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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-01-08

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greece celebrates Epiphany holiday
  • [02] 'Greece can turn a page', PASOK leader says
  • [03] Permission not given for Blessing of the Waters ceremony at Izmir port
  • [04] PM briefed by defense minister, deputy sports minister
  • [05] Dep. defense minister: Gov't serious in reforming military conscription system
  • [06] PASOK on issue of illegal exemptions from military duty
  • [07] Papoulias receives Greek rep to UNESCO
  • [08] Greek stocks end first week of 2007 with net gain of 3.76 pct
  • [09] Foreign Exchange Rates
  • [10] Authorities brace for mass return of city residents
  • [11] Drug smuggling arrests
  • [12] Illegal migrant smuggling arrests in N. Greece
  • [13] Greek Super League soccer results
  • [14] Weather Forecast: Fair on Monday
  • [15] G/C side ready to demolish wall once necessary preconditions are fulfilled
  • [16] Papadopoulos: Cyprus will be able to join the Eurozone on January 1st, 2008

  • [01] Greece celebrates Epiphany holiday

    Greece celebrated the religious holiday of Epiphany on Saturday with the traditional "blessing of the waters" ceremony at the country's countless ports, harbours, lakes and reservoirs, with the nation's political leadership also on hand at Church masses and at the water's side.

    The most prominent service was again celebrated at the port of Piraeus' metropolitan cathedral and seafront, with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos officiating at the service, attended by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, who represented the government, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, former premier Costas Simitis and dozens of other government officials, MPs and local government office-holders. Most political leaders on hand expressed their best wishes for 2007.

    On his part, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis attended Epiphany services near his home in the east Attica coastal town of Rafina, where he expressed his best seasons for the New Year, while emphasising the need for close ties between parents and children.

    Meanwhile, new Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis attended a similar service at the Dexamini (reservoir) square in the upscale Kolonaki district in the Greek capital, along with Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou.

    In brief statements, Kaklamanis said one main priority of his new administration will be to develop, in consultation with the central government and other municipalities, a prefecture-wide strategy for garbage collection and management in the utterly ccongested greater Athens area.

    [02] 'Greece can turn a page', PASOK leader says

    Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou in a statement on Epiphany Day, on Saturday, said that "Greece can turn a page and for us together to create a just society of equality and dignity for all."

    The PASOK leader attended the ceremony of the Blessing of the Waters at Piraeus port.

    After the ceremony, Papandreou said::"Best wishes to those who have their nameday today. Best wishes to all Greeks. Best wishes to Hellenism of the diaspora. Best wishes also to the immigrants who live among us. I wish to all, health and happiness. On such a beautiful day, Epiphany, at the start of the year, it gives us certainty that Greece can turn a page and for us together to create a just society of equality and dignity for all. Yet again, I wish to all, family and personal happiness."

    [03] Permission not given for Blessing of the Waters ceremony at Izmir port

    The Turkish authorities on Saturday, Epiphany Day, did not allow the ceremony of the Blessing of the Waters to take place at Izmir port, something which was allowed last year in implementation of a verbal announcement by the Turkish foreign ministry allowing and protecting the exercise of religious duties by those living in Turkey.

    Last year, Greek Consul in Izmir, George Katapodis, organized an Epiphany Day celebration, for the first time after the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922.

    This year, the Greek Consul yet again asked of Izmir's Prefect permission for the specific Epiphany Day religious ceremony to be held. The answer given to the Greek Consul was "the permit cannot be given because the request was not submitted in writing but only verbally."

    Finally, the Epiphany Day ceremony was held in the courtyard of the Greek Orthodox chapel of Aghia Fotini by Archimandrite of the Ecumenical Throne Kyrillos Sykis.

    Meanwhile, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos received at the Phanar on Sunday pilgrims who attended the Epiphany Day celebrations.

    [04] PM briefed by defense minister, deputy sports minister

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday received Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis at his office, with the latter responding afterwards to a series of questions related to an investigation into a ring supplying forged and doctored documents to individuals attempting to dodge their compulsory military service.

    "As you know, the new government is making every effort to implement the law vis-à-vis those who have sidestepped it. This is a major issue ... further statements by me do not serve anything at this moment. I would like to give you names, but the Hellenic Personal Data Protection Agency prohibits this," Meimarakis said.

    The defence minister's statements came on the heels of an urgent order by the head of the appellate courts' prosecutor's office for an investigation into the high-profile case, days after a high-ranking army officer was arrested for tampering with conscription office files in an Athens-area military office.

