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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-06-18
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 18 June 2008 Issue No: 2921
 Inner cabinet discusses measures to curb rising pricesMeasures to curb galloping retail prices were the main focus of an inner cabinet meeting chaired on Tuesday by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Development Minister Christos Folias and Deputy Development Minister for trade George Vlachos briefed the members of the government on the reorganisation of the General Secretariat for Trade in order to enforce the 41 measures announced by the government to discourage unjustified prices hikes.
"We are proceeding to set up an agency to monitor the market, which will be supervised by the special secretariat and will have inspection, cost-assessment and price-monitoring powers, so that we will be aware of the true situation on the market at any given time and can intervene where necessary in order to impose stiff penalties where there is failure to abide by the laws," Folias said after the cabinet meeting.
He said the government would seek to put this agency into operation as soon as possible, since its role would be central to carrying out the government measures against price gouging.
The minister also stressed, however, that consumer support for the government's measures was vital.
Responding to questions about the new agency announced by Folias later on Tuesday, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos clarified that a number of measures had been taken by the government in the last two months that were not being carried out and which could not produce results from one day to the next.
"The actions of consumers themselves play a role and will continue to do so," he added, noting that specific actions by consumers had already yielded some results in the past few weeks and marked an important change in daily consumer habits.
He denied, meanwhile, that the new agency was essentially reviving the market police, pointing out that this had chiefly dealt with prices because these had been controlled at the time.
Regarding the rising cost of living in general, Roussopoulos said that the government intends to raise issues related to markets and competitiveness at the next European Union summit, to be discussed in detail alongside the Irish referendum rejected the Lisbon Treaty.
Asked why Greece did not accept more specific measures, like a French proposal to cut VAT on fuel, Roussopoulos said that the government had already significantly reduced income tax and taken measures to curb tax-evasion but refused to elaborate further.
He also repeated that rising prices were a problem common to all Europe that had been caused by a series of events.
 KKE, Coalition parties on high pricesThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) issued separate statements on Tuesday, on the occasion of new announcements by the development minister on high prices, doubting whether the measures will have the desired effect.
KKE said in its announcement that the government "is continuing demagoguery with measures it is announcing against high prices," stressing that "if the government wishes to take even one measure against high prices let it abolish VAT for consumer goods, for fuel and for the Public Power Corporation (DEH) now and give substantive increases for salaries and pensions and a real allowance for all the unemployed."
The Coalition said in its own announcement that the surge in high prices "is not a problem to be solved" for the government but "the result of the policy being implemented, a policy aimed at serving profiteering business interests and, consequently, with the meager incomes of Greek citizens being the victim."
 Parliament rejects proposal for referendum on Lisbon TreatyThe Greek Parliament rejected in the early hours of Wednesday the proposals tabled by the four opposition parties for the holding of a referendum on the European Union Lisbon Treaty. The proposals were rejected by 152 votes while 144 opposition deputies voted for in the 300-member House. The Parliament has already ratified the Treaty last Thursday.
Pavlopoulos accuses PASOK of 'contradictions'
Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Tuesday night accused the main opposition PASOK party of going through "contradictions" and "perplexities" regarding its proposal for the holding of a referendum on the EU's Lisbon Treaty.
"We are not serving the European vision when we use the procedure of the referendum as a pretext to solve our own dilemmas or, probably, to dissipate our own parplexities," Pavlopoulos said while addressing Parliament during a debate on proposals tabled by the opposition parties calling for a referendum on the issue.
More specifically, commenting on PASOK's proposal "because it believes in the citizens' awareness", the interior minister wondered whether the main opposition party, when it was in office, "had the same ideas when it did not resort to any referenda regarding the Maastracht and Nice Treaties."
"All these reveal contradictions and perplexities," Pavlopoulos added.
Referring to Ireland's rejection of the EU's Reform Treaty, Pavlopoulos asked whether the countries which have not opted for a referendum "are less democratic".
"A referendum is justified when European integration will have been completed, when the EU acquires a state entity and we will be in need of a constitution," the minister nevertheless conceded.
FM Bakoyannis on Lisbon Treaty referendum
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, on her part, said that Greece's European prospect cannot and must not be placed in doubt.
The minister added that the European fabric must remain firm and shall remain firm from the time that governments and Parliaments assume their responsibilities and pointed out that "the alibi of a referendum" must not be selected by politicians when they are holding the country's fate in their hands.
