|Wednesday, 24 April 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-01-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>January 16, 2004
 PM Simitis receives Bosnian presidency, discusses bilateral cooperation
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Thursday received the tri-partite presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Athens on an official visit.
In talks with presidency chairman Dragan Covic (Croat community) and fellow presidency members Borislav Paravac and Sulejman Tihic (of the Serb and Bosniak/Moslem communities respectively), Simitis discussed cooperation between Greece and Bosnia in issues such as economic aid, Greece's participation in the international peacekeeping force in Bosnia and the training of Bosnian police officers by the Greek police force ELAS.
The Greek premier particularly stressed the prospects for economic cooperation, while pledging that the Greek government would assist Bosnia in its efforts to sign a Stability and Association Pact with the European Union.
Thanking Greece for its support, Covic said Bosnia remained steadfast in its Euro-Atlantic orientation and asked Greece's assistance in this direction.
''We are prepared to fulfill all our obligations so that our rapprochement with the EU and NATO is possible and in order to attract foreign investments,'' Covic said.
He announced that an international conference on investments will take place in Mostar in the coming weeks, with Greece among the participants.
He also noted that Bosnia was working closely with the International Court at The Hague in order to bring those wanted for war crimes to justice.
Stephanopoulos: Bosnia a model of inter-ethnic cooperation for Balkans: Greek President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Thursday described Bosnia-Herzegovina as a ''model'' for the Balkans for the way it had achieved cooperation between the three ethnic groups within its borders, after a meeting with the tripartite Bosnian presidency.
In talks with presidency chairman Dragan Covic (Croat community), and presidency members for the Serb and Bosniak/Moslem communities Borislav Paravac and Sulejman Tihic, respectively, Stephanopoulos expressed satisfaction at Bosnia's progress to-ward joining Euro-Atlantic structures and reconfirmed Greece's support for this effort.
Covic expressed Bosnia's gratitude for Greece's support after the end of the Bosnia war and for the country's reconstruction effort and invited Stephanopoulos to attend the inauguration of a bridge in Mostar destroyed during the war - an invitation that Stephanopoulos accepted.
Greek president hosts dinner in honor of Bosnia-Herzegovina's presidency: President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos hosted an official dinner on Thursday evening in honor of the members of the tri-partite presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dragan Covic, Sulejman Tihic and Borislav Paravac, who are on an official visit to Greece.
Stephanopoulos stressed that the visit confirms the excellent level of relations between the two countries and seals the willingness of the two sides to continue and strengthen the course of these relations in the future.
The Greek president stressed the new reality in the Balkans to which ''Europe is obliged to respond to and assume the obligation, which will have a political but also a moral character to help Bosnia-Herzegovina to strengthen and deal with its needs.''
Stephanopoulos noted that the European prospect constitutes the most important and effective way for the consolidation of democracy, the speeding up of reforms, the development of the economy and closer regional cooperation.
Furthermore, the Greek president said that the efforts under-taken by Bosnia-Herzegovina for the consolidation of political and economic stability and the strengthening of the country's role on the international scene will lead to the creation of the necessary conditions for its entry to the European Union, adding that ''in this effort of yours, you can count on the stable support of Greece.''
Concluding, Stephanopoulos stressed that the implementation of reforms in the economic sector in this country will have positive results for the attraction of Greek investments, stating his satisfaction that he ascertains interest by Greek investors and entrepreneurs for the promotion of new cooperation.
Bosnian presidency signs Olympic Truce proclamation: The tri-partite presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Athens on an official visit, on Thursday signed the Olympic Truce proclamation.
Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis stressed the symbolic significance of this act, which he said indicated that Bosnia, like Greece, ''is well aware of the value of peace''.
Yiannitsis referred to the Balkan country as ''an example of how struggles can bring unification and create hope''.
On behalf of the Bosnian presidency, its Croat chairman Dragan Covic expressed hope that 2004 would be a year of peace and said his country's signature of the Olympic Truce was a message that Bosnia stood alongside Greeks in their effort to organize successful Olympic Games.
