|Friday, 21 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-03-01
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Mars 1, 2006
 Inner cabinet discusses privatization programme. Gov't seeks to raise 1.6 bln euros from privatizations this yearATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
An inner cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, on Tuesday discussed developments in a privatization programme implemented by the government.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said the meeting discussed future plans in privatizations -one of the most significant axis of government strategy.
The privatization programme has been largely successful so far, Alogoskoufis said, with privatization proceeds reaching 3.0 billion euros since 2004. The government aims for proceeds of 1.6 billion euros this year with emphasis to be given in the banking sector. The Greek minister said a restructuring effort in the banking sector last year would help the government's plans and stressed that procedures would be open and transparent to ensure the maximum benefit for the society and for the state.
Commenting on a series of strike mobilizations by workers, Alogoskoufis said it was workers' right to strike but stressed that the government was obliged to implement a social and economic policy aimed to solve past problems and creating a better future for the country.
Gov't seeks to raise 1.6 bln euros from privatizations this year
The Greek state's proceeds from privatizations totaled 2.855 billion euros in the period 2004-05, surpassing a budget target for 2005 -- 2.1 billion euros, up from a target of 1.6 billion euros.
The government is currently implementing a wide-ranging privatization programme, aimed to raise 1.65 billion euros, according to a recommendation by the Inter-ministerial Privatization Commission, which includes Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis.
The Commission's recommendation calls for examining the possibility of selling up to a 9.26-percent equity stake in Emporiki Bank (owned by the state) and selling stakes in the same bank owned by government agencies (totaling 12.5 pct). The Greek state is currently seeking a legal and financial consultant to the sale.
The Greek state is also ready to sell another stake in ATEbank through a secondary offering to institutional investors, with the aim of boosting the share's liquidity. The exact number of shares to be offered and the time of the offering will be decided by the Inter-ministerial Privatization Commission.
Meanwhile, the Commission agreed to float the Post Savings Bank on the Athens Stock Exchange through a combined offering of shares owned by the Greek state to domestic and foreign investors. The exact number of shares to be offered will be decided in a later date. A preparation procedure for listing in ASE is currently in full swing and it is expected to be completed in the first half of the year. The Commission also announced to examine the possibility and preconditions for an equity partnership between Post Savings Bank and Hellenic Post. A financial consultant is expected to present its recommendation to the commission with the aim to complete the transaction in March 2006.
The Commission decided to examine the possibility of alternative use of facilities and business units owned by the Enterprise of Touristic Development, such as a marina in the Faliro district of southern coastal Athens, a casino on the Ionian island of Corfu, a golf course on the Dodecanese island of Rhodes and the Xenia hotels in Vytina, Thassos, Skiathos and Tsagarada.
The Commission also approved the beginning of procedures for the flotation of DEPA -- Greece's natural gas grid operator -- on the Athens Stock Exchange.
 SYN's Lafazanis on govt's privatization programmeATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
Panagiotis Lafazanis, member of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party's Political Secretariat slammed the government over its privatization programme following a relevant announcement made by Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis earlier on Tuesday.
"The New Democracy government, stepping up the general privatizations launched by the [former] PASOK governments, is effectively promoting a new phase of the public sector's sell out," Lafazanis, who is also responsible for the party's economic and social policy, said.
"The new bank privatizations that Mr. Alogoskoufis announced today will further promote giving full control of the financial services sector to private capital," he added.
Lafazanis also noted that recent privatizations of state banks have not benefited citizens but have instead led to excessive household debt.
 Bakoyannis holds talks with EU's Solana, NATO chief in BrusselsBRUSSELS, 01.03.2006 (ANA - M. Aroni)
Greece's foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday discussed problems in the Balkan region, stressing Athens' powerful presence and strong interest in the area, in separate meetings with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer held in Brussels.
The Greek foreign minister also referred to the upheaval created within Moslem countries by the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.
"It is an issue that greatly concerns European politicians and public opinion in Europe," Bakoyannis stressed.
She also noted that Greece's opinion on the issue had significance because of the traditionally close ties between Greece and the Arab world, which allowed it to "convey a message of reconciliation, understanding and respect for differences, which is in any case the message the EU wants to send to the Arab world."
After the end of the EU General Affairs council on Monday night, Bakoyannis had also met European Commissioner for external relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn for talks on the enlargement of the Community and Turkey's prospects of joining the European Union.
While in Brussels, the Greek foreign minister also held talks European Parliament President Josep Borrell Fontelles.
She is due to depart on Thursday for a scheduled trip to the western Balkans that will take in Belgrade, Pristina and Sarajevo.
 Gov't on latest opinion pollATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
The government on Tuesday was again asked about a most recent opinion poll showing a marginal lead for main opposition PASOK, the first such result given by any opinion poll since it assumed office in March 2004 following a landslide election victory.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros merely referred to his statements a day earlier, noting that opinion polls are a "useful tool" in a given period that "record the trends of the given period" - a response that echoes statements by previous spokesmen in both PASOK and New Democracy governments.
Tuesday's queries, nevertheless, stem from a high-profile comment by ruling ND's secretary for political planning, Nikos Karahalios, who reportedly voiced qualms about the latest poll's results.
The opinion poll was conducted by the Athens-based firm Alco and published in the Athens daily "Ethnos". It showed a 0.4 percent lead for PASOK over ND.
Antonaros, meanwhile, reiterated that a vast majority of Greek citizens support the government's reforms.