Referring to the government's stance at this week's European Union summit, in the wake of the Irish referendum, Bakoyannis said that Greece "will pursue the speediest evaluation and assessment of the situation, to enable the EU to take decisions as soon as possible that will allow its non-self-trapping in a cycle of introversion and inertia." She added that Greece hopes that the eight member-states that have not ratified the Lisbon Treaty will proceed in accordance with what is anticipated by its ratification process.
As regards the practice followed in Greece, she said that the ratification of the treaties by Parliament safeguards the country's European course.
"The Greek Parliament has the responsibility of safeguarding the development and security course for our country," she noted.
The foreign minister further said that nobody questions that by ratifying the treaty Parliament is in contrast with popular will, while stressing that all the previous governments utilized this process, both of the New Democracy (ND) and PASOK parties, in which main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou had also "participated."
"The option made by PASOK, on the one hand to ratify the treaty in Parliament, and at the same time to call for a referendum has a unique element, it has never taken place in any other part of the world and shows the way chosen by PASOK, not by a party of responsibility and power, but of refusal and protest," she said.
The Greek parliament has already ratified the Lisbon Treaty last week by an overwhelming majority of the ruling ND and main opposition PASOK parties.
Papandreou on Lisbon Treaty referendum
Defending his party's proposal, main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou attached a symbolic and a substantive content to the proposal for a referendum to be held on the Treaty's ratification.
"At a symbolic level, the proposal constitutes the peak of a policy placing the citizen at the epicentre of all its efforts, a policy which constitutes the new image of PASOK's programme speech," Papndreou pointed out.
"At the level of substance, it constitutes the reply to the dilemma between Euroscepticism and bureaucratic European unification, the trend for renationalisation and the trend for a united Europe which fears its citizens," he added.
"I heard that those who call for referendums undermine European unification. These are absurd arguments. If the Irish had said yes, would the critics of the referendum have said automatically yes?" he pondered.
Opposition parties on Lisbon Treaty referendum
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Parliamentary representative Achilleas Kantartzis criticised the government for refusing to support the proposal for a referendum to be held, as well as the main opposition PASOK party and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) for their "belated interest."
"We wanted and want a referendum, not to give an alibi to the European Union and to make the Greek people an accomplice, but with the aim of having developments created in society to reverse its anti-popular options," Kantartzis said.
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos placed emphasis in his address to Parliament on the Irish "no" to the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, terming it a "great victory that saves the honour of all of Europe."
Alavanos also criticised the government, saying that "it is afraid and for this reason it is avoiding the option of the Greek people deciding with a referendum," while claiming that following Ireland's "no" there is no question of a European Treaty.
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis termed the Lisbon Treaty in his address a "remorseless constitution" that circumvents the logic, democratic principles and freedoms of peoples and called on the government to say "yes" to a referendum "if it is not afraid of the people."
Karatzaferis also said that 84 percent of the Greek people want a referendum, invoking a poll by the EU, and added that the ruling party "fears the people" because it knows that they would not follow.
In a related development, KKE held a demonstration outside Parliament against the Lisbon Treaty, while the discussion was taking place on whether or not a referendum should be held on the treaty.
Justice minister on Lisbon Treaty referendum
Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis said that the opposition's request was contrary to the constitution which only allows referendums for "serious social issues."
"The Lisbon Treaty lags behind the treaties of 1979 and 1992 considerably. It does not regulate a serious social issue, it does not affect the social structure of countries. The rights that it consolidates merely codify principles and directions," the minister said.
Hatzigakis added that "a referendum would constitute a double mockery. It would constitute the degradation of Parliament as the representative of popular sovereignty when, indeed, the ratification of the Reform Treaty with an overwhelming majority by Parliament had preceded. In the event of a 'no', we would be bound by the clauses of accession to the EEC and of Maastricht."
The first speaker to take the floor was main opposition PASOK party rapporteur Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou who said that a referendum on the Treaty "is necessary, since the European Union needs strengthening for its political legalization, following the injuries it sustained during the related referendums in 2005 for the European Constitution."
Ruling New Democracy (ND) party rapporteur Costas Gioulekas, replying to Xenoyiannakopoulou, said that ND "does not fear the people". He added that "only eight months have passed since the people's recent verdict and their mandate to ND to rule the country for a second four-year tenure is fresh." He further said that the discussion is being held in Parliament on whether a referendum should be held, while one does not know what will be decided at the upcoming Brussels summit this week.
