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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-08-23

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

August 23, 2006


  • [01] Greece to contribute to enlarged Lebanon peacekeeping force
  • [02] PASOK's Papoutsis comments on KYSEA meeting
  • [03] More aid for Lebanon collected in Thessaloniki
  • [04] Inner cabinet approves draft bill on social security system
  • [05] FM Bakoyannis in Cyprus on her way to the Middle East
  • [06] Russian president Putin due Sept. 4 for meeting with Greek Bulgarian PMs on oil pipeline
  • [07] Gov't dismisses charge of delays in fighting major wildfire
  • [08] Pavlopoulos meets with Skandalidis
  • [09] Minister stands by proposal for dialogue on changing rules for protests in downtown Athens
  • [10] Interior minister makes statement on EU voters
  • [11] KKE secretary general addresses press conference
  • [12] Anti-war rally held in Athens and march to U.S. and Israeli embassies
  • [13] FinMin meets with ruling party secretary
  • [14] Gov't unveils program to subsidize investments in textile, clothing sectors
  • [15] Greece to spend 17.3 mln euros to promote quality farm products
  • [16] Greece sells five-year bond issue worth 1.2 billion euros
  • [17] National Bank says expansion in SE Europe continuing
  • [18] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks down
  • [19] Some 40,000 stremma of virgin forest burned in Halkidiki fire
  • [20] Major fire breaks out at Areopolis, southwest Peloponnese
  • [21] Transfer documents signed for return of two Greek antiquities by Getty Museum
  • [22] Greece's first Centre of Orthodox Culture to open on Patmos
  • [23] Evros prefecture to participate in Mediterranean river delta network
  • [24] Thirteen illegal immigrants intercepted on Samos
  • [25] Higher security Greek passports from August 26
  • [26] Search continues for missing German tourist on Samos
  • [27] National Council reviews developments on Cyprus problem
  • [28] Former Cypriot FM honored by Greek government
  • [29] SAE leaders call on US to reconsider its Cyprus policy

  • [01] Greece to contribute to enlarged Lebanon peacekeeping force

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    Greece on Tuesday decided to contribute two Navy vessels and a specialist commando divers unit to an enlarged international peacekeeping force in Lebanon, at a meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    Announcing the decision, Defense Minister Vangelis Meimarakis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said the council had decided to send one Navy frigate and its helicopter, the diving unit to carry out ship inspections and, if necessary, a Greek landing vessel to transport humanitarian aid from Cyprus to Beirut.

    The government said it will consider sending other units in the future but with the strict condition that the situation in the region has normalized. For the time being, it completely rules out sending Greek land forces to the area.

    The decision was also formally announced by government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos later on Tuesday, who said that it was in accordance with the United Nations resolution for Lebanon.

    In addition to the diving unit and Greek Navy vessels, Greece will also provide administrative personnel and support supplies, he added.

    Roussopoulos noted that Greece was among the first countries to arrive in the region with a significant number of ships to evacuate foreign nationals fleeing the bombardment of Lebanon and had also sent sizeable quantities of humanitarian aid through both state and other organizations.

    The spokesman was also questioned once again concerning the foreign minister's tour of the Middle East, which begins later on Tuesday, and why this did not include a stop in Syria.

    Pointing out that Greece has very good relations with the countries in the Middle East, he asked reporters not to place undue emphasis on the event.

    Prior to her departure and attending the KYSEA meeting, Bakoyannis had met with the prime minister.

    She said that the aims of her trip, which will include stops in Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, are to get a detailed picture of the situation and a full briefing to prepare for the takeover by Greece of the United Nations Security Council presidency on September 1.

    [02] PASOK's Papoutsis comments on KYSEA meeting

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputy Christos Papoutsis on Tuesday evening commented on the meeting held earlier in the day by the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA), at which decision was reached for Greece to contribute two Navy vessels and a specialist commando divers unit to an enlarged international peacekeeping force in Lebanon.

    Papoutsis, who is head of the Foreign Policy, Security and Defense Department of the party's Political Council, said that “the fact that KYSEA convened hurriedly and the decision which it took today regarding the Greece's participation in the international peacekeeping force in Lebanon, causes particular skepticism and concern."

    He added:” More so, when a decision has not yet been decided, within the framework of the United Nations, on the operational planning and the terms of the involvement of the force."