    Orfanos meeting

    In an unrelated development, the prime minister also met separately on Friday morning with Deputy Sports Minister George Orfanos, with talks reportedly focusing on a new legal framework for amateur and professional football in the country as well as efforts to stamp out hooliganism, including the issuance of electronic tickets featuring the name of the bearer.

    [05] Dep. defense minister: Gov't serious in reforming military conscription system

    The relevant deputy defense minister on Sunday reiterated that the government will absolutely proceed with measures to reform the system for conscription (mandatory military services for males), following the arrest last week of a high-ranking officer caught on hidden camera lifting service record documents at an Athens base.

    Deputy Minister Yiannis Lambropoulos noted that since the government took office in March 2004 several thousand cases of deferments and exemptions were investigated, with numerous "well-known" individuals -- entertainers, attorneys, journalists, businessmen -- picked to serve their military service, while other cases were conveyed to the court system.

    He also said the ministry wanted to release the names of individuals that had illegally avoided military duty but was prevented by both the Hellenic Personal Data Protection Authority and a subsequent Council of State ruling.

    Finally, he said a rapid computerization of the conscription bureau's files will aid efforts to stamp out military service dodging.

    [06] PASOK on issue of illegal exemptions from military duty

    Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) Spokesman Petros Efthymiou, commenting on Sunday on the issue of the illegal exemptions from military duty, said that "the case of the arrest of the Lieutenant General for Military Conscription, while he was caught on hidden camera lifting service record documents of conscript evaders, create serious and unanswered questions for the National Defense Ministry leadership."

    He said that the case was not only unclear "but also the methods surrounding it lead to the conclusion that yet again, the (ruling) New Democracy party is forced to admit and reveal only that which it can no longer cover up."

    [07] Papoulias receives Greek rep to UNESCO

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Friday met here with Greece's permanent representative to UNESCO, Amb. George Anastasopoulos, with the latter briefing the president on various issues and initiatives at the UN organisation and issues of Greek interest.

    Among others, Anastasopoulos also briefed Papoulias on efforts to have the Ionian island of Corfu declared an UNESCO world heritage site.

    Financial News

    [08] Greek stocks end first week of 2007 with net gain of 3.76 pct

    Greek stocks continued moving higher for the fourth consecutive session on the first trading week of 2007, pushing the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange up 0.52 percent to end at 4,560.14 points, for a net gain of 3.76 percent in the week.

    Turnover was a heavy 350 million euros. The Big Cap index rose 0.80 percent, the Mid Cap index eased 0.53 percent and the Small Cap index fell 1.16 percent. Most sector indices ended higher with the Banks (3.83 pct), Insurance (5.0 pct), Oil (5.23 pct), Utilities (5.03 pct) and Healthcare (5.76 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Commece (1.15 pct) and Medi (0.54 pct) were the only sectors to suffer losses.

    [09] Foreign Exchange Rates

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.318

    Pound sterling 0.680

    Danish kroner 7.512

    Swedish kroner 9.145

    Japanese yen 1557

    Swiss franc 1.622

    Norwegian kroner 8.349

    Cyprus pound 0.582

    Canadian dollar 1.549

    Australian dollar 1.683

    General News

    [10] Authorities brace for mass return of city residents

    City dwellers were returning to the major cities in the east Mediterranean nation in droves on Sunday, as the celebratory weekend -- Epiphany was celebrated on Saturday and the major feast day of Aghios Ioannis (St. John) on Sunday -- more-or-less ends the holiday season.

    Unseasonably good weather also generated a mass exodus of residents from Athens and Thessaloniki, whereas traffic police were on standby on all major highways and provincial roads.

    Trucks and heavy vehicles were also prohibited from taking the national roadways on Sundays to alleviate traffic conditions.

    Sadly, 11 fatalities were reported in the country since Friday afternoon.

    [11] Drug smuggling arrests

    Three Albanian nationals were arrested Saturday evening near the Greek-Albanian frontier in Kastoria prefecture (Ieropygi site) on drug smuggling charges, as a K9-assisted border patrol also confiscated 75 kilos of hashish the suspects were allegedly trying to smuggle into the country.

    Two men found guilty of single misdemeanor count in riot police shield case

    Two out of three defendants charged in a high-profile case involving the seizing of riot police gear during a May 2005 skirmish in downtown Athens between a group of self-styled anarchists and two riot police officers were convicted on a single misdemeanor count of illegal firearms possession last week.

    Conversely, the three defendants - Georgios Kalaitzidis, 27, Panayiotis Aspiotis, 22, and Petros Karasaridis, 41, were acquitted of the more serious charges of arson, assault and theft.

    Kalaitzidis was handed a 21-month sentence, while Aspiotis was sentenced to eight months, with both men later freed pending appeal.

