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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-12-13
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>December 13, 2003
 PM welcomes EU decision to based sea border control centre in Greece
BRUSSELS, 13/12/2003 (ANA - Ch. Poulidou)Speaking to reporters after the morning session of the European Council here on Friday, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis particularly welcomed the Council's decision to base a European Centre for the Management of Sea Borders in Greece.
He also noted that the '25' had decided to continue policies against illegal immigration agreed at the Halkidiki Summit last June.
Outlining the results of talks between the 25 EU leaders, Simitis said that two Greek initiatives were recorded in the draft conclusions of the Summit: one concerning 'green diplomacy' and the need to upgrade environmental aspects and another on the Olympic Truce.
With respect to Turkey's candidacy for EU entry, Simitis said the draft conclusions of the summit called on Ankara to complete harmonization with the Copenhagen criteria and the reforms required.
The Greek premier also noted that the Community attached great importance to Turkey's expression of political will for a solution to the Cyprus problem, which was directly linked to its hopes for the start of accession negotiations.
For candidate-states Romania and Bulgaria, meanwhile, the Council agreed that they should soon complete their accession procedures and sign an accession agreement in 2005, with a view to joining the Union in 2007.
The prime minister referred to the Council's decisions to boost the European economy, which was currently in a slump characterized by low growth rates of around 0.5 percent and high unemployment that made recovery difficult.
According to Simitis, the EU-wide slump was not as apparent in Greece since growth rates remained high (4%) and unemployment was falling, though the country did not fully escape the woes of Europe, which had a negative impact on Greek tourism and exports, further exacerbated by high euro exchange rates.
He said that the euro's rise against the dollar was chiefly attributed to the weakness of the dollar due to international uncertainty and the war in Iraq.
Other actions approved on Friday by the '25' was a list of ''rapid start'' programs aimed at cross-border interconnections that will benefit development and the environment, Simitis reported.
He said this list remained open for additional programs if these were operationally ready within three years and included programs of interest to Greece, such as electricity connections with Balkan countries, natural gas pipelines, major road networks, research, development and innovation.
Responding to questions, Simitis said that issues linked to the Stability Pact were not discussed at the European Council, while Greek Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis clarified that the ECOFIN dinner taking place on Friday will discuss ways to make the pact more functional, especially in countries with low growth.
Christodoulakis said Greece considered the Stability Pact necessary for fiscal discipline but agreed that it must become more flexible and allow the possibility of a large deficit in countries with low growth.
 EU's 25 take decision on defense system
BRUSSELS, 13/12/03 (ANA/Ch. Poulidou)The 25 European Union leaders arrived at an agreement on the Union's defense system on Friday, by accepting an Italian EU presidency proposal, which was based on a French-British-German agreement, closing one of the contentious issues of the draft European Constitution, discussed here.
The tripartite agreement spoke of the possibility for an ''autonomous operations'' of the EU under UN mandate and the possibility to undertake a European operation utilizing NATO infrastructures.
Greek Prime Minster Costas Simitis, addressing journalists here, outlined the decisions concerning the defense of the Union, detailing the capabilities of the Union to assume an operation.
Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Greece have already placed their military forces' headquarters at the disposal of the Union's defense system.
 Berlusconi calls on Turkey to contribute to Cyprus solution
BRUSSELS, 13/12/03 (ANA - V. Demiris)Italian Prime Minister and head of the European Council Silvio Berlusconi on Friday urged Turkey to make a constructive contribution to efforts for a solution of the Cyprus problem, stressing that Europe would prefer to see a united Cyprus join the EU.
Berlusconi also expressed satisfaction with the results of the summit meeting between the 25 EU leaders held here earlier on Friday.
In addition, the Italian premier referred to the importance of the political will expressed by Turkey for a solution to the Cyprus problem and the sum of 206 million euros that had been allocated to northern Cyprus but was linked to a prior solution of the problem.
He hailed Turkey's ''major and persistent'' efforts for reforms necessary to join the Union, saying that these had to be accelerated and noting the significant progress achieved toward meeting the economic criteria.
Asked to comment on the ''elections'' being held in the occupied areas of Cyprus on Sunday, Berlusconi underlined the need for freedom of the press and information, so that the electoral procedure was conducted smoothly and its results were legal and democratic.
