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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-12-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>December 15, 2003
 Greek PM says variance in political assessments leads to EU-Summit impasse
Athens, 15/12/03 (ANA)Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the European Union leaders had failed to agree on a ''European Constitution'' on Saturday due to a variance in political assessments among the bloc's 25 present and future member-states.
Simitis said that the main reason for the impasse was the insistence of some states to hold on to their ''acquired rights'' based on a weighted voting system formula contained in the Nice Treaty of 2000, which he said resulted in the rejection of all compromise proposals put forward by the Italian presidency.
''They are not in a position to understand the difference between negotiations for minor issues and negotiations for major issues, such as the intergovernmental conference for the European Constitution'', the premier said, adding that nation-centered tendencies lead to controversy and delays in important decisions.
He said Greece favored a federal system formula in proceeding with the EU's enlargement, but added that discussions at the Summit had showed that not all members were in agreement.
With regard to future steps, Simitis said the Irish EU presidency that takes over from Italy in January would study the new facts and proceed accordingly, warning nevertheless that immediate developments would be unlikely due to upcoming elections in some member-states such as Spain.
 Greece to host the EU Network and Information Systems Protection Organization
BRUSSELS, 12/15/03 (ANA - Ch. Poulidou)Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis from Brussels on Saturday said that the European Council had appointed Greece as the host of the European Network and Information Systems Protection Organization.
Speaking at a press conference shortly after the final meeting of the European Summit, Simitis said that within the framework of a Council decision regarding the distribution of the seats of European Organizations, Greece was dealt out the seat of the Organization that refers to the protection of Internet users.
Underscoring trends for continuous hi-tec upgrades, the premier said the government would identify the Greek city that will host the Organization, which he said will play a significant role in the future.
 KKE leader opposes Euro-Constitution, says it cannot be progressive
Athens, 15/12/03 (ANA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said her party was opposed to the prospect of a European Constitution, during her speech at a meeting of European labor and Communist parties at a central Athens hotel.
Addressing the meeting on Saturday, Papariga said that it was impossible for such any Euro-Constitution to be ''progressive'', just as there could be no progressive Maastricht Treaty.
In fact, she said, any position that accepted the first while rejecting the second was merely a fallacy.
She also denied that the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights into the text of the Euro-Constitution was an achievement, as it was being presented, noting that this contained fewer rights than the constitutions of many democracies and the European Convention of Human Rights.
 Foreign minister comments on arrest of Saddam Hussein
Athens, 15/12/03 (ANA)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Sunday expressed hope that the arrest of Saddam Hussein would finally bring to a close a ''dramatic chapter in Iraqi history''.
He also said Sunday's events should accelerate the process of political reconstruction and stability in the country and hasten the transfer of power to the Iraqi people.
''The Iraqi people must soon, with the assistance of the international community and the active participation of the United Nations, take into their hands the fate of their country and work in conditions of peace and reconciliation for its progress and prosperity,'' Papandreou said.
Greek gov't notes Saddam's arrest, says democracy can now return to Iraq
Greek government spokesman Christos Protopapas on Sunday noted the arrest of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and said this should accelerate developments to restore democracy in Iraq.
''Today's developments with the arrest of Saddam Hussein mark the end of a story that has afflicted the people of Iraq and the entire world. It is now time to accelerate developments for the restoration of democracy and self-rule to the people of Iraq,'' he said.
 Voters view change of leadership in PASOK positively, poll finds
Athens, 15/12/03 (ANA)A change in leadership for the ruling PASOK party before the next elections is seen as ''probably positive development'' by voters, with Foreign Minister George Papandreou viewed as the best choice for his successor, according to a poll conducted by MRB and published in the newspaper ''Kathimerini'' on Sunday.
The opinion poll found that 58.1 per cent of PASOK voters, 43.2 per cent of main opposition New Democracy voters and 49.3 per cent of Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party voters believed that a change in the party's leadership would ''most likely'' or ''definitely'' be a positive development for the ruling party.
On who was best choice to succeed current PASOK president Costas Simitis, meanwhile, 73.7 per cent of PASOK voters and 58.8 per cent of all those responding chose Papandreou.
Asked to comment on the poll, Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos stressed that it was a hypothetical scenario and that PASOK would be going to the elections with Costas Simitis at the helm.
