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The Hellenic Radio (ERA): News in English, 09-02-26

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

From: The Hellenic Radio (ERA) <>


  • [01] Crucial Test for the Economy
  • [02] Papoulias attends Epirotes' Event
  • [03] Tense Political Stage
  • [04] Diplomatic Opening to Moscow
  • [05] Strong Dispute
  • [06] Polls Show Liquidity in Political Stage
  • [07] Deutsche Telecoms Enters OTE
  • [08] Wrangling on the Economy
  • [09] Parliament: Wrangling on Farmers
  • [10] Tackling the Crisis with Responsibility
  • [11] Promahonas Opens Reduction of Product Prices the Goal
  • [12] GSEE Says Yes to Dialogue on Education
  • [13] New Wrangling on Teargas
  • [14] D. Bakoyannis on Greece's Image
  • [15] Education Min Visits GSEE
  • [16] Cabinet's Meeting on Education
  • [17] The New Electoral Law in the Forefront
  • [18] Stability through Concession
  • [19] Brake on Snap Elections Scenarios
  • [20] Clear Message to Turkey
  • [21] Wrangling over Attila Olgac
  • [22] Alavanos Rejects Coalition with PASOK
  • [23] Defence Expenses not to Rise
  • [24] Bakoyannis Briefs the Standing Committee
  • [25] Wrangling on Heating Allowance and the Unemployed
  • [26] No Metro Services to Airport as from 14/2
  • [27] Gap Narrows in Favour of ND
  • [28] Karamanlis' Message to Farmers
  • [29] A. Tsipras: More Evidence for Kouneva
  • [30] The Government Rules out Early Elections
  • [31] Gallops and Sharp Interviews on Sunday Press
  • [32] Energy Performance Certificate as of 2009
  • [33] Hints at the Judges and Prosecutors' General Assembly
  • [34] Karamanlis Addresses the E.P.P Youth
  • [35] Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister in Athens
  • [36] C. Karamanlis: Proposal for Dialogue on Education
  • [37] Karamanlis-Pavlopoulos Meeting
  • [38] In Support of Farmers within the Framework
  • [39] Papandreou's Lightning Visit to GADA
  • [40] Bakoyiannis-Lavrov Meeting
  • [41] Report on Accession to Tertiary Education on Monday
  • [42] Acceleration of Judicial Procedures
  • [43] Different Approaches to Scenarios of Early Elections
  • [44] Message to Turkey
  • [45] Debate on Inquiry Committee Kicks Off
  • [46] Spiliotopoulos: I'll Lend an Ear to All Sides
  • [47] Pavlopoulos: Citizens Become Our Priority
  • [48] Policy Capable of Defending the Nation
  • [49] Polls Give the Socialists the Lead
  • [50] SYN Leader Addresses ELP
  • [51] Greek PM Sends Stern Message to FYROM
  • [52] Greek FM: Gruevski Undermines His People
  • [53] No Trans-Shipment Took Place
  • [54] Vatopedi Case in Parliament Monday
  • [55] PASOK Proposes Enquiry Committee on Vatopedi Case
  • [56] Cuts in Public Expenditures
  • [57] Priorities of the Greek OSCE Chairmanship to Be Unveiled
  • [58] Wrangling on Astakos Issue
  • [59] We Are after Improving Ties with Ankara
  • [60] Foreign Affairs' Ministry Dismisses Press Claims
  • [61] Papoulias' Apparent Interest in Gaza
  • [62] New Turkish Provocation
  • [63] KYSEA Focuses on Greek-Turkish Relations
  • [64] Bakoyiannis-Alavanos' Meeting
  • [65] Focusing on Evidence and Clues
  • [66] Cabinet Reshuffle Viewed Positively
  • [67] Karamanlis-Pavlopoulos-Markogiannakis' Meeting
  • [68] Wrangling over the Incidents
  • [69] Wrangling over Agathonissi Island
  • [70] G. Papandreou: Elections, the only Way Out
  • [71] Opposition: No Change
  • [72] Change of Guard in Ministries
  • [73] Papandreou's Contacts with Farmers
  • [74] Response to Turkey's Provocations
  • [75] Few Words and Lots of Work
  • [76] New Greek Aid Mission to Gaza
  • [77] Fresh Turkish Provocations in the Aegean
  • [78] Cabinet Reshuffle
  • [79] K. Karamanlis New Year's Message
  • [80] New Year's Carols to Politicians
  • [81] Greece Ready to Send Aid
  • [82] K. Karamanlis Meets Judges' Unions
  • [83] Foreign Office Report on A. Papandreou and K. Karamanlis
  • [84] Dialogue on Education Begins
  • [85] 2009 State-Budget Passes with 151 Votes in Favour
  • [86] 5-Option Report on Batopaidi Case
  • [87] Gallup Polls in Sunday's Press
  • [88] Unrest Sparked Heated Criticism
  • [89] Athens Mayor Meets with Opposition Leaders
  • [90] Socialist Leader Blasts the Government
  • [91] Karamanlis' Press Interview from Brussels
  • [92] Strong Dispute in Parliament
  • [93] Wrangling in Parliament
  • [94] K. Karamanlis: Measures to the Relief of the Incident-Stricken Merchants
  • [95] Massive & Peaceful Labour Rally
  • [96] New Opinion Poll Released
  • [97] Last Farewell to Alexis at Noon
  • [98] Papandreou Wants Snap Elections
  • [99] Karamanlis Calls Immediate Meetings [100] No leniency in Attributing Blame [101] Rage and Outcry [102] Debate on Justice [103] PASOK Ahead as per Two Polls [104] The Navy Honors its Patron Saint [105] Vatopedi: In Expectance of Developments [106] Roussopoulos Testifies for Vatopedi Case [107] Bakoyiannis Contacts at OCSE Council [108] Karamanlis, Obama - telephone conversation [109] Monitors to Supervise Gas Flow [110] Flight Delays due to Air Traffic Controllers Sick Leaves [111] Obama's Official First on Tuesday [112] US: Miracle in Hudson river [113] Practice for Obama's Swear-in Ceremony [114] Obama Appears Concerned over Civilian Losses [115] R. Castro Ready to Hold Direct Talks with Obama [116] No End to Gaza Tragedy [117] Diplomatic Efforts, Obstacles by Bombs [118] Feverish Negotiations on Gaza Ceasefire [119] UN Compound in Gaza Hit [120] UN Sec. Gen in ME [121] Fierce Battles [122] Israeli Troops Penetrate into Gaza City [123] Israeli Forces Step In Gaza [124] Israel Advances in Gaza [125] Gaza: Tragedy Continues [126] UN: Israel is Murdering Civilians [127] UN Resolutions & Israeli Bombs [128] Dangerous Escalation [129] Talks and Bombards [130] Attacks after the Three Hour Gaza Truce [131] UN Secretary General Calls for Immediate Truce [132] UN-Run School in Gaza Hit [133] Israel and Hamas Locked in Gunbattles [134] Gaza Strip Divided into Two [135] Massacre in Baghdad [136] Battles in Gaza Raging [137] Gaza Invaded [138] Egypt Blocks Greek Doctors' Entry to Gaza [139] Israeli Ground Assault Imminent [140] Awaiting Order to Invade [141] Gaza Bombing Goes On [142] Israel Rejects Ceasefire Plan [143] Diplomacy in Europe- Raids in Gaza [144] Israel Keeps Pounding Gaza [145] M. East in Flames [146] More Violence in the M. East [147] Missile Attack in Gaza [148] British Troops Withdraw from Iraq

  • [01] Crucial Test for the Economy

    The Finance Minister will present his programme to tackle the financial to his counterparts in Eurogroup and Ecofin crisis in Brussels as of tomorrow. The modernized Stability and Development Programme, as well as the measures announced in support of social groups as well as Economy sectors will be scrutinized by the European Commission. The main objective of the negotiations will be to ratify with the minimum possible consequences all that has been announced on the deficit, the debt, revenue and expenses.

    The European Commission will examine the Greek Economy in the next weeks. Mr Giannis Papathanasiou will attend the Eurogroup-Ecofin meetings and present his colleagues with the Stability and Development Programme and the measures already announced.

    As per Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis, when the measures are ready things will be better for the government.

    "We have a specific stragedy. By using this strategy we believe that the Greek economy will tackle the crisis and in the long run come out of it stronger," stated Deputy Economy Minister Antonis Bezas.

    Amid the world financial crisis, Greece as per the basic scenario of the three-year long Stability and Development Programme the development rate will continue to be 1.1%, the deficit 3.7% and unemployment 8% in 2009. The Commission expects unemployment to be 9%.

    A battle will be given to achieve goals as regards revenue (delay for 2009 will be 2.9 billion) and the drastic cut on pubic expenses (saving 500 million euros)

    On 18 February, the European Commission will refer to the supervision and the terms it will enforce to countries with a deficit over 3%. This proposal will be ratified by the Finance Ministers' Council on 9 March. The Commission's green light will allow for the procedure to continue and proceed to specific advice to be announced from 23-24 March.

    In Brussels, the Finance minister will brief his counterparts on the additional measures already announced. These include the re-introduction of the tax-free income of 10,500 euros for businessmen (cost 400 million euros), the increase of the Specific Consumption Tax on alcoholic drinks and cigarettes (additional revenue of 300-350 million euros) and the establishment of a new tax-free limit in ETAK.

    Meanwhile, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos replied to PASOK's (Socialists) criticism, by saying "it is time we saw who is credible and who not. Who guarantees Greece's future? Let us see what PASOK achieved from 200-2004 and what the government from 2004-2008.

    Bands are moving fast to derive liquidity from the 28-billion-euro packet, while the approval of applications from small and very small enterprises demanding capital through the Sponsion Fund is also moving at fast pace. "Unfortunately, the Banking system does not trust the real economy, enterprises, the rising of employment and the determination this circumstance requires," stated PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos.

    LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) spokesman Kyriakos Velopoulos said that when the ND had been lacking a stable developmental policy for five year and when the EU will be supervising our economy, the destructive results are ante protas.

    Meanwhile, the report of the Bank of Greece on the monetary policy that will be including forecasts for the course of the Greek economy is expected with great interest.

    Sources: , 105.8

    News item: 18683

    [02] Papoulias attends Epirotes' Event

    The President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias attended an event of the Pan-Epirotic Confederation of Greece today to cut the New Year's cake at the Peace and Friendship Stadium. The event was staged by Epirotes living in the Attica basin and was dedicated to the Epirotic Stegi. Politicians attended the event and referred to the current political developments.

    News item: 18671

    [03] Tense Political Stage


    PASOK request for early elections and debate on accelerating implementation of Pavlopoulos electoral law spark high pitched political confrontation. The government insists that crucial circumstances demand the consent of political forces to deal with the impacts of the global economic crisis and rules out snap elections. Senior members of the large opposition party are negative to the government's call and speak of strengthening trust relations with people and a government comprised of distinguished personalities both beyond the Parliament and PASOK.

    "The government will exhaust its four-year term in office and elections will be held in 2010, if PASOK does not want to consent to the election of President of the Republic" said Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos while he insisted on accelerating implementation of the new electoral law. In their interviews with "Real News" newspaper, ND secretary Lefteris Zagoritis and Health Minister Dimitris Abramopoulos stressed that the country does not need elections at present adding that some attempt destabilization to serve their own expediencies. Employment Minister Fani Petralia said that PASOK does not want holding of elections but only talks about elections while Transport and Communications Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said that ND party would be the winner in forthcoming elections on the grounds of citizens trust in K. Karamanlis. On the part of PASOK, Dimitris Reppas insisted that early elections is one-way road and proposed strengthening of trust relations with people instead of debate on electoral law. In an interview with "Real News" PASOK deputy Mihalis Hrisohoidis said that K.Karamanlis will hold elections in order to save his personal political capital and added that PASOK next government should be comprised of distinguished personalities even not party members. Meanwhile, SYRIZA deputy Fotis Koubelis proposed tolerance or confidence vote to PASOK under certain terms. LAOS president George Karatzaferis appears certain about holding of early elections.

    Meanwhile, last days' publications that concerned the national plan to tackle the financial crisis caused the Health minister's reactions. In a written statement, Mr D. Avramopoulos pointed out that his statements were misquoted at a time when the government is facing the financial criis responsibly and seriously, as well with strategy. He also added that he is in the first line of this collective effort and at the PM's side.

    Sources: - 105.8

    News item: 18668

    [04] Diplomatic Opening to Moscow


    The message of the 45th International Conference on security held in Munich was the diplomatic opening for further cooperation with Moscow. Both US vice-president and European leaders underlined the need for solidarity and cooperation to deal with crucial issues regarding security. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni in her capacity as OSCE president was the coordinator of a session on a new architecture for European security, underlining that OSCE has the best structure for substantial dialogue on the challenges preoccupying the planet.

    Mrs Ba

    koyiannis chaired a panel on the subject "NATO, Russia, oil, natural gas and ME the future of European security" with the participation of Estonian President, Ukraine's Prime-minister, UK Foreign Secretary, and US senator Jane Hartman. She had short contacts with US vice-president, French President and German Chancellor.

    Mrs. Bakoyianni spoke of a particularly important conference, underlining that it was held at a time when the whole world expects a new beginning and some progress in 2009 in many issues preoccupying the international community. She placed importance on the wide ranging speech of US vice -president, Joe Biden who expounded the views of the new US administration as well as views of all European leaders on peace, security and the strategy to be followed in many places in 2009

    In reference to OSCE role, the Greek Foreign Minister underlined the particularly extensive discussion on initiatives during our presidency indicating that a dialogue on new security architecture asked by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would start under the best omens, adding that Greece would make all efforts towards this direction.

    Sources: - NA-PA

    News item: 18667

    [05] Strong Dispute

    The government tops its policy on the combat of the economic crisis while dispute with opposition parties reaches high pitch. In his statements, on Saturday from Xanthi in northern Greece, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos is sticking to its duty to deal with the impacts of the global economic crisis and blamed the main opposition PASOK party for negativism and irresponsibility. In the meantime, PASOK party request for the holding of snap elections, debate on acceleration of implementation of Pavlopoulos electoral law as well as talks about early elections are sparking tension in the political stage.

    In response to the above questions, the government calls for the consent of political forces to deal with the impacts of the global economic crisis. However, senior members of the opposition see political obstacles in the road towards elections whenever they are to be held, raising crucial questions. Dispute is expected to grow stronger as debate on the economy will be held in the Parliament on Thursday.

    Sources: - 105.8

    News item: 18666

    [06] Polls Show Liquidity in Political Stage

    Results of three new polls indicate liquidity in the political stage as the gap between the two large parties ND and PASOK changes depending on election procedure. The gap narrows for euro-elections and widens for parliamentary elections. PASOK leads in the three polls, Kostas Karamanlis is the most appropriate for the post of premiership while there is no indication of majority. According to MRB survey PASOK holds the lead in intention of voting with the gap narrowing in regards to euro-elections. Kostas Karamanlis leads George Papandreou as the most appropriate for the premiership office, majority government emerges infeasible while the majority of voters want early elections. The opposition insists on the holding of early elections while the Government underlines that its only orientation is completion of its target.

    MRB survey on behalf of newspaper "Eleftheros Typos", PASOK is 3.9% ahead with ND party gathering 28.6% of votes against 32.5% of PASOK, followed by GCP 7.2%, SYRIZA 7.8%, LAOS 4.7% and undecided 15%. Regarding euro-elections, the gap drops to 2.8% with the ND gathering 27.5%, PASOK 30.3%, GCP 7.8%,SYRIZA 9.4%, LAOS 5.3% and Ecologists 3.5%. In response to question who is the most appropriate for the post of Prime-minister, Kostas Karamanlis gathers 38.9% against 36.8% of George Papandreou while regarding question which party is to win elections PASOK gathers 57.9% and ND 22.5% while noteworthy is that 51.4% of voters want exhaustion of the 4-year term in office. In reference to farmers' mobilizations, 75.2% of citizens object to the government's stand and 56% object to farmers and their unions' stand. Also 55,2% of citizens object to PASOK stand, 53,7% to SYRIZA stand and 48,4% to GCP stand. Kapa Research gallup on behalf of newspaper "To Bima tis Kyriakis" indicates a 3.5% gap with the ND gathering 28.9%, PASOK 32.4%, GCP 7.7%, SYRIZA 7.3%, LAOS 4.2% and Ecologists 3.3%. In intention of voting for euro-elections, the gap narrows to 2.1% with the ND gathering 27.7%, PASOK 29.8%, GCP 8.2%, SYRIZA 8.4%, LAOS 4.5% and Ecologists 3.9%. Kostas Karamanlis is 6.6% ahead of George Papandreou as the most appropriate for the post of premiership gathering 40.6% against 34.1% while regarding election victory PASOK gathers 53.5% against 31.1% of ND. Metron Analysis survey for newspaper " Kyriakatiki Abgi" indicates similar results, a 3.6% gap between the two large parties with ND gathering 27.6%, PASOK 31.2%, GCP 7.1%, SYRIZA 7.3%, LAOS 4.2% and Ecologists 3.8%.

    In euro-elections, the gap drops 1 percentage point with ND gathering 26.5%, PASOK 29%, GCP 6.7%, SYRIZA 8.2%, LAOS 5% and Ecologists 3%.

    Regarding which party is to win in both parliamentary and euro-elections, PASOK is ahead of ND with 16 and 11 percentage points respectively while most popular eurodeputy is Yiannis Barbitsiotis with 40.6%, Dimitris Papadimoulis with 33.9% and Manolis Mabromatis with 24.7%.

    News item: 18665

    [07] Deutsche Telecoms Enters OTE


    OTE shareholders' General Assembly Special Session was completed today with the approval and the official entrance of Deutsche Telecoms to the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE). OTE employees attempted to gather to the company's offices in the morning to prevent the session. Unionists were transferred to various hotels as there were rumors that the place of the assembly was going to change in order for the session to be conducted under no pressure.

    It is estimated that the shareholders entered a secret entrance of a hotel that had been set as the meeting place where the assembly was going to take place. Shareholders that represent the 50% of the company's capital participated in the meeting.

    The Changes

    News item: 18627

    [08] Wrangling on the Economy

    The government's priority is to maintain the working positions and aid low incomes in the next months. This was the prime minister's reply to LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) President George Karatzaferis' statement as per which the poor in 2008 have risen by 530,000.

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis asked the parties' concession so that the basic countries are tackled, toping that of the financial crisis.

    As he stressed the government's axes are two, one the preservation of working positions and the boosting of the sensitive social groups.

    He also reported that the following months would prove for all countries such as Greece, appealing to all to help socially and politically in fertile dialogue that would tackle the crisis, adding that no magical or costless solutions are available. In parallel, he denounced irresponsible danger talk.

    From his side, Mr Karatzaferis spoke of "aspirin measures", accusing the prime minister of not making any specific proposals but only vague promises.

    He also predicted that the number of poor in 2008 had risen by 530,000 and added that the crisis would also hit the weathly.

    Finally, he pointed out at a time when 40% of the Greek people have no savings for difficult times, LAOS has proposals; however, it is facing the government's arrogance as it claims it knows everything.

    In reply, Mr Karamanlis said that social aid in the last years had risen by 68%. Although he reported that that might not be enough, it proves the government's interest. Finally, he stressed that the margins are becoming tighter, calling all to say not to benefit promises and danger talk.

    During his address on Thursday evening, the PM pointed out that the government's financial strategy will be based on three axes.

    The preservation of development with the liquidity programme, fiscal streamlining by controlling expenses and the combating of tax evasion, as well as the support of the poor.

    The government announced changes on taxation on Thursday. The inter-ministerial committee, which met at Maximos Mansion decided that all freelance businessmen will enjoy tax free income amounting to 10,500 euros for 2008 and the following years.

    The National Commerce Confederation described the measures positive.

    The re-introduction of tax balance and justice with an equal taxation of all social groups, constitutes the restoration of tax-free limit for freelance businessmen points out the Athens Professional and Small - Medium Sized Industries Chamber.

    The re-introduction of tax-free income will cost the budget about 400 million euros. This money will be found through the increase of the special consumption tax for cigarettes, which will go up by 80% from 75% and the increase of the special tax on alcohol drinks by 20%.

    In practice, each packet of cigarettes will go up from 10-20 cents per packet, a bottle of beer up by two cents and a bottle of alcohol drink up by 75 cents.

    Important changes will also be introduced in the unified property charge. The tax-free amount of 300,000 euros valid for the first home is abolished and a new tax-free amount for property will be established.

    This will be 100,000 euros for singles, 200,000 euros for married and 230,000 euros for families with more than three children.

    The 1/1000 coefficient will continue to stand. The new framework on status symbols for the revenue office will be announced soon. As per Finance Minister Giannis Papathanasiou, the status symbols will concern incomes for 2009 and will be taxed in 2010.

    News item: 18619

    [09] Parliament: Wrangling on Farmers


    A wrangling during the Prime Minister's Hour in Parliament today among Costas Karamanlis, SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) Parliamentary Group Head Alekos Alavanos and LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) leader George Karatzaferis focused on the rallies staged by Cretan farmers and the government's measures on tackling poverty. The prime minister described Mr Alavanos' allegations groundless, since they reported the government had not supported them. He also referred to a series of measures that had been taken or are to be taken in the region for its development. In reply to LAOS president, who spoke of "aspirin measures" in support of the poor, the prime minister described them irresponsible danger talk, inviting all to contribute politically and socially.

    Mr Karamanlis accused SYN (Coalition of the Left) of exploiting the farmers' problems, assuring that the compensations on damages in the rural sector are not being given on the basis of geographical criteria and Crete would not be left out.

    Mr Alavanos spoke of an insult to the Cretan people's sensitivity for the lack of infrastructures in Crete, adding that Cretan farmers were received in Piraeus with teargas and violence. Moreover, he reported that Crete had been marginalized in the rural sector and other sensitive sectors.

    The prime minister accused SYN of investing in polarization and tension, believing that it is due to clashes. "A dialogue cannot be held in the presence of tractors in the centre of Athens; however, the Rural Development Ministry has committed itself that the Cretan people would receive the compensations and the rest of the benefits, adding that SYN is behaving in an irresponsible and populist way, adopting demagogy.As per ERT's Managing Director Christos Panagopoulos, the new Radio TV Museum will be ready in a year and half

    The prime minister told the LAOS leader that all European societies have been hit by poverty, adding that there is not an automatic mechanism that would abolish it. He added that as per forecasts the global crisis would be hit in a more tense way, the development rate would drop and unemployment rise.

    The government aims at maintaining the working positions with sensitive groups in the next exceptionally difficult months. The main goal is to help the needy civilians and allow the market to operate with rules. Mr Karatzaferis argued that an additional 530,000 people joined the poor in 2008.

    Furthermore, he said that while 40% of the Greek people have no savings for difficult times, LAOS has proposals; however, it is meeting with government's arrogance. In reply, Mr Karamanlis said that social benefits in the last years have risen by 68%, adding that although they are not enough they prove the government's interest.

    Finally, he stressed that as the margins are becoming tighter, all should say to talks on benefits and on dangers.

    Sources: - 105.8

    News item: 18615

    [10] Tackling the Crisis with Responsibility


    In his address today, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis presented the axes of the government's policy in tackling the crisis, requesting concession and responsibility. Mr Karamanlis stressed that the world financial crisis, which weighed down strong economies, is now knocking on our door, adding that the government will take every possible measure with realism and responsibility to prevent more serious repercussions.

    As the PM said, the main axes of the government's policy are to boost low incomes and investments, control expenses and limit extravagance, support low incomes and armour employment. He also stressed that the present situation demands matureness and seriousness and not irresponsibility and petty party games.

    Mr Karamanlis pointed out that all countries would be affected by such a global financial crisis, adding that we can understand that there are no easy solutions, adding that with responsible and credible policy we can limit the consequences. The international crisis is knocking on our door, demanding a stable plan and strong will so that it is tackled.

    Stable development, the boosting of small and medium-sized enterprises, the limiting of deficits, fiscal streamlining, support of the poor by armouring employment are the basic axes of tackling the crisis.

    "Social cohesion is the basic dimension of our policy. Concession is a must," adding that the consequences demand from all to exhibit seriousness and responsibility."

    Reactions on Karamanlis' Address

    The opposition commented the prime minister's statements.

    KKE (Communist Party of Greece) is urging civilians to reject the government's European-orientated policy.

    SYN (Coalition of the Left) speaks of a two-party feast, turning its fire against the ND (Conservatives) and PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement).

    LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally), from its side described the PM's statement "a composition, lacking vision and proposals." Its leader George Karatzaferis reported that what comes out from Mr Karamanlis' address is that Greeks are poorer in terms of hope and expectations.

    News item: 18589

    [11] Promahonas Opens Reduction of Product Prices the Goal


    "No problem has arisen in Brussels concerning the 500-million-euro package for farmers", assured Rural Development Minister Hatzigakis from Belgium yesterday. The same assurance was made today by Deputy ministers Georgios Kiltidis and Michalis Papadopoulos from Thessaloniki, adding that the ministry wishes to narrow the gap in the prices of agricultural products, so that their prices are not high when they reach consumers. Meanwhile, it appears that the situation in Promahonas is diffusing, following Mr Hatzigakis' decision to meet the farmers' request to meet with him. The meeting will be held on Friday. Despite the farmers' decision yesterday to continue with their rallies for an indefinite time, they removed the roadblock at the customs office as a gesture of good will.

    Hatzigakis-Serres Farmers Meeting on Friday

    The President of the "Independent Farmers" Association Giorgos Kasapoglou stated that both sides wished a meeting to be held between the farmers at the Promahonas roadblock and Mr Hatzigaksis and Elga officials so that the rallies could end.

    Earlier, SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) Parliamentary Group leader Alekos Alavanos had appealed to Mr Hatzigakis to meet the farmers' request to meet with them.

    It has not been agreed yet where and what time the meeting will be held.

    Meanwhile, farmers removed the Promahonas roadblock late noon today in a gesture of good will, allowing trucks and cars to pass through, while earlier some of them had left stating that their rally had ended. Besides, the two Public Financial Services in Chania were flooded with people, after they opened again after 10 days. The Services had been occupied by farmers. It should be noted that the Finance Ministry extended the deadline to 13 February for the Chania services regarding time-expired debts. Halt to Middle Men's Profits

    Rural Development Deputy Ministers Georgios Kiltidis and Michalis Papadopoulos from Thessaloniki stated that they will put a halt to the middle men's profits from the high prices in rural products, without however allowing "derogations" to safety and quality. Both spoke of "a double personal bet."

    Mr Papadopoulos announced that the previous week the two Deputy ministers, in cooperation with the competent Development Ministers Kostis Hatzidakis and Rural Development Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis, as well as their colleagues have begun investigating the case to determine the factors that determine prices in the field and on the shelf. "Results will soon show up", he added.

    The two Deputy Ministers also spoke of intensifying checks on issues related to competition, pointing out that since June 2007 until today 1,128 check reports have been submitted and 149 persons responsible for processing were summoned to pay fines.

    In parallel, they added that no negligence will be forgiven concerning safety and quality of Greek foodstuffs.

    Moreover, Mr Kiltidis announced that a provision will be tabled at Parliament within the days, allowing the Hellenic Food Authority (EFET) to come under the Development Ministry. He also described the rising credibility of Greek products in the EU a challenge and a national mission, adding that the government is determined to wipe out the deficit that had been hounding Greece on the level of hygiene and safety of foodstuffs at all costs.

    Regarding rural compensations, they reiterated there is no problem with the EU, adding that never before had the Greek province enjoyed such a support by the Greek State.

    Mr Kiltidis pointed out that the Greek State will allocate damages, adding that detailed explanations had been given. He also reiterated that all farmers will be treated evenly as regards the compensations.

    Sources: , 105.8, NA-PA

    Relative Articles: Assurances for compensations. Promahonas Roadblock

    To Brussles for the Compensations.

    News item: 18574

    [12] GSEE Says Yes to Dialogue on Education


    After Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos' visit to GSEE's headquarters (Greek General Confederation of Labour), the GSEE president stated that the employees' representatives would participate in the national dialogue on Education. The Education minister stated he expects a the best possible cooperation for solutions to be found on the thorny problem of relating Education with the labour market.

    GSEE President G. Panagopoulos stressed that the two sides focused on heart of the problem at their meeting, pointing out that Education demands national social agreement that will be exceeding a government's term of office and whole political system will be guaranteeing it so that the big changes demanded can take place, allowing thus Greece to meet modern demands.

    Mr Panagopoulos pointed out that GSEE could not be absent from a dialogue that signals big changes, adding, "We are examining all parameters, you know we are positive to Democratic procedures and we shall discuss within the framework of our procedures. In parallel, the minister will provide us with all explanations."

    The minister described the cooperation fruitful, stressing that both sides had identical views.

    Mr Spiliotopoulos stressed once more that a dialogue on Education is irrelevant to political inclinations, referring to GSEE's experience on the research on issues related to Education.

    The Education minister discussed with the board of the confederation issues of Educational political research and know how, issues for which GSEE has submitted many times proposals. The key points that demand fruitful cooperation are learning for life and the connection of education with the labour market.

    News item: 18541

    [13] New Wrangling on Teargas

    The wrangling on yesterday's incidents in Piraeus port continued between the government and main opposition party on Wednesday. The PASOK (Socialists) President George Papandreou had visited Piraeus to meet with Cretan farmers at the time of the incidents. PASOK is accusing the government of lacking political sensitivity. From his side, the government spokesman stressed that no teargas was used during Mr Papandreou's arrival and stay at Piraeus port.

    Following the incidents caused by farmers in Piraeus yesterday, wrangling has broken out between the government and the opposition. Despite the fact that the Riot Police used teargas, incidents did not extend.

    Mr Papandreou arrived later and talked with the farmers. PASOK argues that the police used teargas while Mr Papandreou was at the port, something rejected by Police spokesman Panagiotis Stathis in the most blatant way on NET's programme "Symvainei Tora."

    The government spokesman argued the same, stressing that teargas was used in reasoned way to prevent the farmers from using their tractors in the city. Mr Antonaros covered fully Alternate Public Order Minister Christos Markoyannakis, saying he was absolutely convincing in what he had said.

    "Those who came to Piraeus wished to cause incidents and "advertise" PASOK, which argues that the bad government is hitting the farmers, stressed ND MP Thodoros Karaoglou to NET 105.8. He also argued that the farmers were not real farmers but PASOK supporters, who had come to cause incidents.

    PASOK stresses that the government should apologize for this. "The government is trying to mis-present things, said Mr George Papakonstantinou, adding that the main opposition party leader is not obliged to report his whereabouts, while the police on the contrary is obliged to protect an institutional factor, just as all citizens.

    The PASOK spokesman pointed out that it clear how the teargas was launched during Mr Papandreou's visit, criticizing the government and the prime minister as they had not apologised personally to the main opposition party leader.

    Mr Papakonstantinou also attacked Mr Markogiannakis because he had not ordered an investigation for the incident, describing the government dangerous on the way it conceives the idea of safety for each citizen. This could have been averted and the farmers to meet with the minister, who was here. Mr Papandreou is low-profile person and does not proceed with provocations told the state radiio PASOK MP Tilemachos Chytiris, stressing that nobody apologized to Mr Papandreou.

    "The government argues that a reasoned use of teargas took place and no teargas was launched. Perhaps the government believes that it was fog over Piraeus port, an extreme weather phenomenon with the smell of teargas. "In other words the poor weather should be blamed," commented LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally).

    News item: 18530

    [14] D. Bakoyannis on Greece's Image

    Attending the sessions of the Greek Politics Specialist Group Conference today, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis referred to the factors that affect Greece's international image. The Conference was entitled "Images of Nations: Strategic Communication, Soft Power and the Media". In her speech Ms Bakoyannis stressed that we are responsible for Greece's image, adding that we should not be looking for those promoting conspiracies from abroad.

    Ms Bakoyannis referred to the case of Athens, comparing the city's international image during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games with that presented during last December's incidents.

