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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 01-05-26

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

May 26, 2001

CONTENTS

  • [01] Gov't plans to sell further 25 pct of Hellenic Petroleum
  • [02] Simitis concludes visit to Malta
  • [03] PM says EU accession course of Cyprus proceeding normally
  • [04] Greece playing pivotal role in Balkans, FM says on US television
  • [05] Greek FM reportedly says peacekeeping forces should stay in Balkans
  • [06] Alternate FM addresses third conference of "Asia-Europe-Meeting"
  • [07] European deputies meet with Patriarch
  • [08] Czech military chief on official visit next week
  • [09] Compensation offered to former royals is nil, spokesman says
  • [10] Interior minister indicates radical changes in public administration
  • [11] Development minister says Greek products have proved their quality
  • [12] Papoutsis to leave for 3-day official visit to Syria on Saturday
  • [13] Greek Tourism Organization rebukes gloomy report
  • [14] Greek stocks jump to highest close in 15 sessions
  • [15] Minister optimistic over Rio-Antirrio bridge completion date
  • [16] Local gov't association calls for 2-month postponement in migrant legalization
  • [17] Patriarch to tour historic Cappadocia region over the weekend
  • [18] Conference told over 50,000 children die of starvation every day
  • [19] Gov't, ATHOC to brief on Athens 2004 preparations
  • [20] Parliamentary election campaign ends
  • [21] Foreign minister briefs ambassadors of CoE member states
  • [22] Gov't takes precautions regarding Turkish threats, FM says

  • [01] Gov't plans to sell further 25 pct of Hellenic Petroleum

    Athens, 26/05/2001(ANA)

    The government is planning to lower its stake in Hellenic Petroleum, a major state energy group, to 35 percent from 60.1 percent, Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Friday.

    Hellenic Petroleum's management was already sounding out the market in connection with a new share sale, Christodoulakis told the company's annual general meeting (AGM).

    In addition, the company needed to make global alliances in order to develop a strong presence in world markets, he added.

    The Hellenic Petroleum Group's consolidated profits in 2000 were 97 billion drachmas, up 47 percent from 64.9 billion drachmas a year earlier, its president and managing director, Eleftherios Tzellas told the AGM.

    Consolidated turnover was 1,440 billion drachmas from 824 billion drachmas in 1999, marking a 75 percent increase, Tzellas said.

    Management aimed to keep profits steady in 2001 following a downturn in the first quarter, he added.

    Shareholders approved management's proposal of a 70 drachma dividend per share on profits for 2000.

    [02] Simitis concludes visit to Malta

    VALLETTA,26/05/2001 (ANA - G. Papachristos)

    Greece's Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Friday wound up a two-day official visit to Malta with a meeting with Maltese President Guido de Marco.

    Simitis, who arrived in Valletta on Thursday afternoon, expressed Greece's appreciation for Malta's firm support for a comprehensive, just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue based on the relevant UN resolutions.

    He also reaffirmed Greece's warm support for Malta's prospects for EU membership, adding that its accession would significantly boost relations between the two countries and at the same time contribute to European unification, while also strengthening the EU south.

    During the meeting, the very positive climate in relations between the two countries was also confirmed.

    The meeting was followed by a luncheon hosted by de Marco in Simitis' honor.

    [03] PM says EU accession course of Cyprus proceeding normally

    VALETTA, 26/05/2001 (ANA - G. Papachristos)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis, speaking to reporters during his flight back to Athens from Malta on Friday, let it be understood that there was no concern over the situation in Cyprus, just as there is no concern for possible provocations by Turkey.

    Simitis said the European Union accession course of Cyprus is proceeding normally and it is certain that the more the process advances the more reactions will be intensified on the part of Turkey.

    "They (Turks) said the same before the EU Helsinki summit and before the partnership relation. We should pay no attention, but we should continue our work as normal. We are not concerned because if we show that we are concerned problems will increase."

    [04] Greece playing pivotal role in Balkans, FM says on US television

    WASHINGTON, 26/05/2001 (ANA - A. Ellis)

    Greece wishes to contribute decisively to the handling of the explosive situation in the Balkans and aid the political maturity and economic growth of the countries of the region, Greece's foreign minister George Papandreou said on May 23rd.