 French President Chirac speaks of necessity for solution to Cyprus issue
BRUSSELS, 13/12/2003 (ANA/G. Zitouniati)French President Jacques Chirac on Friday spoke of the necessity for a solution to the Cyprus problem and the reunification of the island republic, calling conditions on the island ''abnormal''.
Speaking at a press conference here during the European Summit, he said ''we must do all we can for the normalization of the situation, overcoming the obstacles,'' which, as he said, ''are absurd.''
Chirac also referred to the effort made in this direction by EU High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security Javier Solana, stating that ''he appreciates this in particular.''
The French president expressed his satisfaction over the legislative reforms in Turkey, in order for it to meet the Copenhagen criteria, at the end of 2004, when its EU candidacy will be assessed, and appealed to Turkey to also cooperate for a settlement of the Cyprus issue.
 Deputy press minister denies presence of Greek soldiers in Iraq
Athens, 13/12/2003 (ANA)Deputy Press and Media Minister Telemachos Hytiris on Friday denied press reports that there were Greek soldiers in Iraq.
Referring to a photograph by a foreign news agency showing a Greek in Iraq, he stated he was a bomb disposal expert, a member of a non-governmental organization, and not a member of the Greek Army, who does not participate, in any way in the situation in this country.
The deputy press minister also said that the specific organization, like every other similar one, is supported by the foreign ministry in its activity.
 Gov't says industry, commerce bosses have no right to seek elections
Athens, 13/12/2003 (ANA)A government spokesman said on Friday that the heads of influential industry and commerce trade groups had no right to seek early elections.
Asked to comment on statements by the leaders of the Association of Greek Industry and the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry that the economy was suffering from an extended pre-election period, Telemachos Hytiris said: ''(Main opposition leader) Costas Karamanlis has the right to do this, but they do not.''
The most likely dates for national elections were April 25 and May 2, Hytiris added.
 Peter Arnett cites growing pressure on nascent Iraqi media
Athens, 13/12/2003 (ANA)Veteran broadcast journalist Peter Arnett on Friday decried what he called growing pressure on the freedom of expression in US coalition-occupied Iraq, pointing the finger directly at the Iraqi expatriate-dominated governing council, although he noted that a veritable grassroots media explosion has taken place since Saddam’s downfall.
The former top CNN reporter during the first Gulf War and long-time war correspondent spoke in Athens on Friday during a forum at the Foreign Press Association of Greece’s downtown Athens office, sponsored by Parliamentary group of the Party of European Socialists and PASOK Euro-deputy Myrsini Zorba.
Arnett spoke during two separate sessions, “The War in Iraq: The New Situation in the Region”, and “Freedom of Mass Media in Periods of Crisis”.
“Lost in the shuffle, and lost in the resistance to the war … is America’s promise of democratic state, the freedom of expression. Saddam Hussein’s regime stopped all independent journalism, there was no independent journal that existed in any way, shape or form in Iraq, it was all Saddam, Saddam, Saddam.
“So, one of the key elements of the overthrow of Saddam’s regime was the establishment of freedom of expression, and in many ways you have it; people can demonstrate on the streets… they can throw insults (at the Americans) or they can praise them,” Arnett said.
However, he warned that the US-appointed governing council began clamping down on certain papers following certain outrageous claims against the US forces there. Moreover, he cited the expulsion of the “al-Arabiya” network from the Mideast country, whereas even international news organizations were “warned” about their coverage by the appointed council, although he said he didn’t believe US authorities were involved in such veiled press censorship.
“I think the US has been trying to moderate excessive reaction,” he said.
Such actions, he warned, bode ill for future press freedom in the country, as newly opened media outlets – some 145 newspapers, by last count – may be hesitant to irk Iraq’s future leadership.
“If journalists aren’t able to function, to uncover corruption, malfeasance, then what have we got?”
Regarding the crucial issue of media access and autonomy during the invasion, Arnett said it was “pretty much the (US) government’s show” before and during the war, noting however, that “when the controls have to be lifted, or if at some point the media breaks free, I mean it can only be controlled for so long … and I think now the media does a pretty good job at assessing what’s is going on in Iraq. Currently, there is a very realistic journalistic performance.”
