|Friday, 28 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-02-13
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 13, 2003
 Greek warning of 'deep crisis' if EU fails to adopt a common stance on Iraq
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)A foreign ministry spokesman of European Union presidency Greece on Wednesday warned that the Community risked entering ''a period of deep crisis'' if it failed to adopt a common stance on Iraq and reaffirm the position taken at the last General Affairs Council.
''We will make every possible effort so that the EU expresses in a text, in a unified and effective way, its stance for UN precedence on the Iraq issue and for Saddam Hussein's compliance with UN Security Council resolution 1441'', Greek foreign ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis said.
''This is what's desirable. Failure to achieve that would not mean that the Greek presidency's efforts are either voided, damped or defeated,'' he added.
Greece, who is currently holding the six-month rotating EU presidency, in a bid to help bridge variance in positions within the EU member-states vis-a-vis the Iraq crisis, on Monday called an emergency EU summit to take place next Monday, after UN weapons inspectors to Iraq Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei deliver their report to the UN Security Council on Friday.
Beglitis also denied rumors alleging the postponement of the signature of the EU Accession Treaty for 10 European Union candidate countries that will take place in Athens on April 16, 2003.
''We have absolutely no such information, formal or informal. It would be a huge strategic mistake if the internal problem of the EU affected the course of enlargement,'' he said.
The spokesman ruled out the dispatch of any Greek military forces or weapon systems either to Iraq or Turkey.
''Greece politically supports the reactivation of the collective solidarity mechanism,'' he said, ''without this meaning that Greece supports the prospect of armed intervention in Iraq''.
Moreover, the foreign ministry said that within the scope of the Greek presidency's efforts to coordinate the EU with the Arab world, Greek foreign minister George Papandreou will visit Cairo after accepting an invitation by Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa to meet with Arab foreign ministers there on Sunday.
Round of contacts by foreign minister prior to emergency European Council: Foreign Minister George Papandreou, currently European Union Council of Ministers president, on Sunday evening will begin a round of contacts in Brussels in light of the emergency General Affairs Council meeting on Monday.
The EU foreign ministers' meeting will focus on obtaining consensus on a text presenting a ''common stance of the '15''' on Iraq and the Middle East, which, if achieved, will be forwarded to be adopted by the leaders of the EU member-states, who will hold an emergency summit the same evening.
Initial Greek presidency plans including a meeting of the ''15'' with the leaders of the candidate states on Tuesday were opposed by some EU leaders, who said it would be difficult for them to stay an additional 24 hours in Brussels, given the emergency nature of the European Council meeting.
Diplomatic sources said that the request for participation of the leaders of the candidate states in Monday's European Council meeting had a political character since the majority of them had sided with the US position on Iraq. At press time, their participation at the Council was still not clear.
Greek presidency sources avoided creating an optimistic climate regarding the outcome of the emergency Council.
''We will do our duty, but a positive outcome does not depend on the Greek presidency'', they said.
PM to meet EU officials on sidelines of emergency summit for Iraq: Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis had arranged meetings with the heads of the European Commission and the European Parliament and with EU common foreign and defense policy coordinator Javier Solana on the sidelines of an emergency EU summit to be held in Brussels on Monday, government spokesman Christos Protopapas announced.
In addition to Commission president Romano Prodi and the Euro-Parliament's Pat Cox, Simitis might also meet United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan if the latter were in Brussels during the summit, the spokesman added.
The summit was called by the Greek EU presidency as a last-ditch attempt to forge a common EU stance on the Iraq crisis.
Protopapas also dismissed rumors that the signature of acts of accession by the 10 candidate-states due to join the Community in April might be postponed due to the Union's internal crisis, saying that there was ''no such issue''.
Regarding a Franco-German proposal to reinforce the teams of United Nations weapons inspectors and extend their mission, Protopapas stressed that Greece had taken a clear stance on the ''substance'' of the proposal but that the Greek presidency was called on to find a common ground between the various proposals.
If it should appear to support one or the other proposal, this would undermine its role, he said.
Asked about a reported British proposal for an extended summit on Monday, in which the 13 leaders of EU candidate-countries (10 of which are to join in April) will hold open talks with the 15 EU member-states, Protopapas said the Greek presidency had no objections to informing the countries due to join after enlargement and that the prime minister would do this on Tues-day morning.