    [03] More aid for Lebanon collected in Thessaloniki

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    Another 120 crates of pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs collected in the greater Thessaloniki area by the municipality from local citizens and the pharmacists' cooperative were handed over to the Church of Greece NGO Solidarity "Allilegii" on Tuesday for delivery to southern Lebanon.

    The donations come on the heels of 40 tons of humanitarian aid collected and sent by the Macedonia-Thrace Ministry and another 20 tons collected by the Greek branch of the Doctors of the World organization to war-ravaged civilians in southern Lebanon.

    [04] Inner cabinet approves draft bill on social security system

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    A Greek inner cabinet meeting on Tuesday discussed a draft bill aimed to better regulate social security funds. Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis said the draft legislation would ensure the implementation of legislation and end any unfair measures in the system.

    Under the draft bill, board members in social security funds and organizations could lose their jobs if they failed to draft the proper balance sheets and business plans. Tsitouridis said the draft bill also envisaged a rescheduling of social security contribution debt to the Social Security Fund (IKA), a move that could help both the market and the fund.

    The Greek minister stressed that the government would continue its interventions to ensure a better present and future for the social security system, saying more legislative initiatives would be taken from September to strengthen the existing legislation.

    Tsitouridis said the draft bill would be tabled to parliament soon and said the inner cabinet unanimously adopted the draft legislation.

    Opposition parties slam draft social security bill: Measures in the draft social security bill unveiled by the government after an inner cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning were slammed as "too little, too late" by the main opposition PASOK party, which said that they could not solve the huge problems of Greece's ailing pension system.

    According to PASOK MP Maria Damanaki, these problems had sharply increased in the years of ruling New Democracy rule:

    "In these last two and a half years, the state's debts to social insurance funds have doubled and contribution evasion has increased by more than 30 percent, while the measures unveiled today will increase contribution evasion further," she said.

    According to Damanaki, the government's pre-announcement of settlements of business debts to social insurance funds almost a year earlier had encouraged companies to avoid paying even the bare minimum and would probably cover them for the coming 18 months as well.

    PASOK parliamentary coordinator for social insurance issues Evi Christofilopoulou, meanwhile, accused the government of driving up debts to social insurance funds and undermining their viability.

    According to Dimitris Stratoulis of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party, the draft bill was introducing measures that allowed business to virtually "write-off" debts of €3.0 billion owed to social insurance funds.

    "In this way, [the government] is rewarding employers that systematically indulge in contribution evasion, contribution theft and contribution avoidance, while essentially encouraging those employers that have so far observed their legal insurance obligations to break the law," Stratoulis said.

    [05] FM Bakoyannis in Cyprus on her way to the Middle East

    NICOSIA, 23/8/2006 (ANA-MPA/CNA)

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis arrived in Cyprus on Tuesday for a short visit before embarking on Wednesday on a Middle East tour, in the light of the assumption on behalf of Greece of the presidency of the UN Security Council on September 1.

    On Tuesday night, Bakoyannis was due to meet with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos during a working dinner at Papadopoulos' residence.

    In statements upon her arrival at Larnaca airport, Bakoyannis said that her meeting with President Papadopoulos will cover the situation in the Middle East as well as issues that concern Cyprus and Greece, in view of the EU progress report for Turkey to be issued in October.

    Bakoyannis praised Cyprus' role during the Middle East crisis, noting that it showed Cyprus' strategic role and the hospitality of the Cypriot people.

    ''Cyprus' role during the crisis in Lebanon was extremely important and highlighted its strategic role,'' she said.

    As regards the humanitarian aid offered to the Lebanese refugees, Bakoyannis said that both Greece and Cyprus were present to this effort, and ''that there was a strong feeling and will to show our solidarity.''

    On Wednesday, Bakoyannis will depart for a tour covering Beirut, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Amman for talks with the respective political leaderships. She will also meet President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

    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.

    [06] Russian president Putin due Sept. 4 for meeting with Greek Bulgarian PMs on oil pipeline

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    Russian president Vladimir Putin is due to arrive in Athens on September 4 for a trilateral meeting with prime minister Costas Karamanlis and Bulgarian prime minister Sergey Stanishev, foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis announced on Tuesday, adding that the meeting was being held at Putin's initiative, while development minister Dimitris Sioufas said the talks would focus on the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.

    Meanwhile, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos told a press briefing that the agenda of the meeting was energy issues, with the main thrust on the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline.

    Roussopoulos added that the Greek government has taken a series of actions aimed at rendering Greece an energy hub in the region.

