|Sunday, 16 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-12-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>December, 20 2003
 PM makes overture to ND voters for next elections
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Prime minister and ruling PASOK leader Costas Simitis on Friday made an unprecedented overture to voters of the main opposition New Democracy party, whose policies he slammed as regressive.
Speaking at a PASOK central committee meeting called to approve the party's candidate lists for next spring's general elections, Simitis for the first time directly addressed himself to the ND voters ''who are with that party without the party expressing them''.
Simitis called on those voters to ''come with us in 2004, rallying together for genuine progress, for completion of the modernization and European orientation of the country''.
Saying that PASOK expressed the overwhelming majority of the Greek people and was the "big" party of the centre and the Left, Simitis called on all progressive citizens, regardless of their political leanings, to rally together behind the ruling party in 2004.
PASOK, he said, had a comprehensive national strategy which had resulted in the country's accession to EMU and Cyprus' accession to the EU at a time when the main opposition party doubted the achievement of those targets ''only to be belied later''.
Simitis further criticized ND's policy on the economy and other issues, which he warned could lead to regression at a great cost for the country.
On his government's accomplishments, Simitis said the past four-year period had been one of the most productive in the post-junta period, citing the social insurance and tax reforms introduced by his government, which the premier said had led to a substantial redistribution of revenues to the benefit of the financially weaker strata.
Those and other accomplishments of his government's policies were the work of a contemporary political party with vision and capabilities, strength and prospects for victory, he said, adding that it was this work accomplished that guaranteed that PASOK could materialize all that still remained to be done.
Simitis further said that there would be two important landmarks in 2004: the first concerned the resolution of the major national issues and the second was the successful organization of the Olympic Games in Athens.
The Greece that will achieve those two major goals will be the strongest Greece in contemporary and modern history, he said.
Turning to his Convergence Charter and the targets it contained, Simitis reassured that there would be no cutbacks in the measures announced and that all would be implemented.
On next year's draft budget recently tabled in parliament, the premier said it contained the largest public investments program in Greece's history, and included the funds earmarked for the 2004 Olympics, which he said would afterwards be funneled for the development of the entire country ''given that a successful Olympiad will bring a new wind of growth and new opportunities for all of Greece''.
Simitis expressed optimism that PASOK would win next year's general elections and, referring to the MPs of his party who have chosen not to run for re-election, said that withdrawal from parliamentary activity did not mean withdrawal from active politics and social activity, and thanked them for having supported PASOK and its policies in parliament throughout their tenure.
 Opposition parties reactions
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Replying to Simitis' criticism from Thessaloniki, ND spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos accused him of attempting to resurrect the political divisions of the past.
''Greeks envision a political leadership for Greece that will concern itself and solve the day-to-day, real problems of the country. A Greece that will not concern itself with the divisor excesses of the past, will not suffocate in these but breathe freely,'' the spokesman said.
According to the leader of the non-Parliamentary Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) party, Dimitris Tsovolas, PASOK had evolved into a neo-liberal, neo-classist and anti-working-class party that had marginalized one third of Greeks and could no longer convince any of the contemporary unprivileged members of society.
He called on progressive, social and political forces to join together to create a third progressive pole of power that would counter the neoliberal policies espoused by both PASOK and ND.
 PASOK Central Committee approves candidate lists for elections
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)An overwhelming majority of ruling PASOK's Central Committee on Friday approved the proposed lists of candidates proposed by the party's Executive Bureau for the upcoming general elections in spring.
Only two members of the committee voted against the Executive Bureau's unanimous proposal.
Central Committee Secretary Mihalis Chrysohoidis noted that this was the first time that the party's candidate lists had been prepared so far in advance and said that the 52 slots on party tickets that remained empty will have been filled by Christmas.
The candidates approved on Friday represent 86 per cent of the total, while 46 per cent of them are new. There are 50 women included in the lists in total, though this number might raise when the empty places are covered and the list of state deputies completed.
In his rejoinder, Chrysohoidis referred to the decision to exclude Mihalis Neonakis, Yiannis Sbokos and Sofia Sakorafa from the lists of candidates.