Covic is also accompanied by Serb presidency member Borislav Paravac and Bosniak/Moslem presidency member Sulejman Tihic.
 Floridis discusses Olympic Games security with Rice in Washington
Washington 16/01/2004 (ANA/T. Ellis)Greek Public Order Minister George Floridis, currently on a two-day visit to the United States, met here on Thursday with President George W. Bush's National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
Following his meeting with Dr. Rice, Floridis told reporters that the security of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games was a top priority for the Greek government, adding that Greece has developed an excellent cooperation with the US and six other countries, so that it can provide the best possible security to the biggest athletic event in the world.
Greece is spending three times more money and deploying three times more personnel than Australia did for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Mr. Floridis said that Dr. Rice appreciated Greece’s efforts, she conveyed to him the will of the US to continue helping for the best possible security for the Games, and expressed her confidence that everything will go very well in Athens.
Present at the meeting were Greece's National Intelligence Service chief Loukas Apostolidis, Greek Police chief Fotis Nasiakos, Greek Ambassador to the U.S. George Savvaides and U.S. Ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller.
 Floridis: Joint Greek-US 'Olympics Security' exercise to take place as planned
Washington 16/01/2004 (ANA-T. Ellis)Greece's public order minister George Floridis on Thursday (Greek time) expressed certainty that the Olympics security exercise to be carried out jointly by Greece and the US in Greece would proceed as scheduled, since no legal obstacles had arisen.
Floridis, who arrived in Washington on Wednesday for a two-day visit, was speaking to reporters ahead of separate meetings planned on Thursday with FBI director Robert Mueller, US president George Bush's national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and justice secretary John Ashcroft, and also with CIA chief George Tenet at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia later in the day, before returning to Washington for Friday's meetings with US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, State Department coordinator for counterterrorism J. Cofer Black, and assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security Francis X. Taylor.
"The exercise (on security for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games in August) will take place as scheduled. It is currently in the planning stage and progressing very well," Floridis said, adding that the exercise could be materialized also in the framework of NATO, and stressing that the Greek foreign ministry's competent services had examined the legal texts and had given assurances that no obstacles existed.
He described the exercise as the biggest of its kind ever held to date, noting that it included both map exercises and deployment of real forces on Greek territory.
The exercise, he added, would most likely be held March 10-23, immediately following the swearing-in of the government to arise from the March 7 general elections in Greece.
On his contacts in Washington, Floridis explained that, at this time juncture, it was only natural that priority would focus on the issue of security for the Athens Games, which strongly interested the US side.
He said that all the possibilities existing for the contribution of the US services, which had advanced technology and know-how, would be examined, adding that the international cooperation on Olympics Security, which included the "crème de la crème" of the international security system, was progressing impeccably.
On domestic terrorism, both Floridis and Greek Police chief Fotis Nasiakos -- who is accompanying the minister on his Washington visit together with Greek National Intelligence Service (EYP)chief Pavlos Apostolidis -- stated that the "executive, operative part" of the 'November 17' terrorist group "is in prison", adding that investigations were continuing intensively and that existing evidence could prospectively lead to the arrest of individuals "who played secondary roles" in the organization.
 Greek leadership meets with visiting Israeli Minister Poraz
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yannis Magriotis on Thursday met with visiting Israeli Minister Avraham Poraz, with talks focusing on the situation in the Middle East and bilateral relations, which were described as good.
Magriotis noted the prospects for further cooperation between the two countries, and the importance to the wider region of Cyprus' EU accession.
Additionally, the Greek minister broached the pending issue of the Israeli government's recognition of the appointment of Irineos as the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, stressing that this matter was of particular importance to the Greek government.
Poraz expressed optimism that the matter would soon be resolved, while Magriotis reminded the visiting dignitary that twice in the past there had been indications for a positive resolution of the matter and expressed hope that this time it would be definitively resolved.
Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis also received his Israeli counterpart on Thursday, as the latter arrived in Greece this week on an official visit
During the meeting, both sides discussed bilateral relations, public sector issues and historical ties between the two peoples.
