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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-01-05

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

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

January 5, 2006

CONTENTS

  • [01] Inner Cabinet approves draft law on primary healthcare
  • [02] PM, FinMin address Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry event
  • [03] Main opposition says gov't lying over budget
  • [04] Speaker of Japan's House of Representatives in Athens next week
  • [05] Synaspismos press release cites Karamanlis-Alavanos meeting on Thursday
  • [06] SYN leader on alleged Pakistani kidnappings
  • [07] SYN leader meets with Armenian committee
  • [08] Funeral of veteran communist cadre Bistis on Thursday
  • [09] Increased holiday traffic on Greece-FYROM border reported
  • [10] Trade leader says business world optimistic over economy
  • [11] Greeks work more compared with European average, Eurostat
  • [12] Natgas refueling station to be inaugurated on Saturday
  • [13] Development ministry revokes Astra Insurance's license
  • [14] Macedonia improved regional funds' absorption rate in 2005
  • [15] TIF presents int'l activities program for 2006
  • [16] Exporters' union urges more Greek brand name products
  • [17] Eurobank Securities biggest player in ASE last year
  • [18] Mechaniki, Attikat get Maliakos, Patras road projects
  • [19] Aktor signs memorandum for Oman project
  • [20] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise, tracking markets abroad
  • [21] Police leadership urges vigilance in prisoners' transport following double slaying
  • [22] Second autopsy confirms suicide of Russian fugitive
  • [23] Temporary 'Patras 2006' artistic director named
  • [24] Funding of cultural capital organization will continue, gov't says
  • [25] British hiker missing on Mt. Olympos returns to Litochoro
  • [26] Transport Minister visits Athens Metro exhibit
  • [27] High alert along rising Evros River continues
  • [28] AHEPA/University of Indianapolis-Athens announce 'Journey to Greece' program for students
  • [29] Trafficker of persons arrested at NW Greek port
  • [30] Spate of overnight fire bombings reported
  • [31] Cyprus gov't Spokesman: We favor freedom of settlement throughout Cyprus
  • [32] Cyprus gov't Spokesman: Turkey has a collective obligation towards EU
  • [33] New UNFICYP Head of Mission in Cyprus assumes office
  • [34] Austrian Ambassador to Cyprus: Turkey must meet EU obligations regarding Cyprus

  • [01] Inner Cabinet approves draft law on primary healthcare

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    The Inner Cabinet, chaired by prime minister Costas Karamanlis, on Wednesday approved a draft law on primary healthcare that introduces, inter alia, the institution of family doctor, the operation of urban health centers on a 24-hour basis, and the transfer of the IKA (national Social Insurance Foundation) and other social insurance funds' healthcare divisions to the central National Health System (ESY).

    According to health minister Nikitas Kaklamanis, who presented the bill, which is co-sponsored by labor minister Panos Panayiotopoulos, no IKA doctor will be dismissed. He also said that approximately a decade would be necessary for implementation of the plan, as it required 6,000 general practitioners with four years of medical studies.

    He told reporters after the Inner Cabinet meeting that the main principles of the bill would be put to public debate with the trade union, employer and medical associations, while a cost/benefit study of the system would also be carried out.

    Kaklamanis said the target was to have the bill passed by parliament in the first half of 2006.

    Replying to press questions, Kaklamanis said he was very satisfied because he, together with Panayiotopoulos, were laying the cornerstone for primary healthcare, adding that "it is not important who cuts the ribbon" when questioned on the timetable of the venture and the prospect of his nomination as a candidate for Mayor of Athens in municipal elections slated for October this year.

    Replying to the same question, Panayiotopoulos said he had confidence in the prime minister's judgment, adding that his cooperation with all his colleagues was good.

    Panayiotopoulos said that the transfer of the healthcare divisions of IKA and the other social insurance funds to ESY would result in better healthcare for the Greek citizens, stressing that IKA would remain a "central pylon" for all the Greek citizens.

    The labor minister clarified that the government did not intend to "spring surprises", as an exhaustive dialogue would be carried out with all sides involved before the bill was tabled in parliament for debate and vote.