    "I remember very well - I was Mayor of Athens at the time - the endless efforts we made for 2004. Twenty-four interviews in a single day in the US, presenting a clean, safe, beautiful and hospitable Athens. As a result of the public image of the Olympic Games, tourism to Athens rose. For the first time, tourists were going not only to the islands, but also to Athens. Athens for Christmas. Athens, the city that was presented with and had the image that we desired, the result positive. December 2008. An Athens in flames, which had a problem, the banner on the Acropolis. I had said in parliament at the time that the people who raised the banner on the Acropolis should have thought of the magnitude of the damage they were causing to the country. No matter how much one invests in and fights for the country's public image, such a banner can destroy you entire effort," Bakoyannis noted, and rejected conspiracy theories that "certain circles" wanted to damage a country's image. "There are no journalists who live and work for damaging the international image of a country. In Greece, we have full democracy, with institutions that function, which allow freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and we have the fortune of capitalizing on the efforts and struggles of the many people who fought before us," the foreign minister said.

    Greece, she continued, was an equal member of NATO and the European Union, "but its public image has gone through good and bad moments". "Who created the good and bad moments? We did. We, alone. We are the ones who must back our country, who must promote our country internationally. It is we who must protect our country from pictures that do an injustice to the essence because, indeed, those 20 days in December are not characteristic of Athens. Athens is not like that every day. There was a specific period during which we faced a problem. But it will require time to change that image that was created internationally, while the financial cost is being paid by Athens today. Perhaps, in realizing how important our country's image is, we may better protect it," Bakoyannis said.

    Turning to the mass media, the foreign minister noted that the rapid technological developments of the past two centuries have "drastically changed the mode of communication and information and have brought new, advanced means into our daily lives that have managed to be less resistant to the speed of thought, enabling speedy and immediate externalization of our ideas. With the advent of the Internet, we entered the era of individual information," she said.

    She also added that, since the end of the Cold War "the political world as well as the communication environment had changed dramatically, while in the area of international relations, the old certainties had been replaced by the new uncertainties".

    "New conflicts lead to new balances and new alliances of balances. Under those conditions, the mass media are considered to play an important role in the foreign policy of the member nations of the international community and substantially impact the image the world has of a foreign country, since most people cannot have a personal experience or direct contact with the countries. The image of a country is the result of its geographical position, its history, its culture, its famous personalities, but chiefly of its formal positions and views that it systematically expresses and maintains in its relations with the other countries and other agencies," Bakoyannis explained.

    She noted as an example the coverage of the election of the new US President, Barack Obama, which se said had proved the power of the image in our age. "The image promoted by the international mass media in all the countries of the world was so powerful that it was able, albeit during that specific period of time, to alter the way in which many societies perceived and approached the US," she noted.

    Bakoyannis clarified, however, that a country's image was not an instantaneous result. "It is not a measurable index that can be easily changed from one day to the next. The image of a country has both duration and continuity. The countries accrue an aggregate of specific qualities, advantages and disadvantages that, when they become entrenched in the collective memory, are difficult to change," the foreign minister concluded.

    News item: 18523

    [15] Education Min Visits GSEE

    Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos is to visit the GSEE (General Confederation of Greek Labor) offices at 13:30 on Wednesday. Mr. Spiliotopoulos repeated that concession and composition of views are necessary for the resolution of the major issue of education and underlined that the government would enter into a dialogue without commitments and dogmatism. PASOK spokesman George Papakonstantinou expressed his party's willingness to participate in the dialogue. However he maintained that the Education Minister's response to PASOK letter was not satisfactory. In an interview with state radio NET 105.8, Dimitris Bratis, president of the Teachers' federation said that they would participate in the dialogue but continuation of dialogue depends on the Minister's responses to their claims. The board of High School Teachers Federation has decided to only attend bilateral dialogue with Education Ministry.

    Sources: 105.8

    News item: 18519

    [16] Cabinet's Meeting on Education


    The cabinet is meeting today chaired by the Prime Minister Mr. Costas Karamanlis at 12:00 on educational issues. Earlier today minister of education, Mr. Aris Spyliotopoulos will visit the offices of the Educational Unionist Federation. As president of the Greek Primary Teachers Federation, DOE Dimitirs Batsis stated, DOE will participate in discussion on education but its attendance will mainly depend on the answers DOE will receive from Ministry of Education, February 16. Minister of education said that the meeting took place in a fertile climate and underlined his intention to contribute to the resolution of educational issues. In his letter to PASOK socialist opposition party, Mr. Spyliotopoulos makes clear that discussion on education will last at least six months.

    The administration board of the Federation of Secondary State School Teachers of Greece, OLME is meeting now in order to reply to the letter sent by the deputy minister of education Mr. Andreas Lykourezos who accepts the demand of secondary teachers for two day talks with ministry of education and asks from the federation to assign representatives for the Council of Primary and Secondary Education.

    News item: 18469

    [17] The New Electoral Law in the Forefront

    After PASOK invitation per consent in the implementation on the new electoral law in the following national elections discussion per early elections is still on forefront. Discussion on a provision of the institution is not discussion per elections, the governmental spokesman Mr. Antonaros said, making clear that the country needs a stable government and that the implementation of the specific article ensures a strong majority. PASOK rejected every discussion on the issue supporting the view that if the opposition party wins in the following elections then it will change the electoral law.

    ND Claims Reasons of Governmental Stability-The Opposition party Rejects Discussion

    "PASOK insists on rejecting discussion. It is its right. But it will be judged by the Greek people", governmental spokesman Mr. Antonaros said, while he made clear that the above provision will not define the time of the elections but which electoral law will be implemented in the following elections. "Whatever discussion per the time of the elections is not appropriate for the time being", he stated.

    Foreign Affairs minister Dora Bakoyiannis in her interview in "Ta Nea" newspaper stated her opposition to early elections.

    PASOK Press representative Giorgos Papakostantinou exercised criticism on the government claiming that it adopts an operation of "change of the agenda". He added that the Greek citizen does not understand why the country is not governed and why there is not a rescue plan", he concluded.

    He stated that the opposition party will not go into any "communicative games" and added that PASOK government will submit a new electoral law adjusted to the German model which will focus at the autonomy of politics".

    Source: NET,NET 105.8, ANA-MNA

    News item: 18439

    [18] Stability through Concession


    The length of the world financial crisis extending beyond 2010 demands change of the existing electoral law. The government opens debate on the implementation of Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos electoral law as from the next elections, whenever they are to be held, and calls the main opposition party to approve change of Skandalidis electoral law which is in effect at present. In the meantime, new gallup poll conducted by ALCO on behalf of newspaper "Proto Thema" indicates the Socialist PASOK party in the lead. In intention of voting PASOK is 4.1% ahead of the Conservative ND party gathering 31.9% against 27.8%. Following are GCP with 7.5%, SYRIZA 6.5%, LAOS 4% and Ecologists Greens 2.9%. Early elections as well as coalition talks prevail in the political stage as no survey indicates clear majority. However, senior ministers underline that there is no reason to hold snap elections.

    "Aimed at Stability"

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos calls the main opposition PASOK party to agree on acceleration of implementation of new electoral law as from the next elections. In his statements, Mr. Pavlopoulos underlined the government's positive and honest intention, reminding that when the new electoral law giving an extra ten seats to the majority party was passed in February 2008, he had stressed that crucial circumstances demanded a stability government. In her statement to newspaper "To Bima tis Kyriakis", Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni said that political forces should consider facts and take advantage of constitutional provision for a broad majority of 200 votes and immediate implementation of a new electoral law with broad majority. "I believe that the country needs a strong and effective government and parliament majority", she said.

    In an interview with NET, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni stressed only euro-elections would be held this year. Commenting on possibility of coalition government in the event no party wins majority, Mrs Bakoyianni said that there are no tabbos in politics.

    News item: 18405

    [19] Brake on Snap Elections Scenarios

    Leading government officials put a brake on scenarios about snap elections, claiming that holding early elections amidst the global crisis would inflict harm upon the nation. Speaking on NET television show Alli Opsi (From another Point of View), Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis also said "no" to early elections scenarios and that the only elections to take place in 2009 would the ones for the European Parliament. Yet, an Alco survey suggested that the majority of the respondents (51.9%) did not think that the Socialist party (PASOK) should call for early elections on the occasion of the election of the President of the Republic. The same survey also showed that PASOK enjoyed a lead of 4.1 percent.

    The government has focused its attention to easing the repercussions of the global credit crisis, putting an end, at the same time, to scenarios speaking of snap elections, for they are detrimental to the nation's economy.

    On Monday noon, the Prime Minister and the GSEE board are to hold talks on ways to protect jobs. In the meantime, leading government officials kept underlining that the only elections to take place in 2009 were those for the European Parliament. Speaking on NET television show Alli Opsi, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis referred to the measures taken in support of the less privileged. In her interview with Eleftheros paper, she noted that the country did not need parliamentary elections, further adding that such scenarios do harm to the country.

    "The strong mandate we won in September 2007 is still too young. There is no reason to seek a new one. The government of ND does not play games with the institutions and does not negotiate its credibility," National Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis told Imerisia paper.

    Being on the same page, Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis also blasted against early elections. Speaking on Kosmos tou Ependyti paper, he claimed that the country required stability.

    "We have several tough issues ahead, therefore early elections should be avoided," Thodoros Roussopoulos told Real News paper.

    In his first interview with a newspaper after he resigned his government post, Roussopoulos admitted that he should have a more prompt reaction to the Vatopedi Monastery case.

    Opposition deputy Dimitris Reppas, on the other hand, insisted on early elections. In his interview with Imerisia paper, he said, "The feeling of respect towards the institution and the President of the Republic himself is not undermined by the political stance urging us not to let a catastrophic government remain in power until September 2011."

    Coalition scenarios have come to the forefront once again, since the polls taking place have suggested that the two major political parties are incapable of forming independent governments.

    Speaking on NET television, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis reminded that the ruling party of ND had formed coalition governments in the past.

    Socialist deputy Theodoros Pangalos predicted that PASOK would form an independent government. He noted, however, that a coalition between PASOK and ND could only result in case repeated elections failed to give an independent government.

    The Alco survey commissioned for Proto Thema Sunday paper has given a 4.1 percent lead to the Socialists. Specifically, the ruling party of ND garnered 27.8 percent and PASOK received 31.9 percent. KKE (Greek Communist Party) trailed with 7.5 percent, SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) with 6.5 percent, LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) with 4 percent and the Greens with 2.9 percent. The gap between the two major parties rose by 1.1 percent compared to the latest survey conducted by the same company

    Source: NET

    News item: 18375

    [20] Clear Message to Turkey

    During her speech on Friday, at an event on the island of Rhodes, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyiani sent a clear message to Turkey. She described violations in the Aegean Sea as unacceptable and called on the neighbouring country to keep away from tension practices and work for the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations with respect to International Law. Mrs. Bakoyianni stressed that Greece "would continue to directly respond to any violation incident "and utilize all means in our disposition to fully defend and strengthen our national interests".

    US ambassador to Greece sees furthering of US-Greece relations

    In the meantime, US ambassador to Greece, Daniel Speckhard, in an interview with "Ta Nea" newspaper, expressed optimism that Obama election would further improve US-Greece relations and resolve visa issue. Mr. Speckhard said that the US would take the opportunity for stronger commitment and cooperation with Greece.


    News item: 18372

    [21] Wrangling over Attila Olgac

    The killing of ten Greek-Cypriot war prisoners by Turkish actor Attila Olgac during the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in 1974 caused tensions to run high between Greece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) head Giorgos Karatzaferis in Parliament. Karatzaferis suggested Olgac be extradited. "The Greek government, in close collaboration with the Cypriot one, is doing anything in its power to unravel the case of the missing people the Turkish invasion left in its wake, by investigating the new evidence," stressed Dora Bakoyannis. In the meantime, the Turkish army said it had launched a probe into the case.

    Bakoyannis spoke of a shameful confession and blatant breach of human rights, further adding that it was a new evidence Greece would definitely investigate in collaboration with the Cypriot government.

    The LAOS head blasted the government for mild reaction, while hints targeting Bakoyannis caused her fiery reaction.

    The Foreign Minister referred to her recent meeting with the Cypriot counterpart, arguing that both sides would take all necessary steps.

    She also underlined that Turkey ought to investigate the matter and commit itself to the international resolution on the matter of the missing Greek-Cypriots.

    News item: 18348

    [22] Alavanos Rejects Coalition with PASOK

    Socialist leader George Papandreou and head of SYRIZA's (Coalition of the Radical Left) parliamentary group Alekos Alavanos met Friday and touched on education, the political developments, as well as the relationship between the two political parties. Alekos Alavanos ruled out scenarios speaking of a coalition between SYRIZA and the Socialist party (PASOK), while George Papandreou stressed he respected different opinions and voiced his will to see the dialogue between the two parties continue.

    "Our differences in key matters do not allow a coalition between the two sides," said Alekos Alavanos.

    George Papandreou termed the meeting as "sincere," further adding that they also touched on the credit crisis plaguing Greece.

    Regarding the farmers' industrial actions, Papandreou said that a new generation of farmers emerged.

    Alekos Alavanos also called the meeting "sincere," explaining that they located the differences, as well as the similarities "they could have," noting that the key issues discussed including educational affairs, the credit crisis and the farmers' industrial actions.

    Source: NET, NET 105.8, ANA-MPA

    News item: 18347

    [23] Defence Expenses not to Rise

    Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis has assured that no more defence expenses will take place in 2009, adding that defence expenses and expenses on armaments since 2004 have been dropping. "The state-budget will not be burdened with additional expenses on armaments" he stressed, while in reply to a relevant question asked by SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left)

    MP Thodoros Dritsas he stressed that Greece is still paying past debts. Moreover, he reported middlemen have been excluded and the government is signing intergovernmental agreements. He also accused SYRIZA of populism.

    SYRIZA MP Thodoros Dritsas spoke of a rise in kickbacks since the past, demanding that rescue operations in the Aegean not be under the rurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence, so that competition with Turkey is averted. He also proposed that the money spent for an F-16 jet fighter should be spent for the restructuring of rural production.

    News item: 18340

    [24] Bakoyannis Briefs the Standing Committee


    During the three-hour-long session of the Standing Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs today, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dora Bakoyannis briefed it on Greek-Turkish relations, detainees in Guantanamo and the Greek Presidency for OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe).

    Referring to the OSCE Presidency, Ms Bakoyannis stressed that Greece is taking over amid the global financial crisis, adding however that it has the opportunity to transform the challenge to an opportunity to promote Greece.

    Regarding Greek-Turkish relations, she said that immobility marked 2008 and was sealed with Turkey's violations in the last months.

    Ms Bakoyannis stressed that the government is not undermining the real benchmarks, but instead is assessing them without exaggerations. Lucidity is a necessary condition in Greek-Turkish relations she pointed out.

    Referring to a Turkish actor's statements, she said they are being assessed with great attention, adding that their adjustment or retraction one day later by him neither changes reality nor the violent and unjust actions committed.

    Finally, referring to Skopje, she stated that FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) PM's statements do not allow for optimism and have forced Greece not to allow ESOAP lay out not a single euro for the international motorway.

    From his side, referring to Guantanamo prisoners, PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) cadre Andreas Loverdos said that his party is opposed to their transfer, demanding explanations on the possible legal status under which they could be accepted in Greece. Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, she reported that 2009 would be marked by tension and a crisis, adding that the crisis had not culminated yet.

    KKE (Communist Party of Greece) cadre Spyros Halvatzis demanded the release of the Guantanamo prisoners, saying that Greece should not be involved in this issue. Regarding Greek-Turkish relations, he referred to Turkey's aggressiveness in the Aegean lately.

    Referring to the Guantanamo prisoners, SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) Parliamentary Group leader Alekos Alavanos reported that the USA, which is responsible for their condition, should offer them asylum. As for the Greek-Turkish relations, he said that Turkey is rekindling the grey wolves' issue, demanding an investigation on the Turkish executioner's confession, as he called him.

    LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) cadre Adonis Georgiadis described Turkey's lasciviousness when the ND ruled unprecedented.

    Ms Bakoyannis also stressed that the government lacks a substantial foreign policy, adding that no opposite view on the foreign policy had been submitted.

    Greece is a country with national reliance and nobody has argued that Greek-Turkish relations are smooth.

    Finally, she pointed out for once more that Greece would benefit from Turkey's accession to the EU, provided Turkey meets the EU criteria.

    Source: 105.8

    News item: 18303

    [25] Wrangling on Heating Allowance and the Unemployed

    Wrangling broke out in Parliament on the debate of the bill on the guarantees fund. The reasons for the political wrangling were the amendments promoted by the government on the heating allowance that will also be given to persons with disability and to those who are in the final stage of kidney deficiency, as well as on the government's measures on the unemployed.

    Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia stressed that the measures concern the protection of vulnerable social groups, assuring that it is a message to the society, as per which the last euro of either the state-budget or the community funds will be spent for their support. In parallel, he accused PASOK of petty party and opposition policy.

    From PASOK's (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) side, Messrs Theodoros Pangalos and Louka Katseli described the new measures "ND's miserable pre-election canvass propaganda."

    PASOK proposed a roll-call vote to be held for Article 74, which concerns measures for the unemployed, who as they said are being transformed to beggars.

    The rest of the opposition made similar criticisms; their representatives spoke of holding hostage and mocking Greek civilians and the unemployed.

    KKE (Communist Party of Greece) Parliamentary spokesman Nikos Karathanasopoulos described the minister's stance a challenge, adding that the government is criticizing the unemployed and pretending that it is interested in the low classes.

    SYRIZA(Coalition of the Radical Left) Parliamentary spokesman Panagiotis Lafazanis spoke of arrogance on behalf of the government at a time when Greece is sinking and being led to a labour status similar to that of the Middle Ages, while the employees are being mocked and held hostage."

    LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) Parliamentary spokesman Asterios Rountoulis accused the government of "canvass from which it will receive the penalty for its choices."

    Earlier, the Deputy Finance minister supported the heating allowance policy, stressing that the government is laying a social protection net.

    From his side, ND Parliamentary spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos attacked PASOK, pointing out that it is not justified to speak as it created thousands of problems to Greece.

    News item: 18270

    [26] No Metro Services to Airport as from 14/2

    Metro services to the Athens International Airport will be suspended for six months, starting from 14 February, until works for the station platforms Holargos and Agia Paraskevi districts are completed. Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias visited Wednesday morning the work sites. Measures had been taken in collaboration with the Transport Ministry, said Souflias, to facilitate passengers.

    Noting that the suspension of the services would hamper transport, Souflias put it down to the fact that a station in Agia Paraskevi had not been planned. He also said that that there would be a car parking at the Agia Paraskevi station.

    News item: 18264

    [27] Gap Narrows in Favour of ND

    The ND (Conservatives) party is narrowing its gap with PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) on voting intention, as per a poll conducted by GPO on behalf of Mega. The difference has dropped to 3.6 percentage points compared to December's five percentage points. The ND party garners 28.1% against PASOK's 31.7%, followed by SYN (Coalition of the Left) with 8%, the KKE (Communist Party of Greece) with 7.7%, LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) with 5.7% and the Ecologists with 3%. 8.8% have not said who they would vote for. On the question as to who would win if elections were held now, PASOK is leading with 53.7%, ND follows with 37%, but 60.7% of those asked believes that it is not ready to rule. Costas Karamanlis is leading as the most suitable PM with 45% against George Papandreou, who garners 32.7%. 61.3% are against early elections, despite the fact that 50.4% believes that early elections will be declared.

    Source: 105.8

    News item: 18196

    [28] Karamanlis' Message to Farmers

    There is an "intensive need for roads to open", the Prime Minister said speaking in an even organized by women of New Democracy, and added that our society that provides the sources for farmers, must not be further burdened. Mr. Karamanlis stressed that he will continue taking measures for the support of financially weaker citizens and accused PASOK of irresponsibility, infertile debate and ignorance.

    The first priority of our government is the economy of every day life, the MP stressed. On reference to farmers, Mr. Karamanlis added that mobilizations must not cause financial damage to professionals and must not burden the economy. He also pointed out that the government provided 500 million euros to farmers despite the narrow financial edges.

    The government is working on the long term and meaningful boost of the agricultural income. There is the will and the time for dialogue and for mutual planning. National Council of Agricultural Policy will be activated soon, the PM said. Mr. Karamanlis also stated that the government responds to its commitments, as 80% of sources of the national strategic framework will be provided to regional Greece.

    The Prime Minister also referred on the discussion for education. We asked for participation from all political parties for the reformation of the Lyceums and for the change in University entry examination system in secondary education.

    On reference to the financial conjunction, the PM stated that none can overlook the heat and the intensity and the duration of the international financial crisis that affects with severity the strongest economies of Europe. Next months will be difficult, Mr. Karamanlis said and continued that the government showed that it is equipped with the reflexives and that the Greek economy is resistant.

    The Prime Minister also referred on the opposition party saying that those that tripled the public deficit and rose unemployment from 3% to 11% can not play the role of the accusant. Times demand gravity and responsibility, there is no space for irresponsibility and infertile debates, Mr. Karamanlis added. The future depends on the conflict between responsibility and irresponsibility. We follow the road of responsibility, the Prime Minister underlined. We are going to exhaust the possibilities for the support of weaker social groups, the road is uphill but at the end of the road there is a better day, Mr. Karamanlis concluded.

    Special reference was also made by the Prime Minister regarding the government's policy for the reinforcement of families. Mr. Karamanlis noted that measures have been taken for the reinforcement of families with many children as the 2000 euros allowance will be provided to families having three or more children.

    News item: 18177

    [29] A. Tsipras: More Evidence for Kouneva

    SYN (Coalition of the Left) President Alexis Tsipras met with Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos today and discussed the issue of trade unionist Konstantina Kouneva. After the meeting, Mr Tsipras stated "I had the opportunity to communicate with the minister and express our intense dissatisfaction because the police investigation on the assassination attempt against Konstantina Kouneva has proved fruitless. I also wished to express our concern because if this case is covered up, then this will mean that Greece is being transformed to Colombia, where assassination attempts are made against trade unionists and are not solved. The minister listened to our positions and committed himself to do whatever is possible from his side to direct the investigation to the correct direction from now on, so that this unbelievable case is solved.

    Regarding the wrong direction of the investigation, Mr Tsipras said that it is not his job to know the culprit, adding that it is clear that the culprit cannot be the trade unionist's family friend, as corroborated evidence proves that she had been receiving threats. He also denounced the present labour condions, as companies exploit employees and force them to sign documents that prove they have worked fewer hours than they originally did. Moreover, he spoke of a ring exploiting human dignity, adding that it should be disrupted and the culprits found. In parallel, the legislation should change and thus deprive the above companies from exploiting employees in this way. The minister committed himself in releasing information today or tomorrow. "However, what I wish to point out is that the politicians' role is not to discover the culprits. The police should play this role. Anyway, the fact that the Prosecutor has sent back the investigation in order to direct it to the correct direction, proves that the first efforts proved fruitless because Konstantina's family friends were not the answer to the solution of the mystery", said Mr Tsipras.

    News item: 18160

    [30] The Government Rules out Early Elections


    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos has invited the opposition to adopt a clear stance on Mr Papoulias' second term of office as President of the Hellenic Republic. The Interior minister stated the government intends to support again Mr Papoulias at a time when talks on early elections are taking place. An opinion poll conducted by RASS for Paron tis Kyriakis newspaper, shows that PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) is leading with 2.3% on voting intention, while Mr Costas Karamanlis is preferred by most as prime minister.

    In an interview with Apogevmatini tis Kyriakis newspaper, Mr Pavlopoulos invites PASOK to clarify its stance as to whether it will support Mr Karalos Papoulias as President for the second time. "I have repeatedly said that Mr Papoulias discharges his duties perfectly and is an excellent president. Of course, we are ready to support him for the second time. What remains is for the PASOK main opposition party to clarify its position," stresses the Interior minister.

    Meanwhile, in an interview with Eleftheros Typos tis Kyriakis, the new Tourism Minister Costas Markopoulos states that nobody in Greece wishes now early elections to be declared, adding that only PASOK does and this only to impress. Although the government may be ruling out the eventuality of early elections, PASOK wishes elections to take place now. "Election talk harms seriously the Economy," states in his interview with the Real News newspaper Development Minister C. Hatzidakis. "Economy is not a game", he stresses, ruling out early elections in spring.

    "I have repeatedly said that the work we do is irrelevant to the elections. As a government we have done a lot to armour employment and create new working positions, "points out Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia. In parallel, Deputy Sports Minister Giannis Ioanidis stressed that he is against early elections, adding that what matters is for us to work.

    Mr Costas Karamanlis will be forced to resort to early elections to avoid the worst, states in an interview with Kyriakatiki Eleftherotypia newspaper PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos, while another PASOK cadre, Costas Skandalidis stresses to the Real News newspaper that the prime minister "will be dragged" to elections in 2009.

    PASOK Secretary Giannis Ragousis reported that the prime minister will have to declare early elections due to his weakness to manage the crisis and avoid the worst.

    LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) cadre Kyriakos Velopoulos stated that the government is in despair and while having its mind on early elections it is resorting to promises. On a relative development, as per an opinion poll conducted by RASS on behalf of PARON newspaper PASOK is ahead the ND party with 2.3%, while the difference between the two parties is decreasing, as the difference was 2.8% in December's poll.

    Mr Costas Karamanlis is leading as the most suitable prime minister with 45.9%, followed by Mr George Papandreou, who enjoys 33.2%.

    Moreover, 61.2% are supporting the declaration of early elections.

    ND Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis points in Eleftheros Typos newspaper that the difference between ND and PASOK is decreasing, adding that the ND party will win the elections if the government's performance proves positive.

    Sources: - 105.8-NA/PA

    News item: 18143

    [31] Gallops and Sharp Interviews on Sunday Press

    According to two new gallops PASOK is on the lead. According to RASS gallop conducted for PARON the gap between the ruling party and the opposition party drops to 2,5 points. New Democracy gathers 31,1% of votes, PASOK 33,4%, KKE 7,5, SYRIZA 7,15, LAOS 4,3%, Ecologists 2,8% while undecided voters rise to 10,7%. Kostas Karamanlis is ahead as the most appropriate prime minister (45,9%) and Giorgos Papandreou follows with 33,2%. RASS gallop also records citizens' preferences who state that they do not wish to precede to early elections.

    As shown in Metron Analysis gallop conducted for IMERISIA newspaper, PASOK is on the lead with 4,5%, New Democracy gathers 26,8%, PASOK 31,3%, SYRIZA 7%, KKE 4,6%, LAOS 3,25, Ecologists 3,2% while undermined reach 20%.

    Meantime, minister of internal Prokopis Pavlopoulos stresses that early election will only occur if PASOK will not co operate in the election of the new president of Republic in 20010, noting the in this case, the opposition party will only have played with institutions.

    In "eleftheros Typos of Sunday" newspaper minister of Tourist Development, Kostas Makropoulos says that in our country no one wants elections, neither citizens and political parties nor the opposition party.

    PASOK secretary Giannis Ragousis in his interview in "Typos tis Kyrakis" newspaper believes that the Prime Minister will be force to go on early elections due to his lack to manage the crisis". Foreign affairs minister Dora Bakoyiannis in her interview in "Kosmos tou ependiti" newspaper stresses that this is a difficult conjunction and the country does not need elections or scenarios per elections.

    Source: NET 105,8

    News item: 18137

    [32] Energy Performance Certificate as of 2009


    Addressing the annual conference of property owners, Development Minister Costas Hatzidakis stated that the cost of issuing an Energy Performance Certificate will not be exceeding 100 euros for each house or apartment. The certificate will be necessary when a home owner wishes to rent his property to pass it to others and will be providing home owners, tenants and buyers information on the energy efficiency of their property. The certificate will be begin to be issued in 2009.

    The minister said that a bill on the Energy Performance Certificate was passed in 2008 and concerns Greece's harmonization with the EU policy on saving energy.

    Justifying the allegation as per which the certificate is not a reason to burden millions of Greek property owners, he explained that originally the plan was for each square metre to be charged with 2.5 euros, but finally the cost will be one euro per one square metre.

    In parallel, he announced that the procedures for the installation of photovoltaic systems on self-contained homes or building roofs will be simplified and the only document the interested party will have to acquire will be the civil engineer's signature.

    "Our objective is to help civilians have homes that are energy autonomous," said Mr Hatzidakis.

    News item: 18118

    [33] Hints at the Judges and Prosecutors' General Assembly

    Wrangling has broken out between the government and the main opposition party on Justice on the occasion of George Papandreou's accusations at the judges and prosecutors' annual meeting. The PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) president reported that the Greek citizens feel that justice is not ruling the country, speaking of list of endless scandals and of party looting and self-interests. In reply, Justice Minister Nikos Dendias said that with his statements Mr Papandreou is not promoting the solution of problems related to Justice, accusing him of not admitting the responsibilities and even the written-off wrongdoings of his cadres on the Vatopedi case.

    The PASOK president spoke of crisis in Democracy during his address at the judges and prosecutors' annual meeting.

    "Civilians feel that justice is not ruling the country and that everybody serves one's own interests," adding that the present government's mentality has brought a deep crisis to Democracy. "The state is not the feud of the elections winner," and "for the last five years Greeks feel they are living in an insecure environment." Mr Papandreou criticized harshly the ND government, speaking of an endless list of scandals and for a mentality of looting by parties and self-interests instead of the people's interests.

    Referring to the Vatopedi scandal, he stated the government had attempted to write off the scandal, demanding in parallel meritocracy and transparency. Mr Papandreou criticized harshly some judges, who as he said are influenced by parties and act as secret advisors to ministers.

    He proposed a change in these mentalities, so that Justice can serve as a factor of social cohesion and protection of citizens in an attempt to combat corruption.

    From his side, referring to Mr Papandreou's statements the new Justice Minister Nikolaos Dendias said they are not promoting the solution of the problems of Justice and do not contribute to dialogue.

    Furthermore, he accused Mr Papandreou of not admitting the responsibilities and even the written-off wrongdoings of his cadres on the Vatopedi case.

    He also added that he aims at promoting new institutional changes that will secure the acceleration of administering justice, so that the phenomenon of denegation of justice is dealt with.

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos also commented on Mr Papandreou's statements by saying that nepotism and judges who became ministers also took place when PASOK ruled, stressing that that was necessary for their judicial advancement. The issue of fast administration of justice also prevailed in the meeting, with Union President Charalambos Athanasiou stressing that Justice in Greece had been deficient in this respect for 15 years and adding that trials are now announced for 2012.

    Mr Athanasiou asked for strictness on those who are responsible for incidents during marches, adding that rallies are held so as citizens can achieve their goals and not to destroy property. In parallel, Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas stressed that all should see that that social request is met, adding that efforts for a faster administering of justice should commences as of the following day.

    In his message, Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis reported that the government's respect to the institution of Justice is given, adding that the government is denouncing efforts to the depreciation of the institution, irrelevant from where they come from.

    News item: 18109

    [34] Karamanlis Addresses the E.P.P Youth

    Addressing the European Popular Party youth at an event staged by ONNED in Athens Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis asked from the political parties and social partners to be serious, self-restrained and responsible, so that the global financial crisis is tackled. He also stressed it is unknown how long and how strong the global crisis would be, adding that resolution of the crisis depends not only from governments but also on the serious stance social partners will adopt in each country.

    He also said that the repercussions from the global financial crisis would be heavier to Europeans if they did not belong to the EU. In parallel, he accused the main opposition party of playing petty party games with the crisis.

    "Some have found the time for scaremongering and promote pessimism, as well as play petty party games in view of the Euro elections", said the PM, stressing "Some invest irresponsibly to problems. Our goal is to combat the problems."

    The PM reported that the repercussions of the financial crisis would be dealt with strong reflexives and social sensitivity. Moreover, policies are necessary to implemented in support of the classes affected mostly, without however endangering the fiscal balance. He added that the EU should give its answers on the financial crisis in the following months, calling on the EU member-states to take advantage of their common experience and take decisions.

