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The Hellenic Radio (ERA): News in English, 09-02-20

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Telethon for a Hospital in Gaza
  • [02] Watching TV Causes Depression
  • [03] Papandreou: Greece Unprotected from the Global Crisis
  • [04] KKE's 18th Conference Begins
  • [05] Poor Weather Sweeps the Balkans
  • [06] France Gripped by Mass Strike
  • [07] Mass One-Day Strike in France
  • [08] Cyprus Takes Olgac to Court
  • [09] France: Carbon Monoxide Poisons 65
  • [10] D. Bakoyiannis at Brussels
  • [11] Turkish Actor Calls Killings a Scenario
  • [12] Russia-Ukraine Struck a Deal
  • [13] Gas Talks Fall Flat
  • [14] Crisis Talks Commence
  • [15] UK Premier Blasts Prince Harry's Racial Slur
  • [16] Texas Billionaire Stanford Found
  • [17] Blair Named New US Intelligence Director
  • [18] Obama: Peace in M. East a Priority
  • [19] Obama Determined to Shut Down Guantanamo
  • [20] Karamanlis Sends Letter to Obama
  • [21] New US President Sworn-In
  • [22] Historic Swear-In Ceremony
  • [23] Flock of Birds Brought down US Airways Jet
  • [24] Tension in Mideast Continues
  • [25] Two Killed on Gaza Border
  • [26] Feverish Talks
  • [27] Israel Thinks of Exchanging Prisoners with Shalit
  • [28] Israel Accused of Using Depleted Uranium Bombs
  • [29] Gaza: Israeli Army Withdraws
  • [30] Israeli Withdrawal Continues
  • [31] Israeli Troops Withdraw from Gaza
  • [32] Unilateral Ceasefire Fragile

  • [01] Telethon for a Hospital in Gaza

    ERT, in cooperation with 11 bodies (GSEE, ADEDY, UNICEF, Athens-Piraeus Supra-prefecture, ENAE, KEDKE, GESEVE, Athens Bar Association, Technical Chamber of Greece, Athens Medical Centre and Athens Pharmaceutical Association) is staging a telethon on Monday, 23, February for aid and solidarity to the suffering Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip. The telethon will be broadcast from ET1 and ERT world as of 17:00 to Monday midnight.

    The big losses in human lives, the immense destructions in houses, hospitals and other buildings in Gaza, as well as the people's needs for primary commodities led to the decision to stage a Love Telethon.

    The Telethon will take place in ERT Studios D and C. Anchormen at Studio D per hour will be Vassilis Lyritzis with Dimitris Economou, Katerina Bakoyannis with Takis Spiliopoulos, Popi Tsapanidou, Bilio Tsoukala, Eirini Nikolopolou, Prokopis Doukas and Maria Houkli.

    Rika Vagianni and Marion Michelidaki will host the music groups of the Telethon in Studio C.

    In parallel, a special telephone centre will operate for the needs of the event from which Marina Bekiaris will inform us on our fellow-citizens' offers.

    The money that will be raised will be spent on the restoration of the Christian Hospital in the area that had been utterly destroyed during the last bombings. The hospital, which will be designed from the scratch by Technical Chamber civil engineers, will offer its services to all inhabitants of the area irrelevant of their religion.

    The 11 bodies, which are staging this big effort, hope to raise so much money so that this objective is materialized for the benefit of the suffering Palestinians in Gaza.

    News item: 19195

    [02] Watching TV Causes Depression

    The more teens watch TV the higher the danger to develop depression in their life, report an American study.

    The results of the research were made public in a medical magazine published in Munich. The study found a dose response effect. The more TV viewing the teens in the study had, the more the likelihood of the development of depression as a young adult. This is due to the fact that they are left with very little time to spend on sports and social life.

    Furthermore, TV programmes can also increase fear and aggressiveness in people who have been watching for many hours TV and sleep a few hours. This has also a negative effect on their mental and emotional state.

    Pittsburgh University researchers recorded the number of hours 4,140 people watched TV after participating in a research conducted in 1995.

    Moreover, they recorded how long they played games on the computer and how long they listened to the radio.

    The average age of the participants was 14.8 years and none had an indication that they had depression. Seven years later, 7.8% of them suffered of depression.

    In parallel, the danger of suffering from depression increased when the number hours of those who watched TV increased.

    News item: 3.htm

    [03] Papandreou: Greece Unprotected from the Global Crisis

    Politics

    "Greece has found itself in the financial crisis unprotected; and this had serious repercussions on Shipping and Tourism, two sectors that Greece is directly related to," stressed amongst others PASOK (Pan-hellenic Socialist Movement) President George Papandreou, while addressing a meeting with the leaders of productive and social bodies. The above bodies are related to the sectors of shipping and tourism.

    During the meeting, it was reported that tourism dropped by 20-30% in 2009.

    Mr Papandreou was strict with the government and the European Commission. He blamed the government for not materializing Mr Karamanlis' promises made on 18 December. He added that his promises had still neither been materialized on a legislative level nor on a level of financing.

    He accused the EU of reacting conservatively and of moving too slowly at a time when it should be moving more aggressively and taking more active measures for the exodus from the crisis.

    Presenting PASOK's proposals on tourism, Mr Papandreou stressed that qualitative instead of massive tourism should be promoted, tourist bodies should have discrete roles, emphasis should be given to green tourism and finally tourism should be connected with Education and training.

    Amongst others, the PASOK president proposed a series of measures for the reduction of the VAT by 2% for all tourist enterprises.