Yiannitsis addresses European Parliament on Iraq: Greece’s Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis in an address to a European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg on Wednesday referred to the Iraq crisis and ways to deal with the problem in terms of the European Union’s stance.
Yiannitsis stressed that the EU Presidency’s priority was to work on a peaceful resolution to the conflict, wishing to see UN efforts have a positive outcome. He further cited three parameters defining the Iraq crisis: respect for international legal order and each country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; respect for human rights; and, consolidation of peace, stability and security in the region.
He told Euro-MPs that it was in this framework that the Greek Presidency of the Union was seeking to enhance a single EU stance on the Iraq problem and make all possible efforts to peacefully resolve it.
The Greek minister also referred to the targets of a special EU meeting on Iraq, called by the Greek Presidency, in Brussels next Monday. He said what was expected by the meeting was, among others, a composed assessment of all evaluations presented so far, a balanced approach to the impact of decision on the Iraq crisis, a reconfirmation of the EU’s diplomacy and policy as effective tools in resolving international crises and a decisive stance on the implementation of UN resolutions.
 Preparation for EU Summit on Iraq dominates PM-FM meeting
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)Preparation for Monday’s emergency EU Summit meeting in Brussels, called by the Greek EU presidency to focus squarely on the Iraq crisis, as well as Cyprus developments ahead of the UN Secretary General’s upcoming visits to Nicosia, Athens and Ankara, dominated talks here on Wednesday between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou.
In statements after the three-hour meeting at the premier’s office, Papandreou reiterated that Athens called the emergency summit in order exhaust every possible opportunity for Baghdad to comply with UN Security Council resolution 1441.
He added that he would convey this same message to Arab foreign ministers during an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Sunday, following his invitation to the session by Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.
Moreover, he again said the Greek presidency would spare no effort in achieving a “single voice” of expression for Europe, one that gives the bloc an ability to play an international role. The Greek FM also said the goal is to both disarm Iraq within the UN framework and a “peaceful resolution, as long as this is possible, to the crisis”.
Finally, Papandreou said Monday’s emergency summit may not end with official conclusions, although this doesn’t mean that there will not be joint decisions.
 Synaspismos leader criticizes gov't, main opposition on Iraq crisis stance
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) party leader Nikos Constantopoulos on Wednesday criticized the government for indecisiveness and lack of policy on the issue of a possible war in Iraq.
Constantopoulos said that rightly so the Greek EU presidency convened an extraordinary EU summit for Monday, adding, however, that this move does not bridged the gap of a lack of policy.
He also wondered whether the government would side with those against the war of whether it will adopt the arguments of the USA.
Constantopoulos also criticized the main opposition New Democracy party, saying that the aforementioned elements also characterized that party's stance as well.
Concluding his statement, Constantopoulos expressed his party's full support for the anti-war rally due to take place on Saturday.
 Yiannitsis cites EU presidency priorities before Euro-Parliament
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)The Greek EU presidency again outlined its priorities for next month’s spring Summit, this time before the European Parliament’s deputies, as Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis said the gathering of EU leaders in Brussels obviously assumes increased importance amid a current political and economic climate replete with significant problems.
Indirectly referring to the ongoing Iraq crisis and the specter of European divisions on the issue, Yiannitsis referred to “ensuring that Europe is able in the medium term to overcome uncertainties”.
Yiannitsis also cited a list of issues he said are linked to success for the Lisbon Strategy, including financial reform and competitiveness via the safeguarding of macro-economic stability and unifying credit market; employment and social cohesion, as well as viable development.
 Greece invites Turkey to negotiate 'security aspect' of Cyprus settlement
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)Greece on Wednesday formally invited Turkey to negotiations on the security aspect of the Cyprus issue, the foreign ministry announced.
Greece's foreign minister George Papandreou on Wednesday sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart Yasar Yakis, inviting him to negotiations on the Cyprus security issue, foreign ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis told a press briefing.
Beglitis said that Papandreou stressed in his letter the need to commence such negotiations as soon as possible, perhaps as soon as next week, and proposed that the consultations be held in Athens and Ankara at the level of secretary general of the two foreign ministries.
Also to be taking part in the deliberations will be military experts and a representative of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
''We declare our availability and political volition,'' Beglitis said.
Earlier in February Annan sent letters to the prime ministers of Greece and Turkey urging the two countries to reach an agreement on the security aspect of a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue, which is being sought on the basis of a draft peace plan the UN chief put forward to the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides last December.