    The PM described today's crisis a challenge for all, adding that the EU could moderate the repercussions with coordinating policies and transform the international challenge to a European opportunity.

    Mr Karamanlis also referred to the Educational reform, describing it the basic axis of the government's policy, adding that he supports an educational system that would cover the future needs of the economy and labour.

    "We are building the future school and are upgrading qualitatively Tertiary Education. We are commencing a dialogue for the examining system and the reform of the Lyceum," said the PM.

    Finally, he called on the European youth to participate more actively in the society's affairs.

    News item: 18107

    [35] Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister in Athens

    Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riad Maliki visited Athens for a sequence of meetings. After the completion of the meeting with her Palestinian counterpart, Greek FM Dora Bakoyiannis, appealed all sides to preserve and apply Gaza truce. Mrs. Bakoyiannis said that Greece is ready to welcome and hospitalize in private and state hospitals, children and injured Palestinians from Gaza. The Palestinian minister signed with Dora Bakoyiannis a memorandum on political deliberations. Mr. Maliki stressed that Palestinians mostly depend on the European Union's initiatives per the preservation of the truce. Finally, he thanked our country for the help it offered to Palestinians.

    Mr. Maliki also met with the President of Republic Mr. Karolos Papoulias who expressed Greece's solidarity to the Palestinian people. Mr. Maliki met with PASOK president George Papandreou on Friday afternoon and briefed hin on the situation in Gaza after the Israeli invasion.After their meeting, Mr. Papandreou said that PASOK party solidarity to the Palestinian people is historical and expressed hope that the ceasefire would be substantial and permanent and similar scenes never repeated in the future.

    News item: 18075

    [36] C. Karamanlis: Proposal for Dialogue on Education

    A debate on Education will open today in Parliament during an off the agenda session, on the prime minister's initiative. From their side, educators are responding with protest rallies in Athens and Thessaloniki. At the same time, high school and University students will stage a rally before the Propylae at 12:00 and then march to the Parliament, where teachers and professors will hold a protest rally. At the same time, ADEDY (Supreme Administration of Greek Civil Servants Trade Unions is staging a work stoppage in Attica at 13:00 until the end of the shift, calling employees and pensioners to participate in the rally. At the same time, educators will hold rallies in Thessaloniki.

    Prime Minister Mr. Karamanlis, speaking in parliament on Friday during an off-the-agenda discussion on the education sector, asked for concession and commitment by all political parties on Education for the next 20 years aimed at reforming lyceum schooling and change of the system of entry into higher education.

    The prime minister said that changes in the lyceum and in they system of university entrance exams was a reform of major importance which "we want to arise from within common agreement" among the political parties, agencies and societies.

    Karamanlis proposed that "we should all undertake, today if possible, a specific commitment towards the children and towards every Greek family".

    "I propose that we, all the political leaders, take upon ourselves the responsibility of dialogue. That we, each of us, designate a colleague MP and set up a high-level Policy Committee for this purpose, the members of which will be in a constant, two-way communication with the minister of education, convey the ideas and suggestions of their parties, and also to brief their parties on the progress of the dialogue," Karamanlis said.

    Karamanlis added that his ruling New Democracy (ND) party was entering into this dialogue with proposals of its own, and would designate a party MP as its representative to both the five-member Policy Committee and to the Council on Secondary Education.

    Karamanlis said that he came to the parliamentary discussion not to announce a governmental choice but "with the concern and determination for us to forge together the path that will be followed by ministers and governments, the path that the children will follow over the next 20 years".

    The Prime Minister also focused on the issue of protection of the University Asylum, which he said was being blatantly violated by "elements alien to the Institutions (of learning)" which "exploit the peaceful mobilizations, prohibit the dissemination of any other view, turn violently on the free students and teachers and engage in destruction".

    Karamanlis further called on the political parties to take a stance on the phenomena of violence. "It is necessary that we all take a clear-cut position. A position for open schools. A position for unhindered access of every student, every pupil, to his/her classes. A position, in the bottom line, of respect for democracy."

    Source: Athens News Agency

    Relative articles: Criticism and Positions in view of the Debate on Education

    News item: 18058

    [37] Karamanlis-Pavlopoulos Meeting

    During their meeting at Maximos Mansion today, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos focused on the boosting of decentralization and self-government.

    Mr Pavlopoulos stressed that the implementation of the funds from the Third Community Support Framework was concluded without wasting a single euro.

    The Interior Minister referred to his meeting with KEDKE's (Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece) presidium and said that funds for 2009 had been secured, while the situation would be re-assessed t the end of March due to the global financial crisis, so that the dialogue for the administrative reform can commence again.

    Mr Pavlopoulos stated that he briefed the prime minister on issues related to the boosting of decentralization and self-government, on the progress of the ESPA implementation that is the Fourth Community Support Framework.

    Regarding decentralization, Mr Pavlopoulos said that despite shortages until 2004, the 13 provinces had managed to implement the Fourth Community Support Frameworkand materialize the 13 regional operational programmes.

    "Absorbency in the beginning was 15.6% and at the end of 2008 all went well, without wasting a single euro. In the same way, he added, the provinces are preparing for the Fourth Community Support Framework and are being manned with staff so that the high demands of the new ESPA are met".

    Mr Pavlopoulos also briefed the PM on his meeting with KEDKE, in view of the reform that will be weighed up in the soon, as the priority is to support financially OTA (Local Self-Government Organisation), so that a stable basis on which the reform will be based will be available.

    The funds, he added, for 2009 have been secured and at the end of March we shall see how things are going, so that from one side we it is ready to meet the challenges of the future and if the conditions are better to commence again a dialogue on the administrative reform.

    News item: 18029

    [38] In Support of Farmers within the Framework

    The meeting between Rural Development Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis and Thessaly farmers has reached a deadlock. The farmers stated they would continue with their struggles and ask to meet with the Finance minister and the prime minister if the Rural Development Ministry does not come up with solutions. From his side, Mr Hatzigakis described many of the farmers' demands just, adding that the government would find a solution within the framework of the EU's fiscal policy and its rules. Farmers from Crete failed to be present due to the adverse weather conditions. Meanwhile, farmers continue to remain in several parts of the national road. Producers from Fthiotida, Viotia, Serres and Kavala refused to attend the meeting, demanding from the ministry to make its positions clear before any dialogue commenced.

    Despite their appointment with the Rural Development minister, farmers continue blocking the Athens-Thessaloniki national road, Egnatia and the border stations, cutting Greece into two. After the meeting, Mr Hatzigakis said that decisions on the amounts to be given for crucial products would be made in the coming days. Moreover, he reported that out of the 28 billion euros given to banks, rural economy would receive its respective part. This means that loans will be given to rural industries. Once more, Mr Hatzigakis stressed that he is open for dialogue.

    From their side, farmer representatives stated they would continue with their struggles, describing the meeting a deadlock.

    Sources: NA-PA-- 105.8

    Relative news: Crucial Meetings on Rural Issue.

    News item: 18006

    [39] Papandreou's Lightning Visit to GADA

    PASOK socialist leader Giorgos Papandreou visited today GADA (police head quarters) as well as the police department of Kypseli. As he announced later, Mr. Papandreou said that he found the door of Athens Security Office closed. During his visit, Mr. Papandreou was briefed about the situation prevailing today in the sector of Public Order and the problems police officers face when exercising their duties. Mr. Papandreou stressed that decisions must be promoted and measures must be taken that will reinforce citizens' security and the tackling of crime.

    Delivering a speech in a meeting of officers on public security issues, PASOK president spoke of a general feeling of insecurity among citizens that has been created due to the government's false manipulations. In a democratic society, he stressed there are no dilemmas regarding the security and the rights of citizens.

    Mr. Papandreou underlined that immediate interventions are necessary that will restore citizens' negative feeling towards the police force. "We want a police force that will be affective", he said, "standing near the citizen, with respect to the personal freedoms and to the citizens' rights.

    Minister of Internal Affairs Prokopis Pavlopoulos asked PASOK to be more serious when exercising criticism to the Hellenic Police. He called PASOK to exercise criticism using real and not imaginary arguments and suggested that the opposition party should support the institutions. He also pointed out that PASOK often adopts stances that do not help the country.

    When asked to comment PASOK charges regarding the dissolution of the police force, Athens mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis stressed" The Hellenic Police Force needs further organization but mostly needs moral support in its work".

    News item: 17975

    [40] Bakoyiannis-Lavrov Meeting

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis is expected in Moscow on Tuesday, on her first trip abroad since Greece took over the presidency of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). She is scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov the following day. In an interview with the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS concerning her visit, she said it would cover all issues pertaining to the OSCE but also bilateral affairs, especially in light of the recent natgas supply crisis.

    Ministry of foreign affairs spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos stressed that Greece will play the role of the "honest interlocutor" and will attempt to speed up the concession of all members.

    The Russian side aims at the presence of OSCE observers not only in Tbilisi but also in Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) wishing the "new realities" created after the war of August to be taken into consideration.

    News item: 17970

    [41] Report on Accession to Tertiary Education on Monday

    Accession to tertiary education runs high on the agenda of the new Education Minister. According to information, the National Education Council has proposed high school be disconnected from national-level exams. In the meantime, information on the National Education Council report on changes in the accession to tertiary education has leaked. Asked to comment on relevant information, Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos reiterated that the Ministry is open to dialogue and that he will carefully consider all proposals.

    Head of the Federation of Secondary School Teachers of Greece (OLME) Kostas Maniatis said that the government should lay out the key guidelines.

    Following his meeting with former Education Minister Marietta Giannakou, Aris Spiliotopoulos held talks with his predecessor Evrypides Stylianides to be informed. Aris Spiliotopoulos intends to meet with Socialist lawmakers who served as Education Ministers.

    Exiting the meeting, Spiliotopoulos stressed he had a constructive cooperation with Stylianides. "It is clear that Mr Stylianides made a great work. This is our legacy to move on in a wise and calm manner and above all with open dialogue and willingness to listen to all positions," Spiliotopoulos.

    "Positive efforts will go one and new reform chapters may also open depending on the needs of the Greek society and the new generation. Because this is our guide and our concern," commented Evrypides Stylianides.

    News item: 17935

    [42] Acceleration of Judicial Procedures

    Acceleration of judicial procedures is the top priority of the Justice Ministry said new Justice Minister, Nikos Dendias after his meeting with Prime-minister, Kostas Karamanlis at the Maximos Mansion, on Tuesday.

    Mr. Dendias said that he would follow on his predecessors' steps in a more intensive way "to accelerate attribution of justice".

    In response to question regarding within prisons coordination of criminal acts, such as abductions, Mr. Dendias said: "I can not respond on the grounds of rumours and vague information". I am certain that competent authorities would do their job to reveal criminals (in Panagopoulos kidnapping case) as they did in similar cases in the past".

    Sources: 105.8, NA-PA

    News item: 17934

    [43] Different Approaches to Scenarios of Early Elections

    Gallops released recently to Sunday press trigger fresh scenarios per early elections. After her meeting with the Prime Minister, Dora Bakoyiannis denied the scenarios per early elections, stressing that citizens do not wish to proceed to elections. PASOK top members still express different views in public regarding the time elections will take place close to the election for the new President of the Republic.

    "We have made clear that we want immediate elections..."PASOK representative Giorgos Papakostantinou said.

    In the government they believe that talking about elections damages the economy and close every discussion that refer to elections.

    "We are not in a pre election period. The country has an elected government. It must function with co ordination and coherence in order to produce specific results. Citizens do not want elections but stability and action", Foreign Affairs Minister Mrs. Bakoyiannis stressed after her meeting with the Prime Minister.

    We are not talking about elections education minister Aris Spyliotopoulos said.

    Minister of transport Evripidis Stylianidid estimated there is not issue of elections and added that "after the reshuffle, we altogether start a new effort". LAOS votes no to early elections.

    News item: 17905

    [44] Message to Turkey

    Prime Minister of Turkey Tayip Erdogan spoke on Greek-Turkish relations from Brussels and stressed among other things that if challenges stop, the relations between the two countries will improve. Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros called on Ankara to respect the rules of the international law and the decisions taken by international organizations if Turkey wishes to have any European prospects. Meantime, Athens on Friday reiterated that an incident involving the harassment of a civilian airliner by Turkish warplanes in the eastern Aegean.

    Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, nevertheless, continued to reiterate Greece's standing position on relations with the neighbouring country, namely, that EU candidate-state Turkey cannot continuously find excuses to justify its failure to meet commitments towards the European Union.

    "Turkey must end behavior that has no relation to its European orientation or to relations between allies, which it wants to maintain with us," Antonaros said during a regular press briefing in the Greek capital.

    The spokesman said the excellent manner in which Athens conducts its relations with Ankara should be reciprocated by the latter.Finally, the spokesman said he had no information on a possible upcoming visit by the Greek prime minister to Washington for contacts with the new US administration.

    Harassment of Civilian Turkish Warplane

    Athens on Friday reiterated that an incident involving the harassment of a civilian airliner by Turkish warplanes in the eastern Aegean is under investigation by the national defence ministry.

    Source: Athens News Agency, NET, NET 105.8

    News item: 17902

    [45] Debate on Inquiry Committee Kicks Off

    The Greek House is to debate Monday PASOK's (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) call for the setting up of an inquiry community to investigate the Vatopedi case. As per information the ruling party of ND (New Democracy) will abstain from the debate.

    News item: 17881

    [46] Spiliotopoulos: I'll Lend an Ear to All Sides

    "My personal goal is to work alongside with all members of the educational community, to seek for solutions to the problems that have been raising obstacles in our ways for years, to focus our attention to a strategy capable of addressing the needs and demands of the educational system," stressed Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos in his article that appeared in Eleftheros Typos tis Kyriakis Sunday paper entitled "I'll lend an ear to all sides." In his article, Aris Spiliotopoulos elaborated on his intentions.

    "I do not intend just to cope with the existing problems, nor do I believe that I can solve the past pending issues all alone in a magic way. I intend to lend an ear to all sides, to activate all the creative forces of the society, of the educational community, the new generation, so that this effort can yield result," read the article.

    'The problems of the new generation cannot be addressed with authoritarian practices. It takes ideas and all parties' positions [...] I believe that both subjective and objective preconditions have matured so that we can work together for a more qualitative Education," concluded Spiliotopoulos.

    News item: 17871

    [47] Pavlopoulos: Citizens Become Our Priority

    "The government's priority is to solve the citizens' everyday problems," commented Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos. He also elaborated on the key goals of the Interior Ministry for 2009, namely:

    - the implementation of a programme to reorganize the public administration and the local governments, - the speeding-up of the closure of illegal landfill sites by submitting a relevant amendment to Parliament, - the further simplification of the institutional framework governing the issuing of residence permits for immigrants, and - the establishment of immigration centres.

    News item: 17870

    [48] Policy Capable of Defending the Nation

    PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) President George Papandreou addressed Sunday a political event held in the city of Trikala, central Athens. The nation requires changes and a new course and PASOK is ready to shoulder its responsibilities and rule the place with a well-thought-out plan, stressed the Socialist leader. Touching on the recent cabinet reshuffle, he blasted the Conservative government for vying to change masks for fear of elections.

    He then went on to accuse the government for masterminding snap elections scenarios with a view to buying votes and consciences through public spending and OAED funds.

    Awaiting the European Commission report on economy, Papandreou noted that news would be gloomy, since Almunia practically confirmed what PASOK had been claiming. "We are a step before recession," he commented.

    In view of Monday's parliamentary debate on the Vatopedi scandal, he wondered whether the ruling Conservatives would yet again flee and underlined that the people demanded transparency when it comes to major scandal, otherwise a cover-up would be a major political and economical crime.

    News item: 17844

    [49] Polls Give the Socialists the Lead

    Following the cabinet reshuffle, and with the fronts of economy, education and safety running high on the political agenda, a new survey has come to depict the situation in the political scenery. A Public Issue poll commissioned for Kathimerini tis Kyriakis Sunday paper suggested that the Socialists (PASOK) were still ahead of the ruling Conservatives (ND). Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis' popularity rose even more. In the meantime, early elections scenarios, already denied by the government, were triggered by leading PASOK officials' statements, whereby they connected the March 2010 presidential elections to the political developments. A nationwide MRB poll conducted on behalf of Typos tis Kyriakis suggested that the vast majority of the respondents were in favour of Karolos Papoulias' re-election, while one out of three PASOK voters disagreed with Reppas' proposal, whereby the presidential election should follow the parliamentary elections.

    The government denied the snap elections scenarios, blaming them on the main opposition party.

    In his first interview after his being stripped of his government post, Giorgos Voulgarakis dismissed his claim, whereby everything that is legal is moral, as wrong.

    Asked to comment the results of the opinion polls, LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) Press spokesman Kyriakos Velopoulos said: "The two major political parties are triumphing, interpreting the polls as it suits them. But the gap is getting narrower and their percentages are falling. Congratulations, because the sum of their percentages dropped from 80% to 60%, proving that ND and PASOK are two different parties, which share the same anti-labour policy."

    ND party secretary, Lefteris Zagoritis, in an interview with Sunday newspaper "Real News", blames PASOK for petty partisan policy and rules out snap elections in 2010. He also supported re-election of Karolos Papoulias in the post of President. In the same line was Defense Minister, Baggelis Meimarakis statement in "Eleftheros Typos" newspaper, who said that PASOK is trying to create a climate of instability. He also underlined that political circumstances are changing and forecast ND party's victory in the forthcoming euro-elections. PASOK deputy Thodoros Pangalos expressed certainty about holding of early elections, maybe before Easter, adding it was apparent that PASOK would call for elections in 2010, unless held earlier.

    News item: 17835

    [50] SYN Leader Addresses ELP

    The recent unrest reported in Athens run high on the agenda of an unscheduled conference of the European Left Party taking place in the Parliament building. The youth's struggles have sent the message of resistance against neo-liberal policies," stressed Alexis Tsipras, head of Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA).

    Resting everybody assure that his party would not take a step back, SYRIZA President Alexis Tsipras outlined Saturday his party's strategy concerning young people's problems.

    Addressing the ELP conference, he said: "We were the only political force that spoke of an uprising from the very beginning. We became the target of the entire political system. Here in Greece, we heard many interpretations about the uprising of the young," and vowed that the party would not back down from young people's right to mass and militant peaceful protest, to seek a future that would not be uninsured, to free state-controlled and dignified education and to defend democracy and social rights from arbitrariness and suppression.

    Touching on the financial crisis, Tsipras put it down to the elements composing the nucleus of the neo-liberal sample.

    News item: 17825

    [51] Greek PM Sends Stern Message to FYROM

    Addressing the House, Greece's Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis sent a stern message to Skopje. In reply to an interpellation filed by LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) head Giorgos Karatzaferis on Skopje growing intransigence, Karamanlis stressed that as long as FYROM kept being intransigent, it could not join the EU and NATO. In the meantime, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Giannis Valinakis said that Ankara's provocations could inflict no harm on Greece's national rights.

    Karamanlis: "Greece Has the Means and Uses It with Prudence and Credibility"

    The Greek Premier outlined Greece's stance on Skopje's ongoing intransigence.

    He argued that Greece would not participate in the financing of road axis 10, which the neighbouring country renamed in a provocative manner, as long as the Skopje administration kept creating an atmosphere of provocations, nationalism and intransigence.

    He then went on to make it plain that, "Skopje's EU and NATO aspirations will not be met, as long as they deliberately insist on a grey past, with its leadership being interested in petty political expediencies in view of the general elections."

    The LAOS head accused the governments ruled Greece so far of failing to block, as they should have, EU aids to the neighbouring country, aid that amounted to 1.110bn. "This means that we finance Skopje's arrogance, insolence and bullying," added Karatzaferis.

    "Our positions and decisions are built upon the country's interest and everything takes place with absolute transparency," answered back Kostas Karamanlis, also stressing: "We are after a single name with geographical qualifier. We urge Skopje to play their part in the campaign to achieve a mutually respectable solution. We do not want Skopje to be left out of the EU and NATO. What it best for the region is the leaders of the neighbouring country to abandon the grey past and focus on its future within Europe."

    "Greece has the tools, It has not given up on them. It uses them with prudence and credibility," concluded the Prime Minister.

    Source: NET, NET 105.8, ANA-MPA

    News item: 17794

    [52] Greek FM: Gruevski Undermines His People

    Gruevski's rhetoric of provocation undermines his own people, commented Greece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis during his one-hour meeting with her new Austrian counterpart Michael Spindelegger in Vienna on Friday morning.

    Apart from the Skopje row, Bakoyannis and Spindelegger also touched on matters relating to OSCE and bilateral relations.

    OSCE Chairman person-in-office Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis outlined the Greek Chairmanship's proposals regarding the deployment of OSCE observers to Georgia and Ossetia. The two Foreign Ministers also referred to the cooperation prospect between Greece and Austria so that they could, as Bakoyannis claimed, undertake joint initiatives for a humanitarian aid to Gaza.

    With regard to the Greek OSCE Chairmanship, the Greek Foreign Minister underlined that expectations had been really high, hoping that Greece would live up to them.

    "It is a difficult Chairmanship at a really touch time and we are well aware that the challenge is great, since it is not easy to get the 56 OSCE member-states with conflicting interests agree," commented she.

    "In the new world we have come to live, with the rapid changes we are experiencing, enhancing the Organization's role and placing emphasis in our shared values, is an imperative. We have to come closer to one another, and the Greek Chairmanship will work for that," said she.

    Commenting on estimations, whereby the Greek OSCE Chairmanship would witness the settling of several pending issues, the Greek Foreign Minister wished for results to be yielded, stressing that Greek diplomacy is well-prepared.

    News item: 17796

    [53] No Trans-Shipment Took Place

    Addressing the House, Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis blasted violence no matter where it comes from, in a reply to an interpellation filed by Alekos Alavanos, head of the parliamentary group of Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) on Israel's offensive in Gaza and the revelations regarding the use of Greek port of Astakos. Karamanlis clearly denied all information on US war shipments to Israel through the port of Astakos. He further added that the USA filed a shipment request in November but never was there any trans-shipment. Alekos Alavanos, on his part, lambasted the government for being absent from what is happening in the Middle East.

    No Such Issue Was Raised

    The Prime Minister denied that the issue had ever arisen of trans-shipment of US war supplies to an Israeli port through the Greek port of Astakos

    He also made it clear that the USA filed a shipment request in November but never was there any trans-shipment. The Ship docked off Astakos at the beginning of the month, but the trans-shipment never took place because the Mercantile Marine Ministry did not give permission.

    "To cut a long story short: Yes, there was a request. Yes, the ship sailed off Astakos. But there was no trans-shipment and the ship set sail," stressed Karamanlis.

    Alekos Alavanos, on his part, blamed the government for not condemning the recent Israeli hit on hospitals and UN buildings, while he urged the Prime Minister to deny the information posted on a website, whereby war supplies were shipped to Israel from the Greek port of Astakos in September 2007. He also requested the Greek ambassador to Israel be recalled for talks, the suspension of the military pact signed between Greece and Israel in 1993, lest the country should lose its credibility in the Muslim world.

    In his rejoinder, Karamanlis said that oversimplification and distortion did not serve the greater good.

    He reiterated that the statement issued by the Foreign Ministry shortly after the relevant press reports could not be questioned.

    Shifting his attention to the Middle East crisis, Kostas Karamanlis stressed that Greece was a staunch advocate of a lasting solution in the Middle East with the co-existence of two independent states, that of Palestine and the state of Israel.

    Replying to Karatzaferis' question, whether US flights to the Middle East, Karamanlis clearly said, "No Greek port or Greek airport has ever been used in the ongoing Mideast crisis."

    Source: NET, NET 105.8, ANA-MPA.

    News item: 17783

    [54] Vatopedi Case in Parliament Monday

    PASOK's (Socialists) proposal to set up an Inquiry Committee that will examine the Vatopedi and Vistonida cases will be debated at a plenary session in Parliament on Monday. The news was released after the Presidents of the Parliament met today under Mr Dimitris Sioufas' chairmanship.

    ND (Conservatives) spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos has accused the main opposition of party self-interest and an attempt to penalize Greece's political life, pointing out that the ruling party will not go into partnership with PASOK's methodisation.

    The rest of the opposition believes that an Inquiry Committee should investigate the case.

    Commenting on the issue, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stated that the ND government will not share PASOK's intention to penalize Greece's political life. He also reported that PASOK had submitted that request for the second time in Parliament when it knows that the issue had been dealt with in depth by the Inquiry Committee and that from now on Justice should take over. "PASOK is trying to impress for its own intraparty reasons. It will not succeed in doing so," stated Mr Antonaros.

    News item: 17756

    [55] PASOK Proposes Enquiry Committee on Vatopedi Case

    11 parliamentary members of opposition socialist party PASOK ask for the set up of a special parliamentary committee on Vatopedi case in accordance to article 86, paragraph 3 of law 3126/2003 "per Ministers' Penal Responsibility" and articles 153 of " Parliaments' Regulation" The Committee will conduct investigation on:

    (a) Corruption against the State possibly committed by ministers Evagelos Basiakos, Petros Doukas, Alexandros Kontos and Georgios Voulgarakis. (b) Instigation of an offence possibly committed by Theodoros Roussopoulos who was then minister of state (c) Participation and instigation of an offence committed by other people (d) Responsibility of ministers and deputy ministers for instigation of an offence

    Yesterday, PASOK representative K. Papakostantinou called on ND to support the effort initiated by PASOK so as any responsibilities held by political people to be revealed. Social party parliamentary member Mr. Christos Papoutsis in his interview in Athens 9,84 radio station branded PASOK's proposal a political commitment and stressed that the opposition party has an institutional obligation to proceed to the investigation of the case.


    News item: 17714

    [56] 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: , NA-PA

    News item: 17700

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

    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

    [58] Wrangling on Astakos Issue

    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.


    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

    [59] 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

    [60] Foreign Affairs' Ministry Dismisses Press Claims

    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

    [61] Papoulias' Apparent Interest in Gaza

    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

    [62] New Turkish Provocation

    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

    [63] KYSEA Focuses on Greek-Turkish Relations

    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: , 105.8, NA-PA Relative articles: Fresh Turkish Provocation

    News item: 17599

    [64] Bakoyiannis-Alavanos' Meeting

    President of SYRIZA Alekos Alavanos met with minister of foreign affairs minister Mrs. Dora Bakoyiannis, at Mr. Alavanos initiative, during which he called for the mobilization of Greek diplomacy towards Israel so as to secure guarantees for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The Greek ship "Arion" will depart from Larnaka, Cyprus tomorrow and will head to Gaza Strip, sending doctors minister of SYRIZA Th. Dritsas, PASOK minister Mrs. S. Sakorafa as well as reporters of Foreign Mass Media and medical support.

    Mr. Alavanis reiterated his position that the Greek government should assume initiatives for facing the crisis, and repeated his call for recalling the Greek ambassador in Israel to Athens for deliverations, and for the repeal of the Greece-Israel cooperation agreement signed in 1993. After her meeting with Mr. Alavanos, foreign minister Dora Bakoyiannis stressed: Greece, from the first moment, condemned the escalation of violence in the Middle East and spoke of an immense humanitarian disaster, adding that "as we speak, all the efforts have been made by the Greek government towards the EU for a clear-cut uniform European position, while at the same time we have an open line of communication with all my counterparts in our effort to at least be able to get humanitarian aid into Gaza". At this time, humanitarian organizations from all over the world were at the crossings with Israel and Egypt, she said, noting that Greece was also there, awaiting two things: First, to take injured children out of Gaza for treatment in Greek public and private hospitals, while at the same time getting the necessary humanitarian aid into Gaza.

    On his side Mr. Alavanos said: "I asked to meet with the minister Dora Bakoyiannis urgently today Sunday, because tomorrow the ship "Arion" will depart from Larnaka carrying a Greek flag and will head to Gaza in order to transfer doctors and medical support. SYRIZA minister Th. Dritsas, PASOK minister S. Sakorafa, a minister from Belgium, a congressman from Spain, CNN,Al Jazeera, as well as international Mass Media crews are on board, and I repeat that this is a ship under the Grek flag. For that reason I asked from Minister of Foreign Affairs Mrs. Dora Bakoyiannis, the Greek diplomatic authorities to notify the Israeli government to respect the ship and mainly the physical integrity of the passengers. This mission takes place for humanitarian reasons only and a complete control will be conducted by the Cyprian authorities before the ship departs from Larnaka. So, I asked for an intervention so as the people who show sensitivity to the inflictions put upon the Palestinian people and who want to contribute to the reduction of the consequences caused by the slaughter that takes place to Gaza by Israel, to be respected".

    News item: 17581

    [65] Focusing on Evidence and Clues

    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

    [66] Cabinet Reshuffle Viewed Positively

    The Greek people seem to have welcomed the Prime Minister's recent political decisions. Both the cabinet changes and the government's economic policy have appealed to the majority of the people, as the surveys that appear in Sunday Press have suggested. An MRB poll conducted on behalf of Typos tis Kyriakis paper, the ruling Conservatives (ND) have reduced the gap with the Socialists (PASOK) from five points to three. The same difference has been reported in an ALKO poll commissioned for Proto Thema Sunday paper, with Kostas Karamanlis' popularity rising.

    In the MRB poll carried out on behalf of Typos tis Kyriakis, ND has garnered 29.3 percent and PASOK 32.3 percent. KKE (Greek Communist Party) has trailed with 7.5 percent, SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) with 8.6, LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) with 4.5 and the Greens with 2.5 percent.

    Furthermore, the majority of the respondents (40.5 percent) have given a positive ranking to Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, while 35.7 percent have opted for Socialist leader George Papandreou.

    The ALKO survey has also shown that the difference between the two major political parties has been reduced to three points. ND has gained 28.2 percent and PASOK garnered 31.2 percent. KKE has trailed with 7.8 percent, SYRIZA with 7.1 percent, LAOS with 3.9 percent and the Greens with 1.2 percent.

    A Public Issue opinion poll commissioned for Kathimerini tis Kyriakis Sunday paper, the overwhelming majority of the people surveyed, namely 67 percent, gives a positive ranking to the cabinet reshuffle, as opposed to 33 percent of the respondent who think otherwise.

    Source: NET, ANA-MPA

    News item: 17572

    [67] Karamanlis-Pavlopoulos-Markogiannakis' Meeting

    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".


    News item: 17564

    [68] Wrangling over the Incidents

    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

    [69] Wrangling over Agathonissi Island

    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.

    The 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

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

    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

    [71] Opposition: No Change

    The opposition agrees that the government does not intend to proceed with changes. PASOK (Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement) stresses that when the ND party took over Greece was in a better condition, adding that soon when its steps down Greece will be at the depression door. KKE (Communist Party of Greece) Secretary General Aleka Papariga believes that Mr Karamanlis went on with the government reshuffle to gain political time. SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) appears certain that the same policy will continue in all sectors. LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) sees a change of ministers without any change of policy.

    The government and the prime minister have been in power for four and a half years and are judged by its work strictly by the civilians and not by the PM's intentions, said PASOK spokesman Giorgos Papakonstantinou today, stressing that when the ND party took over Greece was in a better condition, adding that soon when it steps down Greece will be at the depression door.

    He added that the civilians believe that the government should step down, adding that the new government cannot convince that it can hold more. Moreover, he added that the PM had not made any new proposals and showed no intention on proposing any serious breakthroughs on any issue.

    The PASOK spokesman agreed with the PM's phrase that the collision lies between responsibility and irresponsibility.

    You are irresponsible when you do other than what you preach, not assuming your responsibilities. You are responsible when you are since, have vision for Greece and abide your commitments.

    "Nobody has been surprised by PASOK spokesman's verbosity today. Besides, nobody expects from PASOK anymore to abandon hot air and utter a responsible political speech with specific and realistic proposals for Greece and the Greeks' presence and future", replied the government spokesman.

    KKE, from its side, refuses to offer the government credit of time.

