|Sunday, 19 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-02-14
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 14, 2001
 FM Papandreou says Greece to take initiatives for coordinated European policy towards Arab countries
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou, speaking at a luncheon given in his honor by the Hellenic-Arab Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, said Greece intends to take initiatives which will heighten during Greece's European Union presidency, in the first half of 2003, to enable the shaping of a coordinated European policy towards Arab countries.
The meeting focused on "The building of bridges between Europe and the Arab World in the 21st century."
Papandreou said it is time for Europe to turn its attention to Arab countries, from eastern Europe on which it has been focusing its attention over the past decade.
He also said that all existing political means should be exhausted for a solution to the Palestinian issue, adding that Greece will take initiatives to enable the peace process to return into orbit.
Papandreou said Greece will try to activate and implement UN resolutions and contribute to the creation of a free and democratic Palestinian state.
Referring to economic cooperation between the Arab world and Greece (and Europe in general), Papandreou said institutions will be activated, such as the European Investment Bank, and a contribution will be made to the transfer of know-how, management and networks - transport, telecommunications and energy - for these countries' development course.
Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, who also attended the event, referred to economic and commercial relations, saying that the top priority for the European market is the energy sector - electricity, natural gas and oil - and the linking of transport, telecommunications and energy networks between Arab countries and the EU, through Greece, will be a dominant factor in commercial relations in coming years.
Tsohatzopoulos further said that "we aim at having trade and development becoming the means of bringing our peoples closer" and, referring to sectors of successful cooperation between Greece and the Arab world, spoke primarily of the energy market.
He said energy markets are becoming a top priority issue, adding that electricity, natural gas and oil are a linking element between Arab countries and the EU.
Palestinian Ambassador to Greece Abdallah Abdallah expressed concern over the fate of his people and called on the EU to adopt a bold stance, recognizing the Palestinian state to offset American and Israeli policy.
The Palestinian ambassador expressed satisfaction over the decision taken at the EU's informal council of ministers in Spain on February 9-10 that political measures are also necessary, apart from security ones, to get the peace process underway, adding that one of these measures is recognition of the Palestinian state.
Addressing Papandreou, Abdallah said that Arafat received Greece's letter for an Olympic Truce and stressed that he appreciates the Greek government's efforts to contribute to the region's security and stability.
 Greek, Turkish FMs support Romanian, Bulgarian NATO entry
ISTANBUL 14/02/2002 (ANA - D. Konstantakopoulos)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem, who participated in a quadripartite meeting with their Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts, expressed support on Wednesday for Romania and Bulgaria's NATO membership request, with their contemporaneous invitation to the alliance's summit in Prague at the end of the year.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of the joint forum between the Islamic Conference Organization and the European Union being held here.
"The initiative for us to support the candidacy of Bulgaria and Romania for NATO accession, undertaken today, will contribute to stability in the wider region," Papandreou said after the meeting.
Papandreou further said that "a different scene is being created for the alliance in the Balkans", adding that "the participation of Bulgaria and Romania can provide a new perspective for the Balkan peninsula."
"Bulgaria and Romania are neighboring and friendly countries. We have cooperated closely and we believe that their voice will be substantive and will contribute to the voice of the Balkans being heard wider in this Atlantic alliance," Papandreou said and also announced that the next meeting between the "4" will take place in Athens.
In a statement to the press, the four ministers said, among others, that "the enlargement of NATO constitutes a historic opportunity for the alliance to strengthen Euro-Atlantic security and stability."
 PM, President discuss domestic, foreign policy issues
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Simitis and President Costis Stephanopoulos on Wednesday discussed the entire range of problems relating to domestic and foreign policy, during a one-hour meeting.
Before the meeting, Simitis said that during the latest meeting of EU economy and finance ministers (ECOFIN) it was confirmed that Greece had successfully faced the introduction of the euro currency, and added that the revised program for the Greek economy had been approved.
