment by Greek ports.

    Relations with Turkey

    As per the Foreign minister, Greece aims at improving its relations with the neighbouring country. Ms Bakoyannis described the two countries' relations in 2008 stagnant. Regarding Tukey's provocations and whether an incident could take place, Ms Bakoyannis pointed out that seriousness and sobriety are a must, reiterating that the Foreign and Defence Ministries, as well as the General Staff are analyzing Turkey's stance. Also, she admitted that unfortunately in the last years there have been violations, which Greece is assessing. At the same time, she is assessing Turkey's will to become a EU member-state, as two Greek governments have supported Ankara in its EU course. However, good neighbourly relations are one of the conditions for Turkey's accession to the EU.

    Referring to the Turkish military exercise taking place in the Aegean, the Defence minister reported that the exercise is scheduled and takes place three to four times per year, adding that "it is not creating any problems to us." However, he pointed out that when the Turks are making military exercises, we monitor the developments from close and the opposite happens when we carry out military exercises.

    In reply to a question as per which Turkish jet fighters had flown over Agathonisi shortly before, Mr Meimarakis stressed that we should be calm and careful, pointing out "I believe the Turks will understand that they should not carry out such flights."

    It is worth pointing out that the General Staff reported that eight Turkish jet fighters (four F-16s and four F-4s) entered the Athens FIR at 11:01, south of Samos, without submitting any flight plans and four F-4s flew over Farmakonisi at 300-feet altitude at 11:03. All Turkish jet fighters were intercepted by Greek jet fighters over Ikaria and then left the Athens FIR, south of Chios at 11:23.

    Sources: ═┼ď, ═┼ď 105.8, ┴NA-╠PARelative articles: Fresh Turkish Provocation

    News item: 17599

    [09] Focusing on Evidence and Clues

    Politics

    The anti-terrorist squad keeps searching for the new generation terrorists, who are responsible for the attack on three riot policemen in Exarchia district, Athens. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, in his interview with Typos tis Kyriakis Sunday paper, did not rule out a cooperation scheme between 17 November members, who are still at large, with the Revolutionary Struggle. Information released on Real News paper spoke of seven suspects, including a woman. Speaking on the above paper, Socialist deputy Mihalis Chrysohoides, feared a new hit by the Revolutionary Struggle, estimating that the group consisted of young people.

    Alekos Alavanos, head of SYRIZA (Coalition of Radical Left) paralleled the hit against the policeman with a nuclear weapon against democratic liberties. In the meantime, prompted by the recent rioting that broke out in central Athens, Interior Minister Prokopois Pavlopoulos stressed that the government had no intention of showing tolerance to violent actions that violate the citizens' rights and the institutions.

    News item: 17576

    [10] Karamanlis-Pavlopoulos-Markogiannakis' Meeting

    Politics

    Prime Minister Mr. Karamanlis had a meeting at Maximos Mansion with minister of internal Prokopis Pavlopoulos and deputy minister responsible on issues of Public Order Mr. Christos Markogiannakis.

    In a democratic country, laws are being applied and for that reason what is important is social peace", Prokopis Pavlopoulos said and underlined that the government is determined to shield democracy and will not tolerate all those who violate human and institutional rights with actions of raw violence.

    Mr. Pavlopoulos stated analytically: "We briefed the Prime Minister on issues that concern ministries of Internal and Public Order. The governments' stance in which its policy is based on is known. In a democratic country laws are being applied -human rights are protected- and the law is being applied because what is important is social peace. It is the capability of human beings to be able to work and to develop their personality within the framework of the law, without violating Human rights, social peace and democracy. The government is determined to shield Democracy and to protect Human Rights and will not tolerate all those who violate human rights and institutions with acts of raw violence".

    Reactions

    News item: 17564

    [11] Wrangling over the Incidents

    Politics

    The incidents taking place yesterday Friday in Athens after the pan educational rally during which two journalists and lawyers were injured, triggered political debate. All arrestees were set free today. Speaking to NET 105.8 radio station, deputy minister of agricultural Development Kostantinos Kiltidis said: "Police acted again yesterday under a plan" and noted "everyone can express his ides and his protest respecting laws and order".

    "Police leadership moved from a defending stance to exaggerate violence" PASOK minister Charis Katsanidids said, adding that the democratic and political rights of citizens are affected.

    "The usual unknown people are an excuse for harder measures adopted by police in order to hit peaceful protestations", KKE minister Thanasis Pafilis stated.

    In his announcement the president of SYRIZA parliamentary group, Alekos Alavanos stressed that the provocative attack of police forces against peaceful protestors after the completion of the pan educational rally, the beatings and the blind arrests, pose the issue of the democratic reconstruction of police. We call on all parliamentary and political parties to accept the proposal adopted by SYRIZA for the set up of a committee that will be responsible on police issues, according to article 44 of Parliament's Rule and according to the suggestions by the Pan Hellenic Federation of Police Officers, he stated.In its announcement, LAOS notes that the asylum can not be used for criminal actions. The Arrestees

    Prosecutor exercised criminal proceeding to an 18 y/o who was arrested in Didotou and Zoodohou Pigis conjunction. He is charged of explosion, holding explosive devices, of attempting physical damage, disturbing peace and of resisting police authority. The accused denies the charges. A second arrestee is being accused of illegal carriage of firearms.