According to reports, the Israeli side also presented its policy of merging small municipalities as a means of more effective management. In addition, both ministers exchanged ideas on issues regarding “e-government”, local authorities, immigration, the ombudsman concept and civil protection.
Alternate foreign minister holds talks with Israeli interior minister: Economic cooperation between Greece and Israel, the pending issue concerning the recognition of the Patriarch of Jerusalem as well as developments in the Middle East issue were discussed on Thursday evening between Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis and visiting Israeli Interior Minister Avraham Poraz.
Yiannitsis stressed to the Israeli minister the interest of Greece but also of the whole of the European Union for there to be peace and another form of cooperation in the Middle East. However, he noted that ''we must be pragmatists as to the possibilities that exist.''
On his part, Poraz told reporters that he personally visited Patriarch Irineos last month and had a lengthy discussion with him, given that he is the minister responsible for relations with non-Jewish religions in his country. The Israeli official expressed the hope that a solution will be found soon to the problem of Irineos' recognition.
Poraz said the Middle East issue was at a very difficult phase due to the breakdown of negotiations and the non-implementation of the Road Map. The Israeli interior minister went on to say that he wished to explain further his country's positions, as in Europe there were ''many misconceptions, such as on the issue of the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip''.
Concluding, the Israeli minister expressed his satisfaction over the manner with which the Greek government was handling the problem of anti-Semitism as well as his satisfaction to the fact that Cyprus is a member of the European Union, ''something which means that the EU is extending towards the east and thus this strengthens the hopes of Israel to approach Europe.''
 PM arrives in Crete, confident of election victory
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis arrived on the island of Crete on Thursday afternoon to present its regional Convergence Charter and, speaking on arrival at the airport in Irakleio, expressed confidence the ruling PASOK party will emerge victorious from the March 7 general election.
Simitis was welcomed by local authority representatives, party members and about 200 members of the PASOK party's youth wing.
The prime minister said PASOK is united in Crete and all over the country, adding that Crete is a leader in democratic struggles and an island of progress.
Referring to succession in the party's leadership, Simitis said latest developments came in an amazing way and unexpectedly for those, such as the conservative party, who don't understand that PASOK has other criteria and another way of forging ahead.
Welcoming the prime minister at the airport, Prefect Dimitris Sarris said ''you are the political leader who managed the greatest political achievement of this entire period, placing Greece on a dynamic course and making it a powerful country.''
The prefect also said ''loyal to a public commitment by you in the recent past you shaped recent political developments at your own initiative, proposing the assumption of the leadership of our democratic party by Foreign Minister Mr. George Papandreou, a successful, popular and bold politician of the younger generation having special social sensitivities.''
 PM presents Crete's Convergence Charter, appeals to voters of all parties
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)Visiting Prime Minister Costas Simitis, speaking in the packed Lido indoor basketball stadium in Irakleio, on Thursday evening, presented Crete's regional Convergence Charter and appealed to voters of all parties ahead of the March 7 general election.
Simitis called on progressive citizens regardless of party origin, as well as on a considerable social and democratic element in the main opposition New Democracy party to rally round PASOK ''for real progress, the strengthening of social justice and the consolidation and integration of modernization and of European orientation.''
The prime minister said the PASOK party expresses the overwhelming majority in the country, the big party of the centre and the left and, referring to the party's new leadership, stressed that it will be the new leadership of the country after the elections and will achieve progress with even more rapid paces and more effectively.
''Many believed that PASOK has no future, but we showed them that it is PASOK which has the strength to move ahead. It is the force that is paving the way for the developments of the future,'' he said.
Simitis underlined that the dilemma set for the March 7 election is clear and is ''shall we live in conditions of greater security, growth and prosperity for all, or shall the smooth progress course of a decade be interrupted by an authoritarian policy, improvisations and neo-liberal experiments?''
He further said two very important milestones in the country's path towards the future will also be decided in the election.