UN chief Annan considering trip to Ankara, Athens end of February NEW YORK
13/02/2003 (ANA - P. Panagiotou/CNA)UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is considering a trip to Greece, Turkey and possibly Cyprus during the last week of February, which is the period in which an agreement on Cyprus must be reached if the opportunity that now exists is to be seized.
The UN chief's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said on Wednesday that Annan strongly hopes that the negotiations underway for a Cyprus settlement will be successful and is prepared to continue playing a personal role to this end, adding that Greece and Turkey have been approached on this possible visit.
Asked about Annan's trip to Ankara and Athens, and possibly Nicosia, Eckhard said ''these announcements maybe a bit premature but I can say the Secretary General is indeed considering a trip to the region during the last week of February, which is the period in which an agreement on Cyprus must be reached if the opportunity that now exists is to be seized.''
''Annan strongly hopes that the negotiations underway will be successful and he is prepared to continue playing a personal role to this end. Greece and Turkey have been approached on this possible visit,'' Eckhard added.
The spokesman noted that ''the precise itinerary of his (Annan's) travel will reflect the judgment made closer to the time regarding the possibility of his playing a personal role in bringing efforts to achieve a comprehensive settlement to a decisive conclusion.''
He added that the UN chief's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro De Soto is in New York and would be meeting the Secretary General later in the day, to brief him on the latest developments.
Meanwhile, Greek Foreign Minister and EU Council of Foreign Ministers president George Papandreou, who will travel to New York to attend the UN Security Council meeting on Iraq on Friday, may also meet with Annan to discuss the Cyprus problem, particularly the aspect of security on which the UN chief is awaiting an agreement between Greece and Turkey (as guarantor powers) the soonest possible.
 Main opposition slams government over medicopter crash
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy on Wednesday said the government was politically responsible for the third crash by an EKAB ambulance service helicopter, while ND leader Costas Karamanlis expressed sorrow his sorrow at the loss of young lives.
Speaking after a meeting of ND Coordinators on Wednesday, he also accused the government of lacking ''political sensitivity''.
The medicopter went down shortly after midnight on Tuesday while flying to the Aegean island of Ikaria to pick up a patient. It was the third helicopter of the same type to crash while conducting a night-time flight over the Aegean since the fall of a medicopter off Cape Sounio in January 2001. In both previous crashes, everyone on board was killed while a search is still on for the crew and medical staff in the latest downed chopper.
The ND coordinators' meeting also discussed the new situation in public works following a number of cases of subsidence on the country's national highway network in recent days. Party officials again lashed out at the government, saying they had repeatedly warned of the corruption predominant in public works projects. Roussopoulos stressed the need for a new legal framework for assigning and constructing public works, while he also referred to an IMF report on Greece and said that it vindicated ND's positions.
 Papandreou - EU troika-China meeting called off
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)A European Union troika visit to China, which was to be headed by Greece’s Minister of Foreign Affairs George Papandreou, scheduled for Friday, February 14, has been cancelled, according to a Foreign Ministry announcement in Athens on Wednesday.
The announcement cited as the reason for the development the attendance of the People’s Republic of China Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan in the deliberations of the United Nations Security Council meeting to look into the Iraq crisis.
Papandreou, currently presiding over the EU Council of Foreign Ministers, will also travel to New York to attend the UN Security Council meeting on Iraq, scheduled for Friday, February 14.
 Anti-war rally in Athens on Saturday
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)Greece’s largest labor groups (GSEE, ADEDY and the Athens Labor Centre) are organizing an anti-war rally in downtown Athens on Saturday across from the country’s Parliament, with organizers on Wednesday saying their demands are Greece’s firm abstention from any military operations against Iraq; no signing on the part of the Greek government of EU decisions advocating military action on the side of a US-led coalition, and a mobilization of the country’s political forces towards this direction.
More than a dozen similar rallies are planned for cities and towns across Greece.
KKE issues call for participation in anti-war rallies: The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday called on the Greek people to rally against the planned war in Iraq, with a press release issued by the Central Committee of the party, while criticizing the stance of the government and that of the main opposition New Democracy (ND).
''The PASOK government is moving toward a pro-American direction and so does ND. Greece, with them taking the responsibility and with their coalescence, participates already in the preparations of the war,'' the KKE press release said.