For the first two, he said their exclusion was not a form of censure but imposed by practical considerations and what could best serve the party's goal of electoral victory.
Excluding a member that had made a great contribution to the party was difficult but sometimes absolutely necessary, he added.
''A different approach could drag the Movement into a vortex of pointless conflicts,'' he said.
Regarding Sakorafa, the party secretary said her exclusion was decided based on her behavior in the municipal elections in 2002, when she decided to run for the Maroussi municipality in spite of PASOK's decision that she should support current mayor Panagiotis Tzanikos.
Neonakis rejected the explanations given by Chrysohoidis and said that his exclusion from the list of candidates for Rethymno on Crete was ''completely unfair, morally reprehensible and politically unjustified'' and a ''monument of political cynicism''.
A former member of PASOK's executive bureau, Neonakis resigned in June for ''reasons of sensitivity'' following the disclosure in parliament that he had carried out stock transactions valued at approximately 64 million euro on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) (about half in stock sales and half in stock purchases) during the period 1998-2000, most of which also involved listed stock of the ALTEC Group.
The disclosures followed allegations in the press that Neonakis and former minister of state Stephanos Manikas were involved in insider trading, though the Capital Markets Commission said in June that there were no ''systematic indications of violations or participation in an effort to abuse the market, based on the existing legislation and regulatory framework''.
Sbokos, a former head of the defense ministry's general arms procurements department, also expressed bitterness at his exclusion in statements before the Central Committee earlier in the day, saying he had been the target of ''directed press articles''. Sbokos, who has come under fire for his handling of arms procurements, stressed that there was absolute transparency in all decisions and that these were taken by the ministers and the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense, not him alone.
According to New Democracy's defense sector coordinator Spilios Spiliotopoulos, however, Sbokos' exclusion from PASOK tickets did not relieve the government and prime minister of their responsibility for the lack of transparency and the choices made in the two arms procurements programs, worth 27 billion euros.
 PASOK secretary calls for 'grand reformist alliance' against the political Right
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)PASOK Central Committee Secretary Mihalis Chrysohoidis on Friday called for renewal within the ruling party and for a ''grand reformist alliance'' to combat the ''conservative Right''.
In his address to the Central Committee, Chrysohoidis also attacked main opposition New Democracy, saying it identified with the past.
He asserted that ND had failed to make even one clear, specific and binding proposal for the future of the country and had opposed all major reforms in the past 20 years, describing it as the party of ''fear and universal pessimism''.
Ranged against the main opposition was PASOK, he added, which should not be afraid to change with a changing society and to align itself with modern socialists.
''We will win the elections of 2004 if we prove to society that we are able to change ourselves, just as we changed the country,'' he said.
He stressed that voters were well aware of the achievements of past PASOK governments, such as Greece's entry into the euro-zone or Cyprus' accession to the EU, and that the agenda for the next four-year term was state reform, establishing a new social state, boosting economic growth and enhancing social justice.
''This is the formula of the modern socialists. What do the conservative forces reply?'' he added.
Lastly, he referred to PASOK election tickets, saying that these had undergone an unprecedented renewal, with up to 46 per cent new candidates.
In an earlier address to the Central Committee, meanwhile, prime minister and ruling PASOK party leader Costas Simitis made an unprecedented overture to ND voters, saying that the main opposition had failed to express them and urging them to put their trust in PASOK in the 2004 elections for "genuine progress, for completion of the modernization and European orientation of the country".
Simitis added that PASOK expressed the overwhelming majority of Greeks and was the "major party of the centre and the Left".
 FM Papandreou reiterates support for Turkey's EU course
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou stressed on Friday that Athens is cooperating closely with all neighboring countries regarding security in the greater region, while again noting that Greece remains solidly in favor of Turkey’s European prospects.
Speaking from the northwestern town of Kastoria in the aftermath of the latest twin bomb attacks in Istanbul this week, blamed on “Al-Qaida” and Turkish extremists, Papandreou said Turkey’s European orientation and the ongoing positive steps that country has made towards this direction may have been among the targets of the terrorist attacks.