    Papandreou, on a five-day official visit to Washington this week, said during an extensive interview with Charlie Rose on PBS public television that the purpose of his visit was to meet with the new US government and present Greece's role in the Balkans.

    The Greek minister said that the Balkan countries needed to develop so as to enable them to move from perennial crisis to permanent stability and stressed the very serious crisis in FYROM "which is due to a small number of extremist terrorist groups".

    Papandreou also spoke of the "optimistic element" provided by the presence of moderate pro-Europe leaders in the Balkan governments who were willing to follow the path of dialogue, peace and moderation.

    He endorsed continuation of the close Euro-Atlantic relationship while, on the U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system, Papandreou said that after their initial opposition, now countries appeared more willing to examine the US plans.

    On the hosting of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Papandreou said the Greeks were excited for their homecoming. He also outlined the Greek initiative for an Olympic Truce, adding that US Secretary of State Colin Powell, with whom Papandreou met earlier in the week, had shown interest in the proposal.

    [05] Greek FM reportedly says peacekeeping forces should stay in Balkans

    WASHINGTON, 26/05/2001 (ANA - T. Ellis)

    The "Washington Post" newspaper referred in the diplomatic column of Nora Boustany on Friday to Foreign Minister George Papandreou's visit to the United States.

    It says that Papandreou pointed out that peacekeeping forces should stay in the Balkans to safeguard stability in this sensitive region. Moreover, that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) needs help to strengthen its borders with Kosovo to prevent the passage of guerrillas inciting uprising.

    "Unfortunately, the situation in the region is not stable enough today to enable the departure of the troops. And I think that I am speaking not only for the U.S. but also for all of us. We also have troops in Kosovo and Bosnia," Papandreou said.

    "Emphasis should be placed now on solving issues than on disengagement," he said, adding that the process of the region's accession to the European Union is "important for the creation of a framework of stability, democratic institutions, rule of law, economic development, funding of infrastructure projects and regional cooperation to enable us to win the struggle between moderates and extremists for the creation of a multinational society."

    Although Greece and Turkey have longstanding differences over Cyprus, Papandreou said that thousands of Greek tourists will visit the coast of western Turkey this year and thousands of Turkish tourists will visit the Greek islands in the Aegean.

    On its part, the "Washington Times" said that Papandreou placed the blame for wars in the Balkans over the past decade on greedy, power-hungry politicians and not on ancient ethnic hatred.

    [06] Alternate FM addresses third conference of "Asia-Europe-Meeting"

    BEIJING, 26/05/2001 (ANA - D. Konstantakopoulos)

    Alternate Foreign Minister Elizabeth Papazoi, addressing the third conference of "Asia-Europe-Meeting" foreign ministers here on Friday, said the international community should be on the alert and should not allow any kind of nationalism or irredentism to destroy the deeper expectations of the Balkan peoples for a peaceful future of prosperity.

    The Meeting is a dialogue forum for EU countries with China, Japan, Korea and other countries of southeast Asia, which are ASEAN member-states.

    Papazoi said the problem of the western Balkans is not a conflict between different ethnic groups, but a conflict of conceptions: the use of force on the one hand and dialogue on the other, of the "ethnically pure" on the one hand and of multiethnic states on the other.

    She said multiplying new "ethnically pure" entities is not a solution, adding that what is necessary is more democracy and dialogue and that a possible change in borders is a direct threat to stability in the region.

    The basis of European policy in the western Balkans, she added, is the stabilization and association process with the EU, while expressing hope that many ASEAN countries will be present at the "donors" conference on the reconstruction of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at the end of June.

    "The international community's support for the reconstruction of the western Balkans is the appropriate message to all who use force, undermine international legality and oppose democratization and reconciliation," she said.

    [07] European deputies meet with Patriarch

    ISTANBUL, 26/05/2001 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)

    Council of Europe rapporteurs Benno Zierer and Andras Barsony, visiting Istanbul in the framework of a mission to collect information on the state of human rights in Turkey, visited Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos at the Phanar on Friday and had a long conversation with him.

    Earlier, the European deputies met with Greek minority officials from Istanbul for a briefing on problems faced by the minority. Both made no statements on their contacts, but well-informed sources said they had the opportunity of being briefed analytically on all problems faced at times by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    The report on the situation prevailing in Turkey is expected to be completed and submitted to the ministers' council and the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly soon.