    Mr Papandreou also referred to a packet of measures, which as per PASOK if implemented can give many solutions to the problems tourism are facing and which are the following:

    - the debts of loanees should be suspended until 2010 - overdue debts of tourist enterprises should be settled without any additional burdens - tourist enterprises and mainly small and medium-sized ones should join the 28-billion-euro programme for the Banks. In parallel, the sum to be given to TEMPE should increase. - ETAK (Unified Property Tax) should be abolished and the former status restored. - Public investments and tourist infrastructure should be boosted, while ESPA (National Strategic Framework Plan) should commence immediately in the tourist sector. - landing fees in regional airports should drop by 50% - the unemployment benefit in tourism should rise to 70% of normal salaries. - the number of those entitled social tourist coupons should rise from 370,000 - 500,000. - the number of five-day long school excursions should rise and supported when they take place in Greece and not abroad. - the prices of ship tickets should drop while the upper limit of economy classes, reaching 20%, should be restored, while prices for tickets of ships heading to remote islands should freeze. - the financing of tour operators should increase. - special measures increasing the awareness of Athens, which has been hit by last December's incidents, should be taken, while its three-million-euro fund should be activated.

    News item: 19104

    [04] KKE's 18th Conference Begins

    Politics

    KKE's (Communist Party of Greece) 18th Conference opened its sessions Wednesday with the Secretary General Aleka Papariga's speech. Ms Papariga stressed that "Socialism is timely and historically necessary", speaking of the party's counterattack "in all fronts" at a time when big financial, social and political problems all over the globe, in the region and Greece are being examined.

    Ms Papariga commented on the coincidence on the time the conference is being held and global financial crisis. She said "we all know that demands rise due to the fact that the crisis has begun becoming evident in Greece. It will break out, be sharp and last long.

    We only have one choice, which is to rise to the occasion so that the labour movement to retaliate and the social alliance to progress.

    Ms Papariga also criticized the rest of political parties and referred to Greece's relations with the EU and NATO.

    She also referred to the imminent Euro elections and the next parliamentary elections, stressing "the first great general political battle after the conference will be the battle of Euro elections. The outgoing Central Committee has formed a Political Declaration for the political framework and the objectives of this battle."

    Referring to the Parliamentary elections, she stressed amongst others that the people will be able to launch its counter offensive from a better position provided that conservative, anti-popular and anti-labour government is weaker. This applies also to one-party or coalition governments.

    Urban parties, or compromise parties as she called them, fear a weak government. The popular movement should count on one thing, the new attack an anti-popular government will launch. We will help the labour class and its allies to gain confidence in its power."

    News item: 19099

    [05] Poor Weather Sweeps the Balkans

    World -

    Europe

    The northern Balkans and Turkey are being swept by poor weather. The people have lost their life and dozens were trapped in the snow in Serbia. Snowstorms and low temperatures are hitting Croatia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Ankara, causing traffic chaos and power supply cuts in vast areas.

    In Serbia the temperature has dropped to -15 C, while it is snowing heavily.

    Three people have lost their life and 30 villages were cut off, while parts of the Belgrade-Nis motorway and of the one leading to Romania closed. In parallel, the number of road accidents has risen. Many villages remain without electric power for the third consecutive day.

    A strong snowstorm, accompanied by strong winds has hit the central parts of Croatia and the Dalmatian coasts, forcing the authorities to close Dubrovnik and Zadar airports. Several people were transferred to hospitals with broken limbs, while schools closed in several areas, allowing children to enjoy the snow.

    At the same time, dozens of villages on the coasts of Montenegro have been left without electric power and the northern parts of the country were paralyzed. Podgoritsa airport closed due to the strong snowfall. Dozens of streets remain cut off.

    In Bulgaria, due to the heavy snow and storms, 56 villages and cities were left without electric power across the country. Streets, as well as Varna port have closed. Due to an avalanche that blocked a country road, dozens of trucks and cars were blocked, some of which carried children and pregnant women.

    In northern Albania, an avalanche blocked 13 cars on Thursday, while the government used helicopters to carry patients from remote areas.

    The authorities in Kosovo announced that the snow and low temperatures are responsible for the 100 road accidents in the last 24 hours, in which some were injured.

    Finally, Ankara is facing huge traffic problems due to the heavy snowfall. Several cars and their passengers were immobilized, as the employees of the municipality were trying to clean the roads the whole night.

    News item: 19187

    [06] France Gripped by Mass Strike

    France was hit by a massive strike on Thursday with some 2.5 million people taking part in demonstrations in several cities but mainly in Paris within the framework of mobilizations and protests against President Nikola Sarkozy policy according to the largest trade union CGT. It is reported as the largest mobilization after the 3 million demonstrators in 2006 protesting against the then "first labor contract". It is obviously the largest demonstration since May, 2007 when Sarkozy assumed France's Presidency. Police said that there were some 1 million demonstrators.

    The impact of demonstrations found a response from President Sarkozy, who described it as "legitimate concern" and committed himself to meet with trade unions and employers in February. In his statement, the French President says: "the unprecedented world financial crisis gives rise to a legitimate concern in France as in all countries worldwide. The crisis imposes authorities the duty to listen, to hold a dialogue and in parallel move to action with high determination. Within this spirit I will meet with trade unions and employers in February to reach an agreement on reform plans in 2009 and policies so to move to action correctly".

    News item: 18326

    [07] Mass One-Day Strike in France

    Demanding more government action to protect jobs, wages and the employees' purchase power, hundreds of thousands of French are expected to take to the streets. Polls have suggested that the majority of the French people (69%) believe the unions' call for a mass strike is justified; since the financial crisis has weighed the country down. 200 rallies are expected to be staged across France across France. About 200 demonstrations are expected to take place throughout France. In Paris, strikers are to gather at the Place de la Bastille (Bastille Square).

