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Macedonian Press Agency: News in English, 04-02-17
From: The Macedonian Press Agency at http://www.mpa.gr and http://www.hri.org/MPA.
 THE GAP BETWEEN PASOK AND NEW DEMOCRACY BECOMES SMALLERAthens, 17 February 2004 (17:42 UTC+2)
The gap between governing Socialist Party of PASOK and right-wing main opposition party of New Democracy becomes smaller, according to two new opinion polls that were publicized yesterday evening and were conducted by polling companies Metron Analysis and Alco.
According to the Metron Analysis opinion poll, which was the first one held after Giorgos Papandreou was elected leader of PASOK and the first that was held after the latest bad weather that hit most parts of Greece, was presented yesterday by Athens television channel ANT1.
To the question which party they intend to vote for, New Democracy is leading PASOK by 2.7 percentage points. Specifically, New Democracy got 39.0%, PASOK 36.3%, the Communist Party 5.5%, Coalition of Radical Left 3.3%, Democratic Social Movement 1.1%, LA.O.S 1.8% and the undecided 13%.
To the question which party will be the winner in the March 7 elections, New Democracy is leading PASOK by 17.7 percentage points. New Democracy got 49.0% and PASOK 31.3%. Compared to an earlier opinion poll conducted by the same company, the gap between the two major political parties has closed by 4%.
PASOK leader Giorgos Papandreou (45.2%) is leading New Democracy's Kostas Karamanlis (42.8%) according to the responses to the question, who is the most fit for the post of the Prime Minister.
To the question which party they would trust most to govern the country, PASOK and Mr. Papandreou got 40.5% compared to New Democracy and Mr. Karamanlis with 39.9%.
According to the Alco opinion poll, conducted on behalf of the Athens television channel Alter, New Democracy is leading by 2.9% compared to PASOK based on the responses given to the question, which party the people intend to vote for.
Specifically, New Democracy got 40.8%, PASOK 37.9%, the Communist Party 5.4%, Coalition of Radical Left 3%, the Democratic Social Movement 0.9% and LA.O.S 1.5%. Also, 1.9% responded that they will vote for other political parties and 1.1% that they will cast a blank ballot, 7.2% responded they have not decided yet which party they will vote for and 0.3% refused to give a response to the question.
To the question which party they believe will be the winner in the elections, New Democracy got 49.9% and PASOK 31.5%, while the don't know/don't answer responses reached 4.7%.
To the question which government will be more effective, 39.4% were in favor of PASOK with Giorgos Papandreou as the Prime Minister and 42.5% in favor of New Democracy and Kostas Karamanlis as the Prime Minister.
 PAPANDREOU IS OPTIMISTIC REGARDING CYPRUSAthens, 17 February 2004 (16:05 UTC+2)
Greek governing Socialist Party of PASOK leader Giorgos Papandreou appeared optimistic regarding the course of negotiations for the solution of the Cyprus problem in spite of the fact that negotiations will be difficult and tough. He made the statement after the meeting he had in Nicosia today with Cypriot Parliament President Dimitris Christofias.
Mr. Papandreou stated that he will make every effort to support the Cypriot leadership for a fair and viable solution to the Cyprus problem within the framework of the UN resolutions and pointed out that Cyprus' EU accession is changing the atmosphere making it positive.
The President of PASOK met with the political party leaders in Cyprus and with representatives of Turkish Cypriot non-governmental organizations.
Yesterday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had a telephone communication with Mr. Papandreou, who was in the island of Crete, and discussed with him his thoughts on the Cyprus issue, as well as his next moves.
Mr. Papandreou conveyed the contents of his discussion with Mr. Annan to Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, with whom he had a meeting in Nicosia earlier today.
 NO AGREEMENT ON THE TELEVISED DEBATES BETWEEN PAPANDREOU AND KARAMANLISAthens, 17 February 2004 (16:52 UTC+2)
The first meeting between representatives of the governing Socialist Party of PASOK and right-wing main opposition party of New Democracy, which was held in Parliament today, ended without an agreement on the way the televised debates between PASOK leader Giorgos Papandreou and New Democracy leader Kostas Karamanlis will be held.
In the meeting participated Nikos Athanasakis and Pavlos Geroulanos from PASOK and Thodoris Rousopoulos and Yiannis Adrianos from New Democracy. They are scheduled to meet again tomorrow in an effort to find a formula that will satisfy both sides.
 THE UN HIGH COMMISSION FOR REFUGEES REPRESENTATIVE IN THRACEAlexandroupolis, 17 February 2004 (18:56 UTC+2)
UN High Commission for Refugees Representative Robert White expressed satisfaction for the improvement of the conditions in the reception of illegal immigrants in the Prefecture of Evros, in Thrace northeastern Greece. Mr. White was especially satisfied with the reception center that will be in operation in three months, according to statements he made during his meeting today with Prefect of Evros Mr. Nikos Zabounidis.
Mr. White also stated that the impression he has is that the number of aliens entering Greece at the moment has been reduced considerably and this fact offers an opportunity for further improvements. He also stated that he appreciates the efforts made by the local population to help the illegal aliens in their own way.
Responding to a question by a reporter on the existence of minefields and the issue of repatriations, he stated that he is aware of the problem of the minefields and efforts are being made with Athens to solve it. On the issue of the deportations, he said that the UN High Commission for Refugees is interested mainly in people who are refugees or request political asylum and there are no reports of cases of deportations concerning people who are refugees.
Mr. White clarified that refugees come from countries such as Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan, while economic immigrants come from a number of different countries for the purpose to simply improve their living conditions.
 SMALL GAINS IN THE ASEAthens, 17 February 2004 (16:38 UTC+2)
Small gains were recorded in the Athens Stock Exchange today. The general index rose to +0.39% at 2473.29 points, while the volume of transactions was at 152.1 million euros.
Of the stocks trading today, 79 had gains and 219 had losses, while the value of 88 stocks remained unchanged.
 THE EURO-PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR THE RELEASE OF THE "TASMAN SPIRIT" CREWAthens, 16 February 2004 (21:24 UTC+2)
The plenary session of the European Parliament passed a draft resolution calling for the release of the Greek and foreign sailors held by the Pakistani authorities after the oil tanker Tasman Spirit run aground. The resolution was promoted at the initiative of Greek Euro-deputies.
The European Parliament expresses concern for the state of the oil tanker crew and regards as unacceptable their detention. It calls on the government of Pakistan to release those held and give assurances that they will be repatriated. Concerning the compensations for the destruction caused by the shipwreck, the Euro-Parliament calls for the implementation of the procedures predicted by international law.
Also, the Euro-Parliament calls on the European Commission and the EU Council to make the necessary diplomatic efforts for the release of the sailors held by the Pakistani authorities.