    Panayiotopoulos also noted that a cost/benefit study would be conducted, in cooperation with the finance ministry, and that all the parameters would be examined.

    Asked to comment on Kaklamanis' possible candidacy for Athens Mayor, Panayiotopoulos replied that if current mayor Dora Bakoyannis decided not to stand for re-election, Kaklamanis would be "the ideal solution", adding that the health minister would be a "very good mayor" who would enjoy the preference of Athenians from the entire political spectrum.

    Opposition parties object to health care bill: The main opposition PASOK party and the Communist Party of Greece voiced their opposition to the primary health care bill announced by the inner cabinet on Wednesday.

    According to the Health Ministry, the bill's objective is to upgrade health care services, to place the family doctor at the system's centre and to help decongest major hospitals.

    PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos described the bill as vague and suggested that the existing law on primary health care, passed in February 2004, be implemented instead.

    He also said that the bill implied the departure of Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis.

    In response, Kaklamanis said that Venizelos was right to call on the current government to solve this problem as well, "since over the past 20 years, PASOK governments dragged their feet regarding primary health care."

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) also described the bill as vague, adding that "it is certain that it contains anti-popular measures because it is in line with policies that go against working people's interests."

    Finally, the Confederation of the Employees of Greece (GSEE) said that there was a lack of essential social debate before a decision on a major issue such as primary health care was reached.

    [02] PM, FinMin address Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry event

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis referred to the goals ahead for 2006, during separate statements at the annual meeting of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) on Wednesday.

    "Society is asking us to change things. This is what we are doing, with faith in the capabilities of Greek citizens; by trusting citizens we are shaping a new future day by day," Karamanlis said.

    "We are winning the battle for the reduction of deficits and we are doing so through the mildest possible adjustment. We have achieved among the higher growth rates in the EU after years of investment inactivity and Greece is finally attracting the interest of foreign investors," he added.

    On his part, Alogoskoufis said that the government is forging ahead with a plan and with reforms in order to create a new, dynamic and modern economy.

    The objective, he said, is prosperity for all citizens.

    Alogoskoufis added that the government's economic policy is paying off, that the 2005 deficit has been reduced, that unemployment has been contained and that Greece achieved one of the highest growth rates in the EU.

    Regarding 2006, Alogoskoufis said the government will continue along the same lines, adding that the deficit will, for the first time, drop below 3% of GDP.

    [03] Main opposition says gov't lying over budget

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Wednesday accused the government of lying about the 2006 budget, which was passed by parliament last month.

    "The budget that (Finance Minister) George Alogoskoufis gave to parliament backed by the premier, his ministers and the (ruling) New Democracy party's parliamentary group will not be implemented. They all told lies to parliament and to the Greek public because they knew it could not be implemented," PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said.

    "It only needed 10 days for forecasts made by (PASOK leader) George Papandreou during the budget debate to be confirmed," Athanassakis stated.

    He also accused Alogoskoufis of falsifying targets for budgetary revenue in 2005.

    "In the 2005 budget, the forecast for revenue growth was 7.2%. In March, under the growth and stability plan the government gave to the EU, the target was revised upwards to 10.2%," Athanassakis said.

    "The government then revised the target down to 5.0% due to severely lagging revenue. It is now celebrating revenue growth of 6.3%," he noted.

    On Tuesday, the finance ministry reported that overall budgetary revenue rose sharply by 14.6% in December, growing by 6.3% in 2005 in comparison with a year earlier and higher than an annual target of 5.0%. Contributing to December's surge was a 13.5% rise in revenue from Value Added Tax versus the same month a year earlier, with total revenue from tax offices in that month up 18.7%, and from customs up 10.2%.

    In addition, the government had raised Value Added Tax to 19.0% from 18.0% in order to meet the 5.0% target.

    "Tax revenue was higher in 2005 due to higher prices in petroleum products but the revenue increase was only 6.3%. Mr Alogoskoufis should state how much revenue would have totalled if there had not been a rise of one percentage point in VAT and higher revenue from petroleum products," the spokesman said.

    He also complained that ERT television had only allocated eight seconds to statements he made on Tuesday in a 10-minute news report on the suicide of a Russian fugitive, and only covered one of three topics he outlined. In the afternoon news, no mention at all was made of his statements, he added.