On the part of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Antonis Skyllakos hailed "the great no by the Irish people" and assessed that the outcome of the referendum in Ireland constitutes "an act of opposition and disobedience in the direction that we also support."
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) rapporteur Theodoros Dritsas spoke of "a trend of promoting, as being sovereign, a political framework of enlightened despotism, which expresses phobia for the participation of citizens," adding that the Lisbon Treaty is being enacted in the people's absence.
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party rapporteur Athanasios Plevris said that "the need for a united Europe was not a popular demand but the decision of the post-war leaders and today's centrifugal forces are developing because the desired economic growth does not exist," adding that the party is not against the European Union but in favor of rapprochement between the European nations and not the multinationals.
Papandreou statements on clash with Simitis
Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou reiterated that he was determined to no longer tolerate differentiations with the party's policy by party cadres who "raise their own personal banners", in a high-profile interview published by a mass circulation Athens daily on Tuesday, days after his stern rebuke of former premier Costas Simitis, his predecessor at PASOK's helm.
"I was not the one who chose for us to return to introversion. I was not the one who made a move that gave rise to questions on our political volition and targets," Papandreou said, referring to his recent political "ostracism" of the former two-term prime minister from the PASOK's parliamentary group, which although considered by many analysts "a de facto expulsion" is nevertheless unofficial, as Papandreou did not formally inform the Parliament's president that Simitis is expelled from PASOK Parliamentary group, saying this was in deference to Simitis' lengthy political career and his "contribution to the party".
"I, too, serve and guarantee the party's unity", he said in explaining that his move was aimed precisely at averting the rationale of a crumbling PASOK. "PASOK cannot be broken up," he added.
Asked whether his move was a "clearing of accounts", Papandreou replied that "there is no such issue".
"I have systematically and collectively led PASOK to the formulation of a new platform and new priorities for the country. And these differ on many issues from the priorities and policies of Mr. Simitis," Papandreou said.
He said PASOK's focus was on the everyday problems of the citizens, together with a developmental vision that takes advantage of Greece's comparative advantages.
The clash between the current and former PASOK leaders came in the wake of Papandreou's decision to back ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by main opposition PASOK while at the same time calling -- from Parliament's podium -- for the agreement to be put to a referendum. Simitis sharply criticised the move in a letter to Papandreou, which was publicised the same day.
 US on FYROM election re-runs: Substantial improvement, but further serious irregularities observedWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
The partial re-runs on Sunday in the early general elections in FYROM showed a "substantial improvement over the June 1 elections, which were marred by fraud, intimidation and violence", the US state department's press relations office director, Gonzalo Gallegos, told a regular press briefing on Monday, but added that those, too, had serious irregularities in polling stations, and incorrect procedures.
"The conduct in the June 15 partial re-runs of Early Parliamentary elections were a substantial improvement over the June 1 elections, which were marred by fraud, intimidation, and violence," Gallegos said, adding that the "broad re-runs, which were held in a substantially improved security environment, restored to most voters the opportunity to freely exercise their democratic rights, which was denied them on June 1".
"Nevertheless, there were further, serious irregularities in a number of polling stations, including family and proxy voting, ballot stuffing, and incorrect procedures," Gallegos continued.
He said that the State Department supports the OSCE's ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) assessment "which noted that despite significant improvement in the re-runs and well administered elections, the overall parliamentary election process, taking into account the June 1 polling, did not meet some key OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and COE (Council of Europe) commitments".
Gallegos called on the FYROM government to "continue to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and sanction, according to 'Macedonian' law, the perpetrators of election fraud, violence, and other criminal acts. We call upon the government and political party leaders to take the necessary steps to ensure that future elections clearly meet international standards, in keeping with 'Macedonia's' aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration.
The press relations director further said that: "We continue to strongly support 'Macedonia' for NATO membership. We support the ongoing talks under UN auspices toward resolving the name issue between 'Macedonia' and Greece, and encourage both sides to find a near-term solution that will allow them to put this issue behind them."
 Transport minister in Korea for OECD conferenceTransport and Communications Minister Kostis Hatzidakis is in Korea to participate in the ministerial conference held by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in Seoul on Tuesday and Wednesday, on the theme of "The Future of the Internet Economy."
The purpose of the conference is to record and assess the changes brought about by the use of new information and communications technologies in the economy and in society, with emphasis being placed on defining a policy for the future in creativity-innovation, safeguarding trust and digital convergence.
