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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-06-24
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Inner cabinet focuses on health issuesAn inner cabinet meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, focused on health ministry issues.
After the meeting, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos stated that a draft law banning the sale of tobacco products and alcohol to minors and outlawing smoking in all public spaces, beginning in 2010, will soon be tabled in Parliament.
Avramopoulos also said that another issue under discussion was the establishment of an international transplant centre in Athens and Thessaloniki.
Upgrades to the National Organization for Medicines (EOF) and the National Blood Donation Center were also discussed, while a tender concerning a molecular blood testing centre is close to approval by the Audit Council, he said.
 PASOK leader to hold press conference ThursdayThe main opposition PASOK party's Political Council will be convening at 10 a.m. on Thursday and at 13:30 party leader George Papandreou will be giving an across-the-board press conference at the Zappeion Hall while specific reference will be made to the Socialist International's (SI) meeting in Athens next week. The press conference will also be attended by Socialist International Secretary General Luis Ayala.
Asked whether any initiative by Papandreou will be presented on the "renewal of the country's political system", PASOK's spokesman George Papaconstantinou said that "the president of PASOK has made specific proposals since 2004, while last week he had made statements from which his clear intention to forge ahead without making exceptions for anyone is deduced. There must be no doubt that this intention will also be reflected in specific initiatives."
Referring to the Siemens issue as well, the spokesman said that "the Siemens issue is being shaped on a daily basis with selective rumours and leaks. We have a parody of a process and the collapse of the prestige of justice," while calling on the government "to safeguard the prestige of the judicial process and the prestige of institutions, democracy and the political world" and adding that "it must accept now the Factfinding Committee that PASOK has requested repeatedly."
Referring, lastly, to the Poverty Fund, Papaconstantinou said "the government is exposed because since January when it had announced the Fund against Poverty until September, when it will supposedly be activated, it has done absolutely nothing" and added that "whatever money will be given by the Fund against Poverty is already being owed by the government and, unfortunately, the problem of high prices and of unaccountability in the market cannot be solved with aspirins, nor that of direct and indirect taxation."
 Boosting Sino-Greek tiesFurther enhancement of economic relations between Greece and China was the main thrust of talks on Tuesday, the second day of Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias' state visit to China.
Papoulias began on Monday afternoon an official visit to China designed to strengthen bilateral relations in the financial and investment sectors, and a memorandum of bilateral cooperation was signed after a meeting between Papoulias and his host, Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The Greek President also attended the closing session of the Greek Chinese Business Forum at a central Beijing hotel on Tuesday.
According to Chinese media reports, Hu proposed to Papoulias a four-point plan for strengthening bilateral relations, founded on frequent contact between the leaders of the two countries and cooperation between their governments, as well as mutual understanding and agreement on matters of common interest.
President Hu proposed that emphasis be placed on collaborations among small and medium size enterprises of the two countries, and boosting commercial transactions and bilateral economic cooperation, particularly in the sector of investments and in the shipbuilding industry.
Hu further called for increased cultural exchanges, and proposed that Greece take part, as the Country of Honor, in the Beijing International Book Fair (in September 2008), while he also invited Greece to maintain communication and cooperation with China on international issues such as climate change, environmental protection and sustainable development.
Greek deputy foreign minister Petros Doukas, who is accompanying Papoulias on his China trip. spoke along the same lines in his address to the Business Forum, at which he highlighted the Greek economy's progress and its growth rates, citing the economic reforms, and stressing the need to increase Chinese investments in Greece and widening the bilateral trade balance, and closing the gap which is at Greece's expense,
Doukas further noted that Papoulias' visit to China will contribute to the two countries getting to better know each other and further strengthen their already excellent relations.
He said the visit was also an affirmation of the impressive potential of those relations and of the bilateral cooperation in recent years, the landmark of which was Greek prime minister Karamanlis' visit to Beijing in January 2006 and the signing of a joint declaration of a comprehensive strategic partnership between Greece and China.
Turning to the global economic crisis and skyrocketing prices of raw materials, fuels and foods, he said these were phenomena that were putting social cohesion to the test in all countries, as they particularly impacted the socially weaker strata.
Doukas noted the burning problems resulting from the petrol crisis, and the repercussions arising from climate change, and stressed the need for cooperation among everyone to face them.
The deputy minister further recalled that Greece has proposed, at international organisations, the design and materialisation of a mass tree planting program of at least 50 billion trees by the year 2009.