    Government lashes back: Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos later issued a statement saying that it was common knowledge that PASOK had produced fake budgets, which had been confirmed by the European Union.

    The former PASOK government had also lied to the public on the real state of the economy, Roussopoulos noted.

    [04] Speaker of Japan's House of Representatives in Athens next week

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    The Speaker of Japan's House of Representatives, Yohei Kono, arrives in Greece on Sunday for an official three-day visit, following an invitation by his counterpart, Anna Psarouda-Benaki.

    The visit, according to a press release issued by the Japanese embassy in Athens, aims to further already close bilateral relations.

    While in Greece, Kono is expected to be received by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    [05] Synaspismos press release cites Karamanlis-Alavanos meeting on Thursday

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will reportedly receive Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos on Thursday at his office following a request by the latter, according to a press release issued by the party on Wednesday.

    The same Synaspismos press release notes that Alavanos will outline his party's positions over the alleged detainment and interrogation of several Pakistani men residing in Athens over the summer, and following the terrorist attacks in London's underground.

    [06] SYN leader on alleged Pakistani kidnappings

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) President Alekos Alavanos on Wednesday said that the British government must state clearly whether its secret service was involved in the alleged kidnappings of Pakistani immigrants living in Greece for questioning in connection with the London bombings.

    Alavanos, in comments he made to BBC radio and television, described the alleged kidnappings as a violation of human rights in the European Union, a violation of the UN's anti-torture legislation and anti-constitutional.

    [07] SYN leader meets with Armenian committee

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) President Alekos Alavanos expressed his party's support for Armenians' concerns regarding the destruction of cultural monuments in Azerbaijan during his meeting with the National Armenian Committee on Wednesday.

    Alavanos said that the issue was a grave one, adding that SYN will call to action the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Left.

    On his part, the Armenian Committee's President Kaspar Karabetian said that the issue is of major concern to the Armenian population which is why an international campaign in Europe and the US has been launched in the hopes of pressuring the Azerbaijan government to take action against the on-going destruction.

    [08] Funeral of veteran communist cadre Bistis on Thursday

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    A long-time and founding member of the small Revolutionary Communist Movement of Greece (EKKE), Andreas Bistis, will be buried on Thursday at Athens' 1st Cemetery. Bistis, 63, suffered a fatal heart attack on Jan. 1.

    [09] Increased holiday traffic on Greece-FYROM border reported

    SKOPJE, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Customs officials here cited increased traffic across the Greek-FYROM border over the recent holiday weekend, with some 4,000 Greek nationals traveling north to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and an almost equal number of citizens from the neighboring country entering Greece.

    According to FYROM officials, the top destinations for Greek nationals were the Ohrid lake district, a ski resort at Mavrovo, the town of Bitola as well as two casinos in the Gevgeli border region.

    Conversely, most travelers from FYROM chose the Thessaloniki metropolitan area, the largest commercial and trade centre in the entire area.

    [10] Trade leader says business world optimistic over economy

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    The president of the Athens Chamber of Trade and Industry, Drakoulis Foundoukakos said on Wednesday that the business world was optimistic about the state of the economy.

    Foundoukakos reported that the reasons for optimism were as follows:

  • a long-awaited eurozone upturn appeared to consolidate

  • Greek growth had remained strong after the Athens 2004 Olympics, although public deficits needed to fall sharply

  • the government and main opposition appeared to agree on the need for consistency in fiscal revitalization and an acceleration of structural change

    "I believe that 2006 will be a year of major business agreements and rearrangement as well as new investment initiatives and moves in the private sector," Foundoukakos told an annual reception hosted by the chamber.

    [11] Greeks work more compared with European average, Eurostat

    5/1/2006 (ANA)

    60.3 percent of Greeks, aged 15-64, were working in the second quarter of 2005, while Greeks -with an average working time of 42.4 hours per week- worked significantly more compared with the European average, Eurostat said on Wednesday.

    The number of working men was significantly higher from women in the March-June period (74.5 pct and 46.2 pct respectively).

    The average employment rate in the EU-25 was 63.7 pct, with employment rates at 71.2 pct (men) and 56.3 pct (women).

