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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-01-04

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

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

January 4, 2006

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM briefed over economic developments
  • [02] FM Spokesman on alleged Pakistani kidnappings
  • [03] Deputy FM to visit Tarpon Springs, Florida
  • [04] Preliminary probe ordered into new phone listings service
  • [05] Turkish warplanes violate national air space, infringe Athens FIR
  • [06] High court prosecutor orders probe into fugitive's death, escape
  • [07] Sioufas meets with Austrian ambassador over natgas crisis
  • [08] Thessaloniki to organize Eurochamber's annual summit:
  • [09] Monthly average household spending at 1,792 euros in Greece
  • [10] Greenpeace calls for Greece's harmonization to EU energy legislation
  • [11] Sharp rise in December public revenue
  • [12] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise
  • [13] Art director of Patra 2006 cultural capital organization resigns
  • [14] Court appoints new defense team for N17 defendant Giotopoulos
  • [15] Water level of Evros River continues to rise
  • [16] 19 illegal migrants rescued, one death reported
  • [17] Turkish human trafficker arrested on Samos
  • [18] Three arson attacks on cars, ruling ND office, during the night, claimed by unknown group
  • [19] President Papadopoulos warns against ill-prepared talks
  • [20] Papadopoulos denounces Ozkok's statements on Cyprus
  • [21] Cypriot MEP to report his illegal arrest by occupation regime

  • [01] PM briefed over economic developments

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday was briefed by Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis over economic developments in the country.

    Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Alogoskoufis said 2006 was the year of implementing economic reforms and stressed that the government was working towards reducing its fiscal deficit below 3.0 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

    The Greek minister, replying to reporters' questions over whether the European Com-mission would offer an one-year extension to reduce its deficit, said "one more year never harmed anybody" and noted that the government would maintain its mild adjustment policy. "We have not asked for an extension, but if the Commission makes any such offer it would be welcome," Alogoskoufis said.

    Opposition raps finmin: The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Friday sharply criticized Finance Minister George Alogokskoufis for statements he made after a meeting with the prime minister earlier in the day.

    "Mr Alogoskoufis' statements are a glaring confession of the government's failure. Only ten days after the budget was voted, they are admitting, according to Mr Karamanlis, that this credible, frank budget cannot be implemented," Vasso Papandreou, PASOK's economy spokeswoman, told reporters.

    "They have confessed that they knowingly fooled the Greek parliament and the Greek public. This is a change of tack, an extension of (EU) supervision and austerity," Papandreou said.

    Separately, the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology stated that the government had admitted it wanted extension of supervision of the economy by the European Union.

    The party's economic and social policy spokesman, Panayotis Lafazanis, forecast that the government would adopt additional tax measures this year and extend austerity for wages and pensions for many more years, hurting the less well off.

    Ministry rejects criticism: The finance ministry later released a statement rejecting the criticism

    "The government's aim with the 2006 budget is to lower the deficit to below 3.0% for the first time since the country's entry into the eurozone. We are tending the Greek economy, and it is growing," the statement said.

    "This seems to displease officials of the opposition, who, when they were in government, for years misled the Greek public and the European Union," it added.

    [02] FM Spokesman on alleged Pakistani kidnappings

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw have discussed the alleged kidnappings of Pakistani immigrants in Greece in connection to the London bombings in July in a recent phone conversation, Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Tuesday in response to reporters' questions.

    According to Koumoutsakos, Molyviatis communicates frequently with his European Union counterparts, among them the British Foreign Secretary.

    The issue of the Pakistani kidnappings was one of many the two officials discussed, Koumoutsakos said.

    [03] Deputy FM to visit Tarpon Springs, Florida

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Panagiotis Skandalakis will be representing the Greek government at festivities that will be held in Tarpon Springs, Florida on occasion of Epiphany Day celebrated on Friday.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos will lead the service.

    During his visit, Skandalakis will be meeting with representatives of the Greek expatriate community.

    [04] Preliminary probe ordered into new phone listings service

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    The head of the first instance court prosecutor's office on Tuesday ordered a preliminary investigation into the granting of a telephony license (11880) for residential and commercial listings by state-run and bourse-listed OTE to a private firm.

