|Monday, 19 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-08-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>August 22, 2006
 Middle East tour by Bakoyannis signals Athens' interest in region, ministry says
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)Outlining the goals of a Middle East tour by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis that begins on Tuesday, ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Monday said that it signaled Athens' strong interest in developments in that region, especially since Greece will take over the presidency of the United Nations Security Council on September 1. The first stop on Bakoyannis' tour will be Cyprus, which played a vital role in the evacuation of foreign nationals from besieged Lebanon, where she will be Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos for talks that will also cover the latest developments in the Cyprus issue.
She is also scheduled to have talks with the political leadership of Lebanon, Israel and Jordan and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Asked why the foreign minister's tour did not include a stop in Damascus, the spokesman said that the time "was not considered ripe" for a visit to Syria, while pointing out that Bakoyannis had spoken with Syria's minister for information in Athens just 10 days earlier.
On Tuesday before her departure, the foreign minister will meet Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in the morning and attend a meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) at midday.
According to Koumoutsakos, Bakoyannis will seek to contribute to diplomatic efforts for the full implementation of UNSCR 1701 during her meetings with Middle East government officials and will also press for full respect of the truce, in order to allow the distribution of humanitarian aid.
Other goals of the trip include the support and reinforcement of the Lebanese government; understanding Israel's security concerns; attempting to establish a permanent and stable solution for the Palestinian problem; and promoting efforts for peace that are as broad and comprehensive as possible, moving away from the logic of exclusion and allowing the contribution of all sides wanting to help.
Responding to questions about the international peacekeeping force planned for Lebanon, Koumoutsakos said the details of its structure and other rules of engagement had not been finalized but noted that Athens was considering participation in order to promote lasting peace.
He clarified that Athens' was not contemplating the deployment of land forces, however, but possibly a Greek Navy frigate, a specialized unit of underwater commandos and a limited number of officers to help in the running of the force.
 PASOK party spokesman comments on FM's Middle East tour
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanasakis on Monday expressed surprise over statements by foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos that Damascus will not be included in the tour of the Middle East that Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will be starting on Tuesday, because the time is not mature.
"I wonder how at a time that Greece is assuming the presidency of the Security Council, at a time when such a visit is taking place in the region, when one must have the best possible image, how Syria is excluded, which is a country that is a serious factor in the region, having a role in developments until now, as well as in the future," Athanasakis said.
The PASOK spokesman reminded that party leader George Papandreou has stressed that a regional conference with the participation of all officials and countries in the region, including Syria and Iran, is necessary for a solution to problems in the Middle East and for permanent peace.
 Government underlines intent to continue reforms
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos underlined the government's unflagging intent to continue reforms while outlining the hallmarks of political and economic policy in the coming period to reporters on Monday.
He stressed that the government had from the first opted for a different developmental model, one that broke with the past and emphasized reforms designed to boost enterprise, competitiveness, foreign exports and investment abroad, in the belief that only an economy with these features could guarantee a better future for all Greeks.
At the same time, the government had also emphasized mild economic adjustment to reduce the huge deficits of the past and restrict public-sector wastefulness, Roussopoulos said. These efforts had yielded tangible results that had been acknowledged by international organizations and had proved the pessimists wrong, he added.
"Instead of a recession we have had growth. In the two first trimesters of 2006 we had growth rates of 4.1 percent. Instead of an increase in unemployment we have had a reduction, from 11.3 percent in the first trimester of 2004 to 9.7 percent in the first trimester of 2006. Public debt and the public deficit have been significantly reduced, from 6.9 percent of GDP in 2004 to 4.5 percent of GDP in 2005, while the latest figures show that we are now within EU limits. Demand is increasing, while the retail trade index rose in the first five months of 2005 by 4.8 percent in relation to 2004 and by 7 percent during the same period this year," Roussopoulos reported.
He also pointed to the strong incentives provided under the government's new developmental package, under which 1,403 investment schemes worth a total of €2.2 billion and directly creating 7,166 new jobs had received approval in the 16 months since it went into effect.
Roussopoulos refused to say, however, whether the prime minister intended to announce an easing of fiscal austerity measures in view of these positive results in September, noting only that the government had made clear pre election pledges that it intended to honor by the end of its term.
Regarding high prices, meanwhile, the spokesman admitted that there were problems and that the government had taken a series of actions to combat price gouging and unjustified price hikes.
In response to questions regarding reforms in education, meanwhile, Roussopoulos underlined that these had neither stopped nor been postponed, and that the education ministry had unveiled its draft bill for public dialogue.
 PASOK spokesman responds to government statements on economic reform
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanasakis responded on Monday to statements made by government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on economic reform, saying that the government spokesman decided to start the new period with a myth about how well things are going in the economy and in the country.