    Average weekly working time in the EU-25 was 37.9 hours in the second quarter. Greeks ranked second after the Czechs (42.8 hours per week), while the Dutch (31.4 hours), Danish (35.6), Englishmen (35.7) and Swedish (36 hours) worked less.

    Part-time employment is not so popular in Greece compared with the rest of Europe. Only 4.8 pct of Greeks worked in part-time jobs, while part-time employment totalled 18.5 pct in the EU-25. Part-time employment is more common among women (9.1 pct) from men (2.1 pct). The European rates were 32.5 pct and 7.3 pct, respectively.

    Eurostat said 12.1 pct of Greeks worked with time-contracts. The European rate was 14.3 pct.

    Labor mobility was significantly smaller in Greece compared with the rest of Europe, with only 2.2 pct of Greek workers having changed jobs in the last three months, compared with a 4.4 percent rate in the EU-25.

    The unemployment rate in Greece was 9.8 pct in the second quarter of 2005, from 9.1 pct in the EU-25. Long-term unemployment rate was 5.2 pct and 4.1 pct, respectively.

    [12] Natgas refueling station to be inaugurated on Saturday

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    The Public Gas Company (DEPA) will be inaugurating a natural gas refueling station for buses in Anthoussa on Saturday, the second in the Attica region.

    The station, built and operated by DEPA, is the largest of its kind in Europe. Its facilities ensure zero hydrocarbon emissions.

    The project, which cost 4.9 million, was funded 25% by the European Fund for Regional Development, 25% through the Development Ministry's 'Competitiveness' program, and 50% by DEPA.

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be inaugurating the station.

    [13] Development ministry revokes Astra Insurance's license

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou on Wednesday signed a ministerial decision revoking the operating license of Astra Insurance after the insurance company failed to meet obligatory demands, to pay compensations to contract holders, to meet payroll obligations and for reporting false 2004 balance data.

    Under the ministerial decision, all Astra Insurance's assets are freezed. The ministry ordered a supervisory board to liquidate the company's assets.

    Speaking to reporters, Papathanasiou said the government was determined to protect consumers. "It is a political decision that will benefit the insurance market. Our message to the market is that existing law will be implemented and inspections will be thorough and transparent".

    [14] Macedonia improved regional funds' absorption rate in 2005

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Central Macedonia's Regional Business Program recorded a 16.7 percent increase in its absorption rate in 2005, compared with 2004, to reach 41.3 percent last December.

    George Tsiotras, Central Macedonia's regional director, presenting the figures said the improved absorption rates surpassed a 40.0 percent target for 2005. Tsiotras said the region's Business Program absorbed a total of 518.5 million euros last year from a target of 477.4 million euros.

    "It is a very significant achievement," Tsiotras said adding he was optimistic over this year's outlook since the region's Business Program was expected to acquire an ISO certificate -the first such certificate in Greece.

    [15] TIF presents int'l activities program for 2006

    5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Thessaloniki International Fair SA on Wednesday announced its program for 2006 envisaging the participation of business delegations in six international sector exhibitions in eastern and central Europe, Bulgaria and Romania.

    TIF said it will participate in Foodtech and Mebeltech, two international food and building materials-furniture exhibitions in Plovdiv, Bulgaria to be held May 8-13.

    In May 16-20, TIF will travel to Bucharest, Romania for the ConstructExpo international trade fair on architecture, technologies, equipment and building materials.

    TIF will participate in Polagra-Food, an international food and beverage fair to be held in Poznan, Poland, Sept. 16-20. It will then visit Skopje, FYROM for the Tehnoma international metallurgical, non-metal products and building materials fair, to be held October 17-21.

    Finally, it will participate in Indagra-Expodrink-All Pack in Bucharest, Romania, Nov. 8-12.

    [16] Exporters' union urges more Greek brand name products

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Greek raw material products were often behind a foreign brand name distributed in world markets, such as Greek olive oil (bottled under Italian names), Kozani saffron (used by Spanish cooks in the traditional paella) sardines, etc, Eugene Plalis, president of the Exporters' Union of Northern Greece said on Wednesday.

