|Saturday, 17 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-01-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>January 12, 2006
 'No panic, no complacency' health minister says after meeting on bird flu
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Greece has been prepared to face a possible avian flu epidemic for months, taking all measures humanly possible, Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis said on Wednesday.
"There is no panic, no complacency but a full alert," the minister told reporters after an emergency government meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to discuss the rash of bird flu cases in neighbouring Turkey. The meeting was also attended by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Agriculture Minister Evangelos Basiakos, whose ministries play a vital role in measures against bird flu.
"The epidemiological developments in Turkey are not good. This is not worrying at present since in epidemiological developments the facts can change on a daily basis," he added.
Kaklamanis said the Greek government had prepared a national action plan to deal with an avian flu outbreak, as well as the Perseus program, both of which had been presented to the European Union and received approval. These plans would now be updated, he added.
He announced that a health ministry committee will visit Athens' international airport Eleftherios Venizelos on Wednesday afternoon to give airport services additional instructions and inspect the measures already being taken to avoid the spread of the potentially deadly virus.
Athens airport is currently the only gateway to Turkey for airplanes, while containment measures will also be taken at land borders in Evros and on small islands near the Turkish coast where there is cross-border traffic.
Kaklamanis said the government had already prepared an information campaign that included posters issued by the agriculture ministry notifying of a ban on the transport of any type of poultry or poultry products.
Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, meanwhile, presented a leaflet prepared by the interior ministry containing information on bird flu and precautions against it, which will start being distributed as of Wednesday.
The health minister also announced that a special meeting of health ministers worldwide will be held in China on January 17-18 to discuss a worldwide mobilization against the spread of avian flu, which will also be attended by foreign ministry officials.
He additionally stressed, in response to questions, that the health ministry faced no shortages from the past.
The agriculture minister, meanwhile, said that prefectures and veterinary laboratories throughout Greece had been reinforced with an additional 500 vets and other scientists.
Asked to explain why he had qualified the measures taken as "those humanly possible", Kaklamanis stressed that the measures were complete, as they were in all EU countries, and that the qualification referred to the fact that it was impossible to establish "borders in the skies" that would prevent the movements of birds.
The additional precautions have already been taken at the Kipoi border crossing in Evros, where an extra disinfection system was installed on Wednesday. Due to the low temperatures in the region, there are fears that there may be problems with the flow of the special disinfectant fluids through the system's pipes. All vehicles crossing the border from Turkey are obliged to undergo disinfection.
The Cross-border Prefecture Cooperation Network between Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria is to meet on Thursday morning in Xanthi to exchange views and coordinate the actions of the six prefectures on the Greek side of the border.
Bird flu has been found in a third of Turkish provinces and has killed at least two children and infected more than a dozen people. Some of the areas where birds have been infected are only a few nautical miles off Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.
Greece has so far had no confirmed cases of the deadly H5N1 virus on its territory.
Scientists fear the H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus, which is known to have killed 78 people worldwide, could mutate into a form that can spread easily between humans, leading to a pandemic.
Government spokesman: Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that Greece did not intend to take additional measures to those required by EU directives and taken by other European countries.
"There is no need for panic. Our country, in cooperation with the health services of other European countries, is closely monitoring the phenomenon and all necessary measures have been taken. There is a need for greater strictness at customs posts and we have already contacted customs authorities and resent a circular on the measures that must be observed at entry points," the spokesman said.
 Stringent measures at country's entrances for prevention of bird flu
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)The National Economy and Finance Ministry's General Customs Department has issued written instructions to all the country's customs authorities to strictly implement existing national and European Union directives regarding the import of products of animal origin from third countries, particularly of every type of birds and poultry.
The ministry announcement on Wednesday said the inspections include those of commercial deliveries, of passengers' luggage and of hand luggage.
The finance ministry noted that particular attention must be given when these products are from third countries, such as Turkey, where there is an epidemic of bird flu (avian influenza) in many of its provinces.
In all of the country's points of entry, in small or big customs, informative posters have already been placed regarding the prohibition of the import of every type of birds or other products which originate from poultry.
On orders given by Deputy Finance Minister Antonis Bezas, the Customs General Director will visit customs on Thursday and Friday.
Crews of the Veterinary Service are making intensive inspections since Tuesday morning on the island of Samos. According to initial assessments, its inhabitants are abiding with the services' orders and sheltered their privately-owned poultry.
Measures have also been taken at Samos Hospital where a quarantine chamber has already been set up for any eventuality.
However, due to the fact that the problem of illegal immigration is intense in the region, the Merchant Marine Ministry and the Northern Aegean Region have given orders that when illegal immigrants are arrested, for them to be led immediately to the hospital for medical tests.
 Greek, Bulgarian, Turkish local authorities to discuss bird flu on Thursday
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Local officials participating in the Greek-Bulgarian-Turkish Network of Cross-Border Cooperation will be meeting in Xanthi, northern Greece on Thursday in light of the bird flu cases recently reported in Turkey.