Simitis pointed out that these milestones are the prospect of resolving major national issues by December, 2004, as well as the successful holding of the Olympic Games this coming August.
He noted that the Greeks must aim at a victory which will exceed traditional party lines to prevent the return of the country's traditional image, an image of permanent weakness, dissolving complaint and of limited national possibilities.
Simitis said the option in this election struggle is crystal-clear. It is a society of prosperity for all, a society of participation and justice for all, convergence with Europe and a solution to major national issues.
The prime minister said the country is a part of the European Union today and who holds the power is important since a period of fluidity, uncertainty, risks and rapid changes is being experienced.
He added that in this period PASOK is uniting all collective and personal targets in a powerful and unified national strategy for Greece and the Greeks.
Simitis also referred in his address to certain targets set for the next four years which are included in the Convergence Charter and concern an increase in expenditures for education, which will gradually reach 5 percent of GDP, and funds which shall be saved through the reduction of armaments expenditures to 3 percent of GDP.
He also undertook the commitment that the country's debt will be decreasing by about four GDP points a year so as to reach 85 percent of GDP. He added that the denationalization program will contribute to this since income in the region of 1-2 percent of GDP a year are expected from it.
The prime minister said funding of the health and welfare system will increase to 4 percent of GDP, while taxation for families will decrease with a reduction of the highest taxation percentage to 35 percent and for businesses with a reduction of the corresponding percentage to 30 percent.
Simitis ended his address by saying the government's vision is a stronger Greece and its message is ''we are ahead, we shall also be leading the people during the next four years.''
 ND leader Karamanlis briefs President Stephanopoulos on campaign proposals
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Thursday called on President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos and briefed him on his proposals for the framework of the pre-electoral campaigning.
Karamanlis reiterated that it was a duty to the people to introduce a new ''political culture'', and criticized the government's stance, prompted by the tabling in parliament on Wednesday of what he called 7 ''political favor'' bills.
He said that the neutrality of the state during the campaign period needed to be ensured, and noted that the Constitution must be adhered with respect and all views must be projected.
Karamanlis reiterated his call for three televised debates between himself and foreign minister George Papandreou, who is slated to take over the helm of the ruling PASOK party, while a fourth televised debate should also take place with the inclusion of the leaders of all the parties represented in parliament and the European Parliament.
He further said that the environment needed to be protected from ''noise pollution and poster pollution''.
Commenting on Karamanlis statements later, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said that PASOK was entering the election race with a responsible stance and comparison of positions.
Karamanlis meets with Paralympic athletes: Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Thursday met with a group of Greek athletes competing in this year’s Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.
During a meeting at ND’s headquarters in downtown Athens, Karamanlis said the “Olympic champions, our athletes at the Paralympic Games, make us all proud. Moreover, I would like to stress that they also inspire us with their courage and determination.” High-ranking ND deputy Fani Palli-Petralia, the party’s sector head for the Olympic Games, also attended the meeting.
 FM and PASOK leadership candidate George Papandreou to tour Thrace over weekend
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)Foreign Minister and PASOK party leadership candidate George Papandreou will tour Thrace, northern Greece, over the weekend and will be arriving at Democritus airport in the city of Alexandroupoli on Saturday morning.
Papandreou will make an address and then speak at the city's municipal theatre on ''peace and Growth''. Afterwards, he will tour the towns of Soufli, Didimotiho and Orestiada.
In the afternoon, the foreign minister will arrive in the city of Komotini where he will meet young people and on Sunday morning his tour will include Iasmos, Aigeiros and Filyra.
The last stop in Papandreou's tour will be the city of Xanthi.
 Turkish FM says Turkey will announce ready for Cyprus talks based on Annan plan
Istanbul 16/01/2004 (ANA/A. Kourkoulas)Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said on Thursday Turkey will announce to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that it is ready for talks on the Cyprus issue based on his plan.
''There is a crucial date ahead of us, May 1, 2004,'' Gul said in an exclusive interview with the newspaper Radikal, adding that ''we are delayed in a solution to the issue of Cyprus and our (negotiating) position is weakening.''