    Trade Unions Remain United

    The general strike will affect Transport today, as 35% of the train itineraries will operate in Paris and the surrounding districts, while dozens of flights have been cancelled. Most of the schools, as well as public services, will remain closed, while the electronic Media will be seriously disrupted.

    The strike is reflecting the fears for increasing unemployment, dissatisfaction and the government's unwillingness to help consumers, as well as the discontent against the Banking system, which is blamed for the financial collapse.

    Exhibiting rare unity, France's eight national Trade Unions supported unanimously the staging of a strike and hammered out a list with their demands from the government and enterprises, which are blamed of trying to take advantage of the crisis and sack employees, as well as reduce the cost of production. It is the first national strike that is being staged in the industrial part of France due to the crises and is being supported by the voters' majority.

    Although France has not been affected by the financial crisis to the extent Britain and Spain have, unemployment is rising steadily. The number of the unemployed has reached 2.07 million in November (an 8.5% increase, compared to last year).

    With financial analysts forecasting a 2% drop in development in 2009, Nicolas Sarkozy has introduced a 26-million-euro packet to bolster the economy to the end of 2008, aiming at boosting investments and protecting big industries. The Trade Unions' leadership considers that the French president should adopt Britain's example, introducing measures in support of consumers. Nicolas Sarkozy, who is in running the first year of his term of office, ignored the Trade Unions and rallies, trying to introduce a series of reforms and anti-popular measures. However, now he appears concerned over the prospect of social turmoil.

    Fearing in December that the riots in Greece would reach France, he withdrew the Educational reform plan, after students took to the streets.

    The French president is more careful against the Trade Unions as regards today's strike and the French ministers have stated they have received the message.

    Sources: 105.8, NA-PA

    Le Monde: Forte mobilisation attendue et premier grand test social pour Sarkozy

    News item: 18291

    [08] Cyprus Takes Olgac to Court

    Cyprus intends to take Turkish actor Attila Olgac to court after the latter's having confessed to killing 10 Greek-Cypriots, including a 19-year-old prisoner, during Turkey's invasion in 1974. Greece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stressed that Turkey should abide to the European Court of Human Rights rulings and cooperate in uncovering the circumstances of the disappearances.

    A Cypriot spokesman Giorgos Iakovou termed Ankara's effort to undermine the Olgac's confession and present him as a psychopath as expected.

    In Athens, KKE (Greek Communist Party) said that the crime had not stopped, since the USA and the EU were equally blamed with the Turkish administration for not providing a fair solution to the Cyprus row.

    In Turkey, famous journalist Mehmet Ali Birand urged the country's Justice to step in, arguing that actor Attila Olgac should stand trial whether he lied or not.

    The actor retracted his statement, whereby he had confessed the killing of Greek-Cypriot war prisoners, arguing it was a scenario.

    Birand claimed that Olgac's claims angered the Greek-Cypriots and the Greeks and that the actor opened the Pandora box without him realizing it.

    News item: 18225

    [09] France: Carbon Monoxide Poisons 65

    Sixty-five people were hospitalised for carbon monoxide poisoning after breathing toxic fumes at a church concert near the northern French city of Lille, officials said. Among those hospitalised were 11 children, members of a church choir. As per a regional official, nobody is in serious condition. Emergency services were called to the scene at 22:15 local time, when a couple members of the audience became ill, and after determining there were very elevated carbon monoxide levels in the air, evacuated the 250 people from the church in the town of Phalempin.

    The church was evacuated and all attendees were led to a neighbouring hall, where doctors examined them. According to information, he heating system of the church was turned on at 15:00. However, as the church is not aired well, carbon monoxide gathered in the church.

    News item: 18198

    [10] D. Bakoyiannis at Brussels

    Foreign affairs minister Mrs. Dora Bakoyiannis attended speech on European Policy Center in Brussels titled: The World in 2009: a year for Europe". Greece is assuming the one-year presidency of Europe's security body, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stressed to work as an honest broker to strengthen the Organization's role as a forum for dialogue and platform for action at the heart of Europe's security architecture.

    "Greece is assuming presidency of Europe's security bodyin a conjunction where exponential and unforeseen changes seem to be the only constant in intenrtional relations", Mrs. Bakoyiannis stressed, adding: "Under these conditions I believe that OSCE remains the only regional institution that incorporates the wider euroatlantic ground and the euro asian region. In addition, it stems from a unique and ambitious concept of security, based on mutual values and commitments as well as the on the institutional value of respect of a person's dignity". Mrs. Bakoyioannis announces OScE presidency's priorities.

    Athens will focus its efforts:

    1) On the communication and coordination with the directly involved parties for the promotion of co operative, undivided and global security.

    2) On the establishment of a strategy for the planning of more effective ways of materialization of mutual goals in order to safeguard the srability,security and co operation in OSCE region.

    3) On a symmetry of efforts for the tackling of asymmetric threats and of old challenges.

    News item: 18165

    [11] Turkish Actor Calls Killings a Scenario

    Turkish actor Attila Olgac, who had confessed to having killed 10 Greek-Cypriot prisoners during Turkey's invasion in Cyprus in 1974, said that nothing had to do with the truth. In his interview with Turkish paper Hurriyet, he claimed that everything he had said was a film scenario like 'Saving Private Ryan. However, his claims failed to convince both Athens and Nicosia.