The aim of the meeting is to ensure that local authorities are prepared in terms of resources, have a plan in place and that cross-border cooperation is well coordinated in order to prevent any more cases of bird flu.
"The meeting is considered urgent since prefectures of the three countries share common wetlands and the risk concerns citizens of these regions," President of the network and Xanthi Prefect Yiorgos Pavlidis said.
Attending the meeting will be representatives from the prefectures of Evros, Rodopi, Xanthi, Drama, Kavala and Serres, as well as health ministry and agriculture ministry officials among others.
 FM spokesman comments on Pakistanis' claims, Kosovo, EU-Turkey relations, Cyprus
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)A variety of foreign policy-related questions were fielded on Wednesday by a foreign ministry spokesman, with several press queries focusing on various high-profile allegations by a group of Pakistani men in Athens who claim they were improperly detained and interrogated by intelligence services following the July 2005 bombings in London.
Among others, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos declined to provide details of a recent phone conversation between Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
Moreover, the spokesman dismissed any notion that Athens' international prestige has been lessened from references in foreign news stories citing the Pakistani migrants' claims. He emphasized that a bevy negative articles -- i.e. preparations for the 2004 Athens Olympics -- had been published in the past only to be later revised or retracted.
Koumoutsakos also reiterated that the government has no information or knowledge regarding recent local press claims citing the incarceration of terrorist suspects at a naval station in Crete - Souda Bay - used by the US Navy.
Meanwhile, in other statements, the Greek spokesman said the Austrian EU presidency's initiatives vis-à-vis the promotion of the draft European constitution and the further rapprochement of SE European countries were "extremely positive".
"There was a period of contemplation that must now give way to a lively discussion and an expanded dialogue with European citizens over the issue of EU institutions," Koumoutsakos noted, adding that a recent compromise over the Union's 2007-2013 budget helped matters.
The spokesman again stressed Athens' heightened interest in SE European countries' course towards the Union, adding however, that such a prospect is only attainable through the fulfillment of EU criteria, necessary internal reforms and a foreign policy that emphasizes good-neighborly relations.
Regarding Greek-Turkish and EU-Turkey relations, the spokesman repeatedly stressed the formula of "full implementation (of criteria) - full accession", adding that Athens remains favorably disposed and positive towards Turkey's European policy, without however, "extending carte blanche."
Touching on another major regional issue, Kosovo, he said implementation of criteria is an absolutely substantive and significant issue, and not a mere formality.
Furthermore, the spokesman reiterated Athens' standing position on the matter, saying a resolution and stabilization of the situation in the strife-torn Kosovo province cannot come at the expense of regional stability.
Along those lines, Koumoutsakos said a summit of Balkan countries' foreign ministers in Athens at the end of the month, Jan. 25, will offer a framework to promote this position.
Finally, the Greek spokesman reminded that Athens continues to support a solution to the long-standing Cyprus problem without tight deadlines and arbitration, adding that a process for a solution must be prepared meticulously in order to achieve a desired result.
 Deputy public order minister resigns after excerpts of private conversation are broadcast 'out of context'
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Deputy public order minister Christos Markoyannakis submitted his resignation to prime minister Costas Karamanlis late Tuesday night "so as not to put the government in an awkward position" following broadcasts on several television stations excerpts of a taped statement in which the deputy minister was heard to use harsh language in reference to Areios Pagos (Greek supreme court) prosecutor Dimitris Linos, which Markoyannakis said had been used by the media "out of context" in order to "create mistaken impressions", adding that he has always and continued to honor and respect the justice system and its functionaries "which I served for many years as a prosecutor".
Markoyannakis further said that he reserved the discretion to exercise all his legal rights over the affair, explaining that statements he made during a private conversation with party "friends" had been secretly taped, and used out of context.
"In order not to put the government in an awkward position, I have submitted my resignation to Prime Minister Karamanlis," Markoyannakis said in a statement issued shortly after midnight.
"I declare that I have always respected and respect Justice, which I served as a prosecutor for many years, and honor its functionaries," he said.
"I regret that opinions expressed during a private conversation with party 'friends' of mine have been isolated in order to create mistaken impressions," Markoyannakis continued.
"An important question arises, however, as to whether someone has the right to secretly record a private conversation of any Greek citizen," the former deputy minister stressed, adding that he reserved his right to take all legal action.
Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that "we all owe respect to Justice and its functionaries, and (the ruling) New Democracy and its cadres have through the course of years proven this respect".
Commenting on an earlier statement by main opposition PASOK press officer Nikos Athanassakis, following the broadcast of the excerpts, that "if all that has been broadcast is accurate, it is obvious that the deputy public order minister cannot possibly remain in that post another minute", Roussopoulos said that "PASOK is the last who should speak", adding that the former ruling party "in a plethora of instances in the past has insulted Justice and its functionaries", and accused PASOK of hypocrisy. Linos refused to comment on the broadcasts, saying "these are not serious things, the prosecutor has no comment, they are unworthy of comment".