“We must also support Turkey, both Greece and the European Union. I would add that spirit of the article that we’re discussing for the new (EU) Constitution on solidarity to targeted member-states should be implemented so that the EU helps Turkey towards this direction,” he said, adding:
“For us, for Greece, Turkey’s security, its European course and democracy in the country, as much as this sounds unusual, aids our national interests,” he said.
 Security beefed up at Athens Metro following Istanbul bomb attacks
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Security measures at Athens' Metro have been beefed up following Thursday's bomb attacks in Istanbul, Metro officials said Friday.
Attica Metro security and operational control director Demosthenes Yannisopoulos told ANA that the company had put in place increased security measures on Thursday immediately after learning of the bomb attacks in Istanbul, including tracing device that detects explosive and chemical substances.
Yannisopoulos a further 19 such detectors were being purchased so that one would be installed at all the stations throughout the Metro network. The cost of the detectors is estimated at 80,000 euro per unit.
The Metro's security chief also said that the number of security guards on each shift throughout the Metro network was doubled as of Thursday noon, adding that the stations were being guarded round the clock, including the 12:30a.m.-5:00a.m. shift when the Metro is not in operation.
 Archbishop Christodoulos cable to Ecumenical Patriarch on Istanbul attacks
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece on Friday expressed mourning for the bomb attacks in Istanbul, in a telegram to Ecumenical Patriarchate Vartholomeos.
''Joining in the worldwide mourning due to the repeated terrorist attacks in the heart of Istanbul, we express to you and to the beloved Greek community our undivided support, and pray to the Lord for the speedy healing of the wounds and restoration of tranquility and security in the neighboring country,'' the cable said.
 Karamanlis' condolences to Blair over Istanbul attacks
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Friday conveyed his condolences to British Prime Minister Tony Blair over the deadly bomb attacks in Istanbul on Thursday against an HSBC branch office and against the British consulate in the metropolis, which claimed the life of the British consul general in the city, among others.
“I would like to express my deep condolences to you for the loss that your nation has sustained in yesterday’s abhorrent bomb attacks in Istanbul,” Karamanlis wrote.
“We consider that these terrorist acts are attacks against all that we hold dear. The images from aftermath of the blasts on the streets of Istanbul have, once again, strengthened our will to assume a historic responsibility to fight against the forces of fanaticism and hate,” he added.
 Israel reaffirms excellent relations with Greece
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Israel on Friday reaffirmed its "excellent and friendly relations" with Greece, adding that the Israeli government was in no way connected with a "travel advisory" on travel to Greece issued by the private Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The Los Angeles-based Jewish human rights group "Simon Wiesenthal Center" on Thursday warned Jews to exercise "extreme" caution when traveling in Greece, claiming that the Greek government had not taken action against what it called "growing anti-Semitism.
According to an announcement issued by the Israeli Embassy in Athens, "the Israeli government has no connection with this so-called 'travel advisory' and stresses that Greece is a country with which it maintains excellent and friendly relations".
"The 'Simon Wiesenthal Center' is a private organization and does not represent the government of Israel," the embassy announcement clarified.
"The press release of the 'Simon Wiesenthal Center' and the issuing of the so-called 'travel advisory' took place with no connection or consultation with the Israeli government," the embassy announcement added.
 Deputy FM Magriotis arrives in Cyprus
NICOSIA 20/12/03 (ANA - G. Leonidas)Deputy Foreign Minister Ioannis Magriotis said on arrival in Cyprus on Friday finding a solution to the Cyprus issue as soon as possible is the pursuit of all, regardless of the outcome of the ''elections'' in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus.
Magriotis added that Ankara must abandon its ambiguous stance and pay attention to the European Commission's latest decision.
Referring to Cyprus' accession to the European Union, Magriotis said it will open new horizons, both for Cyprus itself and the wider region since Europe will reach the geostrategically and geoeconomically important region of the eastern Mediterranean through Cyprus.
The deputy foreign minister further said Cyprus' accession to the EU has been achieved in essence ''through the effort of the Cypriots, their leaderships and the undivided assistance and support of the Greek government and the entire political world of Greece, as well of the Greek people.''