Event on conditions in Iraq, focuses on country's post war future: ''There are serious concerns about what is happening in Iraq, while at the same time the Iraqi resistance has no views on tomorrow, fact that undermines a more popular support,'' veteran journalist Peter Arnett said on Friday during an event organized by PASOK Eurodeputy Myrsini Zorba and Athens' Foreign Press Association.
The event, which was entitled ''The war in Iraq: the new situation'', was moderated by ANA Managing Director Nicolas Voulelis, while on the panel, along with Arnett, were Zorba and journalists Petros Papakonstantinou and Phivos Karzis.
Arnett also stressed that there is ''at least one region in Iraq ready to cooperate (with the U.S.), while the part that confronts the U.S. is in central Iraq,'' adding that ''Iraq is a 'difficult' country for foreigners anyway, making it difficult for a foreign organization such as Al Queda to take root ... while the danger of future religious conflicts exists in the country''.
He underlined that the U.S. failed in Iraq, as they were not able to restore the public utilities they destroyed during the war, adding, however, that as far as the fall of Saddam Housein goes, the U.S. succeeded.
On his part, the moderator of the panel Voulelis noted that if the Middle Eastern problem is not resolved nothing will happen in the region, adding that it appears that the resolution of that problem does not seem to be a priority of President George Bush.
He also stressed that the ''resolution of the Middle Eastern problem opens a window to the democratization of the Middle East''.
Zorba, during her intervention, focused on the European Union opinion polls conducted by Eurobarometer concerning Iraq, its rebuilding, humanitarian aid in the country and opinions on the source of the money for the rebuilding of the country.
Journalist Papakonstantinou assessed that what is to happen in Iraq is not yet certain as all possibilities are open, adding that the resistance that is comprised of about 40 organizations, may offer a prospect of a way out if it will offer a program.
The second part of the event, which was entitled ''The independence of the Mass Media in conditions of crisis'', was moderated by journalist Yiannis Diakoyiannis and the panel was composed of Arnett, Zorba, AP correspondent Patrick Quinn, journalist George Avgeropoulos and Athens University Prof. Michalis Meimaris.
 Palestinian trade unionist in Greece as guest of PAME
Athens, 13/12/2003 (ANA)General Union of Palestinian Workers general secretary Haidar Ibrahim Qubbaha, also a member of the Palestinian Central Council, visited Greece on Friday as a guest of the PASOK-affiliated trade union group PAME.
Qubbaha met Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, representatives of the parties, representatives of the Athens and Patras trade unions, Patras university students and workers at the Patras-based Coca Cola plant.
During the meetings and at a press conference on Friday, he discussed the situation in the Palestinian territories and asked for the assistance of the Greek government and Greek people in establishing international law and peace in Palestine, saying the Palestinian population had suffered greatly from the attacks of the Israeli army and the polices of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
According to Qubbaha, in the past three years Israeli forces had imprisoned 200,000 Palestinians and were still keeping 7,300 in custody, while 37,600 Palestinians had been injured and 2,800 were killed in the past 2.5 years, including 500 children under 18, as well as dozens of doctors, journalists and members of peace organizations.
During that time, the Israeli army had destroyed 53,659 homes and 282 schools, uprooted a million fruit trees, set up 250,000 Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories and 1,600 guard posts on the perimeter, from which 39 Palestinians had been executed.
He also accused Israeli forces of destroying factories, public services and systematically discouraging education in the Palestinian areas.
 Olympic Airlines spreads its wings
Athens, 13/12/2003 (ANA)Olympic Airlines, successor to Olympic Airways, spread its wings on Friday three months after the state-owned enterprise's new identity was encapsulated in parliamentary law.
''Olympic Airlines is born, and Olympic Airways comes to the end of its working life after 46 years,'' Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis told a news conference.
The minister said he hoped that a consortium of banks working with the finance ministry would find an investor for the airline in the near future in order to privatize the company.
The new airline spans routes covered by Olympic Aviation, Macedonian Airlines and the former Olympic Airways.
Flight attendants are continuing their 14-day strike until Saturday to protest against OA's new status.
