|Sunday, 11 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-06-25
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 25 June 2007 Issue No: 2627
 Karamanlis: Deal clinched in Brussels an 'important step for EU'BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - A. Panagopoulos)
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Saturday said the agreement reached by EU leaders on a reform Constitutional Treaty for the Community was an important step forward for the European Union.
In an early morning press conference, after the leaders of the 27 EU member-states had wrangled hard and long into the night, Karamanlis stressed that the European Council had endorsed a detailed mandate to negotiate a reform treaty and convene an Inter-Governmental Conference, which would soon be done by the Portuguese presidency of the EU.
According to the prime minister, the efforts of all sides had been vindicated, especially of the German presidency that had worked right up to the last minute to find a solution to the very major problems that had arisen. He also personally congratulated German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the efforts she made in order for the summit to arrive at the deal.
The spirit of united Europe had emerged a winner, in spite of the scepticism put forward by many, the Greek prime minister added, noting that compromises were necessary and often useful in the EU.
Karamanlis also noted that individual traits were taken into account in the EU but that the deal clinched between EU leaders was a steady step forward, a step toward the future.
The Greek premier underlined that Greece and the other 17 countries that had already ratified the previous version of the constitutional treaty had played an active role in efforts to find a solution and help Europe emerge from the stalemate of the past two years.
At the same time, they showed solidarity toward the partners that had problems. Among the elements of the new treaty, the prime minister said, was the fact that it created the conditions for Europe to adopt a single voice abroad through its High Representative, gave increased powers to the European and national Parliaments and ordinary citizens and provided for a single legal entity for the Union.
It also dealt with issues concerning citizens' daily lives, such as public services, energy, civil protection, social cohesion and others, he added.
Asked whether the decision reached by EU leaders on Saturday led to a more powerful Europe, Karamanlis again stressed that the deal was an important step considering the position that Europe had been in for the past two years, which was essentially that of a crisis and a dead end.
"We and many others would have preferred if there were no changes but this is how Europe moves forward," he added, while stressing that the core elements agreed in the original Euro-Constitution remained in place.
The Greek premier also pointed out that there were different views among the EU partners about just how much Europe was desirable, repeating that Greece would like to see more Europe rather than less.
"In any case, an agreement was achieved that is a good agreement and a step forward," he stressed.
Commenting on the difficult negotiations and talks, Karamanlis said that the picture up until Friday afternoon had not been good and that this was not due to tactical manoeuvring but to difficulties that had to be overcome.
Regarding Poland's stance and how the problems in that area were surmounted, the Greek premier said a compromise had been difficult because many countries had misgivings. "We had to decide whether to break with a country or exhaust the margins for finding a solution," he said.
He mentioned that Greece made a decisive contribution and he had personally intervened with the German presidency so that it would make one more effort to find a solution.
Regarding his personal conclusions from the results of the summit, Karamanlis said he was convinced that Europe must proceed with the Inter-Governmental Conference on the one hand, and that "we must move with the other partners that desire more Europe in the direction of enhanced cooperation" on the other hand.
On the content of the detailed agreement, the prime minister said it had "a constructive syntax and phraseology," while noting that many of the changes made did not touch the substance of the deal but were minor phrasal and 'image' changes seeking to accommodate those countries that had problems getting the deal accepted.
He pointed out that voters in two countries that were in the heart of Europe, France and the Netherlands, had rejected the previous version of the Treaty in a referendum. Every effort had to be made, therefore, to facilitate them. In addition, there were also other countries that had problems with the agreement, Karamanlis said.
Regarding the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, Karamanlis noted that, while the text of the reform treaty did not make any provision for this, it woud be a joint statement by the three main EU authorities that would continue to be legally binding, as under the previous treaty already ratified by Greece.
Asked whether Greece had raised any objections or voiced displeasure at the compromise finally reached, Karamanlis replied negatively and stressed that Europe, after a long period of consultation had listened to its citizens and proceeded with Saturday's decision.