 Gov't: List of tapped mobile numbers completeATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
The government on Tuesday was again queried over the mobile phone tapping furor, as a government spokesman reiterated that a list of the numbers that were bugged from within the Vodafone network is complete.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros made the statement in reply to press questions referring to comments in Parliament a day earlier by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, who called for the "complete list" of numbers to be revealed.
Asked about the criminal aspect of the phone tapping case, Antonaros reminded that any indictment must await completion of an ongoing judicial investigation.
Finally, asked about a letter sent to the independent authority overseeing telecommunications security by ND deputy and former party leader Miltiades Evert, whereby the latter cites involvement by the Athens-based firm Intracom in the mobile phone tapping affair, Antonaros merely responded that "all related issues comprise part of the judicial investigation, which has not yet been completed".
Among the mobile phone numbers monitored by unknown perpetrators were ones possibly used by the prime ministers, a handful of ministers, as well as army and police officials, among many others.
 Intracom reactionATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
In a later press release, the Intracom Holdings group dismissed Evert's charges, saying that a Vodafone transmitter at Intracom's east Attica prefecture (Paiania district) facilities operates under a lease signed in October 1992, whereas no one except Vodafone employees have the right or ability to access the site where the digital transmitter is located.
Additionally, Intracom stressed that a current and high-ranking Vodafone executive, namely, Nikos Mastorakis, left Intracom in 1996 and has no paid or unpaid connection or involvement with the company today.
 First official simulation made of phone-tapping system found at VodafoneATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
The first official simulation of the phone-tapping system found at the Vodafone company was carried out on Tuesday, under real circumstances, at the building housing technical services of the Ericsson company in the presence of senior officials of the Safeguarding Communications Confidentiality Authority (ADAE).
During the simulation process, technicians from both companies did not apply the controversial software but a similar one in Ercisson's telephone network to provide answers for a series of questions.
The ADAE officials wanted to know the conditions under which the application of the illegal software had been made possible, what its performance was, how did it operate without being noticed, what backup it had and how linking was achieved with phones being tapped.
At the end of the simulation process, which lasted over eight hours, no statements were made by ADAE officials, while no announcement will be made by either Vodafone or Ericsson since ADAE is the competent authority in this case.
Evidence collected will be presented to the Authority plenum and will then be included in the report to be submitted to Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras.
 Main opposition leader addresses party's political councilATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
Main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou spoke about the recent phone-tapping affair, local government organization and the economy while addressing the party's Political Council on Tuesday.
On the phone-tapping issue, Papandreou once again accused the government of "hiding the truth", an issue, which according to Papandreou, is not simply a scandal but one that concerns democracy and the protection of citizens' rights.
Regarding local government, and ruling New Democracy's choices in how municipalities and communities are grouped together under the "Kapodistrias" programme, Papandreou said that PASOK "is opposed to ND's irresponsible policy of clientele relations."
He also criticized the government for its handling of the economy, saying that PASOK will continue to highlight the government's "ineffective" economic policies in order to "defend citizens' income".
Papandreou also referred to a recent poll conducted by ALCO, which shows PASOK leading New Democracy, citing it as evidence that the public is disappointed by the government.
During the meeting, the council also discussed a proposal put forth by the public administration division which will be discussed further by the National Council when it convenes on March 17 and 18.
The Council also decided to establish a three-member committee charged with drafting a bill to amend current legislation regarding civil mobilization of employees on strike.
Committee members will be Evangelos Venizelos, Theodoros Pangalos and Christos Papoutsis.
 PASOK's Election Process Committee president comments on local administration candidatesATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
Main opposition PASOK party's election Process Committee President Alekos Papadopoulos, commenting on the announcement on Tuesday of candidates to be supported by the party in October's local elections, said that "unprecedented processes took place, for the first time in the country's political history, with the purpose of supporting the best people who are aligned with society and its needs and have political ethics and, primarily, people expressing the prospects of the considerable and gigantic role which local administration will play from now on in the framework of the new conception on decentralization proclaimed by the President of PASOK."
Papadopoulos added that the Committee, apart from experienced mayors and prefects, is making a great effort to enable young people and new candidacies with prestige to struggle for the citizens, for the development of their region and, primarily, to bring the new conception on decentralization.
He further said that this is a term and a basic precondition and stressed that an effort is taking place, since there is also the cultural element in these options, to have women candidacies promoted which will be many this time in leading municipalities and prefectures and will be announced soon.
 New police, fire brigade and army chiefs announcedATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
The high-ranking government council for foreign affairs and defense (KYSEA) on Tuesday announced the appointments of a new police chief, fire brigade chief and head of the army's general staff (GES), following a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Specifically, Lt.-Gen. Anastasios Dimoschakis was appointed as the new chief of Greek Police (EL.AS); deputy fire brigade Chief Andreas Kois was promoted to chief, while the current head of the Supreme Military Command of the Interior and the Islands (ASDEN), Lt.-Gen. Dimitrios Grapsas, was elevated to army chief.
Afterwards, Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras told reporters that his recommendations for the two civilian posts, police and fire brigade, were unanimously approved.
Grapsas promotion was also unanimously approved, with outgoing army chief Lt.-Gen. Nikolaos Douvas retiring with the rank of general.
A hand-over ceremony will be held on Friday at the army cadets' academy.
The remaining top military brass -- the chief of the general staff as well as the navy and air force chiefs -- are unchanged.