It will be attended by ministers and senior officials from OECD member-states, as well as from third countries, representatives of the European Union and international organisations, members of the academic community and representatives of the private sector and of the society of citizens.
Hatzidakis will be holding talks with his Korean counterparts on the sidelines of the conference, as well as with representatives of the business world who are active in the sector of telecommunications and transport.
 Deputy interior minister meets Syrian officialDeputy Interior Minister Christos Zois on Tuesday received a senior official of the Syrian ministry of communications and technology and briefed him on actions taken by Greece to improve the quality of state services to citizens and businesses.
Among these he listed action to simplify bureaucratic procedures, improve relations between citizens and the state, the 'Syzeuxis' project and a new service allowing the public to order certificates via the 1564 phone line, as well as the Citizens Service Centers or KEP established throughout Greece to assist the public in their transactions with state services.
The Syrian official, who arrived in Greece at the head of a large delegation, invited Zois to attend the opening of the first citizens' service centre that will open in Damascus.
 Greek Army general staff chief visits Ataturk mausoleumISTANBUL (ANA-MPA - A. Kourkoulas)
The head of the Greek Army General Staff Lieutenant General Demetrios Voulgaris, currently on a visit to Turkey, on Tuesday visited the Ataturk Mausoleum as the guest of Turkish Land Forces Commander General Ilker Bashbug.
According to report by the Turkish news agency Anadolu, Gen. Bashbug emphasised the importance of Voulgaris' visit, noting that it was the first time that a Greek army chief had visited Turkey.
After visiting the Ataturk Mausoleum, Voulgaris went to the Turkish Land Forces Command headquarters where there was an official reception ceremony and the national anthems of both countries were played while he inspected an honor guard.
 Relief aid received by 3,077 earthquake victimsThe emergency relief aid of 3,000 euros had so far been paid out to 3,077 earthquake victims by branches of ATEBank, the economy and finance ministry announced on Tuesday. The aid of 10,000 euros to replace lost household effects had so far been received by 38 applicants, it added.
 Greek industries support structural measures against price increasesGreece is suffering from a structural problem with price increases, a problem with many dimensions and not a temporary phenomenon hitting global economies, the Federation of Hellenic Industries said on Tuesday.
In a statement, the Federation said that the roots of the problem were "a decision we did not take or a postponed reform in the last few decades". The Federation noted that more than half the money spent by a Greek household covered state bills and suffered inflationary pressures from the intervention by the state, while it underlined that the state was the first to set a good example, by taking structural measures against excessive price increases.
The Federation urged for structural measures to drastically cut bureaucracy -which cost around 15 billion euros or 6.8 pct of GDP in the country. The Federation of Hellenic Industries said that first quarter results showed that profits fell significantly for the 300 biggest listed enterprises, while more than 100,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises facing a crisis being unable to afford higher costs or lower demand.
 Property registration process gets underway in GreeceGreece's long-delayed land registry project, dubbed the Hellenic National Cadastre, got underway on Tuesday when land registry offices began to accept declarations of real estate ownership by property owners.
The property registration process will last until September 30 in 107 regions in the prefectures of Attica (the greater Athens area) and Thessaloniki, as well as in prefecture capitals not included in previous national cadastre projects.
In less than four years, a total of 6.7 million title deeds will be registered, corresponding to 310,000 hectares of real estate and two-thirds of the country's population.
Expatriates will have to register property in Greece until Dec. 30.
 Industrial enterprises' profits up 15% in 2007, surveyGreek industrial enterprises' profits rose 15 percent last year, compared with 2006, a survey by Stat Bank said on Tuesday. The survey, based on a sample of 1,700 industrial enterprises with a turnover of more than five million euros that had published their financial results by June 15, 2008, showed that profits totalled 3.26 billion euros in 2007, up from 2.83 billion in 2006, while sales rose 8.8 pct to 58.5 billion euros.
The average net profit margin was 5.6 percent, while accumulated debt rose slightly more compared with the turnover growth rate.
Stat Bank said that the commerce sector performed better than the manufacturing sector, with a sample of 1,200 enterprises in the commerce sector reporting a 10 pct increase in turnover and a 17 pct rise in pre-tax profits last year.