''The Souda Bay base is working at a feverish level. A ship of the (Greek) Navy is in the Gulf region. The ports have become springboards of the United States,'' it added.
''The call of the PASOK leadership to the people to participate in the anti-war rallies is mocking the people, since at the same time the PASOK government is participating in the war under preparation,'' the press release noted.
''The differences of the imperialist nations have tensed up greatly. This is evident by the differences of opinion between the EU and NATO. These are differences between thieves for the split up of the booty,'' the KKE press release stressed.
 EU condemns terrorist attack in Colombia, lauds ensuing pro-democracy rally
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)The European Union on Wednesday strongly condemned a terrorist attack on a club in Colombia that killed 34 people and injured more than 160, and lauded a local pro-democracy rally that followed the incident.
In a declaration issued by the Greek EU presidency in Athens, the European Union further reaffirmed its full support for democracy in Colombia and President Alvaro Uribe's government's efforts to establish the rule of law in that country.
A car bomb late Friday night blamed on Marxist rebels killed 34 people in a Bogota club frequented by industrialists and bankers. The explosion, caused by an estimated 200 kg of explosives planted in a car bomb on the third-floor of a parking garage, wrecked the exclusive 12-story Club El Nogal as a wedding, a children's party and a girl's ballet presentation were taking place. The dead included six children, while about 160 people were injured, many of whom suffered serious burns.
The full text of the Declaration follows below: Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the terrorist attack in Colombia.
The EU strongly condemns the vile terrorist attack of Friday 7 February at the Club El Nogal in Bogota, which caused 34 dead and more than a hundred and sixty wounded.
The EU expresses its condolences to the families of the victims and its full solidarity to the people and government of Colombia in these difficult moments.
The EU applauds the rally for life and liberty held by the citizens of Bogota on Saturday 8 February. It calls on all Colombians to unite their voices against terrorism and drug trafficking and in defense of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms.
The EU expresses its full support to democracy in Colombia and to the active engagement of the government of President Uribe to establish the rule of law throughout the country, including the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking. This common fight requires as well a regional effort and the concerted and continued assistance of the neighboring countries of Colombia.
Colombia is not alone in its fight against terrorism. It is a common fight of all free and democratic nations against violence and intolerance. The international community will continue to demonstrate its solidarity to the victims of such criminal acts, as in the case of the people of Colombia, together with its endeavors to completely eradicate the scourge of terrorism.
The Acceding Countries Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia, the Associated Countries Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey and the EFTA countries, members of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this declaration.
 Vote on 'incompatibility' of professional practice for MPs postponed
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)The vote in Parliament for the ratification of legislation - abiding by the recently ratified constitutional article - on the exclusive function of parliament deputies as such and not as a professional during their tenure, was postponed for Thursday morning.
The postponement came as the result of a call by 21 deputies for a roll call vote. Deputies of ruling PASOK, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) submitted the petition jointly.
Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis postponed the vote and said that none of the amendments or proposals of the deputies followed the mandate of the Constitution on the so called ''incompatibility'' of a deputy to practice his profession during his tenure.
 Greek investments in Southeastern Europe total 5.0 bln euros
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)Greek investments in Southeast European countries total around five billion euros, with the banking sector in these countries absorbing around one-fifth of total investments, a report by National Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The report on South Eastern European Countries "Key Issues, Recent Developments and an Overview of the Banking Sector", included in the bank's "South Eastern Europe and Mediterranean Emerging Market Economies Bulletin", also stressed that the largest Greek financial groups (National Bank, Commercial Bank, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank and EFG Eurobank Ergasias) controlled 13 banks and four financial services companies in the region, with a total branch network of 528 units and employing 6,500 people.
The report was part of National Bank's wider interest in expanding its activities in the region and becoming a regional power in the banking sector.
The report said that the performance and condition of the region's banking systems improved significantly in the last five years, following the implementation of successful restructuring and privatization programs.
National Bank said that banking systems in the Southeast European markets were enjoying a relatively good regulation, high liquidity and increased profitability. The level of financial mediation, however, remained low despite some improvement compared with other countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
Further improving the role of financial mediation was necessary for the long-term development of banks, the report and urged banks in the region to adopt modern practices and systems, covering risk management.
The report stressed that the process of modernizing the region's banking system should begin by foreign banks with activities in these countries.
National Bank said that the banking sector in the region had favorable prospects, with long-term stability, completion of privatization programs, increased foreign participation, improved bank management and a more disciplined operation of markets would contribute in the expansion of the sector.
