|Friday, 28 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-02-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 11, 2003
 PM confirms that EU summit will go ahead on Monday
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Monday confirmed that an emergency European Union summit to discuss the Iraq crisis would be held in Brussels the following week, soon after a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Friday where U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix would present his report on Iraq's disarmament.
The Greek EU presidency on Monday called an emergency EU Summit for next week on the Iraq crisis.
The decision for the emergency Summit was taken by Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, currently European Council president.
Apart from the situation in Iraq, the summit would also discuss developments in the Middle East, Simitis added.
Simitis said there were a number of viewpoints on how to proceed and that the Greek presidency considered it necessary to call a meeting of EU leaders to examine the situation on the evening of Monday, February 17.
He said an informal council of EU foreign ministers would be held in Brussels during the morning to prepare for the summit.
''We will make an effort for Europe to speak with one voice because it is necessary for there to be a single line. I hope that this will happen on Monday,'' he said.
Asked to confirm the existence of a Franco-German proposal for Iraq, Simitis said he had contacted German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Monday morning over the issue. According to Schroeder, it was not certain whether a Franco-German plan would be presented on Friday, Simitis said.
The predominant view was that time would be needed to appraise Blix's report and decisions would be made afterwards, he added.
''This is, in any case, why we are calling the summit,'' he noted.
Earlier on Monday, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said that the Greek presidency's initiative aimed at a joint appraisal of the situation in order to seek and if possible ensure a common EU stance on the Iraq crisis.
Protopapas said the Greek presidency was taking this step because there were signs of high activity over the Iraq issue and also that many countries believed that a war on Iraq was not the only way forward. As examples, he cited the meetings of the U.N. Security Council, statements on the Iraq crisis by European Parliament president Pat Cox, and a letter on the issue from Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel to Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou.
He said the Greek premier had already been in touch with Schroeder and Belgian premier Guy Verhofstadt to discuss the proposal.
 Positive EU Commission reaction to Greek presidency's initiative for Summit
BRUSSELS 11/02/2003 (ANA - V. Demiris)The European Union Commission's chief spokesman Jonathan Faull asked on Monday to comment on the Greek EU presidency's initiative to call an emergency EU Summit on the Iraq crisis, said that every effort made toward a settlement to the crisis, and which targets a unified EU position on the issue, was welcome.
Greece, which currently holds the six-month rotating EU presidency, on Monday called an emergency EU Summit to be held early next week, following next Monday's informal EU foreign ministers council in Brussels.
FM: we will look into our next moves after the UN inspectors report
Foreign Minister George Papandreou, currently the EU foreign ministers' council president, again stated on Monday that the Greek presidency intends to call an extraordinary EU Summit on the Iraq crisis.
''We are presently talking with our partners, we are waiting for the Blix and Baradei report at the end of the week, to look into our next moves,'' he told reporters shortly after leaving a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
EU President Greece on Monday announced its decision to call the summit early next week, following next Monday's informal EU foreign ministers' council in Brussels.
Papandreou also referred to his recent Mideast tour and his contacts with Arab leaders, the Arab League and governments in the region, as well as with neighboring Turkey, and naturally, with all EU member-states.
''The message that we sent was that there is chance for peace, there is a chance for peaceful settlement'', Papandreou said, adding that he had spoken with UN weapons inspectors for Iraq, Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei during their brief stopover in Athens on their way to Cyprus.
''From their early statements, it seems that Saddam Hussein is beginning to comprehend the message sent by Europe and the Arab countries, and naturally by all the UN Security Council members'', the foreign minister said, adding ''there seem to be early signs of some light in the whole issue. Naturally, we must wait for the Blix and Baradei report''.
The UN weapons inspectors on Friday are expected to deliver a report to the UN Security Council on Baghdad's compliance with resolution 1441 on Iraq disarmament.
Asked about the so-called ''Franco-German'' proposal to the UN about increasing the number of UN inspectors in Iraq, Papandreou said he had talked with his German and French counterparts, noting there was no such ''Franco-German'' proposal, there were talks at the UN on increasing the number of the inspectors.
He said this issue would also be discussed at the emergency EU Summit, adding that the informal foreign ministers council, as well as the emergency Summit, would also discuss the Middle East issue which ''is equally important and should not be forgotten, as part of the problem, as part of the picture on the wider region''.
Asked about the US-France-Germany NATO standoff following a disagreement on invoking Article 5 for Turkey, Papandreou said there was no disagreement in principle.