Meanwhile, a promotions board headed by Dimoschakis and two army lieutenant generals will convene on Wednesday to finalize appointments for a new round of EL.AS promotions.
 Anastasios unanimously elected as one of WCC's presidentsATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
Orthodox Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania Anastasios has been unanimously elected as one of eight presidents of the World Council of Churches (WCC), during the organization's 9th assembly last week at the Catholic University of Porto Allegre, Brazil.
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis conveyed her congratulations to Anastasios from Brussels, where she is attending an EU General Affairs and Foreign Affairs council.
According to the WCC, the role of the organization's presidents is to "promote ecumenism and to interpret the work of the WCC, especially in their respective regions." The presidents are also ex-officio members of WCC central committee.
Anastasios has been a WCC member since 1994, whereas the organization has been instrumental in helping with the re-establishment of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Albania.
Some 700 representatives from 348 denominations from 120 countries around the world attended the assembly.
PASOK party leader congratulates Archbishop of Albania on his election as World Council of Churches President
Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou on Tuesday addressed a letter to the Archbishop of Tirana, Dures and All Albania Anastasios, congratulating him on his election as one of the eight Presidents of the World Council of Churches.
"Your election by 700 representatives from 348 churches from 120 countries of the world constitutes international recognition and the vindication of your pastoral work and undoubtedly shows your international prestige. All we Orthodox Greeks are proud," the letter said.
"Religious fanaticism, religious plurality, economic justice, the combating of violence, the overcoming of poverty, the problem of AIDS and other important issues preoccupying modern-day international society constitute challenges which can only be handled with sincere and ecumenical dialogue," it added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Papandreou also had a telephone conversation with the Archbishop of Albania Anastasios during which a common approach was ascertained on the handling of major issues concerning the international society, such as poverty, justice and the dialogue of cultures.
 Greek Producer's Price Index up 9.3 pct in January, yr/yrATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
Greece's Producer's Price Composite Index -measuring both the domestic and foreign markets) jumped 9.3 percent in January, compared with the same month in 2005, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.
NSS said the domestic producer's price index rose 9.9 percent in January reflecting a 17.8 percent increase in the energy price index and a 9.4 percent rise in the consumer goods index over the same period.
The foreign market producer's price index rose 7.5 percent in January, reflecting a 34.9 pct jump in energy prices and a 3.9 pct increase in intermediate goods.
 Greek trade delegation to JapanATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
A Greek business delegation will visit Japan on June 25-30 in a trip arranged by the Association of Northern Greek Exporters (SEBE), Hellenic Exports Promotion Organization, and the Greek-Japanese Chamber of Trade.
Meeting between executives from the two countries will be organized by the Greek embassy in Tokyo, Jetro, and the Greek-Japanese Chamber, SEBE said in a statement on Tuesday.
 Greek EuroCapital Finance company collecting 60 million dollars from American institutional investorsATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
The Greek EuroCapital Finance company, headquartered in Sofia, is collecting 60 million dollars from American institutional investors to create a "fund" to invest in commercial and housing real estate in Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
The investments fund will be accompanied by loan capital amounting to 120 million dollars, while the initial amount of 60 million might ultimately be doubled, according to a statement made to the Athens News Agency-Macedonian Press Agency (ANA-MPA) by EuroCapital's President and managing director Christos Mouroutis.
Mouroutis, who is currently in the United States, precisely to coordinate the entire process, also revealed that collecting the necessary capital has been undertaken by New York-headquartered First Wall Street Capital.
 RomTelecom to slash investmentBUCHAREST, 01.03.2006(ANA/MPA)
RomTelecom, a subsidiary of Athens-quoted Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, is to cut investment to a minimum, its general director, James Hubley, told a news conference on Tuesday.
The move by shareholders to freeze a growth plan for the firm's new generation network was to attain "a specific operational level" in the wake of an adverse Romanian government decision to award a wireless telecom license to Connex-Vodafone, Hubley said.
RomTelecom had invested 38 million euros in a wireless project for rural areas but would now lose its customers, he added.
 Southeastern Europe promotes upgrading of railway networksTHESSALONIKI, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
A working group meeting, set up to discuss closer cooperation and development in railway networks in Southeastern Europe, successfully completed its session on Tuesday in Thessaloniki.
The meeting, chaired by Hellenic Railways Organization president and chief executive, Professor Nikolaos Baltas, drafted the final text of an agreement to develop a railway network of high standards and speed in Southeastern Europe. The agreement will be signed by regional Transport ministers in May 4, 2006 in Thessaloniki in the sidelines of a Inter-Balkan Cooperation Summit.
The group includes all countries in Southeastern Europe with Moldova as an observer.
 ATEbank submits binding offer for Serbia's Zepter BankATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
ATEbank on Tuesday announced that it has submitted a binding offer for the purchase of Serbia's Zepter Bank, as part of its strategy to expand in the Balkans.
ATEbank's management said Zepter Bank was a very good choice, as it could create multiple business opportunities, as ATEbank operates two production units, through its subsidiary Hellenic Sugar Industry, in Serbia.
The binding offer was submitted to Merrill Lynch, the financial consultant of the sale.
 Intracom gets Romanian state contractATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
Intracom IT Services SA and Intrarom said on Tuesday that they had won a 19.5 million euro contract from Romania's justice and public ministries for the acquisition of IT equipment and services through financial leasing by Unicredit Leasing for use in the judiciary and penitentiary system.