Prospects were also favorable because of an expected increased trend of private savings, increased borrowing demand, higher demand for banking services and increasing investments in new technologies.
The region's banking sector has attracted investments from major banking groups from Italy, Greece, Austria, Germany, France and Turkey. Greek banks expanded in neighboring countries to benefit from a cultural and geographical proximity and to follow a wider expansion of Greek industries and commercial enterprises in Southeastern Europe.
Greek banks, in particular, dealt Southeastern Europe states as a natural expansion of their parent market following an example by Scandinavian banks in their expansion in Baltic States.
 Greek farm product exports up 29 pct in 1990-1999
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)Greek farm product exports rose 29 percent in the 1990-1999 period to total 3.53 million US dollars, from 2.367 million, while imports of farm products jumped tom 2.925 million dollars in 1990 to 3.879 million dollars in 1999, a report said on Wednesday. The report, by Stat Bank, also said that 2002 was not a good year for the farm produce processing industry, with the Panhellenic Union of Canned Food estimating a 20 percent loss in the tomato processing industry in the year.
Stat Bank said the results of 33 largest companies in the fruit and vegetable sector reflected the problems facing the industry, compared with its performance in the previous two years. Turnover totalled 486 million euros in 2001, up from 454 million euros in 2000, an increase of seven percent. Gross profit and income fell by almost two percentage points to 90.4 million euros, while operating expenses rose 5.0 percent to 69.2 million euros, the report said.
The fruit and vegetable street market's annual turnover in the Attica region totals 3.0 billion euros, of which 1.8 billion euros - more than 60 percent - was illegally distributed, Stat Bank said.
The report noted that bio-farming was rapidly increasing in Greece to a total of 214,512 stremmata in 1999 from 11,882 stremmata in 1994 (one stremma=1,000 square meters).
 Greece, China seek closer economic relations
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)Greece and China seek to forge closer economic relations, the two countries' economy ministers said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, after a meeting, Greek Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and Chinese Finance Minister Hiang Hua Cheng, stressed the need for closer economic cooperation between the two countries.
Mr Christodoulakis noted Greek efforts to boost exports to China and also stressed the need for increased Chinese investments in Greece.
The Greek minister said that an Hellenic Export Center would draft a plan aimed to attract Chinese investments.
The two ministers also discussed developments in the global economy.
 European conference on business activity in Thessaloniki, Feb 13-14
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)The problem of low business activity facing European businesses, particularly smaller- and medium-sized enterprises, will be in the focus of attention during a two-day conference organized by the Greek development ministry in Thessaloniki, February 13-14, in the framework of the Greek EU presidency.
The European Conference on the White Book of Business activity on February 13 and an informal ministerial meeting on Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises on February 14, will discuss the two main tools of EU policy on competitiveness, a White Book on Business activity and a European Charter of Small Enterprises.
The conference will focus on measures to boost European companies' competitiveness, according to a target set in the Lisbon Summit for the European economy to become the most competitive economy in the world by 2010.
EU ministers will also examine measures to improve community legislation covering the operation of small- and medium-sized enterprises, easier access to new technology, taxation and funding, electronic business and other forms of business activities.
The European conference on "The Business Future of Europe" will be attended by EU Commissioner Erki Liikanen, Commission officials and more than 300 representatives from European business unions.
The conclusions of the conference will be discussed initially during a European Competition Council and then by an EU Summit in March before taking final decision in an EU summit in June.
 Greek stocks end lower on Wednesday
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks ended Wednesday's session lower, resuming its downward trend after Tuesday's rebound, with the Greek market depressed by a negative climate in other European bourses.
The general index fell 0.68 percent to end at 1,677.32 points, with turnover a low 40.8 million euros.
The Cement and Retail sectors were the only ones to score gains (up 0.75 percent and 0.07 percent, respectively), while the Textile, Publication and IT Solution sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day (2.83 percent, 1.92 percent and 1.56 percent).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 0.66 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 0.95 percent lower and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index dropped 1.38 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 252 to 52 with another 49 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 53.4 mln euros Wednesday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 53.4 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Buyers outstrip sellers on Wednesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 Judicial inquiry into medicopter crash launched
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)A judicial inquiry into the conditions and causes of the third crash involving an EKAB ambulance service helicopter was launched by Supreme Court Public Prosecutor Evangelos Kroustallakis on Wednesday.
