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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-01-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>January 20, 2006
 Greek, Chinese PMs sign Joint Declaration on bilateral Comprehensive Strategic Relationship
BEIJING, 20/1/2006 (ANA-MPA/A. Panagopoulos)Greece and China on Thursday signed a Joint Declaration calling for the establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Relationship between the two countries, following talks in Beijing between visiting Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao.
Karamanlis, who arrived in Beijing on Thursday morning (local time) on a three-day official visit, met later with premier of China's state council Wen Jiabao, with whom he reviewed the course of bilateral relations, after which they signed the Joint Declaration.
The Greek prime minister said the Comprehensive Strategic Relationship reflected the level of Greek-Chinese bilateral relations and set out the framework for future cooperation between the two countries, both in the political as well as in the economic sector.
Also signed was a Memorandum for the establishment of a standing Business Forum and cooperation in the field of SMEs, while the two premiers further agreed on matters concerning the merchant shipping, tourism, culture and agricultural sectors.
The visit is considered of important from both a political and economic viewpoint and Karamanlis is accompanied by foreign minister Petros Molyviatis, minister of state and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, deputy foreign minister Evripides Stylianidis, and a large business delegation.
In addition to promoting Greek agricultural products -- such as olive oil -- on the vast Chinese market and cooperation in the sector of construction and know-how, the Greek government is also interested in attracting Chinese investments to Greece, as the country is strategically placed to serve as a springboard for Chinese entrepreneurs to Europe and the wider Balkan region.
In statements to the press after his meeting with Wen, the Greek premier referred to the relations between the two countries and outlined in detail the agreements signed.
Karamanlis said he had accepted with particular pleasure Wen's invitation to visit China, noting that "our countries, as cradles of ancient civilizations, have a very strong common point of reference", while at the same time they were bound by "ties of friendship that are constantly developing".
Recently, he stressed, a systematic effort was taking place to give new impetus to those relations with, inter alia, Athens 2004 Olympic Games host Greece's "passing on of the baton" to China for the Beijing 2008 Games as the springboard.
Karamanlis said he had an exceptional meeting with the Chinese premier, with whom he examined bilateral relations in depth and exchanged views on international and regional issues of mutual interest.
"We ascertained that our political relations are built on strong foundations, but we also pinpointed substantial margins and prospects for further expansion and deepening of our cooperation," he said, adding that "for this purpose, we signed a Joint Declaration on establishing a Greece-China Comprehensive Strategic Relationship, which reflects the level of our bilateral relations and sets out the framework of our future cooperation, both in the political and the economic sectors".
"Particularly with respect to the development of our economic and commercial relations with China -- on which, as you know, we place great significance -- very important steps were made today," Karamanlis said.
He explained that the two sides had signed the following accords: -- A Memorandum for the establishment of a standing Business Forum between the Greece-China Business Council and the Chinese Council for the Promotion of International Commerce, which would contribute to intensifying the contacts between Greek and Chinese enterprises. -- A Memorandum of Cooperation in the field of Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs). -- An agreement for the export of 60,000 tons of phosphate fertilizers to China.
Regarding the merchant shipping sector, Karamanlis continued, "we agreed to boost the cooperation among the ports and shipping enterprises of our countries, and also to utilize our ports as transit centers for our products to neighboring countries".
Emphasis was also placed on the need to strengthen tourism, with the mutual provision of the necessary facilities and with the introduction of a direct air link between Athens and Beijing as soon as possible, Karamanlis said.
Another sector conducive to special cooperation between the two countries was China's preparations for the Olympic Games to be hosted by Beijing in 2008, he said. "We have already signed a Memorandum of Cooperation between the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) and the Greek Ministry of Public Order. With the Premier (Wen) we agreed to intensify the already existing cooperation," Karamanlis said.
Finally, Karamanlis particularly stressed the signing of a Memorandum for the organization of a "Cultural Year of Greece" in China in 2008, the year of the Beijing Olympics, "when the attention of the entire world will be turned to this country".
This decision, the Greek premier added, "is an exceptional honor for us", with multiple benefits for Greece's projection internationally.
"I wish to stress once again the particular importance of my visit and to thank the government of China for its warm reception and hospitality," the Greek premier concluded.
Earlier, Karamanlis met with the president of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Organizing Committee (BOCOG) Liu Qi, who is also secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Beijing Municipal Committee, a member of the CPC Central Committee Politburo and former mayor of Beijing (1999-2002).
On Friday, Karamanlis will be received by Chinese President Hu Jintao.
He will later depart for Shanghai, to join a large Greek financial and business delegation.
 Chinese mass media give great publicity to PM's interview with New China state-run news agency
BEIJING, 20/1/2006 (ANA-MPA)The mass media in China, particularly in the area of Beijing, are giving great publicity to the recent exclusive interview given to the New China state-run news agency by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Greece's intention to upgrade its relations with China, during his official visit to this country, with the conclusion of a "total strategy cooperation" relation.
Karamanlis said that this will constitute a "milestone in bilateral relations and will set the framework for strengthening future cooperation (between Greece and China)."
Speaking about economic relations between the two countries, the prime minister stressed the "great possibility of development, among others, in the sectors of trade, shipping and tourism."
Focusing on the issue of foreign investments, Karamanlis underlined Greece's ability to attract investment capital from other countries, including China, thanks to its "geographic advantages", since it lies in the rapidly developing region of southeastern Europe.