    [07] Gov't dismisses charge of delays in fighting major wildfire

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    The government on Tuesday sternly dismissed charges that state services were slow to react to a major wildfire in northern Greece the previous day, with the relevant interior minister stressing that all that was "humanly possible" was done considering the mini "heatwave" hovering over the area

    An estimated 3,500 to 4,000 hectares of forestland, fields and olive groves had been burned by Monday afternoon in the Kassandra peninsula of Halkidiki prefecture, a holiday destination east of the northern port city of Thessaloniki.

    Roughly 50 residences, including legal and illegal holiday homes, were also burned, along with the destruction of shops, cars, farm machinery and livestock. Power outages were also restored by Tuesday morning in the affected areas.

    At noon Tuesday, the blaze had been contained in the southwest part of Kassandra, the western most of three peninsulas on verdant Halkidiki that jut into the sea.

    On his part, Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras said the low number of fire-fighting planes that initially responded to the Kassandra blaze was due to three aircraft experiencing mechanical problems and another six temporarily grounded for regular maintenance, which carried out on an urgent basis in order for the planes to eventually aid fire-fighting efforts.

    [08] Pavlopoulos meets with Skandalidis

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    Interior and Public Administration Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Tuesday met with Costas Skandalidis, the former PASOK interior minister who is now backed by the main opposition in the Athens mayor's race.

    Afterwards, Skandalidis is he will announce his campaign planks next Monday. He also noted that he was briefed by Pavlopoulos over the issue of a more metropolitan form of local government for the greater Athens area, which today features several municipalities surrounding the City of Athens proper.

    [09] Minister stands by proposal for dialogue on changing rules for protests in downtown Athens

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras on Tuesday appeared steadfast in his determination to convene a wide-ranging dialogue on restricting small rallies and protests in downtown Athens to one lane of traffic or even sidewalks.

    Polydoras' proposal for a dialogue of all interested parties, which was bitterly criticized by the opposition, especially the leftist opposition, was nevertheless backed by the chambers of commerce and the current Athens mayor, among others.

    In response to a press question, Polydoras said his proposal still stands, while citing a hope that the "obvious will occur and that all interested parties will participate in such a dialogue".

    [10] Interior minister makes statement on EU voters

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said on Tuesday that European citizenship gives European Union citizens the right to vote and stand for election during municipal and community elections in a member-state, where they have their home and of which they are not subjects.

    According to the ministry's information, citizens of the 10 new EU member- states, meaning the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia, will participate in the forthcoming local elections, exercising the right of voting and standing for election with the same preconditions and with the same procedure that apply for the rest of the EU voters.

    Most of the EU voters, out of a total of 8,921, come from Britain (2,984), Germany (1,823), Cyprus (768), Italy (684), Poland (604) and the Netherlands (490).

    [11] KKE secretary general addresses press conference

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga addressed a press conference on Tuesday, saying that communist and labor parties from southeastern Mediterranean, Red Sea and Gulf countries that participated in the Athens conference over the weekend, at the initiative of KKE, will pursue the creation of "a unified social and political front in the region against the imperialist plan for the 'wider Middle East' and its so-called democratization, with wider international support from parties, movements and organizations."

    Papariga made a clear distinction between the policy of the United States for the democratization of the wider region and the domestic problems of democracy facing these countries since, as she stressed, the plans of the U.S. are imperialist ones, while the parties participating in the conference underlined that what is necessary is the creation of "a front against the reactionary local regimes for democracy, progress and socialism."

    The parties that took part in the conference also decided to promote solidarity and joint action during the next conference that the Portuguese Communist Party will be hosting in November.

    [12] Anti-war rally held in Athens and march to U.S. and Israeli embassies

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    A rally outside the War Museum in Athens and a march to the embassies of the United States and Israel was held on Tuesday evening by hundreds of Athenians who responded to a call from the trade union group PAME, affiliated to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), and the Greek Committee for International Detente and Peace (EEDYE).

    The rally was attended by a large KKE delegation, headed by its Secretary General Aleka Papariga, Athens mayoral candidate Spyros Halvatzis and other mayoral candidates from the Attica prefecture who are supported by KKE, Palestinians and representatives of social agencies.

    The demonstrators' main demand was that in no way and form must the country participate in the UN's force for Lebanon.

    Speakers denounced the government's decision to send a frigate, as well as the main opposition PASOK party for failing to oppose the country’s contribution to the peace force.

