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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-08-24
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greek FM: UN resolution a 'necessary step' for Mideast peaceGreek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis urged all sides in the Middle East crisis to implement United Nations resolution 1701 as a necessary step toward peace, as she departed from the Jordanian capital Amman for Tel Aviv on Thursday.
"Of course the Security Council decision is not perfect. It is the result of a compromise. It is, however, a necessary step for a forward movement, in order to give peace a chance," she told reporters at Amman airport, in response to questions about the resolution's weaknesses.
Bakoyannis also pointed out that a condition for the success of the truce agreed was that it be promptly observed.
According to the Greek foreign minister, meanwhile, a solution to the Palestinian problem was the key to building up peace in the region and that the present fragile truce was a crucial turning point for the Middle East problem.
"This was, is and will be - until it is solved - the catalytic problem for the wider region," she said.
During her visit to Jordan, which was the third stop in her three-day tour of the Middle East after Cyprus and Lebanon, Bakoyannis met visiting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and attended a dinner hosted by her Jordanian counterpart Abdelelah Al-Khatib, while in the morning she was received Jordan's King Abdallah II and Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit.
Athens' emphasis on the Palestinian problem as a key to a solution in the Middle East crisis was received with approval in Amman - especially by the Palestinian president - with Jordanian officials generally expecting Greece to play a positive role when it takes over the rotating UN Security Council monthly presidency on September 1.
Asked about the role Greece intends to play when it takes over the presidency, Bakoyannis said that Greece offered its good services and tried to promote ideas that support peace and cooperation in the region.
On her arrival in Tel Aviv early on Thursday afternoon, where she will end her Middle East tour, Bakoyannis met Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz and Jerusalem Patriarch Theophilos, while she is scheduled to attend a reception given in her honour by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres on Thursday night.
Caption: Greek FM Dora Bakoyannis speaks to reporters immediately after her meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, in Amman, Jordan on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006. ANA-MPA photo / A. Doukas.
 PASOK leader reiterates criticism of governmentMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Thursday reiterated a scathing criticism on the government delivered the preceding day, addressing a meeting of his party's Political Council, which the government spokesman later rejected, accusing Papandreou of slinging insults which, he warned, were like quicksand, in which "the more you move around, the more you sink".
Opening the Political Council meeting, Papandreou repeated criticism of the government he voiced on Wednesday during a meeting of the coordinators of his party's parliamentary group, accusing the government of a "summer raid with taxes and price increases".
He called the government a "hazard to the citizens' income".
Papandreou said the citizens were facing a reduction of their buying power, unprececedented high prices and overborrowing from banks, opining that "anything the government gives, it has already taken back multifold with its economic policy".
He said the government was characterised by "total insensitivity, social analgesia and incompetence in management".
The PASOK leader further accused the government of being incapable of protecting the natural environment, and the ministers of not shouldering their responsibilities, while personally criticisng prime minister Costas Karamanlis of "hiding every time he faces difficulties", as in the current spate of destructive forest fires.
He said PASOK was formulating its own proposal for development with a just distribution of the wealth, adding that "every day we are winning the confidence of the citizens, in order to confront the consequences of ND's policy, and for our victorious course in the electoral battles and to pave a new path, as the country can do and deserves the best".
Later, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that "Mr. Papandreou reiterated yesterday's insults", adding that "the insults resemble quicksand: the more you move around, the more you sink".
 PM briefed by FinMin on econ policy, deficit dipsPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday conferred with Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on the government's economic policy for 2007 and the drafting of the new budget for the coming year.
After the meeting, Alogoskoufis told reporters that the "messages" on the course of the economy were generally positive, as the employment rate was falling, while the growth rate was above the government economic staff's forecasts despite the adverse international situation created by the high oil prices.
Alogoskoufis said that the government's intention was not to spring surprises but to fulfill the expectations that have been already created.
Meanwhile, in a related development, the economy ministry on Thursday announced that Greece's budget deficit fell by 28.3 pct to 5.826 billion euros in the first seven months of 2006, from 8.131 billion euros in the same period last year.
The ministry, in a report, said the state budget showed significant improvement in the seven-month period from January to July, compared with the corresponding period last year, and was moving within set budget targets for the year.
Regular budget spending was up 2.9 pct in the first seven months, down from a budget target of a 4.4 pct growth for the year, while primary spending rose 6.5 percent in the same period.
Net revenues, excluding tax returns, were up 10.6 pct, slightly above a budget target of 10.3 pct for the year, while spending in a Public Investments Programme rose 12.3 pct to 3.246 billion euros and proceeds jumped 83.6 pct to 2.251 billion euros over the same period.
ANA-MPA file photo of Karamanlis.
 Alavanos meets Palestinian envoy to AthensCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos on Thursday continued his recent meetings with ambassadors and envoys from the Middle East, sans Israel, by meeting with Palestinian Authority envoy Samir Abou Ghazale. In statements afterwards, Alavanos said his party will begin collecting signatures of Greek Parliament MPs for the release of Palestinian house speaker from an Israeli jail.
Synaspismos fields six MPs in the 300-deputy legislature.
Additionally, he reiterated his small, leftist party's stance regarding Greek initiatives for an overall solution for the Middle East problem, namely, a solution based on an independent Palestinian state, withdrawal of Israeli forces to the pre-1967 border and recognition of the state of Israel's right to exist in peace and security.
On his part, the Palestinian envoy noted that the next three months will be crucial for the region.
(ANA-MPA file photo of Synaspismos leader Alekos Alavanos)
 Chalkidiki fire containedAn immense forest fire raging in the Kassandra leg of Chalkidiki prefecture since Monday afternoon had been contained Thursday morning to an inaccessible forested area near the village of Kassandrino, but posed no threat to people or buildings, firefighters told ANA-MPA.
The fire, blazing into its fourth day, has burned more than 50,000 stremma (13,000 acres) of virgin fir and pine forest and olive groves, as well as tens of homes, tourism infrastructure, livestock and agricultural installations and machinery.
Four canadair firefighting planes and a helicopter resumed efforts at dawn to extinguish the fire, which was now contained mainly in ravines, making the land forces' work more difficult. At the peak of the blaze on Tuesday, the fire had extended over a 30 kilometer front.
The situation has improved significantly as of Thursday morning in relation to the preceding days, as high winds that had reached a near-storm velocity of 6-7 beaufort have diminished, and firefighters succeeded in containing the blaze to the thickly forested mountain expanse at Kassandrino, from Mola Kalyva to Aghia Paraskevi.
"The situation is fully under control," Fire Brigade chief A. Kois told ANA-MPA on Thursday, "but there are many (minor) fronts in this difficult-to-access area, which are at risk of being rekindled at a moment's notice, consequently the firefighting forces will remain there for several more days".
Meanwhile, life in the fire-stricken southeastern part of Kassandra was returning to normal, following the restoration of electricity and water supply, and a large majority of the local and foreign visitors have decided to carry on with their vacations there, while Macedonia-Thrace minister George Kalantzis -- who was on the fire front throughout the night at the peak of the blaze to assist in coordination of the firefighting operations -- said in an announcement on Thursday that new groups of tourists from abroad were expected to arrive in Kassandra in the next few days.
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