    Whether his claims were true or not, actor Attila Olgac had to stand a trial, read Hurriyet. A Hurriyet editor wondered which of the two versions the world would believe. Arguing that thought Olgac's claims were nothing but fiction, the editor stressed that both the incident and the period in which Olgac referred to should be investigated.

    The Hurriyet editor went on to say that whether Olgac's claims proved true, both he and his commanders should be tried for war crimes. Otherwise, he added, Olgac should be tried for exposing Turkey.

    News item: 18156

    [12] Russia-Ukraine Struck a Deal

    The Russian and Ukrainian prime ministers, Vladimir Putin and Yulia Tymoshenko respectively have struck a deal at talks in Moscow to resume Russian natural gas exports to Europe via Ukraine shortly. Mrs. Tymoshenko said that the two countries' energy companies, Gazprom and Naftohaz, had been instructed to draw up the relevant contracts, adding that all the routes for gas transit and gas supplies to Europe will be restored immediately after all the documents on the transit and purchase of gas are signed. After the conclusion of talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Vladimir Putin said that Ukraine will have a discount of 20% on condition that the tariff for piping Russian gas to European consumers through Ukraine remains in force and that the price for piping will be the price of 2008.

    At his news conference with Mrs Tymoshenko, Mr Putin said that discounts for both Russian gas supplied to Ukraine and the transit rate charged by Kiev would apply for the current year. They also agreed that from 1 January 2010, Russia and Ukraine will entirely move to price and tariff formation fully in accordance with European standards without any exemptions or discounts as regards both the transit and the price of gas.

    Bilateral talks were suspended at the end of 2008 disrupting gas flow to much of Europe via Ukraine. EU states import a quarter of their gas from Russia and 80% of supplies come via Ukraine. Almost 20 countries in Europe have been affected by the dispute. Russia Gazprom switched off the gas this month, accusing Ukraine firstly of failing to pay for its own supply, then later of stealing gas meant for other countries. In the last days Gazprom was trying to restore partial gas flow to Europe but Ukrainian network proved unprepared. However, Ukraine asked Russian reserves to cover the so called "technological gas" necessary to maintain efficient pressure on the network. On its part Russia insisted that "technological gas" was obligation of the transit country on the grounds of Moscow-Kiev contract and made counter-proposal for creation of European consortium to share the cost of technological gas, indirectly financing Ukraine.

    Vladimir Putin and Yulia Tymoshenko talks started at noon on Saturday and continued between the two countries delegations till the early hours on Sunday while the two Prime-ministers attended the mid of the emergency gas Summit hosted by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with the participation of representatives of the Czech Republic, which holds the EU rotating presidency as well as Presidents and Prime-ministers from post soviet union Commonwealth of Independent States.

    EU expressed satisfaction but reserved optimism at Russia-Ukraine deal, which will restore gas supplies to Europe.EU Commission spokesman underlined that this period was regarded as a test case for judging whether or not they are credible partners.

    News item: 17842

    [13] Gas Talks Fall Flat

    The gas talks held Saturday between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko fell flat. The key disputes between the two nations seem insurmountable, since Kiev remains divided into two camps, the pro-Russian one led by Yulia Tymoshenko and the pro-western one headed by President Viktor Yushchenko, who has been accused by the Kremlin of torpedoing every effort towards a deal that could put an end to the crisis. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev blamed the failure of the talks on Ukraine.

    At a press conference, Medvedev said that Kiev could not take to pay the EU price of the natural gas, arguing that the more Ukraine delayed the kickoff of the negotiations the more strained their relationship grew.

    It was the last chance. Putin and Tymoshenko looked for the golden medium that would allow the resumption of Russian gas shipments in 17 days' time. What matters now is whether the meeting between the two heads of state could yield any results, at a time when Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is up at arms with his Prime Minister. He has blamed her for not serving Ukraine's interests. The meeting in Moscow occurred at a time when the European Union made it clear that it had exhausted its patience, thus pushing for an end to the worst energy impasse Europe has plunged into.

    The list with the EU reps that joined the Moscow talks was not released by the Kremlin. Earlier, Croatia had said that its government's vice-president could not go to Moscow.

    The European Union's stance on the gas row did not contribute to the efforts made for a solution, said a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    News item: 17837

    [14] Crisis Talks Commence

    The talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko started in Moscow, said AFP. The two heads of state had a meeting and then off they went to Kremlin to join a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and EU reps. As soon as the meeting is concluded, Putin and Tymoshenki will resume their bilateral talks. The Russian President assured that Moscow would do anything in its power to sort the conflict between Russian and Ukraine out the soonest possible and defended the establishment of a permanent international body to avert similar crisis in the future.

    The list with the EU officials who travel to Moscow to take part in the talks was not released.

    Citing Russian government sources, world news agencies have reported Gazprom head Alexei

    Miller and the president of Ukraine's Naftogaz have also been invited to the talks. In the meantime, Bulgaria hopes to be supplied with natural gas from Greece and Turkey lest it should cut down on gas distribution in enterprises, said the country's Energy Minister.

    News item: 17824

    [15] UK Premier Blasts Prince Harry's Racial Slur

    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said a racial slur used by Prince Harry to describe a fellow soldier was unacceptable, yet he added that the Prince's apology was sincere and therefore it should be accepted.

    As soon as the news first appeared on the website of News of the World paper, the 24-year-old prince apologized.

    Harry appeared in a video describing an Asian colleague of his as "Paki," a derogatory term used for Indians and Pakistanis

    The release of the video footage urged some religious groups, as well as Tory leader David Cameron, to blast the Prince's slur.