Athanasakis said that citizens are not experiencing the "fictitious reality presented by the government spokesman, but reality as it is shaped by the policies of the ND government that favor the few and harm the many and that are taking the country back."
 Interior minister briefs PM on preparations for local elections, heatwave measures
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)Interior, public administration and decentralization minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos briefed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday on the course of preparations for the October local government elections, as well as measures taken to confront the ongoing heatwave that has gripped Greece since Friday.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Pavlopoulos said that all the necessary measures had been taken for the eventuality of problems arising from the high temperatures -- which are expected to hit 42 C in several parts of the country, including Athens, on Monday.
He noted that, according to the National Meteorological Service (EMY), Monday would most likely be the last day of the heatwave while high temperatures were also anticipated for just a few hours on Tuesday. He said that the current temperatures were not unusual for this time of the year, adding that every time such weather conditions occurred it provided an opportunity for examination of the Civil Protection system and its operation.
Regarding preparations for the municipal and prefecture elections, Pavlopoulos said that all preparations were underway so that the citizens could exercise their right of vote without facing problems.
Questioned on public order minister Vyron Polydoras' recent proposal for dialogue on demonstrations in the centre of Athens, aimed at limiting inconvenience to the public while at the same time safeguarding the Constitutional right of assembly, Pavlopoulos said the proposal was correct and democratic, as it invited all the sides concerned to dialogue. He added that anyone who refused the dialogue would only be engaging in evasion, since all sides would be able to put forward their views, even if they disagreed, in the context of the dialogue.
To another question on information that main opposition PASOK, when it was in government, and on the basis of a letter by then prime minister Costas Simitis, was contemplating taking the same measures as those proposed by Polydoras, Pavlopoulos said that every time PASOK finds itself in the opposition, it forgets all that it has done when in government, where as New Democracy does whatever it does publicly and through dialogue.
 NGO to send humanitarian aid to Lebanon
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)The Greek chapter of the NGO Doctors of the World (Medecins du Monde) has collected in Thessalonica 20 tons in humanitarian aid for the war-stricken people of Lebanon, president of the Athens chapter Eleftheria Parthenopoulou said in the northern Greek capital on Monday.
She said the aid, collected over the past month, would be transported to the port of Piraeus later on Monday, from where it would reach Lebanon by ship in about five days.
Parthenopoulou said this would be the third dispatch of humanitarian aid by the non-governmental organization, while two more dispatches were being planned.
The Greek chapter of the organization has already sent 80 tons of humanitarian aid to Lebanon in two dispatches by C-130 military helicopter and navy boat.
According to Parthenopoulou, this dispatch from Thessalonica is destined for Mazdal Jun, a southern Lebanese town of 35,000 inhabitants where 3,000 refugees have fled, while of the two additional dispatches a second container to depart from Athens will be destined for Nabatiyeh. The organization is to decide soon on the region to which the third container will be sent following an examination of the conditions prevailing.
Parthenopoulou said that Greece is represented in Lebanon only by the Medecins du Monde, adding that a delegation of the foreign ministry and the Church of Greece's NGO 'Solidarity' (Allilegii) were now due to depart for Lebanon.
She said that southern Lebanon was the area that had the most need but, despite that, aid never reached that section, adding that this was the area in which the organization was concentrating its attention.
 Government on Commission's progress report on Turkey
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)European Union member-states regularly comment or contribute their thoughts regarding the content of the European Commission's progress reports on candidate-countries and the Greek foreign ministry moves within this framework, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told reporters on Monday.
He was responding to questions regarding a report by the Cypriot newspaper "Fileleftheros", according to which Athens sent a memorandum to the European Commission during the drafting of the Commission's progress report on Turkey that referred to Turkish airspace and other violations above the Aegean Sea.
 Gov't on equal TV coverage of municipal candidates
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)The government spokesman on Monday responded to a press question regarding equal airtime given to all local government candidates by noting that the National Radio-Television Council (ERS) will exercise its regulatory authority in the sector leading up to the municipal and prefecture election this October.
The briefing was the first by spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos in the post-summer holiday period.
 Gov't on press report referring to Deputy FM
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)The government spokesman on Monday merely responded to press questions regarding a front-page article in a Sunday weekly, a day earlier, and related to Deputy Minister Yiannis Valinakis, by saying that political officials frequently receive citizens in their offices to discuss the latter's problems and to hear requests.
In the first press briefing since a summer hiatus, spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos also emphasized that Valinakis himself has addressed a letter to the weekly "Proto Thema" that "sets the record straight".
The paper alleged that Valinakis was attempting to meet requests of citizens in an election district where will ostensibly run for an MP's spot in any coming general election.
 Patriarch of Alexandria arrives at Ecumenical Patriarchate
CAIRO, 22/8/2006 (ANA-MPA / N. Katsikas)Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodoros II arrived in Istanbul on Monday where he was received by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, a day before he journeys to the northeast Aegean island of Imvros, from where Vartholomeos hails.
