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Macedonian Press Agency: News in English, 04-02-20
From: The Macedonian Press Agency at http://www.mpa.gr and http://www.hri.org/MPA.
 THE PICTURE OF THE POLLSAthens, 20 February 2004 (14:09 UTC+2)
Five new polls published today before the beginning of the forbiddance enforced by electoral legislature gave ND a clear lead of 3% ahead of PASOK. The greatest difference was given by the VPRC poll with 4.2% and the smallest was that of Metron Analysis with 2.9%. Mr. Papandreou is ahead in the answers as to who is more appropriate for the position of Prime Minister in all five polls. KKE is above 5% in almost all polls and the Coalition is steadily around 3%. DIKKI and LAOS are below the 3% required for participation in Parliament. ND has a major lead in victory probability. Young voters prefer Mr. Papandreou over Mr. Karamanlis.
 THREE LEADERS IN I THESSALONIKIThessaloniki, 20 February 2004 (12:11 UTC+2)
Three political leaders will be running in the I Thessaloniki electoral district, as, after Costas Karamanlis, who has been continuously elected in the district since 1989, and Nikos Constantopoulos, who recently announced his decision to run there, it was made known yesterday that the President of PASOK will also be a candidate in the same electoral district. Mr. Papandreou will also run in Larissa, Mr. Karamanlis in the Dodecanese islands, and Mr. Constantopoulos in the I Athens. In the 2000 elections, PASOK had won 7 seats in Thessaloniki, ND had won 5 seats, and the KKE and the Coalition each had one seat in the city. There are now 16 seats to be contended for.
 MARCH 31ST, THE BEST DAYNicosia, 20 February 2004 (14:48 UTC+2)
March 31st will be the best day, stated President of the Cypriot Republic Tassos Papadopoulos, after the completion of his second meeting with Turkish Cypriot President Rauf Denktash. Mr. Papadopoulos stated that he had in private discussions with Mr. De Soto concerning certain issues he did not disclose. Mr. Denktash said that the atmosphere was good, but there was no mobility as far as the essence is concerned. President Papadopoulos did not comment on Mr. Denktash's statements, however he did observe that the majority of the issues being raised by the Turkish Cypriot leader are outside the plan and the plan's parameters.
 AEK GOING TO NIKOLAIDISAthens, 20 February 2004 (10:31 UTC+2)
An initial agreement has been reached between Demis Nikolaidis and ENIC, regarding the acquisition of the majority of AEK FC stocks. The above was announced in the personal website of the 31-year-old Athletico Madrid striker. The agreement foresees the immediate investment of 5 million euro in AEK from the group of investors and which is under legal and financial audit by the FC, as well as the achievement of an agreement on a series of issues with the other major stockholder in AEK FC, Netmed.
 TELEPHONE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN GIANNITSIS AND POWELLAthens, 20 February 2004 (20:03 UTC+2)
US Secretary of State Colin Powell had a telephone communication with Greek Foreign Minister Tasos Giannitsis as a follow up to his congratulatory letter on the occasion of Mr. Giannitsis' taking over the Greek Foreign Ministry.
Mr. Giannitsis and Mr. Powell discussed developments in Cyprus and exchanged views on the procedure followed in the talks that are in progress in Nicosia since yesterday.
Mr. Powell confirmed, one more time, the United States' interest in the solution of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework and on the basis of the Annan Plan.
 THE GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER IN THE EU GENERAL AFFAIRS COUNCILAthens, 20 February 2004 (19:36 UTC+2)
Greek Foreign Minister Tasos Giannitsis departs for Brussels on February 22 to participate in the proceedings of the European Union General Affairs Council.
The Council is expected to deal with the preparations for the Spring Summit meeting and fiscal prospects, while the EU Foreign Ministers will discuss the latest developments in Cyprus on February 23.
The foreign relations agenda will also include among others the developments in Iran, the EU-Russian relations, the action programs for the policies on the European neighborly relations, the Middle East and the situation in Western Balkans.
 THE NEW NATO SECRETARY GENERAL VISITS GREECEAthens, 20 February 2004 (18:31 UTC+2)
New NATO Secretary General Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is on a visit to Greece and met with President Kostis Stephanopoulos in Athens, while he also had a working lunch with Prime Minister Kostas Simitis in the presence of Foreign Minister Tasos Giannitsis and Minister of Defense Yiannos Papantoniou.
In the working lunch were raised issues concerning NATO's contribution to security in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, the transformation of NATO's capabilities, the new command structure, NATO's presence in the Balkans and the enlargement of the alliance.
Prime Minister Kostas Simitis underlined the need for NATO's presence in the Balkans, stressing that NATO's enlargement and its good cooperation with Russia and the European Union are necessary.
On his part, Mr. Scheffer referred to the NATO Summit meeting to be held in Istanbul and pointed out that the situation in Afghanistan, the Balkans and NATO's relations with Russia will be among the issues that will be raised in the meeting.
 NEW OPINION POLL SHOWS A GAP OF 2.9% BETWEEN PASOK AND NDThessaloniki, 20 February 2004 (17:44 UTC+2)
The gap between governing Socialist Party of PASOK and right-wing main opposition party of New Democracy is at 2.9 percentage points based on the answers given to the question, which party people intend to vote for, according to a new opinion poll by Metron Forum polling company held on February 4-18 on behalf of television station ET3.
