|Thursday, 20 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-01-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece to grant additional aid of 5 million euros to LebanonPARIS (ANA-MPA/N.Melissova)
Greece announced here Thursday the granting of an additional aid to Lebanon amounting to five million euros.
Announcing the aid, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said that Greece had already granted a 2.5 million euros aid to Lebanon in the form of immediate humanitarian aid last summer, while the additional 5 million euros are destined for the reconstruction effort in the Middle East country.
Bakoyannis participated in the World conference of donors held in Paris on Thursday, in which Lebanon won more than $7.6 billion.
The conference sent a strong political message of support for the Lebanese people, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of his country, at the "International Donors Conference for the Reconstruction of Lebanon", that is taking place at a high level here, under the chairmanship of President Jacques Chirac and with the participation of 36 countries and 14 international organizations.
When she completed her address, she received praise from President Chirac who told her "I understand why you succeeded with the Olympic Games."
Greece was present from the very beginning of the crisis and continues to be present now in the reconstruction phase, to the degree of its capabilities, said the foreign ministry's International Economic Relations Secretary General Th. Skylakakis, who is accompanying the minister, while the ministry's spokesman George Koumoutsakos pointed to the "strong political message of support for the Lebanese people in their entirety and the Sioniora government", a message that was sent by Thursday's conference, stressing that "Greece is also facing it from this point of view" and added that "the aim of all is the speedier and fuller implementation of Security Council resolution 1701."
The five million euros that Greece will be giving will be provided for the construction of infrastructure projects, that include four bridges and two medical centers, while the possibility of development cooperation and in programs concerning renewable energy sources as well is being examined, Skylakakis said, clarifying that the aid is geographically and socially balanced, since it will be implemented in different parts of the country in which different religious entities live.
Cyprus also received praise for its role in the Lebanon crisis. President Chirac said after the address by Cyprus Foreign Minister George Lillikas that Lebanon owes great recognition to Larnaca and this cannot be assessed in dollars.
 'Revolutionary Struggle' claims US embassy attack in proclamationThe 'Revolutionary Struggle' group has claimed responsibility for the January 12 early-morning rocket attack at the US embassy in Athens, which caused minor material damage but no injuries, in a five-page proclamation it sent to the "Pontiki" weekly newspaper, a Public Order ministry announcement said Wednesday night, while the full proclamation was printed in the newspaper on Thursday.
The proclamation, according to the announcement, was delivered to the police by the management of the newspaper at 8:05 in the evening on Wednesday. The text of the proclamation was delivered to the Crime Laboratories for further investigation.
The proclamation had been received by the newspaper's management on Tuesday, the ministry's announcement concluded.
Asked to comment on the content of the proclamation during Thursday's press briefing, meanwhile, Greece's alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed that the government "does not enter into dialogue with terrorists".
In the five-page proclamation, the Revolutionary Struggle group called the hit against the embassy as an "intervention that spotlighted the subjugation of the Greek State to US policy", while it also referred to international issues such as Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan, and also contained threats aimed at two ministers -- foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis and public order minister Vyron Polydoras -- and further 'photographed' the Parliament building as the next target.
The main points of the proclamation noted:
"On January 12 2007 and at 6a.m., Revolutionary Struggle carried out an attack, with a rocket, against the American embassy in Athens, discrediting all the strict security measures of both the Americans and the police. This action is our own response to the criminal war against 'terrorism' that the US has launched throughout the planet with the help of its fellow-traveler countries. It is our own response to the war which the American murderers and their stooges are carrying out in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bombing of Somalia, the new wars they will ignite in order to impose the New World Order. It is a response to their policy on Palestine and Lebanon, a policy that aims at the elimination of all resistance. It is a response for the prisoners of Guantanamo, for all the prisoners-hostages of the 'anti-terrorism' war. Finally, it is also a greeting to all those fighting against the establishment of a world neo-class regime, from Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Nigeria to Latin America and Europe"," the proclamation read.
At another point, the proclamation said: "In the Greek extraordinary 'martial courts' the Greek judges authorized by the government publicly maul the same civil law that they supposedly safeguard in order to ensure life sentences for militants, in order to consolidate that which they think to be a 'victory over resistance', with the most well-known example being the '17N case'."
Regarding the Greek parliament, the proclamation said: "If we could imagine a generalized popular revolt in Greece, which we hope for and for which we are trying with all our powers, it is more than certain that the first building that would be razed would be the American embassy. And the second would certainly be the parliament".
 U.S. State Department reiterates satisfaction over cooperation with Greek authoritiesWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Thurs-day expressed the "full satisfaction" of the United States over the level of cooperation existing with the Greek authorities in the framework of efforts to solve the recent terrorist attack against the embassy in Athens.