    [08] Czech military chief on official visit next week

    Athens, 26/05/2001(ANA)

    The chief of the Czech Republic's national defense general staff is to pay an official visit to Greece next week, the Greek National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) said Friday.

    Lt. Gen. Jiri Sedivy arrives next Tuesday, at the invitation of GEETHA chief Gen. Manoussos Paragioudakis, on a three-day visit during which he will meet with the civilian and military leadership of the national defense ministry to discuss matters of mutual military interest, GEETHA said.

    The Czech military chief's itinerary also includes the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and visits to military installations.

    [09] Compensation offered to former royals is nil, spokesman says

    Athens, 26/05/2001(ANA)

    The amount of compensation due to the former royal family of Greece for so-called royal properties is nil, acting government spokesman Telemachos Hytiris said on Friday in response to questions.

    He was referring to an ongoing legal battle between Greece and the ex-royals at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg over three valuable estates confiscated by the Greek government.

    The spokesman, fielding questions regarding a memorandum sent by Greece to the European Court on Wednesday, said that the government's positions on the issue were clear and well known.

    Asked if the government would accept a settlement, he said it was waiting for the decision of the European Court.

    The ECHR issued a 15-2 ruling last November finding Greece in violation of Article 1 of the first protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights, which guarantees the right of property. However, the court said it would examine the issue of compensation for the members of the ex-royal family at a later date, whereas the Greek government has warned that former Greek king Constantine is liable for taxes on the seized properties if the ECHR grants compensation.

    The ex-monarch, his sister Irene and his aunt Ekaterini (Catherine), had taken their case before a European human rights tribunal in 1994, claiming that the Greek state had violated their rights to "family life, dignified treatment, access to the courts and their property".

    Constantine has demanded US$1.4 billion in compensation for the contested properties, namely, the Tatoi country estate outside northern Athens, the Mon Repos summer palace on the Ionian holiday island of Corfu and the Polidendri forest estate in the foothills south of Mount Olympus in central Greece.

    The Greek government confiscated the three properties on the premise that they were obtained under "dubious circumstances" by Constantine's ancestors and had never really been private property, but public property set aside for use by the royal family.

    The properties were first seized a military junta ruling Greece between 1967-73, while the monarchy was permanently abolished in a referendum following the fall of the military regime.

    In 1979 the expropriation of the land was overturned by a Greek court and then confiscated again in 1994 by the then newly elected PASOK government.

    Additionally, the Greek government has repeatedly stressed that it will not negotiate "with those that turn against it," a reference to Constantine.

    In comments from London last November, the former Greek king -- who fled the country in December 1967 after a botched attempt to overthrow a military dictatorship instituted a few months earlier -- emphasized that he recognizes Greece's form of government - a presidential republic.

    [10] Interior minister indicates radical changes in public administration

    Athens, 26/05/2001(ANA)

    Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Vasso Papandreou, addressing a conference in Irakleio, Crete, on Friday on administrative reform in Greece titled "Operational programs-State-Pilot options", indicated that a series of radical changes will take place in public administration with particular emphasis being placed on upgrading public administration employees.

    "We shall reward the good and punish the perjurers and those who do not meet their duties," she said, adding that "we shall differentiate between the good and bad employees, praising the factor of productivity."

    She also referred to the need to introduce the conception of management in public administration regarding managers and general directors.

    Earlier, Papandreou inaugurated the Citizens Information Center at the prefectural administration building, while a number of prefectural administration employees protested compulsory transfers and students demonstrated against the law granting university status to technical institutes.

    [11] Development minister says Greek products have proved their quality

    Athens, 26/05/2001(ANA)

    Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, referring to the issue of foodstuffs with genetically modified products, said on Friday "Greek products have proved their quality and they follow the modern requirements of a healthy diet."

    Christodoulakis said public health "is a very serious issue, it requires checks, authoritative information and well-informed consumers and it is not suitable neither for publicity acrobatics nor actions which harm Greek businesses".

    He said there exists the United Foodstuffs Control Agency which issues announcements, briefs and informs thus all should respect the rules with which the market functions.

    Foodstuffs federation says industry applies safety rules: On the occasion of the "Consumers Guide", including products containing or not containing genetically modified organisms and based on recent research by the Greenpeace organization, the Federation of Greek Foodstuffs Industries announced on Friday that the foodstuffs industry, as a daily practice, produces all product packaging placed in circulation with the greatest possible safety.