Karamanlis also noted the creation of a "flexible and effective market" in Greece which "looks forward to the welcoming of foreign investors from all over the world and from China in particular."
Lastly, referring to the Olympic Games, the prime minister told Xinhua of the country's intention "to help in every way" the government of China to hold successful Games which will reflect the long history and the wealth of Chinese culture, as well as the economic and political power of China in the modern world.
 Agriculture minister satisfied with bird flu measures after Rhodes meeting
20/1/2006 (ANA)Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos on Thursday expressed satisfaction with the actions and measures taken in the Dodecanese prefecture to protect against bird flu, following a meeting held on Rhodes.
Basiakos urged the authorities involved to stay calm and stressed that over-reactions and a negative climate should be avoided in a region relying heavily on tourism, such as the Dodecanese islands.
He also underlined that all the measures required to protect the islands were being taken and that the measures would continue to be enforced throughout the summer period.
The minister was accompanied by Deputy Agriculture Minister Alexandros Kontos and Civil Protection General Secretary Panagiotis Fourlas, as well as a team of specialist scientists and senior ministry officials.
Immediately after the conclusion of the meeting, they left for the island of Samos where the next meeting on bird flu measures will take place.
The meeting was also attended by North Aegean Regional Authority chief Haralambos Kokkinos, Dodecanese Prefect G. Maheridis, local MPs and representatives of local services.
Maheridis said that local officials will visit all islands in the prefecture to supervise the implementation of the measures decided, while veterinary staff and technicians supplied by the Greek Armed Forces have begun to arrive on the island to man the Dodecanese veterinary service.
Basiakos concludes tour of northern Aegean islands on measures taken against bird flu: Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos on Thursday evening concluded a tour of northern Aegean islands which had as its objective the inspection of measures being taken for the confrontation of avian influenza (bird flu).
Basiakos ended his tour with a meeting at the Aegean and Island Policy Ministry, where, as he said, a review was made of "the successful measures which have been taken for the confrontation of the virus of the bird flu." The minister stressed "its successful confrontation is a national bet."
In his four meetings in Rhodes, Samos, Chios and at the Aegean and Island Policy Ministry in Lesvos, Basiakos announced the hiring of veterinarians and other special experts and personnel, while he gave particular emphasis to the taking of precautionary measures in chicken pens, so that a case of the illness will not appear in the islands.
Measures at customs posts: During a press conference held on Thursday in Athens, meanwhile, Deputy Finance Minister Antonis Bezas announced that Greek customs posts had taken all measures necessary to protect Greece from the influx of the avian flu virus.
He stressed that customs officials were carrying out exhaustive checks at all entry points into the country, including searching traveler's luggage, and that the general director of the Customs office had visited all border customs posts in the country, while additional staff had been sent to the higher-risk customs posts at Kipoi and on the island of Chios that were entry points from Turkey.
Later on Thursday, Bezas is due to meet with representatives of the Greek poultry trade, who have been hard-hit by the latest bird flu scare.
 Dates for Straw visit not yet decided, government says
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday confirmed that a possible visit to Athens by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was on the cards but no firm dates had yet been set.
Antonaros was also asked to comment on a planned visit by Straw to Cyprus and specifically his insistence on meeting Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat at the so-called "presidential mansion" in the occupied territories, which has incensed Nicosia.
The spokesman stressed that Athens "fully understands the particular sensitivities of the Cyprus government, which are in any case based on the decisions and resolutions of the United Nations."
Antonaros said that the Cyprus and British governments were in talks over arrangements for a visit by Straw, whose aim was to promote ties between Britain and Cyprus.
"We hope that everything necessary will be done to achieve this goal," he concluded.
 Ayala announces Papandreou candidacy for Socialist International president
20/1/2006 (ANA)PASOK party leader George Papandreou will be the one candidate for president of the Socialist International when the SI Council meets in Athens at the end of January, SI Secretary-General Luis Ayala announced on Thursday after a meeting with Papandreou.
He said the decision to nominate Papandreou, leader of Greece's main opposition party, had been taken unanimously.
Ayala also noted that the SI would be "linked" with the socialist movement in Greece and said that this link was reflected in the general consensus shown by social-democrats internationally toward Papandreou's candidacy for president of the SI.
Speaking about the agenda of the SI Council meeting that will be hosted by PASOK in Athens on January 30-31, he said this would be especially rich, since it will include discussions on issues such as the Balkans, the Middle East and world poverty. Its participants will be socialist leaders from countries throughout the world, including several heads of government, he added.
Ayala said his meeting with Papandreou had focused on preparations and arrangements for the SI Council meeting, which he stressed would be called on to express the stance of international social-democrats toward the problems "of a world seeking answers and leadership".
 Development minister meets visiting Vietnamese delegation
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Thursday received a delegation headed by Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister Le Van Bang, who was sent as a special envoy from Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and presented Sioufas with a letter from the Vietnamese premier to Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
During the meeting they discussed issues of bilateral cooperation, particularly measures to promote and develop bilateral economic and trade ties between Greece and Vietnam.
The visiting Vietnamese official expressed hope that Greece might soon organize a visit by a business delegation to his country to examine prospects for business cooperation more closely.
He was accompanied by Vietnamese Ambassador to Greece and a delegation of Vietnamese government officials, while the meeting was also attended by the development ministry's general secretary for trade Manousos Voloudakis and the ministry's diplomatic attaché Tereza Angelatou.