''In delaying, we have lost many things which we could have gained,'' he also said.
Gul said the United States has shown interest in a solution to the Cyprus issue.
''The US is the superpower of the world and we shall gladly accept whatever positive and impartial contribution on its part, by which the interests of the Turkish side will also be protected,'' the Turkish foreign minister said.
Gul noted that the country's National Security Council, that will be discussing the issue on January 23, ''is not the body for taking a decision'' and reminded that the old National Security Council no longer exists and all decisions are taken by the political leadership.
The General Staff and the foreign ministry had cooperated from the beginning to shape the Turkish position on the Cyprus issue, he further said, once again denying reports of differences between the military and diplomats on the Cyprus issue.
Gul clarified that consultations will also take place with the new ''government'' in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus and the talks will get underway.
 Chiefs of Staff terms extended for one year by KYSEA
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)The Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) on Thursday decided unanimously to extend for one year the terms of the chiefs of staff of the Hellenic Army, Navy and Airforce, during a meeting chaired by prime minister Costas Simitis.
National defense minister Yannos Papantoniou told reporters after the meeting that the terms for chief of the Army General Staff (GES) Lt.-Gen. Panayotis Harvalas, chief of the Navy General Staff (GEN) Vice Admiral Antonis Antoniadis, and chief of the Airforce General Staff (GEA) Lt.-Gen. Panayotis Papanikolaou will be extended for one year.
He also said that regular Armed Forces promotions and retirements, which are usually held in the first half of March, will be postponed for one month due to the March 7 general elections, adding that a relevant amendment will be tabled in parliament in the next few days.
 UK MP tables resolution for return of Parthenon Marbles in British Parliament
London 16/01/2004 (ANA - L. Tsirigotakis)A resolution calling for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece was tabled in the House of Commons on Thursday by Labor MP for Hendon Andrew Dismore, signed by over 50 MPs from all parties, including former foreign secretary Robin Cook.
The text of the resolution notes that the new Acropolis Museum being built in Athens provides an unprecedented opportunity to exhibit all the sections of the Parthenon Marbles currently scattered between Athens and London together.
It also declares belief that the development will be accepted with satisfaction by the majority of the British people and that any legal issues can be resolved if the return is made in the form of a long-term loan.
It welcomes the Greek government's offer to provide important Greek antiquities to exhibitions at national and local museums in Britain once the issue of the Parthenon Marbles is resolved.
It also calls on the British government to work closely with the British Museum and Greek authorities in this direction, in the spirit of cooperation and friendship appropriate in each Olympic year.
 EU needs fiscal revitalization, says Greek cenbank chief
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)The European Union needs fiscal revitalization in order to boost the efficiency of fiscal policy, the governor of the Greek central bank, Nikos Garganas, said on Thursday.
Revitalization was required to improve the economic policy mix and meet the fiscal cost of an ageing population, Garganas said in a speech to the Greek-French Chamber.
The current combination of a low rate of economic increase and high public spending already was unsustainable, and would become even less viable in the future due to the ageing population, leading to high state expenditure on pension and healthcare costs, said the head of the Bank of Greece.
 Greek gov’t earmarks 145.6 mln euros in SMEs' support
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)The Greek government has earmarked the sum of 145.6 million euros to be offered to Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises throughout the country (with the exception of Attica-based enterprises) through a second phase of a program to support SMEs, Economy and Finance Deputy Minister Christos Pahtas said on Thursday.
The first phase of the program, aimed to offer financial support to manufacturing and tourist enterprises, was launched last year.
Mr Pahtas noted that the second phase of the program has been improved, as the government has taken in mind notes made by interested parties in the first phase.
The Greek minister said that subsidized budget for newly set-up enterprises would be raise to 200,000 euros from 150,000 euros, while eligible companies would have to present an average annual turnover between 15,000 to 4.0 million euros in the last three years and to employ up to 50 workers.