    "I think the sincerity of his apology cannot be doubted. It was a mistake, he has made the admission of that and, once he has made his apology, I think the British people are good enough to give someone who has actually been a role model for young people and has done well fighting for our country, gone into very difficult situations with bravery, I think they will give him the benefit of the doubt," Gordon Brown told GMTV television.

    The Army said it would not launch a formal investigation into the matter because no complaint had been made. Source: ANA-MPA, Reuters

    News item: 17597

    [16] Texas Billionaire Stanford Found

    World -

    America-USA

    FBI agents found Texas billionaire Allen Stanford, accused of an $8 billion fraud that spooked investors around the world, in Virginia. A law enforcement official said Stanford was making arrangements to surrender his passport. Stanford holds dual U.S.-Antiguan citizenship, and has homes in the United States and the Caribbean. FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the Federal Bureau of Investigation had acted at the request of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and that Stanford had not been arrested. No criminal charges have been filed against him. In the meantime, President Obama and many Senators of both the Democratic and Republican parties committed themselves to give the billionaire's donations for their campaigns to charities.

    The whereabouts of Stanford, 58, had been the subject of intense speculation since he failed to respond to a subpoena from the SEC to answer questions about his company's operations.

    Sources: Reuters, NA-PA

    CNN: Missing billionaire found in Virginia

    News item: 19171

    [17] Blair Named New US Intelligence Director

    The US Senate confirmed retired Adm. Dennis Blair as the new national intelligence director. Blair will supervise 16 intelligence agencies, including the CIA. He will also be President Barack Obama's top intelligence adviser. Blair dismissed the use of torture and unauthorized interceptions, two practices that came under heavy criticism and caused reactions during the Bush administration.

    Source: NET 105.8

    News item: 18296

    [18] Obama: Peace in M. East a Priority

    U.S. President Barack Obama in his first interview with Arab television since taking office, Al Arabiya on Monday that the time was ripe for Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace negotiations, assuring that he will keep the promises he undertook during his electoral campaign. He said that he was prepared to extend a hand of peace to Iran..."

    "Difficult and Time-Consuming Deliberations"

    Obama reminded everyone that he signed the previous week that he signed a special decree that provides the closing of Guantanamo within one year. US "is ready to start a new corporate relation, based on mutual respect and mutual interests with Muslim world" he sated.

    He also confirmed that the government will make a clear distinction between Al Qaeda and all those who dispute the views of the organization. Finally, in recent statements Mr. Oabama stated that Al Qaeda leader members appear nervous.

    On Iran, Obama said he believed it was important to use all the tools of U.S. power with Tehran, including diplomacy.

    "It is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are, but (also) where there are potential avenues for progress," he said.

    "If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us."

    The US and Iran have broken off their diplomatic relations since 1980. Former US president George Bush posed as a condition for the start of talks with Iran the termination of Teheran's nuclear programme.

    Source: Reuters

    News item: 18194

    [19] Obama Determined to Shut Down Guantanamo

    New U.S. president Barack Oabama has circulated a draft executive order that calls for closing the controversial US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay within a year. On Wednesday Obama had phone conversations with Arab, Israeli and Palestinian leaders and committed to work for peace in Middle East. He also asked from the military leadership to proceed to additional planning so as to smooth the withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq.

    Economy, Afghanistan-Iraq at Focus

    Guantanamo draft decree refers among other things on the closing down of the prison within a year. Prisoners will hold the right to appeal on court regarding their imprisonment.

    In addition, Obama administration will look into the issue of prisoners being transported to other prisons or being released. Minister of defense will be obliged to re examine the conditions of detention in Guantanamo and to take immediate measures for its improvement.

    On his first day in office the new president met with military and national security advisers to discuss the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. "During the discussion, I asked the military leadership to engage in additional planning necessary to execute a responsible military drawdown from Iraq," Obama said in a statement after the meeting.

    Meantime, Democratic lawmakers from incoming US President Barack Obama's Democratic party unveiled a 825 billion dollar package aimed at jolting the US economy from a deep recession.

    President Barack Obama's first public act in office Wednesday was to institute new limits on lobbyists in his White House and to freeze the salaries of top White House associates because the American families face difficult times as he underlined in members of his government.

    Hillary Clinton won U.S. Senate approval on Wednesday as the next secretary of state. The road is open for her to be appointed the country's top diplomat.

    Obama Takes Second Oath

    U.S. President Barack Obama was administered the oath of office a second time on Wednesday at the White House because a word was out of sequence when he was sworn in on Tuesday.

    The White House counsel said in a statement read by a spokesman the oath was administered a second time out of an "abundance of caution."

    News item: 18010

    [20] Karamanlis Sends Letter to Obama

    Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has sent a letter to the new US President Barack Obama, congratulating on assuming his duties. In his letter, the PM stresses amongst others his satisfaction over Mr Obama's commitment to combat the simmering global financial crisis in cooperation with the international community.

    Besides, he points out that Mr Obama's significant speech yesterday had an appeal beyond the US and emanated the principles of understanding, cooperation, solidarity and the power of example, values that both leaders share. Mr Karamanlis expressed his expectation to cooperate with Mr Obama, looking to meet the new US president in the near future. During his first day as president, Mr Obama promised a new era of accountability and transparency, saying there would be a "clean break from business as usual". His first annoucement was a pay freeze on senior White House staff. He said American families were tightening their belts, and so should Washington, adding that details would not be kept secret and made known instead. As President he would hold himself too to a "new standard of openness", he said. "Information will not be held just because I say so. "Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this Presidency."