He told reporters after the meeting that he and the President had discussed, as at all their regular informational discussions, the developments in foreign and domestic policy, progress in matters concerning the economy, and "the various issues under discussion today in Greek society".
The premier said that his government was dealing decisively with the major issues and problems of the Greek people.
On external policy, Simitis referred to the talks between Cyprus president Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, which he said were progressing "but it is still open at this moment whether there is truly some positive development or not".
He said that Greece, Cyprus, and all sides interested in Cyprus joining the European Union and the island republic's political problem being solved "must show that they firmly seek the implementation of the UN resolutions and International Law".
 Protopapas advises 'cautious optimism' over Greek-Turkish relations
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Government spokesman Christos Protopapas recommended 'cautious optimism' over the prospect of progress in Greek-Turkish relations on Wednesday, in response to questions.
Regarding Tuesday's meeting between Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem in Istanbul, Protopapas said the Greek side wanted to look into the whether it was possible for dialogue to proceed on the basis of international law, international treaties and Europe's acquis communautaire.
Underlining that this process was purely exploratory, Protopapas stressed that Greece always sought good neighborly relations "without this meaning giving up its sovereign rights".
Commenting on Greek-Turkish relations from Istanbul, meanwhile, Papandreou said that the two sides were "proceeding step by step in a calm fashion."
"We are working on our bilateral relations in order to build a strong foundation. It is better to move slowly and steadily rather than go fast and not arrive where we want to go," he said.
 Greek FM says Cyprus solution should comply with UN resolutions
ISTANBUL 14/02/2002 (CNA/ANA)The solution of the Cyprus question has to be in line not only with UN resolutions but it also has to comply with the European Union acquis communautaire, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou has said, noting that EU enlargement might be delayed because candidate countries are entering into difficult issues even though at present there are no plans to have enlargement postponed.
The minister expressed hope that the Cyprus peace talks will continue and will conclude with an agreement, adding that this period of time probably offers the best possible opportunity for a settlement.
Papandreou said Turkey is confronted with a dilemma, to either help solve the Cyprus problem and have Cyprus join the EU or see Cyprus an EU member without a solution.
The Greek foreign minister discussed the Cyprus problem with his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem and Cyprus' Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides. The Cyprus question was also on the agenda of a meeting between Cem and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Speaking to the press, on the sidelines of the EU-Organization of the Islamic Conference joint forum which concludes today, Papandreou said "the EU has a crystal clear position on the issue of Cyprus in relation to the solution, which should be consistent with UN resolutions and comply with EU acquis communautaire."
Kasoulides briefed Papandreou about developments in the Cyprus peace effort and the Greek minister informed Kasoulides about his contacts in the US.
The two ministers also talked about developments in Cyprus, the EU foreign security and defense policy, Greek-Turkish dialogue on high political level issues and Cyprus' accession course, issues that reinforce each other but are not a package in themselves.
Papandreou said during his contacts in the US, American engagement in Cyprus was reiterated and on the part of the UN it was made clear that the UN continues to be committed to the peace effort and Kofi Annan, he said, appeared ready to contribute personally at the appropriate time towards a resolution of the problem.
Asked about EU enlargement prospects, the minister said at present there are no indications that enlargement could be postponed but did not rule out such possibility because candidate countries are entering negotiations on difficult issues and this might delay the enlargement process.
Asked about a letter Cem sent to the EU with regard to Cyprus, Papandreou said this matter concerns Brussels and Turkey and not Cyprus, stressing that the EU has already positioned itself on how it views its negotiations with Cyprus.
Political commentators believe that Cem's letter might have been sent for domestic consumption purposes or possibly as a warning to the EU about the firm Turkish positions on Cyprus (demanding the creation of two states), a position the EU dismisses, saying that a solution may not be found. Referring to Greco-Turkish dialogue, Papandreou said there will be consultations between senior officials from the two foreign ministries to examine and determine the framework of this dialogue.
 Greece, Turkey sign memorandum of understanding
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Greece and Turkey on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding in Athens, in the culmination of the first meeting of the Greek-Turkish Interministerial Economic Cooperation Committee.