France and Belgium, backed by Germany, on Monday vetoed Washington's demand for NATO military help to Turkey, a country bordering with Iraq, in the event of war against Baghdad.
''NATO does not get involved in any way with any war action'', Papandreou said, adding ''what is being discussed is whether and if there is a threat or a problem with the security of any country due to a prospect war. This is what is being discussed at NATO, the possibility to analyze possible scenarios and what measures could be taken as NATO. The Greek government is not objecting to discussions on the issue''.
He clarified that France and Belgium had stressed that this was not the opportune moment to discuss this specific issue, he said, however, they had not objected in principle.
Finally, a foreign ministry spokesman said Papandreou's visit to Democratic People's Republic of North Korea, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was postponed. The foreign minister, however, will depart for Beijing on Feb. 14.
 Defense minister on Iraq: Franco-German plan increases margins for peace
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Peace in Iraq was still possible when it was the will of ''important'' countries such as France and Germany to exhaust the margins for a peaceful resolution of the crisis, Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said in an interview to Loukas Dimakas published in the Athens daily ''Ta Nea'' on Monday.
The Greek minister also greeted an emerging Franco-German plan for averting a war in Iraq that is now under discussion as a ''window for peace'' and said that Athens believed there were significant margins for achieving Iraq's disarmament through "tightening up" the rules under which weapons inspectors worked and by increasing pressure on Saddam Hussein.
War, on the other hand, would have a huge cost in terms of human life and might, in addition, have a strongly destabilizing effect on neighboring countries and the Middle East in general, he said.
"For this reason, we must exhaust the means for peaceful resolution," the minister stressed.
The interview was given shortly after Papantoniou attended the eventful 39th International Security Conference in Munich, which this year was dominated by the widening rift between the United States and Germany over the Iraq crisis.
The meeting, which each year gathers some 40 ministers and 200 experts, was the scene of a head-on collision between U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, as well as Rumsfeld's statement that ''action'' against Iraq by the United Nations and the international community was a matter of ''days or weeks at most''.
Meanwhile, news was leaked to the press of a Franco-German plan still under discussion that could well stall preparations for a war on Iraq at the United Nations if it should go ahead.
The news also sowed discord within the ranks of the European Union, with Britain among the countries criticizing Germany for its efforts to stall a war against Iraq. At least five EU member-states and three candidate-states have openly indicated their wish for a closer alignment with the U.S. stance by signing the "Vilnius Eight" letter.
Despite the highly tense climate of the meeting, Papantoniou appeared to believe a diplomatic way out of the crisis was still possible.
Asked about the possibilities of last-minute intervention by the Greek EU presidency, meanwhile, Papantoniou stressed that Greece's advantage lay in that it could ''talk to everyone''.
''I used this advantage to the full at the Munich conference, where I appealed to our European partners to harmonize their positions so that we could achieve a convergence of views before the U.N. Security Council meets on Thursday,'' he replied.
According to Papantoniou, it was important for Europe to have a common stance because the current divergence of opinions, especially when this was so obviously highlighted in Munich, weakened its influence on developments and allowed others - especially the U.S. - to undertake unilateral initiatives.
''With a weak and divided Europe, the initiative goes to the other court, to the other shore of the Atlantic,'' he stressed.
If peace efforts failed and the war on Iraq went ahead, the Greek minister predicted adverse repercussions for the global and European economies. Greece, with its large tourism sector and heavy dependence on oil, would certainly not escape these adverse effects, he added.
The Greek frigate 'Ydra' stationed in the Arabian Sea would be called back if the area were declared a war zone, Papantoniou said. ''I have declared that Greek forces will not remain in areas that are included in the war zone,'' he said.
He also noted that Greece's relations with Turkey would be a factor in deciding Athens' contribution to Turkey's defense as a NATO ally.
''Greece believes in solidarity among NATO member-states. We have not decided what means we will provide because article V of the NATO treaty has not yet been activated,'' he explained.
Should the article be activated, Greece would decide how it would contribute to Turkey's defense against Iraq, but factors such as the Cyprus issue, Turkey's claims in the Aegean and continued violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets would also be taken into account, he added.
 FM Papandreou meets Austrian counterpart Ferrero-Waldner
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)The Iraq crisis and EU affairs have been the center of discussions between Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his visiting Austrian counterpart Benita Ferrero-Waldner in Athens on Monday.