New Democracy leads with 40.2% compared to PASOK's 37.3%, Communist Party 5.3%, Coalition of Radical Left 3.4%, Democratic Social Movement 1.3% and L.A.O.S. 1.6%. A 0.5% will vote for another party, the blank vote is at 0.3%, invalid/no vote 1.6%, undecided 3.6% and 4.4% did not respond to the question.
Asked which party they believe will win the elections, 50.7% responded that New Democracy will be the winner compared to PASOK's 34.1%, while 15.2% responded that no one of the two major parties will win the elections.
PASOK's Giorgos Papandreou is regarded more fit for the post of the Prime Minister (43.1%) compared to New Democracy's Kostas Karamanlis (41.2%).
 MARGINAL LOSSES IN THE ASEAthens, 20 February 2004 (17:18 UTC+2)
Marginal losses were recorded in the Athens Stock Exchange today. The general index dropped to -0.15% at 2465.35 points, while the volume of transactions was at 106.2 million euros.
Of the stocks trading today, 141 had gains and 143 had losses, while the value of 104 stocks remained unchanged.
 G. PAPANDREOU: EDUCATION IS MY FIRST PRIORITYAthens, 20 February 2004 (17:10 UTC+2)
President of PASOK Giorgos Papandreou made mention of a four-year tenure of education and culture, during the presentation of PASOK's educational program. Mr. Papandreou called all bodies to a social dialogue for the change of the university entrance examination system, while he launched a severe attack against New Democracy, accusing it of not having responded to any of the requests for a dialogue on education, and of having views and proposals that belong to the previous century.
Giorgos Papandreou's announcements on education include changes in the university entrance exams (aiming at decreasing student angst, the limitation of exams and the eradication of the need for extra lessons in preparation for the exams), the entrance of students to schools and not to sections, the creation of non-state owned non-profit tertiary education institutions, the abolition of the Inter-University Center for the Recognition of Foreign Degrees, the evaluation of universities and of the Ministry of Education, the merger of services of the Ministries of Education and of Labor in vocational training and employment, the potential choice of body and further education programs for young people, all-day secondary school and life long education for teachers.
At the same time he announced that by 2008 all elementary schools will be equipped with informatics systems and that by 2006 55,000 teachers will be trained in new technology issues. Finally, the major school housing program will be completed by the end of 2005, so as do away with the double shifts in Thessaloniki and Athens.
The President of PASOK made a commitment that education will be first priority when he is elected. He noted that important work was carried out over the past few years, recognized that mistakes were made and promised that they would be resolved.
 KARAMANLIS: WE WILL BRING CHANGESAthens, 20 February 2004 (16:57 UTC+2)
Determined to change and not just manage the system as prime minister, stated right-wing main opposition party of New Democracy leader Kostas Karamanlis, in an interview with newspaper Kosmos tou Ependiti.
Mr. Karamanlis appears certain that New Democracy will be the winner in the March 7 parliamentary elections and underlined that people call for effective solutions in the numerous and big problems they face and know that only New Democracy can produce solutions. He said that he knows that these are crucial elections, stressing that his party is optimistic and strong.
Mr. Karamanlis also said that he believes in a small and versatile government, meaning smaller number of ministries through mergers.
The leader of New Democracy stressed that his rivals are both PASOK Prime Minister Kostas Simitis and PASOK leader Giorgos Papandreou, stressing that PASOK has changed leadership but it has not changed its policy.
 2ND ROUND OF NEGOTIATIONS COMPLETEDNicosia, 20 February 2004 (13:36 UTC+2)
The atmosphere during the 2nd round of negotiations between President of the Cypriot Republic Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, that were concluded today in the presence of special UN envoy Alvaro de Soto, were good, stated Mr. Denktash, but there was no mobility regarding the major issues. On his way back to the occupied part of the island, Mr. Denktash stated that they discussed issues such as where the Central Government would be housed, the flag, and the national anthem but the major issues were not discussed. Discussions will continue on Tuesday, due to the holiday of Clean Monday.
However, the Turkish Cypriot leader did not scorned Mr. De Soto's appeal that the discussions of the first day not be leaked to the press, and he proceeded to inform the press of the developments, claiming that the Greek Cypriot press was receiving information and he could not leave the Turkish Cypriot people in the dark.
According to the Turkish Hurriet newspaper publications, Mr. Denktash stated that the Greek Cypriot side asked that the Turkish settlers that acquired the Turkish Cypriot citizenship not be allowed to vote. In our Constitution we do not have what you call settlers. When we said that for us the citizenship stands, they told us to change our Constitution. Of course we will not accept this. Those who voted in the elections are citizens of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and will remain as such, stated Rauf Denktash.
Furthermore, he continued that the issue of a bizonal Cyprus was discussed. The Greek Cypriots, he said, have foreseen two zones based on national discrimination. Issues of property enter this issue of zone division. We asked that a committee be formed for the restitution of the damages our people suffered from 1963 to 1974. Regarding the Annan proposal, he stressed that it includes the principal of the founding state and added that the two nationalities, and not founding state must be the base, because, as he supported, if the opposite occurs, Greek Cypriots will be able to travel to Turkish Cypriot territories, assume citizenship, be elected to the Senate and represent the Turkish Cypriots, thus unsettling the balance. According to the plan, he added, 70,000 to 80,000 Greek Cypriots will come among us and vote. The reality is that there are two equal peoples.
Mr. Denktash also stated today, that he will continue to brief the Turkish Cypriots daily, on the course of the discussions.