|Friday, 28 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-02-18
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 18, 2003
 PM Simitis says war in Iraq not inevitable, praises EU leaders' common stance
BRUSSELS 18/02/2003 (ANA/M. Spinthourakis)''War is not inevitable and the European Union's member states showed today that they can reach an understanding and pave a common line,'' Greek Prime Minister and EU Council President Costas Simitis said here on Monday. Speaking a press conference on Monday night at the end of an informal EU summit on the Iraq crisis, the prime minister said with the decision the 15 leaders reached, on the one hand they responded to the feelings of the European citizens, who demonstrated on Saturday in support of peace, and on the other made clear the need for the full disarmament of Iraq.
He further stressed that despite the initial differences, the EU proved that it can have a unified stance and that the member-states can discuss openly and in a friendly climate.
Summing up the summit decisions, Simitis stressed the need for full respect of UN resolutions, which constitutes the centre of international legal order.
''We stand by the UN inspectors and we believe that they should have at their disposal all the means required to accomplish their mission,'' he said, adding, however, that the inspectors and the checks should not continue indefinitely and that Iraq should take advantage of the cooperation offered it by the international community and not to have illusions.
The prime minister added that the EU wishes to cooperate with the United States in order for there to be stability and expectations for a peaceful future, underlining that this corresponds to the wishes of all the peoples of Europe.
Simitis ascertained that the U.S. does not wish ''to go it alone'', noting that ''if they wanted to, they would have proceeded by now by themselves, but this is not happening because they desire international legalization for their actions.''
European Commission President Romano Prodi and EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana congratulated Simitis for undertaking the initiative to call the summit as well as for the way he presided and handled the issue. Prodi underlined that through its decision, the EU responded to the demand of millions of European citizens who demonstrated on Saturday in support of peace.
Solana made similar statements, underlining the need for the disarmament of Iraq and its compliance to the orders of the international community.
The 15 leaders said in a joint statement after a one-day emergency summit, called by the Greek EU presidency to overcome differences on the Iraq crisis that the inspectors ''should be given the time and resources which the UN Security Council believes they need.''
The statement set no time limit on the inspection process but said it could not continue indefinitely in the absence of full Iraqi cooperation.
''Baghdad should have no illusions: it must disarm and cooperate immediately. It has a final opportunity to solve the crisis peacefully,'' the declaration said.
The Greek prime minister said the EU leaders were resolved to work closely with the United States and a continued military buildup was essential to achieve Iraqi cooperation.
 PM says EU should contribute to Iraq's compliance with UN's resolution
BRUSSELS 18/02/2003 (ANA - Y. Zitouniati)Prime Minister and European Union Council President Costas Simitis, in his opening address at the EU's special summit here on Monday, said the EU should contribute to Iraq's compliance with the UN's resolution and to the prevention of war.
''The EU's responsibility is that we contribute, pressure and secure a double target: Iraq's compliance with the UN's resolution and the prevention of war. What does this mean for our next step? So that there will be no war we must obtain the certainty, in a very short period of time, that Iraq cannot use weapons of mass destruction, neither now nor in the future,'' he said.
Referring to the Iraq crisis, as it currently stands, Simitis mentioned the UN Security Council's resolution 1441 which provides the opportunity for Iraq to be disarmed in a peaceful way and placed responsibility on Baghdad if it fails to utilize it.
''There is common ground in our discussion. Let us try to enlarge it. Let us try, believing that we are not chasing a mirage but something feasible. We should pursue what is feasible. We should prove to our peoples that together we can consolidate security and peace step-by-step,'' he told his European partners.
Simitis warned that the risk of new dividing lines being shaped in Europe, which has developed so far on common values and principles, should be prevented and not underestimated.
''We did not gather today to repeat our disagreements, to reaffirm deviations and return to our capitals leaving things where they were yesterday. What is required is that if we can, in light of the reports of the UN inspectors and the discussion held at the Security Council on Friday, examine how the situation is being shaped and reach a common course,'' he said.
Simitis said the citizens of Europe are expecting a constructive contribution from all that will lead to common ground for a unified stance.
He added that this appears to be difficult, particularly in the field of EU foreign policy and in developments in Iraq in particular. However, he went on to say, this was achieved in conclusions drawn at the Council of Foreign Ministers on January 27 and in the Presidency's demarche to Iraq on February 4.
Justifying the Greek Presidency's decision to call a special summit, the prime minister said ''it would be odd not to involve ourselves, not to take a position in the case of Iraq and, in extension, not to express a view on whether there will be a war and under what preconditions. I consider it self-evident for a European Union which has repeatedly underlined its responsibilities towards the world order being shaped. For a Europe which wants to respond to the need to shape a world of security, peace and justice.''