 PASOK Secretary, GSEE president discuss wage increases, fewer working hours
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)Ruling PASOK Secretary Michalis Chrysohoidis responded favorably to proposals by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) for an eight percent increase in wages and less working hours during a meeting he had on Thursday with GSEE President Christos Polyzogopoulos.
In statements after the meeting, Chrysohoidis said that ''there must be an increase in minimum daily wages which have lagged behind,'' adding that ''for years now, we have expressed the view that working hours must gradually be reduced and for this to happen, there must be a major discussion between the government, parties, trade unions and business agencies.''
At the same time, the PASOK Secretary praised the stance of the working people ''who, through the GSEE, have expressed very responsible positions.''
On his part, Polyzogopoulos underlined the need for the strengthening of social policies ''to pave the way for the 35-hour working week, on which there must really be a dialogue and agreements so as to avoid side-effects in small and medium-size enterprises.''
Athens Chamber reacts to plans of 35-hour working week: The Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) on Thursday strongly reacted to plans to implement a 35-hour working week in the country, saying such a measure would create significant problems to small and medium-sized enterprises and could undermine the viability of at least one-third of Greek SMEs.
EBEA warned that around 300,000 SMEs could be led to closure and thousands of workers into unemployment because implementing a 35-hour working week would lead to a 30 per-cent rise in operating costs in a period when small and medium-sized enterprises were facing enormous competitiveness problems.
"In a period when the country needs to seek ways to attract new investments, to boost productivity, to support Greek businesses' competitiveness and their products, to strengthen employment and to support SMEs' access to the country's financial system, the business world is worried by government plans to adopt a union call for a 35-hour working week," EBEA said in a statement.
EBEA members stressed that collective negotiations between employers and workers in the last few decades have ensure a long-term labor peace and a climate of consensus in the market...any intervention by political parties in this procedure could lead more to confusion than to any positive results."
 Greece is featured country at Vienna tourism trade fair
Vienna 16/01/2004 (ANA/D.Dimitrakoudis)Greece is the featured country this year at Vienna's international tourism trade fair, with the Dodecanese islands as the featured tourist destination.
The exhibition, which was inaugurated by Austria's president, lasts until Sunday.
Attending the opening was the new president of the Greek National Tourism Organization, Nikos Dimadis, who told the Athens News Agency that 2004 would mark the start of a new upward trend for tourism in Greece.
 Greek gov’t tables draft bill on spa tourism in parliament
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)The Greek government on Thursday submitted to parliament a new draft bill aiming to develop spa tourism in the country.
A Development ministry announcement said that the new legislation was aiming to "modernize the existing, since 1920, law on spa and thermal tourism in Greece and to create the necessary infrastructure to attract high-income consumers and tourists in the country."
 Commission to take Greece to court over illegal waste disposal in Paiania
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)The European Commission on Thursday decided to pursue legal action against Greece and five other member-states of the European Union for failing to comply with EU waste laws.
In its announcement, the Commission said it was referring Greece to the European Court of Justice following the investigation of a complaint, in connection with illegal waste disposal at Paiania, in eastern Attica.
It also noted that Greece appeared to be taking general steps to improve waste management in this region but problems of illegal disposal persisted.
 Profit taking halts rally of prices in ASE
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)Greek stocks came under mild profit taking pressure late in the session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday ending a several-day rally of prices.
The general index ended 0.05 percent lower at 2,481 points, after rising to a new record-high for the year (2,509.39 points) early in the session.
Turnover was a heavy 258.3 million euros.
Most sector indices ended lower, with the Textile (1.90 percent) and IT Applications (1.45 percent) sector suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day. The Cement and Insurance sectors scored the biggest percentage gains (1.32 percent and 0.33 percent, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks was unchanged from Wednesday's closing level, while the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index eased 0.23 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 0.47 percent lower.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 214 to 99 with another 46 issues unchanged.
Closing rates of January 15 2004
Parities in euro
For. Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,273 1,244
 Faliro district readies for 2004 Olympics
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)The government on Thursday promised that a handful of Olympics-related venues and surrounding landscape works at the coastal Faliro site, south of downtown Athens, will be ready by May 2004.