Papandreou on MRB poll, PASOK succession: 'PM has first say'
Questioned about the results of an MRB poll that showed him to be the most popular choice to succeed Prime Minister Costas Simitis as the head of ruling PASOK, Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Sunday stressed that the ''first say belongs to the prime minister''.
''I will not refuse to take on responsibility when it is necessary,'' he added in his response to reporters as he returned to Athens from Brussels and the EU summit.
Papandreou declined to comment on the results of the opinion polls, noting only that the answers were related to the way the questions were put.
He conceded, however, that PASOK was in a slump and would benefit from some self-criticism, while stressing that political parties were given drive by their policies.
 Karamanlis: Theory of ND 'parenthesis' in gov't will be dispelled
Athens, 15/12/03 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis was quoted over the weekend as stressing that his party is entirely ready to assume the country’s reins, while warning that various theories citing a ND “parenthesis” between PASOK governments will be disproved.
Karamanlis was quoted in an interview published in the Sunday edition of the Athens daily “Kathimerini”, as heightened political developments continue ahead of general elections – expected in the spring.
In further statements, Karamanlis – the namesake and nephew of late Greek statesman and ND founder Constantine Karamanlis – promised a “revolution in quality” as far as the state’s services are concerned.
Moreover, he warned that if elected ND would review public contracts where the tendering, implementation or costs appear legally dubious.
Parthenon Marbles: In a related development, a ND spokesman over the weekend called on Prime Minister Costas Simitis to publicly request the return of the Parthenon Marbles in a meeting with his British counterpart Tony Blair.
The Greek premier is set to officially meet with Blair in London on Monday.
Greece has long requested that the ancient friezes, which once adorned the Parthenon atop the Acropolis, be repatriated to Athens, especially in light of next year’s “Olympic homecoming” with the 2004 Games. The Marbles are currently housed in London’s renowned British Museum.
In a relevant press release, ND spokesman Thodoris Roussopoulos said the Marbles’ repatriation is a standing national demand, one submitted by “all (Greek) political forces, all Greeks, the government, relevant officials, scholars and the people of Great Britain”.
Roussopoulos also pointedly said Simitis should make the request publicly and on behalf of all Greeks, “and not as petty political vagrancy.”
 US maintain policy of ''solution encouragement'' on Cyprus issue
WASHINGTON, 15/12/03 (ANA, T. Ellis)The United States on Friday reiterated their fixed policy on the Cyprus issue was to encourage all interested parties to work toward a solution.
"We've always encouraged a solution to the Cyprus problem'', state department spokesman Richard Boucher said replying to a relevant question during Friday's press briefing, two days before the crucial ''parliamentary elections'' at the Turkish-occupied northern part of the island republic.
Asked whether the US shared EU leaders' view that a solution to the Cyprus problem would make it easy for Turkey to win the bid for EU membership, Boucher said ''I suppose it's merely an objective observation that a solution to the Cyprus problem would help a lot of things in the region, including Turkey's membership to the EU, but I'm not trying to lay down conditionality here.''
''We think that both things are good and both things should be pursued'', he concluded.
 UN review cites 3.7% GDP increase in Greece for 2003
NEW YORK, 15/12/03 (ANA)The United Nations’ annual economic and social review has listed a 3.7-percent increase in Greece’s GDP for 2003, with a projected figure of 3.9 percent given for 2004, the year when Athens hosts the 2004 Olympic Games.
The same report projects a continuation of the Greek economy’s growth rate above the “euro-zone” average, which includes the economies of the more developed western European countries. Construction-related growth, especially as related to Olympic projects, as well as continued strong domestic consumer demand are cited in the UN report on the Greek economy.
 National bank governor dismisses allegations for pre-election impact on economy
Athens, 15/12/03 (ANA)Greece's National Bank governor Theodoros Karatzas on Saturday said he disagreed with a view stated last week by Greek Industries Union president Odysseas Kyriakopoulos that a pro-
longed pre-election period would hold significant implications for the country's economy.
''In a democratic country the pre-election period is not considered to be a period of anomaly'', Karatzas said from Iraklion, Crete, where he is on a visit for meetings with local businessmen and bank officials.
Along the same lines, the government on Wednesday had rejected an indirect call made by Kyriakopoulos for early elections and urged him to ''stay out of the political life of the country''.
 OA cabin crews continue industrial action; nation-wide taxi strike
Athens, 15/12/03 (ANA)The union representing Olympic Airways’ stewards and air hostesses said a strike by its members will continue until Wednesday, when the union’s board convenes again.