 Greece, Turkey seek to extend Egnatia highway to Istanbul
Athens, 13/12/2003 (ANA)Greece and Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday for extension of the Egnatia highway to Istanbul, completing a European link to the Middle East that will stretch from the Ionian Sea to the Black Sea.
The memorandum, which was signed by Greek and Turkish officials, will also be countersigned by Greek Transport Minister Christos Verelis and his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim.
In statements to the press, Verelis called the memorandum significant for southeastern Europe, making Greece a strategic crossroads for European east-west road and railway links.
Closing rates of December 12 2003
Parities in euro
Foreign Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,235 1,207
 Symposium underway on EU-NATO security, terrorism & the Olympic Games
Athens, 13/12/2003 (ANA)Cooperation between the European Union and NATO in the defense sector, terrorism and the prospect of accession of the southeastern European countries to the Euro-Atlantic institutions were the topics examined on the first day Friday of the 13th annual International Symposium held at the Zappeion Hall in Athens by the Greek Union for Atlantic and European Cooperation.
All the speakers supported the combatting of terrorism, reiterating the position of their countries on ways to deal with it.
On the security of the Olympic Games, it was declared that Greece was adequately capable of hosting safe Games in cooperation with foreign countries in the sector of information.
With regard EU-NATO cooperation in the defense sector, the speakers, among them the defense ministry's representative, honorary ambassador Dimitris Nezeritis, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party's responsible for defense, Spilios Spiliotopoulos, and representative of the Greek Parliament at the regular convention for the Future of Europe, deputy Marietta Yiannakou, supported the strengthening of European security which will operate complementary towards NATO.
Finally, the representatives of southeastern Europe reiterated the will of their countries to be incorporated in the Euro-Atlantic institutions.
 Archbishop Anastasios inaugurates new oncology clinic in Athens
Athens, 13/12/2003 (ANA)The ''Aglaia Kyriakou Hospital's'' newly renovated oncology clinic for children here in Athens was inaugurated on Friday by Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania Anastasios in the presence of Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos and Mayor of Athens Dora Bakoyianni.
The 400 sq. meter clinic was named after the archbishop and includes 14 beds for in house care and was renovated through the efforts of the ''Open hug'' Foundation.
 Latvia-Greece joint commission on education convenes in Riga
Athens, 13/12/2003 (ANA)The second meeting of the Latvia-Greece joint commission on education, culture and science was convened in Riga on December 10-11, a press release issued by the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday said.
On Thursday, the commission agreed on and signed a cooperation program between Latvia and Greece for 2004-2006.
The joint commission is functioning under the cooperation agreement signed between the governments of Latvia and Greece in 1999 for cooperation in the areas of culture, education and science. The coordinating institution in Latvia is the Ministry of Education and Science; represented are also the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture. The delegation is led by Valdis Egle, Deputy State Secretary for Science and Research of the Ministry of Education and Science.
 Papadopoulos satisfied with EU conclusions on Cyprus
BRUSSELS, 13/12/2003 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has expressed satisfaction over the Brussels European Council conclusions regarding Cyprus, which urge all parties concerned and in particular Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership to strongly support the UN Secretary General's efforts for a Cyprus settlement.
Speaking here on Friday at a press conference after the European Council wrapped up its works, President Papadopoulos said that Cyprus would have no reason to veto a decision for accession talks between the EU and Turkey if the latter complied with the acquis communautaire and in practice demonstrated that it behaves like a European country, including meeting the condition that no EU country can have its military forces on the soil of Europe.
Replying to questions, he said the paragraph on Cyprus says that the Council supports the policy that a plan proposed by UN chief Kofi Annan is accepted as the basis for negotiations and calls upon all sides, in particular Turkey and the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community, to assist the UN Secretary General for the immediate commencement of negotiations on Cyprus.
He also noted that the European Council refers in its conclusions to the readiness of the EU to help in various aspects.
''Although Cyprus is not one of the prerequisites of the political dialogue, more and more countries of the European Union make it a point that if no solution is found to the Cyprus problem it will be a great obstacle to Turkey's European expectations,'' the president added.
In a remark that in the Commission's strategy paper the sentence was a bit different, namely that ''if the problem persists then it will be a serious obstacle'' in contradiction to the present reference that ''a settlement would greatly facilitate Turkey's membership aspirations,'' President Papadopoulos said that ''it says the same thing only in the positive way.''
