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Macedonian Press Agency: News in English, 03-12-15
From: The Macedonian Press Agency at http://www.mpa.gr and http://www.hri.org/MPA.
 PAPANDREOU-PROTOPAPAS ON SADDAM'S CAPTUREAthens, 15 December 2003 (11:33 UTC+2)
His wish that this day and this event will be the final page in a dramatic chapter for the Iraqi people and that it will contribute to the consolidation of security and the acceleration of the procedure of political reconstruction and stability and the transfer of power to the Iraqi people, was expressed by Foreign Minister Giorgos Papandreou, commenting on the capture of Saddam Hussein by the US forces in Iraq.
The Iraqi people must, with the aid of the international community and the active participation of the UN, soon take the fortune of their country into their hands, and work in conditions of peace and reconciliation for its own progress and prosperity, concluded the Foreign Minister.
It is now time to strengthen the developments for the restoration of democracy and self-determination of the Iraqi people, stated Government Spokesperson Christos Protopapas, on Saddam's capture, which, as he added, marks the end to a story that has tormented the Iraqi people and the whole world.
 SIMITIS ON EUROARMY AND CYPRUSParis, 15 December 2003 (11:32 UTC+2)
The issue of the elections being carried out in occupied Cyprus was also referred to by Prime Minister Costas Simitis during the press conference he held in the break of the Brussels Summit on the European Constitution.
In response to a question on Sunday's electoral procedure in the occupied territories, Mr. Simitis expressed his hope for a change in the political situation, so that, as he stressed, developments are facilitated and a solution can be reached by May 2004.
I hope that there is consent and that they do not insist on extreme positions, said the Prime Minister. Regarding the issue of the Euroarmy, on which a compromise has been reached at the Summit, Mr. Simitis stressed that Greece is fully satisfied by the agreement reached within the EU.
Prior to the beginning of the discussions on the joint European Constitution, the EU Summit approved the European initiative for development, which foresees mass investment in infrastructure and research, in order to strengthen the competitiveness of the European economy.
The priority list includes railway tunnels in the Alps, high speed railway networks, interborder natural gas and electricity networks, and investments in the hydrogen economy and laser technology.
 THE EQUITY OF IRONYAthens, 15 December 2003 (14:09 UTC+2)
No legal right will be used by Dimitris Koufontinas, as it would be ironic to do so, stated his attorney Ioanna Kourtovic, while she expressed the view that the proposal of DA Christos Lambrou on the sentences had a political rationale and that the defendants were tried as political criminals. Defense attorney of the Xeros' brothers, Fragiskos Ragousis, said that Savvas Xeros does not have ability to defend himself, as he did not testify in reference to the serious penal violations that took place during hearings. Mr. Ragousis pointed out that Chr. Xeros asked for no leniency, while he encouraged the judges to use all their severity. Equity was asked for V. Xeros and V. Georgiadis.
 THE MEETINGS OF THE SYRIAN PRESIDENT IN ATHENSAthens, 15 December 2003 (20:06 UTC+2)
The developments in the Middle East were the subject of the talks held in Athens today between Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who is on a four-day visit to Greece.
Particularly, they discussed Syria's proposal for the elimination of the weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
The Syrian President stated that Greece is the gate to Europe for all the countries in the Middle East, while he characterized as fair and objective Greece's positions concerning the region.
Mr. Stephanopoulos and Mr. al-Assad also discussed issues concerning bilateral relations in the sectors of economic cooperation, tourism and transportation.
Earlier, the Syrian President had laid a wreath at the Unknown Soldier Monument and then he had a meeting with Greek Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis.
In the meeting with Mr. Kakalmanis the issues discussed were the developments in the Middle East, especially after the arrest of Saddam Hussein, and bilateral relations.
Mr. Kaklamanis stated that the restoration of stability and security in the region presupposes the solution of problems such as, the Palestinian problem, while he also stressed that the UN has to return to its role as it is defined in its charter.
The Syrian President briefed Mr. Kaklamanis on his country's positions against international terrorism expressing the view that with Saddam Hussein's arrest it will be proved that he had nothing to do with the Iraqi resistance.
Responding to a question by a reporter, if he believes that Syria could be the next US target after Iraq, the Syrian President stated that Syria is not Iraq, adding that his country has relations with all the countries in the world. He stated that Syria plays an active role in international politics, especially in the efforts against international terrorism, and has good relations with the EU, therefore, there are no similarities with Iraq.