    The preliminary probe, more-or-less standard procedure, follows a same-day press article.

    OTE's number for residential and commercial listings is 11888.

    [05] Turkish warplanes violate national air space, infringe Athens FIR

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    Eleven formations of Turkish warplanes entered the Aegean on Tuesday without submitting flight plans -11 infringements of the air traffic regulations of the Athens Flight Information region were recorded- and in nine cases violated the national air space in the regions of the northern, central and southern Aegean, according to Armed Forces General Staff sources.

    In all cases, the 28 Turkish aircraft were recognized and intercepted by corresponding Greek fighter jets, while in five cases the procedure of interception developed into a mock dog-fight.

    It was reported that seven formations of Turkish aircraft were armed.

    [06] High court prosecutor orders probe into fugitive's death, escape

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    The head of the Supreme Court prosecutor's office on Tuesday ordered a preliminary investigation into the conditions surrounding the death of an escaped Russian murderer, whose body was discovered by authorities a day earlier 1.5 kilometers from the spot where he gunned two police guards on Friday.

    High-ranking prosecutor Dimitris Linos also ordered a probe, conveyed to another prosecutor in the NW city of Ioannina, into the circumstances surrounding the ill-fated transport of the three prisoners by the slain officers.

    The body of 23-year-old Russian national Maxim Zhilin, who escaped on Friday after killing the two police guards, was found on Monday along the banks of a river with a bullet wound in the head.

    According to reports, Maxim Zhilin was clutching the revolver he took from one of the two slain policemen. Authorities found the body near a remote riverside trout farm after local residents reported hearing a single gun shot in the early morning hours of Monday.

    A Larissa coroner later confirmed initial reports that Zhilin had committed suicide by aiming and firing the revolver into his right temple. The time of death was determined as taking place 20 to 24 hours before the body was found.

    His body was found on the banks of the Malakasiotis River, a tributary of the Pinios River.

    According to top police officials during a subsequent news conference on Monday afternoon, the escaped man was without shoes and wearing only the shirt and pants he wore during the escape, even though temperatures were routinely below zero throughout the time he was on the run. Additionally, authorities said the site where the body was found had been previously and repeatedly searched both by ground forces and from the air by helicopter crews.

    A manhunt was ordered late Friday morning for the fugitive after he killed the two policemen escorting him and two 17-year-old Albanians charged with minor drug offences from a detention centre in Ioannina to jails in Larissa and Volos. One of the Albanians was injured by gunfire in the police transport van, while the second teen, who escaped with Zhilin after the slayings, was apprehended on Sunday some 12 kilometers from the scene of the crime.

    The two police officers -- a driver and a guard -- were killed near the village of Malakasi in the Kalambaka district of Trikala prefecture (central Greece) on Friday when they made an unscheduled stop because the prisoners persistently asked to relieve themselves.

    PASOK spokesman on fugitive's death, alleged Pakistani kidnappings: The case of the Russian fugitive Maxim Zhilin who killed two policemen last week and whose body was found on Monday remains open, main opposition PASOK Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said.

    The Russian fugitive's suicide "obviously does not shut this case," Athanassakis said on Tuesday, adding that the chief and deputy chief of the Ioannina Prisoners Transfer Department, who have been suspended from duty, cannot be the only ones responsible for the events that led to the killing of two policemen while transferring three convicts from Ioannina to Larissa.

    Athanassakis said that the problem was a broader one which concerns the Public Order Ministry.

    "We have a Public Order Minister who has disappeared and a Government Spokesman who has also disappeared," he said.

    PASOK's spokesman also referred to the case of the Pakistani immigrants who have claimed that they were kidnapped and questioned by Greek and foreign service agents in connection to the July bombings in London.

    Athanassakis said that the case should remain in the spotlight, as it has, and that it must be fully investigated and solved and that those responsible must be held accountable.

    He also said that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had recently spoken with PASOK President George Papandreou, reassuring him that British agents had not been involved in the questioning.

    Athanassakis stressed that while international cooperation is necessary in order to fight crime and terrorism, it must always be conducted within a legal context.