    "The government proceeds with a reshuffle each time it wishes to give the impression to the people that it will change its policy. We believe that Mr Karamanlis wishes to gain time - I do not know when it will declare elections - but it wishes to gain time, perhaps it wishes to be credited time until the people tests the new government. Thus, we will not offer the government any credit of time for even half a second," stressed KKE Secretary General Aleka Papariga.

    SYN reported that although the ministers might change the government policy remains the same.

    "One day after the government reshuffle, Mr Karamanlis has confirmed that it will continue the same policy with the same state-budget, the same conception and logic. However, this is the policy that has led us to today's financial crisis and deadlock", commented SYN spokesman Panagiotis Skourletis.

    LAOS commented on the government reshuffle in an ironic way. "Messrs Alogoskoufis, Liapis and Folias are bench players, while Dora, Souflias and Varvitsiotis family will play in the game. Days of felicity for Greece. Benefits, upgrading, work, reduction of interest rates, return of interest rates, end of strikes and protest rallies, investments, tax cuts and settling of national pending issues to the benefit of Greece. Is it true? End of interval, time for work."

    News item: 17498

    [72] Change of Guard in Ministries

    The new ministers and deputy ministers assumed their duties shortly after the swearing-in ceremony. In a really charged atmosphere, outgoing Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis stepped down. Evrypides Stylianides was succeeded by the new Education Ministry, Aris Spiliotopoulos. New Culture Minister Antonis Samaras called on all former Culture Ministers to contribute their experience. Happy for heading the Justice Ministry for 15 months, outgoing Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis was succeeded by Nikos Dendias, who vowed to continue the work of the predecessor.

    Ministry of Finance

    The change of guard at the Ministry of Finance was held in a charged atmosphere. New Minister Giannis Papathanasiou claimed that 2009 will be a touch year, while he outlined the key points of his financial policy.

    Moved, outgoing Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis congratulated the new Minister, touched on the excellent cooperation he had with him and advised him to always have in mind that when it comes to the financial policy, others spend and other pays the cost.

    Ministry of Development

    Improving the citizens' everyday life by controlling cartel, boosting small and medium sized enterprises, undertaking energy initiatives and enhancing research and technology are the topnotch priorities of the new Development Minister Mr Hatzidakis, as he stressed while taking over the Development Minister.

    "I leave my post feeling proud and with no feelings of bitterness, because I was given the chance to serve my country from the posts of Deputy Finance Minister and Development Minister," stressed outgoing Minister Christos Folias. He voiced his gratitude to the Prime Minister, arguing he will remain a soldier, by Karamanlis' side.

    Ministry of Rural Development

    New Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis called for cooperation and dialogue with the farmers, noting that he will pursue meetings with their representatives.

    Listing his Ministry's priorities, he ranked viable rural development, environment protections, innovation and product competition as his keynote priorities.

    Outgoing Rural Development Minister Alexandros Kontos thanked the Prime Minister for the opportunity he offered him to serve Greece's agricultural sector, further congratulating Kostas Karamanlis on appointing Sotiris Hatzidakis to the post.

    New Rural Development Minister Mihalis Papadopoulos vowed to not deviate from the agricultural policy, further claiming that they new leadership will keep fighting to protect the farmers' income.

    Ministry of Tourism

    Outgoing Tourism Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos focused on the bold measures, as he said, taken to boost the Greek tourism industry, stressing that tourism is the economy's oxygen.

    New Tourism Minister Konstantinos Markopoulos called on everyone to join forces and leave party expediencies behind.

    Ministry of Justice

    New Justice Minister Nikos Dendias succeeded outgoing Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis in a cordial climate.

    The outgoing Minister underlined that during his term, justice was led to calm waters, and wished his policy would go on.

    "Justice has been through major problems, however, problems were dealt with in a wise manner," said Hatzigakis.

    Nikos Dendias pledged to commit himself to his predecessor's work.

    Ministry of Education

    Reaching out to the young, new Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos assumed his duties. "I take over in a crucial period. There is anger and indignation for expectations were proved wrong. The young have every right to question us. Questioning opens new horizons," stressed Spiliotopoulos and outlined his policy.

    Outgoing Education Minister Evrypides Stylianides voiced his conviction that Aris Spiliotopoulos will commit himself to the education reform. He then went on to refer to his work, underlining that it was a calm and productive period, since the majority of the people embraced the government's reforms.

    Ministry of Culture

    Culture Minister Antonis Samaras invited all former Culture Ministers to offer their experience.

    Outgoing Culture Minister Michael Liapis spoke of a 16-month term full of problems.

    Ministry of Interior

    At the Ministry of Interior, outgoing Deputy Minister Panagiotis Hinofotis referred to his resignation shortly after the killing of the 15-year-old boy, a resignation which was not accepted, as he said. He further added that the Greek Police should demonstrate zero tolerance to anyone causing problems to the citizens.

    New Deputy Interior Minister Christos Markogiannakis fully agreed with his predecessor.

    Ministry of National Affairs

    Foreign Affairs Minister Dora Bakoyannis termed outgoing Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas as a successful minister who made several friends at the Ministry. Bakoyannis welcomed Miltiades Varvitsiotis and offered him her full backing.

    Petros Doukas claimed it is everyone's duty to support the government, even the opposition parties, when it comes to foreign affairs.

    Varvitsiotis vowed to do anything in his power to live up to his obligations, further saying he was honoured to succeed Petros Doukas.

    Ministry of Health

    "Nothing is permanent in politics, what remains is our work," commented Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.

    Avramopoulos referred to the work of the outgoing Deputy Health Minister in the most glowing terms, arguing that he had been at the fore front of a really sensitive sector of the government policy for five years.

    Giorgos Konstantopoulos stressed that the Health Minister is a mentor, thanking him and his colleagues, as well as former Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis.

    Deputy Health Minister Marios Salmas thanked the Prime Minister for his trust, adding that in the health sector, no matter how much one does, more are constantly required.

    Ministry of Employment

    Employment Minister Fani Palli Petralia spoke of a new cabinet boosted with new faces. She termed 2009 as a touch year and underlined that the government's goal will be to protect employment and cement labour rights.

    The new Deputy Employment Minister thanked the Prime Minister for his trust.

    Source: NET, NET 105.8, ANA-MPA

    News item: 17486

    [73] Papandreou's Contacts with Farmers

    Socialist leader George Papandreou offered PASOK's backing to the farmers and their problems, during his visit to a rice procession unit in northern Greece. The new generation of farmers should be the spearhead for another development model, said Papandreou, further adding that they should be upgraded as professionals. Papandreou will address an event and hold talks with local PASOK officials.

    At noon, Mr Papandreou met with Serres Prefect Stefanos Fotiadis. The PASOK leader stated that the prefecture can produce agricultural products and exploit geothermal and other renewable sources of energy. Moreover, it can develop alternative tourism, rural tourism and spa tourism, stressing however that the capabilities of the prefecture remain unexploited.

    From his side, the Serres Prefect stated that the prefecture's top priority is to exploit the renewable sources of energy, stressing that a big effort is taking place to the direction of nuitritional agriculture.

    Mr Papandreou added that the problem should be dealt with, agreeing that nuitritional agriculture had been abandoned by PASOK governments, which had approved intensive agriculture.

    News item: 17479

    [74] Response to Turkey's Provocations

    Ankara insists on playing with fire in the Aegean. A few hours Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis's warning that the Greek Armed Forces are on alert to face the Turkish provocations, eight Fantom jet fighers flew over Farmakonisi on low height. Although, Greek jet fighters intercepted all of them, what remains is concern over Turkey's intentions. Foreign Minsiter spokesman George Koumoutsakos told NET that Athens would continue briefing the International Organisations and NATO on Turkey's provocations.

    Greece's Defence Minister Vaggelis Meimarakis sent Thursday a stern message to Turkey, following the latter's midair provocations the previous day. Turkey's moves do not befit a NATO member state that wants to earn and EU membership and undertake peace initiatives," said Meimarakis.

    He further stressed that Turkey's recent provocations in the area of Agathonisi Islet would be addressed at diplomatic level.

    He then went on to argue that Greece's Armed Forces are on alert.

    All international bodies have been briefed on the matter, while NATO will be informed in the days to come, Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos told NET radio station. He further underlined that the nation would not give up on its interests.

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stated that Greece's foreign policy is a policy of concession and principles, aiming at securing peace and the country's national interests. The Opposition put down Ankara's provocations to the government's slow response.

    Referring to Tukey's violations in the Aegean, LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) spokesman Kyriakos Velopoulos wondered whether the government had understood Sarkozy's statements as per which "Turkey belongs to Asia and not to Europe"Turkish Staff announced that the Turkish Foreign Ministry had been briefed on Greek jet fighters harassing Turkish aircrafts near Mytilini and the Greek coastguard and fishing boats violations of Turkish waters at the Imia area.

    "The Turkish Foreign Ministry has been briefed in order to take the necessary measures," announced the Turkish Staff in its web page.

    On 5 January, "the Turkish F-16s that were carrying out training flights in the international waters of the Aegean west of Mytilini were harassed twice by two Greek F-16s and M-2000s that had taken off from Anhialos and Tanagra bases respectively. Additionally, Turkish F-16s that were carrying out training flights in the international waters of the Aegean south of Limnos were harassed by Greek F-16s that had taken off from Larissa."

    On January 6, "two Greek post guard vessels violated the Turkish territorial waters between the spots 09.56-12.10 and 12.00-16.15 and eight fishing boats between the spots 09-.50-16.30 in Imia area."

    On 5 January, two Greek coast guard vessels violated the Turkish territorial waters between 07.24-12.10 and 11.56-17.30 and 12 fishing boats between 06.45-17.30 in the Imia area.

    Sources: /--105.8-NA/PA

    News item: 17477

    [75] Few Words and Lots of Work

    Greece's Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis called for systematic work and effectiveness at the first sitting of the new cabinet, shortly after the new government members were sworn in. Karamanlis urged the ministers and the deputy ministers to give priority to the citizens' everyday problems. Effectiveness, stability, certainty and security. These four notions outline the goals of the new government, said the Prime Minister. Earlier, the 17 new cabinet members were sworn in before President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis and Archbishop of Athens and all Greece Hieronymos.

    Addressing the ministers and deputy ministers making up the new cabinet, Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis demanded few words and lots of work.

    "We are making a new beginning today. We are not interested in impressions, but in results in all sectors. We are making the best of the elders' experience and the newcomers' dynamism. We are after new rhythms, effectiveness, stability, certainty and security," stressed Karamanlis.

    "We are aware that there are no easy solutions. We are fully aware of the hardships. We have an uphill path to cross. We are determined to succeed. And we will succeed in all sectors, in all crucial matters."

    Touching on the global credit crisis, he noted that 2009 is to be touch for all.

    "All nations are facing the repercussions of a crisis, the world has never seen since the post-war era. Europe has come up against insecurity and concern. Financial activities have decreased and unemployment has increased everywhere," argued he, further adding that the government's goal is to help Greece survive the crisis and emerge even stronger.

    Addressing the cabinet, the Prime Minister made it plain the new standards demand absolute commitment to specific values. He called for the redefinition of problems per sector, immediate hierarchy of priorities, specific timelines that will be observed to the full and tangible work by everyone.

    He urged everyone to put an end to all sorts of unnecessary spending, stressing that only the necessary one will be acceptable.

    "Apart from being a token of responsibility, it sets a good example. It is a key criterion for work assessment in every ministry," commented the Prime Minister.

    He then went on to underline that bold initiatives will be undertaken to tackle the red tape and cement transparency in all sectors. He even warned that weaknesses, omissions and slow responses will be definitely practices of the past. Misunderstandings and personal strategies are out of the question and will not be tolerated, Karamanlis said. He highlighted complete commitment to the greater good, and this means, as he said, responsibility and constant communications with the citizens.

    Finally, he commented on the stance of the opposition parties and the trade unions. "The nation's future depends upon the conflict between responsibility and irresponsibility. We know that certain political powers, and some unionists as well, have been demagogic. Our position is firm and nonnegotiable. We are not playing games with the country's future.

    Between responsibility and irresponsibility, we never had - and we will never have - any dilemma. We have opted for the touch path of responsibility. And we will not leave this path. We are determined to succeed and we will succeed. None should doubt that," concluded the Prime Minister.

    Source: NET, NET 105.8, ANA/MPA

    News item: 17476

    [76] New Greek Aid Mission to Gaza

    Upon Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis' initiative, a Greek military airplane is departing Thursday for Tel Aviv, carrying humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Amounting to 13 tonnes, the aid includes medicines and medical materials.

    Furthermore, the Greek ship Arion is setting sail from Larnaca on Friday carrying humanitarian and medical staff to Gaza.

    News item: 17457

    [77] Fresh Turkish Provocations in the Aegean

    Several fresh Turkish provocations in Greek sea waters and air space were reported near Agathonisi and Farmakonisi this morning, a day after the President of the Republic, Karolos Papoulias visited the remote islet of Agathonisi to attend Epiphany Day celebrations. Turkish provocations initially started shortly after 09:00 against gunboat "Nikiforos", that had sailed near Farmakonisi to take part in rescue operation followed by violations by two Turkish F-16 aircrafts against a Greek Super Puma, also participating in rescue operation, but they were intercepted by Greek aircrafts. Shortly after, two Turkish F-16 aircrafts flew at low height over Farmakonisi while half an hour later another Turkish F-16 duo flew over Agathonisi.Greek Foreign Minister, Dora Bakoyianni strongly reacted to fresh Turkish provocations describing them as unacceptable acts, flagrantly violating International Law and hampering efforts for improvement of Greek-Turkish relations. Mrs. Bakoyianni said that she has given instructions for relevant demarches.

    Sources: 105.8 - NA-PA

    News item: 17445

    [78] Cabinet Reshuffle

    Greece's Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis reshuffled Wednesday his government's cabinet. Former Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis was not given a government post, while several Ministers, including Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Dora Bakoyannis, Evangelos Meimarakis, Giorgos Souflias, Dimitris Avramopoulos, Fani Palli-Petralia and Anastasis Papaligouras remained in their posts. Evrypides Stylianides was named Transport Minister, Kostis Hatzidakis was appointed Development Minister and Aris Spiliotopoulos was picked to head the Education Ministry. Apart from Alogoskoufis, Christos Folias was also removed from the cabinet. The new government members were announced at 12.15 by government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros.

    Prime Minister: Kostas Karamanlis

    Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister: Prokopis Pavlopoulos Deputy Minister of Public Order: Christos Markogiannakis Deputy Ministers: Athanasios Nakos, Christos Zois, Konstantinos Gioulekas

    Ministry of Finance Minister: Ioannis Papathanasiou Deputy Ministers: Antonis Bezas, Nik. Legas, Athanasios Bouras

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs Minister: Dora Bakoyannis Deputy Ministers: Ioannis Valinakis, Theodoros Kassimis, Miltiades Varvitsiotis

    Ministry of National Defence Minister: Evangelos Meimarakis Deputy Ministers: Konstantinos Tasoulas, Ioannis Plakiotakis

    Ministry of Development Minister: Kostis Hatzidakis Deputy Ministers: Georgios Vlahos, Ioannis Bouras

    Ministry for the Environment Physical Planning and Public Works Minister: Giorgos Souflias Deputy Ministers: Stavros Kalogiannis, Themistocles Xanthopoulos

    Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs Minister: Aris Spiliotopoulos Deputy Ministers: Andreas Lykourentzos, Spyros Taliadouros

    Ministry of Employment and Welfare Minister: Fani Palli-Petralia Deputy Ministers: Sofia Kalatzakou, Georgios Kontogiannis

    Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity Minister: Dimitrios Avramopoulos Deputy Ministers: G. Papageorgiou, Marios Salmas

    Ministry of Rural Development and Food Minister: Sotiris Hatzidakis Deputy Ministers: Konstantinos Kiltides, Mich. Papadopoulos

    Ministry of Justice Minister: Nikolaos Dendias

    Ministry of Culture Minister: Antonis Samaras Deputy Minister: Giannis Ioannides

    Ministry of Tourism Development Minister: Konstantinos Markopoulos

    Ministry of Transport and Communications Minister: Evrypides Stylianides

    Ministry of Mercantile Marine and Island Policy Minister: Anastasis Papaligouras Deputy Minister: Panagiotis Kammenos

    Ministry of Macedonia-Thrace Minister: Stavros Kalafatis

    Government spokesman: Evangelos Antonaros

    The swearing-in ceremony will take place at 1100 hours at the Presidential Mansion on Thursday.

    News item: 17444

    [79] K. Karamanlis New Year's Message

    In his New Year's message, Prime-minister, Kostas Karamanlis expresses his certainty that Greek people united can deal with all big challenges as our history and tradition has proved. The Prime-minister predicts a difficult year for the whole world as we are experiencing the impacts of the gravest financial crisis in the post war period

    Uncertainty and deep concern prevails in Europe as financial activities are slowing down and employment has received a tough blow. The impact of the financial crisis is gradually influencing our country, however, our economy is strongly resisting compared to other countries due to the economic reforms we promoted in the last years, stressed the Prime-minister.

    Mr. Karamanlis adds: "the new year finds us at a crucial stage in our collective course. We realize the difficulties of the weak social groups, we understand the daily problems of the unemployed, of ones concerned whether they will keep their jobs as well as the problems of the new generation and we are exhausting all means to support the groups worst affected by the financial crisis". He stressed, however, that the government's willingness is not enough as the crucial world circumstances, not only financial but also threats to world stability and peace -as in the ME- demand a steady ruling and responsibility and maturity from all political parties and collective sectors. Concluding the Prime-minister says: "we are determined to continue with steady steps the necessary reforms and turn the world challenge into an opportunity for the future we are looking forward. We can achieve it and we will achieve it , with common efforts we will win a better prospect for all Greeks wherever they are. Wishes for Happy New Year, healthy, family happiness and prosperity.

    News item: 17270

    [80] New Year's Carols to Politicians

    Members of folklore associations from all over Greece have been singing the New Year carols to the political leaders since Wednesday morning. Later on President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias will attend the New Year Ball to be held by the Greek Armed Forces at the Officer's Club of Athens (L.A.E.D.).

    On Thursday morning, a Te Deum will take place at the Athens Cathedral before the nation's state and political leadership. The President of the Republic will then receive wishes for the New Year from representatives of the political, military and religious leadership at the Presidential Mansion.

    Children choir Lambros sang New Year's carrols to Prime-minister Karamanlis and his wife at the Maximos mansion. They exchanged wishes while the children gave Mr. Karamanlis a card saying what they would do if the were prime-ministers.

    Kimolos and Preveza societies sang the carrols to PASOK leader George Papandreou at the party's headquarters and exchanged wishes and gifts.

    News item: 17257

    [81] Greece Ready to Send Aid

    Gravely concerned over the developments in the Gaza Strip, Athens pledged aid to the people of Gaza. "Greece wants an immediate and long-lasting ceasefire," stressed Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis at the EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Paris. Bakoyannis added that Greece is ready to dispatch humanitarian aid the moment it is guaranteed that all security precautions are taken. In the meantime, the entire political world of Greece condemned the massacre in Gaza, while street protests were held Monday outside the embassies of Israel and the USA by KKE (Greek Communist Party) and SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left).

    PASOK leader and Socialist International head George Papandreou had a series of phone contacts, as part of the initiative taken by the Socialist International. Papandreou and his interlocutors thoroughly discussed the spectrum of actions the Socialist International could engage in with a view to a ceasefire.

    A five-member delegation led by KKE secretary general Aleka Papariga is due Monday in Ramallah to offer their solidarity with the people of Palestine.

    Papariga blamed the eruption of violence on Israel, the USA and the EU, since, as she said, its inability to intervene makes it an advocate for that offensive. She then went on to claim that the only solution to the problem is the creation of an independent Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital. Papariga met with the Palestinian ambassador to Athens and discussed the development in Gaza.

    SYRIZA requested all necessary initiatives be taken to end the massacre that is bordering on genocide.

    News item: 17256

    [82] K. Karamanlis Meets Judges' Unions

    Prime-minister, Kostas Karamanlis met at the Maximos Mansion this morning with presidents and general secretaries of Judges and Prosecutors' Unions, State Council and Legal Council. Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis underlined that this meeting indicated the government's respect to independent Greek justice which has reached smooth waters after going through a critical stage.

    Mr. Hatzidakis also stressed that blows against justice do not help anyone and the least help democracy, adding that all cases that sparked attacks will be cleared. On his part, the president of the Judges and Prosecutors' Union, Haralambos Athanasiou said that the Prime-minister showed particular interest in the problems in the field of justice and for its smooth operation and stressed that he is well aware of all issues preoccupying judges and prosecutors. Commenting on low confidence indicated in gallup polls, he described it as a temporary phenomenon and reminded that percentage points indicated lower confidence to justice two years ago.

    Meeting with L. Zagoritis

    Karamanlis also met with Lefteris Zagoritis, secretary of the ruling party's Central Committee.

    Exiting the meeting, Zagoritis said they discussed the party's future moves in view of the elections for the European Parliament and wished everyone a happy New Year.

    News item: 17248

    [83] Foreign Office Report on A. Papandreou and K. Karamanlis

    A report in UK Foreign Office Archives, written in 1978 by the then British ambassador to Athens Brooks Richards after his meeting with then PASOK leader A. Papandreou describes him as Themistoklis who saved Greece from the Persians or Karaiskakis who used to say "I can be an angel or a devil whenever I want".

    The report released after completion of 30 years also refers to A. Papandreou belief that EDHK party had no future and the GCP of the interior and the GCP would never gather over 12% of votes. The British ambassador in his report labeled A. Papandreou positions as against the European community and hostile to the US and NATO. From the report released from the Foreign Office Archive, we also gather that then Prime-minister, Kostantinos Karamanlis had requested and achieved the British government's assistance in accelerating Greece's admission to the EU and its disengagement from Portugal and Spain's entries. On the Cyprus issue, Konstantinos Karamanlis had set as highest ceiling 25% of Cyprus territory for Turkish Cypriots while he had stated that Greece will not return to NATO military wing unless the Cyprus issue was settled.

    Sources: NA

    News item: 17243

    [84] Dialogue on Education Begins

    Greece's Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis met Monday morning with Education Minister Evrypides Stylianides at Maximos Mansion, the Premier's official residence. Exiting the meeting, Stylianides said they touched on the education reform. The Education Minister also claimed that the public dialogue on a new high school and a new system allowing access to tertiary education would commence at the beginning of the year. He then went on to stress that the dialogue would be exhausting and that the government would be open to all proposals.

    Source: ANA-MPA

    News item: 17189

    [85] 2009 State-Budget Passes with 151 Votes in Favour

    The debate on the 2009 state-budget ended in Parliament just after midnight with a roll call vote that produced151 votes in favour, 146 against and MP P. Tatoulis -- recently removed from ruling ND's parliamentary group -- declaring "present". Out of the 300 Parliament deputies, 298 participated in the roll call vote. PASOK (Socialists), KKE (Communist Party of Greece), SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) and LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) voted against the budget. PASOK MP Ch. Tsiokas, SYRIZA MP M. Papagianakis could not be present at the vote, while PASOK MPs vote only in favour of funds to the Hellenic Presidency. The violent incidents that had taken place in Athens dominated the Parliament's fifth session.

    Wrangling among political party leaders broke out on the budget, the global financial crisis and next day's political agenda.

    From the beginning of the session, the opposition had taken it for granted that the state-budget is unreliable, while Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis did not rule out additional changes to the budget if necessary.

    Earlier, political party leaders had focused on their positions and then followed the vote, the positive result of which constitutes a confidence vote for the government.

    In referring to PASOK president George Papandreou by name, Karamanlis said the main opposition leader and former foreign minister maligned the country's image abroad with his published comments in international media last week, at the height of street violence following the shooting of teen in central Athens by a police officer.

    Mr Karamanlis differentiated the employees' struggles and peaceful protests from the extremists' destructive rage and arsons, adding that all political and social forces should adopt a clear stand and isolate those promoting turmoil and denounce openly blind violence. Regarding scenarios on coalitions, to which Mr Papandreou had referred and described how they are cooked up "by some looking at our party", he said that the "script writers are sitting next to you, on your left and right. We are strong and we are doing our job." As for the pressure exerted on Greece's economic financial activity due to the global financial crisis, he said "no other political, Trade Unionist and other irresponsibilities can be added to this pressure. Rallies harm the society as they paralyze the economic life, affect commerce and tourism. All forces should act responsibly and cooperate," said Mr Karamanlis.

    From his side, PASOK President George Papandreou demanded early elections, rejecting scenarios on a ND-PASOK coalition government. The crisis will continue deepening for as long as the ND remains in power. We demand a change of course with the declaration of early elections.

    Referring to scenarios on the cooperation between the two big parties, Mr Papandreou stressed that after five years in power, it has become evident that the ND has many differences with PASOK. As PASOK requests a clear mandate from the government to follow a new course, it rejects the proposals of those who are promoting scenarios on a coalition government.

    Referring to the latest incidents, he said the government is incapable, paralyzed and contradicting on dealing with the youths' uprising, announcing that he will invite the opposition party leaders to do what they can so that their problems are tackled.

    KKE Secretary General Aleka Papariga described the state-budget unreliable for the wealthy, adding "for once more the people are taxed and money distributed to the capital. She also rejected any coalition government scenarios.

    SYRIZA Parliamentary Group President Alekos Alavanos said that budget will not last and does not offer a single euro to Education.

    He stated that the students' rallies are related to labour rights they see in their families, adding that violence is born from the system and government policies, as well as caused by the police. He described the attack launched against SYRIZA by the government and the rest of the political parties unprecedented, calling the PASOK president to denounced Mr Theodoros Pangalos' statements as per which SYRIZA is responsible for the violent incidents.

    LAOS President Giorgos Karatzaferis stressed that national understanding is a must as Greece is in crisis. He also proposed a joint meeting among the five political party leaders, the two former Presidents of the Hellenic Republic and the two former prime ministers under the chairmanship of the President of the Hellenic Republic.

    Prior to the political party leaders' speeches MPs and ministers had addressed the Parliament.

    ND MP Panos Panagiotopoulos reported, "the 2009 state-budget is a budget of emergency needs amid a global financial crisis that the Greek economy can overcome without being affected seriously. This will happen provided we do not weaken in our microcosm, creating a domestic crisis."

    The government is determined to limit the damage caused on Greece's international image stated Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in her speech, while Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia pointed out that the budget reflects highly responsible policy to the protection of the social web from the turbulence of the crisis and especially of the needy civilians.

    In his speech, ND MP Kostas Hatzidakis stressed "we should now focus on reforms and structural changes, adding that the government will move ahead without any irresolution. Greeks cannot be represented by unions and irresponsible voices, as there are dozens of thousands of Greeks who wish the government to go ahead. The ND party wishes to co-align with those."

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos stressed that despite the financial crisis, the government relieves the needy with effective solutions.

    Deputy Health Minister Giorgos Konstantopoulos appealed for political understanding, so that poverty is combated. He added that by the end of the government's term of office, the families with three children will be equalized with families with more children than three.

    Merchant Marine Minister Anastasis Papaligouras stated the government wishes the global financial crisis to affect as little as possible Greek shipping, adding that Greek ships guard the EU borders. Moreover, they will help effectively to the problem of lack of water islands are facing. In parallel, he said that the Merchant Marine Ministry is guaranteeing the sailors' pensions and the rendering of the lump sum.

    Deputy Education Minister Spyros Taliadouros made an appeal so that Universities remain open and university asylum is protected.

    Deputy Interior Minister Athanasios Nakos spoke of more funds to the local governments and the abolishment of fines to illegal landfills.

    At the same time, Deputy Finance Minister Giannis Papathanasiou criticized Messrs G. Papandreou and C. Simitis because they are undermining the Greek economy with their statements. "The last thing we need is a climate of consummation and panic, a climate of exaggeration that magnifies the real dimensions of the crisis and multiplies its repercussions. We do not want a main opposition party leader, who gives interviews to the international Media on the occasion of the 15-year-old student's assassination and shoots against his own country. We do not also want a prime minister who states officially but inaccurately that Greece will refer to the International Monetary Fund. What we really want now is to protect Greece's image abroad and not export an opposition rage that in fact undermines the country itself," said Mr Papathanasiou.

    Mr Th. Pangalos forecast elections would take place in the next three or four months due to the economic collapse, accusing the government of not absorbing EU support framework programmes and of giving presents to specific banks. Moreover, he reported that the government had failed in the management of refuse.

    PASOK spokesman Giorgos Papakonstantinou blamed the government for not finding a golden mean on the assassination of the student and an Athens suffocating from teargas and violence.

    Sources: -105.8 / / NA-PA

    News item: 16957

    [86] 5-Option Report on Batopaidi Case

    Interest centers on the Parliament today as the Inquiry Committee on the Batopaidi case handed its report, including conclusions of the 5 political parties, to the Speaker of the House. According to reports, the ND party speaks of objective political responsibilities due to ministers' deficient inspection. PASOK party supports the setting up of an Investigation Committee to look into possible penal responsibilities of 5 ministers and attributes political responsibilities to 4 ministers. The GCP party sees long-standing political responsibilities and leaves open possibility of a probe into penal responsibilities. SYRIZA attributes political responsibilities to all ministers of both major parties that have signed decisions. LAOS speaks of political responsibilities of both ND and PASOK Ministers, maintaining that the case needs further investigation. In the meantime, the Batopaidi Monasteri Head Monks Council, in a letter to Finance Minister, has proposed the return of all pieces of land that it has taken from the state and reference to courts for the resolution of Bisthonida Lake ownership status.

    Majority party deputies voted in favour of the Inquiry Committee report and incorporated the side reports of opposition parties. The report does not attribute penal responsibilities neither to ND nor to PASOK ministers or undersecretaries. The majority renders political responsibilities to George Drys and Apostolos Fotiadis for their ministerial decisions recognizing Batopaidi Monastery ownership of Lake Bisthonida and objective responsibilities of competent ND Ministers for procedures followed by their associates in the management of property transfer where there should have been stricter inspection. Also the ND deputies, comprising the Inquiry Committee noted function deficiency in all sectors and state services, underlining that the Committee was obliged to submit proposals to prevent repetition of management mistakes in the future.

    PASOK maintains that the dispute between the Finance Ministry and Batopaidi Monsatery in 2003 balances all responsibilities that Drys and Fotiadis could have had and attributes political responsibilities and need for further investigation of penal responsibilities of ND deputies, Th. Rousopoulos, G. Boulgarakis, E. Basiakos, P. Doukas and A. Kontos. Political responsibilities are also attributed to G. Alogoskoufis, B. Magginas, A. Bezas and K. Kiltidis. Opposition parties see a need for the setting up of a new Inquiry Committee to look into penal responsibilities while they attribute political responsibilities for the management of the case to the two large parties. .

    The successor of chief monk Efraim will be officially announced on Monday at the latest by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has to ratify the decision of the monastery's brotherhood.

    On Friday, Vatopedi Monastery chief monk Efraim and monk Arsenios, who had been called to testify to the parliamentary inquiry probing the property scandal, sent memos anew to the Fist Instance Prosecutor.

    The two monks claimed they could not testify as witnesses, since they had been called as suspects, further adding that the House accepted their grounds since it received their memos.

    To support their claims, they referred to a 1996 case, when a witness had declined to appear before a parliamentary inquiry, arguing he had been called to testify by the prosecutor.

    In the meantime, Conservative deputy Giorgos Voulgarakis gave the parliamentary inquiry probing the case the green light to open his bank accounts, lest a "a game of impressions" against him should go on. Voulgarakis also noted that the checks conducted on his bank accounts did not find a single euro deposited by the Monastery.

    News item: 16694

    [87] Gallup Polls in Sunday's Press

    Political parties have strongly criticized SYRIZA as they believe that it avoids to clearly condemn the recent violent actions of hooded young men. The feelings of Greek people after last week's dramatic incidents and their judgement of politicians and politics are depicted in several gallops. In response to which party would have a political benefit from the recent incidents, RASS gallop for newspaper "Paron tis Kyriakis" indicates: PASOK 70.8%, SYRIZA 16%, GCP 5.8%, ND 3% and LAOS 1%. ALCO gallop for newspaper "Proto Thema" indicates PASOK 4.8% lead against the ruling ND party.