    Meanwhile Reuter has reported that there is a non-signed draft which proposes revision of the state under which Guantanamo detainees are kept and the special military committees that are trying them. Mr Obama may order the Guantanamo prison to close, when the draft plan of the relevant decree is signed.

    News item: 18005

    [21] New US President Sworn-In

    Sworn in on Tuesday, Barack Obama, a former Illinois senator, became the 44th US President. Almost 500,000 people used the underground in Washington to attend the swearing-in ceremony. Before the ceremony, the new US President visited the White House to drink coffee with the outgoing President George Bush.

    In the meantime, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expressed his skepticism over Obama's election, arguing that it is great expectation that give birth to greatest disappointments.

    European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso called on US President Barack Obama and European leaders to deepen their transatlantic ties at a time of "great challenges." 'The United States and the European Union should acknowledge their interdependence and the need for openness, while working closely together to shape multilateral responses to global challenges, from the financial and economic crises to peace and security, including in the Middle East, development challenges, and of course the defining struggle of our generation: to stop and reverse climate change,' Barroso said in a statement marking Obama's inauguration.

    In his message, Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi offered to work with Obama on the financial crisis, the Middle East standoff and Afghanistan. He also highlighted the need for a permanent dialogue with Russia.

    British head of government Gordon Brown hailed the arrival of President Barack Obama as a "new chapter in both American history and the world's history."

    Brown stressed that the new US President is a "man of great vision and moral purpose" ready to tackle the global financial crisis and other problems such as the environment. "The whole world is watching the inauguration of President Obama, witnessing a new chapter in both American history and the world's history. He's not only the first black American president but he sets out with the determination to solve the world's problems," argued Brown.

    Also commenting on Obama's swearing-in ceremony, French President Nicolas Sarkozy argued, "I want to assure you that France is determined to work hand in hand with America, its friend and ally, so that we can resolve together the immense challenges with which our world is confronted today." Sarkozy added that in electing Obama "the American people expressed with vigour its faith in progress and the future, as well as its wish for the open, new, strong and united America that you embody."

    Speaking on NET state run television, the Greek Foreign Minister, Dora Bakoyannis, wished the new US President good luck in his uphill task, further adding that his speech meant to deliver a message of optimism and hope. She also wished for a constructive cooperation between Obama and the EU.

    The New President's Speech

    Opening his speech, Obama said: " My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and co-operation he has shown throughout this transition. [...]On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

    He then went on to say: "That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

    Touching on economy, Barack Obama put down the financial crisis to irresponsibility and greediness.

    Obama also addressed the Muslims, inviting them to seek a new forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect, warning that the US administration's will is powerful and capable of making it sure that it is the US that will survive, not the terrorists.

    The First Official Meeting

    Obama will chair Wednesday his fist White House meeting on the US pullout from Iraq. As many as 142,000 US troops have been stationed in Iraq and another 33,000 in Afghanistan. Obama's camp has already set up a 16-month timeline for the withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq.

    The voting to ratify the appointment of Hilary Clinton to the post of the US Secretary of State of the new US administration will take place on Wednesday.

    News item: 17951

    [22] Historic Swear-In Ceremony

    Barack Obama was poised to make history on Tuesday as America's first black president, riding the optimism of millions of people into power and inheriting a recession and two wars that will test his skills. A winter chill failed to dampen the spirits of more than 1 million people who swept into the U.S. capital to witness the pomp and ceremony and revel in the festivities surrounding Obama's inauguration as the 44th U.S. president. NET journalists and well known annalists will cover the event string from 18:00 until late at night.The inaguration ceremony will be held at 19:00 Greek local time.

    Strict Security Measures

    Thousands of security personnel were in place to maintain order and guard against an attack. Much of the city center was barricaded and shut down to vehicular traffic.

    In an eagerly anticipated inauguration address he has been working on for weeks, Obama will rally Americans to an era of responsibility, urging them to join in a spirit of unity to take on difficult issues.

    Obama and his wife, Michelle, and the Bidens are to attend a church service on Tuesday morning at St. John's Episcopal Church. Then they will have coffee with the Bushes and the Cheneys at the White House.

    The group will proceed to the U.S. Capitol for a time-honored ceremony in which Obama will repeat a short oath,

    The 44 U.S. President

    Obama, 47, the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas. Barack Hussein Obama II was born August 4, 1961 is the President-electt of the United States of Americaa, and the first African Americann to be elected President of the United Statess.

    Barack Obama's parents met while both were attending the University of Hawaii at Manoaa, where Obama's father was enrolled as a foreign studentt. He lived with his parents in the Honolulu district of Kuliououu, inhabiting a cottage in the grounds of a house off the Kalanianaole Highwayy that was owned by his grandparents. His parents separated when he was two years old and later divorced. After the separation, he, his mother and his grandparents moved into a single-story home in the Manoaa district. His father received a Masters degree in Economicss from Harvard Universityy, then returned to Kenya, where he became a finance minister before dying in an automobile accident in 1982.

    Obama entered Harvard Law Schooll in late 1988. He married Michelle Robinson in 1992 and settled down with her in Hyde Parkk, The couple's first daughter, Malia Ann, was born in 1998; their second, Natasha (known as Sasha), in 2001. Obama won election to the U.S. Senate in 2004 and announced his candidacy for the White House in early 2007.

    News item: 17925

    [23] Flock of Birds Brought down US Airways Jet

    Black box recordings retrieved on Sunday from the crashed US Airways jet appear to back the theory that a collision with birds brought down the plane.Investigators have yet to analyze the wrecked engines and fuselage of the Airbus, but cockpit recordings released on Sunday strongly supported indications that the plane lost all power after being hit by birds.