The project will help to create the infrastructure for improving efficiency of the judicial system and its alignment with European standards, Intracom said in a statement.
Products will be used from vendors including HP, Cisco, Flamingo and Softwin, the statement said.
Intracom is a blue chip on the Athens bourse.
 Unions hail success of strike action, warn of more to comeATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
Trade unionists reported a good turnout for the combined strike action on Tuesday by bank workers and public transport staff, among others, while warning that labor action will be stepped up from March 15 unless the government and employers "change tack".
As usual, the trade union's strike turnout estimates were contradicted by employers, with bankers reporting low participation by staff in Tuesday's strike.
The bank workers union OTOE had called a 24-hour strike on Tuesday, while the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) - Greece's largest umbrella trade union group - and the civil servants' union ADEDY had declared a four-hour work stoppage in support of the bank workers' strike.
According to trade unions, a rally organized outside the offices of OTOE was the largest held in recent years, while a demonstration by the PAME trade union group affiliated to the Communist Party of Greece was held outside the offices of the Union of Greek Industry (SEB).
After the demonstration, a committee of trade unionists and the presidency of OTOE held a meeting with Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, who stressed that the government respected and supported the institution of collective labor negotiations.
"There must be dialogue between the social partners and agreements should arise that benefit the economy and society," Alogoskoufis said.
He also noted that business profits were not "an end in themselves" and that they only mattered when they contributed to improving the economy and providing jobs.
"It is the responsibility of all to preserve social peace," the minister added.
During the rally at Klafthmonos Square, a senior GSEE trade unionist had warned the government and employers that trade unions were preparing to launch "unprecedented, massive action" against the "Thatcherite attack", beginning with the March 15 strike.
The call for mass participation in the March 15 strike was also echoed by GSEE President Christos Polyzogopoulos, while ADEDY vice-president Ilias Vretakos stressed that the attack on OTOE was creating a common front of all trade unions.
Polyzogopoulos and Vretakos also accused the government of attempting to abolish collective agreements and weaken unions under the cover of "reforms".
OTOE President Dimitris Tsoukalas, on his part, accused the government of siding with the interests of bankers but noted that the first "cracks" in this alliance had already begun to appear after the workers' action.
Others attending the rally included main opposition PASOK MPs and the leader of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party Alekos Alavanos, as well as all trade unionists within ruling New Democracy-affiliated DAKE.
GSEE's leadership, meanwhile, is scheduled to meet Employment Minister Savvas Tsitouridis on Wednesday.
 Banks report low turnout for strikeATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
In contrast with trade unions, management in banks reported low participation in Tuesday's strike, most of which was confined to banks in which the state is still a major shareholder, while private-sector banks were open for business as usual.
They said the percentage of striking staff was 38 percent in Emporiki Bank, 37.6 per cent in Agrotiki Bank, 8 percent in Alpha Bank, 1.8 percent in Piraeus Bank, 1.5 percent in Eurobank, 0.25 percent in Bank of Cyprus and 6.4 percent in Egnatia Bank. Citibank, the largest foreign bank in Greece, reported nil participation by staff in the strike.
 Coalition party expresses support for working people's mobilizationATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
The Political Secretariat of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party, in an announcement on Tuesday, expressed its support for the mobilizations of working people lately.
Referring to mobilization by bank employees, the Secretariat said that "the struggle of employees in banks concerns the labor and union rights of salaried people in their entirety and, therefore, it is a joint struggle of all forces of salaried labor."
Reference was also made to recent strike action by seamen with the announcement saying that "the tough strike struggle by seamen, which continued despite the imposition of civil mobilization, generalized police suppression, terrorism by the ship-owners' world and dismissals, constitutes an example of successful resistance by the working class which sends an encouraging message to all working people."
The announcement concluded by saying that the Coalition party, seeking the immediate lifting of civil mobilization and its ultimate abolition, will continue to stand by the side of seamen until their vindication.
 Athens Bar Association opposes general civil mobilization of seamenATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
The Board of the Athens Bar Association in an announcement on Tuesday expressed its opposition to the general civil mobilization of seamen last week.
The Board in an announcement said:" The Athens Bar Association, in the context of exercising its institutional role as a defender and supporter of citizens' individual and social rights, condemns practices of governments which abolish in practice the right of a strike or obstruct its legal exercise, when they have the constitutional obligation (Article 25 of the Constitution) to secure the unobstructed and effective act of the rights of the individual as a person and member of society."
The announcement added that "it is opposed to the government's decision to declare a general civil mobilization of the crews of the ships of the merchant marine, (with the government) invoking enactments of marginal constitutionality and force, such as the enactment 17/1974."
 Seminar on raising value, cutting cost of telecomsATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
A telecommunications conference on increasing value and lowering costs for companies was held in Athens on Tuesday by sector consultants Telecompere and Athens Information Technology, a non-profit education and research centre.
Taking part were representatives of around 30 companies and telecoms service providers.
Speakers and delegates to the conference concluded that the role of corporate telecommunications has become strategic for modern businesses, and a lack of effective management has brought major direct and indirect costs.
In addition, it was agreed that Greek firms see telecoms as an operational expense rather than a probable strategic advantage.
 Court rules marriage among Muslim minors legal, under specific conditionsKOMOTINI, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
Marriage between minors in the Muslim community in Thrace has been legalized, under specific conditions, by virtue of a ruling Tuesday by the Rodopi Court of First Instance (ruling #51/06).