Asked whether he believes the result of the ''elections'' in the occupied part of Cyprus will affect the course towards a solution to the problem of Cyprus, Magriotis said ''regardless of the result of the 'elections' in the occupied part, the issue of Cyprus must find its solution soon'' with the Annan plan as the basis for negotiating.
 Armed Forces Day events heighten with reception attended by president, PM
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Events marking Armed Forces Day on Friday heightened in the evening with a reception held at a downtown Athens hotel attended by President Kostis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis, senior armed forces officers and foreign diplomats.
According to reports, President Stephanopoulos was briefed by the armed forces leadership, on the occasion of the celebration, on their involvement in security issues concerning next year's Olympic Games.
Earlier, an event was also held at the Old Parliament building, in the presence of President Stephanopoulos, during which an
Athens University constitutional law professor referred to constitutional arrangements concerning the armed forces.
 DM lauds military's contribution in light of Armed Forces day
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou on Thursday lauded the contribution of the thousands of Greek soldiers who throughout history made sacrifices for the protection and territorial integrity of the country.
In his message, in light of Friday's celebrations for Hellenic Armed Forces Day, Papantoniou also spoke of the capabilities of the Armed Forces to confront foreign threats, both asymmetrical and symmetrical, their substantial contribution to conditions of peace and stability in the region and to handling the everyday needs of citizens, through the social dimension of their activities.
 Greek weekly economic review
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)The Greek economy will grow with an annual rate of 4.2 percent in 2004 from 4.0 percent this year, unemployment will fall to 8.0 percent of the workforce (from 9.0 percent this year), while productivity will grow by 2.5 percent and real workers' income will rise by 3.4 percent next year, according to the 2004 budget submitted to parliament this week. The budget also envisages a 7.0 percent rise in investments next year, and rises of 5.7 percent in 2005 and 5.5 percent in 2006. Exports of goods and services is projected to rise by 6.7 percent next year, by 5.6 percent in 2005 and 5.3 percent in 2006, while inflation is expected to ease to 3.0 percent in 2004, to 2.8 percent in 2005 and 2.6 percent in 2006.
In other headline news this week:
Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister, Mrs Vasso Papandreou, launched a campaign to remove thousands of outdoor advertisement boards in Athens, other Greek cities and in the country's national road network.
Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis announced the government's intention to place up to 2.5 percent in National Bank's equity capital owned by the Greek state. The placement will be made with the country's pension funds outside the stock market. After completion of the sale, the Greek state's equity holding in National Bank would be reduced to 5.0 percent from 7.5 percent currently, while pension funds would own around 20 percent of the bank's equity capital.
Greece's current account deficit widened by 41.8 percent in September further worsening the nine-month shortfall to 5.019 billion euros from 4.544 billion euros in the same period last year. The current account deficit rose 10.4 percent in the January-September period compared with the corresponding period in 2002, the Bank of Greece said. The disappointing figures mainly reflected a 7.8 percent drop in tourist foreign exchange inflows and a 10 percent drop in community funds' inflows over the same period.
Emporiki Bank, in cooperation with Sofinco, a subsidiary of Credit Agricole, launched Emporiki Credicom, a new bank aimed to offer consumer loans through the car dealer network.
 Greek govt seeks efficient real estate management by DEKO
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Greek Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis on Friday chaired a meeting with presidents and chief executives of public utilities and corporations (DEKO) to discuss ways for a more efficient management their real estate assets.
The economy ministry plans a new policy for DEKO's real estate assets aiming to unblock their value.
The meeting agreed to create or update an analytical real estate record with the technical support and supervision of the Public Real Estate Company (KED), the separation of real estate assets according to their value, participation in real estate investment companies, setting up a consultancy group at the economy and finance ministry to support this procedure, inclusion of real estate assets to DEKO's business plans and training DEKO's officials in real estate management issues.
 ND slams new round of hiring, says gov't has transgressed all bounds
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)In a stinging attack on Friday, main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis slammed a new round of hiring in the state sector and accused the government of transgressing "all bounds and limits".