    "This phenomenon costs dearly to Greece and in order to be addressed effectively, Greek enterprises must sell more brand and high value added products abroad," he stressed.

    Plalis said Greek exports began to rise after the latest wave of EU expansion eastwards while he expressed his confidence that Greece would reap more benefits after the accession of Bulgaria and Romania and Turkey's road towards closer relations with the European Union.

    He added that Greek exports have more growth potential and noted that foreign consumers asked for specialized Greek products. Plalis said the sectors showing the biggest export potential were clothing and fur products, base metals, chemicals, textiles, food and beverage. He also noted that medical precision equipment and opticals, electric machines and appliances, machinery, plastics, fisheries and metal products were showing increase export activity although their value remained low.

    [17] Eurobank Securities biggest player in ASE last year

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Ten securities firms accounted for 78.83 percent of total turnover in the Athens Stock Exchange in 2005, official figures showed on Wednesday.

    Eurobank Securities topped the list of share block trades with a market share of 17.59 percent, followed by National Securities (12.88 pct), P&K Securities (12.06 pct), Sigma Securities (9.92 pct), Alpha Finance (8.41 pct), Kappa Securities (5.52 pct), Hellenic Investments (4.05 pc), Egnatia Finance (3.47 pct), HSBC (2.97 pct) and Emporiki Securities (1.96 pct).

    Eurobank Securities also ranked first in net turnover (excluding block trades) with a market share of 17.37 pct, followed by P&K (12.2 pct), National (10.76 pct), Piraeus (9.55 pct) and Alpha Finance (7.65 pct).

    [18] Mechaniki, Attikat get Maliakos, Patras road projects

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Athens-quoted Mechaniki S.A and Attikat SA are the interim winners of a project to build part of a road in Maliakos, replacing a hazardous, accident-ridden stretch, and a key road linking the Patras bypass to the city's port in projects budgeted at about 200 million euros, Public Works Minister George Souflias said in a statement on Wednesday.

    The Maliakos project won by Attikat is budgeted at 113.2 million euros; and the Patras works for Mechaniki at 80 million euros, the statement said.

    [19] Aktor signs memorandum for Oman project

    5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Aktor SA on Wednesday signed a memorandum of agreement for the first phase of construction of a new city north of Muscat, the capital of Oman.

    Under the terms of the agreement, Aktor would undertake construction worth 1.9 billion US dollars with the final segment due for completion in 2012, the Greek engineering contractor said in a statement.

    The project was awarded by Alsawadi Investment and Tourism Co. (ASIT) with Aktor and ENKA Insaat ve Sanayi AS of Turkey.

    The overall project totalling 20 billion US dollars contains 10 phases over 15 years.

    [20] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise, tracking markets abroad

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    The Athens share index closed at 3,754.71 points, showing a rise of 1.18%. Turnover was 346.9 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.22% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.73 higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.32% up.

    Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 188 to 89 with 51 remaining unchanged.

  • Most Active Contract (volume): Intracom (1227)

  • Total derivatives market turnover: 134.7 million euros

    Bond Market Close: Buyers match sellers

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond (exp. 20.7.2015): 3.52% yield

  • German benchmark 10-year bund: 3.29%

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-year bond, expiring 20.7.2015 (961 mln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 2.5 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates: Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.218

    [21] Police leadership urges vigilance in prisoners' transport following double slaying

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Top police commanders from around the country on Wednesday were ordered by the force's (EL.AS) chief to give priority to regulations governing the transport of prisoners, less than a week after a Russian man in custody on a murder charge killed two escorts during an escape.

    The issue dominated a wide-ranging same-day meeting at the EL.AS headquarters in Athens, chaired by police chief George Aggelakos. Stepped up vigilance to combat carelessness and apathy in the execution of police officers' duties was also stressed.

    The double slaying of the two officers, a driver and guard, by 23-year-old Maxim Zhelin last Friday comes nearly five years after a notorious local felon, Costas Passaris, shot dead two policemen escorting him to a hospital in Athens.

    Zhelin was found dead with a bullet wound in the head on Monday morning some 1.5 kilometers from a remote mountain roadway where he escaped, while Passaris was arrested in November 2001 in Bucharest, Romania and later convicted on murder and armed robbery charges there.