 THE GOV'T SPOKESMAN ON THE ELECTIONS IN THE OCCUPIED PART OF CYPRUSAthens, 15 December 2003 (19:07 UTC+2)
Greek government spokesman Christos Protopapas stated that the Greek government has expressed satisfaction for the election results in the Turkish occupied northern Cyprus which, in spite of the adverse conditions that dominated, send out a message of disapproval toward the policy followed by the Turkish side and also, a message of disapproval toward the policy followed by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Mr. Protopapas stated that it is a message of peace and reconciliation and a message that underlines the necessity of initiatives that will lead to the reunification of the island.
The government spokesman stated that based on the election outcome, Turkey can now undertake the necessary initiatives by changing its policy for negotiations to get underway based on the Annan Plan for a solution to be found in Cyprus based on the UN resolutions.
 SIMITIS' TELEGRAM TO BUSH ON SADDAM'S ARRESTAthens, 15 December 2003 (18:45 UTC+2)
Greek government spokesman Christos Protopapas stated that the chapter of conflict in Iraq closes with the arrest of Saddam Hussein, adding that procedures can now accelerate for the normalization of the situation, the reconstruction of the country and the return of power to the Iraqi people.
Mr. Protopapas also stated that Prime Minister Kostas Simitis has already sent a telegram to US President George Bush on the issue.
 INFLATION AT 3.3% IN SEPTEMBERAthens, 15 December 2003 (17:43 UTC+2)
Inflation in September remained stable at 3.3% at an annual basis, as it was announced today after a two-month delay due to the strike of the National Statistics Agency employees.
The fact that inflationary pressures were maintained at August's level is attributed, among others, to the price hikes in certain fruit and vegetables and the increases in the cost of services.
According to information, December's inflation will be announced on January 9, 2004. However, the average inflation for 2003 will be announced in early February 2004 and speculations on October and November 2003 will be ready by then as well.
 LOSSES IN THE ASEAthens, 15 December 2003 (17:07 UTC+2)
Losses were recorded in the Athens Stock Exchange today. The general index dropped to -0.32% at 2.201,76 points, while the volume of transactions was at 186.9 million euro.
Of the stocks trading today, 232 recorded losses and 78 had gains, while the value of 72 stocks remained unchanged.
 PROPOSALS FOR THE COOPERATION OF THE BALKAN CITIESThessaloniki, 15 December 2003 (17:01 UTC+2)
A package of proposals that contributes to the creation of closer relations among the Balkan cities in 2004 was decided in today's meeting of the Balkan Cities Network Executive Secretariat held in Thessaloniki.
In the meeting participated Thessaloniki Mayor Vasilis Papageorgopoulos, Mayor of Sofia Stefan Sofianski, Skopje Mayor Pisto Penov and Piraeus City Council President Konstantinos Gaveras.
The package includes the exploitation of European programs, the exploitation of the Greek Plan for the Reconstruction of the Balkans at city level, and the forging of relations at cultural level.
Mr. Papageorgopoulos issued an appeal to the mayors of all the major Balkan cities to be in Thessaloniki on August 11 on the occasion of the opening of the Olympic football tournament.
Also, all the Balkan cities will unite their forces for an international university to open in Thessaloniki, while in 2004 a Newsletter will be issued every four months to present the network's activities, its bodies, decisions and initiatives. Also, the network will have its own website on the Internet.
 SYRIAN PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO GREECEAthens, 15 December 2003 (14:54 UTC+2)
The Palestinian crisis and developments in the Middle East were the main points of discussion between President of the Republic Costis Stefanopoulos and his Syrian counterpart Basar Al Assad, who is carrying out a four-day visit to Greece, during which he will sign the Olympic Truce.
Mr. Assad arrived at the El. Venizelos airport in Athens yesterday, where he was greeted by Foreign Minister Giorgos Papandreou. At 11:45 he laid a wreath at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier and then met with President of the Parliament Apostolos Kaklamanlis who then presented the Syrian President with the Gold Medal of the Greek Parliament. Mr. Assad will now participate in the Opening Meeting of the Greece-Syria Business Council.
Tonight, the Syrian President will attend a dinner in his honor held by the President of the Republic.
Tomorrow morning Mr. Assad will meet with the Secretary General of the Greek Communist Party, Aleka Papariga, and the President of the Coalition of the Left, Nikos Constantopoulos. After his meeting he will then go to the Foreign Ministry, where at 12 noon, he will sign the Olympic Truce.