A total of 81.17 pct of enterprises in the industrial sector (1,380 companies) were profitable last year, with 320 loss-making (18.83 pct). Profitable enterprises said their turnover rose 10 pct to 53 billion euros in 2007, while profits jumped 22.5 pct to 3.9 billion euros.
The oil, food, pharmaceutical/detergent, energy, metal products, non-ferrous minerals, metallurgical, chemicals, beverages, electric equipment, plastic/rubber and newspaper/magazines sectors recorded the highest turnover last year, while the oil, pharmaceutical/detergent, non-ferrous minerals, food/beverage, chemicals, metal products, cigarettes and metallurgical sectors were top gainers.
Greek refineries' sales totalled 11.7 billion euros in 2007, up 4.0 pct from the previous year, while pre-tax profits rose 13 pct to 595 million euros.
The textile, newspaper and agricultural enterprises were the only sectors that failed to report profits in 2007.
 Greek and Czech Operational Programmes delegations meetA meeting between Greek and Czech delegations of the Operational Programmes named "Competitiveness" and "Industry and Entrepreneurship" respectively was held at the offices of the development ministry's Special Competitiveness Secretariat on Tuesday, focusing on an exchange of views and experience regarding European Union Programmes.
The Greek delegation, headed by Special Competitiveness Secretary Eleftherios Stavropoulos, made an account and presented the good practices of the EPAN programme (2000-2006), as well as the targets and initiatives of the new "Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship" Special Programme covering the 2007-2013 period.
 Credit conditions mixed in January-MayCredit conditions were mixed in the Greek market in the five-month period from January to May, with the value of bouncing cheques totaling 424 million euros, up 36.4 percent compared with the same period last year, official figures showed on Tuesday.
Bouncing cheques totaled 102 million euros in May, up 20.40 pct form the same month in 2007.
The value of unpaid bills totaled 70 million euros in the five-month period, down 16.9 percent from the same period in 2007, with the value of unpaid bills totaling 14.1 million euros in May.
 FESE elects ASE's president as a new headSpyros Kapralos, the president of the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday was elected President of the Federation of European Stock Exchanges (FESE) on an unanimous voting by the Federation's general meeting in Stockholm.
Kapralos will take over as president on June 18 for a two year term. "It is a special honour for me to take over the president of FESE from Jukka Ruuska.". He noted that the sector has witnessed fundamental changes lately and stressed that the sector still faced many challenges ahead, such as a globalization of stock markets, the introduction of MiFID and the possibility of out-of-the-market transactions without the use of platforms offered by stock exchanges. "FESE's members are in a position to effectively deal with increasing competition," Kapralos said.
He noted that FESE must focus its strategy on maintaining a neutral stance towards investors, the use of technology and increased transparency and liquidity.
 Greek stocks fell 1.08 pct on TuesdayGreek stocks suffered further losses in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, pushing the composite index of the market below the 3,700 level. The index ended at 3,699 points, losing 1.08 percent, with turnover rising to 417.5 million euros of which 25.2 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower with the Raw Materials (1.48 pct), Healthcare (1.40 pct) and Media (1.35 pct) scoring gains, while Food/Beverage (7.76 pct), Travel (5.02 pct) and Utilities (4.25 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The FTSE 20 index fell 0.54 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.57 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.47 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 120 to 100 with another 65 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.98%
Personal & Household: -0.25%
Raw Materials: +1.48%
Travel & Leisure: -5.02%
Food & Beverages: -7.76%
Financial Services: +1.19%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, HBC Coca Cola, OPAP and Public Power Corp (PPC).
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 20.00
Public Power Corp (PPC): 21.60
HBC Coca Cola: 19.44
Hellenic Petroleum: 10.10
National Bank of Greece: 31.54
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 16.30
Piraeus Bank: 18.96
Titan Cement Company: 27.48
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.560
Pound sterling 0.800
Danish kroner 7.518
Swedish kroner 9.433
Japanese yen 168.93
Swiss franc 1.629
Norwegian kroner 8.087
Canadian dollar 1.594
Australian dollar 1.660
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices ended mixed in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover soaring to 447.575 million euros. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a premium of 0.42 percent and the June contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.48 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 41,019 contracts worth 407.351 million euros, with 34,310 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 59 contracts worth 1.366 million euros with 233 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 45,361 contracts worth 35.138 million euros, with investment interest focusing on MIG's contracts (16,779), followed by Eurobank (1,160), OTE (2,756), Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (1,377), National Bank (1,800), Intracom (2,128), Marfin Popular Bank (5,618) and Hellenic Postbank (1,224).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 824 million euros on Tuesday, of which 426 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 504 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 250 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds rose to 0.69 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 5.29 pct and the German Bund 4.60 pct.