    Meanwhile, the head of the Supreme Court prosecutor's office, Dimitris Linos, on Wednesday defended his order for a preliminary investigation into the circumstances surrounding Zhelin's death, amid a flurry of press coverage over the case.

    Linos first dismissed any notion that the probe smacks of political intervention, reminding that the judiciary is an independent institution whose first duty is to uphold legality and to protect citizens. He added that the preliminary investigation aims to leave no unanswered questions over Zhelin's death.

    Finally, in an unrelated matter, final instructions were given to police commanders on the issuance of new state-of-the-art passports by police precincts around the country, as centrally governed law enforcement authorities finally replaced prefectures in issuing passports as of this week.

    [22] Second autopsy confirms suicide of Russian fugitive

    5/1/2006 (ANA)

    The second autopsy performed on the corpse of 23-year old Maxim Zhilin, the Russian fugitive who killed two policemen last week while being transported, confirms suicide as the cause of death, University Ioannina Professor of Forensics Th. Vougiouklakis said on Wednesday.

    Asked whether the cause of death was undoubtedly suicide, Vougiouklakis explained that had Zhilin's hand been forced it would not be possible to prove.

    "However, traditional forensics and common sense point to suicide," he added.

    [23] Temporary 'Patras 2006' artistic director named

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Alexis Alatsis, artistic program coordinator for the Patras 2006-Cultural Capital of Europe organization, was named on Wednesday as temporary Artistic Director of the organization following the resignation Tuesday of composer and former culture minister Thanos Mikroutsikos. A new Artistic Director will be named at the next meeting of the organization's board of directors, in accordance with the founding law of the organization.

    The Board of Directors, in an announcement on Wednesday, expressed its regret over Mikroutsikos' resignation, and reaffirmed its determination to fulfill its goal of the successful organization of the Patras 2006 Cultural Capital of Europe.

    "We owe this success to the city of Patras. We will proceed in accordance with the culture ministry's expressed commitment to finance the entirety of the projects announced by the organization and the Municipality of Patras," the announcement said.

    The board, in its announcement, further called on the culture ministry to deny rumors of possible cutbacks in funding to the Patras 2006 Cultural Capital of Europe from Greece's Public Investments Program, as intimated in Mikroutsikos' letter of resignation.

    Composer Thanos Mikroutsikos, a former non-MP culture minister in a PASOK government a decade ago, in a lengthy resignation letter to the mayor of Patras on Tuesday, listed organizational problems and various other deficiencies in planning for the year-long series of events.

    The Culture Ministry later accused Mikroutsikos of 'creating political tension' saying that the reasons stated in his resignation letter were an 'excuse', and adding that it had never interfered with the organization's decisions.

    [24] Funding of cultural capital organization will continue, gov't says

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    The funding of the Patra 2006 Cultural Capital of Europe organization will not be interrupted as former Art Director Thanos Mikroutsikos implied in his resignation letter, Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis said in a statement released on Wednesday.

    "The Culture Ministry continues to fund the Cultural Capital of Europe organization according to the progress of works and contracts, and in accordance with the contracts signed with involved agencies and the amounts allocated from the Public Investments Program," Tatoulis said.

    He added that while there will be no curb in funding, exceeding the budget will not be allowed either.

    Finally, he explained that the organization's board of directors has decided to appoint Mikroutsikos' associate Alexis Alatsis as acting Art Director.

    A permanent replacement for Mikroutsikos will be decided upon at the next board meeting, Tatoulis said.

    [25] British hiker missing on Mt. Olympos returns to Litochoro

    5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Alexander MacDonald, a 24-year old British hiker who went missing on Mt. Olympos returned to Litochoro in the Pieria prefecture on Wednesday afternoon.

    A search and rescue operation had been unsuccessful in locating him.

    MacDonald said that at an altitude of 2,600 meters he slipped and fell, dropping his mobile phone and therefore unable to communicate with the hotel he was staying at in Litochoro.

    According to the Greek Search Squad, the 24-year-old British man set off Tuesday morning, alone, on a descent of the Enipea River Gorge, from an altitude of 1,100 meters along a well-used footpath, but had failed to arrive at Litochoro by the afternoon, at which time the local authorities mounted the search and rescue operation.