    ALCO gallop on behalf of newspaper "Proto Thema", in intention of voting PASOK leads with 31.4% against 26.6% of ND followed by GCP 7.9%, SYRIZA 7.5%, LAOS 4% while unclear vote percentage points is near 14%. Public Issue gallop for newspaper "Kathimerini tis Kyriakis" in response to which politician has indicated the most appropriate stand shows that a 41% majority responded "noone". Prime-minister, K. Karamanlis gathers the highest percentage points 20% followed by G. Papandreou with 17%, Aleka Papariga with 7%, Alekos Alabanos 3%, George Karatzaferis 2%, and last Alexis Tsipras 1%. In reference to evaluation of the government's handling of recent incidents, 69% of respondents said it was rather wrong while 24% said it was the right handling of that situation. Interesting was respondents opinion on television coverage of the recent incidents indicating dissatisfaction of 66% of viewers and satisfaction on the part of 33% of viewers. Marc survey for "Ethnos tis Kyriakis" regarding satisfaction over the government's stand shows 83.3% object and 14.7% agree. In response to whether early elections should be held, 59.4% do not consider it necessary against 40.6% who believe that snap elections should be held. RASS gallop for PARON newspaper asked respondents to rank politicians from 1-5. Aleka Papariga received 2.52%, George Papandreou 2.49%, George Karatzaferis 2.23%, Kostas Karamanlis 2.05% and last Alekos Alavanos 2.01%. In an interview with "Real News" on the recent gallops, Foreign Minister, Dora Bakoyianni says: "Ones, I blame, are those who are using the original frustration of teenagers for political and petty partisan expediencies. Gallops are not the government's priority at present. At a time when people are evaluating the stand of politicians and political parties, from Brussels the Prime-minister calls for clear words and isolation of hooded rioters. PASOK calls for elections while the GCP and SYRIZA continue wrangling following Mrs. Papariga statements that Koumoundourou has not clearly objected to extremists.

    News item: 16685

    [88] Unrest Sparked Heated Criticism

    Referring to the recent incidents in Greece after the end of the Summit Meeting in Brussels, Prime-minister Kostas Karamanlis stressed, "The agony of youth could not be confused with blind violence". Mr. Karamanlis called for unanimous condemnation of extreme elements and clarified that there would evaluation of the operational part of incidents. But he underlined that there was no question about change in policy or persons. In the meantime, a new round of confrontation between the government-SYRIZA has broken out sparked by a circular written by part of the Leftist party youth and distributed to schools.

    Political Parties' Statements

    PASOK spokesman, G. Papakonstantinou condemned any form of violence while the party's leader George Papandreou had earlier attributed full responsibility for the recent incidents to the government. Mr. Papakonstantinou said that citizens have denounced Riot Police provocative stand in order to intervene and arrest 15 yo teenagers and appealed to the Police leadership to give instructions for the police force "to remain cool". He also called on the government to assume its responsibilities to protect integrity of the underage and all citizens in general. In parallel, he spoke of "unexplainable phenomena", such as arrests of 14 yo teenagers while police can not arrest ones responsible for the violent incidents or footage seen on television of hooded men near policemen. The GCP general secretary, Aleka Papariga, in a press interview with ANA-MPA stressed that molotov bombs and lootings, whose steering center is linked with state intelligence services and centers abroad, have no connection with mass wrath and frustration of students and people. "Injustices' of the system is our target, neither shop- windows nor cars. We categorically object to blind violence, however, there is a social problem and we are going to stand by the side of students, hold a dialogue with them and will not turn into prosecutors", said Alekos Alavanos, head of SYRIZA Parliamentary Group. "It would be reasonable at the present circumstances for political parties to assume their responsibilities to achieve social peace. Let's agree on a special cease of rallies and demonstrations so that workers and youth struggles would not financially destroy middle sized businesses in the city center, said LAOS party.

    Government-SYN Dispute

    Government-SYRIZA relations have intensified on the grounds of a circular distributed to schools in Attika and among others writes:"the government has declared war against the youth. When police kills an innocent boy in cold blood, the war begins". After his meeting with the Federation of Police Officers, Alekos Alabanos described the leaflet as an isolated incident, underlining that the party's positions are expressed by SYN party senior members and its youth site. Indeed, the SYN youth official announcement is different:"The government insists on suppression. It is unable to realize that society has changed and it must step down. For this reason we are going to topple it. If they don't learn to respect a whole generation, they are going to learn to fear it". Education Minister, Evripidis Stylianidis called for tone down of criticism and halt to political recruitment of 15 yo students. Referring to recent incidents in his article in "Eleftherotypia" newspaper, writes Leonidas Kyrkos " in the name of the history of the labor movement, all those who I accuse, are enemies of democracy and have no right to quote the name of the Left because they do not have and could not have any relation with it". In an interview with NET 105.8, ND deputy K. Markopoulos said that unrest is continuously triggered by political parties, adding that SYRIZA is trying to transfer reactions to universities. In response to whether there is connection between SYRIZA and hooded rioters, LAOS president, G. Karatzaferis said: "I do not know, I believe, however, that SYRIZA would get Chausescu percentage points if there was hooded men election station". In an interview with Mega television channel, SYN deputy Dimitris Papadimoulis said: Maximos Mansion and extreme rightists mud slinging against SYRIZA has failed despite Mrs. Papariga coincidence of views.

    Ieronymos Intervention

    Archbishop of Athens Ieronymos made intervention to recent tragic incidents in his article in "Kosmos tou Ependiti" newspaper. After stressing that there is no justification to the killing of a young defenseless young boy, Mr. Ieronymos underlines that the youth not only feels the suffocating present we have built but also denounces the hypothecation if not the robbery and destruction of their future. He also calls all including the Church to assume their responsibilities as it does no longer have the luxury of relaxation for a peaceful reversal -as he stresses of the downward course threatening our country. Commenting on Archbishop Ieronymos intervention, A. Karitsis, head of SYN Press Office says: "Some had better read the Archbishop's intervention to understand SYRIZA stand. Despite our differences with the church, it is a stand that focuses in the substance, in other words the reasons of the explosion of the youth".

    News item: 16680

    [89] Athens Mayor Meets with Opposition Leaders

    Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis discussed the situation created in the capital by the ongoing rioting with opposition leader Giorgos Karatzaferis of LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) and Alexis Tsipras of SYN (Coalition of the Radical Left).

    "Athens will stand on its feet. Those who believe that we will be intimidated and give up on the effort to keep Athens on its feet are wrong," commented Nikitas Kaklamanis after his meeting with LAOS head Giorgos Karatzaferis.

    He thanked Karatzaferis for his moral support to the municipality's efforts, and said that the damage caused in buildings, roads and pavements would not be fully assessed until the rioting came to an end.

    The Athens Mayor also requested LAOS MEP ambassador Mr Georgiou see whether repair works in Athens could be financed by the EU.

    He then went on to say that the Christmas tree, which is a symbol for children, would be decorated in the following week.

    Karatzaferis, on his part, congratulated Alekos Kaklamanis on the municipality's campaign to restore the damage caused in the city. "Municipal authorities succeeded in living up to the needs created, but political authorities failed," said Karatzaferis.

    The LAOS head also claimed, "The many should find the strength to isolate the few and the bad." He also referred to the festive spirit of the Christmas time, arguing, "The extremists of social life will now realize that they cannot disturb peace."

    "We are witnessing a social phenomenon, and we should examine every aspect of it," commented the SYN President after his meeting with the Athens Mayor.

    "On the one hand, we have organized groups of vandals and on the other 16-year-old students trying to express their indignation," said Alexis Tsipras. "The state should delve into the causes of this phenomenon and provide solutions," concluded he.

    News item: 16659

    [90] Socialist Leader Blasts the Government

    Arguing that Greece had been plunged into a deep impasse, PASOK (Socialist party) leader George Papandreou lashed out at the government. Papandreou slammed the government for leaving the society unprotected, claiming that the people justifiably expresses their indignation when some cross the line looting public property. Touching on Greece's image, as it was recorded by world media, he spoke of an image of incredibility that would take a heavy toll on the country.

    The Socialist President also reiterated he was after forming an independent government, yet he assured he was open to other progressive powers, saying, "What Greece needs is a crystal clear mandate on which political powers can help the country progress."

    He finally blamed the government for vying to shirk off its responsibilities and look for scapegoats either in the young or in the political parties.

    News item: 16655

    [91] Karamanlis' Press Interview from Brussels

    Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Prime-minister, Kostas Karamanlis gave a press interview after the end of the EU Summit Meeting in Brussels.

    From Brussels in a press interview , Prime-minister, Kostas Karamanlis ruled out any talks about early elections and succession scenarios and described recent incidents in Greece as a complex phenomenon under unprecedented conditions. "We all understand the problems and the agony of young people but sympathy could not be confused with blind violence and destructive mania of some extreme elements targeted against citizens, their assets and finally against democracy itself", stressed Mr. Karamanlis. We faced a multi complex phenomenon under unprecedented extent of tension and violence and the tragic incident of the death of a teenager for whom the whole Greek society and police have expressed their deep sorrow.

    In reference to Batopaidi property transfer case, the Prime-minister said that objectively the government bears the responsibility for whatever happens in the country, he added, however, that the government would wait for the Inquiry Committee report to express an integrated view on the case. With regards economy, Mr. Karamanlis stated that the government would continue taking measures to assist lower income groups and middle sized businesses.

    Sources: / NA-PA

    News item: 16652

    [92] Strong Dispute in Parliament

    The recent incidents in Athens and the death of 15-year old Alexis sparked a strong dispute between Interior undersecretary, Panagiotis Hinofotis and deputies Nikos Brettos of PASOK and Adonis Georgiadis of LAOS in today's Parliament session. Mr. Hinofotis said that a special work group will be set up to review legal framework on the use of weapons by policemen while obligatory annual check up of policemen has been put into effect. Mr. Brettos portrayed as a theater the submission of resignation of the Interior Ministry's leadership while Mr. Georgiadis maintained that Hellas Police was ordered to remain inactive sparking Mr. Hinofotis strong reaction.

    In response to a relevant question by PASOK deputy, K. Brettos, Interior undersecretary announced review of framework for the use of weapons by policemen and more frequent health check ups of police forces. Referring to the necessity for in depth examination of readoptions of the legal framework on the use of weapons, Mr. Hinofotis said that a special work group will be set up to study the issue and the results will be submitted to the competent sectors.

    Regardless of the course of the study, major importance should be placed on proper training and mind and body health fitness of the police force in accordance to 3169/2003 bill, said Mr. Hinofotis. Specifically, he said that obligatory annual health tests would be established for the police force.

    On his part, Mr. Brettos said that neither Kaltezas nor Grigoropoulos would have been killed if police force were not using weapons. He added that there was no reason for policemen to carry weapons neither during demonstrations nor during patrollings. Referring to the recent incidents, PASOK deputy said that "the government has lost control" and spoke of Mr. Hinofotis personal responsibility maintaining that he should have insisted on his resignation. Heated debate continued with LAOS deputy Adonis Georgiadis question regarding the police stand during the incidents. He maintained that police were ordered to remain inactive. In response, Mr. Hinofotis called him to "officially prove that police were ordered to remain inactive". Mr. Georgiadis also said that nobody including the Prime-minister can oblige an undersecretary to remain in his post and claimed that there was a negative climate within law enforcement and riot police against Mr. Hinofotis because he did not allow them to do their job.

    In response, Mr. Hinofotis said that he does not hesitate to assume his responsibilities wherever it is requested but one can not resign in the mid of this battle, "it is undignified and cowardly". Regarding criticism in foreign mass media, he said that they comment on the incidents under the legal prism of their countries.

    In the meantime, prior to his response to Mr. Brettos question, Mr. Hinofotis called for respect to the dead teenager's memory adding: "Unfortunately, as it has not been done on the part of the defendant and without wanting to intervene in the legal part of the case, I personally sincerely apologize for the incident and this reflects my real feelings" said Mr. Hinofotis.

    Sources: , 105.8

    Relevant Articles: New Protest Rallies, Wave of Reactions

    Dispute in Parliament-One Minute's Silence for Alexis

    News item: 16640

    [93] Wrangling in Parliament

    The extensive rioting that wreaked havoc in central Athens and other Greek cities triggered a wrangling in House during a discussion on the voting of a draft-bill on municipal police. Deputy Interior Minister Thanassis Nakos lambasted Socialist deputy Evangelos Venizelos for political expediencies, stressing that Venizelos sniffed at the parliamentary procedure, saying nothing about the draft-bill. Nakos attributed responsibilities to the Socialist party for "the death of the salesman" and spoke of the high unemployment rates and the public deficit of 1.700 million euros of Local Self-Government that was inherited by the socialist party to the government.

    Evangelos Venizelos, on the other hand, stressed that the Prime Ministers proved that he was only interested in the political cost and how to transfer responsibilities to the opposition parties. "However, this is colossal negligence," claimed he, further adding that the society had been raging, because of the hit inflicted upon its democratic dignity.

    Joining the wrangling, Conservative deputy Panos Panagiotopoulos spoke of collective responsibilities, "because we left Democracy vulnerable to incidents of raw violence and destruction reminiscing Italy and Europe of the interwar period." He then urged all political forces to make it clear what kind of police and society they were after.

    News item: 16520

    [94] K. Karamanlis: Measures to the Relief of the Incident-Stricken Merchants

    After today's meeting of the government committee, Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis announced measures to the relief of merchants, who had been stricken during the incidents of the last days.

    As per the PM the measures include:

    1. Immediate financial aid, amounting to 10,000 euros for small and medium-sized enterprises.

    2. A 50% subsidy of the verified damage, ranging from 10,000-200,000 euros.

    3. Regarding loans for the rest of the 50% of the verified damage, as well as for those enterprises that do not fall under the above categories 15-year-long subsidized loans can be issued with the guarantee of the state. 4. 15-year-long loans with beneficiary terms for the restoration of damages and buildings are issued. 5. Five-year-long loans under especially favourable terms are issued for fluid capital. 6. Debts of incident-stricken enterprises will be suspended for three months in tax offices, the Social Security Institute, OAEE (Social Security Organisation) and Banks. Other various tax benefits are also provided. 7. The employees of enterprises that cannot operate until 20 December will be paid their salary, the Christmas bonus and social insurance contribution for three months. Mr Karamanlis stressed that in the last days, the civilians in Athens and other big cities, merchants and the Greek society were confronted with "the destructive rage and brute force of extreme groups." "The rioters with the actions for once more proved that the only thing that impresses them is destruction, always targeting social tranquility, legality, Democracy itself. For this reason they have been isolated. Their actions have affected several enterprises, mainly small and medium-sized ones that are already facing the repercussions of the international crisis," he stressed. The prime minister assured that the government "is determined not only to restore security amid civilians, but also support those enterprises that have sustained damages. We should help them to stand on their feet again and keep their personnel, as well as operate smoothly during holidays."

    He also pointed out bureaucracy would be circumvented, so that the incident-stricken are supported immediately. " "The few supporting documents that are required will be checked by a three-member committee consisting from a representative of the relative Chamber, the relative Chamber Association and of the Ministry of Finance and Economy," he said. The prime minister added that the government is acting responsibly and effectively, meeting the challenges of times, demagogy and populism. "We are keeping track of the national responsibility route. We call all Greek political parties, the society and civilians to follow our route. " P. Pavlopoulos - N. Bakoyannis - G. Souflias After the end of the government committee meeting, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos made the following statement: "Today's Central Committee evaluated the situation and the prime minister announced measures in support of those who had sustained damages. The Finance and Economy minister will refer in detail to the measures. Beyond that, as I had said before, the government is taking these measures that are securing the people's life and property."

    Even in today's peaceful rally, some rioters proved that they not only lack ideology and serve nothing, but that they do not serve the people's memory, having as their only target brute force. The society isolates them. The police do what they have to do. As I had stressed before we will act having as a criterion the public interest in order to secure the institutions and social tranquility."

    Exiting Maximos Mansion, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis pointed out that "the elected government is responsible for the management of a difficult crisis. However, I wish to stress that there are no irresponsible political parties and institutions. We are all responsible for proper conduct and the city's financial life." At the same time, Mr George Souflias told journalists that the recent incidents should be analyzed, as they affect our political system.

    Karamanlis Meets with Athens Mayor N. Kaklamanis

    After an open letter sent to all political party leaders inviting them to get briefed on the destructions caused in the city and the measures that should be taken to heal the wounds, Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis met with Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis in the morning.

    Mr Kaklamanis stated that there are two kinds of wounds. The first category concerns material damages in streets, pavements and buildings. The second one concerns the destruction of merchants, the Athens historic centre and districts." Regarding city infrastructure, he said that he is already cooperating with Mr Pavlopoulos, so that the city is accessible when the problems are resolved. As for Athens merchants he said that he had asked from the prime minister to announce the economic measures today if possible so that they are relieved. He also proposed that "a free-interest substantial relief loan be given and an at least two-year grace period granted. Moreover, it should be paid between 10-15 years and depend on the damages they have sustained. In the case that merchants press charges against the state, he said that this concerns them and their Trade Unions, adding "we as a municipality have stood by their side from the first moment and will continue doing so until all shops open. I invite all my fellow citizens, visitors and Attica inhabitants to purchase a symbolic gift from the shops in Athens. In this way they will offer their help." He also announced that festive events will commence today with the lighting of the Runner before Hilton, while in the beginning of the coming week Syntagma will be ready to launch its festive events. The National Garden will open on 20 December and will be ready to receive all in "Santa Claus's Magic Village." After thanking the City of Athens employees, he concluded by saying, "Many times, hope arises amid such destruction. This city is after a smile and hope. We shall see that it gets both, as Athens should enjoy this luck. We shall protect its history, its cultural heritage, our fellow-citizens' property and above all human lives."

    News item: 16506

    [95] Massive & Peaceful Labour Rally

    In a massive and peaceful rally staged by Greece's two main umbrella union federations GSEE (General Confederation of Workers of Greece) and ADEDY (Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council), employees demonstrated their commitment to democracy and political, labour and social rights.

    Addressing the protesters gathered at Syntagma Square in central Athens, GSEE head Giannis Panagopoulos underlined that the government's policy would change, warning that If not, it would be toppled. He then invited the employees to another rally outside the Parliament building on the day the state budget is set to be voted.

    Panagopoulos condemned the killing of the 15-year-old boy, yet he urged the young to turn their back to raw violence and join trade unions.

    ADEDY head Spyros Papaspyros, on his part, touched on the shooting of the teen, as well as on the government's bailout plan. He termed the recent developments as a landmark, calling on everyone to stay committed to struggles and never lose their anger, with a view to shaping a new social and political reality.

    GSSE secretary and leader he ruling New Democracy (ND) affiliated trade union group DAKE Kostas Poupakis voiced his sorrow over the tragic loss of the 15-year-old boy and blasted raw violence irrespective of its origins. He further highlighted the need for national unity and consensus.

    Papariga on Wednesday's Strike

    Addressing a rally staged by PAME, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga stressed, "There are major struggles ahead and we can successfully deal with them."

    In the meantime, a KKE statement issued on the occasion of the anti-government demonstrations read: "Such massive, decisive and guarded demonstrations show the way and the content of a labour counter-attack for the rights of the working class and the young and against the capital, the EU and its parties. They are the genuine answer to the government's policy and the campaign to have the justified indignation of thousands of young people directed to harmless paths."

    Source: ANA-MPA

    News item: 16508

    [96] New Opinion Poll Released

    A new survey conducting by MRB between 21 November and 1 December has suggested new political correlations compared with last June. In voting intention, the Socialists (PASOK) enjoy a 4.8 percent lead over the ruling Conservatives (ND).

    As for who is the most appropriate for the post of Prime Minister, the majority of the respondents (31.1%) opted for Kostas Karamanlis, as opposed to 28.7% who picked George Papandreou. However, the overwhelming majority of the Greeks believe that the situation in the country is bleak.

    News item: 16493

    [97] Last Farewell to Alexis at Noon

    New student protestation marches are taking place today Tuesday in Athens and prefectures a few hours before the funeral of 15 years old Alexandros Grigoropoulos who was shot on Exarchia, Tuesday night. The funeral of the unfortunate child will take place at 3.30. Police has taken extra security measures around Palaio Faliro cemetery, Nea Smyrni. The coroner's report is expected today. At 12.30 students, teachers and parents have scheduled rally in Propylaia while another two protestation marches have been scheduled in Thessaloniki. First march will start at 12.00 in Kamara by anti authority groups, while student unions have scheduled rally half an hour later starting in Venizelos Statue.

    Minister of Education Evripidis Stylianidis, announced that high schools will remain closed today. Primary Teachers Federation (DOE) announced a 24 hour strike protesting against the murder of the 15 years old. Greek universities remain closed while students unions are to hold general meetings.

    Athens looks like a bombarded city today and the atmosphere is suffocating by tear gases police used yesterday. Metro, tram, bus routes are conducted normally. Patision Avenue is closed. At this moment, groups of anarchists are barricaded inside National Technical University of Athens.

    Secret monumental sites were also targeted by the angry group that was destroying everything on their way yesterday. Kostis Palamas residence,in Akadimias and Sina St. was burnt while our cultural heritage, the National Library, was also under threat. Rector of University of Athens, Christos Kittas resigned yesterday protesting against the state and police's passivity that were incapable of protecting the country yesterday.

    Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, in his statements in NET TV channel asked from citizens not to move in the city center, if not necessary, and asked from the state to provide compensations to the citizens whose properties have been damaged.

    66 people were arrested yesterday and will testify today to the Prosecutor for the unprecedented incidents taking place in Athens city center. The arrestees are being charged of causing damages, attacking police officers and looting shops. In total, 176 people were arrested. According to an announcement issued by police, the violent incidents started when 3 different protestations marches were divided and small groups spread in different places in the city center causing damages to buildings, cars, shops, attacking police forces using Molotov bombs, stones, marbles, woods, swords, knives and other objects they robbed after looting a gun shop in Omoneia.

    News item: 16466

    [98] Papandreou Wants Snap Elections

    The government must go and the country should resort to snap elections, Socialist leader George Papandreou told his MPs on Tuesday. The government has lost the Greek people's trust, stressed Papandreou, further underlining that the country is experiencing a deep crisis and the government has nothing new to add. Things have turned really bleak, since fear and insecurity have prevailed noted he. Papandreou then went on to condemn the rioting, stressing that democracy and the struggle for rights cannot hide behind hoods.

    The only service the government can offer to the country is to step down, stressed Papandreou, while addressing Tuesday the sitting of the party's Parliamentary Group, demanding elections, so that the people can provide a solution.

    The Socialist President claimed that he stressed in the meeting with Karamanlis that Greek society is undergoing a multiple crisis, one that was economic, social and a crisis of values and institutions. The government is unable to deal with this crisis because it has lost the confidence of the Greek people, he added.

    He also blasted the government for using insecurity and fear, holding accountable the others, without shouldering its own responsibilities.

    He further added there are no asymmetric threats and what destabilizes the government is its own policy, since it gave priority to its own benefit over the wider good.

    "There is no future with this government," he concluded, stressing that the future for Greece lay with a government of change.

    Source: NET-NET 105.8, ANA/MPA

    News item: 16473

    [99] Karamanlis Calls Immediate Meetings

    In a drive to reverse the climate, Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis had been holding meetings with both the state and political leaders since Tuesday morning. He urged political leaders to vehemently condemn the rioters, reiterating that no leniency would be tolerated in holding people accountable. "These are difficult days," said President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias while welcoming the Prime Minister. "These are days of responsibility" replied Kostas Karamanlis in a brief dialogue before the reporters.

    "I briefed the President of the Republic on the situation that has prevailed after the tragic loss of the schoolboy. I assured the President that no leniency will be tolerated in holding people accountable. No one has the right to use the tragic incident as an alibi for actions of blatant violence against innocent civilians, property and society and, in the bottom line, against democracy itself. In these crucial hours, the political world has to unanimously and vehemently condemn the incidents. This is what the democratic duty of everyone. This is what the people mandate. This is what our national duty mandates," commented Kostas Karamanlis after his meeting with the President.

    G. Papandreou: "The Government Is Unable to Address the Crisis"

    The country had no government capable of protecting the citizens, their rights and security, claimed Socialist leader George Papandreou, after meeting with Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis. Papandreou stressed that the government had lost the people's trust.

    "PASOK now and tomorrow as a government can guarantee the rule of law to protect the rights of the Greek people," said Papandreou.

    "Everyone feels the indignation and anger of the young over Alexandros' loss," argued Papandreou, further stressing that their indignation was not associated with the violent rioting taking place.

    Papariga: "There Is a Way Out"

    "We do not associate the hooded rioters with the indignation and anger of the young. The hooded rioters have resulted from state power," said Aleka Papariga, secretary General of the Greek Communist Party, urging the SYRIZA leadership to stop caressing the ears of the rioters.

    Blasting the call for snap elections, Papariga said that had elections been held, they would be just a reaction to what was going on, instead of aiming to protect the people's rights.

    Alavanos: "New Social Revolt"

    "We are witnessing a new social revolt," stressed Alekos Alavanos, head of SYRIZA's parliamentary head, after his meeting with the Prime Minister.

    Source: NET, NET 105.8, ANA-MPA

    News item: 16461

    [100] No leniency in Attributing Blame

    Those responsible for the death of 15-year-old Alexis Andreas Grigoropoulos will receive the punishment they deserve, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis underlined on Monday, condemning extreme behaviors that involve the destruction of properties of fellow citizens. The premier went on to express his very deep anguish at the loss of the 15-year-old: "I know that nothing can assuage the pain; life is the supreme boon and its loss cannot be replaced". In statements after a meeting with Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, Karamanlis said that he had asked Alogoskoufis to do his utmost to compensate those who suffered damages in the riots.

    Karamanlis repeated that the state would not tolerate any leniency in attributing blame and ensuring that those responsible received the punishment they deserved.

    Karamanlis charged, however, that extremist elements were taking advantage of the event and were proving through their violent behaviour that their only goal was destruction. He noted that the government's obligation was to protect society as a whole, stressing that the things done in response to the tragic event could not be tolerated.

    "The state will protect the citizens," he underlined. He also emphasised that the state will do everything in its power to prevent such an event occurring again.

    News item: 16442

    [101] Rage and Outcry

    Yes to demonstrations but no to blatant violence, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said late on Sunday, after his meeting with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Interior Minister Panagiotis Chinofotis. Pavlopoulos briefed the head of government on the latest developments following the death of the 16-year-old boy shot by police in Exarhia the night before in central Athens. Justice would step in and the shooter would be punished, commented Pavlopoulos, further adding he realized the anger felt, since under the Constitution everyone is entitled to demonstrate, but blatant violence is beyond comprehension. President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias offered his heartfelt condolences to the teen's parents.

    Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis also sent a letter to the teen's mother, expressing his sorrow over his death and assured no leniency would be demonstrated.

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos expressed the Prime Minister's sympathy from the very beginning, resting everyone assured that those to be held accountable would be exemplary punished. At the same time, both the Minister and the Deputy Minister of the Interior tendered in their resignations, however, the Prime Minister did not accepted them.

    Socialist President George Papandreou condemned the shooting, shifting his attention to the causes generating such incidents.

    The Greek Communist Party (KKE) blamed the climate prevailing in police on the government, adding that torches and incidents were not the answer to state's totalitarianism. KKE is to stage a street protest in central Athens on Monday.

    "Revenge, by damaging shops, setting fires and torching cars, is not the point. All the above serve the purposes of those who want to instill conservatism and fear into the people," argued KKE secretary general Aleka Papariga.

    SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) spoke of a heinous murder that posed a wider political problem.

    Source: NET, NET 105.8, ANA-MPA

    News item: 16431

    [102] Debate on Justice

    Debate broke out yesterday between minister of Justice and PASOK president during the 24 hour general assembly of the Union of Prosecutors' of Greece where Vatopedi case was at focus. Justice Minister Mr. Hatzidakis, PASOK president Mr. Papandreou, LAOS president Mr. Karatzaferis and Parliament president Mr. Sioufas attended the meeting.

    PASOK president stressed that for five years now citizens are living in an insecure environment that none does anything about that. "We have the sad privilege to occupy the highest rank in corruption", Giorgos Papandreou said and noted that there is a general belief that order is not preserved and people responsible for criminal activities are not punished, especially politicians".

    Mr. Papandreou also said that our democracies and institutions are being manipulated and stated furiously that there is irresponsibility and that he will be merciless regarding offenders of law.

    Minister of Justice Mr. Sotiris Hatzidakis branded Mr. Papandreou's claims unfounded and stressed that the problem started when Socialists were in power. He added that the government has initiated radical reforms in the system of justice.

    News item: 16426

    [103] PASOK Ahead as per Two Polls

    As per a new poll conducted by MARC and commissioned by Ethnos newspaper, PASOK (Socialists) is ahead with the ND (Conservatives) coming second. Regarding voting intention, PASOK is leading with 34.1%, ND follows with 28.9%, third comes SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left), KKE (Communists) is fourth with 8.1%, LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) fifth with 4.4% and the Ecologists last with 2.3%. In parallel, the poll shows that the people have lost their confidence in political parties, the Stock Exchange, Banks and Church. Due to the Vatopedi Monastery case, 65.7% have stated that they have lost their confidence in Church, 61.6% are supporting the separation of the state and Church and 88.5% believe Church property should be taxed. However, Archbhishop Ieronymos comes second in terms of popularity after the President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias. Meanwhile, another poll conducted by Focus on behalf of Real News records a change in correlations in the A and B Athens constituencies, with PASOK leading by 30%, the ND coming second with 22.3%, SYRIZA third with 10.3%, KKE fourth with 10.6% and LAOS last with 5.1%.

    Source: 105.8 - NA-PA

    News item: 16424

    [104] The Navy Honors its Patron Saint

    The Greek Navy honored today Saint Nicolas, its patron Saint in an event that was held in the presence of National Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis at the Hellenic Navy Academy.

    In his short address, Mr Meimarakis conveyed the prime minister's wishes and referred to the importance of the Navy in deterring Greece's enemies. He also referred to the Navy's contribution in Greece's struggles for freedom and Democracy.

    Present at the event were the military leadership, as well as political party representatives, MPs, the local authorities and other officials.

    Source: NA-PA

    News item: 16411

    [105] Vatopedi: In Expectance of Developments

    The Prosecutor, who is investigating Messrs Efraim and Arsenios' refusal to testify before the Inquiry Committee, has summoned the two monks to testify as suspects today. Meanwhile, their lawyers announced that their clients' deadline to testify was extended until next Friday. Yesterday, former government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos denied his involvement in the case, describing his colleagues' actions legal. Meanwhile, PASOK insists that as fresh evidence has arisen and Examining Committee should be set up.

    On a relative development, notary Aikaterini Peleki stated that on the occasion of the Vatopedi monastery accounts and in relation to the sums deposited to her, they concerned notarial rights and copy duties. This money had been paid to the Notary Association, the Lawyers and Notaries' Funds, as well as to the national registry, as dictated by law.

    Kiranidis Statements on Rashadel and Madeus

    Financial Advisor for Vatopedi Monastery and Managing Advisor for the Cypriot companies Rashadel and Madeus Athos Kiranidis stated that only Rashadel has a bank account in Cyprus in which only two transactions took place. Vatopedi Monastery has shares of both companies. He said that the monastery deposited 20 million euros into two investing Marfin Popular Bank accounts and then the account was neutralized. Mr Kiranidis told RIK on Thursday that he presented this evidence at the Inquiry Committee the previous Monday. Besides, he reiterated that he believes that no scandal exists, adding the Mr Efraim will be restored to his post after the investigation ends. Sources: 105.8, NA

    Relative articles: Vatopedi: Roussopoulos Testifies to the Inquiry Committee

    Kiranidis Statements on Rashadel and Madeus

    Financial Advisor for Vatopedi Monastery and Managing Advisor for the Cypriot companies Rashadel and Madeus Athos Kiranidis stated that only Rashadel has a bank account in Cyprus in which only two transactions took place. Vatopedi Monastery has shares of both companies. He said that the monastery deposited 20 million euros into two investing Marfin Popular Bank accounts and then the account was neutralized. Mr Kiranidis told RIK on Thursday that he presented this evidence at the Inquiry Committee the previous Monday. Besides, he reiterated that he believes that no scandal exists, adding the Mr Efraim will be restored to his post after the investigation ends.

