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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-08-04

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

August 4, 2006


  • [01] Government sets up expert committee to discuss pension system's future
  • [02] Stylianidis on the humanitarian aid to Lebanon
  • [03] Rally in solidarity with Lebenese, Palestinian peoples in Athens
  • [04] Deputy FM Stylianidis holds talks with Russian Agriculture Minister Gordeev
  • [05] Credit Agricole ups stake in Emporiki Bank
  • [06] Government slams 'illicit' opposition tactics over Emporiki sale
  • [07] Sioufas on a visit to Albania
  • [08] New age limits for ships endanger safety, PASOK claims
  • [09] Tax revenue up
  • [10] Greek bond yields drop in secondary market
  • [11] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks slip
  • [12] The Church of Greece builds school in Beslan, south Russia
  • [13] Reports of child abuse rise after Alex case, charity reports
  • [14] HANC symposium on the Delphian Idea
  • [15] President always ready to discuss Cyprus problem with Talat, FM says
  • [16] US President sends thank you letter to Cyprus
  • [17] Belgium sends humanitarian aid to Lebanon via Cyprus

  • [01] Government sets up expert committee to discuss pension system's future

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    The government on Thursday announced the names of the members of an expert committee to discuss the state of Greece's pension funds and their future, presenting its report in about a year's time.

    The decision was made during a meeting between Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Employment Minister Savvas Tsitouridis, who said that failure to begin dialogue and address the problems of Greece's ailing pension system might eventually affect the economy.

    The committee, made up chiefly of technocrats heading government economic services and representatives of industry, employers and trade unions, will convene for the first time within August and its aim is to carry out a technical overview of the current state of pension funds and their future prospects.

    The head of the Economic and Social Committee Nikos Analytis was appointed chairman and said the committee's membership may later be expanded to include representatives of the social partners and political parties that have chosen not to participate at this time.

    In statements to reporters, Alogoskoufis said there was already agreement between members of the committee and the government on certain points, such as the need to curb evasion of contributions payment, making better use of funds' assets and streamlining.

    Tsitouridis stressed that the current system was both chaotic, socially unfair and created inequity between successive generations.

    PASOK's Damanaki on social insurance system and Emporiki Bank: Maria Damanaki, in charge of the Employment, Social Affairs and Health Department of the Political Council of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), in statements on Thursday regarding the government's tactics over the social insurance system, noted that "the New Democracy (ND) government has seriously burdened the country's social insurance problem. These past two-and-a-half years, the State's debts to the Funds have doubled, the non-payment of pension insurance contributions increased by 20 per cent, the law which had been passed under PASOK governance is still not being implemented, while the provocative voluntary retirements, as occurred at the Hellenic Communications Organization (OTE), give luxury pensions to a few."

    Responding to statements made earlier in the day by Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Emporiki Bank, she said that "the big talk of the ministers has only one target. To avoid the explanations which they are obliged to give to Parliament and to the Greek people regarding the government's pressures on the administrations of the Funds."

    Ministers Alogoskoufis and Tsitouridis on Thursday renewed accusations against "sections of the opposition" that they said were employing illicit tactics and methods, including intimidation, to persuade the social insurance funds not to participate in the sale of the state's shares in Emporiki Bank to France's Credit Agricole.

    Damanaki added:” We insist, as we have the right and obligation, for them to submit in Parliament all the data for every Fund separately. On the basis of which studies, which recommendations and the opinion of what advisers did they reach decisions for the sale of the shares of Emporiki Bank? We will check, one by one, all the data."

    KKE denounces the 'impending changes in the social insurance system': The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in an announcement on Thursday, in light of the joint press conference given earlier in the day by Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis and Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, charged that "the impending changes in the social insurance system means an increase of social insurance contributions by the working people, a bounty of private social insurance and a blow to the heavy and unhealthy professions."

    "The 'committee of experts' which was established, will promote the will of capital and of their parties," the KKE announcement said, stressing that " where the 'social dialogue' will lead to has been decided in advance." The KKE announcement added:" The only dialogue on the part of the working class is that of mass reactions in the streets. There is money! Capital should pay, which increases its profits."