    The announcement says that despite the fact that genetically modified products in circulation are approved by the European Union's Scientific Foodstuffs Committee, and are consequently considered safe for consumption, the foodstuffs industry respects consumers' choices concerning their use in the food chain.

    "The foodstuffs industries, in their overwhelming majority, in Greece and Europe have chosen to avoid the use of genetically modified organisms in their products," the announcement added.

    [12] Papoutsis to leave for 3-day official visit to Syria on Saturday

    Athens, 26/05/2001(ANA)

    Merchant Marine Minister Christos Papoutsis will be leaving for a three-day official visit to Syria on Saturday, accompanied by the second-in-command of the Greek Coastguard, the president of the Greek Maritime Chamber and a delegation of businessmen and press.

    During his visit to Syria, Papoutsis will meet with Syrian Vice-President Abdel-Halim Khaddam, Syrian Prime Minister Mustafa Miro, Syrian Transport Minister Makram Ubayd and Deputy Transport Minister Amin Burzghal.

    During the visit, Papoutsis and Ubayd will sign a bilateral shipping agreement between Greece and Syria and discuss re-establishing a direct Greece-Syria ferry line.

    The two ministers will also discuss cooperation in fighting illegal activities at sea, shipping safety, protection of the marine environment and the organization and operation of ports.

    On Sunday, meanwhile, Papoutsis is scheduled to visit the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius.

    [13] Greek Tourism Organization rebukes gloomy report

    Athens, 26/05/2001(ANA)

    Greek Tourism Organization on Friday rebuked a gloomy report on this year's tourist arrivals in the country stressing that a prediction of a 3.0 percent decline in arrivals in 2001 "did not reflect current market reality".

    The Organization reaffirmed that its forecasts of an increase in tourist arrivals this year "are solid and based on market reality".

    GTO said that ITEP's forecasts were based on unknown sources, in contrast with its own forecasts, which were based on data from international tour operators.

    These data showed that reservations were positive for 2001, with the exception of the Netherlands (-5.0 percent).

    GTO said tourist arrivals from the UK and Germany were expected to increase by 5.0 percent this year, while arrivals from Italy, Austria, France and Belgium were expected to rise more than 10 percent. Arrivals from the US and Canada are projected at 15 percent this year.

    [14] Greek stocks jump to highest close in 15 sessions

    Athens, 26/05/2001(ANA)

    Equity prices jumped to the their highest close in the last 15 sessions on the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday, pushing the general index above the 3,200 level.

    Traders said buying activity focused on blue chip stocks, while smaller capitalization stocks came under profit taking pressure in the second half of the session.

    The general index ended 1.27 percent higher at 3,222.45 points, off the day's highs of 3,235.71 points, with turnover an improved 211.24 million euros, or 71.98 billion drachmas.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 1.38 percent higher at 1,906.20 points, and the FTSE/ASE 40 index rose 0.14 percent to 355.43 points.

    The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks ended at 304.70 points, up 1.30 percent.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 193 to 128 with another 38 issues unchanged.

    Creta Farm, Informatics, AS Company, Moda Bagno, Commercial Invest, Crete Building Material, Follie Follie, Despec Hellas and Rocas scored the biggest percentage gains, while ETMA, Vision-Sound, Fitco, Zampa, Efklidis, Progressive, Viosol, Vioter and Athina suffered the heaviest losses.

    Hellenic Telecoms, National Bank, Alpha Bank, Titan Cement and Commercial Bank were the most heavily traded stocks.

    Equity futures mixed, tracking Athens bourse: Equity futures traded on the Athens Derivatives Exchange finished mixed on Friday, with a rise seen in FTSE/ASE-20 deals and decline in FTSE-ASE-40 contracts.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 1.38 percent up, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 0.14 percent higher.

    Traded were 6,666 contracts on turnover of 54.4 million euros

    Bond prices drop in moderate trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Friday finished lower in moderate trade with players focusing on 10-year paper.

    The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.19 percent. The yield spread over German bunds was 56 basis points.

    Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 940 million euros (320.3 billion drachmas).

    Sell orders accounted for the bulk of turnover.