Ferrero-Waldner arrived here following a tour of three North African states – Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria – as an EU emissary, and briefed Papandreou on her contacts there. “In my country, the public opinion is in favor of averting war. It is important for the EU to remain united and strong on a common stance… all the Arab nations I visited fear destabilization,” Ferrero-Waldner said replying to reporters’ questions on a possible military action on Iraq.
Referring to the latest Franco-German proposal, Papandreou said Athens was in contact with both Paris and Berlin over these plans and added that these did no involve a comprehensive initiative but some proposals that may have a positive outcome, such as a proposal to increase the number of UN weapons’ inspectors in Iraq. However, Papandreou urged for caution until the assessment of a report by chief inspector Hans Blix was made known next Friday.
The Greek Foreign Minister reiterated that war was not inevitable, and told reporters there had been positive response regarding Greece’s call for a special EU council to look into the Iraq crisis, by both the current and future EU member states. “We are expecting everyone to attend… we believe that everyone will agree. We have some ideas following recent informal deliberations,” Papandreou said.
Statements to the ANA: In statements to the ANA, Ferroro-Waldner said the governments of all three countries she visited – Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria – favor the exercise of greater pressure on Saddam Hussein’s regime within the framework of UN Security Council resolution 1441, “that, first of all, translates into disarmament”.
“However, none of these countries agrees with a regime change in Iraq or the Iraqi leader’s exile. All of the countries in the region want war to be avoided, and towards this direction, they consider that a more favorable result will result from more countries exercising pressure for a change of Saddam Hussein’s policy.”
Asked about the purpose of her current visit to Athens, the Austrian FM said she would brief Papandreou over her latest contacts as well as discuss a possible message towards the Iraqi leader by the Council of foreign ministers – issued “either at the end of the week or at the beginning of next week but definitely after the announcement of results by the UN weapons inspectors.”
Ferrero-Waldner also expressed a hope that any proposals on the issue first be tabled with the EU presidency, otherwise “Europe will lose its cohesion. This is the great danger for the future,” she said.
 PM urges ministers to keep public abreast of EU presidency activity
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Monday asked ministers heading European Union councils to keep the public abreast of initiatives and actions they had taken through regular press briefings, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said.
In addition, it was also decided that the press and media ministry would work closely with all the ministries in order to help convey the decisions of EU councils, especially informal ones, to the media.
Finally, the premier decided that regular discussions would take place within the cabinet on the operation of the Greek EU presidency.
 PM and Swiss official discuss tax issues, Schengen
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis, current head of the European Council, met Swiss Vice-president Pascal Couchepin in Athens on Monday for talks on bilateral relations and cooperation between Switzerland and the European Union.
The two men ascertained the good relations between Greece and Switzerland, while talks focused on issues concerning tax measures and the Schengen Treaty.
Simitis there were outstanding tax issues concerning the accounts of European residents and a lengthy discussion ensued that created the basis for the matter to be resolved during the Greek EU presidency.
With respect to the Schengen Treaty, through a Greek presidency initiative a few months back there was an agreement over a taxation system that Simitis said could act as a basis for resolving the issue.
Still a central issue is regulating the EU's transactions with third countries and the EU goal is a measure that will ensure equality in competitiveness.
On his part, Couchepin said he looked to the Greek presidency to further cement his country's ties with the EU.
 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to visit Athens on February 25-26
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will visit Athens on February 25-26, coming from Ankara and on his way to Nicosia, government sources announced on Monday night.
The visit will considerably strengthen the possibility of a third revised plan being submitted for a solution to the Cyprus issue. It will either be presented by Annan himself to the leaders of the two communities or it will be delivered a day before his arrival in Cyprus by his special representative Alvaro de Soto.
On the question of statements made on Monday by Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis on an upcoming meeting between delegations from Greece and Turkey on February 17 to discuss the Annan plan's security aspect, government sources in Athens clarified that the contacts will take place at the level of foreign ministry officials, headed on the Greek side by secretary general Anastasios Skopelitis, and military officials.
The sources also said that February 17 is not a finalized date, but the contacts will definitely take place next week.
Diplomatic sources further clarified that Foreign Minister George Papandreou was due to address a letter to Yakis, once again confirming Greece's readiness to begin negotiations with Turkey on this issue.
 UN sources confirm Annan plans to visit Ankara, Athens and Nicosia
NEW YORK 11/02/2003 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)Diplomatic sources at the United Nations headquarters here confirmed on Monday that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was planning to visit Ankara, Athens and Nicosia during the last week of February with the purpose of the timeframe for a settlement of the Cyprus issue by February 28 to be maintained.