Efforts at boosting peace the strife-plagued Middle East are expected to dominate talks between the two Orthodox Patriarchs.
 PM not planning New York trip for Greece's UNSC presidency
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has no plans for a trip to New York prior to the takeover by Greece of the United Nations Security Council monthly rotating presidency in September, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced on Monday.
 PM to begin rounds of meetings with ruling party MPs
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will begin a round of meetings with ruling New Democracy MPs this week, meeting the first group at a tavern in Attica on Wednesday night at 20:30.
 Greek gov't to subsidize borrowing interest rates for SMEs
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)The Greek government will begin a program on subsidizing borrowing interest rates for small- and medium-sized enterprises from September 1st, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Monday.
Presenting the program, Sioufas said the program would run by the end of 2008 and would include around 2,500-3,000 enterprises, while he stressed that more funds would be earmarked under a Fourth Community Support Framework program.
The program will cover enterprises with a workforce of up to 20 persons and self-employed with an annual turnover of 10 million euros. Under the program, the government will subsidize 50 percent of interest rates on loans and leasing contracts on the precondition that loans would be used for development-modernization investments.
The Greek minister said that only 20 percent of Greek SMEs sought borrowing from banks to cover their financial needs, a rate smaller compared with the EU average.
The Development ministry has set up a commission to monitor bank interest rates on corporate loans.
 S&P raises rating on Emporiki Bank
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said on Monday that it has raised its long- and short-term counterparty credit ratings on Athens-quoted Emporiki Bank of Greece S.A. to 'A' and 'A-1', respectively from 'BBB-' and 'A-3', also removing the ratings from CreditWatch, where they were placed with positive implications on June 13.
The outlook for newly privatized Emporiki is positive, the global ratings agency said in a statement.
The actions follow the completion of Crédit Agricole S.A.'s public offer for Emporiki, giving it 71.9% of shares.
"The current ratings on Emporiki balance the benefits--immediate and future--of membership within a financially stronger banking institution, an attractive position in the Greek market, and sound balance sheet liquidity with the bank's weak stand-alone financial profile," Standard & Poor credit analyst, Elena Iparraguirre, noted. "We do expect the bank's financials to improve, however."
An upgrade is possible in the medium term as Emporiki's transformation and integration into Credit Agricole progresses and the expected improvement in its financial profile materializes.
"We believe this process will be gradual, however," said Iparraguirre. "Restructuring Emporiki and changing its culture will take time and will represent a challenge for its new owner, as it will have to be accomplished amid a very competitive environment in Greece, led by well-placed and more advanced private peers."
Negative pressure on the ratings is very unlikely at this point, but could emerge if the French bank were to show a lack of strategic interest in Emporiki, the statement added.
 Electricity consumption hits record-high on Monday
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)Greece on Monday reported a new all-time record in electricity consumption, totaling 9,955 MW breaking a previous record of 9,665 MW from August 2005.
Speaking to reporters, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas reiterated that the ministry has taken all necessary measures to ensure the supply of electricity energy around the country, while Nikos Stephanou, the ministry's secretary-general, stressed that the country's electricity grid could operate under heavier loads totaling 10,700 MW. Sioufas underlined that two major electricity power stations began operations recently, one in Thessalonica and another in Lavrio, Attica.
 Power failures in parts of Attica prefecture
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)Power failures occurred in parts of the Attica prefecture on Monday afternoon that the Public Power Corporation (DEH) said were of a local nature and were not due to excessive demand but were related to the heatwave since cables tend to get overheated.
The problems appeared in parts of the municipalities of Vyronas, Kareas, Glyfada, Ilioupoli, Peristeri, Markopoulo, Nea Smyrni, Faliro, Rouf, Nea Ionia, Politia, Ekali, Neo Iraklio, Aspropirgos, Pangrati, Psychico, Galatsi and Patisia.
Demand for electric power is expected on Tuesday to be close to Monday's levels, while the National Meteorological Service forecasts that temperatures will remain above 40 degrees centigrade.
 Greek cooperative banks' results significantly up in 1st half
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)Greek cooperative banks reported significantly improved results in the first six months of 2006, compared with the corresponding period last year.
Nikos Myrtakis, president of the Association of Cooperative Banks of Greece, presenting the results said pre-tax profits rose 22 percent in the January-June period, loans were up 22 percent, deposits rose 33 pct, workforce increased by 15 percent the members rose by 11 percent over the six-month period.
 Competition Commission to fine Port Organization of Piraeus with 4.5 mln euros
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)Greece's Competition Commission on Monday announced it planned to impose a fine of 4,466,760 euros on the Port Organization of Piraeus along with a 5,000 euro daily fine on the Organization and Mediterranean Shipping Company SA (MSC) for breaching competition regulations.