Karamanlis also congratulated Cyprus and Malta on their accession to the eurozone after January 1, 2008.
Under the deal reached on Saturday, European leaders endorsed a negotiating mandate and the convening of an Inter-Governmental Conference for a reform treaty to replace the EU Constitution rejected in 2005 by French and Dutch voters.
The treaty will preserve key features of the constitution, such as the creation of a long-term president of the Union, a foreign policy chief with increased powers to represent the EU, to be styled High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and a bigger say for the European and national Parliaments.
Poland's concerns were finally assuaged by an agreement that puts off introduction of the full application of the new decision-making procedure until 2017 along with other concessions proposed by Germany.
 PM departs for BSEC anniversary summit in IstanbulPrime minister Costas Karamanlis was due to arrive in Istanbul on Sunday night, where he will take part in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organisation (BSEC) summit meeting, which opens Monday in the Turkish capital.
Before the summit, Karamanlis will visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople at Phanar, where he will meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, while he is also slated to meet with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at noon on Monday, after which he will attend a luncehon hosted by the Turkish prime minister for the heads of state and government and foreign ministers of the BSEC member countries.
The Greek premier is due to address the summit, which marks the 15th anniversary of the BSEC's founding, during the afternoon session, while on Monday evening he will attend a dinner hosted by the Turkish President, followed by a night-time sail on the Bosporus.
Karamanlis is accompanied by foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, minister of state Theodoros Roussopoulos, and deputy foreign minister Evrypides Stylianidis.
Bakoyannis will also have a private meeting with her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Presidents of Albania and the Ukraine will head their countries' delegations to the 15th Anniversary Summit, the slogan of which is "Setting Sail for New Horizons", while representatives of the European Commission, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation will attend the summit as observers.
 Turkish FM interview with Athens dailyBoth Greece and Turkey have legitimate and vital interests in the Aegean, which are of great importance for their security and national sovereignty, Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul said in an interview with the Greek daily Kathimerini, appearing in the newspaper's Sunday edition.
The interview was given ahead of Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis' imminent meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, on the sidelines of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organisation's 15th anniversary summit to take place in Istanbul on Monday.
Gul added that the two countries "are committed by the Madrid Agreement of 1997 to respect those principles".
Referring to the Chalki School of Theology, Gul said that the Turkish government was seeking ways to overcome the legal stumbling blocks so as to ensure the reopening of the Seminary "within the terms of our Constitution and the secular educational system".
On the Cyprus issue, Gul said that Nicosia has been trying in vain for the past thre years to move the basis of the Cyprus problem from the Un to the EU in order to achieve unilateral concessions from Turkey.
Gul further said that Turkey expected from Greece to provide clear support for its Eu accession course and, in that respect, "we welcome the recent statements by (Greek) foreign minister Bakoyannis regarding Turkey's full membership (in the EU)".
Finally, Gul said that "the war against the PKK is the top priority of our government" adding that "we are determined to take all the necessary measures to eliminate the threat of terrorism emanating from northern Iraq". He also said Ankara wished to see "decisive action on the part of both the Iraqi central government and the US" on the PKK issue.
 PM Karamanlis: Reforms and changes are continuing with vision and broad social consensusReforms and changes are continuing in accordance to planning, with a programme and a vision for the country, prime minister Costas Karamanlis said Sunday, addressing the pre-Congress of his ruling New Democracy party (ND) for the Peloponnese and Western Greece held in the western port city of Patras, where he announced the imminent establishment of a minimum national pension, and reiterated his government's commitment that 80 percent of the national and EU funds from the new National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF for the new Programming Period covering 2007-2013) will be chanelled to the Periphery.
In his address to the pre-Congress, which covered the economy, development, employment and social cohesion, Karamanlis said that the study for the establishment of a Minimum National Pension (MNP), which he had announced on March 22, was nearing completion, adding that the MNP would be above the poverty level, and stressing that it was one more important step in the direction of a dignified existence for pensioners "whose incomes today are below the poverty level". He said announcements would be forthcoming soon by the national economy and finance minister and the employment and social protection minister on this issue.