The process leading up to the ruling allowing marriage between underage Moslems of Thrace was set in motion when two minors in the Rodopi village of Salpi fell in love, told their parents they wished to marry, and received the approval and blessings of their families. The problem arose, however, when the parents went to the Komotini Muftiship for the relevant license and procedures but their request was rejected by the mufti (Moslem religious leader), who referred the issue to the Greek justice system.
In statements to ANA-MPA, president of the Rodopi Bar Association George Petalotis said the Rodopi court's ruling "opens up new roads, not with respect to allowing marriage licenses for minors, but regarding the monitoring of whether the requirements for such marriages, particularly of the Muslims, are met".
Under the standard procedure for marriage among underage Muslims, until now, the Mufti would issue the marriage licenses by virtue of the jurisdiction he has under Greek law.
However, what is important is that the requirements for such marriages will now be monitored by the regular courts of the Greek state, "which obviously are more specialized, and which apply the civic code -- and not the holy Islamic law -- and the law and requirements, which are inelastic. And, of course, there will also be the ability for recourse (to court) at a second degree if one of the sides -- either the prosecutor or one of the two litigants -- feels that an injustice has been made, and the case may be ruled on at the second level," Patalotis explained.
"I believe that the fact itself, that a marriage license was granted to a 14-year-old minor Muslim girl, is an important step in the direction of true justice for all our Moslem compatriots in this sector as well," he said.
 Four new cases of bird flu discovered in N. GreeceTHESSALONIKI, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
Four new cases of the bird flu virus were discovered by the Thessaloniki Reference Laboratory in migratory birds in Thrace on Tuesday, bringing the total of such cases in Greece to 20.
The samples have been sent for further testing to the European Union Reference Laboratory in order to determine whether they were infected with the deadly strain of the virus, H5N1.
The Greek government has notified the relevant EU authorities regarding the new cases, while national and EU preventive measures are being taken in the prefectures where the migratory birds were discovered.
Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Bassiakos has sent an urgent letter to all the country's prefectures reiterating the need for the necessary safety measures to be implemented on poultry farms.
 Retrial of November 17 terrorist group defendants continuesATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
The retrial of November 17 terrorist group defendants continued at an Athens court on Tuesday with testimonies by witnesses regarding the murders of industrialists Dimitris Angelopoulos and Alexandros Athanasiadis-Bothosakis.
A testimony was made on the case of the attack on Angelopoulos in the Athens district of Kolonaki in April 1986, by the industrialist's chauffeur George Dimitropoulos.
The driver was not present at the scene of the crime since Angelopoulos was on foot when he was shot by a member of the November 17 group. However, referring to a time before the criminal act, Dimitropoulos claimed that he had seen Christodoulos Xiros. He added that he had seen the defendant in Kolonaki before the murder had taken place.
In addition, Dimitropoulos referred to a crash that had taken place about a month before the murder. He claimed that he had crashed with a car which had, as he remembered, Christodoulos Xiros inside.
The defense called for Dimitropoulos' detention for perjury. The court said that the credibility of the witness will be assessed in comparison with other evidence that will be produced during the trial.
As regards the case of the murder of Bothosakis, which took place in Kifisias avenue in Athens in March, 1988, a testimony was made by the industrialist's widow, Eleni Athanasiadi, who referred to her husband's personality.
 Discussion held on 'Greek, American and British judges'ATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
A book by Thanos Papaioannou titled "British judges and terrorism", published by the Sakkoulas firm, was presented in central Athens on Tuesday.
A discussion was also held on the issue of "Greek, American and British judges: justice against terrorism without fear and passion." The discussion was coordinated by journalist Pavlos Tsimas.
The book by Papaioannou was published in the wake of a decision taken by the House of Lords in December 2004, which ruled that the European human rights treaty was being violated by one of the most crucial clauses contained in British counter-terrorism legislation.
Ruling New Democracy party Eurodeputy Ioannis Varvitsiotis said that counter-terrorism legislation cannot handle terrorism by itself and the response to it must be a political one with strategies to tackle poverty, insecurity and the upsurge of Islamic fundamentalism.
Main opposition PASOK party Deputy Andreas Loverdos stressed the need for the creation of an inter-party Parliamentary committee which will evaluate the contribution of counter-terrorism legislation in confronting terrorism.
Athens University professor Yiannis Panousis, a candidate of the Coalition of the Left party for the prefecture of Athens, said that "we are experiencing a period of change of the strategic enemy from Soviet communism to Islamic fundamentalism, circumstantial interests change the way of handling human rights and undemocratic imperialism, which is setting its own order throughout the world, is leading to international insecurity."
 Two public prosecutors suspended for inaccurate declarations of income, assetsATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
The Supreme Court judges council on Tuesday placed two public prosecutors on temporary suspension for repeatedly inaccurate declarations of the income and assets in a 'means and assets' statement that all the judiciary is required to submit each year.
The two were Appeals deputy prosecutor Nikos Tzoulakis and first-instance court prosecutor Ioannis Kaniadakis.
 Bomb hoax at Vodafone companyATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
A phone call on the planting of a bomb in the building housing the Vodafone mobile phone operator in the Athens suburb of Halandri alerted police on Tuesday night and resulted in Ethnikis Antistaseos street in the suburb remaining closed for about three hours.
Shortly before 7 in the evening, an unidentified caller notified the MEGA television channel that a bomb was going to explode at Vodafone's building in Halandri, without mentioning the undertaking of responsibility by any group.