The memorandum was signed by Greek deputy foreign minister Andreas Loverdos and Turkish deputy minister for external trade Kursad Tuzmen, who headed their countries' delegations to the meeting, which opened in Athens on Tuesday.
After the meeting, both sides said the target was for bilateral economic exchanges to reach 5 billion dollars from the current one billion dollars in the next few years.
They further appeared optimistic that an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation of revenues would soon be forthcoming.
The Committee will meet again in the next few months, most likely in Istanbul, to discuss cooperation in the fields of commerce, energy, industry, agriculture, transports and tourism.
 US ambassador on terrorism, Cyprus issue
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Terrorism and prospects for a solution to the long-standing Cyprus question dominated questions on Wednesday at a press luncheon hosted in honor of US ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller, his first such wide-ranging meeting with local correspondents and reporters since officially assuming the diplomatic post last October.
Miller again repeated that the notion of ‘pressure’ does not exist in his relations with the Greek government, instead saying that the word ‘cooperation’ reigns. “No two nations in the world agree on everything,” the US envoy said, shortly after praising economic growth in the eastern Mediterranean nation, Greek-US cooperation in the international anti-terrorism campaign as well as both countries’ converging policies vis-a-vis Balkan developments.
Regarding terrorism, an issue that has skyrocketed to the fore-front of Washington’s foreign policy priorities following Sept. 11, Miller said -- in response to a question dealing with a notorious urban terrorist cell in Greece -- that the “only outcome” on the horizon is “arrests and prosecutions”.
“I’m not going to get into what will happen ‘if not’. We’re not dealing in hypothetical situations, ‘what if,’ ‘what if’. It’s not just Greece. It’s the entire world,” the US ambassador said, before citing what he called the tremendous security plainly evident at the ongoing Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
His statement followed a question over Washington’s position in case Greek authorities failed to apprehend members of the elusive “November 17” terrorist group, blamed for more than a score of assassinations in Greece, including US diplomats, over the past 26 years.
Moreover, asked if Washington was holding the Greek government “hostage” because of the terrorism issue, he clarified that certain allegations regarding terrorism in Greece have been made over the years by individuals that “speak for themselves, not the US government … look to the (official) representative or representatives, we represent the United States”.
Among others, he stressed the matter has turned into an “industry … of speculation”, while referring to retired diplomats, and current “private American citizens”, that haven’t dealt with the subject for more than a decade. Conversely, Miller sidestepped a question over whether “concrete evidence” exists for specific suspects.
“It’s not helpful to talk about progress, a lack of progress, of efforts to find suspects … It’s not smart to talk about progress until the case is finished,” he said.
Finally, Miller mentioned two factors in successfully eradicating the urban terrorist cell in Greece, namely, catching its leadership and aiming for a “well-prepared case for the successful prosecution in a court of law”.
Asked about his opinion of security cooperation for the upcoming 2004 Olympics in Athens, Miller said the US is attempting to act in an advisory capacity.
“Our role is basically advisory, these are Greece’s Games, and our role is to be helpful in an advisory capacity,” he said.
Cyprus : In terms of the recently restarted talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders – Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and T/C leader Rauf Denktash -- on the divided island republic, the former US special coordinator for the Cyprus problem cautioned that only a “fool or a total optimist could predict an outcome.”
However, he said a resumption of regular meetings, the two leaders’ unmatched experience and a current news ‘blackout’ is proving both helpful and useful.
In more-or-less echoing past statements by US officials, including his predecessor in Athens, Miller warned against aiming for a ‘zero-sum’ solution to the 28-year-old Cyprus problem, adding that chances for achieving the latter “were greatly reduced”.
The luncheon was organized the by Athens-based Foreign Press Association (FPA) of Greece at a downtown hotel in the Greek capital.
Miller was confirmed as the new ambassador in Athens by the US Senate last August and sworn in a month later. He served as the US ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1999 until 2001 and before that was Special Coordinator for Cyprus from August 1997. From 1994 to 1997 he held the position of deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Athens.
