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Macedonian Press Agency: News in English, 03-04-23
From: The Macedonian Press Agency at http://www.mpa.gr and http://www.hri.org/MPA.
 JUDICIAL INVESTIGATIONAthens, 23 April 2003 (09:08 UTC+2)
Prime Minister Costas Simitis moved to more refutations of scenarios concerning early elections, from Helsinki, while attributing the claims that PASOK officials were financed by private parties, to conflicting business interests. Mr. Protopapas appeared determined yesterday to take the publisher of the Avriani newspaper, Mr. Kouris, to court, concerning the allegations published therein, and will ask for damages, stating that the more the publisher insists, the worse he is making his own position. The publisher called him to resign, stating that he will continue. ALTEC denies having funded Mr. Protopapas. ND has asked for an investigative committee
 NO PRICE INCREASE TO EASTER MENUAthens, 23 April 2003 (09:08 UTC+2)
Minister of Development Akis Tsochatzopoulos was satisfied with the range of market prices, after his visit to the central Athens market. Checks on the market are intensifying, while there are special open hours for the holidays. KEPKA has warned consumers to check for quality.
 GARGANAS ASKS FOR HIGHER RETIREMENT AGEAthens, 23 April 2003 (09:08 UTC+2)
The Governor of the Bank of Greece, Nikolaos Garganas placed himself in favor of raising the age limits for retirement, while he supported that the measures must be undertaken in time, although he is not sure if they will be. Dep. Minister of Labor R. Spyropoulos refuted scenarios mentioning changes in insurance. Mr. Garganas underlined the need to carry out structural changes in the economy at a faster pace.
 GREECE IS KEEPING ITS WORD IN THE BALKANSThessaloniki, 23 April 2003 (09:09 UTC+2)
The Greek Plan for the Financial Reconstruction of the Balkans is in full effect and there is no reason to worry, assured dep. Foreign Minister A. Loverdos, in an interview he gave to www.mpa.gr, which was transmitted live over the Internet. Greece is moving to the materialization of a 550 million euro program by 2006, for the promotion and development of the Balkans, he said characteristically.
 INFORMAL EU FOREIGN MINISTERS COUNCIL AT KASTELLORIZOAthens, 23 April 2003 (19:20 UTC+2)
The four-nations meeting on April 29 on the European Union common defence and external policy will definitely dominate the informal Foreign Ministers Council on May 2-4 at the Greek Aegean island of Kastellorizo, after the statement Greek Prime Minister and European Council President Kostas Simitis made on Monday, that the Greek EU Presidency has not participated neither will attend as an observer at the meeting of the four-nations on April 29.
It is expected that the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg will brief their counterparts, including the Greek EU Presidency, regarding the outcome of their meeting in Luxembourg where they will examine the potential for an autonomous European defence and required steps in that direction.
The situation in post-war Iraq and an enhanced role for the United Nations, the latter being an issue still met with considerable US opposition, are issues that the Greek presidency will raise at the informal Ministers Council in May. The stance to be adopted by UN Security Council members France, UK (permanent members), Germany and Spain (not permanent members) on the issue is anticipated with particular interest.
A third item on the Greek EU Presidency agenda will be the EU-US relations, which were recently injured by the war in Iraq. British Foreign Minister Jack Straw's approach on the issue will be decisive, since the UK always aspired to play a bridging role between Washington and Brussels.
The European ministers at Kastellorizo will also focus on the progress made with the works of the Convention for the Future of Europe, in the light of the outcome of dual presidency discussions (one president for the European Commission and a second for the European Council), a proposal supported by Europe's large states, but met with opposition by the smaller partners. The Greek EU Presidency has declined to take a stance on the issue.
Finally, the 25 ministers will make the short boat-trip to Kas on the Turkish coast across from Kastellorizo, an initiative of the Greek EU Presidency taken with the consent of Ankara. Greek Foreign Ministry sources believe that on a symbolical level, the visit to Kas will assist in convincing the EU partners that both Greece and Turkey indeed have the political will to overcome their differences.