    SYN's Stratoulis says gov't 'seeks to create a climate of social insurance terrorism': Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) Political Bureau member Dimitris Stratoulis said on Thursday that "the New Democracy (ND) government, with the setting up and operation for one year of the Committee for the Social Insurance System, seeks to create a climate of social insurance terrorism in our country so as to facilitate the promotion of its predecided policies for the crumbling and privatization of the public social insurance, for a new looting of its mobile and real estate property and for the removal of the rights of the insured."

    He added that "the composition of the Committee for the Social Insurance System by representatives exclusively of the government, of the Federation of Greek Industries SEB), of entrepreneurs and of bankers prescribes the direction, content and results of its sessions."

    [02] Stylianidis on the humanitarian aid to Lebanon

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, responsible coordinator for humanitarian aid issues, stated that Greece informed its European partners that it is willing to donate the shipping to Lebanon of the humanitarian aid arriving in Larnaca, Cyprus from EU member states.

    The shipping will be conducted by a Greek Navy tank landing vessel and the Cyprus Republic will offer the Larnaca port accommodations, according to a statement issued by the foreign ministry.

    Hellenic Aid in cooperation with the European authorities attempts to play a coordinating role by utilizing its successful experience and technical potential provided by the Greek armed forces, said Stylianidis. He added that Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis has already briefed the European partners and the European Commission on the Greek offer, made in consultation with the Cyprus Republic, to ship the European partners’ humanitarian aid from Larnaca to Lebanon for free.

    Stylianidis stated that the second phase of the humanitarian aid to Lebanon is underway during which a fundraising will be held and the money raised will be offered to the affected area. On the first phase of the Hellenic Aid action, he said that Greece was the first to transport thousands of people from the war zone to Greece and also, the first to bring over 70 tons of medical and pharmaceutical aid to the victims of the war.

    Greek Navy ship en route to Lebanon: The Greek Navy tank landing ship “Rhodes” is on its way to Lebanon carrying 31 tons of medicine, foodstuffs and other essential items for the country’s suffering people.

    This is the third humanitarian aid mission for the relief of the Lebanese civilians organized by Greece.

    The humanitarian aid collected under the auspices of the Greek foreign ministry was transported to Cyprus on board C-130 Greek Air Force transport planes last Saturday, Monday and Wednesday and on Thursday it was loaded onto the tank landing ship expected to arrive in Lebanon in the afternoon.

    Greek Navy carrier 'Chios' to transport more humanitarian aid to Lebanon: The Navy General Staff announced on Thursday evening that the Navy carrier "Chios" will sail from the Naval base of Salamina on Friday afternoon for Larnaca, and later head to Beirut, so as to dispatch more humanitarian aid to Lebanon.

    [03] Rally in solidarity with Lebenese, Palestinian peoples in Athens

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    The Greek Social Forum and Lebanese and Palestinian activists living in Athens organized on Thursday evening a rally outside the Israeli embassy in solidarity with the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples.

    The demonstrators, who earlier rallied outside the U.S. embassy, stayed for about thirty minutes at the Israeli embassy shouting slogans against the war in Lebanon.

    [04] Deputy FM Stylianidis holds talks with Russian Agriculture Minister Gordeev

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Thursday had an informal working meeting with Russian Agriculture Minister and Co-president of the Greece-Russia Joint Interministerial Committee, Aleksey Gordeev, who is on a private visit to Greece.

    Nine months after the completion of the Joint Interministerial Committee and of the business mission - following the official visit to Moscow by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis- Stylianidis and Gordeev examined the course of bilateral economic relations and recorded the to date achieved results, a foreign ministry announcement said.

    The announcement said that the two ministers ascertained an increase, by 24.8 per cent of Greek exports to the Russian market in the first five months of 2006, as well as an improvement of visa grant services (1,600 visas daily), a fact which contributes to the arithmetic increase and qualititative improvement of Russian tourism to Greece.