According to the excerpts broadcast, Markoyannakis appears to have said: "Apart from the difficulties we inherited are also the difficulties created by the attitude of the mass media. You see what goes on every night on the TV stations. You see that they are seeking to create something where there is nothing, and all this to an anti-government backdrop. Nothing is being done, and when something correct is down they downgrade it. Conversely, the present neutral things as being at our expense, and hit on it over and over again. Recently, the Areios Pagos prosecutor has unfortunately entered (this situation), even this fool, because this is the only description I have for him, and illiterate as well, taking some actions which they exploit".
After Markoyannakis' resignation, Linos stated "finally, the fitting political solution has been given".
Finally, the president of the Union of Judges and Prosecutors called an urgent meeting of the Union's board for Wednesday to take decisions on the developments.
Gov't on resignation of dep. public order minister: The government on Wednesday said the public order minister will assume the responsibilities of Deputy Minister Christos Markoyiannakis -- who resigned hours earlier after his highly critical statements of a top Supreme Court prosecutor were broadcast -- while at the same time dismissing any notion of a reshuffle.
According to Markoyiannakis' resignation letter, the statements were secretly recorded during a private conversation and taken "out of context". Apparently, the epithets deemed improper in the ex-deputy minister's statement were "fool" and "illiterate" to describe the head of the Supreme Court prosecutor's office, Dimitris Linos.
On his part, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos again reiterated that there was no "friction" between the government and the independent judiciary, a statement related to Linos' recent orders for independent probes into the allegations of several Pakistanis -- who claim they were improperly questioned and roughed up by intelligence agents following the July 7 London bombings - and into the circumstances surrounding the death of an escaped Russian murderer who killed two police guards during his escape.
"The government, in repeated statements, has stressed that it wants these allegations cleared up by the justice system, where these two cases, in fact, have been forwarded..." he added.
Roussopoulos did note, however, that he fully agrees with a statement in Markoyiannakis' resignation letter, specifically over the fact that a private and off-the-record conversation was secretly recorded.
Finally, the board members of Greece's prosecutors' union on Wednesday issued a statement calling Markoyiannakis' comments both insulting for Linos and an "institutional slip-up".
Responsibility for control of ministers and deputy ministers lies with PM, PASOK says: Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanassakis, commenting on Wednesday on developments regarding remarks made by former Deputy Public Order Minister Christos Markoyiannakis concerning Supreme Court prosecutor Dimitris Linos, said that responsibility for the control of ministers and deputy ministers lies with the prime minister.
Athanassakis recalled his statement made on Tuesday that Markoyiannakis should not remain at his post for even a minute following the revelation of the audio documentation but the government and the prime minister, as he said, needed some hours to realize this.
Referring to the case of Markoyiannakis, PASOK's spokesman said that the former deputy minister attempted to mislead the Greek people with lies and this was the issue he was judged on.
Also commenting on the question of bird flu on the occasion of the meeting chaired by the prime minister on Wednesday, Athanassakis expressed the hope that there will be no repercussions from the government's delays and that "the mishap with the lost turkey of Mr. Basiakos has become a lesson."
 No problem with deputy minister Valinakis, gov't spokesman stresses
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Wednesday stressed that there was "absolutely no political problem" linked to Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis.
Asked if there had been any recent meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Valinakis and what it was about, Roussopoulos said that the premier's meetings were sometimes announced and sometimes not and that he would "respect this standing practice".
The spokesman was responding to press questions concerning the media attention received by the minister's wife, lawyer Christina Çaratsari, and media speculation concerning her possible links with justices implicated in a judicial corruption scandal.
Haratsari's name also came up during a magistrate's hearing on Wednesday for former cleric Iacovos Yiossakis, who is accused as a key member of a ring involved in trial-rigging. Yiossakis named Haratsari as one of three people that should have been investigated and charged in this case but were not.
Haratsari was the lawyer in a case involving financial differences that was tried on September 2003 by the judge Antonia Ilia, who was found guilty of corruption in 2005. Yiossakis claims that neither the lawyer nor Ilia, who had replaced a colleague originally slated to hear the case, were investigated.
In a statement on Wednesday, Haratsari said that she was ready to provide testimony if called on to do so by justice.
 PM confers with merchant marine minister Kefaloyiannis
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday conferred with merchant marine minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis, who briefed him on a draft law on seamen's training due to be tabled in parliament in the next few days.
Kefaloyiannis also discussed Karamanlis' upcoming visit with the premier, and briefed him in detail on the agreements due to be signed on port cooperation between the two countries, for which a delegation of officials of the Piraeus Port Authority and the Thessaloniki Port Authority will be going to China.
 KKE leader holds talks with PM
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, with whom she discussed the planned revision of the Constitution and the anti-communist memorandum currently before the Council of Europe.