On Annan's mission, the diplomatic sources stressed that ''there were concerns because until now prospects for progress are not appearing.'' Additionally, the trip will also depend on Annan's program which may change in the event of dramatic developments in the Iraq crisis.
Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard, in a press briefing on Monday, refused to comment on reports that a new revised plan will be submitted.
The same diplomatic sources claim that the UN aims at proceeding in the handing of a new plan, probably immediately after the presidential elections in Cyprus.
 Press reports cite Greek-Turkish meeting over Cyprus security issues
ISTANBUL 11/02/2003 (ANA -- A. Kourkoulas)Greek and Turkish delegations will reportedly meet next week to discuss security issues dealing with Cyprus, the semi-official Turkish news agency “Anadolu” reported here on Monday.
The news agency cited comments by Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, noting that the former also spoke by phone with his Greek counterpart George Papandreou on Sunday evening.
According to the Turkish FM, the meetings will take place in either Athens or Ankara, “due to the speed of developments taking place in the region”.
“Turkey wants them (meetings) to take place in Ankara, while Greece wants discussions in Athens because it is engaged now with the EU presidency. If a solution is not forthcoming the heads of the representations will meet to determine a date and place. I don’t think this is a problem,” Yakis was quoted as saying.
Finally, the news agency said the Turkish minister was briefed by Papandreou over his contacts with the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Belgium.
 Gov't on alleged 'Stasi' link to local IT tycoon; Kokkalis reaction
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)The government spokesman emphasized on Monday that documents cited by an Athens daily on Sunday, allegedly linking a well-known local IT tycoon with the former East German intelligence agency, the infamous “Stasi”, have not been handed over to Greek authorities.
However, spokesman Christos Protopapas said a relevant investigation is already underway by a local prosecutor focusing on the same case and individual – Intracom group founder and chairman Socrates Kokkalis -- thereby any published documents will be officially requested.
A front-page article alleging the Stasi-Kokkalis ties was printed in the Sunday edition of the “Kathimerini” newspaper.
In a later development on Monday, a Supreme Court prosecutor ordered a judicial magistrate investigating the case and its alleged espionage parameters to collect and include the controversial documents published by the newspaper a day earlier. “Kathimerini” claimed that an agent it identifies as Kokkalis, and code-named “Krokus”, supplied “Stasi” with confidential information about political developments in Greece, as well as on top politicians and even national defense capabilities during the 1980s.
Additionally, prosecutor Evangelos Kroustalakis also called on the magistrate to accelerate proceedings as much as possible in the case.
Kokkalis denies claims, condemns paper: Meanwhile, in a lengthy letter issued a day later, Intracom chief Socrates Kokkalis vehemently denied the charges and said the latest allegations by “Kathimerini” are part of an ongoing smear and blackmail campaign against him and his company.
Kokkalis said claims citing links with former East German intelligence agencies as well as the purported funneling of capital towards Intracom from East German sources have been painstakingly investigated on many occasions by various independent authorities in Germany over the past decade, including a German Bundestag committee of inquiry, the German federal government’s anti-crime bureau and the Berlin district attorney’s office, “which examined all of the documents and all the witnesses.”
Among others, Kokkalis stressed that a report by the Bundestag committee concluded that all of the relevant charges have been proven baseless.
Finally, he charged that instead of offering factual information for public opinion, “as it should have”, the newspaper and the article's author deliberately published a doctored translation and covered-up all of its (original text) conclusions.
 ND Political Analysis Group discusses developments in Iraq
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis chaired a meeting of the party's Political Analysis Group on Monday, during which a discussion was held on all scenarios concerning developments in Iraq.
The meeting reconfirmed ND's position that the European Union should have a common policy on a possible attack against Iraq and UN Security Council resolutions should be honored.
It was stressed that ND will also await the outcome of searches conducted by the weapons inspectors and the decisions to be taken on Friday.
On the question of whether ND will participate in anti-war demonstrations scheduled for Saturday, it was decided that the deputies will decide themselves whether or not they will participate.
 Synaspismos leader meets British MP
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos on Monday discussed with British Labor party MP Alan Simpson the events organized for Saturday all over the world in protest of the imminent war in Iraq.
Simpson, who is president of a group of the labor party against the war, said that the estimated protestors in London on Saturday may reach up to a million people.