The Faliro Coastal Zone Olympic complex hosts the beach volleyball venue, as well as the new Olympic sports centre (hand-ball preliminaries and Taekwondo competition). The Hellenikon Olympic Complex (softball, baseball, hockey, basketball prelims, handball finals, fencing as well as the canoe/kayak slalom centre) is located a few kilometers to the southeast, along Athens’ main coastal boulevard.
During a tour of the site, Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou said the 20 hectares of land once occupied by the only racehorse track in Greece will be loaned to the adjacent Kallithea municipality for use as a sports and cultural venue.
Finally, a new pedestrian span bridge connects the old racehorse track site, transferred to the east Attica township of Markopoulo and next to the new Olympic equestrian centre, with Faliro’s coastal tract.
 Police dismantle drug trafficking ring, arrest three brothers
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)Police have dismantled an Albanian family ring trafficking large quantities of drugs in the regions of eastern Attica.
Police have arrested three brothers and have seized 2,795 grams of heroin, 201 grams of cocaine, 9.5 kilos of unprocessed cannabis, half a kilo of processed hashish, a pistol and seven rounds, a precision scale, 1,320 euros and a car.
The drugs had been concealed in a storehouse for animal fodder in the town of Koropi, east of Athens, where one of the brothers worked. A second brother also lived in Koropi and the third in the Athens district of Ambelokipi.
 Toga-flag motorship arrested for false documentation, people-smuggling
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)A Toga-flagged motorship with falsified documents has been detained in the Argosaronic Gulf, and is believed to have disembarked 153 illegal immigrants on two Peloponnese coasts, the Greek Coast Guard announced on Thursday.
The motorship ''NANA'', with a nine-member foreign crew aboard, was immobilized on Wednesday as it was sailing off Agistri and the crew was placed under arrest.
Coast Guard sources told ANA that the motorship, which bore forged documentation, is suspected of having disembarked a total of 153 illegal immigrants several days ago on the beaches of Dryopi and Kaloni in Argolis prefecture.
They said that the illegal immigrants had been gradually rounded up and taken into custody by police, and some of the detainees had provided information on the motorship.
Coast Guard officials believe the motorship belongs to an international people-smuggling outfit.
 Onassion Centre donates old equipment to Erevan University
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)The Alexandros Onassis Public Benefit Foundation on Thurs-day announced that the Onassion Heart Centre will donated some of its old equipment that has recently been replaced by state-of-the-art machinery to the State Medical University in Erevan, Armenia.
The equipment will be used to create a university clinic named "Alexnadros Onassis University Clinic".
The inauguration ceremony for the new clinic is due to take place in March 2004 and will be attended by the Greek ambassador in Erevan.
 Minister calls for debate on separating 'hard' and 'soft' drugs
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis on Thursday said he was in favor of public debate and an organized dialogue on the issue of separating "hard" and "soft" drugs and decriminalizing the use of the latter.
Magriotis was responding to questions on whether he agreed with the views expressed by foreign minister and future PASOK leader George Papandreou on this issue.
Noting that systematic efforts had been made in recent years in terms of informing the public and rehabilitation, he also stressed that more needed to be done.
"We must handle of the problems of the new generation using social criteria and a broader spirit. For this reason, I believe that George Papandreou's proposal provides an answer," he said.
 Appeal by Papandreou children over sale of Psychico villa
Athens, 16/01/2004 (ANA)The Athens Multi-member Appeals Court on Thursday considered an appeal lodged by three children of former prime minister Andreas Papandreou against a lower court decision that declared the sale of their grandmother's Psychico villa to businessman Haralambos Vlahoutsikos to be legal.
Nikos, Andrikos and Sofia Papandreou assert that their father had unwittingly acted illegally when he sold the villa a few years before his death, since he was unaware that it had been deeded by Sofia Mineiko to her grandchildren in a later will drafted in 1968.
No witnesses testified during Thursday's court proceedings, since the two sides are only permitted to submit documents.