    Sources: 105.8, NA

    Relative articles: Vatopedi: Roussopoulos Testifies to the Inquiry Committee

    News item: 16347

    [106] Roussopoulos Testifies for Vatopedi Case

    Former government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos concluded his testimony before that Inquiry Committee on the Vatopedi case today. Mr Roussopoulos reiterated that his sole involvement was in the case was when he met with Xanthi bodies in his office on the Vistonida Lake issue. However, he told them that they had to meet the competent ministers. He also denied allegations as per which he received pressure from his colleagues or exerted pressure to them. He added that he was a little late in briefing the then Rural Development Minister Basiakos as the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair was taking place and because the Schnook helicopter had crashed.

    In his testimony Petros Doukas said that all his actions are consistent while he added that he has signed only official decision and initiations by competent services.

    On reference to money laundry accusations, the Cypriot Authority announced that it will not open the bank accounts of RASSADEL and MADEUS. According to the minister of the Cypriot Justice, the Greek Independent Authority submitted orally its demand. When we receive it we will forward it to the General Prosecutor who will further decide, the authority concluded.

    Source: 105.8, NA-PA

    News item: 16277

    [107] Bakoyiannis Contacts at OCSE Council

    The meeting of the Organization for Coperation and Security in Europe, to take place in Helsinki, is to focus on the Caucasus crisis and Russia's call for new European Security Pact. Greek Foreign Minister, Dora Bakoyianni is having a number of bilateral contacts on the sidelines of the OCSE Ministers' Council within the context of Greece's assumption of the organizations rotating presidency as of January, 1, 2009.

    Among Mrs. Bakoyiani contacts are meetings with her Russian, Georgian, Serbian and Albanian counterparts, Sergey Lavrov, Eka Tkeshelashvili, Vuk Jeremic, Lulzim Basha respectively and US Foreign undersecretary William Berns. She will also meet with Turkish Foreign Minister, Ali Babacan following Greece's initiative to discuss OCSE issues but also recent incidents during Turkish research northeastern of the island of Katelorizo. Mrs. Bakoyianni has also scheduled meetings with Montenegro and Tajikistan Foreign Ministers.

    OCSE Ministers are expected to discuss possibility to hold a Summit Meeting on the setting up new European security architecture. The Greek Foreign Minister will direct the debate on Friday, last day of the council.

    News item: 16265

    [108] Karamanlis, Obama - telephone conversation

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis held a telephone conversation with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday night, congratulating him on his election, wishing him success in tackling the challenges that he will be facing in the years to come and stressing that he is looking forward to meeting him in the near future. The prime minister went on to say that the Greek American community has contributed and is continuing to contribute to American society. Obama also noted that he has special appreciation for Greece's role in Europe and the wider region, expressing the wish that he will be having the opportunity in the near future of visiting the country.


    News item: 16274

    [109] Monitors to Supervise Gas Flow

    The European Union has finalized a deal on sending monitors to supervise supplies of Russian gas through Ukraine, raising hopes that millions of Europeans, mostly in the Balkans, would soon have their gas switched on again, two days after the Russian supplies flowing through Ukraine to the continent were shut off amid a dispute between Russian energy giant Gazprom and Ukraine's state-run gas company, Nafrogaz. A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that the Russian side gave thumbs up for the deal, provided that Russian monitors would be included, a term Ukraine accepted. The EU monitors to be sent in Ukraine will be deployed in the key stations, where the Russian gas supplies Europe. However, the conflict between Moscow and Kiev still remain, since issues, including the natural gas prices for 2009, have yet to be addressed.

    The European Commission said that the first monitors arrived in Kiev. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country is at the helm of the EU, claimed he hoped the crisis would defuse.

    In Moscow, Gazprom head Alexei Miller stressed that Russia will allow gas to flow again on Friday, provided that an official deal on the deployment of independent monitors to supervise gas flow to Ukraine is signed.

    However, the European Commission estimated that despite the immediate deployment of European monitors in Russia and Ukraine, it will take some time before the flow towards Europe through Ukraine is fully restored.

    News item: 17534

    [110] Flight Delays due to Air Traffic Controllers Sick Leaves

    Absence of 7 out of 23 air traffic controllers -who called in sick- caused long delays on Friday in departures of a large number of scheduled flights from Madrid Barajas Airport said RNE radio channel.

    A total of 140 air traffic controllers work at Madrid Barajas Airport while 23 were scheduled to work on Friday. With 7 of them calling in sick, it was impossible to find substitutes due to New Year's holidays.

    "El Pais" newspaper, quoting airport officials says that there is a labor dispute with a group of air traffic controllers who object to extensions of working hours.

    News item: 17339

    [111] Obama's Official First on Tuesday

    About two months after his landslide victory, which inspired hope to hearts of people worldwide for the changes he was to usher in as the first Afro-American US President, Barack Obama celebrated his victory at a pre-inauguration rally held in Washington on Sunday. In his speech, the new US President did not miss urging the Americans to help his in his uphill task to overcome the hardships brought on by the financial crisis.

    He also stressed, "Despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead - I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure - that the dream of our founders will live on in our time."

    "In the course of our history, only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now," said Obama in his speech before a large crowd of people that packed the Lincoln Memorial to attend a concert given by famous performers.

    Among the biggest names in the music industry that stood by him were U2, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Sheryl Crow.

    Furthermore, hundreds of events are taking place to mark Obama's swearing-in ceremony scheduled for Tuesday, manifesting in the most glowing terms the high expectations his elections has created in the USA and beyond.

    Source: NET 105.8, ANA-MPA, AFP

    News item: 17882

    [112] US: Miracle in Hudson river

    All 150 passengers and 5 member crew aboard 10 year old A320 airbus survived a dramatic rescue after pilot Chesley Sullenberger, former Air Force pilot with 40 years experience made an emergency landing last night on Hudson River. Survivors and officials said all passengers and crew members on board left the plane through emergency exits, with some standing on the wing before being rescued by ferry boat and police launches. Some were later treated for unspecified injuries. Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot, refused to don a life vest and left the aircraft last.

    Flight 1549 had taken off from New York's LaGuardia airport at 15:30 local time with a half hour delay, bound for Charlotte, North Carolina, when it hit a flock of birds that disabled two engines, officials said. The pilot told the passengers to brace for impact before the aircraft glided on the Hudson River. The Federal Aviation Authority said the plane was aloft for only about three minutes.

    The pilot radioed the control tower, asking to return to LaGuardia. He was given clearance. The last transmission between the pilot and controller was the controller's order to divert to Teterboro, an airstrip in New Jersey, for an emergency landing. Both destinations were far to attempt landing with two disabled engines so the experienced pilot opted emergency landing on Hudson River

    After landing on the Hudson, the aircraft, surrounded immediately by commuter ferries and later by rescue boats, floated downstream as hundreds watched from office towers overlooking the Hudson. As the passengers clambered out on to the wings through the emergency exits, the aircraft began to sink and the cabin started filling with water. Some of the passengers slipped and tumbled into the freezing river with temperatures plunging below minus 6C . Rescuers in Coast Guard vessels and ferry boats arrived, opened the door and pulled passengers in yellow life vests from the aircraft. It eventually sank. Witnesses said the pilot showed great skill guiding the plane down, ditching into the water at an estimated speed of 140 knots.

    Sources: NA-PA

    News item: 17786

    [113] Practice for Obama's Swear-in Ceremony

    US President-elect Barack Obama is feverishly preparing to resume his duties at the White House on 20 January, immediately after the swear-in ceremony, during which he will assume his post as 44th US President. Mr Obama, who will meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon on the war against the drugs cartel today, will adopt new tactics for his approach with Iran.

    All appears to be ready for the great moment and the general rehearsal. Of course, security measures of Mr Obama and his family are tight and all are ready.

    Meanwhile, in an interview with ABC TV network, Mr Obama pointed out that the Iran issue will constitute one of the greatest challenges of the US foreign policy, committing himself that he will close the Guantanamo detention centre not within the first 100 days of his presidency, as originally stated. He will also take measures the pending crisis with Tehran is resolved and it support to terror ends. In his interview with ABC, Mr Obama stated that he expects Iran to constitute "one of the greatest challenges" for his government after he resumes his duties on 20 January. He stated that Iran exports terrorism through Hamas and Hezbolah and strives for building a nuclear weapon, which may trigger a new arms race in the Middle East. In the past, Mr Obama had supported direct negotiations with Tehran, contrary to his predecessor George Bush.

    At the same time, Mr Obama did not rule out military intervention. "We are going to undertake a new approach. We are going to provide the international community with instructions on how we wish to approach Iran." He also told ABC that he the US respects the Iranian people's expectations and have demands on how an international factor should be behaving.

    Obama-Calderon Meeting

    The US President-elect will meet today with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, his first meeting with a foreign leader since his election date in November. The war against drugs cartel and commerce will dominate their agenda. Mr Obama has committed himself to maintain close bonds with Mexico and Latin American countries, the governments of which are accusing outgoing President George Bush of indifference against the fact that his foreign policy focused on Iraq and the war against terror. Mr Obama's associates stated that his meeting with Mr Calderon is taking place within the framework of the long tradition of American presidents meetings with the Mexican leaders before their swear-in ceremony. Besides, Mr Calderon is going to meet with Mr George Bush on Tuesday.

    Obama's Life "Difficult" without his Parish in Chicago

    Mr Obama, who interrupted his relations with his parish in Chicago last May due to Pastor Jeremiah Rite's incendiary sermons, has stated that he finds it difficult not to belong to a religious community and intends with his wife Michelle to find quickly a church in Washington, where he will pray.

    In reply to a question as to whether he misses his parish, he told ABC that it is a difficult period, adding that he once belonged to a parish with great people, who prayed on a daily basis for him. However, he stressed that it is not the same thing to attend the Sunday Mass personally.

    He also added that he had not chosen a church in Washington yet, adding that he and his wife intend to look into the issue seriously. He concluded by saying that he and his wife will visit some churches together to see which one suits them best.

    News item: 17594

    [114] Obama Appears Concerned over Civilian Losses

    Breaking his silence, US President-elect Barack Obama voiced Wednesday his grave concern over the loss of civilians in Gaza and Israel and vowed "to hit the ground running" on achieving a broad Middle East peace deal. Speaking after the pounding of an UN-run school, where civilians had taken refuge in, Obama told reporters: "The loss of civilian life in Gaza and Israel is a source of deep concern to me, and after January 20th I am going to have plenty to say about the issue." He then went on to reiterate that only US President George W. Bush is entitled to speak about the US foreign policy.

    He expressed his deep concern over the conflicts. However, he failed to touch on a "permanent and viable ceasefire" the Bush administration is after.

    He also replied to the criticism he came in for, because of his decision not to take a stand on a major challenge for the US foreign policy, and pledged to work for a solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Source: ANA-MPA

    News item: 17437

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

    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

    [116] No End to Gaza Tragedy

    Israel is examining possibility of a unilateral ceasefire as diplomacy for a halt of ground operations is intensifying. The Israeli Foreign Minister and her US counterpart signed a memorandum agreement aimed to put and end to weapon smuggling into Gaza Strip. In the meantime, number of Palestinian victims increase as Israel continues air strikes. Israeli jet fighters pounded at least 50 targets during the night. Two young boys were killed when artillery shell hit the UN school, where they had sough refuge while their mother is among the 14 people wounded. Death toll among Palestinians has reached 1.145 dead, among them 355 children and 100 women. The Palestinian side said 65% of the dead are civilians. The casualties on the Israeli side are 10 soldiers and three civilians.

    News item: 17822

    [117] Diplomatic Efforts, Obstacles by Bombs

    After the morning ceasefire that allowed humanitarian aid in, war bells in the Gaza Strip started echoing again, as the Israelis continued their offensive. During the morning ceasefire, humanitarian aid finally reached its destination. In the meantime, new street protests are expected to take place in Gaza and other Muslim nations on Friday, which Hamas called a day of wrath. Hamas also said that it would not come to terms with Israel's conditions on a ceasefire, reiterating it would keep fighting until an end was put to Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip. Fatah also invited its supporters to the day of wrath. For this reason, the Israeli authorities announced that they would close the West Bank border for two days.

    Hamas announced on Friday it would not accept the Israeli terms for a ceasefire and would continue fighting until Israel's attack in the Gaza Strip ends. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal called on Arab leaders, who met in Doha, to sever any relations with the Jewish state. Meanwhile, Hamas announced it would sent a delegation to Cairo on Friday to discuss Egypt's efforts for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, stated a spokesman for the Islamic Palaistinian organization to the Al Jazeera. Hamas top member Mohamed Nasr stated, "The Egyptians have informed us today that that they received Israel's answer on our proposals and asked us to return to Cairo for new talks."

    The Israeli army announced during the night that it hit about 40 targets, including on missile base launcher. The dead from the latest clashes number at least 23, raising the number to 1,105. The Israeli Defence Ministry announced that from the beginning of the operations 10 soldiers and three civilians had been killed, while 233 soldiers had been wounded. Meanwhile, the funeral of top Hamas member and former minister Sa'ed Sayam, who was killed during an air raid, took place in Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinians accompanied his body, dismissing the danger.

    A 15-year-old Palestinian, Mutasem Daana has been killed on Friday when the Israeli shot him in the head in Hebron in the West Bank during incidents that took place on the sidelines of demonstration against the Israel attack in Gaza. The incidents broke out as per eyewitnesses when hundreds of Palestinians were gathering in the exit of the mosque to protest against the Israeli attack that has killed at least 1,133 Palestinians, among whom over 300 children and 100 women in the Gaza Strip since 27 December.

    Also, on Friday, one of the most important Israeli organizations defending human rights released on Israeli newspaper Haaretz an article with the Palestinian children killed by Israeli fire. The article titled "335 children killed in Gaza, Enough!" carriess about 30 death notifications to condemn in this way the death of the innocent.

    Diplomatic Deliberations

    "We are very close to a ceasefire agreement," assured the head of the UN after meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the 'Muqtat', the headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority in Ramallah. Fayyad, on his part, requested an immediate ceasefire and the implementation of the 1860 Security Council Resolution, which has been dormant since 8 January. He also called for the deployment of an international peacekeeping force in Palestine.

    "We should put an end to the unprecedented destruction of the Gaza Strip. The number of the victims rises by the hour," stated the Palestinian prime minister. The UN Secretary General will meet with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

    Qatar and Mauritania are suspending their political and economic bonds with Israel, as per Qatar TV network Al Jazeera. In parallel, politicians of the Arab and Muslim countries are meeting in Doha to discuss the way with which they will respond to Israel's attack in the Gaza Strip.

    French President Nicola Sarkozy told diplomats that the crisis in Gaza is a humanitarian tragedy, which is of no avail and bloody. "This tragedy should stop. France has condemned the penetration of Israeli soldiers into the Gaza Strip. This was a difficult decision. I remind France's dedication and mine personally to the un-negotiable safety of the Jewish state. At the same time, France has condemned Hamas' strategy of launching missiles against Israel. France is serious regarding its friendship with Israel; in parallel, it supports Palestine's request for founding a state," said Mr Sarkozy.

    Turkey Accuses Israel

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayeep Erdogan criticized harshly Israel despite the fact that Turkey and Israel singed a military cooperation agreement in 1996. Mr Erdogan stated that Israel is not attacking military bases or armed ogranisations, but residential areas, hospitals, mosques and schools. The Ten Commandments say you should not kill. Despite these clear rules, under which religion and under which legal system can you explain the massacre of innocent children. Israel hit the UN in Gaza, while the UN Secretary General was in Israel. This equals to a provocation to the whole world; it is as if you are mocking the whole world."

    Mr Erdogan is to meet with the UN Secretary General in Turkey late Friday. Mr Ban ki Moon is visiting Turkey within the framework of a tour to the Middle East. Prior to Turkey he had visited Egypt and Israel.

    Mr Moon will then visit Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Kuwait, where he will attend an Arab League Summit Meeting.

    Sources: , NA,AFP

    News item: 17793

    [118] Feverish Negotiations on Gaza Ceasefire

    The international community has strongly condemned Israeli bombardment on Thursday of the local headquarters of the UN relief agency, Reuters offices and a Gaza hospital. Amnesty International has requested an immediate independent investigation on the pounding of the UN building, speaking of "war crime". UN Secr. General ban-Ki-moon also voiced his wrath and called Israel and Hamas to bring hostilities to a halt. Following his contacts with the Israeli leadership, however, Ban-Ki-moon said that it might take a few days before a ceasefire deal was reached. In the meantime, Israeli Foreign Minister Jippi Livni flew to Washington to finalize agreement averting Hamas rearmament, which is a basic Israeli term for ceasefire agreement. According to reports, Hamas negotiators in Cairo agreed on ceasefire deal for a year provided that Israel would withdraw its Gaza troops in a week and reopen border crossings. However, Israeli Ministers, who examined Egypt's new proposal, failed to reach agreement.

    Hamas Interior Minister Killed

    In the meantime Israeli troops and tanks moved closer to the heart of Gaza City on Thursday, engaging in fierce gun battles with Hamas fighters. Also on Thursday, an Israeli air strike on Gaza City killed one of Hamas top leaders, Interior Minister Said Siyam along with his son, brother and two other Hamas officials when his brother's house was bombed. Hamas military wing has bowed to take revenge for his death. Siyam, who controlled thousands of Hamas security troops in Gaza, died along with his son, brother and two other Hamas officials when his brother's house was bombed. Over 1.000 Palestinians have been killed and over 4.850 wounded since Israel launched an operation on 27 December to end rocket attacks on its territory.Thirteen Israelis - 10 of them soldiers - have died the Israeli Army says. The Israeli army has closed all access to the West Bank for the next two days following a call by Hamas for Palestinians to observe what it called a "day of wrath", by staging anti-Israeli protests at Friday prayers. Only over 50 year old Muslims with Israeli ID are allowed to attend Friday's prayer at the Mosque Square while there is free access for women.

    Livni in Washington

    Israeli Foreign Minister, Jippi Livni flew to Washington on Thursday in a mission to finalize agreement which would avert Hamas rearmament, the Israelis basic request to reach agreement on Gaza Strip ceasefire. US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice reconfirmed that she is working on an agreement with Israel that will facilitate Gaza ceasefire, however, without clarifying its content.

    Four-hour Suspension of Fire

    The Israeli army announced 4-hour suspension of operations from 10:00 today for humanitarian reasons, keeping the right to respond to fire against Israeli troops and territory. Israeli military spokesman said that 130 lorries transporting medicine and fuel were allowed to pass.

    Sources: Reuters, 105.8, NA-PA Relevant Articles: Gaza:Bombardment of UN and Reuters Ceasefire Agreement Edging

    News item: 17787

    [119] UN Compound in Gaza Hit

    The UN compound housing the headquarters and logistical centre of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza was hit by Israeli fires, the Associated Press reported. A UN spokesman said the compound was probably attacked by white phosphorus. Furthermore, Reuters said that building housing its offices, as well as the offices of other media organisations, was also hit. The blast injured a journalist working for an Abdu Dhabi television network and two cameramen. In the meantime, thousands of Gazans are fleeing the city, as Israeli ground forces have been entering densely populated residential areas. At least 11 Palestinians were killed overnight, while more than 1,000 Gazans have reportedly died as Israel's war on Hamas militants enters its 20th day. In the meantime, pressure for a ceasefire is growing. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who visited Tuesday Egypt, the first leg of his Mideast tour, called anew for a truce, warning that no more time could be wasted. Ban Ki-moon is due in Israel on Thursday. Hamas, on the other hand, appears willing, in their negotiations with the Egyptian negotiators in Cairo, to give thumbs up for a ten-day ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli negotiator is expected in the Egyptian capital on Thursday. At the same time, Ismail Haniya, the head of Hamas' government, plead Westerners to exert pressure on Israel to end its military offensive.

    Haniya: "'Yes' to a Ceasefire under Simple Conditions"

    In his article appeared Thursday in The Independent paper, the head of the Hamas government, Ismail Haniya said he would accept a ceasefire under "clear and simple" conditions, including the lifting of the blockades on Gaza, the opening of the crossings and Israel's complete withdrawal

    Haniya denied claims he was to blame for the conflict by declining to renew a six-month truce in December, further adding that Israel had made Gazans' life a "living hell" via "economic strangulation."

    "Whatever the cost, the continuation of Israel's massacres will neither break our will nor our aspiration for freedom and independence."

    In the meantime, Osama bin Laden called on Muslims to launch a holy war against Israel, while Venezuela severed its diplomatic ties with Israel, a few days after Hugo Chavez deported the Israeli ambassador.

    Source: Reuters, 105.8, ANA-MPA

    News item: 17741

    [120] UN Sec. Gen in ME

    Fierce clashes between Israeli ground forces and Hamas fighters continue in the densely populated center of Gaza city while civilians are desperately seeking for refuge. In the meantime some 1.000 Palestinians have been killed and another 4.000 have been injured since the start of the Israeli military campaign against Gaza Strip while the death toll among the Israeli numbers 13 among them 3 civilians. UN Secretary General, Ban-Ki -moon today begins a tour of ME with first stop Cairo, where Egyptian negotiators are holding talks with Hamas on the on the French-Egyptian cease-fire proposal while the Israeli negotiator is also expected to arrive in Cairo.

    Demand for Cease-fire

    UN Secretary General starts a tour of ME today with first visit Cairo to discuss Egyptian cease-fire proposal with President Mubarack while he will next visit Israel and the West Bank. The aim of his visit is to demand implementation of recent UN resolution for cease-fire despite its rejection by Israel and Hamas.

    In the meantime, German federal police and Interior Ministry experts are to arrive in Egypt in the next days to assist Egyptian security services defend the country's borders with Gaza Strip. The destruction or closing of tunnels under Egyptian borders Hamas uses to smuggle weapons into Gaza is the basic Israeli demand for cease fire

    Sources: Reuters, 105.8, NA-PA Relevant Articles: Fierce Clashes in Gaza

    News item: 17687

    [121] Fierce Battles

    Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip are escalating, as ground forces are approaching densely populated areas now. During the night, Israelis have penetrated into city districts. Meanwhile, international pressure on ceasefire is stepping up at a time when the Palestinians number 900 dead and 4,000 wounded. Hamas, which is expected to reject Egypt's proposal for ceasefire, has stated it will win the war. "If Hamas does not stop its missile attacks, then it will have to face an iron feast" replied the Israeli PM. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has demanded from Israel and Hamas to stop immediately the conflict. At the same time, Mr Moon will convene the Security Council today (17:00 Greek time) in view of his mission to the Middle East and a short visit to Turkey. At the same time, Saudi Arabia accused Israel of "racist annihilitation", hoping in parallel that the US President-elect Barack Obama will give an end to the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians. From its side, the EU Czech Presidency is preparing an international conference of donors to cover Gaza's humanitarian needs. In parallel, 90 French organizations will press charges to Israel's Penal Court against Israel for war crimes in Gaza.

    Gaza Districts Penetrated

    Armoured vehicles of the Israeli army, supported by jet fighters penetrated three Gaza districts Monday night, reported an AFP journalist, who cited eyewitnesses'' testimonies. As per these sources, the tanks penetrated deeply into Tal al-Haoua, Sheih Azlin and Zeitun. Palestinian fighters retaliated to the bombings with mortars; however there is no information on victims so far.

    Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli units penetrated Tal al-Haua district, in the southern part of the town a little after midnight and received fire by gunmen, who had ambushed them before they reached the spot in order to be supported by tanks and jet fighters. An Israeli army spokesman confirmed that battles had taken place in many districts, without giving additional information.

    On Monday, Israeli tanks moved into Seih Azlin, Toufa and Zeitun, meeting with resistance by Palestinian fighters. At the same time, air attacks were launched in the town centre. Strong battles took place in the communities of Beit Lahia and Jabaliya, north of Gaza.

    Besides, eyewitnesses reported that military units invaded Huzaa, near the Israeli border but were forced to re-deploy because they were met with fire. Then, tanks attacked the village.

    Egyptian Proposal Rejected

    At the same time, as per Lebanese political sources, Hamas is preparing to reject Egypt's proposals for ceasefire.

    A reliable source has stated that Hamas has objections on three points of the proposal, hammered out by Egypt and international diplomats "Hamas is rejecting the long-term ceasefire - the Egyptians speak of 15 years - and objects to a ceasefire that is not accompanied by the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the new positions they occupied in Gaza, as well as to presence of international observes in the Rafah passage.

    The same source stressed that Hamas supports a short-term ceasefire for a specific period, while the Israeli troops should withdraw the same moment the ceasefire will begin to be implemented.

    However, Hamas is ready to talk the opening of Egyptian-Rafah border, but is not willing to accept the presence of international observers on the spot.

    Sources: Reuters, 105.8, NA-PA Relative articles: Israelis step in Gaza

    Palestinian people's drama in the epicentre

    News item: 17636

    [122] Israeli Troops Penetrate into Gaza City

    Hamas fighters and Israeli troops have been involved in fierce gun battles, after Israel's army penetrated densely populated areas of the city of Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says that Tel Aviv is nearing Gaza goals. Nearly 900 Gazans have been killed and as many as 3,500 have been injured during the conflict, with hospitals being incapable of treating them and their being transferred to Egypt having been halted, due to the escalation of the crisis.

    Israeli and Egyptian negotiators are meeting Monday in Cairo to discuss Mubarak's proposals, since the UN Security Council resolution was rejected.

    On the other side of the Atlantic, US President-elect Barack Obama said that upon assuming his duties, he would work for an immediate ceasefire and a final solution to the Middle East standoff.

    The EU and the Arab nations are feverishly trying to send humanitarian aid to the coastal strip, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis leftist official Alekos Alavanos, who requested the Foreign Minister to guarantee the safety of Greek ship Arion, which is to set sail from Larnaca, Cyprus, carrying humanitarian aid.

    "Non-governmental organizations have the right to move the way they think they should. The government, however, is obliged to warn of the existing dangers," said the Greek Foreign Minister.

    In the meantime, the Socialist party (PASOK) revealed that the transit of US military material towards Israel takes place through the Astakos port in western Greece.

    "Israel Is Nearing Its Goals"

    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel was nearing the goals of its offensive in the Gaza Strip, signaling it would continue. "But patience, determination and effort are still needed to realize these goals in a manner that will change the security situation in the south," said he.

    Southern Command Head Major-General Yoav Galant, head of the operation against Hamas in the coastal enclave, requested the offensive be extended, read Yediot Aharonot paper.

    General Galant requested permission of phase three of the offensive that started on 27 December. Tens of thousands of reserves are expected to join phase three. "If we don't do that we'll be missing a historic opportunity," Major General Yoav Galant was reported to have said.

    On Wednesday, Israel said it would halt its operations in Gaza for three hours per day for humanitarian reasons.

    Humanitarian Aid Leaves Cyprus

    The Greek ship Arion reached the Larnaca port to pick 34 Free Gaza activists responsible to carry humanitarian aid to Gazans.

    News item: 17590

    [123] Israeli Forces Step In Gaza

    Israeli forces edged into the Gaza Strip's most populous area on Sunday, killing at least 27 Palestinians in an offensive stepped up in defiance of international calls for a ceasefire. Medical officials said about half of the Palestinian dead in the latest fighting in the Hamas-ruled territory were civilians. 12 more Palestinians were killed in 60 bombarding by Israeli air force in camps in Gaza strip on Saturday. According to the announcement released by the Israeli army, the house of the commander of Hamas was among the targets hit. But the announcement does not make clear if the commander was inside the house when it was hit. Since the bombarding started, December 27, members of Hamas have been hiding in underground shelters.

    "On Sunday gun fires took place in Syria against the Israeli army. No one was injured but a car was damaged. Forces in the area are examining the incident while appeals and protestations were sent to the UNDOF. The conditions of the incident remain uncertified", an army rep said. Syria made no comment.

    Israel, describing as unworkable a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire, wants a halt to rocket attacks and arrangements to ensure that Hamas cannot rearm through tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border.

    Palestinian medical sources refer that 900 Palestinians have been killed 275 of who are children while more than 3.620 are wounded by the operations launched by Israel.

    Israel supported the view that Hamas leaders in Gaza strip are hiding in diplomatic missions in an effort to avoid Israeli forces. "Leaders of Hamas and of the army wing are hiding in stores, hospitals and foreign missions", Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel said to journalists.

    Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai in his statements broadcasted by state radio said that the operations in Gaza strip seem to be close.

    Correspondents of French News Agency reported that thousand of people protested in Madrid outside the center of the Spanish capital for the "genocide" that is in progress in Gaza and asked for "peace" in Palestine.

    "Stop the genocide in Palestine", the protestors shouted in Puerta de Sol. We are all Palestinians", "Israel Murders" was some of the slogans protestors shouted while they were holding Palestinian flags and photos of dead children killed by the Israeli operations launched in Gaza.

    Meantime, Venezuela president Hugo Chavez is the new hero of the Palestinian people. Protestors crammed in Western Bank holding photos of the President. His decision, January 6, to deport the Israeli ambassador in Caracas- the only country along with Mauritania that have ever taken such a decision-made Chavez a national hero in Palestine. Source: Reuters,ANA-MNA

    News item: 17580

    [124] Israel Advances in Gaza

    Developments in the Gaza Strip have turned really dramatic, since Israel sent tanks deeper into the coastal enclave early on Sunday, forcing hundreds of families to flee the area. Hamas militants, on the other hand, fired anti-tank missiles and mortar bombs to halt the advancing Israeli forces, Hamas and Jihad said. Defying international calls for a ceasefire, Tel Aviv stepped up phase three of its offensive, while millions of Israeli leaflets written in Arab were flown in the Gaza Strip warning the residents to avoid Hamas-controlled areas, for operations were to escalate. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Israel was close to achieving his goals.

    Israel launched new ground and air strikes overnight killing three Palestinians and injuring dozens, hospital sources were quoted as saying. According to information, the killings occurred a few hours after the throwing of leaflets.

    The last attacks in southern Gaza have injured dozens of Palestinians.

    Paramedics said that most of the injured had sustained burns and inhaled poisonous gases, symptoms caused by exposure to white-phosphorus munitions. The above information has yet to be confirmed, but the use of white-phosphorus munitions against civilians is forbidden by international law.

    The Israeli offensive has taken a heavy toll on Palestinians, since at least 858 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians have been killed and as many as 3,300 people have been injured. Ten Israeli troops have been killed in clashes with Hamas militants and three civilians perished in rocket-firing.

    In the meantime, Hamas's leader in exile, Khaled Meshaal said that the war in Gaza dashes the last hopes of settling the Palestine standoff, and dismissed the Israeli incursion as a "holocaust."

    In Europe, thousands of demonstrators packed the streets. "How more dead children?" was the prevalent slogan. Demonstrators clashed with police outside the Israeli embassy in London. Twenty thousands of people hurled shoes and red paint, before things went out of control. Incidents and arrests occurred in Oslo, Norway, as well, while thousands of people took to the streets of Paris and Berlin.

    Source: NET, ANA-MPA

    News item: 17574

    [125] Gaza: Tragedy Continues

    Israeli and Hamas defied the cease fire calls. Despite a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire and Egyptian-European mediation efforts, Israel appeared set on pressing on with its offensive, designed to stop Hamas rocket fire. Hamas fired more rockets. Israeli aircraft, tanks and ships pounded the Gaza Strip for a 15th day Saturday and militants from Hamas fired rockets back at Israel, defying international efforts to put a stop to the conflict. 810 Palestinians at least are dead among whom 303 women and children and 3.600 wounded while in Israel 3 civilians and 13 soldiers were killed. United Nations announced that humanitarian aid in Gaza will continue. Unrwa stopped the aid when one of the convoys transferring aid were hit by Israeli bombs and a Palestinian driver was killed.