Kroustallakis has ordered investigators to determine whether any criminally prosecutable offence has been committed and by whom. He has also asked that evidence from the files of the two previous accidents be juxtaposed to determine if their causes were similar.
Finally, he asked for the minutes of meetings by the committees responsible for ordering and accepting delivery of the specific helicopters.
The last downed medicopter was lost early on Tuesday while conducting a night-time flight to pick up a patient from the Aegean island of Ikaria, disappearing from radar screens shortly after midnight while flying two kilometers from Ikaria airport. It was the third Agusta helicopter chartered from the Italian company Helitalia to crash since the loss of a medicopter that crashed off the cape of Sounio in January 2001 and another that fell in Anafi last summer, while in both previous cases everyone on board was killed.
Meanwhile, the search for survivors or bodies from the latest crash and for the remains of the fuselage was still continuing on Ikaria on Wednesday.
Three oil slicks have been sighted in the sea near the airport and the seabed is being scanned by ships on the surface to detect the fuselage.
Due to continuing bad weather and rough seas, divers and a search-and-rescue helicopter have been confined to the shore and only one Navy vessel, two salvage vessels and local fishing boats were able to participate in the search, which authorities said would continue for as long as the weather allowed.
Commenting on the accident on Wednesday, meanwhile, government spokesman Christos Protopapas stressed that the government took all measures necessary to protect lives and pointed out that Health Minister Costas Stefanis had forbidden all night-time flights by EKAB helicopters after the latest accident.
He said that continued collaboration with Helitalia, the company responsible for the technical supervision of the helicopters, would be reviewed when its contract with EKAB expired within the year while noting that it had been chosen by public tender.
He also pointed out that the same type of helicopter was used by many countries for similar tasks, while adding that each country had its own special geographical and other characteristics.
''We have to look into the conditions of the specific flight,'' Protopapas stressed and underlined that there had been a thorough technical check prior to the fateful flight and that all safety regulations had been adhered to.
He said that reports of malfunctions in the specific helicopter would be investigated.
Finally, Protopapas announced that the army had volunteered to cover the immediate emergency needs of island populations after the ban on night-time medicopter flights, and that a more permanent solution would be sought during a meeting of the cabinet to discuss health and welfare issues on Thursday.
EKAB doctors and paramedics refuse to fly with Helitalia helicopters in future: Doctors and paramedics of the National Emergency Centre (EKAB) held a general assembly on Wednesday and stressed their refusal to fly with helicopters of the ''Helitalia'' company in the future.
Helicopter flights at night have already been forbidden, while EKAB representatives made it clear that they will not travel in ''Helitalia'' helicopters during daytime either, except for those belonging to the military, to ferry patients from remote islands to organized hospitals.
They said they want the management of flying facilities to return to a public carrier and reserved their right to call new mobilizations during their general assembly on Monday.
 Greece to extend 'anti-pollution' surveillance of ships
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)Electronic 'eyes' that will monitor the activities of tankers will soon be installed in ports used as gateways for the distribution of fuel, such as Limnos, Mytilene, Karpathos, Crete, Kythera and the Peloponnese, it was announced on Wednesday.
Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis said the new installations would extend the National System for the Control and Management of Maritime Traffic, which already operates in the ports of Patras, Piraeus, Corfu and Igoumenitsa, and increase protection of the maritime environment.
The new devices will allow 24-hour monitoring of ships that aims to restrict illegal activity, such as causing pollution.
Anomeritis said that fines of 989,737 euros had been levied against polluters of the marine environment in 2002, while 355 separate incidents of pollution had been recorded by ships and land-based installations.
He said that Greece had the means, trained personnel and 17 anti-pollution protection stations in as many ports around the country, which would help protect the environment that was also a source of wealth for Greece.
Greek shipping register rose in January: The Greek merchant shipping fleet has made significant moves towards improving its quality in January, Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, in a news conference, Mr Anomeritis said that according to January figures, the Greek merchant shipping fleet totalled 1,977 vessels of a gross tonnage of 30,136,065 gt.
The Greek minister said that a total of 21 vessels entered the Greek shipping register, of 1,102,309 gt, while nine vessels of 171,103 gt were write off from the register (of which two changed flag and the remaining seven were sent for dissolution).
The average age of the newly registered vessels was three years, while the average age of those that left was 26.5 years.