 Government on rejection of EU budget by European Parliament
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Commenting on the rejection of the Community budget for 2007-2013 by the European Parliament, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday said that "for the Greek government the formula decided on at the last European Council by the '25' leaders continues to apply".
 Gov't on Markoyiannakis presence at public order ministry meeting
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Asked to explain the presence of former deputy minister Christos Markoyiannakis at a meeting in the public order ministry the previous day, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday stressed that the meeting had been held on a very specific and specialized topic of great importance to the country that Markoyiannakis had handled for the past two years.
Referring reporters to a statement made on the issue by Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis, he also noted that the acquisition of the C41 system discussed during the meeting was considered "particularly beneficial and a good deal" by the government.
Markoyiannakis resigned his post at the public order ministry under a cloud earlier this month, after highly disparaging remarks that he made about the president of Greece's Supreme Court Dimitris Linos were broadcast by the media. Markoyiannakis, who originally denied making the statements, had believed that he was having a private conversation.
 Government denies interference by U.S. envoy over robbery investigation
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday denied all knowledge of alleged intervention by U.S. Ambassador to Athens Charles Ries over a violent robbery that took place in the centre of Athens on Monday.
Reports claimed that Ries had contacted the Greek foreign ministry and the prime minister's office to demand that arrests be made.
"The investigation into the very delicate issue that is underway is being conducted by Greek security forces, which are responsible for the course of the investigation," the spokesman said.
Announcements will be made once the investigation is concluded, he added.
 KKE leader addresses rally organized against anti-communist memorandum
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga on Thursday identified the anti-communist memorandum to be discussed at the Council of Europe in a few days with a "declaration of war against the working class and other working people and with new measures of state force and suppression and with secret services being in the front line".
Papariga was speaking during a rally organized by KKE outside the Athens University on Thursday night against the memorandum.
She said that if the text is ratified the "worst form of declaration of war against peoples and popular freedoms will be scheduled," adding that if it is ratified it will be sent to states and Parliaments to become the "political arsenal of capitalist countries for new internal anti-popular and terrorist measures".
Papariga said that "arrows will be even more poisonous for the communist parties which did not make declarations of repentance to imperialism," but they will also be used against every political and social force that resists capitalism and war.
The KKE leader further said that the green light had been given by President Bush recently who, speaking to "the willing and open ears of European imperialists and not only, said that a war against 'extreme ideologies' is timely today."
Papariga also said that "we do not believe that socialism we have known is above criticism, but the Council of Europe is not interested in cleaning up the landscape of the 20th century from mistakes and omissions. Those who can judge with objectivity socialism we have known are not those who fought against it but those who believe in the necessity of socialism and communism."
 TEDKNA calls for withdrawal of CoE anti-communist memorandum
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)The Local Union of Municipalities and Communities of Attica (TEDKNA) on Thursday called for the withdrawal of the memorandum advanced by the Political Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe "for the condemnation of the crimes of the totalitarian communist regimes."
In a unanimous resolution, TEDKNA's Executive Committee noted that the memorandum "constitutes a provocation for the historic memory or equation of the ideologies of communism with nazism which is being attempted by reactionary circles of the Council of Europe."
The resolution called on "all the political parties, the government, the Greek deputies and Eurodeputies to denounce in practice the unacceptable memorandum and impose its withdrawal."
 President Karolos Papoulias visits submarine 'Proteus'
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)President Karolos Papoulias visited the submarine "Proteus" on Thursday and had the opportunity of ascertaining the life, capabilities and readiness of the navy's seamen who man the fleet's submarines.
"It was an important day, a special experience for me to live a few hours with the boys living in the submarines and to appreciate their capabilities and their readiness," President Papoulias said on returning to the naval station at Salamina.
President Papoulias was accompanied on his visit by former prime minister and former captain of the submarine "Triena" Tzannis Tzannetakis and Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos. Navy General Staff chief Dimitris Gousis was also present.
"Proteus" sailed from the naval station at Salamina at 10.25 a.m. and headed for the Gulf of Megara where the exercise codenamed "Periskopio" took place.
President Papoulias also watched operational readiness exercises by the submarine's crew and was briefed on the mission of submarines. He also showed a great interest in the lives of submarine crews.
The voyage of President Papoulias lasted for six hours, while he is expected to carry out the next voyage with a submarine with the "Papanikolis", the first of new submarines which are to join the fleet.
 Deputy DM ratifies promotion of procedures for armed forces' operational needs
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Deputy Defense Minister Vassilis Mihaloliakos on Thursday ratified the promotion of procedures concerning the coverage of the armed forces' operational needs, in the framework of the implementation of procurements programs pertaining to his duties.
Mihaloliakos signed the expediency approval for the procurement of six accumulator batteries to meet the operational needs of the navy's 209-type submarines. The necessary credit for the procurement to be carried out amounts to 22 million euros.
The deputy minister also signed the expediency approval for the replacement and upgrading of flight security systems for four navy helicopters of the AB-212 type. Credit for this project amounts to 4 million euros.
 Russian Ambassador Vdovin refers to 'Greece's constructive role'
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Russian Ambassador to Athens Andrey Vdovin on Thursday referred to "the constructive role which Greece played and plays, particularly in Russia's relations with the European Union and NATO."
Speaking to reporters, the Russian envoy underlined that "the principles of Russian foreign policy are very close to the principles which Greek diplomacy follows and they are pragmatic, multi-dimensional, the defense of national interests and the abstention from clashes."