    Police had found a carton containing about 100 bullets in a bank deposit box reportedly rented by to Aspiotis.

    Kalaitzidis and Karasaridis were arrested by police in early July 2005 after attempting to throw away pieces of two severed flexi-glass shields stolen from riot police during the May 2005 skirmish.

    Self-styled anarchists, alternately known as "anti-state" activists, had even posed with stolen riot police gear in a photograph circulated on the Internet in June 2005.

    In his court testimony, Kalaitzidis maintained he had been given the shields by a comrade to throw away, while refusing to identify the individual.

    [12] Illegal migrant smuggling arrests in N. Greece

    Authorities in northern Greece over the weekend arrested four migrant smugglers and a total of 57 illegal immigrants in two separate incidents.

    Three suspects, all foreign nationals and aged 20, 24 and 33, were arrested in the border prefecture of Evros (Soufli district) after the illegal migrants were discovered in a truck, and shortly after the latter had illegally crossed into Greek and EU territory from Turkey.

    Further to the west and in Kavala prefecture, police stopped a mini van carrying 13 illegal immigrants -- from Burma and Sri Lanka. The illegals and the 32-year-old local man were arrested, while another two suspects are wanted.

    Sports

    [13] Greek Super League soccer results

    Results of the Greek Super League soccer matches played over the weekend:

    OFI Crete - Atromitos Athens, 4-1

    PAOK Thessaloniki - AEK Athens, 2-0

    Apollon Kalamaria - Kerkyra, 1-0

    Ionikos Piraeus - Ergotelis Crete, 1-3

    Panionios Athens - Iraklis Thessaloniki, 2-1

    Xanthi - Olympiakos Piraeus, 0-0

    Aris Thessaloniki - Larissa, 1-1

    Panathinaikos Athens - Egaleo Athens, 1-0

    Standings after 16 weeks of play: Olympiakos 40 points

    AEK 34

    Panathinaikos 34

    PAOK 25

    OFI 23

    Xanthi 20

    Atromitos 19

    Kerkyra1 9

    Egaleo 19

    Panionios 19

    Aris 19

    Apollon Kalamaria 18

    Larissa 17

    Ergotelis 16

    Iraklis 15 (15 games)

    Ionikos 6 (15 games)

    Note:

  • Ionikos was deducted two points for disciplinary reasons.

  • * A decision is pending on the fate of the game Ionikos-Iraklis.

    [14] Weather Forecast: Fair on Monday

    Unseasonably fair weather for Monday is again forecast. Temperatures will range from -2C to 13C in the north; -2C to 16C on the rest of the mainland and 5C to 16C on the islands. Southwesterly winds, weak to moderate, on the seas.

    Mostly sunny in Athens, 4C to 16C; partly cloudy in Thessaloniki, 2C to 14C.

    Cyprus Affairs

    [15] G/C side ready to demolish wall once necessary preconditions are fulfilled

    PAPHOS (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said here Saturday that the Greek Cypriot side is ready, once necessary preconditions for the secure movement of the people are fulfilled, to demolish the wall in front of the National Guard observation post at Ledras Street, one of Nicosia's most commercial streets, within 24 hours.

    Invited to comment information that the Turkish army has reacted against the intention of the Turkish Cypriot leadership to demolish the footbridge the occupation regime constructed at the northern end of Ledras Street, Papadopoulos noted that information that seemed to be true said there have been reactions to the initial statement by Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to dismantle the bridge.

    Demolishing the bridge, the president said, is a step towards the opening of the crossing point at Ledras street.

    He added that the Greek-Cypriot side since December 2005 and later on in July 2006 when UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari visited Cyprus, has given in writing the preconditions to open the crossing point, such as the withdrawal of the troops from the region, the unmanning of the area, the restoration of adjacent buildings and the demining.

    He said it was inconceivable to move forward and build confidence and good will measures and at the same time have citizens crossing over to the other side along with Turkish military patrols, adding that this would create tension.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.

    [16] Papadopoulos: Cyprus will be able to join the Eurozone on January 1st, 2008

    PAPHOS (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos expressed the conviction that Cyprus will be able to join the Eurozone on January 1st, 2008.

    Invited Saturday to say if Cyprus may face any difficulties as regards its accession to the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) on January 1st, 2008, Papadopoulos said "I think no one can predict what will happen, but we are on a good track, all of our indexes are satisfactory."

    Papadopoulos expressed the belief that as time passes by the accession of new countries to the Eurozone will become more difficult, and that Cyprus, having met the European Bank requirements, will be able to join it on January 1st, 2008.


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