Simitis also stressed that the leaders of the 15 EU member-states should examine the repercussions of the Iraq crisis on efforts to revive the peace process in the Middle East (based on the road map by the ''quartet'', namely the United States, the EU, the UN and Russia), as well as on the general problem of the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
 Simitis meets with Prodi, Patten in Brussels
BRUSSELS 18/02/2003 (ANA - A. Simatos)Greece's Prime Minister Costas Simitis, currently European Council president, met with European Commission President Romano Prodi and European Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten in Brussels on Monday in order to brief them about an informal EU summit that will be held here later in the afternoon to discuss the Iraq crisis and the Middle East problem.
Greece, who currently holds the EU rotating six-month presidency, last Monday called an emergency EU summit for a common EU stance on the Iraq crisis.
Simitis, who will chair the summit in the Belgian capital, did not make any statements to reporters after the meeting.
Accompanying Simitis at the meeting with Prodi was Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, currently EU foreign ministers council president. Responding to questions about the Middle East problem, Papandreou said that it was ''of the utmost importance for the EU, alongside the issue with Iraq''.
 Simitis-Gul meeting prior to informal EU summit
BRUSSELS 18/02/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis met with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul here on Monday, hours before a crucial emergency EU Summit meeting called by the Greek EU presidency to focus on the Iraq crisis.
According to government sources, the meeting was held in a positive climate, with talks focusing on the Iraq situation in general, Ankara’s warnings to Baghdad to cooperate with the UN as well as the Greek presidency’s latest initiatives.
Gul noted that Turkey is directly affected by the crisis, as it will face a tidal wave of refugees in case of war, while adding that Ankara has also requested economic aid from the EU.
Additionally, he said the Turkish national assembly will consider the issue of allowing allied troops transit through Turkey in case of action against Iraq.
Regarding the timely Cyprus issue, Simitis and Gul reportedly touched on certain aspects of the recently tabled Annan peace plan, specifically in terms of guarantees and security.
 PM Simitis, UN chief discuss Cyprus on sidelines of EU informal meeting on Iraq
BRUSSELS 18/02/2003 (ANA/Ch. Poulidou)UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan confirmed to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis here on Monday that he would visit Ankara, Athens and arrive in Nicosia on February 26 where he will meet with Cyprus president-elect Tassos Papadopoulos.
Annan and Simitis met on the sidelines of a crucial emergency EU summit meeting called by the Greek EU presidency to focus on the Iraq crisis.
According to government sources in Athens, following the meeting he will have with Papadopoulos, the UN chief will announce his proposals for the continuation of the procedure of the Cyprus talks.
Simitis is said to have assured Annan that Papadopoulos is in a ''positive climate'', at the same time noting that in the meeting he had earlier in the day with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul, it was agreed that the negotiations on the guarantor treaty regarding Cyprus be concluded next week.
 Reports cite Greek aid to Turkey within NATO framework
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)Greece will reportedly supply NATO ally Turkey with low-level logistical support in the air transport sector, as part of its contribution to the alliance’s latest decision to strengthen the neighboring country’s defenses in case of US-led military operations against Iraq, according to sources in the Greek capital.
In an unrelated development, defense ministry sources said Athens’ conviction that a NATO peacekeeping force in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will be replaced next month by a European Rapid Deployment Force still stands.
 Spanish PM presses for implementation of UNSCR 1441
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has sent a letter to his Greek counterpart Costas Simitis, whose country currently holds the six-month rotating EU presidency, urging him to use the ''common and consensual'' position achieved by the 15 European Union member-states on January 27 as a starting point for an emergency EU summit to discuss Iraq, the French news agency AFP reported from Madrid.
In the letter sent to Simitis on Saturday, the Spanish premier urged him to ask for the rapid and ''strict implementation'' of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1441 that calls for Iraq's disarmament.
In their joint position, the '15' had agreed on the need to extend and ''intensify'' the work of United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq.
The emergency EU summit on Iraq and the Middle East crisis called by the Greek presidency to be held on Monday afternoon would ''have to maintain the agreement of last January 27,'' he added.
''I believe that our talks must focus on the strict application within a short period of time of resolution 1441,'' he said.
Spain was among the eight European countries that signed a letter in support of US positions on Iraq.
Describing the January 27 EU decision as the ''best starting point'', the Spanish premier noted that EU leaders would have to take into account the two reports presented by UN weapons inspectors to the Security Council.
He also stressed that the Community should not ''forget its commitments in relation to the Atlantic Alliance'' while expressing certainty that ''Europe can contribute significantly to peace and international security''.
 Ambassador Vasilakis to address UN Security Council open meeting on Iraq crisis
NEW YORK 18/02/2003 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)Greece's Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Adamantios Vasilakis, will address the UN Security Council on the Iraq crisis, on behalf of the European Union's 15 member-countries.
Following a request by the Non-Aligned Movement, an open meeting on the Iraq crisis will be held at the Security Council on Tuesday, during which representatives of countries which are not Security Council members will have the opportunity to air their views.