    Antonaros responds to Athanassakis: Alternate Government Spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, responding on Tuesday evening to remarks made earlier in the day by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis, said that Athanassakis "in his first appearance in 2006 contributed nothing new, nothing positive, nothing constructive to political dialogue."

    Russian embassy requests fugitive's remains sent home: The Russian Embassy in Greece requested the remains of Russian fugitive Maxim Zhilin from the coroner's office in Larissa on Tuesday in order to have them sent to his family.

    The coroner's office, however, refused the request until necessary procedures are completed.

    Zhilin, convicted for the murder of a 42-year old woman, killed two policemen last week while being transferred from Ioannina to Larissa. He was found dead on Monday roughly 1.5 kilometers from the scene of the crime.

    [07] Sioufas meets with Austrian ambassador over natgas crisis

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Monday met with Austria's ambassador to Athens Herbert Kröll for talks on the ongoing Ukraine-Russia natural gas dispute, in light of Austria's assumption of the current EU rotating presidency.

    Specifically, Sioufas briefed the Austrian envoy over his separate meetings, a day earlier, with both the Russian and Ukrainian envoys, Andrey Vdovin and Valerii Tsybukh.

    The minister also stressed that Athens was absolutely behind the Austrian presidency's initiatives on the matter.

    PASOK's Diamantopoulou on supply of natural gas to the Greek market: Anna Diamantopoulou, head of the Development, Competitive-ness and Consumer Policy sector of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement's (PASOK) Political Council, said on Tuesday that "the crisis in Russia-Ukraine relations regarding natural gas showed that Greece is obliged to be ready at any moment to be well prepared, so as to effectively deal with the possible problem of its supply with energy."

    At the same time, she noted that "the present government does not have sufficient planning and is dealing spasmodically the issues in the crucial sector of energy."

    Diamantopoulou accused the government that "even though almost two years have passed since its election, it has not yet submitted its proposal for the country's long-term energy planning, despite the fact that it has received a relevant plan from the previous government."

    [08] Thessaloniki to organize Eurochamber's annual summit:

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    The Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry is ready to organize the annual summit of the Eurochamber in October, the chamber's president Dimitris Bakatselos said on Tuesday.

    Speaking to reporters, Bakatselos said the summit will attract more than 1,000 visitors to Thessaloniki, including Eurodeputies, Commissioners, ministers, union representatives and company executives from Europe, Asia and the United States.

    "The year 2006 will bring our city in the focus. The organizing of the event is giving us a rare opportunity to promote Thessaloniki, Macedonia and our country around the world and will offer direct economic benefits, more credibility and know-how, thus strengthening a positive climate developing for our country," Bakatselos said.

    [09] Monthly average household spending at 1,792 euros in Greece

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    Monthly household spending in the regions of eastern Macedonia and Thrace were significantly lower compared with average household spending in Greece in the period 2004/05, the Bank of Greece said in its regional economic conjucture bulletin, published on Tuesday.

    The central bank, in its report, said that people living in these regions were spending around 165 euros less, each month, compared with the average Greek.

    The average monthly spending by Greeks living in eastern Macedonia and Thrace did not exceed 1,628 euros (from an average 1,792 euros in the country, 1,829 euros in central Macedonia and 1,778 euros in western Macedonia).

    Monthly spending on food was 280.85 euros in eastern Macedonia and Thrace, down from 306.44 (Greek average), 303 in central Macedonia and 306.6 euros in western Macedonia. Spending on food accounted for around 17 percent of household budget in Greece.

    Transportation costs were high, ranking second in the list of household spending, the Bank of Greece said. People in western Macedonia paid 237.4 euros monthly in transportation spending, from an average 225.8 euros in Greece, 221.67 euros in eastern Macedonia and Thrace and 232.1 euros in central Macedonia.

    The accumulated cost of housing-fuel-water-electricity totalled 191.6 euros in monthly spending for an average Greek. People in western Macedonia paid 217 euros while in eastern Macedonia and Thrace the cost was 187 euros.

    In central Macedonia the cost of hotel and restaurants totalled 200.22 euros per month on average.

    Monthly spending on hotel and restaurants for an average Greek totalled 172.24 euros, exceeding monthly cost on healthcare services (128.17 euros), clothing and footwear (150.15 euros), entertainment (90.11 euros), communications (80.98 euros) and education (51.34 euros).

