|Wednesday, 14 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-08-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>August 19, 2006
 FM Bakoyannis to tour Middle East next week
ATHENS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday departs on a tour of the Middle East, with visits to Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, it was announced on Friday.
The first stop on the tour will be Cyprus, on Tuesday, where Bakoyannis will meet with Cyprus president Tassos Papadopoulos for a review of the developments in the Middle East crisis.
On Wednesday, Bakoyannis departs for Lebanon, and then on to Israel and Jordan, where she will meet with her counterparts and other political leaders, as well as representatives of the Palestinian Authority.
 Gov't details humanitarian aid efforts in Lebanon
ATHENS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)The Greek government on Friday announced that it has already delivered 97 tons of infrastructure-related materials to Lebanon worth 2.5 million euros, a figure that includes pharmaceuticals and services.
Additionally, Athens oversaw the evacuation of approximately 2,700 people from the Mideast country, of which 691 were Greek citizens and 420 Cypriot citizens.
The figures were provided by the foreign ministry on the sidelines of a meeting headed by Deputy FM Evripides Stylianidis on Friday with various agency heads and NGO representatives to assess Greece's performance in the humanitarian aid effort.
Meanwhile, the Macedonia-Thrace ministry announced that it has collected roughly 40 tons of humanitarian aid by donors in the greater Thessaloniki area, mostly pharmaceuticals and dry goods, for civilians in Lebanon, with nearly nine tons already delivered to the war-ravaged country.
Finally, some 10 tons of aid was collected in the eastern Macedonia and Thrace region, among others.
 Church of Greece humanitarian aid to Lebanese; Christodoulos in Damascus
ATHENS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos will head a Holy Synod delegation to Damascus, Syria on Saturday, where he will personally oversee the transport of humanitarian aid collected by the Church's NGO "Solidarity" for distribution to war-ravaged citizens of Lebanon.
The Church of Greece collected 80 tons of humanitarian aid, primarily pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and other basic necessities.
Christodoulos is also scheduled to meet with the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Ignatius IV before returning in the afternoon to Athens.
 Deputy FM Yiannis Valynakis responds to comments on FYROM name issue
ATHENS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valynakis, responding on Friday to a question by the press on statements made by the caretaker prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Nikola Gruevski, on the issue of this Balkan state's name, said that if what was required was how Greece was to call FYROM neither would UN Security Council resolutions be necessary nor negotiations under the auspices of the UN secretary general's special envoy.
"These negotiations which, as it is known, have been taking place for some time between Greece and FYROM concern the issue of the neighboring country's international name. This is the object of negotiating and not the way with which Greece will call FYROM at a bilateral level," Valynakis said, expressing the hope "that the new government of FYROM will show the necessary spirit of cooperation to enable a mutually acceptable solution to be found."
The deputy foreign minister further said that "whatever other approach throws into doubt and ultimately undermines the essence and meaning of the process that is under way under the auspices of the UN and is not compatible with the European prospects of Skopje and the relevant commitments they have undertaken."
Speaking in an interview with the "Deutsche Welle" radio station, Gruevski had expressed support for the upgrading of economic and political relations with Greece, but left no ground for a change in FYROM's positions regarding the name issue.
 PM confers with ND parliamentary group secretary
ATHENS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met Friday with his ruling New Democracy party's (ND) parliamentary group secretary Apostolos Stavrou, ahead of the opening of the new parliament plenary session following the House's summer recess sessions.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Stavrou said they had discussed the two major bills on employment and development that have been tabled in the 300-member House.
Stavrou said that the ministers and deputy ministers were on the front-line of information and projecting the government's work, while the MPs were in the periphery briefing the citizens and contributing to the solution of local problems.
The conclusion arising from the MPs. visits in the periphery was that the citizens supported the government's reform effort and believed that the government was doing well and would do even better, Stavrou said.
With respect to criticism by the opposition, Stavrou said the government was facing all the problems with a sense of responsibility, adding that those who were being populist were irresponsible and would be judged by the citizens.