In money markets, interest rates remained at high levels. The 12-month Euribor rate was 5.43 pct, the six-month rate 5.12 pct, the three-month rate 4.96 pct and the one-month rate 4.48 pct.
 City lights lead astronomers to the Pindos range in NW GreeceEuropean astronomers in search of "dark regions" on the planet to make observation of the universe easier, away from the light pollution caused by large urban centers with strong artificial lighting, have discovered the Pindos Mountains, Epirus province, and Mt Orliakas in Grevena Prefecture, northwestern Greece.
One of the darkest spots in Europe lies at an altitude of 1,400-1,600 meters on Mt Orliakas and by 2012 will be the site of an observatory to be built in the region following recommendations by NASA astrophysicist Thanasis Economou who comes from the area.
A second such observatory will be built on Mt Holomontas, Halkidiki in northern Greece, at an altitude of 1,060 meters.
A region on planet Mars has been named after Orliakas by Economou, who is also one of the designers of parts of the spacecrafts that have reached the Red Planet and several astronomy instruments built for the United States and the former Soviet Union.
The 2.5-3 million-euro observatory featuring a state-of-the-art telescope will be open both to scientists, students and amateur astronomers.
The world renowned astrophysicist will address an audience in Grevena on August 8, followed by stargazing events in several local villages where visitors will have the opportunity to marvel the starlit skies with the help of powerful telescopes.
 Documentary festival on disability in AthensThe 2nd Emotion Pictures International Documentary Festival on Disability will be held at the New Benaki Museum for Contemporary Art and Design in Athens on June 21-23, hosted by the Secretariat General of Communication - Secretariat General of Information, in collaboration with the Greek Film Centre.
The festival features documentary films focusing exclusively on issues of disability.
Entrance is free. The event's communication sponsors are ERT and NET television, 105.8 FM Radio and ANA-MPA.
 Greenpeace's 'Arctic Sunrise' in Cyclades archipelagoGreenpeace activists on board the environmental organization's ship "Arctic Sunrise" arrived in the Cyclades island group in the southern Aegean on Tuesday to begin charting the areas of sea grass meadows with the assistance of local fishermen and specialist researchers.
According to a Greenpeace announcement, sea grass meadows populated by the plant known scientifically as Posidonia oceanica are the marine equivalents of forests on land.
"Posidonia meadows provide shelter and a site for feeding and reproduction for more than 1,200 marine species. Like the forests on land, so the Posidonia meadows trap carbon dioxide, helping to counteract the greenhouse gas phenomenon, and produce what is most important to our life: oxygen," the organisation said.
Despite being a priority ecosystem protected by a series of national, European and regional laws, Greenpeace estimates that about 80 percent of sea grass meadows in Greece remain unprotected because they are not adequately charted.
EU regulations for fishing require that Greece protect sea grass meadows from the sort of destruction caused by certain fishing methods that trawl along the seabed but so far such methods have been banned in only 57 regions of the Greek seas by the agricultural development ministry, the organization adds.
The charting of the Posidonia meadows is being carried out as part of an initiative of the Southern Aegean Coastal Fishing Federation in collaboration with individual fishing operations on the islands of Andros, Tinos, Mykonos, Syros, Kythnos and Kea to create a protected restocking zone in their area where only small-scale fishing will be allowed, as well as an area of absolute protection from every form of fishing around the island of Gyaros.
In its announcement, Greenpeace also called on the Greek agriculture ministry to take steps in order to chart Posidonia meadows throughout the country and take the necessary measures for their protection, setting up protection zones in line with the national strategy for fishing and the Mediterranean regulations.
 TEDKNA seminar on administrative reformThe mergers of municipalities and communities not only in the periphery, but also in the prefectures of Attica and Thessaloniki, were called for during a day-seminar on administrative reform, which was organised on Tuesday by the Local Union of Municipalities and Communities of Attica Prefecture (TEDKNA).
The issue of municipality mergers in Attica and Thessaloniki was put forward by TEDKNA president and Egaleo mayor Dimitris Kalogeropoulos, as well as by deputy interior minister Thanassis Nakos and Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) presdent and Athens mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis.