The caller said that the bomb would explode in five minutes. Police cordoned off the area immediately, traffic was stopped in Ethnikis Antistaseos street and the building was evacuated.
After about 50 minutes past and no explosion occurred, bomb disposal experts together with sniffer dogs scoured the building without finding anything suspicious and revealing that the phone call had been a hoax.
Ethnikis Antistaseos street was opened to traffic at about 10 p.m. and police forces left the area.
 Seminar on Greek, Spanish democracies held in MadridMADRID, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
A seminar entitled "Lessons: 30 Years of Democracy in Spain and Greece" is underway at the Autonomous University of Madrid, sponsored by the modern Greek post-graduate studies programme and the political and foreign affairs faculty of the same university.
The seminar is organized in cooperation with Spain's education ministry and the Greece's embassy in Madrid.
The seminar's coordinator is Prof. Jesús de la Villa Polo, the head of the Modern Greek post-graduate studies programme and a scholar of ancient Greek, as well as university political science professors Irene Martin Cortés and José Ramón Montero Gibert.
Several distinguished Greek and Spanish officials are participating in the seminar.
 Libyan-flag freighter develops list, Coastguard on alertSPARTI, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
The Coastguard was on alert Tuesday after a Libyan-flag freighter developed a list in the Lakonia Gulf, the merchant marine ministry said.
The "Amiral Agitens" developed a 20-degree list as it was sailing in the Gulf of Lakonia, loaded with containers and a 14-member crew aboard.
The ship's captain has so far refused to give 'abandon ship' orders, and the vessel was currently anchored in the bay of Skoutari.
Nearby vessels and a Super Puma all-weather helicopter rushed to the site in the event assistance was required.
Winds of 5-6 beaufort velocity were blowing in the area.
 Sailings from port of Rafina suspended due to bad weather conditionsATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
According to a weather bulletin by the National Meteorological Service, sailings of all passenger ships from the port of Rafina, eastern Attica, have been suspended due to bad weather conditions.
People interested in travelling are advised to contact local shipping agencies or port authorities for information on the possible lifting of the suspension and the precise departure time of ships.
 Large trucks restricted from using highways over long weekendATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
The public order ministry on Tuesday announced restrictions for trucks over 1.5 tones on Greece's national highways over the upcoming long weekend, during which Greeks traditionally head out to the countryside to celebrate the start of Lent. The measures aim to reduce traffic accidents and increase road safety.
Restrictions will begin to apply from Friday afternoon on all outbound lanes from major urban centers between 15:00 - 22:00 on: the Athens-Corinth-Patras highways from Elefsina to the Rio toll posts; the Athens-Thessaloniki highway from the Agios Stefanos junction to the Brallos junction, the Lamia junction to the Rahon, Fthiotida junction and from Larisa to the Skotina underpass; the Thessaloniki-Kavala highway from the 11th km to the Strymonas bridge; the Thessalonki-Moudania highway from the Rysio overpass to the 34th km; the Schimatari-Halkida highway from the junction with the Athens-Thessalonki highway to the high bridge of Halkida; the Langada-Redina provincial road from the village of Nymphopetra to the Redina junction.
Restrictions will also apply on Monday on inbound lanes on the same roads between 15:00 to 23:00, when holiday-makers are expected to return.
Excluded from the ban are road assistance vehicles, post office trucks and vehicles delivering daily newspapers, as well as goods vehicles carrying perishable cargo, such as live animals, pasteurized milk, fresh fish and meat.
Other exceptions are water tankers called out to deal with forest fires, trucks carrying fresh produce on the outbound lanes of the New Athens-Corinth highway between Corinth (Examilia) and Rio and liquid fuel tankers on the outbound lanes from the Redina junction to the Strymonas bridge on the Thessaloniki-Kavala road.
 Latest traffic fatality figures releasedATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
The national statistical service (ESYE) on Tuesday announced that 1,614 people died in traffic accidents in 2005 throughout Greece, slightly down from 1,619 fatalities in the previous year.
A more-or-less similar figure, 1,615 road fatalities, was recorded in 2003, as Greece continues to field one of the worst traffic records in the European Union.
For December 2005, specifically, 138 fatalities were recorded in 1,316 traffic accidents.
 Heroin and cocaine now sold almost at the same price, police sayTHESSALONIKI, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
The price of heroin is now sold almost at the same price of cocaine, "the drug of the rich", as it has been described.
A marked increase has been registered in the quantities of narcotic substances which are imported by drug-traffickers from Albania to Greece.
As assessed by Thessaloniki Security Police Director Stergios Apostolidis, "maybe the users of cocaine have become saturated by this drug and want to try something else."
Furthermore, the price of cocaine in the retail market is almost equivalent to that of heroin, as a result of major changes observed by the authorities in the trafficking of narcotics as there are fewer "middle-men."
"In the past, the Greek mediated in the trafficking of heroin and cocaine but now the trafficking is undertaken by the foreigner who is himself an 'importer'," Apostolidis said.
The security police director assessed that the price of heroin has almost reached the same levels with cocaine, a paradoxical fact, given that in previous years cocaine was sold to users at double or even triple the price.
Apostolidis said that the price of hashish has also "dropped" in comparison to previpus years due to the large quantities which are cultivated in Albania and Indian cannabis is now sold between 800 and 1,000 euros per kilo.