To a question on opposition calls for the introduction of a heating subsidy to low-income earners, Stavrou said that the government was acting with a long-term perspective, noting that the economy was responding positively despite the international situation, and adding that when the conditions allowed, the government's social policy would spread further.
In reply to another question, he said the high prices were a fact, and that the development ministry was doing everything possible to ameliorate the problem.
He further said that he did not anticipate any changes to the government's composition, also noting that there were no complaints by MPs, given that the issues that had arisen in their relations with ministers have been resolved.
 Athens mayoral candidate Calamines meets with ND secretary
ATHENS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)The ruling New Democracy-backed candidate for Athens mayor, Incites Calamines, on Friday expressed high optimism for the upcoming local government elections in October, following a meeting with ND party secretary Lefteris Zagoritis.
The two men discussed preparations for the municipal/prefectural elections and other organizational matters. Kaklamanis told reporters after the meeting that the final stretch to the local elections would begin after Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' and main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou's traditional addresses at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in September.
Kaklamanis said he himself was entering the second stage of preparations, which he said were going very well. He added, however, that he would not prejudicate the verdict of the citizens, since the real opinion would arise on the night of the elections, on October 15.
The candidate publicly thanked the hundreds of citizens who have volunteered to assist his campaign in various ways, and also volunteered for positions on the election tickets in the various districts of Athens, noting that the tickets would be completed in the first week of September.
Zagoritis, in turn, said that ND stood by Kaklamanis, whom he called a protagonist.
"We are entering the final and most crucial stage of preparations," Zagoritis said, adding that Kaklamanis was doing very well and was working non-stop, with the goal of improving the daily lives of the citizens of Athens.
Replying to questions, Zagoritis said that he was due to commence visits throughout the country, beginning with the prefectures of Magnisia, Karditsa and Messinia over the next three days, followed by Florina, Kastoria and Pieria next week.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos continuing visit
SAMOS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos changed the agenda of his tour of eastern Aegean islands on Friday with a promise that he will be visiting the islands of Fourni and Ikaria very soon.
The Patriarch changed his plans to visit islands neighboring the island of Samos due to unfavorable weather conditions prevailing in the area.
Vartholomeos was due to go to Pithagorio later on in the day to attend a church service and receive the golden key to the city from the local mayor.
 NBG finalizes 46% purchase of Finansbank
ATHENS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)Athens-quoted National Bank of Greece on Friday completed the acquisition of 46% of ordinary shares in Finansbank of Turkey and 100% of founder shares from FIBA Holding.
"We are delighted with the timely conclusion of this transformational transaction for NBG, a transaction which comprises a cornerstone of the strategy presented in our three-year business plan. It heralds a turning point for the Group," National's chairman and CEO, Takis Arapoglou, said in a statement.
Completion was achieved in the wake of approval of regulatory authorities in Greece and Turkey.
An application will be sent to the Turkish capital market board for approval of a mandatory tender offer for the remaining 44.3% of ordinary shares in Finansbank. FIBA is to retain a 9.68% stake.
If NBG acquires less 4% plus one share in the mandatory tender offer, FIBA and its affiliates have agreed to sell NBG enough shares to attain 50% plus one share, the statement said.
The Greek bank will also seek approval for a mandatory tender offer for the publicly held shares of Finans Finansal Kiralama AS (Finans Leasing), a subsidiary of Finansbank.
"The acquisition has transformed the bank into a leading southeast European financial institution with a presence in 11 countries. The new NBG Group has total assets of more than 70 billion euros, a combined customer base of approximately 12 million customers with a branch network comprising of more than 1,075 units, more than half of which are located outside Greece," management said.
"The combined loan portfolio of the Group's international operations has reached approximately 8 million billion euros, which represents more than 20% of the Group's total loan book," it added.
 Current account deficit raises
ATHENS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)The current account deficit came to ¬ 2,081 million in June 2006, compared with ¬ 777 million in the same month of 2005, the Bank of Greece said in a routine report on Friday.
