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Macedonian Press Agency: News in English, 03-12-17
From: The Macedonian Press Agency at http://www.mpa.gr and http://www.hri.org/MPA.
 SIMITIS-ASSAD MEETINGAthens, 17 December 2003 (13:35 UTC+2)
The situation in Iraq, the Middle East, international terrorism and bilateral financial relations were the main points of discussion at the meeting between Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Bassar Al Assad, who is visiting Greece.
Mr. Simitis and Mr. Assad agreed that it is necessary for the situation in Iraq to stabilize as soon as possible. The Prime Minister underlined that as long obscurity remains in Iraq confrontations will increase. On his side, Mr. Assad stressed that the Iraqi people must be given the freedom to elect a government as soon as possible, while he did not comment on the arrest of Saddam Hussein, stressing that it is an Iraqi issue.
Regarding Syria's turning over of 22 suspects of the bombings in Istanbul to the Turkish authorities, Mr. Assad pointed out that relations between the two countries are improving steadily, while he underlined that neighbors cannot live in constant tension.
He appealed to Greece, which is respected in the Arab world, to play a positive part in the efforts for peace in the Middle East.
Mr. Simitis stressed that peace efforts in the Middle East must not be limited to Israel and Palestine, but should be extended throughout the region, including Syria and Lebanon, and he repeated the Greek position that two independent states should be formed in Israel, which will co-exist in peace and safety. The Prime Minister expressed his concern about the security wall in Israel and condemned the direct and indirect support to terrorist organizations.
When asked about the sanctions enforced on his country by the US recently, Mr. Assad stated that the issue is being dealt with by the Syrian Congress, and he expressed his optimism on the outcome of the ongoing dialogue with the US.
Mr. Assad and Mr. Simitis also discussed Syria's proposal to the UN on the elimination of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, an initiative Mr. Simitis supported, while he added that there must be an applicable, committing, and controlled means, so that no country can claim that any other possesses or does not posses weapons of mass destruction.
The two leaders then expressed the belief that the two countries' financial relations are constantly improving. The Greek Prime Minister expressed his hope that an association agreement between the EU and Syria will soon be signed, one which will benefit both sides, while he stressed that this way the EU would take on a more important role in the broader region of the Middle East.
 ONE REPRIEVE - 55 LIFE SENTENCESAthens, 17 December 2003 (14:15 UTC+2)
Fifty-five life sentences, 21 of which are addressed to Alexandros Giotopoulos, 13 to Dimitris Koufontinas, 10 to Christodoulos Xeros, 6 to Savvas Xeros, 4 to Vassilis Tzortzatos and 1 to Iraklis Costaris, were the punishment laid down by the court trying the members of the 17N terrorist organization, fully accepting the DA's proposal on the sentences. Twenty-five years imprisonment for V. Xeros, K. Karatsolis, P. Tselentis, Sotiris Condylis, 17 for Thomas Serifis, 9 for Dionysis Georgiadis, and 8 for Pavlos Serifis and Nikos Papanastasiou, who were only found guilty of participating in a terrorist organization. C. Tellios sentence reprieve appeal was granted by the court. Savvas Xeros apologized in a written statement.
 GREECE IN A WHITE DRESSThessaloniki, 17 December 2003 (12:55 UTC+2)
Snowfall, even in areas with low altitudes, was noted today, as the weather has regained to its normal winter characteristics. There is snow on the national highway and around Athens, while temperatures will drop to below 0 Thessaloniki. The General Secretariat of Civil Protection called Regions, Prefectures and Municipalities to take measures of increased alertness in dealing with any problems that may arise. In an emergency weather forecast, the National Weather Service foresaw increased wind velocity in the Aegean, with speeds reaching 10 and 11 Beaufort.
 PISTOL AND GRENADE IN CELLThessaloniki, 17 December 2003 (12:55 UTC+2)
Thirty five-year-old inmate of the Thessaloniki Diavata penitentiary Giorgos Chatzopoulos will be taken to the DA today, facing charges of having hidden a hand grenade, a revolver and 16 bullets in his cell. The case was revealed yesterday, when, according to information, correctional officers found the weapons in the inmate's luggage, although it has not been discerned how he managed to pass them through the checkpoint, as he has not been given leave since last October, while there is special equipment at the entrance of the prison for the detection of metals and drugs.
 A CHRISTMAS TREE FROM VIENNA TO ATHENSAthens, 17 December 2003 (19:39 UTC+2)
The Christmas holidays events were inaugurated today in Athens by Mayor Dora Bakoyianni, who received a 12meter-tall Christmas tree, a present to Athens from Vienna. The Christmas tree was decorated with traditional Austrian ornaments.