The premier also announced that the creation of a National Social Cohesion Fund was also being prepared in tandem, adding that 2 billion euros would be earmarked in the state budget for the Fund over the next five years.
"Our choice is targeted interventions to support those who are truly in need," Karamanlis said, adding that this applied to the poor households, the single-parent families, the unemployed, and families with three children, to which the "large family" (four children and up) benefit would be extended.
He said a series of measures have already been instituted and applied aimed at equating the three-children families with the large families, and the government was now proceeding to the next major step, which was the allocation of the large-family benefit to the three-children families as well.
"Within 2008, our commitment for equating the three-children families with the large families is becoming, too, a reality. It is an obligation of social responsibility. It is one more step of a modern social state that meets the needs of the Greek family," the premier said.
At another point in his address, Karamanlis made special mention of the course of the reforms and the reinforcement of regional development, noting that "the changes and reforms are continuing with planning, a programme and a vision for our country".
He said that the National Strategic Reference Framework for the new Programming Period focused on boosting regional development and exploitation of its traditional advantages.
The premier reiterated that 80 percent of the national and community resources of the new Framework were being chanelled to the Greek periphery. "This is not a promise. It is a commitment that is becoming action. It is a plan that is already underway. A plan for the Greece that is becoming more competive, more extroverted, more attractive. A plan for investment in the New Knowledge, in constant improvement of the developmental environment, the ensurance of new opportunities for creation and employment. A plan that increases the national wealth and more fairly metes out the divident of growth," Karamanlis said.
The government's choice, he explained, is to tackle all the problems at their roots. "This is what we said, what we are doing, and what we will continue to do, both up until the elections, as well as afterwards," he said.
Stressing the need for the reforms, the premier noted that "the problems have no (political) colour, and it is always necessary for the citizens to know the truth, to know where we are, where we want to go, and how we will get there".
Addressing himself to the main opposition PASOK party, Karamanlis said that: "Some are bothered when they hear the truth. Some demand that we say nothing about all these. They fear the past and feign amnesia. They attempt to present the old as something new, to confuse, to falsify, to distort, to create 'grey' images. They supposedly agree that reforms are needed, but oppose then all. Their efforts are in vain, and they know it. The reforms will not stop, because the are necessary and produce benefit for everyone".
"The falsification and distortion will not come to pass because the citizens know the truth. We will not ignore the problems, nor their causes," the premier said.
Karamanlis further stressed that "the quintessence of our policy is the human being", adding that "our goal is the creation of more opportunities for all the citizens: in education, career, creation, progress", and, for this purpose, the government was following a "structured reform strategy that is producing tangible results".
He said that the government wanted all the citizens to be participants in that course.
"The citizens very well know that the changes and reforms are a national cause. It is a duty that unites everyone on the common road for a tangible vision. The road of development and progress. The road that leads to a clear-cut goal: A better life for all. The strong, broad social alliance of the changes, the large social majority of the reforms backed us and continues to back us on this road. We are continuing on this road, all together. Greece will not turn back. It is moving ahead steadfastly, with certainty, confidence and optimism," the premier concluded.
Earlier, Karamanlis visited the Diakoniaris torrent riverbed in Patras, where diversion and anti-flooding work is currently underway.
He noted that for years the residents of Patras lived with the nightmare of the Diakoniaris, lives were lost, and immense material damages were caused, by the flooding from the torrent. Although the citizens had in the past heard many promises, they had seen no projects being carried out.
Conversely, the ND government "said that we will solve the problem, and that is what we're doing", the premier said, noting that the 60 million euro project was proceeding at a rapid pace and would be completed by early 2008.
"We put forward the truth of our work in answer to populism, distortion and negation," Karamanlis added.
 Alogoskoufis, Sioufas address New Democracy pre-conferenceThe economic progress made by Greece during the last three and a half years under New Democracy's government was stressed on Sunday by Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, as they addressed the party's pre-conference in Patras.