Replying to a question on the proclamation sent by the "Revolutionary Struggle" group, McCormack said:' We saw the same announcement in the newspapers. It appears that they published something like a manifesto in a Greek language newspaper in which they said that they claim responsibility for the attack on the U.S. embassy and that such attacks will be continued in the future. In the past, they were unknown to the Greek authorities, as well as to us."
The American official noted that "we are working very closely with the Greek authorities on this case to find who are responsible for the attack on our embassy", so that they can be brought before justice.
Lastly, McCormack emphasized the fact that "immediately after the attack, the Greek foreign minister went to the embassy and met with our ambassador there."
 PM Karamanlis meets with health ministerPrime minister Costas Karamanlis met Thursday with health minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and discussed issues falling under the ministry's competency.
Avramopoulos told reporters after the meeting that they discussed the ministry's legislative initiatives, citing particularly the bill on procurements, which he said would put in order an environment that has been disorderly for years, and also a bill on primary healthcare.
Replying to a question on hirings and the lack of staff in state hospitals, Avramopoulos said that the strengthening of the National Health System (ESY) was progressing well, with 6,000 hirings on the horizon, of which 1,700 would be carried out through the ASEP (public sector hiring examinations board) for 8-month contracts, and 3,000 through the OAED (state-run Manpower Employment Organization) programs for 18-month internships.
Asked to comment on the hygiene of meats and other food-stuffs on a television program, the health minister said that, in addition to the State's actions, the conscientiousness of the businessmen was also very important, noting that "we are all judged on our professionalism and our conscientiousness".
 PASOK leader criticizes gov't on health sector policyMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou toured a recently opened public hospital in the west Athens district of Haidari on Thursday, where he met with the facility's director, department heads, as well as employees' representatives.
In subsequent statements to reporters, Papandreou said that as a government PASOK aimed to create an excellent health care centre in the working-class western districts of Athens with the opening of the Attikon Hospital.
Among others, he also charged that the government is responsible for a shortage of staff and equipment at the specific hospital, while reiterating his party's commitment to a public health care system for all citizens.
He also accused the government of hirings in sectors where they were not necessary, such as a revived rural police force, while ignoring sectors such as health care, which he said suffered from lack of staff.
 PASOK leader expresses great concern over situation prevailing in third stage educationMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou on Thursday expressed his great concern over the situation prevailing in third stage education, following a meeting he had with the deans of the Athens, Patra and Thessaloniki Universities, as well as of the National Metsovion Polytechnic.
"With the downhill course being followed by the government there is the real risk of harm being done that will take education many years back. Not only will the students lose their year again, but the public universities will also lose the train of modernization and of quality," Papandreou said.
The PASOK leader said that he requested the meeting with the deans of the four biggest universities due to "their true cry of anxiety over the dramatic situation to which the government has led third stage education."
Papandreou said that his party had submitted specific proposals in time, fully and responsibly for the upgrading of the public university that is the basis for substantive changes and wide consensus.
Lastly, he said that PASOK believes in the upgrading of the public university and will cooperate both with the university community and with the Greek family.
Gov't spokesman responds
Minister of State and Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Thursday evening responded to statements made by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou on higher education.
"Mr. Papandreou with his statements also today, proves that in front of the temporary party benefit, as he himself is mistakenly aware of, does not hesitate to sacrifice seriousness and responsibility even also on the national issue of education," Roussopoulos commented.
"While PASOK and its leader are continuing to seek positions, the government is proceeding steadfastly in the necessary reform which secures qualitative and competitive public universities," Roussopoulos added.
 SYN's Alavanos meets NTUA Rectorial CouncilThe leader of the Coalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology (SYN) party Alekos Alavanos on Thursday met with the Rectorial Council of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) - known in Greek as Metsovio Polytechnio. Afterwards, he called on the government to withdraw proposals for a bill on education that would also restrict protection afforded by university asylum.
At the same time, he urged the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) to "stop essentially supporting the government's policy on this issue, which was the central political issue in the country" and join SYN's efforts to prevent any change to article 16 of the Constitution and ensure that university education remained exclusive to the state sector in Greece.
NTUA Rector Constantinos Moutzouris expressed hope that "wisdom will prevail" and that the views of the Rectorial Councils of the four oldest universities in the country would be taken into account.
He stressed that these proposals and views were made by those who cared deeply for universities and that they were "cries of agony" at the attempt to degrade and devalue them.
Vice-rector Gerassimos Spathis said that the reform was motivated by a desire to exploit a potentially lucrative sector: "There is great demand in Greece for the education sector and market. This is why this reform is being attempted at this junction," he said.