    [10] Greenpeace calls for Greece's harmonization to EU energy legislation

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    Greenpeace in an announcement on Tuesday accused Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias that Greece is obliged by January 4, 2006 to incorporate in its national law European Directive 2002/91 for the energy efficiency of buildings.

    Greenpeace spoke of "provocative indifference which has as a consequence the uncontrolled increase of the emission of dioxide of anthrax and the energy and economic drain of households."

    [11] Sharp rise in December public revenue

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    Budgetary revenue rose sharply by 14.6% in December, the finance ministry said on Tuesday.

    For the whole of 2005, revenue increased by 6.3% in comparison with a year earlier, against an annual target of 5.0%, the ministry said in a statement.

    Contributing to December's surge was a 13.5% rise in revenue from Value Added Tax versus the same month a year earlier.

    Total revenue from tax offices in December increased by 18.7%, and from customs by 10.2%, the statement said.

    [12] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    The Athens share index closed at 3,710.89 points, showing a rise of 1.30%. Turnover was 279.0 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.20% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.91 higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.04% up.

    Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 229 to 59 with 37 remaining unchanged.

    Stock Futures:

  • Most Active Contract (volume): Emporiki (1348)

  • Total derivatives market turnover: 86.9 million euros

    Bond Market Close: Buyers match sellers

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond (exp. 20.7.2015): 3.57% yield

  • German benchmark 10-year bund: 3.34%

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-year bond, expiring 20.7.2015 (1.6 bln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 2.7 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates: Wednesday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.197

    [13] Art director of Patra 2006 cultural capital organization resigns

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    Composer Thanos Mikroutsikos, a former non-MP culture minister in a PASOK government a decade ago, on Tuesday tendered his resignation from the art director post at the Patra 2006 Cultural Capital of Europe organization.

    Among others, Mikroutsikos' lengthy resignation letter to the mayor of Patra lists organizational problems and various other deficiencies in planning for the year-long series of events.

    The Culture Ministry accused Mikroutsikos of 'creating political tension' saying that the reasons stated in his resignation letter are an 'excuse.'

    According to the ministry, it never interfered with the organization's decisions.

    "The Ministry trusted the responsible agencies to stay within budget constraints and to implement necessary procedures with a certain amount of flexibility when and if necessary, to a reasonable extent. In a democracy there is no such thing as 'carte blanche' when managing public funds. We are all accountable," the ministry said in its statement.

    "Is the resignation a political maneuver or is the art director afraid of being criticized for the program he has put together," the ministry asked in closing.

    [14] Court appoints new defense team for N17 defendant Giotopoulos

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    The latest development at the ongoing appeals trial of nearly a score of "November 17" convicted terrorists on Tuesday involved the appointment of a new trio of defense attorneys for the man sentenced in the first instance trial as the terror band's co-founder and mastermind.

    The five-judge appellate-level tribunal appointed three new lawyers to represent Alexandros Giotopoulos after his defense team resigned in the middle of the current proceedings and following the refusal of another pair of attorneys to assume his defense.

    The last pair of lawyers cited health and financial reasons for declining a court appointment to assume Giotopoulos' defense.

    Meanwhile, speculation and press reports of infighting amongst the once elusive terror gang's members surfaced at the jailhouse courtroom on Tuesday after convicted N17 hitman Vassilis Tzortzatos read out a statement sharply criticizing an "expression of solidarity" by his co-defendants towards "all those charged, regardless".

    Tzortzatos, convicted on numerous homicide and terrorism counts, said such a declaration was a "provocation", since "it includes those (defendants) that cooperated with authorities".

    The statement led to a verbal exchange between N17 arch-assassin Dimitris Koufodinas and Tzortzatos' lawyer, Vassilis Mylonas.

    [15] Water level of Evros River continues to rise

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    The services of the Prefecture of Evros, of the Eastern-Macedonia and Thrace Region and of nearby municipalities are on alert these past two days as the strong rainfall in the border prefecture, but also in neighboring Bulgaria and Turkey, has brought about a gradual rise since Tuesday evening in the water level of Evros River.