Alogoskoufis focused more specifically on the investments and projects underway in western Greece and the Peloponnese, while criticising the main opposition PASOK party.
"From the first we have implemented a carefully prepared plan for regional development that aims to boost the economy, increase employment and strengthen enterprise among the inhabitants," he said.
Among the projects highlighted by the finance minister were the Ionian Highway, which was just going into construction and major improvements to the Athens-Patras highway designed to reduce travelling time between the two cities and improve road safety.
Sioufas focused on the efforts being made to support small and medium-sized businesses, pointing out that there were over 50 measures designed to assist such businesses involved in manufacturing, trade, tourism and other services.
"With coordinated actions we are reconstructing the industrial framework of the country, reconstructing 32 industrial areas and creating 20 new ones, the works in which will be completed by the end of 2008 with a budget of 230 million euros," he said.
The minister stressed that the government's goal was to make Greece a country that invested in "the quality of products and services" and "made use of research and innovation", one that invested successfully in energy, manufacturing, trade, tourism and agriculture.
 PASOK leader lashes out at government policyMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, on a four-day tour of Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace, on Sunday charged that "no one any longer believes" prime minister Costas Karamanlis, addressing a rally in the town of Toxotes in Thrace. Commenting on announcements earlier in the day by Karamanlis on the establishment of a National Pension, Papandreou said that "his commitments in 2004 lacked credibility, so do his promises today".
Papandreou said that the prime minister had today, after nearly four years in office, remembered the poorer Greeks, while during those years he had detracted 1.5 billion euro from the poorer through indirect taxes, while he gave one billion euro annually to the large businesses through tax exemptions.
"Today, the Greek people know, and tomorrow they will vote for credibility and a just society," he said.
Speaking earlier in the day in Eleftheroupolis, Papandreou said that the large turnout of local citizens for his address, despite the heat wave, indicated that the people were fed up with ND's foolery.
"The Greeks are tired of hearing false words," Papandreou said, and accused the prime minister and the government of not respecting transparency and modesty, and the prime minister personally of "not daring to speak about the farmers' income".
On the structured bonds affair, Papandreou said that Karamanlis, 117 days since the issue came to light, still refused to release the relevant contracts. "He fears the light and the truth, rejects (the establishment of) a fact-finding commission (into the affair), but speaks of transparency".
He said that the salaries of the DEKO (public utilities and organisations) governors had doubled, while at the same time the government refused increases to pensions.
Papandreou further referred to the great importance of the Egnatia Motorway, stressing that "the large projects bear PASOK's signature".
The PASOK leader commenced his tour on Sunday morning in Amfipolis, Serres, where he visited the local archaeological museum.
On Saturday, addressing a rally in Asprovalta, near Thessaloniki, Papandreou named, for the first time, national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis and deputy minister Petros Doukas and finance ministry secretary general George Kouris as the "masterminds" of the bonds scandal.
He also accused the government of, although claiming to have inherited empty coffers (from the preceding PASOK government), nevertheless finding the money to purchase, at high prices, the company Germanos and the Turkish Finansbank, transactions from which "some profited, but the Greek taxpayer suffered losses".
Papandreou further charged that while the banks had doubled their profits, Karamanlis reduced the taxation on their profits and making a 'gift' arrangement in the banks' social insurance matter, burdening IKA (Social Insurance Foundation) wioth more debts.
Reviewing the result of three years of economic management by the ND government, Papandreou said that "they are leaving behind poverty, high prices, unemployment and insecurity".
Papandreou also criticised ND's new programme, which he warned would entail a larger increase in indirect taxes, facilitation of dismissals, abolition of the collective labour agreements and minimum salary, imposition of tuition at the state universities, increase in the retirement age, increase in social insurance contributions, and reduction of the pension as a proportion of the salary.