 Interior minister presents draft bill on immigration in ParliamentThe government's intends that no immigrants in Greece remain in a state of illegality, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos told Parliament's Public Administration Committee on Thursday as he presented his ministry's draft bill on immigration.
"We will achieve this without shortcuts in human rights but also taking into account the security of the country," he added.
Despite attracting some favorable comments, however, the draft bill did not secure a yea vote from the opposition parties. Their main objections centered on the fact that the bodies representing the immigrants themselves had not been taken into account or invited to present their opinions or to participate in the "National Committee for the social integration of immigrants".
Others objected to an article that gave state services powers to refuse the renewal of an immigrants residence permit if they had been sentenced to serve prison sentences for up to one year. MPs pointed out that this was too broad, since prison sentences were handed out for offences that did not necessarily make one a danger to society.
The financial and other parameters for immigrants seeking to be made legal were also judged to be too harsh by members of the opposition.
 Minister briefs trade union on new bankruptcy codeJustice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras met on Thursday with the members of the presiding board of GSEE trade union, the country's largest, to brief them on a new bankruptcy code, which equally concerns employers and employees.
The minister said the trade union's leadership made certain observations that will be included in the final draft law.
The objective of the new code is to safeguard job positions by offering a second chance guarantee to failing but viable enterprises, Papaligouras said.
 Gender Equality SecGen addresses UN CEDAW meetingNEW YORK (ANA-MPA / P. Panagiotou)
Greece has proceeded with the adoption of legislative and other measures aimed at improving the woman's place in all sectors, General Secretary for Gender Equality Evgenia Tsoumani said Wednesday, addressing the 37th meeting of the UN Committee on the Elimination of all form of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in New York.
Tsoumani presented the 6th periodical report on Greece, submitted in compliance with Article 18 of the committee.
The General Secretary on Gender Equality underlined that a substantial effort is being made in Greece to achieve the desirable levels of gender equality and pointed out that, in compliance with the principles adopted in the Beijing 1995 platform of action, it has moved ahead with the adoption of legislative and other measures aimed at improving the standing of women in all sectors.
Tsoumani stated that initiatives have been undertaken to limit negative stereotypes regarding the role of men and women in society and family, while measures have been taken against sexual harassment, violence targeting women and trafficking in women.
The measures adopted also promote the abolition of unfavorable quotas in the employment of women in the police and fire department, the reduction of wage differences, the adoption of paternity leave, the participation of women in decision-making and in career positions in the diplomatic corps, and the abolition of discrimination for women belonging to minority groups.
Tsoumani also outlined the four axes of action for the period 2004-2008, aimed at improving employment for women, facing stereotypes through Education, preventing and combating violence against women and boosting women's participation in decision-making.
 PM to meet Athens mayor on FridayPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis is to receive Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Friday at 11:30, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros announced.
 PASOK leader to attend funeral of former Turkish FM Ismael CemMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou will leave for Istanbul, Turkey, on Friday January 26 to attend the funeral of former Turkish foreign minister Ismael Cem, who died Wednesday of lung cancer at the age of 66.
 Greek govt determined to combat tax evasionGreek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday announced the formation of a National Commission to combat tax evasion in the country.
Presenting the plan, the Greek minister said tax evasion was not a clever thing; it was an anti-social behavior that should be avoided. Alogoskoufis said all trade and employers' unions would participate in an effort to change a prevailing view over tax evasion among citizens.
The Greek minister noted that one in two self employed stated less earnings compared with the average income of wage earners, while one-fourth of the same category stated less earnings compared with the average income of pensioners. Alogoskoufis said that 60 percent of self-employed's earnings equaled the average wage in the country.
 Main opposition reacts to Alogoskoufis' on tax evasionMain opposition PASOK MP Vasso Papandreou accused Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis of hypocrisy on Thursday, in reaction to the minister's statements regarding tax evasion.
PASOK's sector-head for economics said Alogoskoufis had "lately discovered" tax evasion after three years of passing legislation and target-specific measures that systematically assisted tax-dodgers in their work.
She also accused the minister of providing tax asylum to proven tax swindlers and evaders, facilitating money laundering and paying off pre-election debts by granting millions of euros in specific cases, while demoralizing and disorganizing inspection bodies.
At the same time, ordinary tax payers were saddled with billions of euros of additional tax, both direct and indirect, she said.
Commenting on the discussion underway at the European Commission regarding the upward revision of Greece's GDP in 2006, Papandreou noted that tax-payers would now also have to pay several billion euros more to European Union funds.
