Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos received Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafik Hariri at noon today. Mr.Hariri is on a formal visit to Greece and the talks of the two men focused on issues of bilateral cooperation and the Middle East problem.
Earlier, mr.Hariri had separate meetings with the leaders of the opposition.
Greece's Prime Minister has announced that a meeting will be held between the Greek and Turkish "wisemen" committees.
In an interview given to the British daily "Financial Times", Mr. Simitis stated that the two committees will meet in order to "settle procedural matters and are not to be limited to exhanging documents. "
Mr. Simitis did not rule out the possibility that Greece may exercise its veto power over the European Union's expansion and the accession of central and eastern European countries into the Community, should Cyprus be excluded from this process.
Moreover, the Greek Premier rejected the Turkish threats of interrupting the direct talks (held between the President of Cyprus Glafkos Clerides and the leader of the Turkish-Cypriots Rauf Denktash) if the EU proceeds to negotiations for Cyprus' accession, as well as Ankara's threats of annexing the island's occupied part.
"The accession negotiations," Mr. Simitis stated, "need to continue concurrently with the efforts of reuniting the island.
"I hope that it will not be necessary for Greece to exercise its veto power in regards to the accession of other European countries, since the lengthy process of accession will provide ample time for reaching a solution to the Cyprus issue."
Moreover, the Greek Premier warned that if other EU member- states attempt to block Cyprus' participation and accession with the claim that 'a solution must be found for the Cyprus issue first', then Greece will employ all the means it has to its avail through the EU, in order to achieve that which it deems is fair and just. "
Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Simitis stated that Greece is to maintain its stability in issues concerning its differences with Turkey, the Cyprus issue and anything that regards the Aegean, and plans to abide by the Madrid communique's provisions that concern the elimination of using force or the threat thereof.
Also, Mr. Simitis stressed that Turkey must withdraw its claims over Greek territory in the Aegean, or at least should submit them to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, before a direct dialogue begins between the two countries on other matters. A.F.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, currently on a formal visit to Greece, held separate meetings today with the country's opposition party leaders.
Secretary-General of the Communist Party of Greece, Aleka Paparega, stated that the Greek government has a duty to fight for and support the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon and to see for the application of the agreements signed over the Palestinian issue.
The leader of the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) Nikos Konstantopoulos stressed the key role that Greece can play in the Middle East peace process.
"What Synaspismos is interested in is to promote the initiatives that support Euro-Mediterranean cooperation since Greece is the Middle East's vital link to the European Union," Mr. Konstantopoulos said.
The President of the Democratic Social Movement (DIKKI) Dimitris Tsovolas stated that Mr. Hariri's visit to Greece is very constructive for strengthening ties between Greece and Lebanon.
The President of Political Spring Antonis Samaras stated that "we are not in favor of the unilateral withdrawal of one nation's military forces, but, rather we support the overall removal of troops from the region," he stated. A.F.
Main opposition party of New Democracy leader Kostas Karamanlis, who is touring the regions along the Greek-Albanian borders, stated from the village of Dipotamia in the prefecture of Kastoria, that the situation there is unacceptable as a result of the numerous incidents of armed attacks by Albanian gungs.
Mr.Karamanlis met with the prefect of Kastoria and with the commander of the Greek armed forces stationed along the borders, who briefed him on the current situation. The New Democracy leader in the statements he made called on the government to tighten the measures for the guarding of the borders.
June was a very productive month for Greek tourism, as according to data provided by the National Statistics Agency, the overnight stays of tourists in Greece showed an increase of 10,93% compared to the same period last year, while there was also an increase of 10,35% in the arrivals of foreign visitors.
Specifically, in the previous month the overnight stays in hotels were over 2 million and on the average the bookings covered 75,33% of their total capacity compared to 67,91% in June of 1996.
The increase observed in arrivals was not limited just to the previous month, as in the period of April through June there was also an increase of 9,65%.
A loan agreement for the construction of a bridge that will link the town of Rio, at the northern Peloponnese coast with the town of Antirio, on the other side of the Bay of Korinth in the mainland, will be signed later in the day in a special ceremony in Athens.
The sum approved by the European Bank of Investments for the construction of this ambitious project is 115 billion drachmas.
The Presidents of the Pan-Macedonian Associations of the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe, in a press conference after the conclusion of the 7th World Conference held in Thessaloniki, announced the establishment of the World Pan- Macedonian Association that will coordinate the activities of the Greeks living abroad.
The World Pan-Macedonian Association's Presiding Board will be made up of the Presidents of the Pan-Macedonian Associations with the potential to expand to include other pan-macedonian associations.
With a formal ceremony at the Presidential Mansion, the 23rd anniversary since the restoration of democracy in Greece was celebrated last evening.