 'Karamanlis to get 'National Pension' at elections', Papandreou saysPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be given a "National Pension" by the Greek people at the next elections, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou stressed on Sunday. He was responding to an announcment by Karamanlis earlier the same day concerning plans to establish a universal minimum pension in Greece.
Speaking in the town of Didimotichos near the border with Turkey, in a rally with a strong pre-electoral flavour that closed his three-day tour along the route of the Egnatia Highway, Papandreou was strongly critical of the government, especially its handling of foreign policy and relations with Turkey.
He accused Karamanlis of abandoning a proactive policy of cooperation that had been accompanied by stalwart defence of Greece's national interests but also repeated his consistent support for Turkey's European prospects and future accession, provided that it met the terms and conditions imposed by the EU for reforms in the neighbouring country.
According to Papandreou, the results of abandoning this policy were the increased tension observed in relations with Turkey over the past three years, the repeated provocative actions by Greece's neighbour, which continued to dispute the status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, threaten war against Greece and dispute the sovereignty of the island of Aghios Efstratios, as well as a qualitative increase in the violations above the Aegean. At this point, he also referred to the death of Greek pilot Costas Iliakis, who crashed while intercepting a Turkish fighter plane that had illegally entered Greek airspace.
The government was unable to react or handle these issues efficiently and unable to act preventively, he added, repeating a proposal for a new national strategy to protect Greece's borders and rights in accordance with international treaties.
Warning to FYROM to give up intransigency
Visiting Vergina on Saturday evening, Papandreou had also issued a warning to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to give up its intransigency and contribute to efforts to find a name that was mutually acceptable to both Athens and Skopje.
Referring to the efforts to achieve the interim agreement with FYROM, he stressed that PASOK "considers it inconceivable that a neighbouring country might proceed with actions of an irredentist nature, such as FYROM."
"We consider inconceivable actions, announcements and statements that dispute the interim agreement," he added.
He said that the solution to the problem must be mutually acceptable and that the name agreed must be for every international use.
Papandreou also attacked the government and the prime minister for their handling of foreign policy, claiming that Karamanlis was an "observer" and "constantly taken by surprise".
 Papandreou visits Kozani, says ND's "cycle is ended"The cycle of the ruling New Democracy party was coming to a close, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said on Saturday, while visiting a peach farmers cooperative in Velvendos, Kozani. PASOK's leader arrived in Kozani on the second day of a tour that will span northern Greece from west to east, following the Egnatia Motorway to Evros.
He accused the government of working "side by side with cartels and middle-men, while setting itself against farmers and livestock breeders," and said the government's policy had food prices "soaring on the shelf while plummeting in the field".
Papandreou also accused Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, personally, of having lied to farmers before the elections in 2004 and then forgotten his promises.
The main opposition leader was also critical of the new developmental law introduced by the government for downgrading the second category of developmental incentives, stressing that no one believes the government any more because "they can only deliver insecurity and false promises".
Papandreou promised to stand by farmers' in the struggle once he became prime minister.
PASOK's leader began the second day of his tour in a village in the municipality of Gorgiani, where local inhabitants greeted enthusiastically.
In his address at Gorgiani, Papandreou promised to implement the party's programme "to the letter" while stressing that he was not making impossible promises.
He promised to take money from the rich and distribute it among the poor, since the ND government had made the rich richer and poor poorer.
"But the electorate will withdraw its signature at the next election," he added, slamming the government over the bonds and pension fund affair, among others.
Another issue stressed by Papandreou was the need to redress the injustice done to regional areas, at whose expense the capital was developing.
On route to Velvendo, PASOK's leader also stopped at the bridge over the Grevenitis River on the Egnatia Motorway, which was recently opened for use. In a brief statement, he stressed the importance of the Egnatia Motorway project and said that this was the guarantee of PASOK's reliability.
 Papariga in Litohoro, KateriniCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga visited the town of Litohoro on Saturday, where she took part in a women's meeting. She then travelled to Katerini, where she held a press conference referring to the EU summit being held to strike a deal for a new European Constitutional Treaty.