The special present was delivered by Vienna deputy mayor, Isabella Kossina, responsible for environment issues and during the event a musical trio played Austrian Christmas carols, while passersby were offered Austrian traditional sweets and warm wine.
 THE GOV'T SPOKESMAN ON THE "17 NOVEMBER" TRIALAthens, 17 December 2003 (18:37 UTC+2)
The government expresses satisfaction because the terrorist group 17 November trial has ended following the right procedures and within the framework and the spirit of law, stated Greek government spokesman Christos Protopapas.
He stated that the accessories in the heinous crimes committed by 17 November are now known and a case that has victimized the Greek people for a long time finally belongs to the past.
 NOVEMBER'S INFLATION IN THE EURO-ZONE AT 2.2%Athens, 17 December 2003 (17:22 UTC+2)
The European Statistics Agency, Eurostat, announced today from Brussels that inflation was at 2.2% in the 12 Euro-zone members in November.
According to the Eurostat, inflation recorded an increase of 0.1% compared to last October while, according to the Reuters news agency analysts believe that this increase was expected.
On its part, the European Central Bank believes that on an annual basis inflation in the Euro-zone will not exceed the 2% limit and therefore, no changes will be necessary to be made to its interest rate policy.
 SMALL GAINS IN THE ASEAthens, 17 December 2003 (17:06 UTC+2)
Small gains were recorded in the Athens Stock Exchange today. The general index rose to +0.17% at 2.182,74 points, while the volume of transactions was at 119.9 million euro.
Of the stocks trading today, 146 recorded gains and 136 had losses, while the value of 100 stocks remained unchanged.
 DA APPEAL ON SOTIROPOULOU-SERIFISAthens, 17 December 2003 (15:17 UTC+2)
District Attorney Christos Lambrou appealed on behalf of the state, against the two defendants acquitted in the trial of the 17N crimes, Aggeliki Sotiropoulou and Giannis Serifis.
Thus, Aggeliki Sotiropoulou and Giannis Serifis once again face the risk of spending time in the Corydallos Penitentiary, while they will be tried again. On the contrary, Mr. Lambrou did not appeal against Theologos Psaradelis, as that is an issue concerning the statute of limitations.
The DA also appealed against Nikos Papanastasiou and his acquittal concerning the charge of attempted murder of Robert Chad and the killing of officer Christos Matis. There was another appeal in the Robert Chad case, against Patroklos Tselentis.
Giotopoulos: Ridiculous ruling
The decision ridiculous. Your American friends must have made it for you, answered Alexandros Giotopoulos to a question of the BBC on the verdict and whether he felt remorse for his actions.
This trial was unfair. It was theater, dictated by the Americans. From no evidence, no action, did it arise that I was the instigator of the actions, nor that I was even a member of the organization, supported Alexandros Giotopoulos characteristically.
Dimitris Koufontinas made no comment on the decision, while Christodoulos Xeros stated to the press that: Everything said regarding Greek judges and justice was wasted breath. It was all rowdyism. Everything Mr. Miller said, that he does not care about innocence or guilt, just for heavy sentences, surfaced here in court.
On his side, Vassilis Tzortzatos read a statement questioning the decision of the court. It should be noted that at the end of the proceedings, slogans in support of the defendants were heard by the small audience gathered in the courtroom.
 PRAISES FOR GREECE BY THE FOREIGN OFFICELondon, 17 December 2003 (16:52 UTC+2)
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw expressed satisfaction for the ruling in the terrorist group 17 November case and praised the sentences imposed, pointing out that Greece, the Greek authorities and justice proved that those who are guilty for terrorist acts are finally, being punished, according to the BBC.
In a Foreign Office statement it is stressed that the penalties announced on Wednesday will bring relief to the families of the terrorist victims.
Mr. Straw praised the Greek authorities and police for the professional and determined way in which they acted on the case.
Mr. Straw points out that in the past five years about 4,000 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in 60 countries in all five continents.
 PAPANDREOU-WESTON MEETING ON CYPRUSNicosia, 17 December 2003 (14:14 UTC+2)
The situation taking form in Cyprus after the elections in occupied Cyprus were discussed yesterday by Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Papandreou and Special Coordinator of the US State Department on the Cyprus issue Thomas Weston, who is on a tour of the region.
After their meeting, which lasted approximately 40 minutes, the Greek Foreign Minister thanked Mr. Weston once again for his personal interest, as well as that of the US government, in the resolving of the Cyprus issue.
Regarding the so-called elections in the occupied territory, Mr. Papandreou said that the majority of Turkish Cypriots is in favor of resolving the Cyprus issue and the accession of a united Cyprus to the EU.