    [15] Minister optimistic over Rio-Antirrio bridge completion date

    Athens, 26/05/2001(ANA)

    The public works minister on Friday touted what he called a possibility that the long-awaited bridge spanning the Rio-Antirrio strait in western Greece will be ready by the time the 2004 Olympics are held in Athens.

    Minister Costas Laliotis, on a tour of the Patra region in the northwest Peloponnese, was accompanied to a construction site by executives of the consortium building the 3.5-kilometre cable bridge, following the completion of the first of three massive pylons - 65 meters deep -- designed to hold up the structure.

    In statements to reporters, Laliotis said the project is three months ahead of schedule.

    A French-Greek consortium, Gefyra SA, won an international tender to construct the bridge with a build-and-operate agreement. Initial construction work began in earnest in 1998, after a financing deal was approved in July 1997.

    More than two million vehicles cross the Rio-Antirrio strait aboard ferryboats each year.

    [16] Local gov't association calls for 2-month postponement in migrant legalization

    Athens, 26/05/2001(ANA)

    The association representing local governments in Attica prefecture (TEDKNA) requested a postponement in the legalization process announced by the government recently for undocumented foreigners and illegal migrants.

    The association's board has called for a two-month postponement, pushing back the date when local governments will begin accepting legalization applications from June 2 to Oct. 2.

    TEDKNA also wants the central government to cover the administrative costs entailed in the process, including the hiring of part-time employees to handle the workload where necessary.

    Finally, the association called for a moratorium against deportations, fining etc. of illegal immigrants during the period prior to the beginning of the latest legalization process.

    [17] Patriarch to tour historic Cappadocia region over the weekend

    ISTANBUL, 26/05/2001 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos begins a historic visit to the Cappadocia region of Turkey on Saturday, accompanied by several high-ranking Orthodox ecclesiastical leaders, pilgrims and Greek expatriates.

    Vartholomeos will officiate at a series of church services in the region, once a medieval center of Orthodox Christianity in eastern Asia Minor.

    On Sunday, the Patriarch will ordain Metropolitan of Buenos Aires Tarasios as a high-ranking elder of the Orthodox Church, nearly 80 years after the last such ordination in Asia Minor, following the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey.

    [18] Conference told over 50,000 children die of starvation every day

    Athens, 26/05/2001(ANA)

    Over 50,000 children dying of starvation in the world every day would have been saved if world expenditures for armaments decreased by a thousandth, according to Greek and foreign speakers at an international conference on "The child-Victim of war and harbinger of peace", which ended on Friday.

    The Child and Family Foundation organized the conference.

    Speakers said that in Africa alone war has forced over 20 million people to abandon their homes, while 95 percent of war victims are unarmed citizens and 20 percent of refugees are women and children.

    Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, the main speaker at the event, congratulated the foundation's President Marianna Vardinoyianni for her initiative through which "the acute problems of the 'other' world, that which does not participate in prosperity, came to light."

    Tsohatzopoulos referred to the policy of crisis prevention currently preoccupying all European governments, adding that Greece has been committed on the issue of the non-use of personnel mines and the agreement is expected to be ratified by Parliament. He said the problem remains on the part of Turkey, which has not yet undertaken any relevant commitment and that Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou is having relevant talks with his Turkish counterpart.

    [19] Gov't, ATHOC to brief on Athens 2004 preparations

    Athens, 26/05/2001(ANA)

    An "across-the-board" discussion by the national Olympic Games committee on preparations for Athens 2004 is scheduled for Monday at the Zappeion Hall in central Athens.

    Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos will speak on behalf of the top inter-governmental committee set up to better coordinate preparations among various ministries, while organizing committee president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki will brief participants on progress by the event's organizers (ATHOC)

    [20] Parliamentary election campaign ends

    NICOSIA, 26/05/2001 (CNA/ANA)

    The campaign for the May 27 House of Representatives elections officially ended at midnight Friday with the handing over of ballot boxes to the election officers of polling stations.

    Chief Returning Officer Kyriakos Triantafyllides told CNA that due to the increased electorate, there would be an additional number of polling stations. "We will have around 10 thousand civil servants and policemen working on the day of the elections and will be assigned at the 1.131 polling stations", he said. The number of registered voters has risen to 467.182 compared to 409.996 in 1996.

    The Republic's eighth parliamentary elections are expected to cost a little higher than the 1996 elections, reaching 1,9 million pounds (One Cyprus pound trades at around 1.5 US dollar). These elections are cheaper, compared to the cost of the 1998 presidential elections which reached 2,5 million pounds when there was a second round of voting.