On his part, Constantopoulos said that no one can hinder the will of the people of the earth for peace, understanding and stability, adding that the leaders of Europe should take heed of the voice of the protestors.
 Appeal to citizens of Athens to take part in anti-war rally on Saturday
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)An anti-war rally will be held at Syntagma Square in Athens at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The rally will be organized by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), the Athens Labor Centre, the Greek Social Forum and many other movements.
Speaking at an event held at Athens University on Monday, GSEE President Christos Polyzogopoulos, in the presence of academics and trade unionists, called on the citizens of Athens to attend the rally and shout ''no to war, yes to peace''.
Polyzogopoulos expressed the concern of the working people of Greece over the possible attack by the United States against Iraq, noting that people were fully aware of the consequences of such a ''barbaric unilateral attack'' which is being orchestrated by ''vested interests which project the alibi of a dictatorial regime.''
 Greek EU presidency welcomes initiative to boost competitiveness
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)The Greek EU presidency's priority, among others, was to strengthen European economic competitiveness, based on the decisions of the Lisbon Council, and welcomed any contribution in forming common positions ahead of a European Council on March 21 in Brussels, the Greek presidency said on Monday.
It was commenting on a letter sent to the Greek EU presidency jointly signed by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac.
The letter included the British positions on flexibility in the labor market, France's positions on utility companies' services and Germany's positions on excess burdens imposed on production costs by environmental regulations.
It is a customary practice for state or government leaders to send letters to the rotating EU presidency, but the ''unusual'' in the letter sent to the Greek presidency is that Britain was added to a France-German axis.
''This means, among others, that Blair, Schroeder and Chirac sought a common approach on important EU issues and this goal was achieved,'' the Greek EU presidency said in a statement, although it expressed some reservations over a proposal to form a ''Commission of wise men'' to promote issues related with the Lisbon Agenda.
 IMF report calls for structural reforms, lower debt
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)An IMF report on the Greek economy urged for a speedy implementation of structural reforms and a drastic cut in the country's public debt.
The report, based on an examination of the Greek economy by an International Monetary Fund delegation of experts during the previous two weeks, was presented to Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis on Monday.
The report acknowledged the progress made by the Greek economy in the last few years and more specifically higher economic growth rates compared with other European economies.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting with the IMF's delegation, Mr Christodoulakis said that the country's public debt fell significantly in 2002 and noted that the government's target for 2003 was to reduce its debt by four to five percentage points of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in an effort to converge more with an EU average debt ratio.
The Greek minister stressed that the country's high economic growth rates would play a significant rose in achieving this target.
"The Greek government is pursuing, and will continue to, a balanced economic policy aimed to ensure employment and promote the necessary structural reforms", Mr Christodoulakis said.
Commenting on the inflation course, Mr Christodoulakis said that inflation dropped significantly in January despite higher oil prices, but expressed his worries over the impact of a possible war in Iraq on the Greek and the global economy.
 Greek inflation slows to 3.1 percent in January
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Greek annual inflation, measured by the consumer price index, slowed to 3.1 percent in January from 3.4 percent in December, the National Statistics Service said on Monday, reflecting a 9.5 percent decline in clothing and footwear prices (due to the sales period) and a 2.2 percent fall in durable goods, home wear and services prices over the month.
NSS said that food and non-alcohol drink prices rose 1.1 percent in January compared with December 2002, while housing prices also rose by 1.2 percent over the same period.
Healthcare prices rose 1.5 percent, transport prices increased 1.5 percent and hotel-restaurant prices rose 0.3 percent in January.
NSS said that the average inflation rate rose by 3.5 percent in the February 2002-January 2003 period.
 Alternate FM meets with Bulgarian economy minister
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis on Monday met with Bulgarian Economy Minister Milen Velchev and discussed the fiscal and funding issues of the neighboring country's accession course to the European Union.
In light of the Thessaloniki EU summit the two men discussed the basic economic problems of Bulgaria and Velchev underlined the efforts of his country to respond to the needs of the European course.
He requested Greece's assistance in the provision of the necessary know-how in the resolution of problems, while also the importance of Greece's EU presidency was stressed.
 OTE telecom to start mobile phone operation in FYROM in May
SKOPJE 11/02/2003 (ANA/N.Frangopoulou)Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), a heavily traded stock on the Athens bourse, is to open a mobile phone arm in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in May.