The Commission said an agreement signed by the Port Organization of Piraeus and MSC breached competition rules in the country by offering MSC priority services under lower rates. A final decision is expected to be taken during a Competition Commission assembly scheduled for September 18.
 Kathimerini gets new director
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)A new director has been appointed at Athens-quoted Kathimerini SA.
Heading the daily newspaper will be journalist and non-executive board member Antonis Karkayiannis, management said in a statement on Monday. The former director, journalist Konstantinos Angelopoulos, has resigned, the statement added.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks flat
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)The Athens share index closed at 3,944.06 points, showing a rise of 0.02%. Turnover was 197.3 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.48% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 1.98% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.55% up. Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 176 to 84 with 54 remaining unchanged.
Foreign Exchange Rates:
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.302
 Tripoli forest fire nearly under control, fire department reports
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)A major forest fire that broke out in the central Peloponnese near Megalopolis in the prefecture of Tripoli was now close to being extinguished the fire department reported on Monday.
Fire-fighters said there was currently no front that was actively burning, only smoke, embers and frequent reignitions. Efforts to bring the fire under complete control were continuing, with firefighters and fire-fighting aircraft.
According to the fire department, it had been a major fire that had threatened homes, as well as destroying olive trees and other crops, but the full extent of the damage was still impossible to assess until it had been fully extinguished. With winds having died down compared with Sunday, the fire was expected to be fully under control within the day.
It will also be carefully guarded for several days afterward to prevent reignition.
The fire broke out at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday in a forest between the villages of Thana and Palladio, a few kilometers outside of Tripolis.
The fire quickly spread due to strong winds in the region.
Forty-five firefighters, two army land divisions, 20 fire engines, four firefighting aircraft and a helicopter were initially taking part in the effort to extinguish the blaze, and were later joined by firefighting units from nearby Vytina and Megalopolis.
 Three major wildfires reported on the island of Zakynthos
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)Three major fires broke out in farmland and forest on the Ionian island of Zakynthos on Monday. The biggest, with a front over 1.5-kilometres long, was in the Exo Hora area, while the other two were in Skopos and Volimes. No homes were reported at risk.
Fifty fire-fighters and 16 fire engines are battling the three fires, aided by 10 fire-fighting planes and one helicopter. Reinforcements have also been sent by the Achaia and Ileia prefecture fire departments.
 Forest fire raging in Halkidiki
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)A forest fire that broke out near Polychrono in Halkidiki, northern Greece, at 6.30 p.m. on Monday was still raging later in the night. The fire, that has already destroyed a number of houses and caused the evacuation of a hotel, spread quickly as a result of strong winds blowing in the area.
At least 20 fire engines and 60 firemen battled the blaze initially, while reinforcements were being sent to help the effort. The Polychrono-Haniotis road was closed to traffic to facilitate fire engines rushing to the scene of the fire.
 9th int'l international festival of youth orchestras in N. Greece
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)The ninth international festival of youth orchestras will again be hosted by the Ehedoros municipality in the Thessalonica area of northern Greece between Aug. 23 to Aug. 27.
A total of 16 musical groups -- from Latvia, Poland, Denmark, Ukraine, Armenia, Bulgaria as well as Greece - will participate.
 Algerian detainee found hanged in police lock-up
ATHENS, 22/8/2006 (ANA)A 32-year-old Algerian man was found hanged in his cell in the Acropolis police station lock-up early on Monday morning, from a noose made with his own shirt.
The man had been arrested on August 12 for possession of narcotics but was later found to be illegally resident in Greece and was being held in order to be deported.
He had been sharing the cell with another prisoner who told police he had not realized what was going on. According to the dead man's cell mate, he had seen the Algerian upright at the cell door but had not realized he was hanged, thinking that he was just standing there. The death was discovered at 7:00 in the morning by police officers.
Police have attributed the death to suicide and have launched an inquiry to see if there is any responsibility on the part of the police force.
 Cyprus President to attend ASEM 6 Summit
NICOSIA, 22/8/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos will be in Finland, current EU president, in early September to attend the ASEM 6 Summit (Asia-Europe Meeting), to be held in Helsinki September 10-11.
The Summit will bring together the leaders of 38 Asian and European countries and the European Commission and will address topical international issues such as support for the multilateral international system, threats to security including global health threats such as avian flu and questions related to energy security.
EU and Asian leaders will also talk about international efforts to curb climate change and ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the commitment to resume as soon as possible the WTO Doha Development talks suspended in July 2006, questions relating to globalization, competitiveness and structural changes in the global economy, intercultural dialogue as a means to promote mutual understanding.
The Helsinki Summit will mark a special milestone in Asia-Europe relations as it celebrates the 10th anniversary of the ASEM cooperation process.
President Papadopoulos will also be in New York in mid-September, to address the UN General Assembly.