    They also underlined their solidarity for the resistance of the Lebanese and Palestinian people and for all the peoples in the region who are struggling against "imperialist" plans for the "new Middle East."

    [13] FinMin meets with ruling party secretary

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    Materialization of the government's commitments to the citizens without putting at risk the effort for fiscal adjustment is the main target of the government's economic policy for the coming year as well, national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis said Tuesday, speaking to reporters after a meeting with ruling New Democracy party (ND) secretary Lefteris Zagoritis.

    "The policy of mild fiscal adjustment and of reinforcing the extroversion and the competitiveness of the Greek economy will continue," Alogoskoufis said.

    He said his meeting with Zagoritis focused on an exchange of views and briefing on the course of the economy, over which Alogoskoufis expressed contained optimism "given the uncertainty that exists due to the high oil prices".

    Zagoritis, in turn, said the ruling party was satisfied that the government was exhausting all margins for reinforcing the OGA (Farmers' Social Insurance Fund) low pension earners and the EKAS low-pension benefit beneficiaries, adding that "the plan for reduction of the taxation rates for natural entities is also proceeding".

    He further expressed satisfaction over the fact that "the huge economic problems left by (the preceding governments of) PASOK, particularly on the debt and deficit front, are being tackled satisfactorily".

    [14] Gov't unveils program to subsidize investments in textile, clothing sectors

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    The Greek government on Tuesday unveiled a program to offer financial support to companies in the textile, clothing and footwear industries.

    Presenting the program, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas stressed it was the first time in many years that such a program was presented and noted that it was part of efforts to deal with the likely impact from an opening up in textile markets and China’s entry into the World Trade Organization.

    The program covers enterprises with up to 250 workers and an annual turnover of up to 50 million euros, for investment projects budgeted at 30,000-180,000 euros. The program is budgeted at 42 million euros and it is expected to include 450-500 enterprises. The program will subsidize 55 percent of all investment programs.

    The Greek minister said that demand for electricity peaked 9,650 MW on Tuesday and stressed that the electricity grid operated smoothly according to plan.

    [15] Greece to spend 17.3 mln euros to promote quality farm products

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    The Greek government on Tuesday earmarked 17.3 million euros for the promotion of quality farm products under a Third Community Support Framework program for the period 2000-2006.

    The program aims to promote quality farm products, health food and traditional foods, emphasizing on environmental issues, preserving public health, boosting exports, strengthening employment in the countryside and achieving a speedier link between domestic and international prices through boosting competitiveness in the farm sector.

    [16] Greece sells five-year bond issue worth 1.2 billion euros

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    Greece on Tuesday successfully completed the auction of a five-year bond issue worth one billion euros.

    The issue was 5.92 times oversubscribed while the Greek state accepted only 1.2 billion euros worth of bids. Under the primary dealers' regulation, additional competitive bids can be submitted by Thursday, 24 August, while settlement date was set Friday, 25 August.

    The average weighed interest rate of the auction ranged between 3.1 basis points to end at 3.79 percent, while the annual coupon was set at 3.90 percent. The average weighed price of the issue was set at 100.465 and the minimum accepted price at 100.410.

    [17] National Bank says expansion in SE Europe continuing

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    National Bank on Tuesday announced that it was continuing its drive towards further expanding activities abroad, and in particular, southeast Europe.

    Greece's largest financial institution stated its intent in a letter sent to the Athens Stock Exchange.

    National Bank said it has submitted a binding offer for the takeover of Serbian bank Vojvodjanska Banka and CEC in Romania. Serbian privatization authorities have also declared National Bank as a first-ranked bidder and the two sides were currently in negotiations over the sale of Vojvodjanska Banka.

    In the privatization of CEC in Romania, National Bank - along with a Hungarian bank - have been included in a short-list of candidates and were expected to submit improved offers.

    National Bank is expected to announce its second quarter results on Thursday, Aug. 31.

    In its letter to the Athens Stock Exchange, National Bank said it planned to apply with Turkey's Capital Markets Commission for a public bid to buy minority stakes in Finansbank AS and Finans Finansal Kiralama AS (Finans Leasing). Turkish market authorities are expecting National Bank to ask for an exemption from submitting public bids to buy minority stakes in Finans Yatirim Ortakligi.

    Finansbank recently completed the sale of its international stakeholdings, Finans International Holding NV and Finansbank Romania, to FIBA Holding AS for 600 million US dollars and repurchased 99.9 percent of Finansbank Malta Ltd from Finans International Holding NV for 48 million US dollars.