Asked if he was optimistic about the outcome of the so-called elections in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, he said that ''all decisions concerning Cyprus are taken in Turkey, so the crucial point is what Turkey will want to do and not so much the outcome of the elections.''
He added that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is clearly stating that he is not willing to negotiate the Annan plan whilst the parties of the so-called opposition more or less express their readiness to commence negotiations on the basis of the Annan plan. However, he clarified that ''what their actual positions will be during the negotiations, nobody can predict.''
Invited to comment on reports in the Turkish press that even if Denktash said yes to the Annan plan last year in The Hague, he would say no, President Papadopoulos rejected this position, noting that the plan was not ready as it not ready now for signing.
''There are points that remain undecided so the plan was not ready to be put to a referendum. Mr. Denktash on the other hand was categorical that he doesn't like the Annan plan in its philosophy in its provisions and he rejected it,'' the president said.
Asked whether he was prepared to veto a European decision to start accession talks with Turkey if no solution is found to the Cyprus problem, he said ''why should we veto Turkey, if Turkey complies with the acquis communautaire and in practice demonstrates that it behaves like a European country, one condition of which is no European Union country can have its military forces on the soil of Europe.''
He concluded that if Turkey complies with all the requirements of the European Union, then Cyprus will have no reason to veto Turkey. ''On the contrary, we would like Turkey in the EU behaving like a European country.''
Asked how optimistic he was about the Intergovernmental Conference accomplishing the task for a European Constitution, he said it was difficult to make predictions.
He added that there were ''differing alliances'' for the issues under discussion, noting that Cyprus shares some of the views with some of these groups and disagrees with some others.
Concerning the issue of taxation, he said Cyprus shares the proposals of the UK and Ireland and also favors the position that each state should have one Commissioner.
 Cox hopes 'elections' result will contribute to reconciliation
BRUSSELS, 13/12/2003 (CNA/ANA)European Parliament President Pat Cox has expressed the hope that the result of the so-called elections in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus on Sunday, December 14, will be one that contributes to the reconciliation on the island.
Answering to questions at a press conference here on Friday after addressing the European Council, he expressed the hope for a united Cyprus in the EU, noting also that Turkey's contribution towards that direction would help its own European aspirations.
''It is not a warning but an incentive,'' said the president of the European Parliament, adding that he encouraged Ankara to choose the direction for a Cyprus settlement during his meeting with Turkish Premier Recep Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
Asked on the possibility a divided island to become a full EU member on May 1, 2004, Cox said that ''this question has already been answered,'' noting that ''the Treaty was signed and Cyprus will become a full member of the European Union.''
Referring to the so-called elections in the areas occupied by Turkish troops since 1974, he expressed the hope that the result will be such so as to lead to reconciliation and boost the efforts for a Cyprus settlement on the basis of Annan plan.
Earlier on Friday addressing the European Council, Cox welcomed the legislative reform underway in Turkey noting, however, that ''the Commission has pointed the lacunae, particularly in the area of implementation and has shown what remains to be done.''
 Spokesman says T/C politician reaffirms G/C position
NICOSIA, 13/12/2003 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said on Friday that Dervis Eroglu, so-called prime minister in the Turkish-occupied areas of the Republic, reaffirmed through statements the Greek Cypriot position about who is ruling in the occupied areas.
According to Chrysostomides, Eroglu said on Thursday that the financial assistance from Turkey was deposited in the account of the Turkish so-called embassy in the occupied areas and that not a penny could be transferred without the signature of the so-called Ambassador.
The spokesman said that this statement was ''a very significant admission, which reaffirms our side's position about who is ruling the occupation regime."
Asked if the government's calls for no observers at the ''parliamentary elections'' to take place in the occupied areas on December 14 had been heard, the spokesman said the only observers in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus are those of the Oslo University with no official capacity.
Chrysostomides reiterated the government's position that ''there will be no official consent to the presence of observers in view of the fact that from the Turkish Cypriot community itself it appears that the lists are rigged with Turkish settlers''.
''What the result of the presence or not of unofficial observers will be during, before or after the voting remains to be seen," the spokesman said.