The quantities of drugs are generally trafficked by Albanians, as also revealed by the arrests made, while the similar activity of Bulgarian traffickers seems to be waning, as, according to Apostolidis, the "upper-hand" has now been taken by Albanians who produce the hashish in their country.
 New Metropolitan of Piraeus elected by Holy SynodATHENS, 01.03.2006 (ANA)
Members of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece's Holy Synod on Tuesday elected Bishop Serapheim, up until now the Holy Synod's Secretary, as the new Metropolitan of Piraeus, one of the largest and most influential ecclesiastical jurisdictions in the predominately Orthodox Christian country.
Additionally, the Holy Synod elected Archimandrite Pavlos as the new Metropolitan of Siatista, in northern Greece
 UN SG: New Cyprus envoy when time is ripePARIS, 01.03.2006(ANA-MPA/O.Tsipira/CNA)
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday he will appoint a new UN special envoy for Cyprus when the time is ripe, noting that does not mean that the UN is not working on the question on Cyprus.
Annan, who was speaking to the press after meeting here for one hour with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, with a view to examine ways of moving forward on the process leading to the reunification of the island, noted that Tuesday they looked at the whole series of all the activities that the two sides in Cyprus can undertake, noting at the same time that Turkey does admit it as an obligation under the EU requirement to undertake certain steps.
On his part Papadopoulos said ''we want the EU to have a more active role in a new effort and I have assurances that they are perfectly prepared to do that,'' adding that ''the Cyprus problem remains under the aegis of the UN and the Secretary General''.
Invited to say what will the role of the EU be during this process, Annan noted that during the exercise of his good offices through over the years ''we have cooperated very effectively with the European Union and we intend to cooperate with them''.
He noted that ''in some situations they have provided all their assistance and in some cases we've exchanged ideas on some of the technical issues and the process of the exercise of my good offices and I would expect them to continue to work with me in that spirit. And besides they have a direct interest in the settlement of this issue''.
Annan noted that the EU has always been supportive and ''we expect them to continue to be supportive. There is no problem with us''.
Noting that he agrees with the Secretary General, Papadopoulos said ''our position is very clear: We want the EU to have a more active role in a new effort and I have assurances that they are perfectly prepared to do that. The Cyprus problem remains under the aegis of the UN and the Secretary General''.
Asked about the so- called Turkish action plan on Cyprus, Annan said ''we took stock on the negotiations, on the process of settlement of the Cyprus issue and we also touched on the Turkish initiative. And we are going to be looking at a whole series of actions'', noting that ''Turkey does admit it as an obligation under the EU requirement to undertake certain steps which it could take.''
''But of course there were other measures proposed in their plan of action and today we looked at the whole series of all the activities that the two sides can undertake, I am talking about the Turkish Cypriot side and Nicosia and we will see what proposals we bring together for the parties to act on,'' he noted.
Invited to say whether he will meet with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat as well, Annan said: ''be patient and be merciful. Let him get well first and I think once he is back on his feet it is not excluded that will meet. I met him in New York in the past and I am sure we will have an opportunity to meet some time in the future.''
Asked if he is going to appoint soon his new envoy for Cyprus, Annan said that in application of his good offices he surely has an envoy.
''On the right time I will appoint an envoy but that does not mean that we are doing any work on the question,'' he added.
He noted that he has a very competent special representative on the ground, Michael Moller and '' who is going to be working with the parties on certain steps and certain actions that they need to take.''
He also noted that they will also be preparing for this in New York with Ibrahim Gambarri, UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs and his staff.
''When the time is ripe I would appoint an envoy,'' he noted. Invited to say if they discussed the issue of missing people, Annan said ''yes, I think we are just about to appoint a third member of the committee and they will begin their work very soon and I do expect the two communities to work very expeditiously on this and move forward and he to be a full time member who will be on the highland working on the issue.''
Asked if he considers this meeting as a step forward, Annan said that in negotiations sometimes people say that as long as you are talking you are making progress.
''But what I have indicated, I would also want to see a much narrower gap between our words and our actions and I think in the next couple of months we are going to do whatever we can to narrow that gap as we will move ahead with the process,'' he added.
Asked if he got at this meeting some new ideas by Papadopoulos that make him feel encouraged that the process will start soon and if there is enough time to achieve a solution of Cyprus problem until the end of the year which is the end of tenure, Annan said that ''there were quite a few proposals which were put on the table this afternoon'', noting that they are going to analyze them ''and see how we can put it into action after consulting the other side, working together and come up with a programme of action, which we can begin to work on, on the ground.''
''Obviously when you are handling this sort of negotiations, when there is a will amongst the parties, things can move very fast. If the will is not there it can take you a long time. Let's start with the initiatives that I said we've discussed today and begin to take concrete steps and see how things can be accelerated and I hope that would also help bridge what I referred to as the gap between words and action,'' he added.
Invited to say that if the fact that he was talking Tuesday in front of the flag of Cyprus was a kind of message, Annan said ''I assure you I do not want his (Papadopoulos') job.''
''I am looking forward at the end of the year of having a balance between action and reflection and taking some rest so don't worry I am not heading for Nicosia to take on another job,'' he concluded.
Papadopoulos expressed his best wishes to Talat for his speedy recovery.
''I inquired for his health as from yesterday (Monday) and as soon as he is out of the intensive care I'll try and talk to him personally. I wish him speedy recovery and good health, he concluded.
 Joint statementPARIS, 01.03.2006 (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and President of the Republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos met in Paris on Tuesday to discuss the situation regarding the Cyprus issue.