"Because according to the government, through untransparent procedures we became richer overnight, we will have to make retroactive payments and losses from the Cohesion Fund of more than four billion euros and from now on we will have to contribute a great deal more toward EU fund," she said.
 Alogoskoufis inaugurates new GSIS computer centerThe new computer center of the Economy and Finance Ministry General Secretariat for Information Systems (GSIS) was inaugurated on Thursday by minister George Alogoskoufis, who stressed that it is a hundred times more efficient than the older one.
The new computer center is made up of 13 central computers and the speed of transactions between citizens and tax bureaus and between tax bureaus and the general secretariat for information systems will be ten times faster than today.
Alogoskoufis stressed that the new computer center will speed up transactions with the people while at the same time meet the government's objective for taxation justice, sending the message to tax dodgers that the ministry of finance will now have all necessary information at its disposal in order to trace them.
Alogoskoufis also announced that information concerning taxpayers will be electronically cross-checked to combat tax evasion.
 PASOK party comments on new Taxis Evaluation CentreThe main opposition PASOK party's economy sector said in an announcement on Thursday that the Taxis Evaluation Centre inaugurated by Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis "is not the result of planning or actions by him, but concerns the utilization of the information equipment used to carry out the Olympic Games and the contribution of the New Democracy government exclusively concerns the delay in its installation by 22 whole months."
PASOK added that the "electronic submission of Income Tax Statements was aimed at 5,000,000 statements, meaning 90 percent of the total number of statements received by the end of 2006, but today they do not exceed 300,000, meaning a percentage of 5 percent that means an increase of 2.5 percent during the 2004-2007 three-year period. Consequently, with such rates the full electronification of Income Tax Statements will be achieved in 95 years."
In another development, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) Political Bureau member and economic and social policy chief, Panayiotis Lafazanis, commenting on statements made by Alogoskoufis on combating tax evasion, said that "all the governments until today have declared campaigns against tax evasion at times, but tax evasion, together with taxation injustice, taxation inequality and taxation asylum for big capital have not been tackled but are constantly growing."
 Total of 234 investment projects approved in Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Region in 2005-2006A total of 234 investments were approved during the two-year 2005-2006 in the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Region, in the context of development law 3299/2004, with investment projects amounting to 231 million euros, subsidies to 120 million euros and the expected creation of 779 new jobs.
This was stated on Thursday by Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Region Secretary General Michalis Angelopoulos during a press conference he gave to the region's mass media.
Of the total investments, 47 concern Evros prefecture, with a total of 49.4 million euros, 35 investments in Xanthi prefecture, with a total of 28.8 million euros, 37 investments in Rodopi prefecture, with a total of 51.9 million euros, 64 investments in Kavala prefecture, with a total of 55.3 million euros, and finally 51 investment projects concern Drama prefecture, totaling 45.5 million euros.
 Tourism minister meets with visiting Korean officialTourism Development Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia on Thursday met with the chairwoman of the South Korean national assembly committee on tourism and culture, Cho Bae Sook, within the framework of a cooperation agreement signed last September between the two countries.
Topics up for discussion included the establishment of a joint committee, the launching of direct commercial air link between Athens and Seoul, the transfer of know-how and cooperation on the training of tourism sector professionals.
On her part, Cho Bae Sook expressed her country's interest in international campaigns promoting Greece's tourism sector, while citing heightened interest by Korean tourists in visiting Greece.
 Highest funding rate for competitiveness schemeDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Thursday that his ministry's competitiveness operational program showed the highest rate of fund absorption under schemes of its kind under the European Union's Third Community Support Framework package of funds.
The absorption rate is 64.4%, more than quadrupling from 14.7% in March 2004, Sioufas reported.
"Not one euro (in financing) will be lost," he noted.
 National Bank receives 'Emerging markets deal of the year' distinctionThe National Bank has received the distinction of the "Emerging Markets Deal of the Year" for the buying out of Finansbank in Turkey, by the prestigious magazine Acquisitions Monthly.
This development, according to a relevant announcement, confirms the National Bank's strategy for international expansion aimed at the creation of a leading group in southeastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.
This distinction also comes as recognition of the significance of the buyout of the 5th biggest Turkish private bank, that constitutes the biggest investment in Turkey by a Greek business.
The National Bank was also proclaimed "Bank of the Year 2006" for Greece by the internationally renowned magazine The Banker, that belongs to the publishing group of the Financial Times.
In parallel, the National Bank received the distinction of "Best Bank in Greece in 2006" by the international economic magazine Euromoney, as well as the distinction of "Best Foreign Exchange Bank and Provider" for Greece in 2006, by the internationally acclaimed magazine Global Finance.