 Chrysohoidis meets EU member-states’ ambassadors
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)Issues of concern to the Public Order Ministry in the context of the Greek EU Presidency have been the focus of talks during a working luncheon hosted by Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis to European Union member-states’ ambassadors to Athens on Monday.
Chrysohoidis referred specifically to the setting up of a new agency for the surveillance of internal EU borders, the allocation of responsibilities and efforts to implement Seville EU Council directives. He said these issues should also be seen in light of a cohesive, diverse and common EU policy on immigration.
Participating ambassadors also discussed illegal immigration issues under the phenomenon’s two-fold dimension, i.e. internal measures in the EU and measures towards third countries, placing emphasis at this instance on Turkey.
Chrysohoidis reaffirmed the political will for Europe’s contribution to combating organized crime in the Western Balkans. An outline of Greek recommendations will be presented at the EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers’ Council in Brussels, February 27 and 28.
 13 European leftist politicians address letter to Simitis over Iraq
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)Thirteen European leftist politicians, including party general secretaries, party leaders, deputies and even a House speaker, have sent a letter to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, the current EU Council president, expressing their opposition to “war as a means of solving international problems”.
“We are totally against war as a means of solving international problems. The civilian population of Iraq, especially children, will be the primary victim in case the United States’ military plans proceed. The people of Iraq will live through a new tragedy that will be tacked on to the terrible price they have already paid from the Gulf War, the international embargo as well as the barbarian and dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein,” the letter states, among others.
The letter signed by the president of Greece’s Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party, Nikos Constantopoulos; French Communist Party Secretary General Marie-George Buffet; Portuguese Communist Party General Secretary Carlos Carvalhas; Party of Communist Refoundation National Secretary Fausto Bertinotti; AKEL General Secretary and Cypriot House Speaker Demetris Christofias, as well as another eight well-known Parliamentarians.
 Defense minister meets main opposition sector head for defense
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and main opposition New Democracy's sector head for foreign affairs and defense Ambassador Petros Molyviatis ascertained convergent views on defense and security issues during their meeting on Monday. The meeting also examined the Iraq crisis.
Afterward, Papantoniou noted that the maximum possible consensus was necessary among political forces in the country with respect to defense issues and that the opposition had to exercise necessary controls in a democracy.
Molyviatis stressed that ND "surrounded the Armed Forces with respect" and said the party believed that there should be a single long-term strategy on national security issues that did not change with changes in governments.
Regarding the results of presidential elections on Cyprus over the weekend, the two men said the new president would contribute to finding a viable, functional and just solution to the Cyprus problem.
On Iraq, Papantoniou reiterated that the government's position calling for a "broad front" among European forces that would exhaust the margins for finding a peaceful way out of the crisis.
Asked if ND agreed with sending military reinforcements to Turkey within the framework of NATO to deal with possible dangers from Iraq, Molyviatis said the party believed that all issues related to the Iraq crisis should be based on respect for international law and the decisions of the Security Council.
 Cyprus President elect Tassos Papadopoulos to visit Athens on February 24
NICOSIA 18/02/2003 (ANA)Cyprus President elect Tassos Papadopoulos will visit Athens on February 24 for talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, following a telephone conversation they had and in which Simitis congratulated Papadopoulos on his election.
Papadopoulos will visit Athens for meetings with Greece's political leadership on developments regarding the issue of Cyprus, also in light of Simitis' meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the same day.
Simitis met Annan and Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul in Brussels on Monday. He will also meet outgoing Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides on Tuesday.
 Stephanopoulos congratulates new Cyprus president
NICOSIA 18/02/2003 (ANA - G. Leonidas)Greek President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Monday conveyed his congratulations by phone to newly elected Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, who won Sunday's Cypriot presidential race in the first round.
Meanwhile, the UN chief's special envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, also spoke with Papadopoulos and outgoing President Glafcos Clerides by phone.
According to reports, Clerides has requested that a Tuesday meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash be postponed.
De Soto will reportedly meet instead separately with Clerides and president-elect Papadopoulos on Tuesday morning.
 The UN envoy is then expected to depart for Ankara.
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)Kaklamanis sends congratulatory message
Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis on Monday congratulated Cyprus President elect Tassos Papadopoulos for his success in Sunday's presidential elections, adding that the Greek Parliament ''in the framework of its close cooperation with the Cyprus House of Representatives will continue to provide its limitless and active support'' in achieving a solution to the Cyprus problem.
Kaklamanis, who is on a visit to India, expressed certainty that Papadopoulos has experience and, with the recent mandate of the Cypriot people, he will be successful in completing the island republic's accession to the European Union and finding a solution to the Cyprus problem in a just and viable way.