    The voice recording shows that "about 90 seconds after take-off the captain remarks about birds," Kitty Higgins, from the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB), told a news conference."One second later the cockpit voice recorder recorded the sound of thumps and rapid decrease of engine sounds. The captain acknowledges that both engines have lost power and he takes control of the aircraft," Higgins said. The Airbus ditched in New York's Hudson River with no loss of life thanks to a skillful splash-landing and well-oiled rescue operation. Everyone aboard was able to get off the sinking aircraft and into rescue boats. The pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, has been credited with saving the lives of all 155 people aboard with his skillful handling of the plane as it came down.

    News item: 17886

    [24] Tension in Mideast Continues

    Israeli jets pounded a metal factory in the Gaza Strip, claiming a rocket attack on southern Israel had preceded, while US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is visiting the area to hold talks with both sides. Having met with the Israeli Prime Minister on Wednesday, he is expected to hold talks with the Palestinian President on Thursday.

    It was the second rocket attack against Israel ever since the ceasefire that put an end to Israel's 22-day offensive had been declared.

    An Israeli army spokesman confirmed it fired back, adding that the Israeli jets targeted facilities used to smuggle weapons.

    News item: 18288

    [25] Two Killed on Gaza Border

    Israeli fire has killed a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip today just after the death of an Israeli soldier caused by an explosion, reported the Arab TV networks one week after the ceasefire between Iraq and Hamas. The 24-year-old farmer Anuar Al-Drem was killed in Kissufim near the Israeli border from Israeli artillery or helicopters fire, reported a Palestinian medical source. Al Arabiyia and Al Jazeera had reported earlier that an Israeli soldier had lost his life near the Gaza Strip. The blast wounded three soldiers. Until now, no organisation has assumed responsibility.

    Sources: Reuters, NA-PA Relative articles: Diplomatic fever

    News item: 18200

    [26] Feverish Talks

    Middle East - Iraq

    Aiming to broker a new ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, talks between Hamas and Egypt continued till late on Sunday in Cairo. Israel has suggested an 18-month ceasefire, but Hamas is after a 12-month one. Hamas has suggested Turkish and European observers be present at the border crossings, rejecting the presence of observers from Israel. Hamas negotiators said they would visit Monday Gaza and Syria to meet with the local Hamas leaders to discuss the terms of a long-running truce. However, a Hamas spokesman in Lebanon said his organization would continue sending weapons to Gaza.

    At the same time, a spokesman for the Israeli Defence Ministry said that Ehud Barack would meet Wednesday with the new US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, before departing for Washington.

    Palestinian sources said that Mitchell would also meet with the Palestinian President in Ramallah in West Bank.

    News item: 18149

    [27] Israel Thinks of Exchanging Prisoners with Shalit

    Israeli officials are thinking of adopting a more moderate stance in relation to the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, reported the Israeli radio on Thursday. Several ministers, among them Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and head of the Domestic Security Service Yuval Diskin accept to release most of the detainees Hamas demands in exchange for Salit, adds the same source. Israeli officials believe that Hamas has been weakened to a great extent after Israel's military operations and that the release of the Palestinian prisoners will not boost its forces. The Israeli Radio points out that even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has decided to do all he can to release Gilad Shalit, who was abducted in June 2006, before the 10 February parliamentary elections.

    Meanwhile, the European Union hopes that more humanitarian aid will be sent to the Gaza Strip, as it has been assured by Israel that it will fully cooperate with the Europeans for the dispatch of aid.

    Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated after her talks with EU officials in Brussels that the passages to Gaza have opened to serve humanitarian reasons and that Israel is ready to cooperate "for as long as it takes" to see that the necessary aid passes to the area.

    "I am happy with what the minister has said," stated head of European diplomacy Xavier Solana after his talks with Ms Tzipi Livni. "I hope that it will become true and the necessary trucks will be able to enter Gaza," he added.

    Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country is currently presiding the EU, told the same Press Conference that the EU had secured permission for the dispatch of humanitarian aid to Gaza, adding however that it is not clear yet how much aid can be sent.

    Source: ANA,MPA

    News item: 18018

    [28] Israel Accused of Using Depleted Uranium Bombs

    After the Israeli troops' withdrawal, wrangling has broken out as to whether Israel has used depleted uranium bombs during its attack in the Gaza Strip. From its side, Israel has refused it had done so and invited the UN to carry out a relative investigation. At the same time, the Israeli Defence Ministry spokesman described the allegations anti-Israeli propaganda, referring in parallel to relevant accusations during the war with Hezbolah in 2006 that had not been verified.

    In reply to the letter of Arab envoys, the International Atomic Energy Service stated it would convene with its member-states to examine the diplomats' request to carry out an investigation as to whether dangerous ammunition had been used in the attacks in Gaza, leaving dangerous nuclear remains.

    The Israelis' attacks may have stopped; however death is skulking in Gaza, as the International Red Cross Committee announced that two children had lost their life in Gaza from bombs that had not originally exploded.

    "During the three-week period of hostilities most children remained in their homes. Now that the war has ended, children have begun exiting their homes and risking their life from the remnants of the war," reported the Red Cross in Gaza. The situation is difficult as Gaza is the densely populated area of the world.

    Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is meeting with her EU counterparts Wednesday evening.

    The Egyptian Foreign minister stated that neither Egypt nor Israel have information on Israeli soldier Gilad Salad, who has been detained by Hamas since June 2006.