"We call on the government, even in the final hour before it leaves, to respect the fundamental principles of democracy. We will not tolerate discrimination and separate treatment of Greeks," he said.
Karamanlis stressed that the government could not proceed to hire new staff outside the ASEP exam system after the prime minister had declared the start of the pre-election period.
Addressing a seminar on primary-level local government in Thessaloniki, Karamanlis reiterated earlier accusations of graft and untransparency by successive PASOK governments, saying they had create a state "that is synonymous with impunity, corruption, arbitrariness and bad management".
Karamanlis pledged to support the role of local government and briefly outlined his party's program for this when it became government. This was later outlined in more detail by the party's political planning director George Souflias.
 Greek wine makers in promotion campaign in US market
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Sixteen Greek wine makers joined forces for the first time to participate in a promotion campaign, called "All About Greek Wine" in the US market.
Steven Olson, the American guru of wine, presenting the campaign to a group of journalists from the New York Times, Newsweek, Food & Wine, Food Arts, Wines & Spirits, etc) wine experts from famous restaurants, importers, distributors and restaurant owners at the luxury restaurant Tribeca Grill (owned by actor Robert De Niro), said he was particularly satisfied with the Greek wine makers initiative. He stressed that Greek vineyards were reborn and underlined the attractive relation of price/quality offered by Greek wines.
Participants in the event said they were excited with the quality of Greek wines and many of them agreed that Greece would be the next country to be in the focus of attention in the US market.
The first presentation of the All About Greek Wine event was held at the Ali Oli restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia.
Wine expert, Mrs Sofia Perpera, is the creator of the All About Greek Wine promotion show in the US.
The Greek wine makers participating in the promotion campaign are: Vivlia Chora Estate, Gerovasiliou Estate, Kir Yiannis Estate, Katoyi & Strofilia, Efharis Estate, G.Kokotos Estate, Merkouri Estate, Skouras Estate, Spyropoulos Estate, Tselepos Estate, Panantonis, Palyvos Estate, Sigalas, Emery and Gentilini.
 Greek stocks end week 2.13 percent down
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Greek stocks ended the last trading session of the week moderately higher on Friday with sentiment in the Athens Stock Exchange improving in line with a gradual recover in international markets in the wake of a new terrorist attack in Turkey on Wednesday.
The general index ended 0.54 percent higher at 2,117.39 points. Turnover was a moderate 102.9 million euros. The general index ended the week with a net loss of 2.13 percent.
Most sector indices ended higher, with the IT Solution, IT and Cement sectors scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day (2.89 percent, 1.01 percent and 0.82 percent, respectively), while the Textile (0.64 percent), Insurance (0.29 percent) and the Holding (0.22 percent) sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 0.64 percent higher, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index rose 0.50 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index rose 0.49 percent.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 178 to 105 with another 73 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover
110.2 mln euros on Friday
Equity Index Futures:
Closing rates of November 21 2003
Parities in euro
For. Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,199 1,172
 Vancouver a 'ready source' of volunteers for 2004 Games, Greek consul says
VANCOUVER 20/12/03 (ANA - G. Mantaios)The Greek community in Vancouver and British Columbia could potentially provide "high-class" volunteers for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the city's Greek Consul George Aravositas said here on Friday.
"We can make use of the Greek community in Vancouver. We can supply volunteers for the Games in Athens, most of which are people that speak three languages - Greek, English and French - and have specialized skills in computers. As a result, I believe that they can help to a great degree," Aravositas said.
The consul reported a lively interest in the Games among local Greeks, particularly young people, as well as a number of Canadians.
According to Vancouver business man George Callas, meanwhile, a committee had been set up to provide financial support for Greeks wishing to travel from British Columbia to Athens to be volunteers in the Games.
Culture ministry draft bill on Olympics-related issues Athens 20/12/03
The culture ministry on Friday unveiled a draft bill covering a series of Olympics-related issues, including provisions and zoning for the construction of a new “press village” adjacent to the main Athens Olympic stadium complex (OAKA).
Additionally, the draft bill foresees the transfer of management for certain 2004 Olympic assets following the Games to the state-affiliated Hellenic Tourism Real Estate S.A.