 Minister stresses need for speeding up 'Informatics society' program
Athens, 13/02/2003 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis on Wednesday stressed the need for speeding up the implementation of the ''Informatics society'' operational program through an acceleration plan, a Crash program for 2003.
Christodoulakis was speaking at an event organized by his ministry's Special Secretariat for the Informatics Society and the Association of Informatics and Communication Companies of Greece.
A process of intensive consultations with all carriers involved in shaping the Crash Program for 2003 has been promoted and in the framework of which the carriers proposed projects they intend to proclaim or carry out in 2003.
Christodoulakis said a list of 162 projects having a total budget of 582 million euros resulted from the consultation process for shaping the specific program and which are expected to be proclaimed or implemented in 2003.
Provided that relevant carriers promote processing at a speedier pace and bring them to the desirable level of maturity, the priority of implementing projects can be changed in time.
 EU Commission report shows minimal Greek household access to the Internet
BRUSSELS 13/02/2003 (ANA-V.Demiris)A European Commission report on the progress of implementation of its Action Plan “e-Europe 2002”, released in Brussels on Wednesday, shows that penetration of the Internet in Greek households is the lowest in the EU, with Greek citizens making the less use of the worldwide web for purchasing products or services compare to the rest of the EU.
According to the report, in November 2002, only 14% of Greek households had access to the Internet, with the EU’s average standing at 42.6%. Spain and Portugal, 31% and 32% respectively, also lag the rest of the EU. Household penetration of the Internet in the EU is led by Holland 68%, Denmark 67% and Sweden 66%.
Only 6% of Greek citizens declared they use the web for making purchases of products and services, which represents the lowest percentage among the Union’s 15 member states, averaging 23%. With regard to Internet security, 18% of users in Greece said they caught a virus form the web, with the EU average at 27%.
Greece also holds bottom position in the penetration of Internet in medical surgeries: only 24% of surgeries have access to the worldwide web, compared to Sweden’s 98% and Britain’s 97%.
 President Clerides to attend European Council meeting on Iraq
NICOSIA 13/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Glafcos will attend a meeting on Tuesday of the European Council in Brussels, responding to an invitation by Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, whose country chairs the EU this term to the 15 EU states and 10 acceding countries.
The purpose of the meeting is to assess the situation in the context of UN Security Council resolution 1441 and the common position decided by the EU on 27 January.
The Cypriot president will depart on Monday, 17 February, one day after the presidential elections on the island and will return on Tuesday evening.
The Cypriot government has called for all diplomatic and political means to be exhausted before turning to war in order to solve the Iraqi crisis.
Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said on Wednesday that ''Cyprus calls on all to realize that international law passes through the decisions of the Security Council, which is the sole organization that can authorize the undertaking of military action.''
Replying to questions, Papapetrou said ''the government's position is that Iraq is called on to fully comply with all the provisions of Security Council resolution 1441 and in this direction Cyprus calls for full compliance and for Iraq to provide the inspectors will all the necessary facilities and information provided for in the resolution.''
He added that Cyprus will express its positions in Brussels and ''of course will harmonize its stance with the common stance expected to be adopted by the EU.''
Asked if the government had been approached in order to support the US position, Papapetrou said it had not.
 Cyprus, Greece in touch on security talks, says spokesman
NICOSIA 13/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)Nicosia is in close contact with Athens with regard to talks on security issues Greece and Turkey will begin next week, in the context of the UN-led peace negotiations for a comprehensive settlement, government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said here on Wednesday.
The spokesman also said that there must be give-and-take on specific issues at the negotiating table, before the UN decide to put forward to the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides a new peace plan.
Papapetrou said the government has no official information about a visit to the island by Secretary General Kofi Annan and cannot confirm that such a visit will take place.
''We are in close contact with the Greek government and there is joint planning, common positions and understanding as to how this matter should be handled,'' Papapetrou said, replying to questions about next week's talks between the two guarantor powers (Greece and Turkey).
The two will talk about the size of their respective contingents to be stationed in Cyprus after a solution, the weapons their troops will carry and the way they will conduct themselves.
Invited to comment on reports that the UN intends to present the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides with a new plan, Papapetrou said that ''if we are going to have another plan before us, then a give-and-take attempt should be made in a concrete manner at the talks prior to a new plan.''
The spokesman explained that if no such attempt is made, then changes to the existing peace plan will be minor because