After the one-hour meeting, Papariga said she asked the prime minister that the ruling New Democracy party's (ND) delegation at the Council of Europe vote against the "fascist memorandum", noting that the ND delegation had already voted against the memorandum at the Council of Europe's Political Committee.
She further said that all political parties should reject the memorandum regardless of their ideological convictions and their own positions with respect to communist parties.
The KKE secretary general said that at stake was whether the peoples will have the right to struggle and pursue, and whether the communist parties will have the right to act and struggle for the rights of the peoples.
Papariga said that there were "powers that wish to put the peoples in a cast" with the draft resolution that was before the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly.
She also expressed the KKE's opposition to the revision of the Constitution proposed by the government, explaining that her party opposed the revision "not because a revision is not necessary, but because the reactionary measures will be increased with the revision".
She added, however, that when the proper time came, the KKE would state its position formally.
Regarding the Constitutional revision per se, the question was what direction it would take, Papariga said.
She said there existed reactionary laws which needed to be abolished, and referring to the issue of the alleged abduction and interrogation of Pakistanis, said "they were carried out under agreements that had been signed by the preceding (PASOK) government, which gave the right to the Americans and the British to act in our country".
Papariga said the KKE did not agree with observance of legality given that reactionary laws were being passed every day, stressing her party's position on the need to for abolition of the reactionary laws.
There was no legality when the collective, but also the individual, rights of the citizens are violated, she said.
 Ministers brief MPs over terrorism-related investigations following London bombings
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)The government on Wednesday briefed MPs over its overall handling of terrorism-related investigations in the country following the July 7 attacks in the London underground, as the entire issue landed before a Parliament committee following repeated claims by foreign nationals in Athens alleging detainments and interrogations last summer.
"Neither we nor any other Greek government would have resorted to masks, hoods or other James Bond-like methods, not only due to reasons of principle, but because our system allows us to achieve the goals we set legally and effectively," Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis said.
The relevant minister told members of Parliament's interior affairs committee that some 5,000 foreign nationals were legally checked, of whom approximately 2,000 were further questioned "without anything worrying turning up".
Voulgarakis clarified that the investigations focused on verifying information about the activities of certain foreign nationals in Greece vis-à-vis the London bombings.
The issue first surfaced only weeks after the July 7, 2005 terrorist strikes in the London underground and following charges by a group of Pakistani workers in Athens. The latter assert that they were arrested, interrogated and roughed up over several days, by both Greek-speaking and English-speaking agents, regarding their links and contacts in Britain. The issue continued to generate press coverage in both Greece and abroad, whereas the public order ministry categorically denied any involvement.
Moreover, Voulgarakis attributed the extent of rumors and speculation over the alleged abductions to the "very few exceptions at the (Greek) National Intelligence Agency (EYP) that refuse to adapt to the national role their bureau is performing in the past few years".
Along those lines, he also cited an "irresponsible and criminal behavior" by certain mass media outlets as exacerbating the "rumor mill" surrounding the Pakistani men's claims.
On his part, Justice Minister Anastasis Papaligouras, who also addressed the same committee, stressed that the government has countered widespread speculation with an investigation into the allegations by the independent judiciary. Regarding the latter, he said judicial officials will uphold their duty "without intervention from anyone".
Finally, Papaligouras said he is neither aware of nor can he even imagine the existence of "secret protocols" with foreign governments in the anti-terrorism field.
 PASOK party calls for resignation of public order minister
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)The main opposition PASOK party called for the resignation of Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis with statements made on Wednesday by the party's relevant coordinator Miltiades Papaioannou, following the meeting of the Parliamentary committee at which the issue of the Pakistani immigrants was discussed.
Papaioannou said that "we do not trust Mr. Voulgarakis that he can guarantee the security of citizens and the security of the country", adding that it is up to Voulgarakis and the prime minister what they will do.
PASOK's coordinator further said that the resignation of Voulgarakis or the assumption of responsibility would mean that the prime minister does not tolerate such things, such as the case of the Pakistani immigrants and that they will not be repeated in the future.
Papaioannou also said that PASOK is not satisfied with Wednesday's meeting from which, as he said, its deputies left even more concerned and worried.
 President briefed on defense ministry affairs and policy
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias was briefed on national defense policy on Wednesday by Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos.
After the meeting, Spiliotopoulos said he had sought to give the President a complete picture of the ministry's operational, organizational and educational affairs and of its goals in 2006.
The minister also announced that he would be accompanying President Papoulias on a trip in one of the Greek fleet's submarines on January 19.
A joint flight in a training aircraft that the two men had been scheduled to take on Wednesday, which was postponed due to the poor weather, would be carried out on another date, he said.
 New Palestinian envoy Ghazaleh presents credentials to FM
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)The new Palestinian ambassador to Greece, Samir Abou Ghazaleh, presented his credentials on Wednesday to foreign minister Petros Molyviatis, to whom he conveyed the personal greetings of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and foreign minister Nasser Al Kidwa.