 Cypriot Democratic Party leader visits President and PM
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Visiting Cypriot Democratic Party (DHKO) leader Tassos Papadopoulos held consecutive meetings with President Kostis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Giannitsis on Wednesday, discussing developments on the issue of Cyprus and the island republic's accession course towards the European Union.
Giannitsis said in a statement that Cyprus's accession negotiations are expected to be completed by the end of the year and the signing of the 10 new member-states' accession will take place during the EU's Greek presidency in the first half of 2003.
On his part, Papadopoulos underlined that a substantive effort is taking place to solve the political problem and expressed the hope that this sincere effort will be realized by the European and international community.
Cyprus' DHKO leader reports 'coincidence of views' with PM: Emerging from a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Wednesday, visiting Cypriot politician Tassos Papadopoulos noted the meeting had shown a 'significant coincidence of views on foreign policy issues."
The head of Cyprus DHKO party said they had also discussed issues related to Cyprus EU accession prospects and the talks currently taking place with the Turkish-Cypriot side for a solution to the Cyprus problem.
The official Cyprus government, he added, was participating in the bi-communal dialogue with sincerity and seriousness.
"We hope the other side does the same," he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Papadopoulos met with Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Giannitsis at 13:30 pm, while on Wednesday evening he will be received by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.
 ND leader Karamanlis meets Cyprus defense minister Hasikos
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday met in Athens on Wednesday with Cyprus Defense Minister Socratis Hasikos and discussed the course of the direct talks on Cyprus between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, Cyprus' EU accession course, Greek-Turkish relations and issues of defense cooperation.
Attending the meeting were ND deputy Dora Bakoyianni and other party cadres.
On Thursday, Hasikos will give a lecture at the School of National Defense.
On Friday, he will attend an official ceremony where the new Chief of National Defense General Staff will assume office.
The Cypriot Defense minister will have a meeting with his Greek counterpart Yiannos Papantoniou, who will also attend the ceremony.
He is due to return to Cyprus on Friday evening.
 Poll shows Cypriots pessimistic over inter-communal dialogue
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Greek Cypriots do not appear very optimistic over a solution to the island republic's political problem in a opinion poll, conducted by MWGALCO-SRI with a sample of 400 Cypriots last week, and presented on Greek state television on Wednesday.
Specifically, 48 per cent of those asked said they were rather pessimistic over the outcome of President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash meetings and another 20 per cent declared themselves pessimistic, while the refugees from the northern occupied part of the island republic, as a subgroup of the poll, seemed more optimistic with 38 per cent compared to 28 per cent of the rest of respondents.
The poll also showed that 38 per cent of those asked said that the contacts between the two communities should rather intensify, 33 per cent answered "certainly yes" while another 17 per cent said "rather not".
 Greek minister tours multinational brigade's base in Plovdiv
SOFIA 14/02/2002 (ANA - B. Borisov)Greece’s defense minister on Wednesday toured the Plovdiv headquarters of a recently established multinational brigade comprised of forces from various SE European countries, during the second and final day of his official visit to Greece’s northeastern neighbor of Bulgaria.
At the headquarters, Minister Yiannos Papantoniou was escorted and briefed on its mission by the brigade’s Greek commander, Brig. Gen. Andreas Kouzelis.
On Tuesday, the Greek minister met with Bulgaria’s top leadership, while he held extensive talks with his counterpart.
 Public Order minister to attend EU meeting in Spain
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis is to depart on Wednesday evening for Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where he will attend an informal meeting of EU justice and interior ministers.
The meeting will focus on ways of clamping down on illegal immigration and the growing trade in smuggling human beings and other issues related to control of the borders, Europol etc.
 Israeli parliament president to arrive in Greece on two-day visit
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Israeli Parliament President Avraham Burg will arrive in Athens on Thursday for a two-day official visit, during which he will be meeting Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Greek Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, an Israeli Embassy press release said.