Most of the debt-ridden national carrier’s employee unions are opposed to the latest government plan to separate OA’s divisions, including the domestic and foreign routes. A new company, Olympic Airlines, was launched on Friday with planes and staff from taken from state-run OA.
Meanwhile, taxi cab owners announced a nationwide strike for Monday, although a handful of taxi cooperatives, representing some 1,500 cabs, countered that they will not honor the industrial action.
Owners want the government to defer the mandatory placement of receipt-issuing cash registers in cabs until Jan. 8, when a holiday bonus tacked onto meters ends.
Furthermore, a drive-by protest of striking cab owners through the streets of central Athens was ostensibly re-scheduled for Tuesday, as a meeting on Monday is scheduled between top government ministers and union officials.
The government has remained adamant on the issue of cash registers in taxi cabs, especially in light of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens next August.
 Athens 2004 IOC: Olympic security always a major concern
Rome, 15/12/03 (ANA- L. Hatzikyriakos)International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge on Saturday said that security during Olympic organizations remained a major concern.
''This is the biggest concern for us as well us for organizers'', the IOC chief said during statements to the Italian press, reiterating that security was the affair of governments and that organizers could provide assistance.
''Naturally, we can never speak about zero danger'', he said, quickly adding that he retained his optimism in spite of difficulties caused by post-September 11 security and economic problems.
On the issue of Olympic organization costs, he said he favored downsizing, while he stressed that cooperation between the IOC and the states was essential for combating ''doping''.
 Kaklamanis: Olympics might be safer without foreign agencies involved
Athens, 15/12/03 (ANA)Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis on Sunday said that the threat to the Athens Olympics from international terrorism would be less if responsibility for security lay exclusively with domestic forces.
The concentration of so many foreign agencies might potentially provoke those who direct, rally or participate in modern terrorism, Kaklamanis argued in his address to the regular general assembly of the Judges and Prosecutors' Union.
Kaklamanis also referred to the dismantling of the terror group ''November 17'', saying it was the biggest service done to the country by Greek Justice since the return of democracy.
He said the case might have been solved much earlier if it had not been used politically in ways that misled investigating authorities.
 Greek president speaks against war, praises Greece's political world
Athens, 15/12/03 (ANA)Greece's President Kostis Stephanopoulos on Saturday condemned war conflict and defended the prestige of Greek politicians whom he called ''important individuals with high morals in their majority''.
''War survivors should react by retaining their memories, but also by developing sentiments against war conflict and barbarism'', Stephanopoulos said in addressing an event held at the town of Kalavryta, in Peloponnese, to mark the 60th anniversary since the massacre of the town's 500 residents during WWII by occupying German forces.
In speaking during the ceremony, Stephanopoulos defended Greece's political world and said that ''Greece is progressing with its political world in the lead''.
The event was also attended by deputy defense minister Theodoros Kotsonis and main opposition New Democracy deputy Spilios Spiliotopoulos.
 Expatriate Greeks elect new presidium for SAE organization
Athens, 15/12/03 (ANA)The fifth annual World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) assembly wound up in Thessaloniki on Sunday with the election of a new presidium, as incumbent president Andrew Athens was re-elected to the post of the world-wide organization of expatriate Greeks. Athens garnered 463 votes to Paschalis Papachristopoulos’ 174 by SAE delegates, which hailed from practically every corner of the globe.
The other individuals elected to the 11-member presidium were Stefanos Tambakis, alternate president; Constantinos Georganas, treasurer; Christos Tomaras, vice-president for the Americas; Haris Sofocledes, VP for Cyprus; Agathangelos Aslanidis, VP for Europe; VP for Oceania, Constantinos Vertzayias; whereas the three secretaries’ posts were filled by Olga Sarantopoulou, Eleni Constantinou and Elias Rallis.
Only Sarantopoulou and Rallis were not present on the out-going presidium.
This year’s assembly focused on the promotion of Athens and Greece ahead of the 2004 Olympics Games.
In greeting delegates, Deputy FM Yiannis Magriotis reminded of Athens’ and SAE’s initiatives to continue supporting expatriate Greek communities in the former Soviet Union states, with the emphasis being on creating new jobs for expatriates in those regions.
 Greek-Americans begin fund-raising drive for local Greek Orthodox Church
NEW YORK, 15/12/03 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)Greek-American Alexandros Spanos, an expatriate businessman based in California, pledged to give 10 million dollars toward a fund-raising drive begun by the local Greek expatriate community, which hopes to raise 100 million dollars for the Greek-Orthodox Church of America in the space of five years.