Papariga said that the negotiations and arguments were not taking place in order to defend the interests of the people but to determine how the rich in each country would "share the pie". The problems of the populace remain outside the discussion, she noted and predicted that as long as the EU continued to enlarge, fugicentral powers and temporary alliances would increase.
According to KKE's leader, this "false friendship" and internal competition should be used by the popular classes. Peoples and governments do not have common interests, she concluded.
 SYN leader on tour of CreteCoalition of the Left, Movements and Progress (SYN) leader Alekos Alavanos called prime minister Costas Karamanlis "a spectator of the developments" at the recent EU summit in Brussels, speaking in Aghios Nikolaos, Crete, during a tour of the island.
He said that while "one of the biggest bargainings to take place in the EU" was underway, "with countries such as Poland putting forward issues and winning them", "New Democracy and Costas Karamanlis were playing the role of journalist. In other words, they were informing us on how the negotiations were progressing, among the others".
"And we ask ourselves, didn't Greece have any issues to put forward at such a meeting?", Alavanos queried.
Before his address, Alavanos met with Lassithi Prefect Antonis Stratakis, Aghios Nikolaos mayor Dimitris Kounenakis, the president of the Lassithi Labour Centre Manolis Peponis, and Lassithi Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Nikos Tzanopoulos.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Eleftherotypia daily appearing in the newspaper's Sunday edition, and replying to a question in the prospect of post-electoral collaboration between his party and main opposition PASOK, Alavanos said that SYN always aspired to the concentration of forces in parliament, as on the issue of the fact-finding commission on the funds.
"But for a wider collaboration, a more general programme agreement is required. And that is not the case with PASOK," he said.
 LAOS leader on FYROM name issuePopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis said that he was prepared to withdraw his party from national elections on condition that prime minister Costas Karamanlis lodged a veto on FYROM membership in the EU and NATO with any name containing the term "Macedonia", addressing a press conference during a tour of the prefecture of Kozani.
"We're living in a maimed democracy," Karatzaferis said, adding that a five-party parliament, along the model of the European political culture, "would give an exit".
On the FYROM issue, he called on Karamanlis to "put a veto on the FYROM name in the EU and NATO", adding that "if he does so, I will withdraw LAOS from the elections".
He also called for the abolition of the minisry of justice, and the appointment of a Prosecutor General instead.
 'Interview' poll sees 2.7 point lead for ND in Thessaloniki A' districtThe ruling New Democracy party was leading by 2.7 percentage points over main opposition PASOK in the Thessaloniki A' electoral district, according to an opinion poll conducted by the Interview polling company on behalf of the Thessaloniki daily Makedonia, the results of which appeared in the newspaper's Sunday edition.
To a question on what party they would vote for if elections were to take place next Sunday, 39.4 percent of the respondents opted for ND, wile 36.7 percent opted for PASOK, 8.2 percent for the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), 4.9 percent for the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Progress (SYN), and 5.2 percent for the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, while 5.6 percent replied that they would vote for "other" parties.
Also, 20.4 percent of the respondents said that the rate of advancement of infrastructure projects in Thessaloniki were accelerated under the ND government, while 34.1 percent replied that the rate was better than under the preceding PASOK government but needed improvement, whereas 32.5 percent did not see an improvement in pace between the two governments, and 10.4 percent replied that the pace was faster under PASOK.
Regarding the timing of the next general elections, 42.9 percent of the respondents replied that they wanted elections to take place in March 2008 at the end of the current four-year term of office, while 42.4 percent preferred that elections take place in September or October 2007.
The opinion poll was conducted from June 19 o 21 through telephone interviews on a sampling of 610 people over 18 years of age, in the Thessaloniki A' electoral district.
 Alexandria, Antioch Patriarchs issue joint appeal for peace in Middle East, worldA joint appeal for an end to the hostilities in the Middle East and the prevalence of peace throughout the world was issued Sunday in Damascus by the Patriarchs Theodoros II of Alexandria and Ignatius IV of Antioch, who also called on all countries to work in that direction.