The Israeli Parliament (Knesset) Vice-President Nawaf Mazalha, who is of Arab origin, will be accompanying Burg on this visit to Greece.
The two men will also participate in the 3rd Euro-Mediterranean Conference for Presidents of Parliaments, being held in Athens under the auspices of Kaklamanis.
 Protopapas to discuss media bill with ESHEA, POESY
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)A meeting with the Athens journalists' union ESHEA has been arranged for Thursday evening to discuss a imminent government bill for the mass media sector.
Government spokesman Christos Protopapas, also press and media minister, told reporters on Wednesday that the meeting would follow discussion of the bill regulating media ownership and state-sector transaction incompatibility in the cabinet.
On Friday, meanwhile, Protopapas is scheduled to discuss the bill with the nationwide journalists' union federation POESY.
 ND leader attacks gov't, in regards to public sector corruption
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday attacked the government, accusing it of a lackluster performance in combating corruption in the public sector.
Speaking at the ND political council, Karamanlis said that "the premier (Costas Simitis) showed interest late for this issue, but he is at fault, since he always in the past said that everything works right and within the bounds of the institutions, while criticizing ND for pointing out the issue. Now he (Simitis) comes to reveal the truth".
Karamanlis blamed "partisanship", lack of punishment and indifference as the basis of the problem.
 ND denies final decision for Athens candidate
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy on Wednesday denied that there was any phone conversation or even a recent meeting between ND leader and high-ranking deputy Dora Bakoyianni regarding a possible run for Athens’ town hall by the latter.
The issue, and Wednesday’s subsequent denial, comes on the heels of Monday’s announcement by ruling PASOK that former EU Commissioner Christos Papoutsis will be its candidate for Greece’s largest municipality in the upcoming local government elections.
Although Bakoyianni, a former ND minister and the daughter of ex-prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis, has been repeatedly mentioned as the main opposition-backed candidate for Athens, no official announcement has been forthcoming.
Papoutsis, meanwhile, has received PASOK’s nod and accompanying praise by most of the party’s top leadership, including Premier and PASOK president Costas Simitis.
On Wednesday, ND spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos told re-porters that the last time Karamanlis and Bakoyianni spoke about the issue was before Christmas.
Other reports claim that Bakoyianni has made her decision over the issue, and that Karamanlis is aware of that decision.
However, Roussopoulos reminded that PASOK had announced its candidates for Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki during the previous 1998 elections at the same time in the year, whereas ND made its announcements in May prior to the elections.
 UNIC event focuses on Afghanistan
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)War-torn Afghanistan from 1988 to the “milestone year” of 2001 was the focus an event in downtown Athens on Wednesday, complete with a screening of several UN-produced shorts detailing the suffering and challenges facing the Central Asian country following the Soviet evacuation up until the collapse of the Taliban.
The event was organized by the United Nations Information Center in Athens and the International Center for Hellenic and Mediterranean Studies (DIKEMES).
According to Greek diplomat Sotirios Moussouris, a former United Nations assistant secretary and personal representative of the UN chief to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the early ‘90s, the international community should ensure three things, namely:
Not to forget those it used to promote its interests, both throughout the 1980s and in the recent anti-terrorism campaign; that it doesn’t use ‘short-term’ criteria in rebuilding the country, and finally, not be selective in its sensitivity, as was the case in the early 1990s.
Finally, Moussouris applauded the fact that the UN was not ignored during the latest US-led campaign in Afghanistan, as he cited Security Council approval and a wide-ranging alliance.
 Protopapas: ECOFIN council approves Greek stability program
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)European Union finance ministers have approved the stability program for the Greek economy, while dialogue on the social insurance issue would begin on March 20 based on proposals put forward by the labor ministry, government spokesman said on Wednesday.
He said the ECOFIN council made the decision on Tuesday.
 Greece begins effort to attract foreign investors
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Hellenic Investments Center (ELKE) on Sunday presented the program "Greece: A Winner's Choice" and its main axis, Athens Business Club, for the first time to the media and to the Olympic Games agencies in Salt Lake City.