After their meeting, which ran a little over an hour, they issued the following joint statement:
"United Nations Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan and President Tassos Papadopoulos met in Paris today to review the situation in Cyprus and examine modalities for moving forward on the process leading to the reunification of the Island.
"They agreed, as they have in the past, that the resumption of the negotiating process within the framework of the Secretary-General's Good Offices must be timely and based on careful preparation. To that end, the Secretary General was pleased to note that the leaders of both communities have agreed that bi-communal discussions on a series of issues, agreement on which is needed for the benefit of all Cypriots, will be undertaken at the technical level. The Secretary General and President Papadopoulos expressed their common hope that these discussions would help restore trust between the two communities as well as prepare the way for the earliest full resumption of the negotiating process. The Secretary General noted that he had received assurances from the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mr. Talat, that he shared the same aspirations.
"The Secretary General and Mr. Papadopoulos also agreed that it would be beneficial for all concerned, and would greatly improve the atmosphere for further talks, if progress could be achieved on further disengagement of forces and demilitarization on the Island, on the complete de-mining of Cyprus and on the issue of Famagusta. They took note of the recent decision by the European Union to release the much awaited funds for the benefit of the Turkish Cypriot community. In this context, they expressed their warm wishes for the full and speedy recovery of Mr. Talat.
The Secretary General and President Papadopoulos agreed to continue their on-going dialogue with the expressed aim at accelerating the search for a comprehensive, fair and mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus problem."
 British High Commissioner welcomes Paris meeting outcomeNICOSIA, 01.03.2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)
British High Commissioner to Cyprus Peter Millett welcomes the outcome of the meeting between United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos in Paris on Tuesday, reiterating Britain's ''full commitment'' to support the UN SG good offices mission aiming at reaching a negotiated settlement to the Cyprus problem.
''We welcome the outcome of the meeting between the United Nations Secretary General and President Papadopoulos, in particular the agreement between the leaders of both communities to begin bi-communal discussions at the technical level on a range of issues,'' Millet says in statement issued after the Paris meeting.
He reiterates that ''the UK remains fully committed to supporting the UN Secretary General's good offices towards reaching a negotiated settlement to the Cyprus problem.''
 Turkish Cypriots demand constitutional rightsNICOSIA, 01.03.2006(CNA/ANA-MPA)
A group of 78 Turkish Cypriots, living in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, asked to exercise their right to elect and be elected in separate electoral lists, as provided in the 1960 Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus.
The demand was made two months before May's parliamentary elections to Interior Minister Andreas Christou. The Turkish Cypriots submitted 78 applications to enroll in the separate electoral list for Turkish Cypriots.
In statements after the meeting on Tuesday, the minister said that as things stand the communal right of the members of the Turkish Cypriot community to elect and be elected can only be exercised in the framework of an overall solution of the Cyprus problem.
Christou explained that according to the Constitution of 1960, the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities of the Republic of Cyprus exercise separately their right to elect and be elected.
"Unfortunately, Turkish Cypriots cannot exercise this right because circumstances have led to the separation of the Turkish Cypriot community," he said.
He said that about a month ago the House of Representatives voted in an amendment to the 1960 Constitution, allowing Turkish Cypriots who reside in the government controlled areas (around 1,000) to exercise their right to vote and be elected.
"The amendment gives the right to the Turkish Cypriots, who live in the government controlled areas and who have been isolated due to circumstances, to vote now together with the Greek Cypriot community for the 56 seats at the Parliament," Christou said.
He explained though that the 78 Turkish Cypriots do not have this right, since they reside in the northern Turkish occupied areas.
In statements after the meeting, former president of the Turkish Cypriot chamber of commerce, Ali Erel, said that the 78 Turkish Cypriots aim to start a new process of rapprochement, bring the two communities together and make the Republic of Cyprus a "bicommunal machinery and decision making mechanism for the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot community as two partners, as it was established in the 1960 Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus."
Responding to comments that Turkish Cypriots seek a seat in the Parliament and at the same time in the so-called house in the occupied north, Erel said that "this is not controversial, because the Annan plan was talking about two constitutional states, one in the north, one in the south, and an umbrella state which is called the Republic of Cyprus."
"The Annan plan (a UN proposed solution plan) is not valid, but the Republic of Cyprus was established as a bicommunal state, which is not bicommunal now in real life, it is monocommunal. What we are aiming is to have a bicommunal state, a state in the north, a state in the south, as it is well said in the Annan plan," he added.
The Republic of Cyprus was established in 1960 by the Zurich-London Agreements. The Constitution provided for 50 seats at the House of Representatives, 35 Greek Cypriots and 15 Turkish Cypriots.
Following intercommunal violence in December 1963, the 15 Turkish Cypriot representatives withdrew from the House and their seats remain vacant to this day. In 1985 the Parliament decided to increase the number of representatives to 80, 56 Greek Cypriots and 24 Turkish Cypriots.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Croatia's FM to pay official visit to CyprusNICOSIA, 01.03.2006(CNA/ANA-MPA)
Croatia's Foreign Minister Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will pay an official visit to Cyprus from March 2-5 at the invitation of her Cypriot counterpart George Iacovou.
On Friday, 3rd March, Grabar-Kitarovic will meet Iacovou and the two will hold official talks. Statements to the press will follow. The same day, Grabar-Kitarovic will be received by President Tassos Papadopoulos and will later meet House President Demetris Christofias.