After the conclusion of the Thessaloniki Summit on June 21, Prime Minister Simitis will travel to Washington on June 25 in his capacity as the EU President for a scheduled meeting with US President George Bush.
The Greek EU Presidency is aiming at a redefinition of the transatlantic relations, intended to improve them and heal the wounds. Mr. Simitis has said that his discussions in the US will also involve issues concerning the weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), the fight against terrorism, trade issues and the protection of personal data on both sides of the Atlantic.
 BEGLITIS' COMMENTS ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF AN ISLAMIC CENTER IN ATHENSAthens, 23 April 2003 (19:17 UTC+2)
The Greek side has no responsibility, whatsoever, for the delay in the creation of an Islamic Center in Athens, stressed Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis commenting on The New York Times report concerning the lack of a place of prayer for the Muslims in the Greek capital.
Mr. Beglitis stated that the negotiations with the Arab Committee (made up by the ambassadors of the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Lebanon to Athens) for the creation of an Islamic Center in Athens was completed last October.
The text that was approved by all the participants was sent to Riyadh for final approval as the construction of the project will be funded by the King Fahd Foundation.
However, Mr. Beglitis said that Riyadh has not responded yet, even though a period of six months has passed, and in spite of the repeated calls of the Greek side to the head of the Arab negotiating team, the Palestinian Authority ambassador to Athens.
 PAPANDREOU'S TELEPHONE COMMUNICATIONS ON THE MIDDLE EASTAthens, 23 April 2003 (18:34 UTC+2)
Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Papandreou had telephone communications last night with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Syrian Foreign Minister Faruk El Sara and Palestinian International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath.
Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis stated today that Mr. Papandreou's contacts are placed within the framework of the initiatives undertaken by the EU on the Middle East for the resumption of the peace process in the region and the materialization of the road map.
Mr. Papandreou underlined the need for the immediate presentation and materialization of the road map, based on the EU decisions, as well as the completion of the procedures aimed at forming a Palestinian Authority cabinet under Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
 BIG GAINS IN THE ASEAthens, 23 April 2003 (17:51 UTC+2)
Big gains were recorded in the Athens Stock Exchange today. The general index rose to +1.97% at 1.673,50 points, while the volume of transactions was satisfactory at 112.8 million euros.
Of the stocks trading today, 260 recorded gains and 61 had losses, while the value of 54 stocks remained unchanged.
 KAKLAMANIS-HINCHEY MEETINGAthens, 23 April 2003 (17:42 UTC+2)
Greek Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis met in Athens today with US Senator Maurice Hinchey and expressed the friendly feelings the Greek people have for the American people.
Mr. Kaklamanis stated that those feelings should not be confused with the fact that the Greek citizens express their opinion and criticism freely when they disagree with the acts or policies of the US leadership.
In the meeting they exchanged views on Cyprus, its accession into the EU, the efforts for the solution of the Cyprus problem, the developments in the region, the war in Iraq and the common values shared by the Greek and the American people.
Mr. Hinchey thanked Mr. Kaklamanis for the meaningful discussion they had on important issues like the Cyprus problem and the course of the EU on which they shared the same views. He also stressed that he hopes that the US and the EU will cooperate closely for peace, security and democracy in the world. He also stated that he is happy for Cyprus' EU accession and added that the fact that the Cyprus problem remains unsolved constitutes an obstacle for Turkey's EU accession.
 THE TRADE BALANCE DEFICIT GREW BY 7.5% IN JANUARYAthens, 23 April 2003 (17:06 UTC+2)
The trade balance deficit grew by 7.5% in January 2003 reaching 1.8 billion euros compared to the same month last year when it was at 1.675 billion euros.
According to the Greek National Statistics Agency, the value of imports increased by 4.9% in January, while the increase recorded in the value of the Greek exports barely reached 0.2%.
 A TOTAL OF 38.000 BULLETS FOUNDIoannina, 23 April 2003 (17:04 UTC+2)
Cast-iron boxes with a total of 38.000 bullets were discovered by Greek border guards while patrolling at the forest region of "Panagia" at Pirsoyianni in the prefecture of Ioannina, northwestern Greece, near the Greek-Albanian borders.