Ambassador Vdovin said "there exist very rich foundations for Greek-Russian cooperation, in which are included, among other things, common spiritual tradition, Orthodoxy, the tradition of mutual affection between the two peoples, the common struggle against fascism and unanimity which is observed in the two countries for the development of relations between them."
The Russian diplomat underlined that there were still other possibilities for the further development of Greek-Russian relations, reminding also of the agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on matters of the Balkans, the Cyprus issue, the Middle East issue and Russia's relations with the Euro-Atlantic structures.
"There is very deep mutual understanding in the matters of the Black Sea cooperation, while progress has been achieved on the matter of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline," Vdovin said, underlining the need for the entrepreneurs of the two countries to become better acquainted.
Ambassador Vdovin stressed that his country will completely fulfill the obligations it has undertaken for the delivery to Greece of natural gas. He further emphasized that the incorporation of the TOP-M1 missiles to the Greek defense system "has been successfully completed" and that there were also other Russian armaments which may be of interest to Greece.
 SYN leader Alavanos addresses event on 'violation of human rights'
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos on Thursday evening addressed an event organized by his party on the theme "Violation of human rights and of democratic guarantees in Greece and Europe".
Alavanos said:"A worldwide para-state has been created, beyond the suffocating legality which has been established, which operates also in Greece. Its elements are phantom-guards. The abductions which take place but are not recognized. The prosecuting apparatuses without identity. The observations which have an objective but not a subject. All these were shown in the issue of the Pakistanis and not only."
He noted that "the big democratic question is who is ruling this country?"
The Synaspismos event was held at the premises of the Athens Journalists Union (ESHEA).
 Finmin holds regular monthly meeting with central bank governor
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday met Greek central bank governor Nikos Garganas at the finance ministry for their regular monthly meeting.
They discussed the state of the Greek economy in 2005 and its prospects in 2006, as well as planned government reforms, while they also reviewed international and European economic affairs.
In statements after the meeting, Alogoskoufis said the figures for Europe were encouraging, since they showed that growth was being established in the EU.
 Tourism Minister Avramopoulos attends WTTC meeting in Washington
WASHINGTON, 20/1/2006 (ANA/MPA - T. Ellis)Greece's Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos took part here on Thursday in a round-table discussion on tourism developments worldwide, which was organized by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
During the discussion, Avramopoulos expounded on the increase of tourism to Greece following the successful and safe hosting of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
At a press conference that followed the meeting, it was announced that Washington will host the 6th World Tourism Congress from April 10-12.
Avramopoulos underlined the post-Olympic Games performances of Greek tourism, noting that tourism was one of the sectors of the Greek economy that benefited most from the successful 2004 Games. He added that Greece has upgraded its image internationally. Tourism Development Minister Avramopoulos also announced that Athens will host a special meeting of the WTTC on February 18.
 Gov't reforms corporate tax factors
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Finance Deputy Minister Antonis Bezas on Thursday announced the introduction of new unique factors for net profits in 262 new professions, the abolition of such factors to 29 professions, the raising of factors to 12 and their reduction to 43 professions, a measure aimed to facilitate transactions between taxpayers and tax agencies.
Unique factors for net profits on commercial and manufacturing enterprises are introduced on their gross revenues and act as the base for determining corporate tax obligations.
The measures were based on an unanimous decision by a working commission, which was formed in October 2004 to discuss the issue, comprising of government ministry officials and representatives from the trade and industrial sector.
Speaking to reporters, Bezas said the ministry would not abolish a discount offered to enterprises on spending for the organizing of conferences.
 Large Spanish trade mission to visit Athens, Thessaloniki
20/1/2006 (ANA)A large delegation of Spanish entrepreneurs is due to visit the northern Greek capital of Thessaloniki, Macedonia, next month for talks on bilateral collaborations with representatives of local business concerns, it was announced on Thursday.
According to the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBETH), the Spanish business delegation is due to arrive in Thessaloniki on Friday, February 17, for scheduled meetings with representatives of northern Greece-based businesses.
The trade mission is being organized by the Commercial Chamber of the Valencian Community -- which comprises the provinces of Alicante, Castellon and Valencia and represents 10 percent of Spain's GDP -- in cooperation with EBETH, while the individual meetings are being scheduled by the Spanish Embassy's commercial office in Athens.
Participating in the business delegation are 17 Spanish companies with export experience in the sectors of construction materials, foodstuffs, furniture and lighting fixtures, cosmetic products, jewelry, sports goods, water pumping machinery, fabrics and apparel.
The Spanish delegation will previously visit Athens on February 15-16 for similar talks, in cooperation with the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA), before heading on to Istanbul, Turkey, on February 20.
Further information is available at the trade mission website www.camaravalencia.com/misiones/grecia2006
 Eurobank staff, management forge pact on working hours
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)The staff union at Athens-quoted EFG Eurobank said on Thursday that it had reached agreement with management on working hours for two branches whose extended shifts had brought strike action.
Among terms of the pact are that staff at the The Mall branch in Athens and Mediterranean Cosmos in the northern port city of Thessaloniki will work a shift-system on the basis of a five-day, 35-hour working week, less than in remaining branches.
In addition, the two units will open for 30 hours a week instead of 32 hours at present for two shifts; and for seven fewer hours for the third shift. The branches will close on Sundays and public holidays with a day in lieu to be awarded for Saturday work.