On Monday, the neighboring country's prime minister, Branco Crvenkovski, held talks on the move with OTE's deputy vice chairman, George Skarparis, who is also chairman of OTE International.
OTE acquired the country's second mobile phone operating license about 18 months ago after winning an international tender, creating the new company, MTS Kosmofon.
 Trade groups welcome gov't move to create Chamber of Tourism
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Trade groups in the travel sector on Monday welcomed a decision by the government to set up a Chamber of Tourism.
Among the eleven groups to support the move by Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos in a written statement were the Association of Tourist and Travel Bureaus (HATTA).
Covered are sectors including passenger shipping, coaches, catering and car hire.
The groups said that the new chamber should either absorb the existing Hotels Chamber of Greece, or bypass it. Hoteliers have raised objections to the creation of a tourism chamber.
 Cotton growers to brief farmers' labor unionists on Tuesday
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)A general assembly will be held at the Union of Larissa Farmers Cooperatives on Tuesday to enable a committee of cotton producers, that held talks with the agriculture minister on Monday, to brief other farmers' labor unionists on the content of the talks and on commitments undertaken by the minister.
A decision will also be taken at the assembly on the fate of mobilizations which appear to be easing.
Meanwhile, road checkpoints created by farmers remained open on Monday, with the exception of Platykambos which has remained closed ever since the mobilizations got underway.
In a related development, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said on Monday ''it is inconceivable for Greece to be cut into two by the mobilizations of certain farmers, who must assume their responsibilities.''
Protopapas added that the European Union's regulation on cotton growing is being fully implemented this year.
Gins have opened at this stage, cotton has been delivered and the quantity weighed to enable subsidies to be assessed.
In the case of growers who did not have time to deliver cotton, gins are expected to reopen in March, in accordance with the regulation, and the quantity will be weighed then.
 Greek state bond market rallied in January
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Increased uncertainty over deepening geopolitical tensions was again the main supportive factor of government bond markets around the world in January. In addition, disappointing economic data released during the month reinforced the demand for high-quality fixed-income securities, pushing yields to fresh lows, the Bank of Greece said on Monday.
In its monthly report on the domestic and international bond market, the central bank said that in the Greek electronic secondary securities market (HDAT), government bonds recorded significant gains in the range of 37-231 price basis points. The 15-year bond maturing on 11.01.2014 recorded the strongest price gains, while the 3-year bond maturing on 21.6.2005 the lowest.
The price of the new 10-year benchmark bond, maturing on 20.5.2013, closed up at 102.32 with a yield of 4.31% at the end of January from 100.20 with a yield of 4.57% on the first trading day on January 14. The daily average 10-year yield spread over Bunds narrowed to 21 bps in the first two weeks of the month
compared to 23 bps in December, to widen thereafter to 26 bps, after launching the new benchmark.
The yield curve moved downward steepening further as yields fell more at the short to medium part of the curve as investors forecast more interest rate cuts to come from the European Central Bank. The 3- to 20-year bond yield spread widened to 204 bps at the end of January from 199 bps at the end of December. The 3-year bond yield declined to 2.81% from 3.02% and the 20-year bond yield to 4.84% from 5.01% respectively.
HDAT turnover was higher reaching EUR 59.69 billion compared to EUR 32.59 billion in December and to EUR 42.14 billion in January 2002.
Trading activity focused mainly on short to medium-term bonds attracting 62.3% of the total turnover. Amongst individual bonds, the most popular was the 10-year bond maturing on 18.5.2012, with EUR 4.49 billion worth of transactions. Of the 10,446 orders executed on HDAT, 53.04% were purchases and 46.96% sales.
 Three new bills in government tax reform
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)The government is to submit three new bills to parliament as part of its tax overhaul, Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Monday.
The first bill will introduce procedures to resolve disputes between companies and the tax department; and the second is to reduce the number of local taxes, which include one paid by tourism firms, Christodoulakis told a meeting of the Panhellenic Hoteliers Federation.
The tax overhaul is due for completion in the first half of the year with codification of the institutional changes into a single document, he added.
 ASE, Tel-Aviv and Cyprus markets discuss joint index
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Representatives of Athens Exchange, Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange and Cyprus Stock Exchange met on Monday in the presence of officials from the Global Index provider FTSE Group, at the CSE offices in Nicosia, for the purpose of finalizing the agreement for a joint stock market index, the FTSE Mediterranean 100 Index, within the framework of a co-operation between the four markets.