 Cyprus: German envoy hopes parties will seize opportunities for settlement
NICOSIA 16/01/2004 (CNA/ANA)Germany's special envoy for Cyprus Peter Wittig has said in December 2004 EU member states are going to decide whether Turkey has fulfilled the Copenhagen criteria in order to start accession talks and that this ''is the only game that is being played,'' adding that ''Cyprus is part of the whole context.''
Witting, who had served as Germany's Ambassador to Cyprus, is on a tour of the region in view of the forthcoming visits of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to Turkey.
Speaking after being received by Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on Thursday, the German envoy said when asked if he is optimistic that a solution to the Cyprus problem will be found by May 1, that he is a realist and can just hope that all parties take up the opportunities and seize the chances of the moment.
''I am too long in the business in order to be guided by sentiments.
I would not give a sentimental assessment of what I think is possible,'' he added.
Wittig said he is on a regional tour something that ''testifies to the ongoing interest we have in the Cyprus question as Germany and as Europeans.'' He also noted that he had an interesting talk with the Cyprus president who briefed him about his assessment of the current situation.
''We all know that this coming year is a very decisive one for EU-Turkey relations but also for the eastern Mediterranean as a whole,'' he noted and said that before coming here he was in Ankara, while on Wednesday he had talks in Cyprus' Turkish-occupied territory.
''I am doing all these to prepare a visit of my Foreign Minister Fischer to Ankara next week and a visit of the Federal Chancellor who is going to Ankara in the month of February. So we want to have a picture of how the Cyprus question is evolving,'' he said.
Witting added ''my mission here is to gage the situation, how it is standing and to evaluate the possibilities of a solution of this long standing question in the course of this year.''
Asked if Schroeder and Fischer will be visiting Cyprus as well, Wittig replied negatively.
Asked if Fischer and Schroeder are going to convey to Ankara what the German EU enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen said on Wednesday, that Turkey will not be able to join the EU within a decade, Wittig said ''everybody knows that the accession course of Turkey depends on the fulfillment of the Copenhagen criteria.''
''At the end of this year, in December 2004, the member states of the EU will get together to decide on the question whether Turkey has fulfilled the Copenhagen criteria in order to start accession talks and that is the only game that is being played, the Copenhagen criteria. Cyprus is part of the whole context. Verheugen also made it clear that a solution of the Cyprus problem is part of Turkey's course and quest towards the EU,'' Wittig concluded.
The German diplomat had also a meeting with Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou.
 Straw urges all parties to work for settlement by May 1
LONDON 16/01/2004 (CNA/ANA)British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has appealed to all sides involved in the question of Cyprus to work for a settlement on the basis of a UN peace proposal.
Straw, replying to MP's questions, said on Tuesday the illegal parliamentary elections in Turkish-occupied Cyprus were, as far as London could tell, ''fair and open although there were serious concerns about the campaign.'' A report on the way these ''elections'' were conducted is expected in the next month, he said.
''As far as we are aware, elections on the day were conducted in a fair and open manner. We welcome the fact that notwithstanding these concerns about the campaign, the majority of the population in the north of Cyprus voted for candidates committed to a solution to the Cyprus problem,'' Straw said.
He said Britain ''encourages all sides to work now for a settlement to the Cyprus problem based on the UN Secretary-General's proposals (the Annan plan) by May 1.''
He said that the ''December elections, although not officially recognized, were an important opportunity for the Turkish Cypriot people to express their views on the island's future.''
Straw explained that a small team of academics from the University of Oslo noted some ''serious concerns about the manner in which the campaign was conducted'' and will issue their report probably next month.
''We too have noted the widespread concerns expressed by many Turkish Cypriots about the way the campaign was conducted. There were numerous reports of intimidation and also of rigging of the electoral register,'' the foreign secretary said.
The December ''elections'' in occupied Cyprus gave 25 seats to the forces that back a solution on the basis of Kofi Annan's plan and an equal number of seats to the opposite camp, which had maintained that Annan's proposal was dead and buried.