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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-11-15
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Prime Minister Karamanlis confers with rural development and foods ministerPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis conferred on Wednesday with Rural Development and Foods Minister Alexandros Kontos at the Maximos Mansion government headquarters in Athens.
The minister told reporters after the meeting that he briefed the prime minister on agricultural sector issues, focusing on the completion of the study for the reconstruction and rural development of regions devastated by the wildfires this past summer.
The study was prepared by 150 experts, supervised by Thessalonikiās Aristotle University and the Agricultural University of Athens, and also includes recommendations for budgeted cost actions on all agricultural activities in all the fire-ravaged prefectures.
The rural development minister also stressed that the study will be a tool in the effort to support rural development in the prefectures that suffered the most damages by the recent fires, adding that consultations for its implementation will get underway immediately with local government authorities.
Kontos also referred to the decision by deputy rural development minister Costas Kiltidis on the resumption of the hunting season, stating that this practice is allowed only in regions that were not burned.
Kiltidis last month announced an immediate ban on hunting in all forests surrounding burnt areas, also instructing regional authorities to declare all burnt forest land reserved for reforestation and ordering the immediate creation of tree nurseries to provide seedlings for reforestation projects.
The prime minister is also scheduled to meet with Culture Minister Michalis Liapis.
 FM meets with French counterpart in ParisParis (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira) -- Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday attended a dinner in her honour hosted by her French counterpart Bernard Kouchner in Paris.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Kouchner expressed particular pleasure over the meeting "with my good friend, Dora", adding that this expression was not a "diplomatic courtesy" but "reality".
Kouchner said they discussed Greek-French friendship during the dinner, as well as other issues, such as that of FYROM.
"We support our Greek friends," he said, and expressed that the latest Greek initiative on the FYROM issue "is one step forward, and an additional reason for backing the Greek position.
Other issues discussed included Kosovo, Iran and Lebanon, from where Kouchner had just returned.
Bakoyannis, in turn, said that it had been a particularly interesting dinner and discussion on a number of issues.
She said that Greece and France had very close views on many issues, and a very close cooperation.
Bakoyannis further expressed gratitude to France for the assistance it provided in the difficult moments this past summer during the devastating wildfires that ravaged several parts of the country.
Earlier, Bakoyannis was the official guest of French Farm and Fisheries Minister Michel Barnier at an event he organised on Wednesday on the theme of "Europe and its borders." A group of deputies of the ruling UMP party participated in the event.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis.
 Burns: Greece a 'crucial strategic ally' of the USWashington (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis) -- US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns called Greece a "strategic ally" of the United States, and outlined the common values and historical bonds between the two countries, while also lauding the role of the Greek American community, during a hearing on "US-Greece Relations and Regional Issues" in the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee's subcommittee on Europe in the US Congress on Wednesday.
Burns, a former US ambassador to Greece and the number three man in the US State Department, referred also to the FYROM name issue and US-Greece cooperation on such matters as nuclear arms non-proliferation, trafficking in persons, and environmental protection, with a special reference to the recent devastating wildfires in Greece and in the state of California.
On Kosovo, Burns said that the US was working towards a definitive settlement of the final status of the region, and backed the Ahtisaari plan, which he said provides for supervised independence for Kosovo, adding that in the event that an agreement was not achieved in the next two rounds of negotiations, which end on December 10, the US and other countries would not back further continuation of the talks and would "take their decisions" on the matter.
He also noted the progress in the procedures for including Greece in the US's visa waiver programme, stressing that the relations between the two countries were the best they have been in decades. "We have excellent relations with the prime minister Mr. (Costas) Karamanlis and the foreign minister Ms. (Dora) Bakoyannis, and we are grateful to both for their strong support for a closer US-Greek alliance," he said.
Burns added that the two countries were working together to promote peace and stability in Greece's neighbourhood, as well as in the wider Middle East "and beyond".
"We know that we can count on our Greek friends and allies, we know that we can face these challenges and that Greece can rely on us," he added.
Replying to questions by members of the subcommittee, Burns said that Greece was a "crucial strategic ally, with which the US fought together in all the major wars of the 20th century".
"Greece is a partner of the US in the front against global terrorism and contributes to the NATO effort in Afghanistan", while "it is also a key country, with strategic importance and deep knowledge of the developments in the Balkans, and a main investor" in Albania, FYROM and Serbia.
To a question on terrorism, Burns said that this was one of the issues that had been of concern in Greek-American relations. He stressed that Greece's efforts had produced a "dramatic improvement", referring the Greek authorities' disbanding of the 'November 17' and 'ELA' terrorist groups which, he noted, had killed members of the US (diplomatic) mission, while most of the victims of those organisations had been Greek citizens, among them the husband of the current foreign minister Bakoyannis (then ruling New Democracy party MP Pavlos Bakoyannis).
The two countries, he continued, are partners in Afghanistan, adding, however, that Greece should examine the prospect of stepping up the efforts in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan against the Taliban, with additional forces.
On the Cyprus issue, Burns reaffirmed that the US supported the efforts of the UN for a solution of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
On FYROM, Burns said that it should not be "refused an invitation for NATO membership on any grounds save that of failure to fulfill the fundamental entry criteria".
He said that certain quarters in Greece were raising the prospect of a veto regarding an invitation to 'Macedonia' if the name issue is not resolved.
"Although the US agrees on the importance of resolving the name issue, it does not believe that only the difference over the name constitutes a reason for obstructing 'Macedonia's' accession to international organisations," he said, adding that the US supports the UN-brokered process under the UN secretary general's special mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz, and implementation of the 1995 Interim Agreement between the two countries which he said allowed 'Macedonia's' membership in regional and international organisations with the name of FYROM.
Burns also called on Skopje to display the necessary flexibility, noting Greece's sensitivities, which he said FYROM should take into consideration.
He further referred to what he called the "visionary policy" of Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis regarding Greek-Turkish relations, noting that there was no need for any US mediation between Athens and Ankara whatsoever, since relations between the two countries were steadily improving.
Burns also expressed his support for the re-opening of the Halki School of Theology and the need forf the Ecumenical Patriarch to freely exercise his duties, noting that the US governments of George Bush and his predecessor Bill Clinton have repeatedly called on the Turkish governments in recent years in that respect.
Caption: EPA file photo of US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and former US ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns.
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