    They also confirmed the good cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector, both with regard the negotiations for the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline as well as cooperation in the sector of natural gas and of alternative forms of energy.

    They also discussed the positive presence of Greek companies in Russia (construction companies) and correspondingly Russian companies in Greece (bioenergy).

    [05] Credit Agricole ups stake in Emporiki Bank

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    Credit Agricole of France SA said on Thursday that it held directly approximately 13.96% of Athens-quoted Emporiki Bank, and indirectly about 0.10% of the company's voting rights

    In a statement to the capital market commission, Credit said that on August 2 it acquired 924,199 common ordinary voting shares in Emporiki at euro 25 each, representing approximately 0.70% of voting rights.

    Before the purchase, the French bank directly held around 13.26% of stock and indirectly about 0.10% of voting rights.

    Workers at Emporiki Bank on Wednesday extended a 48-hour strike that began on August 1 until August 7 in protest at the government's privatization process for the state-run bank.

    On Tuesday, the government accepted an offer from Credit Agricole for the acquisition of 11% of stock the state holds in Emporiki in a public offer; and a day earlier Credit upped its stake in Emporiki to about 12.71% from 12.21% through the bourse.

    The public offer for stock called by the French bank ends on August 7 and aims to amass at least 40% of Emporiki's shares.

    [06] Government slams 'illicit' opposition tactics over Emporiki sale

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Employment Minister Savvas Tsitouridis on Thursday renewed accusations against "sections of the opposition" that they said were employing illicit tactics and methods, including intimidation, to persuade the social insurance funds not to participate in the sale of the state's shares in Emporiki Bank to France's Credit Agricole.

    According to Alogoskoufis, there had been "party interventions and threats against fund board members" to prevent the sale going ahead, while certain people had been forced to resign.

    "We have had complaints from board members at insurance funds that they came under pressure to not go ahead with the Emporiki issue," he said.

    The two ministers also stressed that the government had not given the funds any instruction apart from doing what was best for the interests of those insured with them.

    They made the claims following a meeting on Thursday, during which they decided on the composition of an expert committee that will discuss the problems facing Greece's ailing pension system and present its report in about a year.

    The committee, made up chiefly of government technocrats, will convene for the first time within August and its aim is to make a technical assessment of the situation concerning pension funds and their future prospects.

    [07] Sioufas on a visit to Albania

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, currently on a formal visit to Albania, underlined the contribution of the Greek investments and capital to the economic growth of Albania in the contacts he had in Tirana on Thursday.

    Sioufas met with Albanian Minister of Economy, Trade and Energy Genc Ruli and discussed prospects for the further improvement of Greek-Albanian cooperation on development and energy issues as well as on issues concerning the operation of the SE Europe Energy Community, a treaty on which was signed last October in Athens. Sioufas pointed out that over 21 billion euros will be invested in SE Europe in the following years.

    Referring to the ethnic Greek minority living in Albania and the Albanian immigrants in Greece, Sioufas stressed that they constitute “a bridge on which our efforts and all our plans should be based” and reiterated Greece’s support to Tirana’s EU accession efforts.

    Greece is Albania’s second largest trading partner with over 250 Greek companies active in strategic sectors of the Albanian economy such as, the banking sector and telecommunications.

    Earlier, on Thursday Sioufas met with Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania.

    [08] New age limits for ships endanger safety, PASOK claims

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Thursday accused the government of compromising shipping safety through recent legislation for the maximum age limit for ships.

    "The Aegean is being handed over to leaky tubs," the party's development sector head Christos Protopapas said in a press conference regarding the presidential decree for shipping passed by the government on Wednesday, while accusing Merchant Marine Minister Mihalis Kefaloyiannis of following a dangerous policy in order to do favors for specific ferry boat owners.

    The decree, which allows ships more than 30 years old to ply Aegean ferry routes, undermined efforts to modernize Greece's commercial fleet, PASOK said and demanded that its immediate withdrawal.

    It also questioned its validity and whether a presidential decree could change an existing law.

    Greece's left-wing opposition parties in Parliament were equally critical of the presidential decree, which they said was putting profits for shipping companies before passenger and crew safety.