    Regarding the political parties' cooperation in the preparation of the elections, Triantafyllides told CNA that many meetings have taken place under Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou "where all problems with political contents were resolved".

    Sunday's parliamentary elections are the eighth in the history of the Cyprus Republic. They are being held under the system of proportional representation, first introduced in at the 1996 Parliamentary Elections, replacing the reinforced representational system. With the system of proportional representation, a party receiving 1/56 of the valid votes or (1,79%) elects a House member.

    Cyprus is divided into six constituencies, each for each town, Nicosia, Limassol, Famagusta, Larnaca, Paphos and Kyrenia. The House voted for its dissolution on 19th April 2001 and the first session of the new House will be held on 7 June, 2001.

    There are 454 candidates, 368 men and 86 women, competing for the 56-seat House, representing eight parties.

    [21] Foreign minister briefs ambassadors of CoE member states

    NICOSIA, 26/05/2001 (CNA/ANA)

    Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and Attorney-General Alecos Markides met here on Friday with the ambassadors of the member states of the Council of Europe accredited to Cyprus and had separate meetings with the Ambassadors of USA and China, whom they briefed on the latest decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against Turkey, pointing out its importance in efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus question.

    Speaking after the briefing, Kasoulides said they met with the ambassadors to assist them in the preparation of their reports to their governments regarding the ECHR's decision.

    On May 10, 2001, the European Court found Turkey guilty of human rights violations, on 14 counts, of the Convention relating to the right to life, liberty and security, prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment, the right to respect for private and family life, protection of property and right to peaceful enjoyment of their property and the right to an effective remedy.

    The Court also said Turkey violated rights relating to freedom of thought and expression, right to education and the right to a fair trial.

    Kasoulides said the Attorney General "explained the decision" and also referred to the ECHR's decision on the Titina Loizidou case.

    Asked whether the Ambassadors link the ECHR's ruling with its political aspect, Kasoulides answered affirmatively adding that they asked "how we expect Turkey to comply".

    He added that "we separated the issue, since there is the political issue and two humanitarian issues, one of which concerns the missing persons and the other concerning the enclaved", for which he made "a special and full reference".

    [22] Gov't takes precautions regarding Turkish threats, FM says

    NICOSIA, 26/05/2001 (CNA/ANA)

    The Cyprus government is taking every precaution regarding Turkish treats against Cyprus, as the consequences of a possible materialization of these threats would be tremendous, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said here on Friday, adding however that Cyprus is moving forward with its accession to the European Union.

    Invited to comment on a Greek foreign ministry's top secret document, leaked to the press, stating that "Turkish treats should be taken seriously under consideration, given that a scenario for creating a conflict either in Cyprus or the Aegean on the eve of Cyprus' accession to the EU should not be excluded", Kasoulides said "what we did and continue to do is take any threat seriously, irrespectively of the possibilities of its implementation, which are very few".

    The document refers to Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides' discussions in Athens, in early May, with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

    Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou dismissed allegations that the document reveals there were points President Clerides disclosed from Cypriot political leaders, noting that the political leadership was informed about everything the President discussed on his visit to Athens.

    Papapetrou refrained from verifying anything mentioned in the document.

    Replying to questions, he said that during President Clerides' talks in Athens "various scenarios were put forward for discussion that are possible and may take place or may not", adding that "no one has the right to underestimate these threats". "We have to be ready", he said, whether we estimate that these threats will materialize or not, and reiterated that no decisions on these issues were taken in Athens.

    Asked whether President Clerides and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis discussed the possibility of a conflict-taking place either in Aegean or Cyprus, when the island accedes to the EU, he answered affirmatively.

    He added that "one thing this document shows is that the accusations against the government that it underestimates and does not take Turkish threats into account are not valid", pointing out that "the government takes the threats into account, studies them and prepares for any possibility, but does not exaggerate and thus play Turkey's game".

    On his part, Greek Ambassador to Cyprus Christos Panagopoulos, speaking after a meeting with President Clerides, said the document was not intended to cover all that was discussed between President Clerides and Simitis, but to set out some points included in the talks.

    He added the document "constitutes a communication means of low priority and security measures of a moderate degree".


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