The sixteen members of staff involved in the scheme will also receive a bonus of 220-235 euros; and management is not entitled to place personnel on the shift without their written consent. Private sector Eurobank has a total of 7,500 personnel.
The pact has drawn fire from the nationwide bank workers' union, OTOE, which has said that the departure from normal practice may lead to a blanket change in working hours, also claiming that Eurobank has a poor track record in adhering to agreements.
Eurobank's staff union president, Stathis Haritos, told a news conference that a precedent had been laid for the agreement in special working hours agreed by staff and management at state-owned, Athens-quoted Emporiki Bank for its Athens airport branch.
According to the union's secretary, Dimitris Kissas, the pact is legal, countering statements by OTOE's president, Dimitris Tsoukalas, who also claimed that Eurobank workers had been pressured into the agreement, and the development ministry should intervene concerning the terms of collective sector labor pacts.
OTOE, which is to propose stripping Haritos of his position in the nationwide union, has the backing of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece, the country's largest trade union umbrella group.
Gov't welcomes Eurobank pact on working hours: Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday that he welcome an agreement forged by the staff union at Athens-quoted EFG Eurobank with management, settling working hours and pay at two branches whose extended shifts had brought strike action.
"It is pleasing when reform leads to an improvement in competition through a process of consensus," Alogoskoufis told reporters.
In a later statement, the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology claimed that Alogoskoufis must be in league with the Latsis shipping, banking and energy group that owns private sector Eurobank, also backing other corporate groups.
"Taking advantage of a unilateral agreement between management and one of the bank's two unions - but not the other - and despite opposition from the nationwide union, Alogoskoufis has again showed the government's desire to extend bank working hours," the party's labor spokesman, Dimitris Stratoulis, said in a statement.
 Gov't ploughs cash into info-society digital projects
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)The government is evolving a wide range of digital services for the environment, transport and geography that will offer major benefits to the regions.
The special secretary for the information society, Vassilis Asimakopoulos, said in a statement that the digital services budgeted at 25 million euros will be funded from national and European Union funds under the European Regional Development Fund.
 Greek inflation rose to 3.5 pct in December, Eurostat
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Greek annual inflation rose to 3.5 pct in December from 3.4 pct in November, Eurostat said on Thursday.
The EU executive's statistics agency, in its monthly report, said Eurozone inflation fell to 2.2 pct in December from 2.3 pct in November, down from 2.4 pct in December 2004. The inflation rate in the EU-25 also fell to 2.1 pct in December from 2.2 pct in November and 2.4 pct in December 2004.
Poland (0.8 pct), Finland (1.1 pct), Sweden (1.3 pct) and Cyprus (1.4 pct) recorded the lowest inflation rates in December, while Latvia (7.1 pct), Slovakia (3.9 pct), Spain (3.7 pct) and Estonia (3.6 pct) the highest levels.
 Gov't welcomes performance by football pools operator
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Deputy Sports Minister George Orfanos said on Thursday that they welcomed the performance of Athens-quoted OPAP SA, a state football pools operator.
"The company's progress is satisfactory, and what was agreed has been implemented," Alogoskoufis told reporters.
"The incorporation of Greek games in the Stihima game will go ahead," he added.
 Florina prefecture to promote alternative tourism
20/1/2006 (ANA)Local authorities in the prefecture of Florina will promote alternative tourism in an effort aimed to make a more efficient use of the prefecture's unexploited "treasure" through a Leader+ program, Florina Development's chief executive Dimitris Katrantzis told ANA-MPA on Thursday.
Katrantzis said flagship of the local Leader+ program were investments in the manufacturing sector and promoting clusters, with the aim to boost local products' competitiveness, ensuring and multiplying farm incomes, keeping the population in farm regions and boosting employment.
He noted that the latest stage of the program was focusing on fully implementing private investments in alternative tourism. "Alternative tourism is developing the wrong way by focusing on offering beds and food service. No form of tourism, however, can be developed fully unless it is combined with promoting local production and skills," Katrantzis said.
The program envisages offering financial support of up to 75 percent of a project's budget to investments in alternative tourism, manufacturing, food processing, traditional craft products and promoting clusters.
 Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling launches restructuring plan
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling on Thursday announced a restructuring of its operations including the closing down of bottling factory in Athens and the transfer of the production line to another unit in Shimatari, Attica.
The company also announced plans to restructuring its logistics business with the suspension of operations in its warehouses in Messolongi, Corfu and Rhodes. These regions will be serviced by the company's main facilities in Patra and Heraclion Crete.
Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling said the plan would affect around 150 workers, from a total 2,400 workers in the Group. The management has already invited workers to a round of consultations offering a voluntary pension scheme to determine the terms and conditions for the departure from the company.
The company also announced plans to significantly boost its sales department and to continue its investment plan, currently worth 40 million euros annually.
Hellenic Bottling said its operational restructuring was aimed to develop and produce innovative products to create added value to consumers, to strengthen its sales and marketing departments and to invest on up-to-date production facilities. The company has already begun implementing an investment plan, worth 8 million euros, for the building of a new bottling facility in Heraclion Crete.
 Visa Hellas reports double digit growth rates in 2005
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Credit cards using the latest chip technology are expected to record very significant penetration rates in the Greek market, over the next two years, from only 2.0 percent currently, Visa Hellas' chairman and Alpha Bank's credit card manager Leonidas Kasoumis said on Thursday.