The FTSE-MED 100 Index will be composed of 100 stocks of the three Exchanges, some of which are also listed on US and other European stock markets. The market capitalization is almost $50 billion.
The final structure of the Index and its initial constituents, will be finalized by FTSE Group in April 2003, in accordance with the relevant procedure which takes place every six months, with the aim of commencing the operation of the Index on the third week of May 2003.
The three Exchanges also said they were going to invite other Mediterranean Exchanges to participate in the Index.
 Greek stocks ease in record-low turnover
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks ended slightly lower the first trading session of the week in the Athens Stock Exchange, reflecting lack of buying interest and a negative climate in international markets.
The general index fell 0.10 percent to end at 1,672.58 points, in record-low turnover of 36.7 million euros.
The Cement, IT and Holding sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day (1.47 percent, 1.45 percent and 0.99 percent, respectively), while the Textile (0.89 percent), Publications (0.73 percent and IT Solutions (0.56 percent) scored the biggest percentage gains.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks eased 0.33 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 0.53 percent lower, and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index eased 0.05 percent. The wider FTSE/ASE 140 index fell 0.34 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 170 to 121 with another 67 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 39.7 mln euros Monday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 39.7 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Buyers outstrip sellers on Monday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 Names of 3-member gov't committee on 2004 costs announced
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)The government on Monday announced the names of the three individuals picked by Prime Minister Costas Simitis to serve on a new ad hoc committee monitoring expenditures for Olympic overlays as well as other related 2004 infrastructure and equipment.
Current Culture Deputy Minister Nasos Alevras, who already focuses directly on the government’s planning and preparations for the 2004 Summer Games, along with Athens 2004 Organizing Committee (ATHOC) general director for administrative services, Thanassis Papageorgiou, as well as the economy minister’s close adviser, A. Asimakopoulou, will comprise the committee.
According to a brief statement by Deputy Press Minister Telemachos Hytiris on Monday, one echoing last week’s developments, the committee’s goal will be to converse resources and to fairly divide the burden of various 2004-related expenditures between the government and ATHOC.
The new committee will also report directly to an inter-ministerial committee chaired by the prime minister.
 Culture minister attends conference on business opportunities due to Olympics
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Business opportunities being created in light of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, as well as the course of Olympic Games projects to be carried out in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, were presented during a conference held in the northern port city on Monday in the presence of Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
The conference was organized by the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry in cooperation with the 2004 Athens Olympic Games Organizing Committee (ATHOC).
Both Venizelos and the president of the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry linked Olympic projects to take place in the city with the prospect of the EXPO exhibition of 2008.
Venizelos referred in particular to Olympic projects in Thessaloniki worth 160 billion drachmas.
''All the projects forming EXPO's file must be done, regardless of whether or not Thessaloniki will ultimately organize the EXPO of 2008,'' Venizelos said.
Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Dimitris Bakatselos referred to business opportunities created by holding the Olympic Games and to the Chamber's cooperation with ATHOC which, as he reminded, began in May, 2001 with the signing of a cooperation agreement.
ATHOC's managing director Ioannis Spanoudakis provided information regarding economic activity being developed in light of the Olympic Games.
He said cooperation already exists with 10 businesses in northern Greece and expressed hope that this figure will multiply in the near future.
Spanoudakis further said ATHOC is currently preparing proclamations for a series of new tenders over the 16 months remaining until the Games.
The tenders concern procurements and services covering a considerable part of ATHOC's budget.
 Hellenic Post Office to issue Athens Olympics stamps Tuesday
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Hellenic Post Office is to issue commemorative stamps for the Athens 2004 Olympics on Tuesday, which are designed by painter Kostas Tsoklis.
On sale in the collectible series will be stamps with denominations of 0.02, 0.05, 0.47, and 0.65 cents; and 2.17 and 2.85 euros, the post office said in a statement on Monday.
Hellenic Post Office is a sponsor of the Athens games.
 Justice minister to tour EU capitals
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos will depart for Paris on Tuesday, continuing briefing contacts with his counterparts, in his capacity as the EU's presiding minister.
Petsalnikos will meet with his French counterpart Dominique Perben, aiming to promote the priorities and initiatives of the Greek presidency on justice issues.
On Wednesday, the Greek minister will participate in the plenum assembly of the Europarliament in Strasbourg, to brief Eurodeputies on the results of the work of the council of ministers during 2002 on justice issues and to respond to their questions.