The President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos stressed that the country must continuously exert efforts to form an ideal democracy, even if, as he stated, the recent years represent the best period in the country's political history.
Referring to the Cyprus issue, President Stephanopoulos stated that "the intervention and the initiatives that have been undertaken for resolving the Cyprus issue do not leave a lot of room for optimism given the stance adopted by Turkey." A.F.
The pioneering steps the Macedonian Press Agency has been undertaking during the recent years have been warmly saluted by the delegates of the Thessaloniki-held Pan-Macedonian Associations conference, who have characterised the Thessaloniki-based news agency as the "umbilical cord that links Greeks living abroad with the Motherland."
The President of the Pan-Macedonian Federation of the US stressed the leading role the Agency has played in employing the latest technological advances in order to optimally staff and outfit its facilities and become on of the best news agencies in the world.
The President of the Pan-Macedonian Associations of Europe stated that "the Macedonian Press Agency's work is known. With the MPA we have established the name 'Macedonia' internationally," he added.
The MPA is currently holding the six-month rotating presidency of the Association of Balkan News Agencies. In the imminent future the new president of ABNA Spyros Kouzinopoulos will meet with the Foreign Ministers of the Balkan countries in order to achieve wider support for the initiatives it is undertaking in establishing cooperation in the Balkan region, especially in the sector of news exchange. A.F.
After local residents forced it to close its doors after one year of operation, the Canadian gold-mining company TVX-Hellas is once again confronted with intense reaction to the drilling operation it has embarked upon in search of an alternate gold mining location nearby.
It all started last year when local residents, backed by the Coordinating Committee of the Communities of the Strymonic Gulf, the area of the Halkidiki peninsula where TVX had established its plant, pressed on with their opposition to the gold-mining process in their area, claiming environmental protection concerns.
The locals managed to cause TVX Hellas monetary losses anmounting to 2,5 billion drachmas and inevitably led to the plant's closure, mostly by blocking access roads to the plant's employees, undaunted by the stern warning issued by Greece's Development Ministry which had not only granted its permission to TVX Hellas to proceed with gold mining in the area, but had also clearly stated that the Canadian-based company constituted Greece's largest investment for the past 20 years.
According to TVX Hellas reports, the local environmentalists have now turned "vigilante" by physically attacking TVX's employees.
Specifically, TVX Hellas reported that a group of individuals from the city of Olympiada confronted the company's chief geologist Rodrigo Stefoni, hit him on the head and forced him to leave. Mr. Stefoni was hospitalized at the Polygyros Medical Center. Also, according to TVX officials, the group of locals immobilized two other employees in their cars, Christos Kirides and Rusell Tremayne, and tried to overturn their vehicles. A.F.
The Municipality of Alexandroupolis will be granted with one billion, forty-seven million drachmas from the European Union's programme "International City of Networks" which was recently approved by the European Commission for the second phase of the Civic Pilot Prgrammes.
This programme, which is to be funded 75% by the European Fund of Regional Development and 25% by the municipality, has been rated as the top one among a total of forty which Greece has proposed. A.F.
The new Albanian government, headed by Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano, was sworn-in today before the new President Redzep Meidani.
The new government is made up of 21 ministers of whom 13 come from the Socialist Party, 3 from the Democratic Alliance, 2 from the Social-Democrats and one from the Union of Human Rights, while there is also one independent and a member of the Agrarian Party.
Former caretaker Prime Minister Baskim Fino was sworn-in as government vice-President, while Paskal Milo, the vice-President of the Social-Democratic Party is the new Foreign Minister and Minister of Defense is Sabid Brokay, a close associate of Prime Minister Nano. The Democratic Alliance Party leader Neritan Tseka is the Minister of Public Order.
Albania's new Premier is the Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano, who was appointed to the premiership by the country's new president Rejep Meidani.
Mr. Nano has stated that he will form a coalition government, comprising five parties, in order to restore law and order in the country. A.F.
Three people were killed and 16 were injured in a powerful bomb blast that occured this morning in an apartment building in the region of Peskopi, south-east of the capital Tirana.
Authorities speculate that the number of victims may rise.
Albania's new Foreign Minister Paskal Milo comes from the village of Paliasa in Himara. He studied Journalism and History in the University of Tirana and for a number of years he worked as a journalist in the newspaper "Zeri i Populit" specializing on international issues.
In the past few years, he taught Balkan History in the University of Tirana, while last December he attended the Inter- Balkan Symposium organized by MPA for the 60th Anniversary of the deaths of Eleftherios Venizelos and Alexandros Papanastasiou and supported the prospect of Inter-Balkan cooperation.
He wrote a number of university books and a report on the Albanian-Serb relations in the start of the century.
Mr.Milo is one of the founders of the Social-Democratic party and its vice-President. He was elected Parliament deputy in 1991 and was the Education Ministry General Secretary in the government of 1991. He is married and has three children.