Inviting more Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in Greece, Doukas outlined Greece's advantages as the only Balkan and SE Europe country that was a member of the EU, NATO and the EU's European Monetary Union (EMU), stressing that "we want you to feel Greece as your own country as regards closer cooperation with the EU", and consider it a country that can serve as the springboard for China's expansion to the wider region of Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.
He underlined that that Greece boasts a strong business presence in the Balkans, while it was also an energy hub, noting the oil and natural gas pipelines in which Greece was a partner, as well as the country's infrastructures and ports.
Doukas also highlighted the investment opportunities on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), adding that Athens encouraged Chinese investments in the Greek ports: "We are pleased with Cosco's designation as temporary preferred bidder for the management of the container terminal at the port of Piraeus, adding that significant prospects for Greek-Chinese cooperation were opening up in the fields of alternative forms of energy and high technology.
Earlier on Tuesday morning (Beijing time), Papoulias laid a wreath at the Monument to the People's Heroes in the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen) Square, followed by a tour of the Olympic installations that will host the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Papoulias was the first foreign leader to be given a tour of the impressive installations, which are nearing completion.
Greek employment minister Fani Palli-Petralia, who is also accompanying Papoulias, also addressed the Business Forum and recalled her cooperation with the Chinese side for the Athens 2004 Olympics, whose portfolio as minister of culture at the time also included the Athens Olympics, and the memorandum of cooperation she signed for the transport of the Olympic Flame to Beijing and for transfer of know-how.
"After the 2004 Games, we built an Olympics bridge, the first bridge between our two countries, which has become a very solid one," Petralia said.
She also recalled that, as minister of tourism in the past, she had agreed with Beijing for an increase in Chinese tourists to Greece, noting that although Greece and China, as countries, differed in size, they were nevertheless "sister countries".
Petralia further expressed certainty that the Beijing Olympiad would be unique, and would mark a new beginning for China and afford it the opportunity to open up a window to the world that would enable it to show the soul of every Chinese citizen.
"We raised the standard very high and organised a dream Olympiad in 2004," Petralia said, and wished to the Chinese to outdo the Athens Olympics.
On Tuesday afternoon, President Papoulias is scheduled to meet separately with Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao and chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC, China's unicameral legislative house, or parliament) Wu Bangguo, while in the evening he will inaugurate an exhibition of paintings by Mina Papatheodorou-Valyraki titled "Body and Mind", in the framework of the Cultural Year of Greece in China (September 2007-September 2008).
Papoulias is due to depart for Shanghai on Wednesday.
Caption: President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias (L) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (R) in Beijing on Monday 23 June 2008. ANA-MPA/NIKOS ARVANITIDIS
 Bakoyannis, Rice meeting in BerlinGreek Foreign Minister Dora Bakaoyannis held talks "in a very friendly atmosphere," as she said, with her U.S. counterpart Condoleezza Rice in Berlin on Tuesday, focusing on the course of negotiations on the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the issue of Cyprus, Greek-Turkish relations and the so-called "Visa Waiver," the exemption of Greek citizens from the process of entry visas to the United States.
The talks were held on the sidelines of an International Donors Conference on boosting law and order in the Palestinian territory that took place in Berlin.
Briefing Greek reporters after her meeting with Rice, Bakoyannis clarified that on the name issue there is no ground for resolving the problem by July 9 and that such an issue was not even raised by the American side.
The character of the discussion in this respect was an "informative" one, the minister also said in light of the arrival of special envoy Matthew Nimetz in Athens on Thursday and afterwards in FYROM.
"I expressed the hope that these negotiations will have an auspicious conclusion, also hoping that the side of FYROM will also abandon pre-election rhetoric and will enter the essence of the negotiations," Bakoyannis said.
Replying to a question on what was Rice's contribution during the discussion, the minister said that "Mrs. Rice is well aware of the issue of the name (of FYROM) and of the Cyprus issue, which we also discussed... She is well aware of the issues, she has involved herself a great deal and, as you know, she is an experienced minister who is also aware of the essence of the problems."
Bakoyannis, who has already departed for Athens, concluded by saying that "the discussion was sincere and, as you know, Greek-American relations are good and are based on strong foundations."
Caption: Greek FM Dora Bakoyannis (R) with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Berlin on Tuesday, June 24, 2008. ANA-MPA / A. DOUKAS.
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