The new head of the Diplomatic Representation of Palestine in Athens assured Molyviatis that he would make every possible effort for further consolidation of the excellent relations and close historic bonds of friendship and cooperation between the Palestinian and Greek people.
Samir Abou Ghazaleh was born in 1945 in Jaffa, Palestine, and studied Arab literature at the Beirut Arab University (BAU). He joined the Palestinian movement in 1966, and in 1970 was elected a member of the Fatah movements Revolutionary Council.
In 1986 he served as the temporary PLO representative to Yugoslavia.
He served as Palestinian ambassador to Cyprus for 20 years, from 1985 to 2005, and developed close relations with the entire political leadership of the Republic of Cyprus.
He is married, and has three daughters.
 Greece committed in reducing deficit below 3.0 pct of GDP this year
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Wednesday reiterated the government's commitment to reduce the country's fiscal deficit below 3.0 percent of GDP this year.
Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with Luxembourg's Prime Minister and Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg, the Greek minister said: "We had a very good cooperation with Eurogroup's head. We discussed all issues scheduled for Eurogroup's agenda in the next six months and mainly evaluation of reform programs and stability and growth programs by Eurozone member states".
"I analyzed all initiatives taken by the Greek government to cut its deficit and reforms in the framework of a Lisbon Strategy and I reiterated our commitment that with our 2006 budget the deficit will fall below 3.0 percent of GDP this year, allowing Greece to move out of an excessive deficit procedure".
 Greek gov't satisfied with EU funds' absorption rates
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Greece has to absorb around 6.6 billion euros from a Third Community Support Framework program to avoid losing any more funds, Economy and Finance Deputy Minister Christos Folias said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, Folias said Greece secured funds totalling 62 percent by the end of 2005 which meant that the remaining 38 percent must be secured into contracts by the end of the current year, according to EU regulations.
The Greek minister expressed his satisfaction over the large progress made over the last few months both in absorbing funds from a Third Community Support Framework and a more efficient management of funds. He expressed the wish that even the last euro would be invested and not spent.
Folias said EU funds' absorption rate by an Information Society program reached 33 percent by the end of 2005 from 11 percent in 2004.
 Main opposition slams gov't over absorption of EU funds
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK MP and head of the party's Economic Division Vasso Papandreou on Wednesday criticized the government for its "slow rate of absorption" of the Third Community Support Framework (CSF) funds.
"The negative development regarding the Community Support Framework became evident during the first year New Democracy was in office," Papandreou said.
"While in 2002 and 2003 the rate of absorption increased by 36% and 40% respectively, in 2004 it inexplicably fell marginally by 4.2%," Papandreou noted.
"As of November 15, 2005 the absorption rate stood at 35.3%, just 5.5 points higher than in the beginning of the year, confirming the impasse to which New Democracy has led the realization of the Third Community Support Framework," she said, responding to comments made earlier by Deputy Finance Minister Christos Folias on the subject.
Furthermore, Papandreou noted that the slight increase in the absorption rate was "misleading since it was the result of adding projects to CSF III that had been completed in previous years with state funds".
Finally, she urged the government to make public the projects that were included in CSF III after March 1, 2004, but that had started or been completed before then.
 Gov't urges joint private, public sector ventures
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Deputy Finance Minister Peter Doukas on Wednesday urged management of state-owned Ellinikes Alykes SA, a salt producer, to consider joint ventures with the domestic private sector.
The ventures would help to boost growth and productivity, in turn aiding penetration of markets abroad, Petros said during a meeting with management.
Encouraging joint ventures between the public and private sectors is a keystone of government policy.
 British envoy discusses tourism, investments in Thessaloniki talks
12/1/2006 (ANA)British ambassador to Greece Simon Gass met Wednesday with Thessaloniki prefect Panayotis Psomiadis, with whom he discussed investments in the region and boosting tourism, during a visit to the region.
Gass, who was accompanied by British honorary consul in Thessaloniki Sara Edwards Economidis, also paid a courtesy call at the Central Macedonia regional directorate, where he met with secretary general George Tsiotras.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with the British envoy, Psomiadis highlighted the strong interest on the part of Britain, and the ambassador himself, in the prospect of investments in the region.
"As I have repeatedly stated, Thessaloniki, Northern Greece, will play a leading role in SE Europe," the prefect said.
"We also discussed matters pertaining to the development of tourism, and I thanked him on the strong presence of British citizens, particularly recently, in the region," Psomiadis said.
Bass, on his part, stressed that there was a large margin for the growth of tourism from Britain to Northern Greece.
"We have approximately three million tourists visiting Greece each year. I predict that there are prospects for increasing this number. I believe that Northern Greece is, for Britain, a very significant region from a financial, tourism and social perspective, and so I am always glad to be in Thessaloniki," the British envoy said.