Karamanlis praise for Clerides: Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Monday sent a letter to outgoing Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides in which he praised the two-term Cypriot leader for his “lengthy, and historically important, contribution to the long course of struggles by Cypriot Hellenism”.
Karamanlis also noted that Clerides’ greatest achievement was the island republic’s accession to the European Union.
Clerides’ bid to win a third term as Cyprus’ president fell short on Sunday as opposition candidate Tassos Papadopoulos took roughly 51 percent of the vote to win the presidential election in the first round.
 Parliament speaker begins official visit to India
NEW DELHI 18/02/2003 (ANA - M. Vihou)Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis on Monday began an official visit to India by laying a wreath at the tomb of Indian spiritual leader Mahatmah Gandhi.
Signing the visitors' book, Kaklamanis expressed "boundless respect for the memory, battles and contribution made by Gandhi to his people and all humanity," and said the world would be a better place if his ideals were adopted by the powerful policy makers of the present.
On Monday night, there will be a dinner at the Indian Parliament for the Greek delegation.
Kaklamanis meets with Indian counterpart in New Delhi: Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis on Monday met with his Indian counterpart Yioshi Manohar and discussed with him international and bilateral issues.
Kaklamanis supported India's bid to join the United Nations' Security Council as a permanent member and spoke for the abolition of the veto the permanent members enjoy.
He also said that Greece supported the peaceful resolution through dialogue of the Kashmir problem.
The two men also discussed current affairs, focusing on international terrorism.
 FYROM deputy PM requests information on course of Greek aid program
SKOPJE 18/02/2003 (ANA - N. Frangopoulos)Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Deputy Prime Minister on European integration issues Radmila Sekerinska on Monday sent a letter to Foreign Minister George Papandreou, requesting information on when the Greek Parliament would approve the bilateral agreement concerning the ''Greek Plan for the Economic Restructuring of the Balkans''.
The agreement, having duration of five years, was signed in August and the letter was a reaction to the non-ratification of the agreement by the Greek Parliament, as the agreements with the rest of the Balkan states were ratified in January.
Sekerinska stressed in her letter that the ratification would mean that several development projects would be implemented, further developing bilateral relations in light of the European Union Summit in June.
The total amount of the Greek program for the Balkans stands at 550 million euros of which 75 million were earmarked for FYROM.
 Deputy DM meets with German ambassador
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)Deputy Defense Minister Loukas Apostolidis on Monday met with German Ambassador Dr. Albert Spiegel and discussed issues concerning the European Union, in light of the Iraq crisis, as well as the course of bilateral relations.
Apostolidis focused on the priorities of the Greek EU presidency concerning security and defense, including the sup-port for the EU arms industry.
 Uncertainty pressures European economy, Greek FinMin
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)An extended international uncertainty is creating negative pressures on the European economy, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters, ahead of a Eurogroup and ECOFIN meetings Monday and Tuesday respectively, the Greek minister reaffirmed forecasts of a slowdown in economic growth in Europe in the first quarter of 2003, published by the European Commission on Monday, although he refrained from making any specific predictions over the slowdown rate.
Mr Christodoulakis, however, expressed his satisfaction over a current strength of the euro currency, noting that as far as Greece was concerned it was the first time that a worsening international economic climate did not lead to a drop in its currency rate.
The Greek minister stressed that Greek tourism was not expected to feel any negative impact from a current climate of uncertainty because "Greece is a safe country".
Mr Christodoulakis said that a Stability Pact included provisions of actions in cases of unexpected developments but stressed that there was no issue of relaxing national fiscal policies.
 EU likely to take Greece to court over Olympic Airways
BRUSSELS 18/02/2003 (ANA/M.Spinthourakis)The European Union's executive Commission is likely to take Greece to court in coming weeks after Olympic Airways refused to return 198 million euros in reportedly illegal state subsidies to the ailing company, a spokesman said.
''The Commission will go to the European Court as it has not so far received a satisfactory reply from the Greek authorities about how the state will retrieve 194 million euros that the Commission thinks was wrongly given by Greek authorities to Olympic,'' the spokesman for the EU's transport commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, told the Athens News Agency.
''The deadline within which the Greek government had to provide a satisfactory answer ended last week. Transport Minister Christos Verelis sent a letter to the Commission Friday, which, however, was not deemed satisfactory. As a result, the Commission is expected to seek recourse at the European Court in coming weeks,'' the spokesman added.
Earlier in the day, Greece said it had not been notified by the Commission of any action to be taken in its dispute with state owned Olympic Airways (OA), for the carrier's refusal to return the monies.
''For the Greek government, the matter ended with the data it gave the Commission in reply to a request,'' a ministry spokeswoman told reporters.
The government repeated on Sunday that it will go to court over the Commission's request for repayment of the money.
''We will resort to Greek and European courts,'' Verelis had said in a statement.
The government has sent to the Commission a recommendation by the state's legal council and the findings of audits conducted by Deloitte & Touche, used by the EU to audit Olympic's finances.