The 7.62mm calibre bullets were placed in 54 cast-iron boxes hidden in two different places by Albanians, who brought them to Greece to be received by their associates.
 THE FORMER KING OF GREECE WILL SPEND EASTER IN IOANNINAThessaloniki, 23 April 2003 (17:02 UTC+2)
The former King of Greece, Konstantinos, his wife Anna Maria and two of their children left for the northwestern city of Ioannina by car, where they will spend the Easter holidays. They departed for Ioannina soon after their arrival at the airport of Thessaloniki today.
According to information, they are likely to make certain stops along the way for the members of royalist organizations to have the opportunity to hold special events to welcome them. They are scheduled to leave Greece on Tuesday, April 29 via Thessaloniki.
At the airport of Thessaloniki they were welcomed by a small group of royalists and in a short discussion the former King had with reporters wished happy Easter.
Responding to the question if they had any problem with their passports, he said that they did not and that they used the surname De Grecia. The former King, his wife Anna Maria and his sons, Pavlos and Nikolaos, boarded a jeep with the former King at the driver's seat and they followed another jeep with their bodyguards.
 SIMITIS-RASMUSSEN MEETINGCopenhagen, 23 April 2003 (18:13 UTC+2)
The debate on the future of Europe and the institutional changes within the framework of the EU were the main issues discussed in Copenhagen today by Greek Prime Minister and European Council President Kostas Simitis and his Danish counterpart Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Mr. Simitis stated that the opening of the inter-governmental conference in the fall will be announced during the Thessaloniki Summit in June for the state parliaments to have the necessary time to study the changes. The new treaty will be signed after May 1, 2004 for the new member states to be able to participate.
They also discussed the crisis in Iraq and the Greek Prime Minister pointed out that the exact role of the UN in the post-war Iraq will be determined through consultations that will take place in the following period.
Mr. Simitis also referred to the US-EU summit meeting to take place in Washington in June, while on the role of the EU he said that if it wants to have a strong presence in the international scene it should develop its defense capability. Within this framework, the proposals to be made by France, Germany and Belgium in the April 29 meeting will be presented in the next EU General Affairs Council.
 SIMITIS-PERSON MEETINGStockholm, 23 April 2003 (12:43 UTC+2)
The issues to be discussed at the Thessaloniki European Council Summit were the main points of discussion at the meeting between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his Swedish counterpart, Goran Person, in Stockholm, the third stop of Mr. Simitis' tour of European countries.
Regarding the proposal of the President of the Convention for the Future of Europe for the abolition of the rotating Presidency, the Prime Minister stressed that Greece's opinion is that an alternate solution should be found and that there should be a rotating Presidency, with a longer tenure for the President of the European Council.
In response to a question on whether Turkey's negative position on the Cyprus issue will affect its course towards the EU and Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Simitis underlined that Turkey must very carefully look into its policies regarding Cyprus, because if it wishes to become an EU member-state, we must not have the same problems as we do at the present.
The Cyprus issue must be resolved and for that reason a solution must be found prior to May 1, 2004, he stressed, while adding that on Greek-Turkish relations, an agreement must be reached so that International Law can be applied in the existing disagreement in the Aegean.
Mr. Simitis characterized his discussions with the Swedish Prime Minister as very friendly, during which he presented the agenda of the Thessaloniki Summit. The agenda will include the presentation of Valery Giscard D' Estaing's plan, the new Constitution of the European Union, which is being discussed by the Convention at the present, and a decision has to be reached on how to continue discussion in the Intergovernmental Conference.
Concerning the seat of the European Food Safety Authority and whether it can be placed in Sweden, Mr. Simitis agreed with Mr. Person's position that it should not be given as a present to one country, but should be placed in the one meeting all the necessary requirements, so that it can serve the EU as best as possible. Mr. Simitis stated that if a compromise is reached among the Finnish, the Italians and the European Commission, the issue will be brought to the Thessaloniki Summit.