With Tsiotras, Grass discussed matters of bilateral interest, including the progress in public works in the region, the developmental law, and investment opportunities.
Grass noted the British interest in tourism to the region, as well as in investment plans and innovation.
He said that there would be further cooperation with the Central Macedonia periphery aimed at the promotion of matters of mutual interest by both sides.
 Greece may not bar Monsanto's GM corn, EU says
BRUSSELS, 12/1/2006 (ANA/M Aroni)The European Union's executive Commission has asked Greece to import and cultivate 17 varieties of genetically modified corn (GM) produced by Monsanto of the US.
The Commission's press spokesman, M Man, stated on Tuesday that the Commission had barred Greece from forbidding cultivation of the product sold by the multinational.
The corn, which is resistant to insects, posed no threat to human health or the environment, the spokesman said.
He added that the product, which was entered into EU catalogues in September 2004 as a permitted product, was already being cultivated in a number of European countries.
Use of the GM corn had sparked protests from environmental groups, including Greenpeace, saying that too little research had been conducted on GM corn to prove that it was harmless.
Shortly after the ruling was issued on Tuesday, the General Confederation of Farmers Associations of Greece (GESASES) said in a letter to the farm and environment ministries that the government should ask the European Court of Justice to rule against the Commission's decision.
"Greek farmers will battle to have a decision overturned that maligns and shakes the confidence of consumers in European output, hurts farmers and strikes a blow at the competitiveness of Greek farming," GESASES said in the letter.
 Gov't seeks to back smaller firms
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Wednesday that the government was interested in strengthening EOMMEX and the Guarantees Fund for Small and Very Small Enterprises to boost growth in the sector.
Sioufas was inaugurating an exhibition of folk art and artifacts at the former Athens airport at Hellenikon.
 Greek annual inflation rate ended 2005 at 3.6 pct
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Greek annual inflation rate ended 2005 at 3.6 pct, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.
NSS, in its monthly report on Greek inflation -measured by the consumer price index- said the December 2005 figure was higher compared with a 3.1 pct rate in December 2004. The consumer price index rose 0.5 pct in December from November, up from a 0.4 pct increase in the same period in 2004.
The statistics service attributed the 3.6 pct annual inflation rate in December to an 1.0 percent increase in food and non-alcohol beverage prices, a 3.3 pct rise in alcohol and tobacco, a 3.5 pct increase in clothing and footwear, a 9.6 pct surge in housing prices, an 1.6 pct rise in durable goods, a 3.6 pct increase in healthcare prices and a 5.4 pct rise in transportation prices.
 Citibank to expand branch network in Greece
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Citibank, a member of Citigroup, on Wednesday announced plans to open 10 new branches in Greece, with the aim to raise its total branch network to 68 units.
The new middle-sized branches will open in the Athens area. Citibank aims to expand its network to 100 branches in the medium term.
The bank operated a network of 155 ATMs in 2005 and expects the number to rise to 180 by the end of the current year.
 Olympic Fuel Co. gets high market rating
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)An inspection team of global petroleum giants has given Olympic Fuel Company S.A. (OFC) an excellent rating for aviation fuel facilities it runs at Athens International Airport.
The Joint Inspection Group (JIG) concluded that OFC, which has delivered 2.7 million liters of fuel over five years through the airport's hydrant refueling system, ranks as one of the best fuel receipt, storage, and distribution facilities globally, working under top standards for operational technology, quality control, and safety management, the airport said in a statement.
OFC facilities are regularly inspected by IATA, which endorses JIG's requirements, and by end users including airlines.
JIG, which comprises Agip, BP, Caltex, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, Kuwait Petroleum, Shell, Statoil and Total, conducts yearly inspections at 120 airport fuelling facilities worldwide, reporting on the level of compliance with international standards and requirements in the design and operation of fuel quality control and safety.
OFC is owned by Olympic Airways, Motor Oil, Avin Oil, BFSC Belgium, and HansaConsult Germany. In October 1998, the firm won an airport tender to undertake the design, construction, maintenance and operation of the hydrant refueling system.
 Gov't to tender underground car park
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Public Works Minister George Souflias said on Wednesday that a tender would be called in the first half of the year for construction of an underground car park in Keramikos, Athens.
The car park budgeted at 8.3 million euros will house 285 private vehicles, Souflias said in a statement.
It will be located near Votanikos metro station, the statement said.
 Gov't tenders air conditioning for metro trains
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Public Works Minister George Souflias on Wednesday called a tender for supply of air conditioning units to Athens metro trains.
Sought are 168 air conditioning units for 14 trains in a project budgeted at 5.5 million euros, Souflias said in a statement.
A winner should be announced by the end of April with project completion by spring 2007, the statement said.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)The Athens share index closed at 3,877.23 points, showing a rise of 0.84%. Turnover was 606.0 million euros, including block trades.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.88% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.40% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.73% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 179 to 100 with 49 remaining unchanged.