The central bank attributed the rise mainly to a ¬ 1,098 million increase in the trade deficit, which almost equally stemmed from deficits in the oil, ships and other goods balances.
The widening of the current account deficit was also accounted for to a lesser extent by growth of the income account deficit by ¬ 172 million and a narrowing of the current transfer s surplus by ¬ 30 million. The surplus in the services balance remained virtually unchanged year-on-year, the report said.
In January-June 2006 the current account deficit widened by ¬ 6,344 million over the same period of 2005 and reached ¬ 14,277 million, reflecting mainly a rise in the trade deficit and, to a much lesser extent, an increase in the income account deficit and a narrowing of the services surplus. The current transfer s surplus also recorded a small decrease.
The overall trade deficit (including oil and ships) showed an increase of ¬ 4,623 million, which almost equally stemmed from rises in the deficit excluding oil and ships, in the net oil import bill and in net payments for purchases of ships (of ¬ 1,628, ¬ 1,614 and ¬ 1,381 million respectively). Receipts from goods exports (excluding oil and ships) showed a major rise of ¬ 666 million, or 13.5%, which, however, was more than offset by a hike of ¬ 2,321 million, or 15.5%, in the corresponding import bill, the Bank of Greece noted.
At end-June 2006, Greece s reserve assets reached ¬ 2.2 billion, the central bank added.
 Price of home building materials rises
ATHENS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)The price index for home building materials rose by 5.8% in July 2006 in comparison with the same month a year earlier, the National Statistics Service of Greece (NSSG) said on Friday.
Month on month, the index was up 0.3% on June 2006, the NSSG said in a statement.
 Miraculous 700-yr-old icon stolen from monastery in Leonidio
LEONIDIO, 19/08/2006 (ANA)The local community in the seaside town of Leonidio, Arcadia prefecture, was in shock on Friday following the early morning discovery that a 700-year-old icon of the Virgin Mary that is believed to be miracle-working was stolen from the Elonas Monastery.
The monastery's nuns, who discovered the theft early Friday, immediately informed police.
It is believed that the icon was stolen some time between 10:00 p.m. Thursday and 5:00 a.m. Friday.
The icon is highly-venerated, with many people from all over Greece and abroad thronging to worship it and it was adorned with hundreds of gold and silver devotions from worshippers.
Tens of police were at the monastery looking for clues that would lead to the thieves, while a helicopter was also scouring the area.
 Two fires in the Peloponnese reported
ATHENS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)Two wildfires were reported Friday afternoon the Peloponnese, southern Greece, with the first located in the Kyparissia district of extreme southwest of the Peloponnese and another in forestland in the Kranidi district, in the province's northwest quarter.
Firefighters, assisted by firefighting planes, were battling both blazes in the early afternoon.
 Two forest fires break out in region of Keratea
ATHENS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)Two forest fires broke out in the region of Keratea, east of Athens, on Friday within a period of five minutes, at 21.15 and 21.20. The fires were reported in the areas of Daskalio and Plaka and are close to residential areas.
Thirty firemen have been rushed to Daskalio and another 50 to Plaka and are being backed by more than 20 fire engines. Fire Brigade chief Andreas Kois has also arrived in the area to coordinate efforts to extinguish the fires.
 Fire at nightclub
ATHENS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)A big fire broke out early Friday morning at the La Palmier nightclub in the coastal town of Voula.
The fire, which broke out at 7:30 a.m. due to reasons as yet unknown, was being battled by 30 firefighters with 10 fire engines.
 Drug arrests on border with K-9 help
KASTORIA, 19/08/2006 (ANA)Police arrested four Albanian nationals this week on drug smuggling charges primarily with the help of a K-9 "officer" after intercepting a group of seven alleged smugglers in a rugged area on the Greek-Albanian frontier.
According to reports, a total of 84 kilos of hashish was confiscated during the arrests in the Arrenes site on Mount Grammos, Kastoria prefecture.
Four out of the seven suspects were detected at night in the mountainous region by the special tracking dog, "Austin", a Belgian Malinois, one of four in a K-9 unit stationed in the northwest border region for the detection of narcotics, illegal immigrants and explosives.