    News item: 17998

    [29] Gaza: Israeli Army Withdraws

    The withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza strip was completed today as announced by sources of the Israeli troops. UN general secretary Ban Ki-Moon appealed Israel and Hamas to restrain and to show respect to the fragile truce. EU Czech presidency called the leader of the Israeli diplomacy Tzipi Livni to hold meetings in Brussels with her EU counterparts in order to strengthen Gaza truce and to route anew peaceful procedures in Middle East.

    Source: NET 105,8

    : 105,8

    News item: 17965

    [30] Israeli Withdrawal Continues

    Calm prevailed in the Gaza Strip for a second consecutive day. "No incident was reported during the night said Israeli army spokesman. In response to whether the Israeli army would have withdrawn from Gaza before Barrack Obama swearing in ceremony In Washington this afternoon he stressed: "there is no concrete schedule for full withdrawal of Israeli troops so far". In the meantime, Hamas has still 1.200 rockets according to Israel Defense Ministry. Israeli ground forces have destroyed only 80% of tunnels linking Egypt with south part of Gaza, used for Hamas armament. The Palestinian side said that an Israeli Navy ship fired against Gaza city, but Israeli army has not confirmed this information.

    A senior Israeli defense Ministry officer said that the Israeli army is gradually reducing number of soldiers in Gaza Strip. The same source who did not want to reveal his name said that Israel will continue to control Gaza's external borders, coastline and airspace after the pull-out.

    Sources: NA-PA

    News item: 17931

    [31] Israeli Troops Withdraw from Gaza

    As a result of the unilateral ceasefire announced, Israel has started pulling its troops out of Gaza, after killing 1300 people, including 410 children, injuring as many as 5300 people and causing extensive damage to houses and government buildings. Hamas agreed to a one-week ceasefire until the Israeli withdrawal wraps up, demanding, at the same time, the opening of all border crossings to let humanitarian aid in. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Monday that the people of Palestine achieved a victory over Israel. "God has granted us a great victory, not for one faction, or party, or area, but for our entire people," Haniyeh said in a televised address. "We have stopped the aggression and the enemy has failed to achieve any of its goals," added he.

    However, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert argued Sunday that Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip had achieved all its objectives, and that Hamas had been hit hard and its ability to fire rockets into Israel had been severely limited.

    UN, the EU, the USA and French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the ceasefire heralded by Israel. British Premier Gordon Brown urged Israel to have border crossings opened, while Spain's head of government Zapatero called for a long-term ceasefire, urging US President-elect Barack Obama to land a leading role in the Mideast row.

    Israel's withdrawal from Gaza would be realistic once truce proved stable, stressed the Israeli Prime Minister. Ehud Olmert defended a long-term ceasefire before six EU leaders who attended a Summit held in Egypt, joining forces with Arab leaders in a campaign for long-standing peace in the region after the fragile ceasefire. Olmert assured he was willing to cooperate with the EU leaders to help Gazans prosper and expressed Israel's sorrow over civilian losses in the Gaza Strip.

    The Israeli Prime Minister also told the EU heads that visited him in Israel that Hamas being equipped with weapons through weapon smuggling from Syria and Iran should be deterred.

    Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak invited the Israelis and the Palestinians in Cairo on Thursday to hold separate talks with a view to stepping up all measures required to cement truce in the Gaza Strip.

    News item: 17880

    [32] Unilateral Ceasefire Fragile

    After 22 days of fighting in the Gaza Strip which killed over 1.200 Palestinians, Israel announced unilateral ceasefire at 02:00 on Sunday. In the meantime, diplomatic efforts to make ceasefire durable and respected by Israel and Hamas continue. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarack is hosting a summit at the Egyptian resort Sharm El-Sheikh with the participation of UN Secr. Gen Ban-Ki-moon and many European leaders. However, ceasefire is fragile as two violent incidents occurred on Sunday morning. Hamas and the other Palestinian organizations announced immediate cease fire and give Israel a week to withdraw its troops from Gaza.

    Hours after unilateral ceasefire began, Hamas fired at least 6 rockets against the Israeli town of Sderot and Israel launched an air strike on Gaza in response. Shortly before the rockets fell, Israeli troops traded fire with Hamas militants in the north of the Gaza Strip after coming under attack. At least 1.245 Palestinians, among them 410 children and 108 women, were killed and over 5.300 injured during three weeks of fighting. Palestinian medics say at least 40 bodies, most of them children, have been pulled from the rubble in Beit Lahia and Jambalilya towns since Israel halted its offensive Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barrack said that Israeli troops will remain for as long as necessary to see that the ceasefire is holding. "If Hamas is going to deliberately torpedo the ceasefire, we will have to reinitiate offensive actions against Hamas, for that reason we have to be reticent about withdrawing our forces," he said.

    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the latest attacks "again proved that the ceasefire is fragile and it has to be reassessed on a minute-by-minute basis". Earlier, Prime Minister Olmert told the nation that Israel was halting its offensive whose goals "have been more than fully achieved". In a televised address, Mr Olmert warned militants in Gaza that if they "decide the blows they've been dealt are not sufficient and they are interested in continuing the fight, Israel will be prepared for such and feel free to continue to react with force".

    On its part, Hamas has rejected the move, saying any continued Israeli presence in Gaza would be regarded as an act of war. "The occupier must halt his fire immediately and withdraw from our land and lift his blockade and open all crossings and we will not accept any one Zionist soldier on our land, regardless of the price that it costs," Hamas senior member Ali Barakeh said, shortly before the ceasefire began.

    The EU hailed the declaration of the necessary unilateral ceasefire but stressed that priority laid on achievement of "durable peace".

    News item: 17843


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