Kaklamanis said that administrative reform was inconceivable without the inclusion of Attica and Thessaloniki, although with different criteria.
 Spike in illegal migrants intercepted over weekendA total of 170 illegal migrants, among them 20 children, were transported by smugglers onto the coasts of the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Agathonisi and Farmakonisi between June 13 and 16.
All of them were intercepted by the Coast Guard, which has intensified patrols in the Aegean, and according to their statements to authorities they set off from the Turkish coast.
According to the Ministry of Merchant Marine, Aegean and Island Policy, a total of 45,411 illegal migrants and 1,194 smugglers have been arrested between 1997 and 2007.
Based on a brief presentation of the problem on the ministry website, Greece is facing considerable inflow of illegal migrants, a phenomenon that has intensified as a result of major socio-economic and political changes in Asian and African countries, combined with factors such as Greece's geographic position, the long coastline, the large number of Greek islands and rocky islets, the dense shipping traffic recorded in the region and its proximity to the Turkish coast.
In 2007, the islands that received the bulk of illegal immigrants trying to enter Greece were Samos (2,626), Lesvos (2,569), Leros (975), Chios (848), Kos (575) and Kalymnos (304).
 Robbery ring bustedTwo Albanians, 20 and 25, were arrested and a 28-year-old accomplice, also an Albanian, is wanted by police, authorities announced on Tuesday.
The three are accused of committing a series of armed robberies in the wider Athens region and stealing a total of 140,000 euros.
Over the past two years, they had targeted 8 banks, a Hellenic Post branch, an IKA social insurance institute branch and a number of private homes.
The largest amounts stolen in one robbery, 35,000 and 30,000 euros, respectively, were taken from the Bank of Cyprus and the IKA branch in Neo Iraklio, Athens. The IKA director's pistol they had snatched during the robbery was also found in their possession.
 Family tragedy on the Ionian Sea island of CephaloniaA 4-year-old girl was drowned when the family car driven by her father veered off course and plunged into the sea in the port of Argostoli on the Ionian island of Cephalonia.
Both her parents, her 37-year-old father and 30-year-old mother, managed to swim away from the sinking car.
According to police, the little girl's father had pulled his daughter out of the car but she was already unconscious and doctors in local hospital were unable to revive her.
The accident happened under unclear conditions in the early morning hours Tuesday.
 Fires caused by goods train avertedThe threat of an extensive fire caused by sparks from a passing goods train was successfully averted by a strong force of fire men on Tuesday near Lianokladi.
More than 15 small fires broke out along the length of the track, causing firemen to come out in force to prevent a more extensive blaze, as a result of an overheated brake system that was spewing flames along the railway bank.
The incident occurred shortly after 10:30 as the train from Larisa was about 12 kilometres from Lianokladi. Firemen managed to put out the fires before they spread to nearby cultivated land.
The head of the fire brigade for central Greece stressed that all organisations, including the Greek railways, had been asked to clear dried grasses to avoid a fire hazard. A fire caused by similar reasons the previous year had incinerated hundreds of hectares of crops and threatened the small village of Frantzi.
 Parliament president proposes Philhellenism DayGreek Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas has proposed establishing April 19 as Philhellenism Day in a letter to Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, it was announced on Tuesday.
Sioufas asked for official recognition of the specific date, which coincides with the anniversary of the death of famous philhellene and poet Lord Byron. If the government adopts the proposal, he suggests that it prepare a draft law establishing April 19 as the day when philhellenism will be officially celebrated in Greece and by Greeks abroad.
 President Christofias assures UN official of will to work for settlementNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic Demetris Christofias had the opportunity on Tuesday to reiterate to UN Undersecretary General Lynn Pascoe his commitment to continue to work for a Cyprus settlement with good will.
Speaking after their meeting in Nicosia, Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said President Christofias clarified that the aim should be a solution that will reunite the country on the basis of a bizonal bicommunal federation with political equality, as described in UN resolutions, with a single sovereignty, citizenship and international identity.
Stephanou said these positions emanate from the positions agreed on with the Turkish Cypriot community and are provided for in UN resolutions, thus the two communities should be speaking the same language in the dialogue underway.
''Through the meeting, the President of the Republic had the opportunity to elaborate on these issues and have a fruitful dialogue with Mr. Pascoe regarding the current phase of the Cyprus problem and regarding the prospects for a settlement,'' Stephanou pointed out.