On Thursday he will arrive in Rome to meet with his Italian counterpart Roberto Castelli and next Monday he will meet with Swedish Justice Minister Thomas Bodstrom in Stockholm.
 'Balkan Heroin Roads' training seminar in Athens
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)An international training seminar on heroin trafficking and organized crime in the Balkans will be held in Athens on February 10-12, organized by the Greek public order ministry and co-funded by the European Union within the framework of the FALCONE program.
Entitled "Recent developments on the issue of Balkan heroin roads - criminal organizations involved - Modus operandi - New Trends", the seminar has been incorporated in the Greek EU presidency's program.
The seminar seeks to improve knowledge of the drug trade and organized crime and ways to fight these and to provide a forum where law enforcement agents can exchange know-how and experiences.
Participants will include representatives of the EU member-states, the Southeastern European Cooperation Initiative (SECI), the European Centre for Monitoring Drugs and Addiction, the United Nations, Europol, Interpol and other international organizations. Invitations have also been sent to representatives of law enforcement agencies in Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia,
Poland, Slovenia, the United States, Canada, Cyprus, Hungary, the Ukraine, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania, Russia and Turkey.
 Prison council allows common recreational period for 'N17' suspects
Athens 11/02/2003 (ANA)A prison council at the penitentiary holding all of the suspects charged with involvement in the “November 17” terrorist group has decided to allow them recreational period privileges at the same time and in the same commons.
The decision also refers to four suspects accused of belonging to the “Revolutionary People’s Struggle” or “ELA”, another ultra-leftist urban terror group believed to pre-date “N17”.
However, two female suspects incarcerated at the Korydallos penitentiary will be allowed to mingle only with a group of female inmates.
The suspects charged with terrorism-related felonies have been separated from the general prison population since the first arrests in mid summer, mostly assigned to one-person cells in the women’s wing or at the prison’s hospital.
 Sides had substantive discussions, says spokesman
NICOSIA 11/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)The Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides had two hours of substantive negotiations on Monday, in the context of the UN-led peace talks on the Cyprus problem, government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said.
The spokesman also said that the Greek Cypriot side has no official information about a revised UN peace plan but said that it should be ready to deal with any possible developments.
''Today's meeting was substantive and lasted about two hours. I regret but I cannot say anything more on the content of the discussions,'' Papapetrou said.
He said that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has presented a document outlining the important issues he wanted to discuss, in relation to the UN plan.
Asked if the Greek Cypriot side has commented on the points Denktash makes in his document, the spokesman said ''no, at times in the past responses were given and today we had an oral discussion on all the points'' raised.
Invited to comment on the prospect of a new UN plan being tabled, he said the Greek Cypriot side has no official information on that. ''We have not encouraged anybody to act in this direction. Therefore we should continue our efforts and be ready to face any possible developments,'' Papapetrou said.
Papapetrou is one of President Glafcos Clerides' advisers at the talks.
Another adviser, Attorney General Alecos Markides, said after Monday's meeting that the international community is determined to find a settlement in Cyprus in February.
''There has been no real negotiation so far at the direct talks and what Denktash says or puts forward are not tantamount to negotiation but constitute a new plan on Cyprus of his own making,'' Markides added.
He said the international community, in its attempt to exhaust all possibilities to find a settlement in February, is considering presenting the two sides with a third plan. Kofi Annan tabled a peace plan on November 11, which was revised, following negotiations, and presented to the two sides on December 10.
''Since no real negotiation has taken place, it is likely that a new peace plan will be, in certain aspects, less favorable to our side,'' Markides said, replying to questions.
Markides expressed concern that any new plan would be tabled on the basis of ''take it or leave it.''
President Clerides and Denktash have been engaged in direct talks for over a year now with a view at finding a comprehensive settlement.
Meetings take place in the presence of the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, who having been to Ankara for consultations, flew on Monday to New York to brief Kofi Annan on the state of affairs at the peace talks.
 Clerides says careful handling on Cyprus problem required
NICOSIA 11/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides expressed here Monday the conviction that there will be ''historic developments'' on the Cyprus problem by the end of 2003.
He also said that ''very careful handling'' is required on the Cyprus problem in the months to come, in order to ''maintain the certificate we received from the European Union that we are reasonable and constructive at the negotiations."
The president said this attitude did not create any obstacles to ''our European course."
''This must continue so that we can see how we will end up after the completion of our European course and a solution to our national problem which we all believe must be achieved this year," he said.