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Macedonian Press Agency: News in English, 03-12-28
From: The Macedonian Press Agency at http://www.mpa.gr and http://www.hri.org/MPA.
 THE GREEK DEVELOPMENT MINISTER VISITED ANKARAAnkara, 23 December 2003 (19:29 UTC+2)
Greek Minister of Development Akis Tsochatzopoulos visited Ankara today and attended together with Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Mr. Guller a formal ceremony for the signing of a business agreement.
The agreement was signed between the natural gas companies of the two countries, DEPA and BOTAS respectively, for the construction of the natural gas pipeline of Greece and Turkey.
 THE 2004 STATE BUDGET WAS APPROVED IN PARLIAMENTAthens, 23 December 2003 (13:11 UTC+2)
The 2004 state budget was passed in Parliament last night with 156 votes in favor and 143 against. In favor of the budget voted independent Parliament deputies Mr. Papathemelis and Mr. Spiriounis as well.
Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis stated that it is his duty to form developments at the right moment and in the right way always having in mind PASOK's victory in the elections.
He made the statement in response to right-wing main opposition party of New Democracy leader Kostas Karamanlis, who had asked for clear solutions and to Coalition of the Left President Nikos Konstantopoulos, who had referred to the succession talk dominating lately in the Greek political scene.
 THE GREEK HOUSEHOLDS ARE DEEP IN DEBTAthens, 27 December 2003 (17:30 UTC+2)
The loans received by Greek households increased this year with a rate of 28.9% when in the rest European Union the household debt has an annual increase of 5.8%.
It is estimated that the Greek households pay interest rates of about 350 million euro per month. It is also clear that the total liberalization of consumer credit leads to an increase in loans. According to estimates, the debts of the Greek households will increase gradually in the next three years from 7% of the GDP to 16%.
 GREEK RESCUE TEAM MEMBERS ARE ON THEIR WAY TO IRANThessaloniki, 27 December 2003 (13:40 UTC+2)
Members of the Greek Rescue Team will depart for the earthquake stricken region of the Iranian city of Bam. The Greek Rescue Team volunteers from Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras will arrive in the devastated Iranian city on board two C-130 military transport aircraft.
The first transport aircraft left from Thessaloniki yesterday with a 12member group, while a 17member rescue team from Athens and Patras will depart from the Elefsina Airport today.
The Greek volunteers will have with them an ambulance, a communications' support vehicle, satellite phones and specially trained dogs able to locate and rescue people trapped under the rubble.
 AUTHORITIES IN THE REGION OF EVROS ARE IN A STATE OF READINESSEvros, 27 December 2003 (13:25 UTC+2)
The level of the waters of Evros River in northeastern Greece dropped in the early morning hours today. However, the responsible local authorities continue to be in a state of increased readiness as there is still a risk for the river to break its banks.
The level of its waters exceeded the alert mark of 5.80 meters to reach 5.90 meters causing alarm to the responsible authorities and the local population. For precautionary reasons, people and livestock are not allowed to approach the riverbanks for a third day in a row.
 GREEK "DOCTORS OF THE WORLD" IN IRANAthens, 27 December 2003 (13:06 UTC+2)
A delegation of the organization Doctors of the World departs from Athens today for the Iranian city of Bam to offer their services to the earthquake stricken population in the southeastern province of Iran that was hit by the devastating earthquake that left over 20,000 people dead and 30,000 injured.
As it is mentioned in the statement issued by the organization, the Greek delegation of the Doctors of the World will provide medical aid to the injured and it will bring to the region medical-pharmaceutical supplies, tents and blankets.
 TELEGRAM OF CONDOLENCES TO THE IRANIAN PRESIDENTAthens, 27 December 2003 (12:52 UTC+2)
Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis sent a telegram to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and expressed his regret for the human losses in the catastrophic earthquake that hit Iran. Mr. Simitis also expressed the total support of the Greek people to the suffering people of Iran.
Mr. Simitis stated that Greece will offer immediate emergency aid and already consultations are underway with the responsible Iranian authorities for this purpose.
 CHRISTODOULAKIS: GREECE WILL BENEFIT IF SIMITIS TAKES OVER AN EU POSTAthens, 27 December 2003 (12:43 UTC+2)
The Prime Minister will decide himself when he finds it necessary, commented Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis referring to the succession issue in the governing Socialist Party of PASOK. The Finance Minister also expressed the view that both Greece and Europe will benefit greatly in case Prime Minister Kostas Simitis takes over a post in the European Union.
Mr. Christodoulakis made the statement in an interview with the newspaper Kosmos tou Ependiti and stressed that the political battle will be fought in the sector of the economy.
 FIRE BROKE OUT ON A CARGO SHIPAthens, 23 December 2003 (19:48 UTC+2)
A fire broke out on the cargo ship Free Spirit with a 13member Russian crew. The ship, which came from Finland with a cargo of timber, was at the port of Corinth, in southern Greece, to avoid the bad weather.
The cause of the fire at the ship's hold is unknown and was put under control by three firefighting vehicles. The fire did not spread to the rest of the ship and its crew is safe.
 LOSSES IN THE ASEAthens, 23 December 2003 (16:46 UTC+2)
Losses were recorded in the Athens Stock Exchange today. The general index dropped to -0.09% at 2.203,56 points, while the volume of transactions was at 125.1 million euro.
Of the stocks trading today, 80 had gains and 211 had losses, while the value of 91 stocks remained unchanged.