Of the total sum sought, 41 million euros represented a state subsidy in the form of a share capital increase and the remainder comprised debts, according to the government.
Management of the ailing airline has disputed the Commission's decision that calls for the return of subsidies dating back to 1998 under a revitalization plan.
In December, airline president and CEO Dionysis Kalofonos said: ''OA is not in danger from the decision but rather from an unprecedented campaign by rivals, who talk of a fine of 193 million euros, hiding the content of the decision, which refers to 41 million euros, equivalent to OA's share capital rise in 1998.''
Verelis has said that the government will continue to try to privatize the airline in a bid to avert its closure and the loss of 6,000 jobs.
 Greece, Italy seek closer tourist cooperation
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)Greece and Italy will seek closer tourist cooperation, particularly in theme tourism such as sea, religious, agrotourism, and in implementing joint tourist programs to attract visitors from far away countries (China, Japan, US), Development Deputy Minister Dimitris Georgakopoulos said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with his Italian counterpart Stefano Stefani in the framework of BIT 2003 international tourist exhibition in Milan, Mr Georgakopoulos said that Italian tour operators were cautiously optimistic for the 2003 tourist season and said that tourist arrivals to Greece from Italy would raise this year.
The Italian government also expressed its support to a Greek EU presidency's proposal to consolidate VAT rates in tourism throughout Europe.
Mr Georgakopoulos also met with his Turkish counterpart Guldal Aksit and discussed promoting joint tourist programs and to develop bilateral tourist cooperation in general.
 Greek stocks end slightly up on Monday
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks ended the first trading session of the week slightly higher in very thin turnover in the Athens Stock Exchange.
Investors remained largely on the sidelines awaiting developments in the Iraqi crisis, with buying interest focusing on small and medium capitalization stocks.
The general index rose 0.38 percent to end at 1,685.76 points, with turnover a near-record low of 35.5 million euros.
The Metals, Textile and Food-Beverage sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day (2.11 percent, 2.0 percent and 1.31 percent, respectively), while the Retail (1.20 percent), IT Solutions (0.34 percent) and Cement (0.22 percent) sectors suffered losses.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 0.27 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 0.95 percent higher and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index also rose 0.95 percent. The wider FTSE/ASE 140 index ended 0.45 percent up.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 216 to 82 with another 61 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 39.6 mln euros Monday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 39.6 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Buyers match
sellers on Monday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 Transport disrupted as weather takes turn for the worse
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)Reports of problems in transport due to deteriorating weather conditions were coming in from areas throughout Greece on Monday as snow and heavy rains fell around the country overnight and high winds prevented ferries from making the Rio-Antirrio crossing.
Residents of Tripoli in the Peloponnese district of Arcadia woke up to the rare sight of snow blanketing their city, which reached up to 15 cm deep even in the centre. Snow chains were needed on the main national routes to Kalamata, Pyrgos, Sparti and Athens, while acute problems were reported from the Vytina municipality which saw unprecedented quantities of snow.
Schools in Arcadia remained closed and 18 villages were cut off throughout the prefecture, where mountain roads were impassable.
Heavy rains and snow on high ground were also reported from the western Peloponnese prefecture of Achaia, where high seas and gale-force winds have also prevented ferries from sailing and cut off access to northwest Greece. All mountain villages in Achaia have been cut off, while drivers heading for Tripoli are advised to exercise caution and use snow chains.
Conditions are even worse further north, with acute problems reported in Fthiotida and Ioannina.
Local authorities in Fthiotida and around Lamia have been battling to keep snow-laden roads open since Sunday night, especially in the west of the prefecture, and more than 30 villages have been cut off. Snow chains are needed after exiting Lamia until the 41st kilometer of the national highway and other sections of the prefecture's road network.
In Ioannina, meanwhile, the Ioannina-Trikala national highway was closed after dozens of trucks that were not using snow chains careered out of control and blocked the road.
Smaller cars were extricated by snow-clearing teams early on Monday morning but problems remain as long as the trucks continue to block the highway.
Heavy snow has also blocked the new road from the national highway to Grevena via Milies.
 Greek culture minister speaks on multiculturalism at Strasbourg council
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, currently European Union culture ministers council president, in Strasbourg on Monday said the ideological and cultural characteristics of globalization were what made our times different from other periods in history, a culture ministry announcement said.
In his opening speech at the culture ministers' council entitled ''Multiculturalism in the Era of Globalization'', Venizelos pointed to the distinction between external multiculturalism, based on respect for fellow human beings and the principle of citizens equality, and internal, which functions as the basic factor for solidarity and social cohesion.
The Greek minister also briefed his counterparts on the Union's priorities and on the results of a recent Paris conference of the Cultural Policy International Network, which is now functioning within the Unesco.
