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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-08-27
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Karamanlis briefed on FM's Mideast visit, EU meeting on Lebanon crisisPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed by Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Saturday over her four-day Mideast tour earlier in the week as well as Friday's emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers on the crisis in Lebanon, where the bloc decided to contribute a contingent of 6,500-7,000 peacekeepers to an expanded UN-led international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
She further briefed Karamanlis on Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Greece next week.
Bakoyannis told reporters after the meeting that the message sent by the EU was clear, as it decided to send a European Union contingent in response to the call by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who also attended the EU foreign ministers' general council meeting, adding that such a force would give a sense of security to both the Israeli and Lebanese people.
However, as she stressed, the situation in the Middle East remained difficult.
Bakoyannis, who has called for meetings to brief main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou and representatives of other political parties, ruled out the prospect of increasing Greeceās military participation in the international force, however, she clarified that a Greek naval contribution, together with that of Germany and Denmark, would serve as the ?lever? to lift the maritime blockade of Lebanon.
Bakoyannis said this had been requested by Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and that she had conveyed this to her EU counterparts, while adding that Muslim countries were also expected to deploy forces in Lebanon in addition to EU forces.
Speaking in Brussels after the EU Council of Ministers-General Affairs Council emergency meeting on Friday, Bakoyannis said Europe had responded successfully to the UN Secretary General's call for a peacekeeping force for Lebanon.
"Europe responded with success, I would say, to the call by the Secretary General of the UN for a strengthened peacekeeping force that will go to Lebanon. A request that was made by the government of Lebanon, as well as by the countries in the region that are involved. In all, the forces that are currently provided at European level are about 6,500 men and an additional 2,000 already in place; that means more than 8,000 troops and, of course, the naval and air force assets that will go to the region as soon as possible," she said.
"Greece had stressed from the beginning that the full implementation of resolution 1701 of the UN's Security Council is imperative. This implementation requires the presence of this strengthened force, it also requires, of course, the immediate lifting of the blockade of Lebanon by sea and air. I would like to hope that today's decision, which is a very important step in this peace effort, will have the desired results," Bakoyannis added.
All EU member-states will participate in the peacekeeping force, with the exception of Lithuania and Latvia. Apart from Greece, Germany and Denmark will also send naval vessels to the region.
Lastly, according to Bakoyannis, all the EU countries stressed the need for an initiative for a solution to the Palestinian issue, which will be discussed more extensively at the EU's regularly-scheduled informal Council of Foreign Ministers in Finland on Sept. 1.
Bakoyannis further said, after her meeting with Karamanlis on Saturday, that Greeceās role was important, albeit much smaller in number than that of France, Italy or Spain.
Earlier in the week Athens announced that it would contribute two navy vessels and a SEALs unit to the expanded international peacekeeping force in Lebanon, following a meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) chaired by Karamanlis.
Announcing the decision, Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and Bakoyannis said KYSEA had decided to send one frigate and a helicopter, the commando unit to carry out onboard inspections of vessels and, if necessary, a landing vessel to transport humanitarian aid from Cyprus to Beirut.
The government also said it will consider sending other units in the future but under the strict condition that the situation in the region be normalised. For the time being, Athens completely ruled out sending Greek land forces to the area.
Additionally, Greece will also provide administrative personnel and logistics.
A conference of the countries that will contribute forces to the expanded UNIFIL is scheduled to take place at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday.
Caption: Karamanlis and Bakoyannis. ANA-MPA photo
 Papandreou: Olympic venues abandonedMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou wound up a whirlwind tour of northern Greece over the weekend with his attendance Saturday evening at the annual Prespes Festival, hosted on the tiny island of Aghios Achillios in the eponymous Lesser (Small) Prespa Lake in extreme northwest Greece.
From the islet, Papandreou expressed a wish for a permanent truce and peace in the Middle East.
The PASOK leader and former foreign minister was also honored by the event's organisers for his efforts towards promoting peace around the world.
Meanwhile, on Sunday from the Athens Olympic Complex (OAKA), Papandreou criticised the New Democracy government for failing to exploit, as he said, the legacy and infrastructure left over from the 2004 Olympic Games of Athens.
He made the comment during a meeting with local government officials whose Attica prefecture (Athens-area) municipalities host Olympic facilities.
Among others, he charged that the government is abandoning Olympic facilities or aiming to commercialise them.
Caption: Papandreou makes statements to reporters in front of the Athens Olympic Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2006. ANA-MPA / K. Mavrona.
 Gov't: 80% of 4th CSF funds to provincesInterior and Public Administration Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, speaking from the Prespes lake district and the town of Florina in northwest Greece on Saturday, told reporters that the government aims to allocate 80 percent of the upcoming 4th Community Support Framework (CSF) to the provinces.
Asked about the course of the Regional Operational Programme for the western Macedonia region, Pavlopoulos said that the absorption rate during the second of two Simitis governments (2000-2004) was 19 percent, with 287 projects included, while over the last two and a half years the absorption rate has tripled and reached the 57-percent mark, with 614 projects included.
On Saturday, Pavlopoulos inaugurated the new town hall in the Prespes municipality at the Laimos site.
Caption: A file photo show Pavlopoulos, right, with his well-known French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy during the latter's visit to Athens in late July 2006. ANA-MPA / P. Saitas.
 Patmos designated UNESCO MonumentThe northern Dodecanese island of Patmos, in the eastern Aegean, was officially designated a UNESCO World Heritage Monument during a special ceremony on Sunday.
Events marking the historic moment for Patmos, where St. John the Evangelist authored the New Testament's Book of Revelations, took place at Xanthou square in the island's main community of Chora.
The first Centre of Orthodox Culture and Information in Greece was also officially inaugurated on Sunday to mark the island's designation as a World Heritage Monument by UNESCO.
The centre will be equipped with special audiovisual displays in five languages, a touch screen info-kiosk providing information on Patmos and links to Internet sites with content related to Orthodox culture worldwide.
Caption: A panoramic view of Patmos from the Monastery of Osios Christodoulos. ANA-MPA / V. Vardoulakis.
 Dep. FM in Australia visit this weekGreek Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis, who holds the expatriate Greeks portfolio, begins a 10-day tour of Australia on Monday expected to concentrate on further advancing Greek-language education amongst the large ethnic Greek communities in the island continent.
While in Australia, Kassimis is expected to meet with state ministers, ethnic Greek lawmakers, ecclesiastical leaders and academic leaders.
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