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) called on the public to "act in common to prevent shipwrecks like that of the Express Samina" (a passenger ferry in which 81 people were drowned).

    The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) said that the decree was a "gift to ferry boat shipping capital" that would make the already tragic state of the country's ferry services even worse, filling the Aegean with ancient ships providing a poor service, with less safety and more breakdowns.

    Merchant Marine Ministry responds: The Merchant Marine Ministry in an announcement on Thursday evening responded to statements made earlier in the day by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) officials regarding shipping safety and their accusations that the government was endangering ships.

    "With insults, personal attacks and populism, PASOK is attempting to give an answer to the impasses of its policy. The memory of its officials proves yet again weak," the announcement said.

    The announcement noted:” On June 17, 2002 the directive for the strengthening of the stability and safety of ships (Stockholm Treaty) was discussed and unanimously passed at the European Union's Council of Maritime Transport Ministers, with the agreed opinion and vote of the then Merchant Marine Minister, Mr. Anomeritis, who was accompanied by the Secretary General of the Mercahnt Marine Ministry, Mr. Lambropoulos."

    "On April 14, 2003, under Greek (EU) Presidency, it was adopted as a Directive of the European Union, with the signature of Presiding Alternate Foreign Minister Mr. Anastasios Yiannitsis."

    "With the previsions of the new presidential decree for shipping, the safety rules of ships and ferries are upgraded and their operational merit is reinforced," it also said.

    "The Merchant Marine Ministry harmonizes our domestic legislation with the EU law with the objective of upgrading the safety rules in ferries. PASOK must be particularly careful. Its guilty past does not permit it to give lessons on safety matters. The Greek people possess opinion, memory and judgment," the merchant marine ministry announcement concluded.

    Charter of ferry passengers' rights proposed: Compensation for passengers affected by improper actions or omissions committed by companies operating passenger ferries, establishment of a ferry passenger ombudsman and measures aimed at making passenger ships accessible to the disabled are a few of the proposals included in the “Ferry Passenger Rights Charter” unveiled by the Athens-Piraeus supra-prefecture on Thursday.

    Supra-Prefect Fofi Gennimatas stated during the proposal's presentation at the Piraeus Port Authority that action was taken after witnessing the discomfort to passengers caused by continuous cancellations, postponements and delays in sea transportation, within the framework of efforts to protect consumers and every citizen’s right to enjoy high-quality and safe sea transportation.

    [09] Tax revenue up

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    Revenue from tax rose by 6.2% in July 2006 against the same period a year earlier to total 4,680 million euros, the finance ministry said on Thursday.

    Income from Value Added Tax increased by 11.4% to 1,273 million euros, the ministry said in a routine statement.

    In January-July 2006, revenue from tax rose by 9.3%, topping a budgetary target of 6.5% for regular revenue and 8.9% for regular and non-regular revenue, the statement added.

    [10] Greek bond yields drop in secondary market

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    Benchmark bond yields on the Greek electronic secondary securities market (HDAT) declined in July, especially in medium to long-term maturities in line with remaining eurozone markets, the central bank said on Thursday.

    The decline in yields at the short end of the curve was limited by market expectations of further interest rate increases by the European Central Bank, the Bank of Greece said in a routine monthly report.

    The 3-year bond yield declined by 9 basis points (bps) to 3.73% at the end of July from 3.82% a month earlier, while the 10 and the 30-year bond yields fell respectively by 16 and 14 bps to 4.25% and 4.66% from 4.40% and 4.80%.

    Therefore, the yield curve flattened while shifting downwards as the 3 to 30-year yield gap narrowed to 93 bps at the end of July from 98 bps on June 30.

    Finally, the average monthly spread between the Greek and the German 10-year benchmark bond yields narrowed slightly to 31 bps from 32 bps during the previous three months, the report noted.

    Benchmark bond prices rose between 28 and 225 bps. The strongest gains were recorded by the 30-year bond price that closed at 97.43 on July 31 compared to 95.18 on June 30, while the 3-year bond price rose to 99.08 from 98.80 and the 10-year bond price to 94.75 from 93.51.