    US as well as the US Congress mutually decided to support Israel recognizing the right of the Jewish state to defend itself against Hamas' rocket attacks.

    European and Israeli diplomats said Egypt was objecting to proposals that foreign troops and technicians be stationed on its 15-km (9-mile) border with Gaza to prevent arms smuggling.

    Instead, diplomats said, Egypt was ready to accept technical assistance for its own forces on the border. Israel says the Egyptians have failed in the past to prevent Hamas building up an arsenal of hundreds of Soviet-designed Katyusha missiles.

    Meantime, Greece will provide medical care and hospitalization to wounded children from Palestine after initiation adopted by ministers of Foreign Affairs. The non governmental organization "Solidarity" prepares humanitarian aid in Gaza. A protestation rally is staged today in Syntagma Square at 13.30. The Hellenic Committee UNICEF appeals citizens to express their solidarity, to reinforce their efforts and to adopt necessary humanitarian aid sending food water and medicines to children and mothers in Gaza. For this purpose citizens can deposit money in National Bank to the following bank account: 169/480021-48. Citizens cal also make donations calling 801 500 12345. For more information they can visit

    News item: 17555

    [126] UN: Israel is Murdering Civilians

    Referring to the death of 30 Palestinian civilians, the UN speaks of premeditated murder. The Palestinians were forced by the Israelis to enter a building when they lost their life. Out of the 110 civilians, half were children. The civilians had gathered in Zeitun district and ordered by Israeli soldiers to remain inside a building, which was bombed 24 hours later.

    "Those who survived walked for two kilometers to Salahedin road artery from where they were transferred to hospital in private cars. Three children, the youngest of which was five months-year-old died upon their arrival to hospital, the UN has reported.

    The incident occurred on 4 January and as per the UN "it was one of the most serious incidents since the beginning of the Israeli operations." The official Israeli response to the incident was that they are not aware of the incident and will investigate it.

    In parallel, the International Red Cross has accused the Israeli army of preventing access to Palestinian wounded in Zeitun for many days. Among them were children, who remained trapped in their house with their mother's body. Their mother had been killed during the operations.

    Sources: NA,AFP

    News item: 17523

    [127] UN Resolutions & Israeli Bombs

    Israel continued pounding the Gaza Strip and especially Zeitun and Jabaliya districts in the north during the night. The Israeli army also pounded Rafah near the border with Egypt. At the same time, the UN Security Council approved a resolution on immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from the region. Abstaining from the vote was the USA. As per the announcement, the ceasefire should be enforced immediately and be fully respected, leading to the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

    14 out of 15 UN Security Council member-states voted for the resolution. Condoleezza Rice abstained from the vote because she wanted to see the results of Egypt's mediating effort, adding in parallel that despite the abstention, she supports the essence of the text approved by the Security Council.

    Meanwhile, the Israeli Security Ministerial Council is holding an extraordinary meeting this morning to decide on its stance on the UN resolution. In parallel, it will co-assess the results of Amos Gilad's mission to Cairo. Mr Gilad, Ehud Barrack's political advisor, discussed the proposals on ceasefire processed by President Hosni Mubarak in cooperation with French President Nicola Sarkozy.

    Hamas, from its side, declared today "rage day", while the Israel police have deployed thousands of policemen at mosques. Chief Inspector Micky Rosenfeld stated "we have deployed thousands of men to maintain order in eastern Jerusalem. Only the Palestinians, who have Israeli identity cards and are over 50 can participate in the prayers in the Mosque Square, Islam's third holy spot. Women will be allowed access to the Square."

    The Israeli army has announced from its side that it will fully block the West Bank for 48 hours as of yesterday midnight.

    Night with Clashes

    During the night, 12 Palestinians, among whom six members of the same family, were killed from Israeli shelling. Also, local leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Paletine Fayez Sala was wounded in Jabaliya. The 12 dead include four of his children, his wife and her sister. The bombs destroyed the house of a Hamas top member in Abasan.

    Two women, a Ukranian and a Moroccan, who were married to Palestinians, also lost their life. Moroccan Rokaia Abu Natza, 55 was killed with two of her family's members, while the Ukrainian woman, wife of Palestinian doctor Albina al-Jaru was killed with her1.5-year-old son.

    Since the beginning of the Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip on 27 December, 774 Palestinians have lost their life, reports the AFP, which is based on Palestinian Hospital sources. Over 3,200 people have been wounded.

    As per Israeli sources, 10 Israeli soldiers and officers have lost their life since the beginning of the operations in Gaza Strip on 27 December. The above number includes an Israeli officer, who was killed in the northern part of the Gaza Strip from Palestinian fire. A soldier was also slightly injured in the above clashes.

    Earlier, an armoured vehicle unit soldier, as well as another officer had been killed.

    At the same time, Hamas criticized strongly UNRWA's decision to suspend its actions after an attack launched against it convoy near Erez, during which one of its drivers was killed and one more wounded. Hamas described UNRWA's decision absurd and unjustified, adding that UNRWA is obliged to protect war victims and not to abandon them. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi called on the Arabs on Thursday to fight by the Palestinians' side against Israel, reported the official Libyan News Agency Jana.

    Anti-war Rally to be Held Saturday

    Arab bodies, Trade Unions, organizations in Greece, the Alliance stop the war and peace movements are staging a new rally on 10 January. GSEE (Greek General Confederation of Labour) issued an announcement saying that GSEEE, ADEDY (Supreme Administration of Greek Civil Servants Trade Unions), EKA (Athens Centre for Workers and Employees), the Athens-Piraeus supra-prefecture and peace movements are holding a protest rally for the massacre in the Gaza Strip at Syntagma Square on at 13:30 on 10-1-09.

    Greek Trade Unions, collective and social bodies, as well as the society are protesting, denouncing and reacting to the criminal genocide carried out by Israel's leadership in the Gaza Strip without disturbance. "We invite all employees and civilians to protest with us and demand an end to the criminal military operations against the Palestinian people and the withdrawal of troops from the Gaza Strip. The Gaza blockade should be lifted, and free rendering of humanitarian aid should be allowed. Palestinian should be liberated and the war criminals punished. Our country should not get involved in these military operations in any way,"they report.

    News item: 17514

    [128] Dangerous Escalation

    Israel has continued pounding the Gaza Strip for the 13th consecutive day, after three missiles were launched from Lebanon against the northern part of the Gaza Strip in the morning, triggering fears over further escalation of the crisis in the Middle East. Hezbolah and Hamas refused involvement in the incident, which was attributed to fanatic Islamists. At the same time, the Red Cross criticized harshly the Israeli forces for violating international legislation regarding access to the wounded. In parallel, the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) has announced that it will suspend its missions to the Gaza Strip due to Israeli operations. Earlier, the Israeli forces hit a UN truck, carrying humanitarian aid, killing its driver, despite the three-hour suspension of military operations. Meanwhile, the international community is continuing its efforts to end the war. France and Germany have stated they are ready to assume a joint initiative for peace in the Middle East.

    The Red Cross Issues Grave Accusations

    The Red Cross International Committee has accused Israel from Geneva of violating the international legislation in Gaza.

    Committee members that were allowed by the Israeli forces to approach the bombarded region found four starving children sitting near their dead mothers and other bodies in a leveled house in Gaza. The Red Cross also accused Israel of delaying in allowing access to ambulances in the bombed region, asking safe access to Palestinian ambulances to carry more wounded. UNRWA stated it had decided to suspend all its operations in the Gaza Strip due more and more hostile actions against its installations and staff. The UNRWA convoy was shot by Israeli soldiers near the Erez passing in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. A driver was killed and another one wounded. An Israeli army spokesman stated that the incident is being investigated.

    As per information, the incident occurred during a three-hour cessation of shelling. The three-hour long truce allowed 80 trucks, carrying food to the inhabitants to pass through. The number of dead due the Israeli attack in Gaza has risen to 763 today. At least 220 are children, while over 3,100 people have been wounded. Today, an additional 20 people were killed. The humanitarian crisis has been escalating despite the Israeli army's decision to stop battling for three hours on a daily basis. The three-hour period was described "insufficient" by UNRWA.

    Belgium has proposed to the EU to set up a European mission to remove any wounded children from Gaza.

    Besides, 48 Canadian civilians were allowed to leave Gaza and return back after days of negotiations between Canada and the Israeli government. The Canadian authorities are looking for an additional eight Canadian nationals.

    Fears for Further Escalation of the Crisis in the Middle East The three missiles that were launched from Lebanon spread fears from further escalation of the crisis. Prior to that, the Gaza Strip had been shelled, while five shells hit Lebanon, described by Israel a "precession hit to the launching spot of the missiles. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abas hoped it was a sporadic incident that would not lead to the escalation of the crisis.

    In Beirut, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora condemned the incident and asked from the Lebanese security service to investigate the incident, adding that August 2006 Security Council Resolution 1701 on the termination of hostilities between Hezbolah and Israel had been violated.

    In Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reported that certain Muslim governments in the region are making a mistake by not taking additional measures to stop the Israeli attacks in Gaza.

    Meanwhile, an Israeli army spokesman announced that an Israeli officer had been killed today and one soldier wounded in battle, topping losses for the Israeli army to eight. Another four soldiers were wounded, two of which seriously.

    Diplomatic Efforts Continue

    France and Germany have stated they are ready to assume a joint initiative to lead to peace in the Middle East.

    In a joint Press Conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicola Sarkozy stated in Paris "arms should fall silent, escalation stop and Israel be guaranteed for its safety and leave Gaza the soonest possible. We are ready to assume a joint initiative to contribute to peace in the Middle East."

    Ms Merkel stated from her side that success on the above attempt depends on whether Israel would be guaranteed its safety.

    The Palestinian organizations that are stationed in Damascus, among whom a Hamas branch, have announced that Egypt's initiative for a constant truce in the Gaza Strip does not constitute a credible basis for the resolution of the crisis.

    However, Press Secretary of the EU Foreign Minister Xavier Solana hailed the French-Egyptian proposal for ceasefire, hoping that ceasefire would soon prevail in the region. He also hoped that the EU is ready to deploy observers, who will check border passes to the Gaza Strip, within the framework of the existing agreements or within the framework of new ones. In parallel, Hamas' conciliatory branch will take part in the negotiations in Cairo.

    President Mahmoud Abas reiterated from Madrid today his support to the Egyptian initiative for permanent truce, without however commenting on its rejection by Hamas.

    News item: 17499

    [129] Talks and Bombards

    Israeli warplanes bombed the Gaza Strip on Thursday and tanks pounded Palestinian guerrillas on the ground. Residents in Gaza described the overnight bombardments to the east of the city as among the heaviest in the offensive. In the south of the territory a phalanx of tanks advanced closer to the town of Khan Younis, witnesses said. The bombards were confirmed by the Israeli army. 40 targets at least were hit and according to Israel in 250 to 300 tunnels weapons are transported. Yesterday there was a three hour truce and 80 trucks with food and aid were allowed to enter Gaza strip. Death toll in Gaza rises to 702. 3.100 Palestinians are wounded.

    At least four rockets fired from Lebanon exploded in northern Israel on Thursday, wounding two people, police and medics said, in an attack likely linked to Israel's offensive against Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip. Lebanon's militant Hezbollah leader stepped up his anti-Israeli rhetoric on Wednesday, warning Israel that it can't destroy the Palestinian Hamas and that it would be "crushed" should it attack Lebanon.

    Members of the Israeli army estimate that the rockets were not launched by Hamas but by hard-core Palestinian organizations.

    Hamas thinks the same and according to statements made by its representatives in Beirut stresses: "We can not accuse any Palestinian organizations and we do not know who fired the rockets".

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held a meeting on Wednesday with visiting Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani on the situation in the Gaza Strip, the official SANA news agency reported. The two sides underlined the importance of working with Arab and international parliaments to condemn and demand a halt of this aggression, urging to ensure the entry of humanitarian and emergency medical aid to the strip.

    US Foreign Affiars Minister Mrs Condoleezza Rice in her statements yesterday to journalists in the EU headquarters stressed: "It has to be a ceasefire that will not allow a return to the status quo,"

    Source: 105,8, NA, Reuters,AFP

    News item: 17464

    [130] Attacks after the Three Hour Gaza Truce

    Violence resumed in the area soon after the 1 p.m.-4 p.m. truce expired, and Palestinians returned to the precarious safety of their home after stocking up on food and visiting family and friends. A day after Israeli shelling killed 42 Palestinians at a U.N.-run Gaza school, Israel said it viewed "positively" talks with Cairo over a wider ceasefire plan promoted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and French leader Nicolas Sarkozy. In a meeting held by the 12 member council board of Israel decided to "expand operations against Hamas" in Gaza strip. As announced by Israeli Mass Media, Israel considers entering a third stage of its air and ground .

    Back to Hostilities

    After 16:00 when Israel's commitment for cease of fire ended, guns were loud again and this time more intense than any other time.

    Israel bombed eastern Gaza killing two Palestinians. Hamas representative rejected earlier today a "truce" branding it "ridiculous" because three hours are obviously not enough for residents to raise supplies.

    Israel accused Hamas that it fired rocket during the three hour truce and nit a non residential area.

    Meantime, Czech Presidency of EU appealed Israel to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. According to Palestinian sources, 43 Palestinians were killed among whom many children.

    Diplomatic Efforts

    The Egyptian plan, partly brokered by France, calls for an end to the rocket attacks on Israel, the opening of Gaza border crossings and an end to weapons smuggling into Gaza.

    Earlier today, in his announcement, Nikola Sarkozy stated that Israel and the Palestinian Authority accepted the plan for truce but the representative of the Israeli Prime Minister as well as Hamas official state that the proposal is still under discussion.

    Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas went to Cairo for further deliberations.

    The White House expressed today Wednesday the immediate need for cease of fire.

    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Israel on Wednesday to seriously consider an Egyptian ceasefire proposal as the U.N. Security Council weighed action to end Israel's attack on Gaza.

    "We are working so as to succeed truce as soon as possible", the representative of White House Dana Perino said adding that the satiation became more complicated due to the number of players that got involved. She also stated that the US is open to discuss Egypt and France's plan for peace on Gaza but needs to be briefed about more details.

    News item: 17454

    [131] UN Secretary General Calls for Immediate Truce

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip during a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York. Israel was seriously considering an Egyptian proposal for truce in Gaza, the Israeli representative to the UN said. The proposal, which enjoys a USA backing, has already been accepted by Palestine, while a Palestinian official said that Hamas was also discussing its content with Cairo. Delegations from Egypt and Israel are ready to enter talks, while Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak invited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Cairo, the French Foreign Minister was quoted as saying. In the meantime, fighting between the Israeli army and Hamas militants continues mostly in the city of Gaza. The schools were civilians had taken refuge in had been clearly marked, said the UN Secretary General, who is to visit Israel, Palestinian territories and several Arab capitals in the week to come.

    On day 12 of the Israeli air and ground operations, a Palestinian fighter was killed and another three were injured Wednesday in Gaza.

    On Tuesday, the Israeli pounding claimed 40 lives in an UN-run school in Jabaliya, while at least 660 Palestinians have been killed and more than 2,950 have been injured since the beginning of the Israeli offensive.

    Abbas: "Stop the Genocide"

    Arab nations exerted pressure Tuesday on the UN Security Council to step in, while the UN Secretary General dismissed the raids against three UN-run schools in Gaza as "totally unacceptable."

    In his statement, Ban Ki-moon stressed that the schools, where the Palestinians that had been left homeless after the Israeli bombing operations had taken refuge, had been known to the Israeli army.

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged the Council to call for an immediate cessation of the Israeli offensive and a lift of the area's blockade.

    He called on the UN Security Council to take "the first necessary step" to save the Palestinian people in Gaza against a backdrop that "the Israeli machine of destruction continues to kill." "Put an end to the genocide. Stop the massacre of my people. Let it leave and be free," added he.

    During the sitting, Libya circulated a draft resolution calling for an immediate and permanent truce in the Gaza Strip and the cessation of all military operations, including the rocket attacks mounted by Palestinian fighters.

    Egypt's President invited both parties to an emergency meeting to negotiate the treaties and guarantees for the Gaza Strip. After meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Mubarak proposed a ceasefire that would allow humanitarian aid in.

    News item: 17433

    [132] UN-Run School in Gaza Hit

    January 6 was the deadliest day of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, since at least 70 people perished in raids. Of them, 42, including several children, had taken refuge to an UN-run school, which was flattened. Israel, which initially avoided commenting on the hit that was a sheer violation of the Geneva Treaty, finally said that the army had fired several mortar shells near the school in response to mortar fire from the school compound. Another seven children and three adults, members of the same family, were killed at the house's doorstep.

    Unprecedented horror has prevailed in the streets, hospitals and what is left of the buildings, but above all in the souls of the Gaza people, with death toll having risen to 635. In the meantime, there have been some movements at diplomatic level. Reuters said that Israel had appeared to seriously considering an international call for the deployment of a peacekeeping force that would prevent Hamas from being supplied with weapons.

    Israel shows no sign of halting its ground offensive against the Gaza Strip despite diplomatic efforts to achieve a cease-fire. Israeli tanks firing cannons and backed by helicopter gunship rolled into the southern city of Khan Yunis, the largest city in the Gaza Strip, in the pre-dawn hours, to be met by return fire from Hamas and other militant groups, witnesses said. This is the first invasion of Hamas stronghold since the launch of Israeli ground assault last Saturday that has killed at least 550 Palestinians, most of them civilians and children, and injured over 2.500. Red Cross officials say that most of the injured die while waiting for ambulances to transfer them to hospitals. Israel, however, spurned French President, Nikola Sarkozy and EU troika appeals for cease fire and deployment of UN observers on its borders with Gaza. Developments in the region will be again the center of UN Security Council meeting today.

    Israeli troops battled Hamas fighters in major cities of overcrowded Gaza on Tuesday as Israel spurned appeals to halt a war on the Islamists that has killed at least 580 Palestinians. Ten Palestinians were killed by fire launched by Israeli navy against Deir al-Balah coastal city in central Gaza and another 5 Palestinians were killed this morning by tanks firing cannons. The victims were in a house hit during the Israeli troops ground assault. Meanwhile, 4 Palestinians were injured during an air raid of Jambalylia, in north Gaza. Israeli army said that three soldiers were killed and 24 injured by mistaken fire while Hamas says that 10 Israeli soldiers were killed.

    Humanitarian Crisis

    Tens of children are among victims of Israeli raids Against Gaza while the situation in hospitals is dramatic due to shortage in pain killers and medicine while number of injured people is mounting. But survivors are also facing tough hardship due to shortages in food, water, basic goods and destruction of infrastructure.

    No Signs of Halting War

    In the meantime, Israel shows no signs of halting war against Islamists. Israeli Prime-minister, Ehud Olmert vowed that the campaign would continue until Israel completely wiped out Hamas' ability to fire rockets into Israel. Developments in the region will be again the center of UN Security Council meeting today. It will discuss plan for cease fire in order to deliver humanitarian aid and protect civilians as well as to revive peace procedures.

    Sources: Reuters, 105.8, NA-PA Relevant Articles: Israel and Hamas Locked in Gunbattles

    News item: 17411

    [133] Israel and Hamas Locked in Gunbattles

    Israeli troops continue pushing deeper into Gaza Strip and clashing in fierce battles with Hamas fighters. According to Isarel Hamas has suffered heavy damage while many of its militants have been arrested. On his part, the leader of the Islamist organization Ahmoud -al- Zahar bowed victory of his movement and elimination of the Israeli state during his first television intervention since the launch of the Israeli ground offensive.

    The Israeli Air Force has pounded 30 targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday night said a military spokesman in Tel-Aviv. He said that among targets were a mosque in Jambaliyia, where weapons were hidden, houses used as weaponry depots and vehicles carrying rocket launchers and armed militants. Israeli troops are moving deeper splitting Gaza Strip along a 40km distance while Israeli soldiers in the north are hampering supply of weapons and ammunition to the south. The densely populated Gaza city is surrounded. Strategic target in south Gaza is to cut off access to Kan Younis refugee camp from Rafa. Five children lost their lives in two different raids while a 7 member family was killed in a refugee camp. Israeli troops have taken positions near Netzarim for the first time since their withdrawal from Gaza Strip, in 2005 while they have reached Jambaliyia camp in the Over 517 Palestinians have been killed since December, 27 when Israeli military campaign against Gaza started. The burial of the first Israeli soldier killed during the ground offensive was held on Saturday. Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barrack said that its offensive would take as longs as it necessary to protect neighboring Israeli communities from attacks. "Hamas has suffered a heavy blow but we have not accomplished our target yet so the ground operation continues" said Barrack stressing that security in the south must change. Hamas leader, Mahmoud al- Zahar bowed victory of his movement and elimination of the Israeli state. He strongly criticized the US and the West accusing them of doing nothing to avert Israeli attack and demanded end of violence, withdrawal of Israeli troops and lift of embargo before any talks for a possible cease fire. On its part, Hamas military wing maintained that thousands of fighters are ready to battle against the Israeli soldiers in the streets of Gaza In the meantime, Israeli police said that armed Palestinians launched 24 rockets against Israel, on Sunday slightly wounding two people while the chief of the Israeli Army Intelligence Service has warned of Hezbollah attack at the Lebanon-Israel borders. In parallel, hundreds of Palestinians are fleeing their homes to escape bombardments while there are huge shortages in food and medicines. In its report, the International Red Cross says that the situation in Gaza is chaotic and extremely dangerous after the Israeli ground offensive while air raids have destroyed hospitals, water supply infrastructure, government buildings and mosques. Hospitals are full of injured Palestinians while the Red Cross calls for urgent need of pain killers and bags and sheets to cover the dead. Hospitals depend on electricity generators as the power supply system has been also destroyed but there is fear that electricity generators may collapse at any moment. A group of doctors was to arrive in Gaza today, after many days of delay in Jerusalem awaiting for permission from Israeli authorities. Three nurses and three volunteers have been killed, the building housing the Union of Medical Treatment in Gaza was bombed and 4 ambulances destroyed according to Palestinian medical sources.

    News item: 17394

    [134] Gaza Strip Divided into Two

    Israeli forces have divided the Gaza Strip in two, while more than 500 people have been killed and 2,500 have been injured since the launch of the Israeli air raids on 27 December. An EU delegation, as well as French President Nicolas Sarkozy, are due in the area. Israel escalated its ground, sea and air overnight operations, while the nation's media spoke of a door-to-door search operation to locate Hamas officials. Hospital sources in Palestine claimed that at least 70 Palestinians had been killed since Saturday night, when the ground operation began, while a total of 520 people, including 87 children, have been killed so far. Israel, on the other hand, has lost four people in rocket attacks.

    Fierce Pounding

    Israeli jets bombarded 130 targets in the Gaza Strip, while Israeli troops pushed deeper in Gaza.

    Flashes of explosions could be seen overnight from the northern border of Gaza and the regular sounds of gun and artillery fire could be heard, as Israeli troops were moving to the north. They asked the residents to leave their place to avoid being hit. Several families have taken shelter to UN-controlled schools.

    Intense Diplomatic Efforts

    Setting off Monday for a tour in Egypt, Israel, the West Bank, Syria and Lebanon, French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned, just like the rest European leaders, the Israeli raid, holding, at the same time, Hamas responsible for the ordeal of the people of Palestine.

    An EU delegation in Cairo called for a truce. The EU officials are also due in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman. Hamas, on the other hand, said it would said a delegation to Egypt.

    Several other nations, including the Vatican and the Prelates of the Churches in Jerusalem, have called for a ceasefire.

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon voiced Sunday his disappointment for the failure of Security Council to issue a resolution and urged for unity.

    News item: 17383

    [135] Massacre in Baghdad

    The latest information on the suicide attack that took place near a mosque in Bagdad killed 38 and injured 55. Based on Iraqi army sources, Reuters news agency reports that the attack had taken place on a checkpoint outside the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine in the Kadhimiya area, where it is inhabited mostly by Shia. The victims were pilgrims. It is feared that the number of victims will rise. The attack took place a few days before the pilgrims were preparing for the Ashura holiday to mourn the death of Imam Hussein in the seventh century.

    Sources: Reuters, NA-PA

    BBC: Pilgrims die in Iraq bomb blast

    News item: 17369

    [136] Battles in Gaza Raging

    Battles are taking place in the northern part of the Gaza Strip after the Israeli ground forces invaded Gaza Saturday evening. At the same time, the Israeli Air Force continues bombing the area for the ninth day. Additionally, the artillery and the navy are pounding the area, while Hamas is fighting back. Battles are taking place in the refugee camps of Beit Hanun, Beit Lahia and Jabaliyia, while the number of victims remains vague. At the same time, five people were killed and 40 wounded, when the Israelis bombed the central market in Gaza. The Israeli army announced that 30 of its men were wounded, while five Hamas members and three civilians were killed. Hamas from its side reported that nine Israelis were killed and many wounded. Besides, as per Al Arabiya, Hamas arrested two Israeli soldiers; however, the information has not been confirmed yet. While Tel Aviv is speaking of a long-term operation with the participation of thousands of reservists in an attempt to occupy Hamas pouches, the number of dead since the Israeli attacks has risen to at least 470 Palestinians, while thousands have been wounded. Meanwhile, this morning's meeting at the UN Security Council proved fruitless. The EU Czech Presidency has announced that the Israel does not have the right to launch military attacks that affect civilians en masse, refuting thus its original statement that was describing the invasion to Gaza a defensive action. At the same time, the Czech Foreign Minister has begun a two-day tour to Cairo, Jerusalem, Ramala and Amman, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy is visiting the region Monday. On a relative development, the UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon has asked the immediate termination of the Israeli ground assault to the Gaza Strip.

    Clashes in Gaza Outskirts

    Camouflaged Israeli soldiers, with night vision equipment on their helmets invaded the densely-populated area from four points on Saturday with tanks and with the support of assault helicopters.

    As per information, battles are taking place between the Israeli army and Hamas on the outskirts of Gaza, where 500,000 Palestinians live. Israeli forces have been deployed outside Gaza since Saturday evening.

    As per eyewitnesses, the Israeli forces mainly tanks have been deployed in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, where from Palestinian fighters usually launch missiles against Israel. They have also been deployed south of Rafah, near Erez checkpoint on the border with Egypt. Hospital sources have reported that during yesterday's invasion, at least 19 Palestinians have lost their life from tank and aircraft fire. 18 of them were killed in the northern part of Gaza. Most victims especially in Beit Lahiyia are civilians.

    At the same time, 1,5 million Palestinians have locked themselves in their houses in the Gaza Strip due to the continuous shelling, while their food, water and medicine supplies are running out fast. At the same time, the situation in hospitals is dramatic.

    As per the UN, at least 25% of the 453 Palestinians, who have been killed until today, are civilians. However, the Palestinian sources argue that 40% of the victims are civilians. In parallel, more than 2,050 civilians have been injured. On Saturday, the Israeli Air Force bombed a mosque north of Gaza killing at least 16 people, among whom many children. Also a fire broke out in Beit Lahiyia when fuel tank was blown up with claymore bombs.

    Hamas has promised to transform the Gaza Strip into a cemetery for the Israeli army, stated a Hamas spokesman, advising the Israelis to stop their attacks and lift the blockade.

    UN Security Council Reaches no Agreement

    During yesterday's extraordinary meeting the UN Security Council failed to reach an agreement on issuing an announcement for the de-escalation of violence in the region. The US, Britain and probably an Security Council member rejected Libya's announcement-plan that was stressing concern over a ground assault and appealing for immediate ceasefire, reported CNN.

    US Ambassador to the UN Alejandro Wolf stated that Washington feels that no such text should be issued as Israel, a UN member-state has the right to "defend itself" against the Hamas "terrorists", who he held responsible for the Palestinian people's hardships in Gaza. In parallel, he rejected criticism over the UN malfunction due to Washington's stance.

    At the same time, UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon asked for the immediate end of Israel's ground operation in the Gaza Strip. In a telephone conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert he expressed his deep concern and disappointment after the beginning of the ground assault.

    The UN Secretary General stated he is convinced that that escalation would worsen the hardships of the civilians, calling for an immediate end of the ground assault and asking from Israel to do all that is possible to secure the protection of civilians and the dispatch of humanitarian aid. He also asked from all international partners to help in ending the bloodshed and misery immediately.

    Israel is not entitled to carry out military operations that affect the civilians en-masse, announced the EU Czech Presidency, requesting in parallel easy access to humanitarian aid for those living in the Gaza Strip and the implementation of ceasefire. However, early Saturday, the Czech PM had described the Israeli ground assault a defensive rather than an offensive action.

    In parallel, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband had stressed the need for immediate ceasefire, warning that any military escalation would cause horror and fear.

    France is condemning the Israeli ground operation against Gaza, judging that "this dangerous military escalation complicates the international community's efforts to secure truce, announced the French Foreign Ministry today. "France condemns the Israeli ground operation against Gaza, as well as the launching of missiles", reports the ministry. The USA wishes a truce in the Gaza Strip the fastest possible announced the State Department, pointing out that the USA has expressed its concern to the Israeli government as per which any military action should take under consideration any possible consequences to the civilians.

    State Department spokesman Sean McCormack announced that a ceasefire should be implemented the soonest possible, adding the importance of a viable and continuous ceasefire that would not allow Hamas to continue launching missiles and making the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip miserable. He added that Hamas has been keeping the people of Gaza hostage since its illegal coup against President Mahmud Abbas, the legal President of the Palestinian people. Spain has called on Hamas to stop launching missiles and Israel to end its ground assault, while the President of the Iranian Parliament Ali Laritzani stated that the Zionists are met with the powerful resistance of the Palestinians. "The Zionists should know that Gaza will prove their tomb," he reported.

    In parallel, Egypt issued an announcement condemning in the most blatant way the beginning of the ground operations by Israel to the Gaza Strip and the invasion of its forces. It asks for the unconditional end of the attack on behalf of Israel, advising the UN Security Council and the Middle East Quartet to resume their responsibilities without delays and end the Israeli attack.

    Meanwhile, in an interview with Real News newspaper, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis states that Greece will do all it can as OSCE President to put an end to violence, as it operates as a stability and development agent in the wider region. She also describes the EU, the UN Security Council and the Quaret's decision to ask for an immediate ceasefire, an important political action.

    In an interview with the same newspaper, PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) MP Andreas Loverdos states that there is no policy of equal distances when from the one side we have weak Palestinians and from the other powerful Iraelis.

    It is worth mentioning that a KKE (Communist Party of Greece) delegation, headed by Secretary General Aleka Papariga will visit Ramala Monday.

    News item: 17364

    [137] Gaza Invaded

    Israeli ground forces have invaded the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening, confirmed an Israeli army spokesman. Earlier, the Israeli artillery had opened fire against Gaza's eastern border. In parallel, 16 Palestinians lost their life in one of the air raids launched against the Palestinians in the afternoon. The victims included four children, while an additional 50 people were wounded. The Israeli Air Force had bombed a mosque near a refugee camp in Jabaliya, while praying.

    Sources: Reuters, NA-PA

    News item: 17362

    [138] Egypt Blocks Greek Doctors' Entry to Gaza

    The Egyptian authorities have refused Greek and Turkish doctors, members of the "Doctors of Peace" to pass to Gaza through Rafah passing in aid to Palestinian wounded, due to security reasons. As per NET correspondent Panos Haritos, members of both groups of doctors have staged a sit-in until the Egyptian authorities review their decision and allow them to visit Gaza.