    [26] Transport Minister visits Athens Metro exhibit

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis and Deputy Minister Anastasios Neratzis visited the Athens Metro event "Cultural Journeys aboard the Metro" on Wednesday.

    During the event, a photography exhibit organized by the rehabilitation organization "18 Ano" was also inaugurated, followed by a presentation of a work created by Christos Papanikolaou especially for the Agios Dimitrios metro station.

    Liapis said that the Athens Metro has a dynamic presence in the city's daily life and cultural events.

    "The Transport and Communications Ministry supports these efforts sending a message of awareness and sensitivity; an optimistic message against drugs," he said.

    Liapis also announced that the new Olympic Airlines' executive board will be appointed within the month of January.

    Asked about a mass transit fare hike, Liapis said that one is planned but will have to be determined after discussions with Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis.

    [27] High alert along rising Evros River continues

    5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Authorities in the border prefecture of Evros, extreme northeast Greece, remained on high alert Wednesday due to rising waters on the Evros River, which marks the land border between Greece and Turkey in the Thrace province. At press time, waters reached the five-meter mark, just below the 5.7-metre emergency level, although heavy rains in the region and to the north, in SE Bulgaria, are expected to increase the river's water level.

    Meanwhile, Agriculture Development Minister Evangelos Basiakos is set to tour the Evros and Xanthi prefectures on Thursday in order to gauge the extent of crop damages in the region.

    [28] AHEPA/University of Indianapolis-Athens announce 'Journey to Greece' program for students

    WASHINGTON, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the largest and oldest association of American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes, and the University of Indianapolis, a top tier NCA accredited American University, have joined together to offer an unforgettable experience to young people at the University's Campus in Athens - the only wholly owned campus of a U.S.-based university in Greece, AHEPA National President Gus J. James II and University President Beverley J. Pitts announced in Washington on Tuesday.

    "The Journey to Greece Program will give young Greek-Americans the opportunity to return to their roots which are for all of us the roots of civilization," said James. "We're excited and fortunate to be affiliated with the excellent work of the University of Indianapolis."

    The "Journey to Greece" program is uniquely designed to immerse young students in a wonderful learning experience celebrating Greek society and culture. The month-long 'Journey' starts July 20 and ends August 20, 2006. It incorporates a program of study introducing the students to modern and ancient Greece and on completion, provides them with transferable university credits.

    Pitts said, "We at the University of Indianapolis are very excited about this program - we are looking forward to working with AHEPA on this and other projects in the future."

    The program will include a tour of the archaeological sites and museums in Athens and excursions that will take the students across the country visiting islands and some of the best-known places of historical interest.

    James and Pitts met in Athens in October along with the University's Vice President and Athens Campus Chancellor Vasilis J. Botopoulos.

    The Journey to Greece is open to applicants between the ages of 17 and 20 in either the last year of high school or first two years of University.

    The mission of AHEPA is to promote the ideals of Hellenism, Philanthropy, Education, Civic Responsibility, and Family and Individual Excellence. For instant information, about the program or about AHEPA, visit http://www.ahepa.org.

    For more information about the University of Indianapolis, Athens Campus, contact the University at Ipitou 9, Syntagma, Athens, Greece. Tel. +30 210 323 7077 or visit http://www.uindy.gr.

    [29] Trafficker of persons arrested at NW Greek port

    5/1/2006 (ANA)

    Coast guard officers on the eastern Aegean island of Samos arrested a foreign national early Tuesday morning alleged to have smuggled five illegal immigrants onto the isle from the opposite Turkish coast a day earlier.

    Authorities said the man, whose nationality was not disclosed, ferried the illegals to the island aboard an inflatable dinghy that was later destroyed.

    Meanwhile, customs officers in the extreme northwest port of Igoumenitsa on Wednesday arrested a 54-year-old truck driver and 22 foreign nationals hidden in the former's lorry as the vehicle was about to be loaded aboard an Italy-bound ferry boat.