    Trading volume on HDAT in July recorded 47.12 billion euros worth of transactions compared to 49.72 billion euros in June and 52.48 billion euros in July 2005.

    Daily average turnover was 2.24 billion euros compared to 2.37 billion euros in June. Trading activity mainly focused on bonds with remaining maturity of between 7 and 15 years, which accounted for 33.9 billion euros worth of transactions, or 72% of overall traded volume.

    The most actively traded bond was the 10-year benchmark with 24.5 billion euros worth of transactions followed by the 10-year bond, maturing on 20/7/2015, with 5.28 billion euros. Of the 8,310 orders executed on HDAT, 47.81% were buy and 52.19% sell.

    "On international markets, government bonds had a positive performance in July with yields declining along the whole maturity spectrum. The main reasons for the decline in yields were escalating geopolitical tensions that led oil prices to temporarily trade above 78 US dollars per barrel in New York, the Federal Reserve Chairman’s testimony to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee on July 19 stating that a moderation in economic growth is underway, and economic data released in the U.S which provided further evidence of a slow down in growth," the Bank of Greece said.

    "All the above mentioned reasons, led many investors to adjust downwards their expectations of further interest rate increases by the Fed providing a boost to government bonds. On the other hand, Bank of Japan 25 basis points (bps) increase in interest rates, for the first time after six years, and evidence of an acceleration of economic growth and inflation in the Euro-zone did not have a significant influence on bond market performance at this juncture," it added.

    [11] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks slip

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    The Athens share index closed at 3,793.34 points, showing a decline of 0.03%. Turnover was 329.1 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.06% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.31% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.81% down.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 175 to 81 with 55 remaining unchanged.

    Stock Futures:

  • Most Active Contract (volume): ELTEX (807)

  • Total derivatives market turnover: 127.4 million euros

    Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond (exp. 20.7.2016): 4.28% yield

  • German benchmark 10-year bond: 3.97%

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-year bond, expiring 20.7.2016 (1.0 bln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 2.3 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates: Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.288

    [12] The Church of Greece builds school in Beslan, south Russia

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    The Orthodox Church of Greece is financing the construction of an ultra-modern school in Beslan, located in North Ossetia, southern Russia, in memory of Ioannis Kanidis, a Greek origin teacher killed in 2004 during the terrorist attack by Chechen rebels who took over the town’s school killing hundreds of children and their parents.

    According to the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, the school will be named after the slain teacher and it will feature a soccer field and dormitories for orphan children, while it will have the capacity to host up to 300 students.

    [13] Reports of child abuse rise after Alex case, charity reports

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    Reports of serious child abuse have risen sharply in the wake of the publicity given to the case of missing 11-year-old Alex Meshivili from Veria, who is presumed to have been killed by other juveniles, according to the children's charity 'Hamogelo tou Pediou' (Child's Smile).

    The charity's SOS 1056 hotline has received almost as many reports regarding the abuse of youngsters aged 0-18 years old in the first six months of 2006 as it did in all of 2005, it said. The majority concerned younger children aged 0-6 years, while the majority of the alleged abusers were their mothers (38 percent) or both their parents (34 percent).

    The president of Hamogelo tou Pediou Costas Yiannopoulos said the rise in reported abuse was observed after the publicity given to the Alex case, which appears to have sensitized the public.

    Specifically, the charity received reports concerning 205 reports concerning 396 children throughout Greece in the first half of 2006, while in all of 2005 there had been 242 reports concerning a total of 351 children.

    Most numerous were reports of children neglected or abandoned, followed by reports of physical abuse, sexual abuse and a very few cases where children were forced into begging or prostitution.

    According to the figures for 2006, 41 percent of the reports concern children aged 0-6, 39 percent children aged 7-12 and 20 percent children aged 13-18. Of these, 65 percent were victims of neglect or abandonment, 25 percent of physical abuse, 5 percent of sexual abuse, 3 percent were made to beg and 2 percent were pushed into prostitution.