    [18] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks down

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    The Athens share index closed at 3,929.59 points on Tuesday, showing a drop of 0.37%. Turnover was 249.5 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.32% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 0.38% down; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.06% down.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 186 to 83 with 43 remaining unchanged.

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank of Greece, OTE, Piraeus Bank and OPAP.

  • Total derivatives market turnover: 116.2 million euros

    Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 4.13%

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond (exp. 20.7.2016): 4.13% yield

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-year bond, expiring 20.7.2016 (870 mln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 2.2 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates: Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.291

    [19] Some 40,000 stremma of virgin forest burned in Halkidiki fire

    23/8/2006 (ANA)

    An estimated 35,000-40,000 stremma (9,000-10,000 acres) of forestland has burned in the huge fire that broke out Monday afternoon in the Kassandra leg of the Halkidiki peninsula, Kassandra forestry chief George Klonaris estimated on Tuesday, in statements to ANA-MPA.

    Klonaris opined that this was the biggest fire in recent years, much larger than that of 1981, which burned 24,000 stremma (6,000 acres), and the forest fire of 1996, which burned 18,000 stremma (4,500 acres) of forestland.

    He said the blaze destroyed a forest that was created in the beginning of the century following fires in the 1930s decade.

    Klonaris said that the two preceding fires of 1981 and 1996 had covered approximately the same expanse, while Monday's fire burned virgin forest.

    The fire devastated a vast expanse of pine, fir and olive trees, and according to forestry officials many years will be required to renew the forest as these tree varieties are particularly slow-growing.

    Tens of homes were burned, as well as shops, cars, farm machinery and livestock, while one of the country's most beautiful expanses of pine forest has been destroyed.

    At noon Tuesday, the blaze had been contained to the southwestern section of Kassandra.

    Tourists return to hotels as firefighters continue battling blaze in Kassandra, Halkidiki: Tourists and local holidaymakers vacated for precautionary reasons from the first leg of the Halkidiki peninsula, the closest to Thessaloniki, after an immense fire broke out in the Kassandra leg Monday afternoon, returned to their hotels Tuesday morning, as firefighters continued the overnight battle against the blaze.

    A total of 1,178 persons, mainly children and elderly with respiratory problems, as well as holidaymakers, were evacuated from Kassandra on Monday night in a massive operation mounted by the Coast Guard, assisted by merchant marine vessels, private boats and trawlers of local and nearby fishermen, coordinated by the local prefecture authorities and the Nea Moudania port authorities.

    The evacuees were taken to Nea Marmara, Potidea and Nea Moudania in Sithonia, the middle leg, where they spent the night in hotels and camping sites.

    The children from a holiday camp in Pefkohori were also evacuated for safety reasons and taken to a safe spot.

    A German tourist drowned while attempting to board an inflatable boat on the coast of Kassandra on Monday night. According to available information, the man fell into the sea and disappeared under the waves while trying to board the boat on the coast of Polychronou, which his wife and child had boarded earlier. The man was later identified as Georg Hermann, 41.

    Seven people with first and second degree burns, another two with heart problems and tens of people with breathing problems due to the fire were taken to Polygyros hospital and the nearby health centers. Halkidiki General Hospital director Dimitris Pachtas told ANA-MPA that five of the seven burn patients were hospitalized while the other two were released after receiving first-aid treatment. The two heart patients were also hospitalized at the same hospital for precautionary reasons, while 35-40 people presenting breathing problems were taken to the Kassandra Health centre for first aid, including an 8-day-old infant, which was originally taken to the Halkidiki hospital and from there to the Papageorgiou hospital in Thessaloniki, where it was reported to be in good condition, Pachtas said.

    A state of emergency was declared in Kassandra late Monday night after the blaze -- which broke out at 6:30 p.m. in a forested area on the mountainside near Polychronou -- spread quickly, fanned by near-gale force winds of 6-7 beaufort, into a ten kilometer front encompassing the regions of Polychronou, Haniotis, Pefkochori, Kryopigi and Skioni, burning tens of homes and cars.

    Halikidiki Prefect Argyris Lafazanis told ANA-MPA that the first priority was the safety of the people. He described the situation as a "biblical disaster'.

    Land and airborne forces battled the blaze on Monday, while strong land forces continued the battle throughout the night, and were re-joined at the first light of day on Tuesday by six Canadair firefighting planes and a helicopter.