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, Alpha Bank, OPAP, and National Bank of Greece.
Derivatives Market Close: Intracom top in stock futures trade
Bond Market Close: Buyers match sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Thursday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.218
 Deputy Culture Minister Tatoulis chairs meeting on situation of monuments following strong earthquake
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)The creation of an apparatus for the prevention and confrontation of problems in the event of an earthquake was held at the Culture Ministry on Wednesday at the initiative of Deputy Minister Petros Tatoulis.
Tatoulis was briefed on the situation of the country's monuments and museums following last Sunday's quake which had as its epicenter the sea region between the island of Kythira and Hania in Crete and which measured 6.9 points on the Richter scale.
A ministry announcement said that "minor damage was caused to monuments of the cultural heritage in Kythira and Hania, but inspections are continuing to establish whether buildings which had already been damaged from previous earthquakes have become worse."
The announcement added that "the Culture Ministry, in cooperation with the relevant agencies, will receive full information on the situation of the monuments and the measures which need to be taken, at the end of the week."
 Yiossakis receives third extension; links minister's wife with justice scandal
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)Defrocked former archimandrite Iacovos Yiossakis on Wednesday sought and received a third extension from appeals examining magistrate Ioannis Sideris to prepare his plea to a string of charges concerning his involvement in a corrupt judicial circle accused of trial-rigging.
The former cleric was given until Monday, since he has not yet received the entire case file, which exceeds 20,000 pages.
Yiossakis also used the opportunity to level charges of a cover-up in the investigation, saying that at least three more people - one of them the wife of Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis - that should have been charged were kept out of the investigation.
He asked that Sideris be investigated in turn for breach of duty and abusing his authority and filed a suit against "all responsible".
In his suit, Yiossakis claimed that Christina Valinaki-Haratsari was the lawyer in a case concerning a financial dispute that was tried on September 15, 2003 by the judge Antonia Ilia, who had replaced another colleague. In 2005, Ilia was found guilty of corruption and trial-rigging, frequently replacing other judges that were originally drawn to try a case.
Yiossakis noted that the former judge was never questioned concerning the specific case, nor was the lawyer involved asked to provide explanations.
In a statement issued afterwards, Haratsari-Valinaki said that she would "do her duty as an ordinary citizen and as a lawyer" if called on by justice to provide testimony in the case.
 Concert of Mikis Theodorakis music to be held in Stockholm
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)A concert of works by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, with the participation of the 45-member Larissa choir, will take place in Stockholm on January 14.
The concert was organized by Greek community groups in Sweden, the Swedish section of the Nikos Kazantzakis International Cultural Association and the Greek Embassy in Sweden.
 Iraqi immigrant dies at police station
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)An Iraqi immigrant died at a police station in the Athens district of Exarchia on Wednesday morning after being brought to the station with another 11 fellow countrymen of his and an Iranian for an identity check. The man was identified as Aziz Madat Koro, 44.
The 13 foreigners were taken from an old house located in the district, following an appeal by the civil engineer who had undertaken to restore it since they were staying in the building illegally and were refusing to leave.
Police ascertained that the Iraqi was staying legally in the country, but while he was waiting in the police station's hall he suddenly felt unwell and lost consciousness.
Two ambulances were summoned to the scene and a doctor attempted unsuccessfully to revive the Iraqi and his death was ascertained which doctors attributed to pathological reasons.
 Athens Concert Hall 2006 program focuses on Italy
ATHENS, 12/1/2006 (ANA)The Athens Concert Hall's Megaron Plus 2006 program will be dedicated to Italy with a segment dedicated to film-maker Luccino Visconti and a guest appearance by actress Claudia Cardinale.
Among those expected to visit Athens within the context of the program are composer Michael Nyman, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate Maathai Wangari, 1992 Nobel Peace Laureate (literature) Derek Walcott and others.
 Protest march against racist violence held in Rethymno
12/1/2006 (ANA)Foreigners living in various parts of Crete staged a protest march through the main streets of the city of Rethymno on Wednesday night to express their condemnation of every form of racist violence. Many Greeks also participated in the protest.
The march was held with a strong police presence and as a result of the killing of a 17-year-old Albanian on New Year's Day and for which a local 18-year-old man has been accused.
The President of the Albanian Immigrants Union Rudi Mezini participated in the protest and said "I do not think that events such as those that occurred on New Year's Day can harm relations between Greeks and Albanians."
 Straw says communities must demonstrate courage for Cyprus settlement
NICOSIA, 12/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Wednesday that only when Turkey, Greece and Cyprus recognize that their mutual interests are stronger than their historic antagonisms will there be a settlement of the island's longstanding political problem.
Responding to questions submitted by MP Theresa Villiers of Barnet, he added that both communities have to demonstrate the courage and flexibility required to resume negotiations towards a comprehensive settlement, noting that Britain shall play its own part in that.