 Noted Byzantine exhibition debuts at Helsinki museum
HELSINKI, 19/08/2006 (ANA-MPA)A major exhibition of Byzantine Art opened here this week at the Tennispalatsi Art Museum -- one of three Helsinki City Art Museum venues in the Finnish capital -- featuring artifacts and sacred objects related to the Greek Orthodox Church and dating back more than a thousand years.
The exhibition focuses on the monastic community of Mount Athos and its way of life.
The collection on display includes more than 200 objects from the Mount Athos monasteries themselves and from 15 museums around Europe, including ancient icons, rare manuscripts, unique sacramental vessels, magnificent textiles, wood carvings and other forms of art such as jewellery, crosses, maps, photographs and paintings, according to the museum. It also includes 1,000 year-old icons not previously exhibited abroad.
The Athos exhibition will be the museum's major event for 2006, running from mid-August 2006 through January 2007.
The exhibition is designed to draw from broad international sources during the year of Finland's presidency of the European Union.
The Helsinki City Art Museum is administered by the City of Helsinki and has three locations throughout the City - the Art Museum Tennis Palace, the Art Museum Meilahti and Kluuvi Gallery.
 Police tracking car theft ring
ATHENS, 19/08/2006 (ANA)Police in northern Greece are tracking a ring responsible for stealing vehicles, taking them to pieces and sending them to countries in the Middle East.
Acting on a tipoff, police located three of six trucks stolen earlier this month from mines in Kardia and Amynteo. The vehicles were found in a car sale yard in the town of Kalohori.
Investigations carried out so far revealed that the car theft ring involves the owner of the car sale yard and several other accomplices who are being sought.
 EU: No comment on 'The Independent' report
NICOSIA, 19/08/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)The European Commission has refrained from commenting on a press report published in the British newspaper ''The Independent'' on August 16 that ''a plan to transfer authority over northern Cypriot ports to the UN has emerged from frantic diplomatic efforts to resolve a stand-off between the EU and Turkey.''
Invited by CNA to comment on the report, the European Commission through the Head of the European Commission Representation in Nicosia Themis Themistocleous said ''we support the Finnish Presidency in their efforts to resolve the current impasse (in the Cyprus problem) and end the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community, but we are not prepared to comment on specific ideas that may have been voiced at one time or another.''
Asked to comment on the report filed from Brussels by Stephen Castle, Cyprus Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pasiardes told the press on Wednesday that ''we are not aware of such a plan.''
According to the paper ''the move, being canvassed by EU officials, is designed to help avoid a breakdown in talks over Ankara's bid to join the EU. But it could also help to heal the 30-year rift over the divided Mediterranean island.''
The Independent said that ''under the proposals being discussed, the UN could control key northern Cypriot ports, such as Famagusta. Goods would be shipped with UN paperwork and customs declarations, rather than those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus - which are anathema to the official Cypriot government in Nicosia. The new arrangements could give Turkey enough of a concession to lift the ban on Greek Cypriot ships and planes.''
The paper added that ''detailed proposals concerning control of ports have yet to be put forward and the Cypriot government is likely to be suspicious. It could come under pressure from other EU member states not to obstruct the plan.''
The Independent quoted one EU diplomat confirming ''that UN control of Turkish Cypriot ports is seen as a potential solution to the looming crisis with Ankara. The issue is coming to a head because Turkey is being threatened with suspension of its EU membership talks in the autumn unless ports are opened to all EU vessels.''
The crisis stems from the EU's insistence that Turkey lift a ban on Cypriot-registered ships and planes entering its ports and airports.
Ankara has refused to do so unless there is an easing of the so-called economic embargo on the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus, which is not internationally recognized. Only Ankara has recognized the illegal state in the areas occupied by Turkish troops since 1974.
Earlier this year EU Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn warned of an imminent ''train crash'' in Europe's relations with Turkey, demanding that it implement its promise to extend a customs union to all EU member states, including Cyprus, which joined the bloc in 2004.