At 16:00 he will meet with the President of New Democracy, Costas Karamanlis, and then go to the Athens City Hall, where he will meet with Mayor Dora Bakoyanni, who will award him with the Golden Medal of the city.
At 20:30 that night, Mr. Assad will have a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis at the Maximos Mansion, to be followed by statements to the press. Mr. Simitis will hold a working dinner for Mr. Assad after the press conference.
Mr. Assad's visit will be completed on Wednesday morning.
 GREECE ON CYPRUS AND IRAQThessaloniki, 15 December 2003 (14:15 UTC+2)
The situation in Iraq will not cool down if the governing of the country is not undertaken by the representatives of the people, appreciated alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Giannitsis today, in an interview to Flash radio.
Mr. Giannitsis characterized the arrest of Saddam Hussein as an important development, however he stressed that Iraq would calm down when things become stable.
Regarding the statements of Foreign Minister Giorgos Papandreou on the issue of succession within PASOK, Mr. Giannitsis stressed that he stated the obvious, while on the Cyprus issue, following yesterday's elections in occupied Cyprus, he said that the key for developments now rests in Ankara's hands.
As far as developments concerning the joint European Constitution are concerned, the alternate Foreign Minister appreciated that if the new effort by the Irish Presidency is not helped to succeed before to the Euro elections in June and after the Spanish elections in May, then Europe will have a problem.
 SIMITIS-BLAIR TALKS ON CYPRUS AND THE DEVELOPMENTS IN EUROPE AND THE MIDDLE EASTLondon, 15 December 2003 (19:28 UTC+2)
Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis and British Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed in their meeting in London the developments in the Middle East after the arrest of Saddam Hussein, the European developments after the EU Summit in Brussels, the elections in the Turkish occupied northern Cyprus and the issue of the return to Greece of the Parthenon Marbles.
On the arrest of Saddam Hussein, the Greek Prime Minister stated that it is a positive development that creates the preconditions for the democratic reorganization of Iraq.
On the EU Summit meeting in Brussels, he stressed that the disagreement on the European Constitution is indicative of the different views in the European countries. However, he underlined the need for Europe to take very specific decisions on the course of the economy, the defense and foreign policy and on the effort to limit inequalities.
On the developments in Cyprus, the Greek Prime Minister commented that the people living in the Turkish occupied territories want the solution of the Cyprus issue and called on Turkey to act toward this direction facilitating, this way, its European course. On his part, the British Prime Minister stated that he is willing to exert pressures for the solution of the problem.
Also, Mr. Simitis proposed to Mr. Blair that Greece and Britain could hold the exhibition of the Parthenon Marbles together and pointed out that Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos will visit London for talks on the issue with his British counterpart.
 ARMY CORE OF THE EUParis, 15 December 2003 (11:32 UTC+2)
The formation of a headquarters for the rapid response force, which will commence operation in the facilities of the NATO headquarters in Belgium, was decided on by the leaders of the EU, which is now making the final efforts to overcome the differences between EU member-states as far as the European Constitution is concerned and the reactions coming mainly from Poland.
Negotiations are harsh, just as was expected, at the Brussels Summit, according to the statements of Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Mr. Simitis stressed that during the meetings he had in the Summit's margin, he ascertained a mixed feeling of optimism and pessimism as far as the struggle for the European Constitution is concerned.
He also stressed that the countries in favor of the draft proposed by the European Convention will remain adamantly in its favor, insisting on the double majority.
However, an agreement was reached on the issue of Defense during the first session, foreseeing the potential for autonomous operational planning of the EU, with transparency in relation to NATO. Thus a permanent core for operation planning will be installed in NATO facilities in Belgium.
We need a clear and understandable system, stated Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Papandreou on his way to the Summit. The Greek Foreign Minister made Greece's intention to support the proposed double majority on the issue of decision making, clear according to the French News Agency.
Statements made by the Polish Prime Minister shortly before his departure for Brussels are hopeful, as he did not seem intent on keeping with the veto on the issue of vote gravity.
 OPPOSITION AHEAD IN OCCUPIED CYPRUSNicosia, 15 December 2003 (11:33 UTC+2)
A change in government is coming about in the occupied territories, according to the first results of the elections, which put Mehmet Ali Talat in the lead. According to the first results, the Turkish Republican Party of Mehmet Ali Talat is ahead with 38%. The party of pseudo-Prime Minister Dervish Eroglou, the National Unity Party, is trailing with 34%.