    Specifically, five Greek surgeons, members of the "Doctors of Peace" arrived in Rafah early noon with their equipment and asked for permission to pass to Gaza in order to head to Shifa Hospital and offer their services. The Turkish doctors made similar statements, while the Egyptian authorities refused them entrance to Gaza for the doctors' safety. It is noteworthy that as per information, there is a verbal agreement between Israel and Egypt on Rafah, as per which it can open after both sides agree to do so. Having the agreement in mind, it should be considered improbable that they will be allowed entrance to Gaza.

    News item: 17350

    [139] Israeli Ground Assault Imminent

    The hard stricken residents of densely populated Gaza Strip are living under the fear of ground assault approaching. Israeli tanks and thousands of soldiers are massed on the Gaza border awaiting an order to launch a ground offensive. At the same time, the Israeli artillery opened fire against the Gaza Strip in the afternoon, along the eastern border with Israel for the first time since Hamas' attack on 27 December. As per the same sources, the artitellery opened fire at 16:30 Greek time, mainly in Beit Hanun and Tzabaliyia in the northern part of the Gaza Strip and in Han Iunes in the south. In parallel, Israeli air strikes have entered into a second week adding new names in the death toll list. So far 442 Palestinians have been killed, among them 75 children. Hamas announced today that another senior member was killed while exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, speaking from Damascus, Syria, warned that any ground assault would lead Israel to "a black destiny of dead and wounded." He asserted that the group had sustained minimal losses. On the diplomatic front, US President, George Bush has totally blamed Hamas and ruled out a unilateral cease-fire without monitoring mechanisms. A EU delegation, headed by Xavier Solana is visiting the Middle East on Monday. French President Nikola Sarkozy is also visiting the region on the the same day while Egypt is holding talks with Hamas aimed at cease-fire.

    Air Strikes Continue

    Israeli warplanes blasted Hamas targets in Gaza Strip on Friday with its air offensive -started on December, 27- entering into second week today. Among victims is another Hamas military wing senior leader. Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in an interview with al- Zazeera on Friday said that the group had suffered minimal losses In a second interview since the start of the Israeli air offensive 7 days ago, Mashaal maintained that Israel had not destroyed significant Hamas strongholds. The Israeli military forces say that they blasted over 700 targets in Gaza. "The enemy has destroyed Gaza infrastructure, but I tell our people that Gaza is well resisting, said Mashaal from Syria. "We have limited resources but strong willingness. We are ready to deal with any provocation in a war imposed on us" he added. So far, 442 Palestinians have been killed and 2.285 injured. During the same period Hamas has launched 500 rockets from Gaza against Israel and has killed 4 people among them one soldier. Palestinian rockets have injured 12 people said Israeli police

    Bush Holds Hamas Responsible

    US President George W. Bush, in first remarks after conflict erupted in ME, urged all able parties to press Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel and secure a lasting ceasefire. In his weekly speech to be aired on Saturday, Bush blamed Hamas for the latest violence in the ME and rejected a unilateral ceasefire that would allow Hamas to continue to attack Israel from the Gaza Strip. "This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas -- a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel's destruction. Hamas commitments are not enough, there must be inspection mechanisms to put a halt to smuggling of weapons to terrorist organizations", Bush said. "The United States is leading diplomatic efforts to achieve a meaningful ceasefire that is fully respected," Bush said in his weekly radio address, the text of which was released by the White House in advance. He said "I urge all parties to pressure Hamas to turn away from terror, and to support legitimate Palestinian leaders working for peace," including Mahmud Abbas, president of the US-backed Palestinian Authority.

    Sources: , 105.8, NA-PA, Reuters, AP, BBC

    News item: 17347

    [140] Awaiting Order to Invade

    Israeli air raids against targets in the Gaza Strip continued for a seventh day. Israel temporarily opened the Erez border crossing to allow foreigners leave the Hamas-controlled territory, a move indicating that ground operations could be at the gate, despite calls for an immediate ceasefire. With the death toll having exceeded 430, Friday was declared as a "day of wrath" in the West Banks, and demonstrations were held to commemorate Nizar Rayan, a firebrand leader of Hamas was killed on Thursday. In the meantime, international diplomacy is moving really slow. The EU is planning to send a group of Foreign Ministers. The EU mission will coincide with French President Nicolas Sarkozy's meeting in the Middle East on Monday. The USA is working for a long-lasting ceasefire in Gaza, said Friday US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who said, however, that a trip to the area was not in her intentions. Turkey is expected to submit a truce resolution to the UN.

    Foreign Nationals Leave Gaza

    Israel continued air strikes against Gaza Strip on Friday while at least 412 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the campaign and another 2.000 people have been injured. The UN says that most of the dead were civilians. Late on Thursday, the Israeli air-force bombed the mosque in Jambalaya camp, in Gaza, completely destroying it, saying that it was Hamas senior leaders' meeting place. Meanwhile, Israeli tanks and thousands of soldiers remain massed on the Gaza border awaiting an order to invade the densely populated and fortified coastal territory despite mounting international calls for cease-fire. An Israeli military spokesman said that foreign nationals are leaving the Gaza Strip through the Erez border station -which closed when the campaign started on Saturday and only injured civilians were allowed to cross to be admitted to Israeli hospitals. Earlier, an Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman said that some 400 people of dual citizenship were allowed to cross the borders. Most of them had Russian passports but there were also some with US, Norway, Turkey, Ukraine and Belorussia passports. In parallel, Israeli Supreme Court called Israeli authorities to allow access to Gaza to a limited number of foreign correspondents. In the meantime, Tel-Aviv closed West Bank borders for 48 hours following information that Muslim fighters where preparing a large scale attack in retaliation of Israeli raids of Gaza.

    Diplomatic Deadlock

    "There is no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip so there is no need for humanitarian cease-fire" said Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni in Paris -where he met with Fench President, Nikola Sarkozy. Israel will continue the operation against Hamas for as long as necessary to bring an end to rocket launches from Gaza against the Israeli state said Litvi. "there is no question of deadline but question of targets and each we have to deal with a different situation Mrs. Litvi said in an interview with Israeli channel 2 in Paris. "Israel will continue pounding targets and at some point will wait to see whether Hamas realizes what is happening and puts a halt to launching rockets" said the Israeli Foreign Minister. The cost-benefit ratio had been weighed by the government and a decision had been made to act now, to end the threat of Hamas, before it becomes any stronger, she said. French President, Nikola Sarkozy will visit the ME on Monday while the Czech EU presidency has decided to send a diplomatic delegation headed by Xavie Solana. On its part, Hamas has belied that it agrees "under terms" on EU proposals for truce.Turkish Prime-minister, Tayip Erdogan has appealed for urgent cease-fire following his meeting with Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarack within the framework of his tour of ME.

    Sources: Reuters, 105.8, , NA-PA Relevant Articles : Gaza Bombing Goes on Greek Humanitarian Aid to Gaza

    BBC: Israel braced for Hamas response

    News item: 17313

    [141] Gaza Bombing Goes On

    The UN Security Council sitting rejected Wednesday a UN draft resolution put forward by Arab countries, since the representatives of the Western nations complained that it called on Israel to ends its air assaults but made no mention of Hamas rocket attacks against Israel, which they say started the latest hostilities. In the meantime, the death toll from the ongoing air raids against targets in the Gaza Strip keeps rising and rising. More than 400 people are estimated to have perished, while about 2000 people have been reported injured. Israel turned down the calls for a ceasefire, appearing determined to deepen its military operations. Hamas, on the other hand, said yes to a truce, but under conditions.

    Government Buildings Targeted

    Three Palestinians, including a woman, were killed late on Wednesday in a raid on the house of the Rafah leader of Hamas' armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades. The victims were neighbours of al-Qassam, who was not at home at the time.

    Another man was killed in a raid on a house in Jabalia, to the north of the Gaza Strip. Several others were injured.

    Hamas-affiliated sources said that the buildings housing the Ministries of Education and Transport were badly damaged. The Parliament building was also hit, they said.

    Israel Turned Ceasefire Plan Down

    The UN Security Council convened to discuss the Gaza turmoil. The sitting was upon the request of the Arab nations, which pursued a draft resolution that would demand an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Palestine.

    Libya, the only Arab nation taking part in the Security Council, unveiled a draft resolution requesting both sides fully observe the truce. It also demanded the protection of the Palestinian civilians and the opening of the border passages in Gaza.

    The current conditions are not appropriate, said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, without, however, ruling out a deal in the future.

    The Hamas leader, on the other hand, said that the Israel raids should stop before any ceasefire plan comes forward.

    Dismissing the Israeli offensive as a brutal attack and a heinous crime, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the talks with Israel could not go on.

    In a televised address marking the 44rth anniversary of the establishment of Fatah, President Abbas assured the people of Gaza that they are not alone, further adding that the Palestinian blood would not come cheap and would not be offered as an advantage to any election.

    Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is due Thursday in Paris, while the French President is highly likely to visit Tel Aviv in the week to come.

    Greece's Socialist leader George Papandreou demanded an immediate ceasefire and the lifting the blockade on Gaza. In his capacity as the President of the Socialist International, he has undertaken an initiative to call a regional meeting aiming to strike a peaceful and viable solution.

    Source: NET 105.8, ANA-MPA

    News item: 17286

    [142] Israel Rejects Ceasefire Plan

    Air strikes continue in war-torn Gaza, which is on its way to welcome the new year drowned in blood, with the death toll exceeding 370 and the injured amounting to 1700. At the same time, another battle at diplomatic level is underway aiming to a ceasefire. Both the Middle East peace-brokers and the EU Foreign Ministers, who held Tuesday an emergency sitting in Paris, called for an immediate suspension of air operations. The 27 EU leaders decided to dispatch humanitarian aid and a panel of EU Ministers to visit Middle East. In the meantime, the 48-hour ceasefire plan to allow aid into Gaza, proposed by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, fell flat. The situation in the Palestinian hospitals is tragic, since, according to the Red Cross, they lack medical material and are undermanned. The Israeli Foreign Minister made it clear that Tel Aviv had no intention of unilaterally suspending operations, dismissing the proposal as "unrealistic." In the meantime, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is meeting with the Turkish Prime Minister in Jordan to discuss the Israeli offensive, while the Arab League is expected to hold a summit in Cairo.

    Pounding Continues

    The pounding of Hamas buildings continued overnight. The majority of the targets were buildings that had already been bombarded, including the Prime Minister's office and the Interior Ministry. A house in the Jabalia refugee camp was also hit.

    An Israeli army spokesman said that air raids targeted tunnels underneath the Gaza-Egypt border, used, as Israel claims, to secretly supply Gaza with weapons.

    A Palestinian doctor was killed in Jabalia and several other Palestinians were injured, hospital sources were quoted as saying.

    More than 370 Palestinians, including at least 39 children and 13 women, have been killed, while more than 1700 people have been injured during the Israeli offensive. The about 300 rockets the Palestinians have fired against Israel have claimed four lives.

    News item: 17255

    [143] Diplomacy in Europe- Raids in Gaza

    Israeli air raids against Hamas government buildings and other installations in the Gaza Strip continue for the fourth day on Tuesday. Over 360 people have been killed and 1.700 wounded so far while chaos prevails in the region's hospitals. In the meantime, an emergency meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers is underway in Paris. Diplomats were quoted as saying that the EU was to call for an immediate ceasefire. With ground operations looming, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected a possible truce, while Egyptian President Mubarak declined to open the border crossing in Rafah until Palestinian President Abbas regained control of Gaza. Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu argued that he would use any means to put an end to Hamas' rule in Gaza.

    "We have an all-out war against Hamas" said Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barrack, adding that it may be widened with a land operation in Gaza Strip which has been declared a closed military zone

    Hamas, however, fired rockets against south Israel yesterday, killing three people. "World leaders are not doing enough to achieve cease fire" said UN Gen Sec, Ban Ki moon. In the meantime, EU member states Foreign Ministers are holding an extraordinary meeting in Paris on Tuesday afternoon in order to coordinate their actions to put an end to violence. In the next days, French President, Nikola Sarkozy will receive Israeli Foreign Minister Jipi Livni, considered the most popular candidate for the premiership post.

    Meeting in France

    Greek Foreign Minister, Dora Bakoyianni met with Prime-minister, Kostas Karamanlis at 10:30 on Tuesday morning. "Our aim is to open a humanitarian road to Gaza and Athens is ready to offer humanitarian aid", stressed Mrs. Bakoyianni in an interview with Mega channel yesterday. She had a telephone contact with French Foreign Minister and the general secretary of the Arab League yesterday and agreed on the need to put a halt on violence. EU French Presidency aims to achieve "humanitarian cease fire in the Gaza Strip" so medical aid can reach civilians. The Greek Foreign Minister flew to Paris on Tuesday to attend EU Foreign Ministers informal meeting- to be held at 19:30 Greek local time- aimed to coordinate European policy to deal with the crisis in the Gaza Strip in cooperation with the international community and particularly with the UN Sec. Gen says the French Foreign Ministry's announcement.. "Delivery of humanitarian aid is of top priority" said PASOK calling the EU to take initiatives for immediate cease-fire while the GCP gen. secr. Aleka Papariga called on for clear stands and solidarity to the Palestinian people after her meeting with the head of the Palestinian Diplomatic Representation in Athens. Dora Bakoyianni will meet today with SYRIZA parliamentary group to brief it on the situation in Gaza Strip.

    During the Night

    Israeli strikes during the night killed at least 10 Palestinians and wounded 40 people. Buildings housing Hamaz activities and a society linked with Fatah organization were the targets of the night raids. On the part of Israel , 5 people, among them a woman hit by a Palestinian rocket, have been killed since the start of military operations on Saturday. Eight students attending UN programs were killed in Israeli raids sparking strong protest to Israeli Defense Minister by the head of the UN department (UNRWA) for aid to Palestinian refugees.

    Rammed Vessel

    According to reports an Israeli Navy speed boat rammed a vessel of the pro-Arab movement "Free Gaza" off the Gaza coast. The boat set off from Cyprus yesterday carrying humanitarian aid, doctors and medicine to the Gaza Strip. Passengers of "Dignity" boat are missing as no one has answered their cell phones. In their website, the Free Movement organization says that the Israeli Navy demanded thew vessel to return to Cyprus although it had run out of fuel. In their wire contact, the captain of the Israeli boat told the captain of "Dignity" that he was involved in terrorist activities.

    According to "Free Gaza", movement announcement on board Dignity ship are : Denis Healey, captain from UK, George Klontzas, assistant captain from Greece, Nikolas Bolos officer from Greece, Othman Abu Falah, from Jordan, Renee Bowyer, from Australia, Caoimhe Butterly, Ireland, Aikaterini Hristodoulou journalist Cyprus , Sami El-Haj, Sudan, journalist Al Jajeera former prisoner at Guandanamo, Dr. David Halpin, UK, surgeon, Dr. Mohamed Issa, German, Fathi Jaouadi, Tynisia, UK citizen, tv producer, Cynthia McKinney, former US Congress member, Martha Paisi, from Cyprus, Karl Penhaul, UK, CNN correspondent, Thaer Shaker, from Iraq, movie director Al Zazeera and Eleni Theoharus, surgeon and deputy, head of the delegation

    Relevant Article: Gaza Pounding Continues

    News item: 17240

    [144] Israel Keeps Pounding Gaza

    Bombing operations keep wreaking havoc in the Gaza Strip for a third day, as Israeli jets hit Hamas targets on Monday. The death toll has risen to 310 people, including several children, while as many as 1,420 people have been reported injured. Lacking medical material and personnel, the area's hospitals are unable to deal with the situation. An AFP reporter said that the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry was badly damaged and that Gaza's Islamic University was also hit. Israel allowed more that 100 vehicles carrying humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip, without, however, ruling out mounting ground operations. At the same time, scores of Palestinians seek shelter to Egypt. An Egyptian border guard was killed in clashes that broke out when dozens of Palestinians tried Sunday to cross the border. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for an immediate ceasefire.

    Deadly Raids

    Israel mounted dozens of air raids in Gaza overnight, killing seven Palestinians, including six children, Palestinian hospital sources was quoted as saying. An Israeli army officer confirmed the attacks, without giving more details.

    In an airstike in Jabaliya, four little girls were killed. The girls were sisters and their house was located near a mosque that had been a target. Two boys were also killed in Rafah, while the seventh victim was a Hamas militant.

    A warplane fired five missiles against the labs of the Islamic University.

    An Israeli army officer claimed those labs had been equipping Hamas' armed wing with rockets and explosives. He also added that the neighbouring buildings had been the meeting point of the Hamas members.

    About 20 rockets were fired Sunday from the Gaza Strip against southern Israel without causing any casualties.

    Not having phased out a ground operation against Gaza, Israel called up 6,500 reserve soldiers, a senior army officer was quoted as saying. Israeli Defence Minster Ehud Barak vowed to "expand and deepen" the bombing blitz, which was unleashed in retaliation for persistent rocket fire by militant groups. "If it's necessary to deploy ground forces to defend our citizens, we will do so," his spokesman quoted him as saying.

    Eyewitnesses said that Israel had started massing tanks and troops near the Gaza Strip.

    The Islamist movement accused Israel of "committing a holocaust as the whole world watches and doesn't lift a finger to stop it." Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said the movement "reserves the right to hit back at this aggression with martyr operations," meaning suicide bombings of the sort Hamas has not carried out inside Israel since January 2005.

    Palestinian President Abbas, on the other hand, said that Hamas could have avoided the massacre if it had not put an end to the ceasefire.

    Calls for Ceasefire

    The international community called for a ceasefire, while Pope Benedict condemned the Israeli raids. On Wednesday, the Foreign Ministers of the Arab League will discuss whether to hold an Arab Summit on Friday, while a Syrian officer argued that the indirect Syrian-Israeli talks would be endangered.

    The UN Secretary-General called for an immediate ceasefire, voicing his sorrow over the mounting violence.

    Washington held Hamas responsible, requesting, at the same time, Israel avoid targeting civilians. US president-elect Barack Obama is "monitoring" the deadly violence in the Gaza strip and spoke to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the situation, his aides said Saturday. Obama, who takes office on January 20, "is closely monitoring global events, including the situation in Gaza," said his chief national security spokesperson Brooke Anderson. Anderson however emphasized that "there is one president at a time," a statement Obama has said often since he was elected on November 4.

    China appeared shocked and seriously concerned over the current military operations in Gaza. "The world is concerned with the Mideast peace process. To use armed force to resolve differences, especially to kill and wound ordinary citizens, runs counter to these efforts," Vice Premier Li Keqiang said in a statement.

    Japan urged Monday Israel to demonstrate restraint and the Palestinian fighters to stop rocket attacks against the Jewish state.

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis called on the international community to take actions to defuse the crisis and send humanitarian aid to the stricken, while Socialist leader George Papandreou had a telephone contact with the Secretary General of the Arab League.

    News item: 17174

    [145] M. East in Flames

    Violence has been escalating in the Middle East as Israel continues with its air raids against the Gaza Strip for the second day. This has been described the bloodiest day in the last 60 years in the region as more than 230 Palestinians were killed and 750 wounded. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stressed that the operation would continue. At the same time, there is widespread concern on the eventuality of an extensive land operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, a development described possible by Defence Minister Ehud Barrack. From its side, Hamas retaliated by launching missiles, while exiled leader Khaled Meshaal called on the Palestinians on a third Intifada. The UN Security Council appealed today for the immediate termination of violence, calling the parties involved to think of the serious humanitarian and financial needs in Gaza.

    Israel went on with its raids for the second day against the Gaza Strip, escalating more its attack against Hamas. At the same time, it has been deploying additional troops and tanks along its border with the Gaza Strip.

    Defence Minsiter Ehud Barrack did not rule out extensive ground operations, rejecting appeals made by the UN and the EU for a truce, stressing that his country cannot accept ceasefire with Hamas.

    He compared Hamas with Al Qaeda, adding that just as you cannot have ceasefire with Al Qaeda, Israel cannot have ceasefire with Hamas.

    Israeli aircrafts have carried out more than 100 hits, while the Palestinians launched about 70 missiles against Israel killing an Israeli.

    Gaza appears to be devastated after Israel bombed more than 40 Hamas installations, while eyewitnesses report that many men in uniform had been killed.

    Two people were killed when the Israeli Air Force hit a mosque, Hamas reported. Israel verified the piece information, adding that the mosque was used for terror activities. "Palestine has never experienced such a barbaric massacre", stated Hamas leader Ismail Haniyia, while Hamas, which has under its control the coastal area since June 2007, swore to take revenge with suicide attacks in Israel's cafes and streets.

    Haniyia swore that Gaza would never be surrendered to Israel, no matter what forces are used on its territory.

    Meanwhile, Hamas exiled leader Khaled Meshal called on the Palestinians today to launch a new intifada against Israel, announcing more suicide attacks in an interview with Qatar's TV network Al Jazeera.

    At the same time, aid organizations have warned that Israel's military operation could accelerate the human crisis outbreak in the poor region, where 1.5 million Palestinians live, half of which depend on annonary aid.

    Moreover, hospitals in Gaza have reported that their reserves in medicine, which had dropped dramatically due to Israel's blockade, are coming to an end. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas stated today that Hamas could have escaped the massacre in Gaza.

    "We asked them not to violate the truce; thus, we could have avoided what has happened", said Abbas in Cairo.

    The Israeli government, from its side, argued that the operation constitutes an answer to the unbearable daily attacks with missiles and mortars by Palestinian fighters from the Gaza Strip. These attacks intensified in the last week after Hamas had declared over the six-month truce over.

    At the same time, the Arab League has decided to delay until Wednesday the Foreign ministers' extraordinary meeting so that a joint position is adopted, as many minister were busy.

    The UN Demands Ceasefire

    After an extraordinary meeting on Saturday evening, requested by Libya, the UN Security Council appealed for an immediate ceasefire.

    After a four-hour meeting behind closed doors, the member-states issued an announcement, calling the involved parties to stop any military operations immediately and think of the serious humanitarian and financial needs in Gaza. The Security Council has invited both parties to take all necessary measures and open their border passing, so that Gaza inhabitants are provided with food, fuel and medicine.

    Earlier, Israel's ambassadress to the UN Gabriella Shalev defended her government's actions in the Gaza Strip in a letter to the UN Secretary General, holing Hamas responsible for the incidents.

    Bush Blames Hamas

    Outgoing US President George Bush defended Israel, holding Hamas responsible for the attacks. "These people [Hamas] are nothing but thugs, and so Israel is going to defend its people against terrorists like Hamas," he said late on Saturday. "If Hamas stops firing rockets into Israel, then Israel would not have a need for strikes in Gaza," he told reporters. "What we've got to see is Hamas stop firing rockets into Israel," he added.

    Meanwhile, Mr Barrack Obama's spokesman Brooke Anderson said that the Us President-elect is monitoring the situations, reminding that he has not resumed his duties yet.

    International Reactions

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized Israel, appealing for immediate action so that the crisis ends in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, the Iranian Parliament interrupted its session, with the MPs shouting "death to Israel", while the President of the Parliament Ali Larijani warned that Israel would soon face a third Intifada. Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Chile have condemned Israel's air raids against Gaza. Syria also denounced them, describing them "a barbaric crime."

    Egypt also condemned the attacks, opening the Rafah terminal station on its border with the Gaza Strip, so that the wounded are carried away.

    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak issued an official announcement, which condemns the attacks against the Gaza Strip, holding Israel responsible for the dead and the wounded. In parallel, the Egyptian Foreign Minister accused Hamas of not allowing the wounded Palestinians to pass to Egypt to be hospitalized.

    At the same time, 2,000 Egyptians demonstrated in Cairo against the Israeli attack, accusing President Hosni Mubarak of complicity, since he met with the Israeli Foreign Minister on Thursday to discuss the end of the truce.

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez spoke of a criminal attack on behalf of Israel against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, condemning the American government's stance, describing it the only government in the globe that is an accomplice to the attack.

    In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.appeared especially concerned from the escalation of violence in the Middle East, expressing his puzzlement over Hamas' unilateral ceasefire with Israel.

    Although Germany respects Israel's legal right for sel-defence, he called Israel to exhibit self-restraint with its military actions so that casualties among civilians are averted. In Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi expressed his concern over the resumption of hostilities, demanding and immediate end and supporting a dialogue that would lead to a firm and permanent solution.

    On a relative development, protest rallies were held in Morocco and France, with the demonstrators condemning Israel's raids against Gaza.

    In Bethlehem, the Mayor decided to put out the lights of the Christmas tree before the Church of Nativity until the end of January in protest to the crisis.

    Dora Bakoyannis' Statement

    Today, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis conveyed the government's concern, condemning the escalation of violence in the Middle East.

    "We express our deepest concern and denounce the extreme escalation of violence in Gaza, where hundreds of civilian Palestinians lost their life. We co-align with the EU's position on the developments, adding that Hamas' missiles triggered a new circle of violence and Israel's disproportional response with air raids and shelling, kills and wounds people and the hope for prospects for peace in this tragic region of the world. They are endangering the exceptionally fragile regional safety and security," she said.

    Ms Bakoyannis described the Middle East rekindling of hostilities a nightmarish prospect that should be averted at all costs, calling on the international community not to remain inactive and assume initiatives immediately for the de-escalation of the tension.

    "An end to the vicious circle of violence should be put and the victims in Gaza should receive international humanitarian help. Diplomacy should take over so that the peace process on the Palestinian issue continues," points out the foreign minister.

    Ms Bakoyannis adds that Greece hails the UN Security Council extraordinary meeting, adding that the EU is obliged to assume its main role. "Greece, which always condemns all forms of violence and terror, is ready to contribute in this effort. It is also ready to offer humanitarian aid when this is feasible."

    PASOK leader and International Socialist President George Papandreou condemned the attacks in Gaza on Saturday.

    Finally, KKE (Communists) and SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) are staging protest rallies at 18:00, Monday.

    Also Read: More Violence in the Middle East

    Sources: - 105.8-NA/PA

    News item: 17156

    [146] More Violence in the M. East

    The situation in the Middle East is dramatic, as the Israeli air force has been pounding Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip, where at least, 195 people were killed. The injured number 330. Today, has been described the bloodiest day on Palestinian territory for 20 years. Hamas has ordered a general counter-attack launching missiles on Israel's territory. The Israeli raid caused serious destructions on the Hamas security installations and in Gaza port. In parallel, Egypt has deployed troops along its border with the Gaza Strip. The international community appears concerned over a possible deterioration of the situation in the Middle East.

    The escalation of violence in the Middle East has been described dramatic. Israeli jet fighters and helicopters have been launching raids against the Gaza Strip since dawn to destroy Hamas positions.

    The raids were first launched against the Hamas polic headquarters and then extended to the whole town, where police stations and other public buildings are.

    Until now, 100 air raids have been launched by 100 different jet fighters and 10 Hamas targets hit. At the same time, raid have continued after sunset.

    As the number of injured is high, there is no space for more injured in them.

    Accepting the escalation of violence, Hamas and other Palestinian organizations have announced that they ordered their members to retaliate Israel's attack. "All our fighters are ordered to answer back to the Israeli massacre," reads Jihad's announcement, which carries identical positions with those of Hamas and other Palestinian organizations.

    Hamas members have launched a missile attack against Israel a few hours after the Israeli raid against Gaza. One of the missiles killed an Israeli civilian in Netivot, southern Israel. Egypt has deployed troops along its border with the Gaza Strip, opening in parallel the Rafah passing to allow medical services to receive wounded Palestinians. Six ambulances were sent to the passing.

    The President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack and started a new round of talks with many countries in order to find a way to stop Israel's raids. Meanwhile, Israel has stated it is ready to extend its military attacks against the Gaza Strip. Defence Minister Ehud Barrack's assistant stated that the operation will continue and extend as along as it is required, depending on the commanders' evaluations.

    On a relative development, the Arab community is reacting strongly with its Interior Ministers announcing an extraordinary meeting due to be held in Cairo.

    Arab Countries Reactions

    The Islamic Conference Organisation issued a harsh announcement, stressing that the last Israeli massacre constitutes a crime of war, reflecting Israel's low appreciation to international laws and the Fourth Geneva Convention for the protection of civilians during war time.

    Iran, from its side, denounced the Israeli attacks, calling on the international community in joint action. From its side Jordan has asked an extraordinary meeting among the Arab Foreign Ministers to be held, while Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi communicated with other Arab leaders, so as a firm and serious stand is adopted against Israeli aggression.

    Morocco has denounced Israel's attacks, demanding immediate ceasefire and the continuation of dialogue between the parties involved in the crisis. It also spoke of disproportional use of violence and tragic escalation of violence.

    At the same time, many humanitarian organizations have called all involved parties on the Palestinian issue to avoid a full military dispute, as such a development could prove disastrous for Gaza.

    Amid anti-Israeli protests, the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah criticized the "complicity" of some Arab countries with Israel.

    The multi-fatality attacks have caused the international community's reaction.

    International Reactions

    The multi-fatality attacks have caused the international community's reactions. Deeply concerned, the UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon asked the immediate end of violence and Israel's compliance with the international humanitarian law. In parallel, a UN spokesman stated that the UN Secretary General is in contact with Middle East leaders and the Quartet, so that hostilities end immediately. The USA has exerted pressure on Israel to be careful with civilians during its attacks, warning in parallel Hamas to end its missile attacks so that violence stops.

    The EU French Presidency has expressed its deepest concern over the escalation of violence in the region, while Russia called on Israel to stop its operation against Gaza, demanding from Islamic Hamas to stop launching attacks with missiles against Israel.

    Britain has expressed its deepest concern, advising the biggest restraint possible.

    Reactions in Greece

    In Greece, PASOK President and President of Socialist International George Papandreou denounced Israel's attacks, asking for immediate cease fire in the Gaza Strip. He also called on the international community to make every possible effort to diffuse the crisis and promote a dialogue on peace.

    Amongst others he stresses that these actions, as well as the military operations are promoting a vicious circle of blind violence and blood in the Middle East, dissipating the few hopes for a peaceful and viable solution on the basis of the UN resolutions and the peaceful co-existence of twostates.

    KKE (Communist Party of Greece) issued an announcement speaking of a mass crime against the Palestinians, calling the Greek people to express its solidarity to the Palestinians. SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) has announced that it will hold a rally before the Israeli Embassy at 18:00, Monday, calling on the government to react with all its means in order to stop the bloodshed.

    News item: 17152

    [147] Missile Attack in Gaza

    Israel's air force fired about 30 missiles at targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, destroying several Hamas police compounds and killing more than 140 people, medical officials and witnesses said. The Israeli military confirmed it had conducted strikes, saying they targeted "terrorist infrastructure" and pledging to continue and expand attacks if necessary.

    Thick black smoke billowed over Gaza city, where the port and security installations of the Islamist Hamas group were badly damaged. Television footage showed dead bodies scattered on the ground and wounded and dead being carried away by distraught rescuers.Uniformed bodies lay in a pile and the wounded writhed in pain. Rescuers carried those showing signs of life to cars and ambulances, while others tried to revive the unconscious, television pictures showed. An aide to Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the military was prepared to step up the assault if necessary. "The operation will be pursued and widened as required and subject to (commanders') assessments," the aide told Reuters. "We are facing a period that will not be simple or easy."

    Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the Israeli air attack in Gaza. Police chief Tawfiq Jabber was among the dead, Hamas' radio station reported.

    Hamas and other Palestinian organizations announced today that they gave orders to their members to answer to the Israeli air attack in Gaza strip.

    "We order all our fighters to answer to the Israeli slaughter, Tzihad announcement stresses.

    News item: 17148

    [148] British Troops Withdraw from Iraq

    According to mutual announcement released by the British and Iraqi Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Minister Nuri al-Maliki British troopers will withdraw from Iraq by the end of July 2009. Brown arrived in Baghdad, Tuesday, a day after the Iraqi cabinet drafted a law paving the way for British forces to withdraw more than six years after the U.S. invasion.

    Britain has sent 4.100 troopers in the southern region around the city of Basrand Iraq's main oil fields and oil ports, for which it was responsible and was ready to provide military help in case of emergency.

    Brown's fourth trip to Iraq as prime minister came three days after the visit by U.S. President George W. Bush.

    News item: 16810

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