Following an extensive, stable and unisom effort, Bulgaria can become a member of the Euroepan Union, according to the Greek Euro-deputy Nikos Papakyriazis, who is also president of the European Parliament's committee on EU-Bulgaria relations. During today's completion of the session held by the joint parliamentary committee of the European and Bulgarian parliaments. Mr. Papakyriazis stated that the European Parliament's basic premise is that all of eastern Europe's countries which have submitted a request for accession to the EU should be dealt with on an equal basis, with the same criteria and a common starting point, while he also characterized the issue as an open one, reminding that the final decision concerning the EU's expansion will be taken at the Luxembourg Summit with the agreement of the European Parliament.
Moreover, Mr. Papakyriazis stated that Greece has a great ability to support and aid Bulgaria's course to the EU and noted that both countries share common interests and responsibilities.
Lastly, the Greek Euro-deputy stated that he is aware of the serious economic, developmental and institutional hurdles noted in the Bulgarian economy which, he stated, can be addressed through the help of the EU. Mr. Papakyriazis stressed that Bulgaria is not facing problems concerning its democratic stability. A.F.
The United States General Consulate in Thessaloniki has announced the arrival of its new Consul-General, Paul Stephenson and Consul, Thomas Daughton.
Mr. Stephenson, a career diplomat for 15 years, is succeeding Ms. Myriam Hughes who has returned to Washington after having served as Consul-General in Thessaloniki for the past three years.
The new Consul-General has served in Washington, Taiwan, Hong- Kong and China, in economic, political and consulate posts. Recently, Mr. Stephenson headed the US General Consulate's visa department in Hong-Kong and prior to that post he served as assistant Consul-General in Sen-Yung, China. Mr. Stephenson is from New Mexico. He studied at the Indian Institute of Technology in Canpur, India and majored in history at the University of New Mexico. He holds a master's degree from the University of Washington and is a graduate of the US Military Academy. He is married to Asuba Wong and they have two children.
Mr. Daughton, the new Consul assigned to Thessaloniki, is replacing David Shuller who returned to Washington after a three- and-a-half year stay in Greece.
The new Consul, Mr. Daughton, is a career diplomat who has served in Washington, Marocco and Jamaica. He headed the State Department's US-Philippines relations office. Prior to embarking on his political career, Mr. Daughton practiced law in New York.
Mr. Daughton was born in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts and holds a law degree from the University of Virginia, School of Law. He is single. A.F.
A rescue operation is currently underway on Mt. Olympus for an American male who, after having climbed to a height of 2,100 meters, became ill and was unable to descend.
Thirty-two-year-old William Sean, a nurse from Illinois, suffered an attack of sickle-cell anemia as he was inside the mountain's "Spilios Agapitios" refuge.
Three helicopters flew into the region yesterday but were unable to land due to adverse weather conditons, while another unsuccessful attempt was made today.
Last night, Greek mountain climbers and physicians spent the night with Sean at the refuge and provided him with medical aid.
Military commandoes are currently climbing Mt. Olympus in order to carry the patient to a near-by village where an ambulance is on stand-by for his transport to the nearest hospital. A.F.
Forty five children from Serbia arrived in the municipality of Kalamaria today and for the next month they will stay with the same families with which they had stayed for 7 months in the period of December 1995 to June 1996.
The decision to materialize this new programme was taken after requests made by those families to the City Council of Kalamaria.
The Greek-Cypriot side regards as imperative its participation in the second round of the direct talks in Switzerland, stated Cypriot government spokesman Manolis Christofides, who stressed that the only solution to the Cyprus problem is a two-community, two-zone federation. Mr.Christofides also stressed that the federation solution is backed by the United States, Britain and Europe.
Referring to the recent Turkish threats and blackmail on the annexation of the Turkish occupied northern part of Cyprus in case the island becomes an EU member, mr.Christofides stated they are characterized by a "sultan syndrome", just like in the period of the Ottoman Empire and pointed out that those times have passed.
Mr.Christofides reiterated that Cyprus' accession into the EU will serve the interests of all Cypriots and called on the Turkish- Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to make decisions not on the basis of how he will serve Turkey's interests but on how he will serve the interests of the Cypriot people as a whole.
The President of the Serbian Parliament, Dragan Tomic, who since Wednesday is also serving as caretaker President of Serbia, announced today that presidential and parliamentary elections are to be held in the country on September 21.
The Socialist Party's candidate at the presidential elections will be Zoran Lilic, an announcement made after the party held its central committee session today.
The Serbian state's decision to hold presidential elections was expedited by the election of Slobodan Milosevic to the presidential post of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Milosevic, who served as Serbia's President until July 23, had to resign since the Republic's constitution does not allow the President to hold two posts simultaneously. A.F.