    The fire was still raging uncontrolled on two fronts totaling a length of 30 kilometers and, according to Fire Department chief Andreas Kois, the most difficult front was that near the villages Nea Skioni and Aghia Paraskevi, while the second front was between Polychronou and Haniotis.

    Local residents were also helping the land forces fight the blaze and save their homes.

    Hundreds of firefighters and army conscripts were battling the blaze, assisted by local residents and volunteers, while a total of 80 fire engines were being used in the firefighting effort, as well as tens of water tanker trucks from the surrounding municipalities,

    Central Macedonia Civil Protection director K. Kokolakis told ANA-MPA that the efforts were mainly aimed at preventing the fire from spreading to populated aeas, which he added has been partially achieved, adding that the strong winds in the area were decreasing at this time, but noting that if the National Meteorological Service (EMY) forecasts for an increase in wind velocities were realized, this would make the firefighting effort more difficult.

    Halkidiki Association of Hoteliers president Gerassimos Bakoyannis told ANA-MPA that the tourists who had been evacuated on Monday had returned to their hotels on Tuesday morning.

    He said that the hoteliers and visitors had kept their calm, but the holidaymakers were evacuated for safety reasons and taken to nearby areas.

    In a few instances, the flames approached the hotels, but luckily no damages was caused and "fortunately, nor were there any victims".

    Macedonia-Thrace minister devastated by destruction caused by fire in Halkidiki: Macedonia-Thrace minister George Kalantzis on Tuesday said he was devastated by the destruction caused by the fire that broke out Monday afternoon in the Kassandra leg of the Halkidiki peninsula, upon his return to his office in Thessaloniki after spending the entire night on the fire-front to coordinate the massive firefighting operation.

    Speaking to ANA-MPA, Kalantzis publicly apologized "for what we possibly did not do, due to the anxiety and the pressure of the moments we witnessed in the effort to tackle the blaze".

    Kalantzis also noted the discussion he had with the pilot of one of the Canadair firefighting planes taking pert in the operation, which flew over the blazing region at the first light of day.

    "I am shocked by the picture I saw. I have never seen anything like this before, given that the front extended over 10 kilometers," the pilot said.

    Central Macedonia Periphery secretary general George Tsiotras, who is on-the-spot in the devastated region, told ANA-MPA that the fire was receding, and expressed contained optimism that it would soon be extinguished, with the contribution of the six Canadairs and the three helicopters assisting the land forces in the firefighting operation.

    Tsiotras said that as soon as he returned to his office on Wednesday from the fire front, he would designate the destroyed region for reforestation, and also assured that all residents whose properties suffered damage in the blaze would be compensated.

    [20] Major fire breaks out at Areopolis, southwest Peloponnese

    23/8/2006 (ANA)

    A major fire broke out in the Vachos region near Areopolis in the southwest Peloponnese, raging through the night and coming dangerously close to nearby settlements.

    The fire began on Monday afternoon and is still continuing, fanned by strong winds blowing in the area.

    Taking part in the fire-fighting effort are 13 fire-engines, 25 firemen and two fire-fighting units on foot. Fire-fighting aircraft are expected to join the effort later on Tuesday.

    [21] Transfer documents signed for return of two Greek antiquities by Getty Museum

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    The signing of the transfer documents for the return of two important Greek antiquities to Greece by the California-based J.P. Getty Museum was announced on Tuesday.

    The transfer documents were signed by Getty director Michel Brand and a Greek Culture ministry team of experts, thus allowing the return of the artifacts in the near future.

    The antiquities are a 6th century BC bas-relief from the northern Aegean island of Thasos and a 4th century BC inscribed stele from Viotia, central Greece, currently on display at the Getty Museum.

    The Greek ministry officials arrived in California a few days earlier to discuss the terms of the agreement for the return of the two antiquities.

    Greece is seeking the return of four antiquities from the Getty, which it says were smuggled out of Greece and later purchased by the Getty.

    The two sides further agreed that negotiations would commence at a later date in Athens for the return of two more antiquities being claimed by the culture ministry from the Getty museum, namely a marble statue of a kore (sculpture representing a standing young woman produced in Greece before the 5th century BC) and a golden Macedonian wreath.

    At the same time, the possibility of mutual cooperation in areas of common interest will also be discussed.

    [22] Greece's first Centre of Orthodox Culture to open on Patmos

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    The first Centre of Orthodox Culture and Information in Greece will be officially inaugurated on the Aegean island of Patmos on Sunday, to mark the island's designation as a World Heritage Monument by UNESCO.