    [30] Spate of overnight fire bombings reported

    ATHENS, 5/1/2006 (ANA)

    A makeshift explosive device caused serious damages to an Aspis Bank branch in the central Athens district of Ambelokipi early Wednesday, an incident similar to dozens of attacks over the years carried out by self-styled anarchists against financial institutions and vehicles.

    According to police, a firebomb comprised of four small gas canisters exploded at roughly 2:30 a.m. in the branch's entrance.

    Meanwhile, unknown assailants tossed a firebomb against a ruling New Democracy office near the inner city Exarchia district an hour earlier, whereas a traffic camera's street-level telephone exchange in the east Athens Zografou district was torched just before 5 a.m.

    [31] Cyprus gov't Spokesman: We favor freedom of settlement throughout Cyprus

    NICOSIA, 5/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)

    The Cyprus government is in favor of securing the right to freedom of movement and settlement throughout the entire territory of the Republic of Cyprus, stressed Wednesday Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides.

    Invited at the end of the cabinet meeting to comment on the return of members of the Maronite community to their properties in the Turkish occupied village of Kormakitis, Chrysostomides said "we want throughout the entire territory of Cyprus the right to freedom of movement and settlement and full implementation of human rights to prevail as well as an end to the illegality and occupation".

    It is up to every citizen of the Republic of Cyprus to evaluate the facts of his and her situation and to reach their own decisions, the spokesman added.

    Asked which will be the status of the Maronites' resettlement, he said "our government considers them enclaved".

    Whatever applies for all citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, who decide and can settle in the occupied part of Cyprus, like for instance in Rizokarpaso, will be valid, Chrysostomides stressed.

    Regarding the Maronites' return to Kormakitis, the spokesman said it is an issue that will be decided by the Maronites themselves.

    [32] Cyprus gov't Spokesman: Turkey has a collective obligation towards EU

    NICOSIA, 5/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)

    Turkey has agreed to sign and implement the protocol adapting the Ankara Agreement to include all new EU member states, said Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides, pointing out that this is a collective obligation towards the Union.

    Invited to comment on statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul over Ankara's unwillingness to put the protocol into force,

    Chrysostomides said the EU position, as expressed by the Austrian Presidency, is that pacts must be respected.

    Turkey, he added, by declining to put the protocol into force is violating its pact with the EU.

    He said that Ankara's moves with regard to its accession course will be evaluated in 2006.

    [33] New UNFICYP Head of Mission in Cyprus assumes office

    NICOSIA, 5/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)

    The new UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Cyprus and Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission Operation on the island (UNFICYP), Michael Moller of Denmark assumed office on Wednesday.

    Moller who succeeds Polish Zbigniew Wlosowicz arrived to the island Tuesday.

    Moller was greeted by an honor guard on taking up his assignment at UNFICYP headquarters, Nicosia, in the morning.

    Previously he was Acting Deputy Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary-General and Director for Political, Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Affairs in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.

    [34] Austrian Ambassador to Cyprus: Turkey must meet EU obligations regarding Cyprus

    NICOSIA, 5/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)

    ''Pacts must be respected", the Austrian EU Presidency has said, when asked about Turkey's refusal to extend its customs union agreement to Cyprus, an EU member since 2004, noting that any breach of what was agreed would have unfavorable consequences for Turkey's EU accession course.

    In an interview with CNA, on the occasion of the assumption of the six-monthly EU rotating presidency by Austria, the country's Ambassador in Nicosia, Eva Hager, underlined that Turkey, in the short term, has to normalize relations with Cyprus, align its policy with EU policies regarding the accession of EU countries to international organizations and support efforts that would lead to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.

    "Turkey entered into a process of negotiations with the EU and by doing so it has undertaken commitments which it has to fulfill. One of the very clear commitments is the implementation of the Ankara Protocol (Customs Union extension). This must be seen simply and plainly under the principle pacta sunt servanda, pacts must be respected, if you sign a contract, you have to implement it. This is a condition sine qua non", she stressed.

    She noted that the short term obligations of Turkey as expressed in EU documents (EU declaration of 21st of September 2005, EU-Turkey

    Negotiating Framework and Revised EU-Turkey Partnership) will be "watched and reviewed, and there will be a progress report on all these short term priorities later this year by the Commission."


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