Kasoumis said the cost of the new cards for banks would be 10 times more from current cards, although he stressed that the added cost would not burden consumers. He underlined the increased safety in transactions offered to consumers, along with various other new applications.
Visa Europe said total spending in Greece with Visa cards was 8.3 billion euros in 2005, up 25.4 percent, while consumer spending in sale points rose 7.6 percent, compared with 2004, to 4.1 billion euros.
Circulation of debit cards rose 26.6 percent to 2.3 million units at the end of September 2005, while transactions rose by 25.5 percent to 3.1 million euros.
Nikos Kampanopoulos, Visa Europe's vice-president and head of the Greek office, said Greek consumers showed increasing confidence in the use of credit cards.
Visa cards (credit, debit and corporate) totaled 5.9 million last year in Greece, an increase of 8.4 percent from 2004. Transactions rose 14.2 percent to 71.9 million with a total value of 8.3 billion euros (up 25.4 percent).
Visa has issued more than 296 million cards in Europe, with the value of transactions exceeding 1.09 trillion euros (September figures).
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks surge to hit new five-year high
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)The Athens share index closed at 3,968.05 points, showing a rise of 1.90%. Turnover was 397.4 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.86% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 2.15% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 4.08% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 253 to 38 with 32 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Buyers match sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Friday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.217
 Kontalexis trial postponed indefinitely
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)The trial of stock broker Panagiotis Kontalexis and his lawyer Stavros Koumentakis for bribing former judge Constantina Bourboulia was indefinitely postponed on Thursday, just one day after it began.
The Three-Member Misdemeanors Court said it was postponing the hearing so that any evidence arising from the opening of Bourboulia's Swiss bank accounts - expected to be approved by Swiss courts - could be presented during the hearing.
The court also wants to wait until the finalization of a conviction and sentence against Bourboulia for accepting bribes handed down by a first-instance court in July, which will be decided during an appeal hearing scheduled for October.
Bourboulia was arrested in Paris on Wednesday, around the same time as the Kontalexis trial began, on the basis of a European arrest warrant issued by Greek courts in September after it became known that she had left the country.
The charges against Kontalexis are that he bribed Bourboulia with 120 million drachmas through his lawyer Koumentakis so that she would not remand him in custody in connection with a stock market fraud case in 1999-2001. Bourboulia was at that time the examining magistrate in charge of the case, while she was additionally charged for not revealing that she had had an affair with Koumentakis.
 French justice ministry spokeswoman describes arrest of former investigating magistrate Konstantina Bourboulia
20/1/2006 (ANA)A French justice ministry spokeswoman described the way with which former investigating magistrate Konstantina Bourboulia was arrested by the French authorities, in an interview with the NET television channel on Thursday.
According to the spokeswoman, Bourboulia presented herself to the public prosecutor who, after confirming her identity, informed her of the European arrest warrant. He then briefed her on the charges she is being accused of by the Greek authorities and that she is being sought by the Athens prosecutor on charges of corruption, money laundering, abuse of authority, participation in a criminal organization and for maritime law violations.
Bourboulia, according to the spokeswoman, was informed that she can have a defense lawyer during the hearing in court which will examine the European arrest warrant.
The detaining of Bourboulia was ordered afterwards and she was taken to the women's prisons of Fren.
The spokeswoman said that the handing over of Bourboulia to the Greek authorities will be organized by the transport service, which is a special service of the French justice ministry. She will be accompanied by French police during her transportation and she will be taken on a scheduled flight, while her delivery to Greek police will take place during the flight.
 Translated copy of Bourboulia arrest warrant to French courts
20/1/2006 (ANA)A translated version of the European arrest warrant issued in Athens for former judge Constantina Bourboulia will be sent to French courts by Appeals Court Public Prosecutor Kyriakos Karoutsos on Thursday.
Bourboulia was placed under arrest in Paris on Wednesday, in a joint operation between Greek and French police.
The warrant was issued in September last year after Bourboulia fled the country following a conviction for "legalizing income from illegal activities" and abusing her authority.
Bourboulia was given a suspended sentence of three years imprisonment after she was found guilty of accepting bribes from the defendant in a stock market fraud case that she was handling as examining magistrate in 1999-2001 so as not to remand him in custody.
 Yiossakis contests his detention on remand before appeals council
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Former cleric Iacovos Yiossakis, one of the prime suspects in a trial-rigging scandal that has rocked Greek public opinion over the past months, on Thursday appeared before the Piraeus Appeals Council to contest his detention on remand for an antiquities-smuggling charge.
Along with his co-defendant in the case Kyrillos Stavropoulos, another cleric that is accused of assisting Yiossakis in the theft of 22 ancient relics from Aghios Theodosios Monastery on the island of Kythera, they claimed that their continued detention was illegal because the criminal charges that it was originally based on had been converted to misdemeanor charges.
They also stressed that the European Court of Human Rights had accepted their arguments that their detention was illegal at an initial stage.
The presence of the two defendants had been requested by the Piraeus Appeals Council, which is due to decide on whether the two should remain in custody over the next few days. The two will remain at Korydallos prison until a ruling is issued.
According to an expert report presented in court in mid-December by three archaeologists, the antiquities stolen had been overvalued by prosecuting authorities in charge of the case, who had based the criminal charges against Yiossakis on an assessed value of ¬ 150,000 for the stolen items.