Venizelos is scheduled to hold a series of bilateral meetings with his EU counterparts on the sidelines of the council, in light of upcoming Greek presidency initiatives, the announcement said.
According to the ministry's announcement, the Turkish culture minister was invited to chair the meeting on multiculturalism, where the Greek culture minister was the main interlocutor.
Culture minister meets with Turkish counterpart: Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos met with his Turkish counterpart Huseyin Celik in Strasbourg on Monday and discussed related issues on the sidelines of the Council of Europe culture ministers' meeting.
The two men will meet again in Istanbul on March 15.
In another development, the culture ministry announced its support for the second Inter-Religious conference organized in May by the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate, which will take place in Thessaloniki, since that city will host the European Union Summit in June.
 Prosecutor seeks outspoken publisher's testimony in blackmail furor
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)A controversial local publisher has been summoned by a first instance court prosecutor on Tuesday to provide information regarding a high-profile case involving the blackmailing of a handful of prominent businessmen and senior clerics.
Outspoken publisher Grigoris Mihalopoulos has been at the centre of a furor over the past few weeks following the publication of a slain industrialist Dimitris Angelopoulos’ diary, in which the latter wrote in 1985 that Mihalopoulos warned him that he was a target of the notorious “November 17” terrorist group. Angelopoulos also wrote in his diary that Mihalopoulos offered to mediate in order to remove his name from any ‘hit list’.
The well-known industrialist was, in fact, assassinated by “N17” a year later.
According to reports, Mihalopoulos has also been accused of blackmail by Athens 2004 organizing committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and her husband Theodoros, Dimitris Angelopoulos’ nephew; shipping heiress Marianna Latsi; convicted entrepreneur Argyris Saliarellis and even Metropolitan of Zakynthos Chrysostomos.
Mihalopoulos, a long-time publisher of the low-circulation conservative daily “Eleftheri Ora”, has denied all the allegations.
 D'Estaing to address Int'l European Movement event in Athens
Athens, 18/02/2003 (ANA)French statesman Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the current chairman of the Convention on the Future of Europe, will present the first conclusions from the Convention to delegates representing 25 European countries during a conference in Athens on Thursday by the International European Movement.
Greece’s political leadership is expected to attend the event at the Athens Commercial and Industrial Chamber of Commerce in downtown Athens.
The international conference will focus on the theme of “Building a European Conscience – Which Europe Do We Want?”
D’Estaing will arrive in Athens on Wednesday and is expected to depart on Friday.
 New Cyprus president Papadopoulos expresses commitment to viable solution
NICOSIA 18/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)Tassos Papadopoulos, the winner of Sunday's presidential elections, said he would display flexibility and good will at the negotiating table with a view at rendering a UN peace proposal on a comprehensive settlement a workable and viable solution.
Speaking late Sunday night to jubilant supporters after he was declared officially President of the Republic, he said he does not want to deprive the Turkish Cypriots of their rights but wants to ensure that the island's two communities have a workable plan that would last.
Papadopoulos, who got 51.51 per cent of the vote ousting President Glafcos Clerides, thanked the Greek government and the opposition in Greece for their wishes and support and expressed appreciation to Clerides and his other opponents in Sunday's poll.
''It is our commitment and our duty to continue the negotiations with flexibility and good will to bring about the necessary improvements to the UN peace plan under discussion so that it becomes a workable and viable solution,'' he said.
Papadopoulos stressed that he wants negotiations not to deprive the Turkish Cypriots of their rights but to ensure that both communities have before them a workable plan that would last.
He appealed to the Turkish Cypriots to judge him by what he is and not by what they are told he is.
Addressing the thousands of people who turned up for the official ceremony at the ''Eleftheria'' indoor stadium, in the capital Nicosia, to declare him the new president, he said ''I look forward to your cooperation, especially the cooperation with parties that have a long history of exchanges with the Turkish Cypriots to work together in order to see a reunited Cyprus join the European Union and see Greek and Turkish Cypriots enjoy the benefits EU membership would bring.''
He assured that his efforts at the negotiating table aim at proving his good will and show that he wants a society that respects equality.
Papadopoulos said that there will be no discrimination in the new society he wants to set up and there will be no second class citizens because of political affiliations, stressing that he would not tolerate such behavior.
He pledged to ensure equality between men and women and said meritocracy will prevail.
Addressing the refugees, he said he would work to secure their right to return to their homes, now under Turkish occupation, under conditions of security.
Cyprus' new president also referred to the missing persons, and assured their families that at the negotiations he will insist that this humanitarian issue will have to be resolved.
He said Greek Cypriots who continue to live in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, especially the Karpass peninsula, are worthy of respect and appreciation for enduring hardship for so long at their ancestral homes.
Referring to his opponents in Sunday's presidential race, he said ''I would like to express my appreciation to President Clerides and to the rest of my opponents in this contest and tell them that elections with opponents show that democracy works.''