The presentation was made by ELKE chairman, Kostas Bakouris, while David Faulks, the global manager of Olympics and Sports for Sydney Olympic Games, also presented Australia's successful model and its results.
Robert Fuehr, Commerce and Investment secretary in the state of Utah, also presented the process of a Utah Business Club so far during the Winter Olympic Games.
Bakouris said that with the creation of Athens Business Club, ELKE has a unique opportunity to highlight the country's investment opportunities to the international business community and invited the people to witness the magic of the Athens Olympic games. He also urged businessmen to make "A Winner's Choice" by investing in Greece.
The program "Greece: A Winner's Choice" is an ambitious national effort to promote the country's business and investment profile to the world ahead of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Athens Business Club aims to become a strong meeting point between foreign investors and Greek businesses from here to 2004. The club aims to attract 25,000 members by 2004.
 Greek inflation to exceed 4.0 percent in January
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)The inflation rate will exceed 4.0 percent in January, but it will fall in the months ahead starting from February, Greek Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Wednesday.
Christodoulakis noted, however, that a surge in the inflation rate in January was not just a Greek phenomenon, but it was evident in other European Union member-states.
He attributed the rise in the consumer price to a very bad weather in the previous month and said that the government would intensify its efforts to combat higher inflation.
Christodoulakis said that Greece welcomed an initiative by the Spanish EU presidency to begin a dialogue among EU members on transport, communications and energy.
 Drys submits gov't estimates for cotton crop to Parliament committee
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)The total cotton crop in Greece for this year based on current estimates comes to 1,077,718 tones, Agriculture Minister George Drys told a meeting of Parliament's Production and Trade Committee on Wednesday.
In addition to this, the minister said, there were 60,000 cases where the government's quantity assessment was disputed by farmers, which would all have been considered by the end of April.
The figures were quoted in a note from the Organization for the Orientation and Guarantee of Payment and Control of EU Subsidies(OPEKEPE) submitted by Drys to the committee.
On the basis of these figures, Drys said the government's ceiling of 1,200,000 tones had not been exceeded and that the final price received by farmers for cotton would be 271-278 drachmas per kilo (0.8 - 0.84 euros per kilo).
The minister said that for most of the cases now in dispute the final ruling would be in the farmers' favor.
Opposition parties on the committee, however, said figures released by cotton gins showed the final yield for cotton to be 1,300,000 tones and asked what would happen with the extra quantities and whether these would be subsidized.
They also slammed the agriculture ministry for delaying the publication of the decision relating to the cotton crop, which came out long after the start of the growing season.
Drys said the payment of subsidies by OPEKEPE was proceeding rapidly, with 55 per cent of farming subsidies paid since October 16 and no delay relative to EU deadlines.
Regarding compensation for losses due to damage caused by freak bad weather, Drys said that Greek demands for prompt approval and payment of compensation had been received positively during a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and EU Commissioner for agriculture Franz Fischler in Brussels.
Asked by reporters how the government would react to a renewed wave of protests by farmers, or a march to Athens, the minister said that the ministry's only recourse was dialogue and said that rallies would lead to an impasse.
Meanwhile, farmers' grievances triggered a new round of protests in the northern Greek province of Xanthi on Wednesday, this time related to the privatization of the Agricultural Bank of Greece and punitive high interest rates for delayed payments.
The problems faced by farmers also figured highly in a general strike called in the prefecture of Imathia on Wednesday.
Here farmers staged a rally in front of the local prefecture building and then a protest march and sit-in of the Veria branch of the Agricultural Bank.
 Greece's senior high school grads most likely to be unemployed
BRUSSELS 14/02/2002 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)Higher education graduates and high school diploma holders show the highest unemployment rate in Greece, as compared to the rest of the European Union, where tertiary education graduates are the least likely to find a job.