Their actual value was closer to ¬ 25,980, which was insufficient to uphold criminal charges, so that the charges against the two men had to be converted to misdemeanors.
 'November 17' appeal hearing resumes after 15-day break
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)The appeal trial of 15 men convicted as members of the terror band "November 17" resumed on Thursday after a 15-day break, during which three lawyers appointed by the court to represent Alexandros Giotopoulos, the man accused as the urban guerrilla group's mastermind, could be briefed on the extensive file of evidence against their client.
Before the trial was adjourned, Giotopoulos had fired his legal counsel in an act of protest against what he described as a "pre-determined conviction", saying that he would not lend legitimacy-cy to the proceedings by continuing to attend or defend himself in the trial.
Thursday's session continued with the arguments and objections of the lawyers representing the other defendants in the case concerning the procedure followed in the run-up to the first trial and the way that confessions were extracted from their clients. The proceedings before the Five-Member Criminal Appeals Court will continue on Friday.
Members of the group are appealing against multiple life sentences handed down by courts for over 2,500 crimes spanning a 27-year killing spree, while Giotopoulos was demanding a full acquittal. The appeal trial, which is expected to continue for several months, began in early December.
 Three Greeks arrested for attempting to bring 19 illegal immigrants into country
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Three Greeks have been arrested at Mikro Derio after attempting to bring 19 illegal immigrants, Pakistanis and Afghanis, into the country through the Evros River.
According to the police department in the city of Orestiada on Thursday, the illegal immigrants had crossed into Greece in the region of Lavara and the three arrested men were planning to carry them inland in a truck in return for a fee.
Police confiscated the truck, a passenger car and their mobile phones and referred them to a public prosecutor in Orestiada.
 Police disband women trafficking ring
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Police in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, have succeeded in disbanding a ring involved in the trafficking of women.
A total of 29 people are involved in the case, six of whom are foreigners. From August last year until January 13, 2006, they brought four women to Greece from Russia, withheld their travel documents and forced them to work as prostitutes.
The foreign women were arrested initially after it was ascertained that they were staying in the country illegally, while an ensuing investigation revealed the activities of the ring.
 Event held in Luxembourg on publication of Homer Odyssey's nine first rhapsodies
LUXEMBOURG, 20/1/2006 (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)An event was held at Luxembourg's National History and Art Museum on the occasion of the publication of the nine first rhapsodies of Homer's Odyssey in Luxembourg's language, attracting the interest of the public and of the country's cultural world.
The translation of the entire Odyssey from the ancient Homeric text into the language of Luxembourg has been undertaken by the professor Henry Muller, while the financing of the publication of the remaining rhapsodies will also be taking place.
The event on the work's presentation was organized by the local society "The Friends of Greece" and the Greek Community of Luxembourg, with support by the press and communication office of the Greek embassy in Luxembourg.
It was held under the auspices of the Greek embassy and Luxembourg's culture, higher education and research ministry.
The event was attended by Greek Ambassador to Luxembourg Nikos Kalantzianos, representatives of the diplomatic and political sectors, philhellenes and many Greeks.
 Significance of October 28 'Ochi' anniversary for Italians discussed at Italian embassy event
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)The unknown aspect of the significance of the "Ochi" anniversary for the Italians (October 28, 1940 when Greece rejected an ultimatum by Italy) and the need to record the event in Italy's modern history was analyzed during an event held on the "meaning of the October 28 anniversary" by the Italian embassy at the Old Parliament building on Thursday night.
Speakers were history professors Antonis Liakos, Umberto Silveri, Italian film director Maurizio Scapparo and author Petros Markaris, while the discussion was coordinated by journalist Antonio Ferrari.
The speakers focused on the longstanding history of friendship between the two peoples since the influences of Greek Culture, the shaping of the Roman Empire and the "friendly" handling of Italian soldiers during the war and until today.
 Presentation of book by Tassos Yiannitsis on 'Greece and the Future'
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)The presentation of a book by former alternate foreign minister Tassos Yiannitsis entitled "Greece and the Future" took place in Athens on Thursday in the presence of former prime minister Costas Simitis and his wife and many cadres of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK).
The author said the book attempts "to bind the economy with politics."
The first speaker at the presentation, Professor Nikos Alivizatos, observed that the author dedicated the book's biggest chapter to politics, noting that "it is a pity that the country's political system did not take that which Yiannitsis could have given."
 Three firebomb attacks cause damage, no injuries
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)Three home-made firebombs exploded outside a bank, a local organization office of the ruling New Democracy party (ND), and a municipal vehicle in the greater Athens area early Thursday, causing damage but no injuries, and the incidents were claimed by an unknown group calling itself the Revolutionary Liberation Action.
Two firebombs exploded simultaneously at 3:00 a.m. outside a National Bank of Greece branch in the Kypseli residential district of Athens and on the sidewalk in front of a building housing the ND local organization office in the Zographou district, causing material damage but no injuries.
A third firebomb exploded beneath a parked municipal vehicle in Nea Ionia suburb, destroying the vehicle.
Shortly afterwards, an anonymous caller telephoned SKAI private radio station and claimed the attacks on behalf of the group.
 Jeremy Rifkin gives lecture in Athens on 'world economy in the era of hydrogen'
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)World-renowned American economist and author Jeremy Rifkin gave a lecture at the Athens Concert Hall on Thursday evening on the theme "The world economy in the era of hydrogen: the role of the EU, the U.S. and Asian countries".