He said he would implement his electoral manifesto in a sincere and collective manner with respect to everybody to bring about real change and a new era.
''The people's will for a change in government is a reality today, and this change came in the first round of the elections, as you wanted it,'' he told his jubilant supporters whom he thanked warmly for all the hard work they had put into his election to the presidency.
Papadopoulos thanked the government of Greece and the opposition in Greece for their wishes on his election and the promise they gave him for support of the task ahead.
On a more personal note, he thanked his wife, now first lady Fotini and his children.
 President-elect pledges unobstructed continuation of the talks
NICOSIA 18/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)UN Secretary General's Special Adviser for Cyprus Alvaro De Soto had here on Monday his first meeting with president-elect Tassos Papadopoulos, who assured him of his wish for the unobstructed continuation of the UN-led talks for a Cyprus settlement.
Papadopoulos said they listed a number of issues, which have to be addressed urgently in the framework of the negotiations. ''I assured Mr. De Soto of our eager wish that there will be continuity to the talks and no gap,'' he added.
De Soto said he was very pleased with his first meeting with Papadopoulos, who expressed to him ''his desire to continue the peace process without interruption.''
''I look forward to continue meeting with him frequently, perhaps together with our teams as soon as Mr Papadopoulos' team is in place.
I look forward to this collaboration,'' he added.
Invited to say whether there will be a new meeting on Wednesday in the context of the UN-led talks, De Soto said ''possibly not the one on Wednesday, but we will resume quickly thereafter.''
Asked if UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's visit to Cyprus will take place as scheduled, De Soto replied affirmatively and added that ''there is no reason to change the plans.'' Kofi Annan is expected in Cyprus next week.
Asked if he is the next negotiator of the Greek Cypriot side at the talks, Papadopoulos said ''the people have decided that I am the elected representative of the Greek Cypriot community. As regards the issue of the negotiator, we will look into it,'' he added.
The Greek Cypriot side has been represented at the talks by the President of the Republic, who is elected by the Greek Cypriot community.
Asked about the issues he discussed with de Soto that have to be addressed at the talks, Papadopoulos said that these are issues that have to be dealt with now in order to decide the next steps.
''These are issues that have come up at the talks in the past. The two sides said they would give their answers to enable us to move on to the next steps. These are preliminary issues that will allow the discussion of other topics. If there is no decision on them, you cannot move forward,'' he added, noting that ''we are talking about a couple of pending issues and we want to have answers on them.''
Asked if he has been briefed by De Soto on the substance of the talks, he said that he was briefed both by De Soto and by outgoing President Glafcos Clerides, with whom he met earlier on Monday and he will be meeting again on Wednesday.
Papadopoulos won Sunday's elections with 51.51 per cent of the vote, the first time in twenty years that presidential elections were won outright in the first poll.
 Papadopoulos wants no vacuum in Cyprus peace talks
NICOSIA 18/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)President-elect Tassos Papadopoulos said on Monday he does not want to see any vacuum in the ongoing UN-led peace talks with the Turkish Cypriot side, adding that outgoing President Glafcos Clerides remains the representative of the Greek Cypriot side to the talks until February 28, when he (Papadopoulos) will be sworn in as the new President of the Republic.
Speaking after his first meeting with Clerides since his electoral victory on Sunday, Papadopoulos said he asked Clerides to remain a member of the National Council, the top advisory body to the president on the Cyprus question.
Papadopoulos said he has already formed his negotiating team for the talks but refrained from giving any names.
''My objective is to try and ensure that there is no vacuum in the negotiations. I have asked the President to convene a National Council meeting as soon as possible,'' President-elect and Democratic Party leader Papadopoulos added.
Papadopoulos was elected on Sunday the fifth President of the Republic when he received 51.51 per cent of the vote, ousting his main rival Clerides who got 38.80 per cent.
''I asked the President to remain a member of the Council and I intend to make the best use of his experience, his knowledge and all he has done at the negotiating table so far,'' he said.
Papadopoulos said that Clerides promised that he would maintain very close cooperation with him with regard to the negotiations, an issue which the two will discuss further.
 Annan says Cyprus solution possible by end of February
BRUSSELS 18/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)UN Secretary General Kofi Annan continues to believe that it is still possible to reach a negotiated settlement in Cyprus by the end of February, a deadline set out in a peace proposal he put forward to the two sides in Cyprus.
''I hope Iraq will not distract me from my objective to reach an agreement by the end of February,'' Annan told a press conference here on Monday, when asked if the Iraqi crisis had sidelined the question of Cyprus.
''I think it is still possible,'' Annan added.
The Secretary General is due in Cyprus next week, from 26-28, as the deadline for an agreement is drawing near.
Annan congratulated president-elect in Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos on his election victory on Sunday, and said Papadopoulos was well versed on the question of Cyprus and a seasoned negotiator.