    News item: 17563

    [12] Wrangling over Agathonissi Island

    Politics

    A comment by Socialist deputy Andreas Loverdos made on President Karolos Papoulias' visit to the Greek island of Agathonissi in the eastern Aegean has sparked wrangling between the government and the Socialist party (PASOK). Touching on press reports expressing the Foreign Ministry's dissatisfaction over the President's visit to the island, Andreas Loverdos said that when there are more than one decision-making centres on foreign affairs, it goes without saying that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of the decision-making centres, will be permanently dissatisfied. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis argued that this is not the first time the PASOK deputy has dealt with non-existent issues, further adding that serious matters require greater responsibility.

    Papoulias' visit to Agathonissi was followed by midair Turkish provocations that triggered Greece's strong reaction.

    Asked on the Greek-Turkish relations, the government spokesman claimed that the government has clearly expressed its position through Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who branded the recent Turkish provocations as unacceptable. The government spokesman also reminded the statement by National Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, who stressed that Turkey's behaviour does not befit the behaviour of a candidate EU member.

    He further added that the Armed Forces will safeguard the nation's sovereign rights, making it plain that Greece will not allow anyone question its national and sovereign rights.

    Aleka Papariga, general secretary of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), dismissed the situation created by the recent Turkish provocations in the Aegean as unacceptable and dangerous.

    ÔThe situation is very dangerous and the Greek governments have come to terms with giving up on sovereign rights through NATO," she noted, also underlining, "The fact that the [Greek Foreign Minister] is begging the US ambassador for a solution to the problem greatly displeases KKE."

    SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) deputy Giannis Banias sent a letter to Dora Bakoyannis, calling for an emergency sitting of the National Foreign Policy Council.In the letter, he stressed that the recent developments in the Aegean have sparked concerns that require briefing and discussion.

    "The issue that matters the most is not the cabinet reshuffle, but the Turkish midair provocations that are questioning the status quo of the Greek islands of Farmakonissi and Agathonissi, with Greece not reacting," argued LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) spokesman Kyriakis Velopoulos.

    Source: ANA/MPA, NET, NET 105.8

    News item: 17536

    [13] G. Papandreou: Elections, the only Way Out

    Politics

    Socialist party leader Mr. Papandreou addressed a rally in Serres on Thursday night condemning "in the most unequivocal way every act of violence from wherever it may come from" and the "Israeli bombings resulting in many casualties and the operations in Gaza," calling on all for an "immediate ceasefire and end to hostilities" and expressing the hope that "efforts aimed at achieving a ceasefire will meet with success." "We condemn the Israeli bombings and the operations in Gaza", he said and we express our solidarity and support to the Palestinian people and their fights". Delivering a speech in a political rally, Giorogs Papandrou asked for immediate elections stressing that the reshuffle will not change the negative picture of the government as the issue raised is not about persons but about policy. On reference to agricultural issues he said that the countryside presents signs of abandonment and presented the 4 basic axons of PASOK's policy regarding the agricultural sector.

    Papandreou also referred to the "greatly increased provocative activity of Turkey in the Aegean", that he denounced in the most categorical way, adding that the President of the Republic provided the best response with his presence on Agathonissi and pointing out that "we reply to Turkey, and to whatever other party interested, very simply and directly that nobody can dispute the sovereign rights of Greece, we shall not allow it."

    The PASOK leader said that what is necessary is a foreign policy that will fully safeguard the country's interests, that will provide Greece with the necessary prestige and leverage and will not permit audacity from Turkey or from anyone else, while noting that the PASOK goverments showed the right path in the past and stressing that "we shall prove it again for the Greek people, and indeed very soon."

    Regarding the governmental reshuffle he said that preoccupying oneself with a reshuffle over a period of three months is not policy and underlined that a reshuffle without a serious plan and without a route plan for the country is "like changing rowers but using the same defective compass."

    Mr. Papandreou also accused the government of creating a gap between the Security bodies and the people and stressed that if the conservatives are thinking of retiring the Greek people this will not be achieved. Mr. Papandreou said that in Democracy there are not deadlocks as the solution is given through elections and by the people and stressed that the first thing PASOK will deal with after the elections is to restore trust, safety and hope. He also added that he and his party have the courage and willingness to conflict with interests that hold peoples' property and with mentalities, arrogant practices and arbitrariness.

    Completing his speech Mr. Papandreou pointed out that this is not the time for blind policies and social polarization and added that PASOK wishes to unit social forces with the solutions it suggests. He stressed that the government's political time is coming to an end and that every day that the government remains in power the country is sinking deeper and deeper into the crisis. He also expressed the certainty that PASOK as a government tomorrow along with the citizens will build "the Greece that we want and we deserve".

    News item: 17504

    [14] R. Castro Ready to Hold Direct Talks with Obama

    America-USA

    Cuban President Raul Castro has said he is ready to hold direct talks "without intermediaries" with US President-elect Barack Obama. On his part, Barrack Obama had said at the beginning of December that he was willing to get involved in a direct dialogue with Raul Castro, who replaced his brother Fidel who resigned from his duties following serious health problems.

    "A gesture in return to a gesture. We are ready to hold talks directly with Barrack Obama regardless of when... without intermediaries...but we are in no rush, we are not desperate" said Raul Castro in a local television interview. During his pre-election campaign, Mr. Obama had pledged to ease the 47-year-old US trade embargo against Cuba.

    News item: 17343


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