His recent (2004) book entitled "The European dream", has been translated into 15 languages and claims that "the American dream" has "faded" and that what is hopeful is the "European dream" of the European Union's 25 member-states.
The theme of his 17 books, which have become best-sellers, are the new trends in science and technology as well as their repercussions on the environment, economy, culture and society.
 U.S. Embassy consular section closed on last Monday of every month
ATHENS, 20/1/2006 (ANA)The United States Embassy in Athens on Thursday announced that, as of January 30, its consular section will be closed on the last Monday of each month for internal administrative reasons. The closure will include non-immigrant visa unit, immigrant visa unit, federal benefits unit, American citizen services unit and the passport unit.
For true emergencies during working hours (8:30-5:00) on these days, the public can call the numbers 210 7202490 and 210 7202491.
 Cyprus parliamentary elections to take place May 21, 2006
NICOSIA, 20/1/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Parliamentary elections in Cyprus will take place on May 21, this year.
This was decided on Thursday during a meeting of House President Demetris Christofias with the leaders of the nine parliamentary parties.
They also decided the dissolution of the parliament on April 13.
Nine parties are represented at the House, which has 56 seats.
 Cyprus Ambassador receives King Legacy Award for International Service
WASHINGTON, 20/1/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Cyprus Ambassador to the United States Euripides Evriviades has been presented the prestigious King Legacy Award for International Service by the Committee for the International Salute to the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., A Man for All Nations.
Receiving the award, Evriviades said ''I am deeply honored and profoundly moved by the Committee's decision to bestow this unique award to me,'' adding that ''Dr. King has proven in practice that the word is mightier than the sword.''
''His message is endowed with a clarity as powerful as his purpose. And, as a message crafted for every race, for every conflict, for every injustice, it is endearing, enduring and universal not only geographically but also in time and space,'' he noted.
''As an Ambassador and recipient of the award, it is both my mission and my mandate to follow the path of Dr. King in seeking communication over combat, consensus over confusion, and cooperation over conflict in our common strife to work for security over instability,'' Evriviades said.
He noted that ''as the Ambassador of Cyprus, I share the painful reminder of the destructive force of hate. The legacy of colonialism, extremism, a coup d'etat and foreign aggression, split my country in two.''
''After more than thirty-one years, almost half of Cyprus' territory remains under military occupation with many human rights violations that come with any occupation. The refugees, the missing, the enclaved, the destruction of our cultural and religious heritage, and the systematic colonization of the northern territory of the country, continue to epitomize the tragedy of Cyprus.
Such artificial division cannot last,'' he said, adding that ''it must not last.''
Evriviades said ''it is the division of my country that has forged a new type of segregation and neo-apartheid.''
''My homeland must regain its rightful place as a reunified nation whole and free,'' he added, noting that ''we reject foreign masters and overlords,''.
''We will struggle against them with peaceful means to the bitter end. Until our dream also becomes a reality,'' the Cypriot ambassador assured.
He said ''any solution must safeguard first and foremost the interests of the people of Cyprus as a whole, regardless of their race or religion.''
In award ceremonies earlier this week, Committee Chairman Henry H. Brown lauded Ambassador Evriviades for his "hard and dedicated work for peace and non-violence" throughout his distinguished nearly 30-year diplomatic career and for his contributions in making "the King dream a reality."
The International Salute to the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., A Man for All Nations, is an annual event, instituted in 1992. Each year, the event committee recognizes the leadership and contributions of individuals and groups that have positively influenced the national and international community.
 UN search for missing persons a humanitarian priority, says Britain
NICOSIA, 20/1/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)British Foreign Minister for Europe Douglas Alexander said on Thursday the United Nations search for missing persons in Cyprus is both a humanitarian priority and a rare prospect for reconciliation between the two communities on the island.
Alexander was responding to a question by Labor MP Andrew Dismore if the British government can provide further financial support to the CAPS Committee on Missing Persons towards their general program of exhumation and identifications due to start in spring 2006.
''In 2004, we donated US $ 50,000 towards what we hope will become a truly successful confidence building measure," Alexander said, adding that ''more recently we have informed the Committee of Missing Persons and the British Charity INFORCE, which is assisting in the new phase of the Committee's work, that we are happy to provide further funding of up to 45,000 pounds."
We expect that this contribution will go towards training forensic archaeologists from both communities in the necessary skills for continuing this important work, he concluded.
 EAC provides Turkish occupied areas with electricity
NICOSIA, 20/1/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)The Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) began supplying Turkish occupied areas with electricity, responding positively to a request by the illegal regime in Cyprus' northern part.
EAC Customers Service Assistant Director Costas Gavrielides told CNA on Thursday that the Authority was working through the night to satisfy the request.
He said the problem in the occupied areas arose after an explosion at the Kyrenia power plant.
Gavrielides said the decision to provide power to the occupied areas was political, to which the Authority responded from the very first moment.
The occupying regime has asked for a supply of 80 MW for a period of 10 days.
Gavrielides said the decision to provide power to the occupied areas was political, to which the Authority responded from the very first moment.
Gavrielides said the connection with the occupied areas was achieved at three points.
"These lines have been inactive since 1996, when the supply to the occupied areas was terminated and we had to verify their good condition," he noted adding that nothing like this happened in the past and surely not to this extent.