    At 6 p.m., the water level at Evros River reached 5.22 meters, exceeding the alert limit of 4.70 meters.

    The Civil Protection Department of Evros Prefecture has called on inhabitants of nearby areas, farmers, stockbreeders, fisher-men and hunters to stay clear of the dangerous regions near Evros River and to distance their animals and agricultural machinery.

    [16] 19 illegal migrants rescued, one death reported

    4/1/2005 (ANA)

    The coast guard rescued 19 illegal immigrants in a sea region off the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos early Tuesday and retrieved the body of one would-be migrant who apparently drowned, authorities reported.

    A vessel carrying the illegals was spotted by the coast guard and fishermen as it was sinking some 80 meters from the island's shores.

    [17] Turkish human trafficker arrested on Samos

    4/1/2005 (ANA)

    Kainak Ibrahim, a 39-year old Turkish national was arrested on the island of Samos on Tuesday for transporting five illegal immigrants.

    Ibrahim will appear before the prosecutor on Wednesday.

    He admitted having transported the five illegal immigrants by boat in the early morning hours of Tuesday.

    Ibrahim had tried to escape but was unable to due to engine trouble.

    [18] Three arson attacks on cars, ruling ND office, during the night, claimed by unknown group

    ATHENS, 4/1/2005 (ANA)

    Three instances of arson attacks on cars and a ruling New Democracy party (ND) office occurred early Tuesday, within the space of an hour, in the greater Athens area, police said, adding that the fires caused material damage but no injuries.

    The first instance occurred at 3:10 a.m. in the Mets residential district of Athens, where a home-made incendiary device comprising small propane canisters exploded beneath a parked car bearing diplomatic license plates. The ensuing fire spread to four other parked cars, causing material damage to all five vehicles.

    Fifteen minutes later, at 3:25 a.m. in the suburb of Petroupolis, unidentified persons torched a parked car without license plates. The flames spread to another parked car, causing damage to both vehicles.

    In the third instance, a home-made incendiary device comprising small propane canisters exploded at 4:15 a.m. in the Kypseli residential district at the entrance of a ND office on the ground floor, causing material damage.

    Police said an anonymous caller phoned the private ALTER TV station at 5:00 a.m. and claimed responsibility for the arson attacks on behalf of a hitherto unknown group calling itself "Anti-State Justice", in an act of solidarity with anarchists Panayiotis Aspiotis, George Kalaitzidis and Petros Karasaridis, who are serving time in prison for arson attacks and several felonies.

    [19] President Papadopoulos warns against ill-prepared talks

    NICOSIA, 4/1/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has warned against any new initiative for a political solution which is not well-prepared, pointing out that possible failure to reach a negotiated settlement would send the wrong signals.

    ''It is not too difficult to resume negotiations but without good preparation of the agenda and the issues to be discussed, such an initiative could soon collapse and lead to a deadlock,'' he said on Tuesday.

    Any such eventuality would send the message to the international community that the Cyprus problem cannot be resolved and that division is a feasible option.

    The government, he added, is doing its best, away from the public limelight to ensure that a new initiative for a solution is well prepared in order to have good prospects of success.

    Addressing retired civil servants, President Papadopoulos wished that 2006 would pave the way towards a solution, which will lead to the reunification of the country and to a viable and functioning agreement.

    [20] Papadopoulos denounces Ozkok's statements on Cyprus

    NICOSIA, 4/1/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos has denounced statements on Cyprus by the Turkish Chief of General Staff General Hilmi Ozkok, saying they are not acceptable.

    In his new-year message, General Ozkok said that defending Ankara's rights and interests in Cyprus, which he described as the cornerstone of Turkey's security in the Eastern Mediterranean, was one of the basic pillars of Ankara's security strategy.

    ''These are old views which we do not accept. We reject such notions,'' President Papadopoulos said on Tuesday, when asked to comment on Ozkok's remarks.

    The president condemned ''the illegal abduction'' of Cypriot Euro MP Marios Matsakis by the self-styled Turkish Cypriot regime, in occupied Cyprus, saying bringing Matsakis before a so-called court was also condemned.

    Matsakis was abducted on Saturday by the occupation regime in the UN controlled buffer zone in connection with ''charges'' of lowering the Turkish flag from a military observation post in November last year.