More specifically, the unemployment rate of senior high school graduates in Greece stands at 15 per cent, while the EU average is 7.9 per cent, also the unemployment rate for higher education graduates in Greece stands at 7.9 per cent compared to the EU's average of 4.9 per cent.
Compared again to EU rates, unemployment among tertiary education graduates in Greece stands at 9.4 per cent compared to the EU's 12.1% and given that overall unemployment in Greece stands at 11.3 per cent.
 Social security reform talks to begin late March
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)A new round of talks aimed to reform the country's social security system will begin at the end of March, Greek Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Wednesday.
He noted that a dialogue between the government, trade unions and employers will also discuss the timetable of the talks.
Christodoulakis stressed it was premature to talk over funding of the social security system at this stage and that a government's decision to begin talks at the end of March was taken in order to wait for the conclusions of an European Council in Barcelona on labor relations and social security reform.
He noted that the current situation in the country's social security system was not as acute as it was a few months ago.
 Balkan, Cypriot contractors seek cooperation in SE Europe
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Engineering contractors' trade groups from Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Cyprus met on Wednesday to seek ways of boosting cooperation so that firms from the countries may bid together for projects in southeastern Europe.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of a conference on construction projects and real estate held in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
Greek and Turkish trade groups have already created a working group that is to meet in Athens next month to prepare for a meeting between contractors of the two countries.
 Greek stocks continue moving lower
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Equity prices remained under pressure for the ninth consecutive session on Wednesday pushing the general index below the 2,500 support level on the Athens Stock Exchange.
The index ended 0.31 percent lower at 2,494.71 points, with turnover a disappointing low Dr 24.26 billion, or 71.2 million euros.
The IT, Holdings and Insurance sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses (0.89 percent, 0.87 percent and 0.59 percent, respectively), while the Retail, Cement and IT Solutions sectors scored gains (2.33 percent, 1.01 percent and 0.89 percent).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.34 percent lower, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index rose 0.16 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index fell 0.19 percent.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 150 to 142 with another 68 issues unchanged.
The most heavily traded shares were Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, Panafon, National Bank of Greece, Intracom, Alpha Bank.
Bond Market Close: Prices drop in brisk trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Wednesday finished lower in active trade focusing on 10-year paper.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.38 percent, and the spread over German bunds was 35 basis points.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 2.7 billion euros.
Sell orders accounted for the lion's share of turnover.
Derivatives Market Close: Equity index futures retain premium: Equity index futures on the Athens Derivatives Exchange retained a premium of about 70 percent on Wednesday in brisk trade, bucking a decline in the underlying market.
Changing hands were 6,575 contracts on turnover of 40.6 million euros.
The underlying FTSE/ASE-20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips shed 0.34 percent; and the underlying FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization stocks lost 0.16 percent.
 Alevras to depart for visit to Salt Lake City Games
Athens, 14/02/2002 (ANA)Deputy Culture Minister Nassos Alevras, who is in charge of coordinating Olympics preparations, is to depart for a visit to Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
During his visit to the city hosting the winter Olympics, Alevras intends to inspect the facilities and infrastructure set up for the Games, visit the Olympic Village and broadcasting center and be briefed on security systems, hospitality, transport and other organizational issues.
He is also due to meet with member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the organizing committee for the winter Games, representatives of the Greek Community in Salt Lake City and members of the Greek team of athletes.
 Coalition party deputy meets Yugoslav president
BELGRADE 14/02/2002 (ANA)Coalition of the Left and Progress party (Synaspismos) Deputy Maria Damanaki met with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica in Belgrade on Wednesday and said his signing of the "Proclamation of personalities on the Olympic Truce" was important.
Damanaki said "it is also important for us to show all the world that the Balkans are not only a source of unrest, but can also be countries which are cooperating for peace, cooperation and a better future for the entire region."
Damanaki said there is great interest in the Olympic Games as well and added that better cooperation is necessary to achieve peace during the period of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
 Canadian senator heads committee for the return of the Parthenon Marbles
MONTREAL 14/02/2002 (ANA - I. Frangouli)Manitoba State Transportation Secretary Steve Ashton and Canadian Senator Shirley Meihu began their campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece with a drive to collect 100,000 signatures of Canadian citizens.