Finally, post-Games commercial exploitation of a newly created Olympic marina facility at Flisvos, along coastal southeast Athens, is foreseen.
 Not all N17 in the dock, Giotopoulos' defense claims
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Concluding his final arguments in defense of alleged ''November 17'' leader Alexandros Giotopoulos, attorney Yiannis Rahiotis on Friday said that the 19 prisoners in the dock could not account for all the hits carried out by the terror group.
Addressing the Three-Member Criminal Appeals Court, Rahiotis stressed that there was nothing to prove that the entire organization and its supporters were present.
''Even if you find all those on trial guilty, they are not enough to man all N17's actions. In my opinion, these were much more populously staffed than is presented in the indictment. You think you have all the people here. A very convenient scenario. You pin anything missing on Giotopoulos and that ends the matter,'' he said.
He also praised his client's stance in the months leading up to and during the trial, saying he had ''expressed the dignity of a Leftist'' who had neither cooperated, traded nor become afraid.
Next on the stand was the defense team for the defendant Anestis Papanastasiou, who stressed that the proceedings did not indicate any acquaintance between their client and the other defendants.
They particularly stressed that Papanastasiou had not been mentioned by any members of the group living in the city of Thessaloniki where he lived, even though the trial had shown that the members of the group were not isolated from one another.
The second lawyer for Papanastasiou pointed to the public prosecutor's recommendation that his client not be remanded in custody and said his profile as a technocrat and corporate executive was inconsistent with his membership of an organization like N17.
Friday's session concluded with the rejoinders of several of the defendants.
Christodoulos Xiros said the court would remain in history as a ''court martial in suits'' and accused the prosecutor on the bench of ignoring evidence that his brother Savvas Xiros had been tortured in custody.
He again denied all the charges against him and the charges against his younger brother Vassilis.
Next on the stand was Vassilis Tzortzatos, who said the proceedings were paving the way for a ''real massacre'' and accused the prosecutor on the bench of ''operating vindictively''.
He claimed that the trial was political and that the rights of the prisoners and rules of law had been violated, while repeating claims that he had been subjected to torture during his arrest and said he was ''ashamed of the lies he had been forced to sign'' by the anti-terrorist squad.
 Border guards arrest trucker for carrying 51 illegal immigrants
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)Border guards have arrested a 43-year-old Turkish national on the Alexandroupoli-Komotini motorway for carrying 51 illegal immigrants in a truck.
The illegal immigrants had been picked up in the region of Orestiada and their final destination was Athens.
On arrival in Athens, the trucker was to receive 2,000 US dollars from each illegal immigrant. Another Turkish associate of his is still at large.
The illegal immigrants were from Iran, Bangladesh, Palestine, Afghanistan and China.
 Group claims early morning attack on bank branch
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)An apparently new group calling itself the ''Anti-State Defense'' on Friday claimed an early morning home-made bomb attack against a bank branch in the Votanikos residential district of Athens.
The explosion, which occurred at 5:25 a.m., caused minor damage to the National Bank branch on Orfeos street in Votanikos.
An anonymous caller later phoned the Mega private television station and claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the group.
 Gov't backs move designating Jan. 27 as day of remembrance for Greek Jews
Athens 20/12/03(ANA)The interior and public administration ministry announced this week that it is promoting a law designating Jan. 27 as a “Day of Remembrance for the Greek-Jewish Victims of the Holocaust.”
Jan. 27, 1944 is the day when the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet forces.
All relevant ministers as well as the Parliament-represented parties of New Democracy, the Communist Party of Greece and the Coalition of the Left back the initiative.
 Weston: Annan plan the only realistic for Cyprus settlement
NICOSIA 20/12/03 (ANA/CNA)UN Secretary General Koffi Annan's plan constitutes the only realistic short-term prospect to achieve a settlement on the Cyprus question, US State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston said here Friday.
Weston who concluded a visit to the region, told a press conference that US will continue efforts "to advance the prospects of a settlement on Cyprus'', adding that his country continues to support the requirements set out by Annan's report to the Security Council last April.