The two Patriarchs officiated at a liturgy at the Dormition of the Virgin Cathedral in the Syrian capital, which was attended by ministers of the Syrian government and other officials.
The visiting Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros, also received an honourary visit on Saturday by representatives of the Moslem community of Damascus and Syrian MP Mohamed Habas.
During this historic meeting of Christians and Muslims, Theodoros referred to the assistance he received from Muslims he met during his long missionary work in AFrica, and also stressed the harmonious joint presence of the two religions in Syria. "It is a great honour that you came to meet me, because here we are in a country where Christians and Muslims live in brotherhood," the Archbishop told the Moslem community delegation.
The Muftis of the Moslem community of Damascus welcomed Theodoros to Syria, "the country of the Prophets and the Scriptures, and the land of the Koran". "We welcome you from the bottom of our hearts, because when cleric and muftis meet, we believe and feel the holy spirit," they said.
 U.S. official notes Greece's progress against human traffickingWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA - A. Ellis)
A U.S. State Department official has noted the significant progress recently made by Greece in dealing with human-trafficking, in a letter sent to Greece's Ambassador to the United States Alexandros Mallias.
According to a report by the ANA-MPA correspondent on Saturday, the letter was sent by Ambassador Mark P. Lagon, director of the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
In the letter, Lagon said that the State Department greatly appreciates Greece's achievements in terms of prevention and support for the victims, within and outside the country, and the results brought by a significant increase in investigations, prosecutions and convictions of people involved in the illegal trafficking of persons.
According to Lagon, in the last few years Greece has proved its commitment to improving and intensifying its efforts to fight this modern form of slavery, as reflected in the annual State Department report on illegal trafficking in persons worldwide, released on June 12.
Lagon also expresses a desire to learn more about Greece's immediate and future plans for dealing with the problem and work closely with the Greek ambassador, while congratulating him for his personal devotion to this important issue.
 Tourism minister visits Limnos, sees prospects for developmentPaying an official visit to the Aegean island of Limnos on Saturday, Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia said there were encouraging prospects for developing tourism on both Limnos and its smaller neighbour Aghios Efstratios.
In meetings with local government officials, Petralia said that tourism development for the island was not far off and discussed various activities that could give another "dimension" to the island's development, such as agro-tourism, cultural tourism, religious tourism and marine tourism.
She also pointed to the island's airport and over 22 hotel units as a comparative advantage.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.354
Pound sterling 0.678
Danish kroner 7.502
Swedish kroner 9.318
Japanese yen 168.08
Swiss franc 1.670
Norwegian kroner 8.050
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.452
Australian dollar 1.597
 Rhodes international film festival 'Ecofilms' awards announcedThis year's awards for the "7th Rodos International Film and Visual Arts Festival Ecofilms" were announced at festival's closing ceremony at the Rodon Cinema on the island of Rhodes at the weekend, before a packed audience that filled the open-air cinema.
The first prize for a feature-length film was awarded to Laurent Van Lancker's "Surya, from eloquence to dawn", an epic journey from Belgium through Asia to Vietnam according to the judges' panel.
Second prize for a feature-length film was awarded to the film "Forever" directed by Heddy Honigmann, with special mention for the film "My country my country" directed by Laura Poitras, which deals with the problems faced by Iraqi society by following the story of a single Iraqi family.
In the Medium-length Film category the first prize went to the film "Akhmeteli Street, Number 4" by director Artchil Khetagouri and the second prize to the film "Workhorse" by director Alain Marie.
The winners in the Short-length Films category were the film "Identities" by director Sawsan Darwaza, which won first place, and the film "Star Story" by Alexey Pochivalov.
In the Greek Films category, the first place was won by Marianna Economou's "My place in the Dance" and second prize by "Dehiscence" directed by Zoi Manda.