    He was released on bail on Monday but was ordered to appear before a civil ''court'' on Thursday to answer to the ''charges''.

    The ''courts'', President Papadopoulos said, ''released Matsakis under the pretext of recognizing his parliamentary immunity'' and not out of a sense of duty but rather because they had to do it.

    Matsakis, together with the Polish Euro MP Genowefa Grabowska, went on December 31 to Ledra Palace checkpoint in Nicosia to deliver sweets to the Turkish Cypriot leader for the New Year. An officer of the so-called police told Matsakis that he was ''under arrest'' in connection with the November incident.

    Matsakis said after his release that he would report to the president and the Plenary of the Europarliament his illegal arrest. He told reporters on Tuesday that the Cyprus Police are examining a criminal case of abduction.

    Responding to questions, President Papadopoulos said obstacles raised by the regime with regard to quality control of products transported from the occupied north to the free areas of the island are another proof that Turkish Cypriot demands for direct trade with the EU have no other purpose than to obtain political gains.

    ''They are not willing to accept that those products have to be examined by the competent authorities of the Republic before being exported and they prefer, for political reasons, to send their products to England, instead of having them tested at the government laboratories, a mere 5-kilometer away'' from the place of production, he said.

    These tactics, he pointed out, ''are first and foremost a violation of the EU Green Line Regulation and secondly a political statement to highlight the separate entity of the illegal regime,'' Papadopoulos added.

    [21] Cypriot MEP to report his illegal arrest by occupation regime

    LARNACA, 4/1/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Cypriot Euro MP, Marios Matsakis, has said that he would report to the President and the Plenary of the Europarliament his illegal arrest by the Turkish occupation regime, in northern Cyprus on New Year's Eve.

    Matsakis, released on bail on Monday night, told reporters on Tuesday that the Cyprus Police are examining a criminal case of abduction. The regime accused him of entering a Turkish military area and lowering a Turkish flag from an unmanned army post in Louroujina area, south of capital Nicosia, on November 1, 2005.

    He pointed out that his abduction took place in an area controlled by the United Nations and not by the Turkish occupation forces and added that his objective was not to cross into the occupied north, but to deliver to Turkish Cypriot Mehmet Ali Talat "a symbolic present of reconciliation and peace."

    Asked if his illegal arrest would keep him away from visits to Turkey, he said: ''I represent the Republic of Cyprus. I am a member of the Joint EU-Turkey Parliamentary Committee and I will do my duty as an MEP. If they arrest me, they will be faced with the condemnation and the consequences within the EU."

    Responding to questions, he said he had not regretted his action to lower the Turkish flag, saying that he did not steal or destroy the flag, which he handed over to a Turkish journalist in Brussels.

    "I respect national symbols. I lowered the flag in order to show it to the EP and ask that it is sent to the Turkish Prime Minister with the demand that he withdraws his troops from Cyprus. The Turkish flag represents the occupation and many politicians need to understand this,'' he concluded.

    Matsakis dismissed reports that he had signed a bailbond worth 18,000 Cyprus pounds (one pound is about 1.5 US dollars) as a guarantee that he would appear before a civilian ''court'' on January 5th, adding that the paper that was presented to him was in Turkish and thus he could not understand what it said.

    "I did not sign it. I just put my initials. What counts is that I told the so-called courts that I do not recognize them. I would urge those who condemn me for my actions to spend time in the regime's jails in handcuffs and under threat and then pass judgment on me for having put my initials on paper," he said.

    Asked if he would appear before the so-called civilian court this Thursday, Cypriot MEP said that he will be in Belgium, adding that if the Cyprus government believes that it would be in the interest of the country to appear before the "court", then he would do so, risking conviction.

    Matsakis, together with the Polish Euro MP Genowefa Grabowska, went on December 31 to Ledra Palace checkpoint in Nicosia to deliver sweets to the Turkish Cypriot leader for the new year.

    An officer of the so-called police told Matsakis that he was ''under arrest'' in connection with the November incident with the flag.

    The Cyprus government protested to the United Nations, urging them to make the necessary representations to the occupation regime to immediately release the Cypriot Euro MP.


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