Weston also noted that will be leaving the island tomorrow to a couple of stops in Europe, ending in Brussels before returning to US.
Replying to a question whether during his trip to the region, he discussed a US plan for the solution of the Cyprus question, Weston replied negatively, adding that the US ''continue to believe that the one package which exists, which is the Annan plan, offers certainly the best, the only realistic short-term prospect to achieve a settlement on the island''.
Asked if other parties involved to the Cyprus question have prepared any other plans on Cyprus, Weston noted that several sources expressed an interest ''in exploring if not other plans, at least elements of the Annan plan for different options''.
''I think from the Greek Cypriot side there have been clear indications of an interest in addressing several aspects of the Annan plan with regard to so-called functionality in the EU'', the US envoy noted, adding ''I think there have been expressions from at least Turkey from quite a high level to explore other options or at least to put other ideas out there''.
However, Weston clarified that he has not seen any such proposals, noting ''the only thing which exists on the table now is the Annan plan''. ''We do believe that is very important that a settlement be achieved in the near future, that is before May 1'', he added.
Replying to question he said a meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash was requested but did not take place because it was not scheduled. ''I think is pretty clear that Denktash has made clear that he has some differences of view with me'', Weston said.
Replying to a comment that in his last report for the renewal of UNIFICYP's term in Cyprus, Annan assigned equal responsibility to both sides for the impasse of the Cyprus question, Weston said that Annan has stressed his requirements in order to continue his good offices mission on Cyprus.
''What (Annan) he stated in his report in the Security Council last Friday is that those requirements have not been met. That, I think, is a statement of fact, it is not an assignment of blame or anything else is a statement of facts'', the US envoy added. Invited to comment Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Turkish-occupied Cyprus, Weston said that read Erdogan's statement very carefully, adding that he found ''some comments which I would regard very helpful towards a search for a settlement'' as well as ''others, which I have more questions about''.
''What I do wonder and I think needs some attention'', he added, ''is how the fact of the visit itself is used by the respective parties in the north in the coming period that is the pre-electoral period''.
Weston also noted that Ergodan at least privately said that Turkey would stand with T/C no matter what the results of the so-called December elections, adding ''so i think the visit should be seen in that regard, rather that use as an instrument in the elections themselves''. Asked whether he is not that much optimistic about the prospects of resuming the peace talks because the possible result of the elections, Weston replied that it doesn't matter if he is optimistic or not.
''I believe that there is substantial chance of getting a settlement of the Cyprus issue in the time available and I think that rather that concentrating on optimism we should be doing everything possible to achieve that goal''.
He added that no matter what happens in the so-called elections'' I believe there is a chance to get a settlement and we have to do everything possible''. In his opening statement, Weston expressed his country's ''great sorrow'' and condolences for the bomb attacks in Istanbul.
''The US will stand and continue to stand completely and very strongly with Turkey as it addresses the terrible crimes''. Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Bayraktar Mosque in Nicosia to reopen
NICOSIA 20/12/03 (ANA/CNA)A Turkish Mosque in Nicosia, named ''Mosque of Bayraktar'', restored by the Cypriot government and UNOPS will reopen very soon.
Speaking at a ceremony today near the Mosque to mark its reopening, Interior Minister Andreas Christou stated that the Mosque ''is a symbolic step towards reconstructing a united Cyprus''.
Present at the ceremony were among others Turkish Cypriot religious leader Sheikh Nazim and other Turkish Cypriots that came from the Turkish-occupied areas, as well as Ambassadors from Islamic countries accredited to Cyprus, Nicosia Mayor Michalakis Zambelas and a Greek Cypriot cristian orthodox clergyman.
''In a United Europe there is no place for partition'', the Interior Minister said and thanked all those who contributed to the restoration of the Mosque.
Sheikh Nazim sent a message of reconciliation and peace on the island, divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.
The name of the Mosque derives from the Turkish word bayark (flag).
According to tradition the first Ottoman flag was raised there, when the city was captured 9 September 1570 by the Ottomans.
The Mosque was built in 1820 during the administration of Abdullah Pasha.