    Almost 98 percent of the calls made in 2006 were anonymous, compared with 62 percent throughout 2005.

    [14] HANC symposium on the Delphian Idea

    ATHENS, 4/8/2006 (ANA)

    The 1st International Symposium “Reviving the Delphian Idea - Know Thyself: a source of humanitarian acts” will take place at Delphi, central Greece, within the framework of the 17th Annual Meeting of the Hellenic American National Council (HANC) on August 18-20.

    The symposium, held with the participation of world acclaimed Greek and American professors as well as leading figures of the Greek American community, will be addressed by Delphi mayor and local authorities.

    Delphi is the site of the ancient temple and oracle of Apollo in Greece. Located on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, it was the centre of the world in ancient Greek religion.

    [15] President always ready to discuss Cyprus problem with Talat, FM says

    NICOSIA, 4/8/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    President Tassos Papadopoulos is willing to meet with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, whenever there is an issue at hand to discuss with regard to the Cyprus problem, Foreign Minister George Lillikas said on Thursday.

    "The government of Cyprus stands firm by its policy, that whenever there is an issue for discussion regarding the Cyprus problem, especially if it concerns the substance of the problem, President Papadopoulos will be willing to meet with Talat, either to provide political guidance to the experts and the technical committees trying to prepare the ground or to help overcome any problems that may arise during this procedure", Lillikas said.

    The minister was asked about a proposal Papadopoulos has communicated to Talat, through the UN, for a meeting to review and evaluate developments following the exchange of lists of issues to be discussed on a technical level and after discussions between their respective representatives, in line with the July 8th agreement between Papadopoulos and Talat.

    President Papadopoulos, the minister noted, has undertaken the initiative to help so that the process yields results.

    He added that the meeting between President Papadopoulos and Mehmet Ali Talat has not been finalized yet.

    Lillikas reiterated that the Greek Cypriot side believes that the July 8th agreement is very important, as an opportunity for the Cyprus talks to resume on political level.

    He noted that the procedure could yield better results, when statements regarding the work of the technical committees, set to discuss day to day issues as well as substantive issues, are avoided.

    Lillikas added that Thursday another meeting was scheduled between the representatives of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot leaders.

    "A meeting between President Papadopoulos and Talat could either help overcome any problems that may arise or give guidance. It is not right to start giving any negative or very optimistic interpretation to the proposed meeting", he concluded.

    [16] US President sends thank you letter to Cyprus

    NICOSIA, 4/8/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    US President George Bush has sent a thank you letter to the President of Cyprus Republic Tassos Papadopoulos as regards the help offered to Americans, who fled Lebanon via Cyprus.

    "On behalf of the people of the United States, I express my thanks for the assistance the Republic of Cyprus extended to more than 13,000 Americans who transited Cyprus after departing from Lebanon. The acts of kindness that officials of your government and the Cypriot public exhibited underscored the strong ties between our peoples", he said.

    ''I look forward to continued cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Cyprus", President Bush concludes in his letter.

    [17] Belgium sends humanitarian aid to Lebanon via Cyprus

    NICOSIA, 4/8/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    As of today Belgium is using Cyprus' facilities to transfer humanitarian aid to the tried region of Lebanon.

    Thursday morning, Belgian Minister of Defense, Andre Flahaut, arrived in Cyprus and then boarded a military aircraft at the 'Andreas Papandreou' military base in Paphos, heading to Beirut for the first humanitarian aid to be handed over to humanitarian organizations in Lebanon.

    Cypriot Foreign Minister George Lillikas told reporters Thursday that more missions with Belgian humanitarian aid will follow.

    On Thursday also, Belgian Ambassador to Nicosia, Colette Taquet, paid a courtesy call on Lillikas with whom she discussed the Lebanon crisis.

    Taquet thanked the government of the Republic of Cyprus and its people for the assistance they offer in repatriating Belgian citizens who were in Lebanon during the Israeli offensive.

    Lillikas said that Belgium will be using Cyprus as a transit station and basis for transferring humanitarian aid to Lebanon.

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