The senator, who is the president of the committee for the return of the marbles to Greece by 2004, said "Britain should return the marbles to the place they belong for the Olympic Games of 2004. The excuse that they are guarding them better is not convincing, since they scraped them, they destroyed them".
 Cyprus FM says hopes not up yet about settlement
LARNACA 14/02/2002 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides appealed to the people of Cyprus to be cautious and to restrain from any expectations on the outcome of the direct talks on the Cyprus question, held since January 16 between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, but added this did not mean the government was preempting a reaction.
Speaking to the press on his return from Istanbul, where he represented Cyprus at the joint forum of the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Conference, Kasoulides said he represented the "legal government of the Republic of Cyprus". Asked whether Turkey made any effort to downgrade Cyprus' representation, he said that the hospitality had been "excellent" and Turkey's behavior towards the Cypriot delegation had been "impeccable".
He also said that during the Forum he had the opportunity to discuss with his Greek counterpart George Papandreou matters regarding the settlement of the Cyprus problem, Cyprus's accession to the EU and Turkey's effort to upgrade its status as a candidate country, the Greek-Turkish dialogue, and Greece's stance regarding the Defense and Security Policy of the EU.
The minister stressed that these four issues are "independent" of each other, but added that progress in each of these matters "strengthens" the others.
The Cypriot foreign minister also dismissed Turkish press allegations that Cyprus was to purchase Russian fighter helicopters, and said that during his stay in Istanbul he had the opportunity to address the Turkish public opinion on this issue.
 FM Kasoulides says Denktash's statements are not helpfulISTANBUL 14/02/2002 (CNA/ANA))
Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has said public statements by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash on the ongoing peace talks are not helpful to the peace process and expressed disappointment with his remark that there is no remedy to the problem.
The minister denied Turkish press allegations that Cyprus is going to buy Russian attack helicopters, saying he does not know of any helicopters and that reports to that effect are rumors.
He also said Greek and Turkish Cypriots can live together as they had done in the past if the Turkish occupation army with-draws from Cyprus' northern areas.
Speaking to the press on the sidelines of the joint forum European Union and the Organization of Islamic Conference, taking place here, Kasoulides said it is too early to evaluate the talks between President Glafcos Clerides and Denktash and called for patience until later on in the process.
Invited to assess Denktash's attitude towards the negotiations, he said he does not wish to comment on what Denktash is saying inside the talks but evaluating his public statements the minister had this to say "I think they do not help the climate of the negotiations because he is presenting positions like the creation of two states in Cyprus which does not make much sense."
Asked to comment on Denktash's remark that there is no remedy to the problem, Kasoulides said "I was very disappointed with that statement because if we want to solve the problem we have to take into consideration the feelings of the people."
He also said that international legal instruments that exist, such as the European Convention of Human Rights, will have to be taken into account at the negotiating table.
Replying to a question about harmony between Islam and Christianity in Cyprus where Moslems and Christians do not live together, the minister was quite categorical that Greek and Turkish Cypriots can live together if Turkey withdraws its troops from the island.
On the duration of the peace talks, he said that the intention is to have negotiations until June without interruption except from the two religious holidays (Bayram and Easter).
 Cyprus president briefs British Cyprus envoy
NICOSIA 14/02/2002 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Britain's special representative for the Cyprus problem, Lord David Hannay, reviewed here on Wednesday the course of the face-to-face talks between President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Clerides and Hannay discussed developments in the Cyprus problem during a working breakfast at the Presidential Palace also attended by President Clerides' aides to the Cyprus talks, British High Commissioner Lyn Parker and other embassy officials.
After the Presidential Palace meeting the British envoy crossed into the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus, where he had a meeting with Rauf Denktash.
In the afternoon, he also held talks with Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, in the government-controlled part of the world's last divided capital Nicosia, before departing.