Commenting on the fact that Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat has refused to attend a dinner in the presence of both President Christofias and Pascoe, Stephanou said President Christofias had said earlier that he would be attending the dinner if invited.
''Mr. Pascoe extended an invitation to him and he will be attending the dinner tonight,'' Stephanou said, adding that Talat should answer for himself.
Stephanou said Talat had reacted to the memorandum of understanding signed between the Republic of Cyprus and the United Kingdom, which repeats what has been agreed on with the Turkish Cypriot community and the UN resolutions and decisions. He added that Talat was also displeased with the UN Secretary General's recent report.
Replying to questions, Stephanou said that ignoring or misinterpreting what has been agreed on, as well as the decisions and resolutions, reduces the possibilities of finding a solution.
''That is why our side insists so much on what has been agreed and the UN decisions and resolutions,'' he pointed out.
To other questions, the spokesman said the Greek Cypriot side's effort was to be ''very specific in our statements, insisting on some issues that have to do with matters of principle regarding the Cyprus problem, and that is why we insist on the negotiating basis and the same language, regarding the negotiating basis and the aim of achieving a settlement that will reunite the country.''
Stephanou pointed out that Pascoe had come to Cyprus to help the two communities move forward in their dialogue.
''We believe that the positions we are submitting, which are above all UN positions and positions which the two communities have agreed on in the past, are totally realistic. If the positions of the other side dismiss what we have agreed on and what the UN supports, then we reduce the prospects of reaching a Cyprus settlement,'' he added.
Asked if the leaders of the two communities would be entering direct negotiations later this year, Stephanou said this was up to the leaders themselves, adding that they will be meeting in the second half of June to review progress in the working groups and technical committees.
Invited to say if Pascoe had presented any ideas regarding the dialogue underway, Stephanou said he had not, adding that there had been an exchange of views.
''The initiative is in the hands of the two communities. The UN has come to help this process,'' he concluded.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Turkish Cypriot leader does not attend dinner with Pascoe and President ChristofiasNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat did not attend Tuesday night the dinner hosted by United Nations Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe together with President of the Republic Demetris Christofias.
Talat met earlier Tuesday Pascoe in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus. After the meeting, which lasted 1.5 hours and asked whether he would attend the dinner, Talat said ''I am afraid I will not be there''.
He added that his decision was taken based on many reasons and that they were even published in the Greek Cypriot press.
United Nations Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe said that he is visiting Cyprus "because the eyes of the world are focused on Cyprus" and because the international community shows an increased interest in the situation currently prevailing on the island.
Furthermore, he said that there are high hopes and expectations that the process under way for the settlement of the Cyprus problem will proceed at a fast pace. He additionally said that "following the joint statements issued after the meetings of the leaders of the two sides on March 21 and May 23, there is great hope", towards a Cyprus settlement.
Finally, Pascoe reiterated UN support to the efforts made by the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities and stressed that the United Nations would assist the efforts.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Technical committees and working groups, set up after the March 21st Agreement between the two leaders, are meeting in order to prepare the ground for fully-fledged negotiations.
President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat met on May 23 and reviewed the work achieved at the bicommunal committees and teams.
They also agreed to meet again in the second half of June to make a new assessment of the work being done by the bicommunal teams of experts who are dealing with various aspects of the Cyprus question.
 French official hopes relations with Cyprus to be enhancedNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
French Minister of State for Defence and Veterans Jean Marie Bockel has expressed his wish for the continuation, improvement and strengthening of the excellent relations between Cyprus and France.
Speaking after a meeting on Tuesday with Permanent Secretary of the Cypriot Ministry of Defence Petros Kareklas, Bockel referred to the upcoming French presidency of the EU and the efforts his country will be making in the context of achieving a just settlement of the Cyprus problem.
Kareklas referred to the excellent relations between the two countries and expressed the wish to enhance bilateral relations in all sectors and to utilise all opportunities for cooperation and mutual support.
He also thanked Bockel for France's participation in the international exercise Argonaftis 2008, which was recently carried out in Cyprus, and pointed out the importance of search and rescue exercises.
Kareklas is currently in France, heading a delegation, to visit the Eurosatory 2008 military exhibition, at the invitation of the French Ministry of Defence.
On Wednesday, he will be meeting with senior Ministry of Defence official Thierry Borja de Mojota.
The Cypriot delegation will furthermore be meeting representatives of various companies participating in the exhibition, with which the Ministry of Defence is cooperating.
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