    The centre will be equipped with special audiovisual displays in five languages, a touch screen info kiosk providing information on Patmos and links to Internet sites with content related to Orthodox culture worldwide.

    [23] Evros prefecture to participate in Mediterranean river delta network

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    The northern Greek prefecture of Evros will participate in efforts to set up a Mediterranean river deltas network, represented by the organization for the management of its wetlands, it was announced on Tuesday.

    The network aims to allow joint handling of the various problems facing wetlands and improve efficiency in applying for entry into European programs.

    So far, potential participants in the network are the organizations representing deltas in Spain, France, Italy and Greece, Romania and non-EU Egypt.

    A meeting will be held in Italy on September 14-15 to decide on a plan to be submitted to the EU for the approval of funding to combat mosquitos, a problem shared by all delta regions in the network.

    [24] Thirteen illegal immigrants intercepted on Samos

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    A woman and two children were among the 13 illegal immigrants intercepted by Samos police on Tuesday, after they arrived on the island in a boat that was destroyed during the landing.

    They include eight Afghan nationals and five Libyans and were taken to Samos hospital for a medical examination before they are detained at the immigrant reception centre on the island.

    Illegal immigrants arrested in Asprovalta: A total of 74 illegal immigrants were arrested by policy in the Asprovalta region of Thessaloniki on Tuesday, police said.

    They said the illegal immigrants had been transported to the region hidden in a truck, which the driver abandoned and fled to evade arrest.

    The illegal immigrants were crammed in a secret compartment in the back of the truck, which was concealed by bags of animal feed.

    Thessaloniki police were investigating the case.

    [25] Higher security Greek passports from August 26

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    The security specifications for Greek passports, now issued by the Greek police, will increase from August 26 with the incorporation of a specially designed microchip to identify the holder.

    The microchip will contain a digital photograph of the passport's holder and the information contained in the MRZ zone, which are the details usually displayed under the photograph.

    As a result, the cost of the passport will increase and those applying for new passports will now have to pay a fee of €45, up from €25.

    Passports already issued at Greek police stations after January 1, 2006 will continue to be valid until their expiration date.

    [26] Search continues for missing German tourist on Samos

    ATHENS, 23/8/2006 (ANA)

    Police, rescue workers and emergency services on the Aegean island of Samos on Tuesday continued the search for an elderly German tourist who has been missing since Sunday.

    The 70-year-old rambler was last seen at a taverna/coffee shop in the Manolata area, when he set off on foot to follow the route toward Vourliotes. No trace of his whereabouts has been found, but rescue workers hope for a breakthrough by enlisting the aid of a Fire Department dog to locate his trail.

    [27] National Council reviews developments on Cyprus problem

    NICOSIA, 23/8/2006 (ANA-MPA/CNA)

    Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos on Tuesday briefed the members of the National Council (top advisory body to the President for the Cyprus issue) on the latest developments regarding the Cyprus problem, in the light of the July 8th agreement between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus.

    After the four - hour meeting, Deputy Minister to the President and Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardes read out a written statement saying that the National Council reiterated the commitment of the Greek Cypriot side to implement the July 8th agreement and to continue to work consistently for the effective implementation of the agreement, without any terms or preconditions."

    On July 8th, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed to proceed with setting up bicommunal technical committees and teams of experts to discuss day to day problems and issues of substance, with a view to pave the way for high level talks aiming to reach a settlement of the Cyprus problem.

    Late July, Director of the Cypriot President's Diplomatic Office Tasos Tzionis and Turkish Cypriot leader's aide Rasit Pertev began discussions aiming to implement the July 8th agreement.

    "President Papadopoulos informed thoroughly the members of the Council on the course of the discussions at the meetings of the representatives of the leaders of both communities and expressed his evaluations regarding the so far development of the discussions and the future prospects," the written statement said.

    After hearing President Papadopoulos' views, the members of the National Council expressed their own positions on the developments of the Cyprus issue.

    In statements to the press after the meeting, Pashiardes said that there is no deadlock at the meetings of the representatives of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot leaders Tasos Tzionis and Rasit Pertev respectively, but noted that "there are some difficulties and some unjustified delays."

    He added that Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Cyprus Michael Moller, in the presence of whom the meetings take place, ''is well aware of whom is to blame for the difficulties and the delays (at the discussions)."