 President-elect ready for Annan's visit
NICOSIA 18/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)President-elect Tassos Papadopoulos said on Monday that ''we are ready for the visit of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan'' to Cyprus, adding that there is ''an agreed and set policy
for the continuation of the negotiations with flexibility and good will, with a real and sincere aim to find a solution of the Cyprus problem if possible within the timeframes.''
He said that ''if something like that is not possible, this will not be caused by our side but by the continued intransigence of (Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf) Denktash and the undefined blurred climate in Turkey.''
Papadopoulos noted that if a solution is not possible by February 28, then ''we hope that the negotiations will continue in the same atmosphere as so far with the hope to find a solution as soon as possible'', adding that a solution is an urgent necessity because
''out side has been suffering the hardship of the Turkish occupation.''
The newly-elected President met on Monday with those who supported his candidacy and thanked them for ''their collective effort, which was crowned with success.''
Among those who attended the meeting were General Secretary of leftwing AKEL Demetris Christofias, Movement of Social Democrats President Yiannakis Omirou, and General Secretary of the Movement of Ecologists and Environmentalists Giorgos Perdikis.
 Clerides: mandate belongs now to Papadopoulos
LARNACA 18/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)Outgoing Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides said on Monday the mandate now belongs to the newly-elected President Tassos Papadopoulos but he pledged to offer him any help he wants.
Replying to questions at Larnaca Airport before departing for Brussels to attend on Tuesday the European Council meeting on Iraq, Clerides said he believes the reason he lost the elections was because of the ''people's desire for a change. The people's verdict is respected, and the change will take place,'' he said.
Clerides said on Tuesday morning in Brussels he will meet Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, current EU President, and will return to Cyprus the same evening.
''The mandate belongs now to the president-elect and any help he asks of me I will grant it, but the negotiation (for a solution to the Cyprus problem) is not my issue any more,'' Clerides said.
Invited to comment on reports that he would not attend again talks on the Cyprus problem, President Clerides replied that ''elections took place in a democratic manner and the people decided that some change is necessary, and surely the one who will attend the talks should be the elected President of the Republic.''
Asked if he had discussed the issue of accompanying the newly-elected President at the UN-led direct talks, he said the issue was not discussed in detail and he will meet Papadopoulos again on Wednesday morning.
''Surely, the new president will examine the proposals which the Turks submitted for alterations, our proposals and will read the minutes of the meetings to have a full picture of where we are,'' Clerides added.
Regarding his participation in the National Council, Clerides said
the parties, which are represented in the House of Representatives, take part in the Council, therefore if the National Council invites him for briefing and views, he would gladly attend.
On his meeting on Monday morning with UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, Clerides said de Soto thanked him for their cooperation and informed him about his trip to Turkey later in the day.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of the island's territory.
 De Soto says talks must be concluded by February 28
ISTANBUL 18/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, said that negotiations for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem had to be concluded by the end of this month.
Speaking on arrival in Ankara on Monday, where he will hold talks with government officials, de Soto said the newly elected Cyprus President, Tassos Papadopoulos, told him he is aware of the time limitation and that he would be ready to participate in the talks in a few days.
Noting he met Papadopoulos and outgoing President Glafcos Clerides earlier in Nicosia today, de Soto said that the former told him he would start the talks with a positive spirit.
De Soto said ''Papadopoulos told me he would be ready to participate in the talks in a few days, because he also does not want the talks to be interrupted. He is aware of the time limitation,'' he said, and reminded of the importance of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's visits to Athens and Ankara next week.
Invited to comment on Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's statements that de Soto is putting pressure on both sides at the talks, de Soto said that he did not want to make comments without knowing fully what Denktash had said. However he said, ''I suppose he (Denktash) exaggerates my power a little bit.''
He stressed that negotiations had to be concluded by February 28 for a united Cyprus to sign the Accession Treaty with the European Union on April 16.
 Greece to maintain close cooperation with new president
NICOSIA 18/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)Greek Ambassador to Cyprus Christos Panagopoulos has assured president-elect and Democratic Party leader Tassos Papadopoulos that the existing close cooperation between Athens and Nicosia will continue and be enhanced.
Papadopoulos said the Ambassador paid a courtesy call on Monday to congratulate him on his election victory and said they discussed in broad terms the Cyprus question and they will be meeting again soon.
''I have conveyed the warm wishes of the Greek political leadership and wished him well in the difficult task he is undertaking. Our common resolve is to arrange a meeting between Papadopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Simitis,'' Ambassador Panagopoulos said.
Replying to questions, Panagopoulos said that ties of cooperation, coordination and friendship have developed and will continue to develop further.
Papadopoulos was elected the fifth President of the Republic at Sunday's elections with 51.51 per cent of the vote, beating his main rival incumbent President Glafcos Clerides who got 38.80 per cent.