The initiative was begun by America Archbishop Dimitrios in order to ''create reserve funds solely for the purpose of funding National Deaconries and the foundations of the Greek Orthodox Archepiscopate of America''.
 Turkish-Cypriot opposition, pro-Denktash parties neck and neck in 'elections'
Athens, 15/12/03 (ANA)Rival Turkish-Cypriot party blocs were neck and neck in the ''elections'' held on Sunday in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus, according to the latest reports, with an equal share of seats in the Turkish-Cypriot assembly in spite of a marginal lead for the pro-Europe, anti-Denktash opposition.
CNA (Cyprus News Agency) reports quoting the semi-official Turkish news agency Anadolu, with 70 per cent of the vote counted, said the parties supporting the policies of Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and those opposed got an equal share of seats in the 50-seat ''assembly''.
At the latest count the opposition bloc still had 51 per cent of the vote against 45 per cent for the ''government'' coalition parties, but it lost seats under the complicated ''electoral system'' in the occupied territories, which bars parties with less than 5 per cent from gaining a seat in the assembly.
Earlier reports by the ANA correspondent in Nicosia, with 60 per cent of the vote counted, put the Republican Turkish Party of Mehmet Ali Talat in the lead with 36.74 per cent of the vote, while the Peace and Democracy Party of Mustafa Akkinzi was second with 14.4 percent and five to six seats. Under these estimates the opposition bloc gained a four to five-seat lead in the Turkish-Cypriot ''assembly''.
 President hopes for opposition victory in T/C ''elections''
LARNACA, 15/12/03 (CNA/ANA)President Tassos Papadopoulos said the government would welcome an ''electoral'' victory of the political forces that oppose Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash but warned that no false hopes should be nurtured that the outcome of Sunday's poll in Turkish-occupied Cyprus will lead us to a political settlement.
Papadopoulos stressed that decisions on the question of Cyprus are taken in Ankara and said that at present there is no indication that Turkey wishes to see a solution before May 1, 2004 when the Cyprus Republic joins the European Union.
He called on the Turkish Cypriots to help end the illegal occupation of the island's northern part and to help reunite the country so that both communities can reap the benefits that European Union accession will bring.
''We would be happy if the opposition wins the vote but we must be clear, we should not build up hope that the outcome of these elections will lead us to a political settlement,'' the president stressed.
He pointed out that ''decisions on Cyprus are taken in Ankara and the decisive factor is whether Turkey has decided to change tactics and policies and help, rather determine that the solution of the question of Cyprus before May 1 is its goal too.''
''So far there are no such indications, we should not forget that the occupation continues, the Turkish army and Ankara continue to control the occupied areas, and that we are not talking about legal elections but about illegal elections in an illegitimate territory which is trying, through this poll, to promote its international recognition a step higher and present it as a political and legal entity,'' the Cypriot president added.
Invited to send a message to the Turkish Cypriots, he said ''they all have a duty to help end the occupation and help reunite Cyprus so that the two communities, on an equal footing, can enjoy the benefits of accession, which will definitely take place on May 1.''
Commenting on the conclusions the European Council adopted in Brussels that refer to Cyprus and Turkey, he said these are
On the absence of an agreement on a European constitution, he said ''it is regrettable that no agreement has been reached''.
On this week's visit to Cyprus by US State Department special coordinator Thomas Weston, Papadopoulos said Weston's mission is a continuation of US interest to press on with the resumption of peace talks.
 Foreign Minister: non agreement on EU constitution not the end
BRUSSELS, 15/12/03 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou said here on Saturday that the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Conference without an agreement on the first European Constitution is not the end, noting that improvements have been made to the draft.
He expressed satisfaction with the fact that the enlargement of the European Union is by no means affected and noted the efforts made by the Italian presidency of the EU to achieve an agreement in a very limited period.
''What is important for us is that Cyprus' EU accession is not affected,'' Iacovou told CNA, adding that the positions the government had advocated for one Commissioner with equal rights and responsibilities for each state as well as the number of European Parliament deputies as agreed in Nice have gained support from many countries.
The minister expressed hope that eventually the necessary consensus will be reached as the proposed constitution has been improved and noted that there have been many improvements to the draft.
He also said that the necessary constitutional framework does exist to enable the Union to function.