    ''Our issue now is not to start a blame game, but to overcome the difficulties and to avoid further delays. Our side will continue to display and prove that it has a constructive spirit and good will aiming to fully implement the July 8th agreement," he said.

    The Spokesman underlined that the Greek Cypriot side does not intend to deviate from the framework, the substance or the spirit of the July 8th agreement.

    "We will on our part fully implement the agreement and we will avoid any action that undermines or encumbers the agreed procedure," he said.

    Tzionis and Pertev were due to meet again on Tuesday after an August break.

    Tuesday's was due to be the eighth that takes place in the presence of Moller.

    Asked about a future meeting between the leaders of both communities, Pashiardes said that the meeting will take place at the proper time, in order to be substantive.

    ''A meeting between the leaders should not be an end in it self, nor can it take place only to create impressions," he said.

    Replying to questions, the Spokesman said that according to the July 8th agreement, matters of substance will be discussed at the first stage by working teams of experts.

    The National Council is composed of two members of all parliamentary parties, but main opposition party Democratic Rally (DISY) suspended its participation in the National Council, due to "functional weaknesses and cover-up of dysfunctions of the Council."

    Answering to questions, Pashiardes said that the National Council did not discuss on Tuesday any changes in the way it functions, a demand raised by DISY.

    [28] Former Cypriot FM honored by Greek government

    NICOSIA, 23/8/2006 (ANA-MPA/CNA)

    Cyprus former foreign minister George Iacovou was honored on Tuesday by the Greek government in recognition of his services to overseas Hellenes.

    Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis presented to Iacovou an honorary distinction during a special ceremony at the Greek Ambassador's residence.

    ''We felt obliged, and the entire political world in Greece shares this view, to organize this event and honor Iacovou for his work for the overseas Hellenes,'' Kassimis said.

    He noted that Iacovou, apart from his long term in office as a Cypriot diplomat was appointed by the Greek government as head of the Foundation for the Repatriating Greeks from the former Soviet Union, a post at which he did ''a very important work and in a very crucial period."

    In a short speech, Iacovou said that the Greek political leadership in its whole supported his work all these years.

    ''I was judged leniently by the Greek media and I made a lot of friends in Greece and only a very few enemies,'' he added and thanked Kassimis for this honor.

    Iacovou served as foreign minister of Cyprus from 1983 to 1993 and from March 2003 to June 2006.

    [29] SAE leaders call on US to reconsider its Cyprus policy

    NICOSIA, 23/8/2006 (ANA-MPA/CNA)

    A resolution calling on the US government to reconsider its policy concerning the promotion of the ending of the so-called "isolation" of the Turkish Cypriots, as well as direct trade and flights to and from illegal airports in the occupied north of Cyprus, was unanimously adopted by the board of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE).

    The resolution was submitted by President of the World Coordinating Committee "Justice for Cyprus" and SAE Vice-President Coordinator for Cypriots Abroad Philip Christopher and adopted on Monday during the meeting of the SAE Board in Nicosia prior to the 15th eeting of the Central boards of PSEKA and POMAK that will take place August 23-25 in Nicosia.

    In the resolution, SAE members express disappointment that the US policy, following the April 24, 2004 referendum, has not shown respect for the will of the overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots and "request the US government to reconsider its policy concerning the promotion of the ending of the so-called "isolation" of the Turkish Cypriots, as well as direct trade and flights to and from illegal airports in the occupied part of the Republic of Cyprus."

    It notes that "the welfare and prosperity of all the people of Cyprus lie with the economic integration of the two communities and the unification of the economy of Cyprus, and not with the encouragement of separatist policies."

    "We call upon the international community to impress upon Turkey to fulfill its obligations emanating from the UN charter, the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in particular 541 and 550," the resolution says.

    Furthermore, it calls upon the government of Turkey to fulfill its obligations towards the European Union by immediately ratifying and implementing fully and without discrimination the EU-Turkey Customs Union, to include the Republic of Cyprus as well as to align itself with EU policy and stop blocking the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to international organizations.

    "We urge the government of Turkey to accept the proposal of the government of Cyprus with regard to the opening of the Famagusta port under the auspices of the EU, together with the return of the town of Varosha to its lawful inhabitants and the establishment of a moratorium in the illegal exploitation of Greek Cypriot property in the occupied part of Cyprus," the resolution notes.

    It also urges the immediate and unconditional implementation by Turkey of the rulings of the ECHR.

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