Asked by Villiers as regards the progress towards a settlement which will reunite Cyprus, the Foreign Secretary said ''the UN Secretary General noted in his report of last December progress towards a solution on Cyprus has been 'negligible at best'.''
''We believe that a comprehensive solution can only be achieved under United Nations auspices, but the UN reported a widening gap and little confidence between the two communities over the past year. Ultimately, both communities have to demonstrate the courage and flexibility required to resume negotiations towards a comprehensive settlement, and we shall play our part in that,'' he added.
Responding to another question regarding the development boom in the northern Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, and whether the Foreign Office would strengthen the advice on its website urging British tourists and holidaymakers not to buy property in the occupied areas, Straw said ''the advice that we give at the moment is appropriate but of course we will always keep it open to review,'' adding that ''this is a very complicated issue that goes back many decades.''
''We are seeking to help bring both parties together, which is one reason why I worked so hard to open negations with Turkey on October 3 on membership of the European Union. Only when Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and the two communities recognize that their mutual interests are stronger than their historic antagonisms will we get a settlement,'' he concluded.
 Straw's visit does not change British policy regarding occupation regime
LONDON, 12/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is following the practice that other British ministers pursued in the past and that this does not in any way mean a change in the United Kingdom policy of not recognizing the illegal regime in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, a Foreign Office spokesman said on Wednesday.
The spokesman was answering a CNA question on the need for the British side to show understanding with regard to issues of special sensitiveness to the Greek Cypriot side like the place where the Foreign Secretary will be meeting Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, during the former's visit to Cyprus.
Ôo another question about the issues to be discussed in talks between the two sides, if and when the visit takes place, he pointed to the relations between the two countries, EU issues, Turkey's accession talks in relation to Cyprus and the Cyprus problem.
The Foreign Secretary's visit to Turkey will follow the one in Cyprus. A similar visit will take place to Athens.
 Cyprus FM: Straw's visit a British initiative
NICOSIA, 12/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou said on Wednesday the initiative for a visit to Cyprus by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw belongs to London.
Iacovou also said the government has explained its position with regard to visits of foreign officials to Cyprus and possible meetings with representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community.
The statement was issued following controversy over a proposed visit later this month by Straw, who insists on seeing Turkish Cypriot community leader Mehmet Ali Talat in his ''presidential office'', in Turkish occupied Cyprus.
The Cypriot government has made it clear that it does not consider this venue an appropriate place for such a meeting and suggested alternative venues, noting that the regime Talat represents is a non recognized entity in the world community. Britain sees no reason to change what it calls a practice observed over the years with regard to such meetings.
In a written statement, Iacovou said that British Deputy High Commissioner Robert Fenn contacted Director of Cyprus President's Diplomatic Office Ambassador Tasos Tzionis before Christmas to ask him if the president would be available on certain dates and if his program would allow him to meet Straw, who wanted to visit Cyprus before Ankara.
Tzionis referred Fenn to the Foreign Ministry as diplomatic practice necessitates, Iacovou noted, adding that it is not unusual between EU ministers to arrange meetings within a short period of time, without official invitations.
"Fenn met on January 6 with Director of Foreign Minister's Diplomatic office with whom he discussed the possibility of a visit by Straw.
During the meeting the position of the Cyprus government as regards visits of foreign officials to Cyprus and possible meetings with representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community was explained and a document containing these positions was handed over," Iacovou noted.
Fenn had undertaken to communicate these positions to London.
''Diplomatic norms do not allow discussion of diplomatic handling in public,'' Iacovou pointed out in his statement, noting that public confrontation on such issues does not serve the national interest.
''Consequently, the Foreign Ministry will not get involved in such harmful confrontation," he added.
 British insistence disappointing, says spokesman
NICOSIA, 12/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said here on Wednesday that London's insistence on a meeting between British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Turkish Cypriot community leader Mehmet Ali Talat in the latter's ''presidential office'', in Turkish occupied Cyprus, is disappointing.
Speaking during his daily briefing, he said the government's position on Straw's visit to the island remains the same, namely the visit has to take place with respect to the practice followed so far and to the sensitivities of the Republic.
"We insist on the practice followed until today and on the respect of the sensitivities of the Cyprus Republic. Consultations on a diplomatic level continue. I hope that we will have a positive outcome," the spokesman said.
Responding to a remark about British doubts as to the real intentions of the government regarding a solution, he said: "On the contrary. London's statement, issued here Tuesday, stresses that Britain does not and will not recognize the Turkish Cypriot regime and that it intends to continue efforts towards a settlement."
"The role of Britain as an EU member towards Cyprus and as a guarantor power is clear. We welcome any effort in good faith for the resumption of an initiative as we have described it: good preparation, aiming at an agreed solution without the pressure of suffocating timetables," he said.
He concluded that "if there are initiatives in this direction, they are welcome and I think that they should be manifested in a way that contributes to the creation of a climate of cooperation and understanding and ensures the prospect of success."