Finally, the Medwet/Ramsar Prize for Films on Water and Wetlands was awarded to the film "The Water Front" directed by Liz Miler and the Audience Prize was shared by the films "Knowledge is the Beginning" directed by Paul Smaczny and "Surya, from eloquence to dawn" by Laurent Van Lancker.
 President Papoulias opens reconstructive microsurgeons congress in AthensPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Sunday officially opened the workings of the 4th Congress of the World Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery (WSRM) that will be held at the Roman Agora in Athens from June 24-26.
Taking part in the conference are more than 500 specialist microsurgeons from all over the world, while during the conference there will be presentations of 300 papers and a number of roundtable discussions of special interest.
Others addressing the conference at its start included Deputy Health Minister George Constantopoulos, Vivi Vassilopoulos representing the culture ministry, WSRM President Julia Terzis, the president of the organisational committee and Ioannina University Orthopaedic surgeon Alexandros Peris and the honorary president and Athens University Orthopaedics professor Panagiotis Soukakos.
The conference is taking place under the auspices of the Greek Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery, whose president is Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics at Ioannina University Grigorios Mitsionis. Chairing the congress scientific committee is Aikaterini Vlastou.
The first day of the congress ended with a concert by composer Stamatis Spanoudakis in the evening.
 Women arrested for using children to peddle drugsA Greek woman aged 45 and her two daughters, aged 24 and 12, were arrested by police in Edessa for drug-dealing, as well as for using the younger girl and her older sister's nine-year-old son to push the drugs.
The arrests were made on Friday night in Evosmos, Thessaloniki when the 24-year-old and the young girl attempted to sell drugs to a police officer posing as a buyer in the market for six grammes of heroin, for the sum of 340 euros.
The women and the girl also had another eight heroin "fixes" in their possession, weighing a total of 16.6 grammes, while another three with a total weight of one gramme were found on the small boy, who was not arrested due to his age.
Also found in the possession of the two women and the girl were quantities of jewellery and three cell phones that police suspect were used for the drug deals.
In a raid on their home in Edessa, police also found a reddish-brown powder that has been sent for analysis, another seven cell phones and a set of precision scales.
 Light earthquake in EviaA light earthquake measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale was recorded in northwestern Evia on Monday.
According to the Thessaloniki Aristotelion University's Geodynamic Institute, the trembler was recorded at 11:53 a.m., at a distance of 200 kilometres south of Thessaloniki, with its epicentre in the Lichada area.
 Hot and sunny on MondaySunny weather and very high temperatures are expected to continue throughout the country on Monday, reaching a maximum of 42C on parts of the mainland. Winds light. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 27C and 41C and in Thessaloniki from 24C to 38C.
 President Papadopoulos: Significant milestone Cyprus' accession to the EurozoneLARNACA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos described as "a significant milestone" on Saturday the unanimous approval by the European Council of the proposals of the European Commission and the European Central Bank for the accession of Cyprus and Malta to the Eurozone on 1 January 2008.
Speaking at Larnaca Airport on his return from Brussels where he participated in the European Council summit, President Papadopoulos also described as the greatest success since Cyprus' accession to the EU, the island's accession to the Eurozone.
He also said that the Council will instruct ECOFIN to set a date for the parity of the Cyprus pound to the Euro next month.
Papadopoulos noted "we consider it a historic opportunity for the Republic of Cyprus, a great milestone and the greatest success since Cyprus' accession to the EU", adding that this success "gains greater significance because this time, Cyprus, with its own strength and its economic results, managed to reach the level to be that its accession to the Eurozone is justified".
He praised the reports of the Commission and the European Central Bank, noting they were flattering for Cyprus.
President Papadopoulos also described as a "big step" the reformed EU treaty achieved in the early hours on Saturday, expressing the conviction that it will make the EU institutions and national parliaments function more smoothly.
He also congratulated the President of the Council, German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as all the countries which showed an excellent spirit of agreement and cooperation, noting that with many concessions and compromises, they achieved what was considered impossible ten months ago.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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