 Cypriot court rules in favor of MarfinNICOSIA (ANA/MPA-A Viketos)
Cyprus' Supreme Court on Thursday issued an interim ruling in favor of Marfin Popular Bank, which had disputed a ruling by the country's capital market commission blocking its intended public offer for stock in Bank of Cyprus and Piraeus Bank as illegal, and imposing a fine of 10,000 Cypriot pounds.
According to the court, the right to apply regulations in the case belongs to the Cyprus Stock Exchange.
The court will rule on legitimacy of the capital market commission's decision in the middle of February.
 Sidenor launches 20mln euro investment planAthens-quoted Sidenor SA is to invest '20 million to upgrade and expand existing production facilities, enhancing competitiveness in the company's main markets.
The investments will be made at Sidenor's plant in Thessaloniki; Sovel's plant in Almyros, Magnesia; and at the Corinth Pipeworks plant in Thisvi. Completion is expected by the second quarter of 2008, management said in a statement on Thursday.
A new reheating furnace will be installed and the rolling line upgraded at the firm's mill in Thessaloniki in order to increase annual production capacity of final rolled products, mainly reinforcing bars, from 600 KMT to 800 KMT per year.
Expansion is also being considered at Sovel's rolling-mill facility in Almyros, Magnesia, the statement said.
In addition, Sovel's pipe mill is to be upgraded, extending its product range to include high value added API specification pipes. Used in the transportation of oil and gas, the pipes will complement Corinth Pipeworks' ERW product range.
Finally, Corinth Pipeworks will upgrade production capacity at its large diameter SAW pipe mill by 25%, driven by increasing demand for high quality pipes for the transportation of oil and gas in international markets including North America, North Africa and Western Europe.
Finally, the Sidenor Group's main steel production facilities have been certified under OHSAS 18001 for health and safety.
 Intrasoft Int'l unveils 20-mln-euro contract with EU CommissionIntrasoft International on Thursday announced the signing of a 20-million-euro contract with the European Commission's DIGIT Directorate General for the supply of network and telephony support services.
The six-year contract covers the support of different kinds of networks for about 40,000 final users. Intrasoft International is the sole underwriter of the contract.
 Greek trade deficit up 5.3 pct in November, yr/yrThe Greek trade deficit rose by 5.3 percent in November 2006 to 2.73 billion euros, from 2.59 billion euros in the same month in 2005, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service said the country's trade deficit totaled 29.094 billion euros in the January-November period, from 26.221 billion euros in November 2005, for an increase of 11.0 percent.
NSS said the value of import-arrivals totaled 4.274 billion euros in November 2006, from 3.939 billion euros in November 2005, for an increase of 8.5 pct, while the value of export-deliveries jumped 14.7 pct to 1.544 billion euros from 1.346 billion euros over the same periods, respectively.
 Greek households' debt at 83.8 billion euros in Jan-NovGreek households' debt to banks totalled 83.8 billion euros, or 43 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product in the 11-month period from January to November 2006, the Bank of Greece announced on Thursday.
The central bank, in its report, said mortgage and consumer loans grew by 26.4 pct in November, slightly down from a 26.9-pct rate in October, evidence that higher interest rates did not stop borrowing trends in the country.
Housing loans grew by 27.7 pct in November, from the same month in 2005, slightly down from a 28.5 pct growth rate in October, to 55.5 billion euros, including 4.8 billion euros in securitized loans.
Consumer credit (loans and credit cards) grew by 23.5 pct in the January-November period, from 23.5 pct in January-October, to 26.2 billion euros. Credit card debt totalled 8.8 billion euros, up 5.2 pct, while consumer loan debt totalled 17.4 billion euros, up 13.5 pct.
Bank borrowing by both enterprises and households grew 21 pct in the first 11 months of 2006, unchanged from a 21 percent growth rate in the 10-month period.
Credit expansion, however, slowed to 13.9 pct in the January-November period, from 15.7 pct in the January-October, reflecting lower credits to the public sector.
 Hellastat report on Greek road cargo transport sectorThe Greek road cargo transport sector's gross profit margin shrank by 3.3 percentage points to 17.1 pct in 2005, sharply lower compared with the margin of the services' sector (31.2 pct), a report by Hellastat said on Thursday.
Out of the 134 enterprises in the sector, 94 reported profits in 2005, of which 33 reported increased profits, 39 lower profits and 15 rebounded after losses in 2004, while 65 enterprises reported lower sales in 2005. Return on equity eased to 6.2 pct in 2005 from 6.4 pct in the previous year.
The report said that new heavier fines for traffic rules violation and improved prospects for railway cargo transport were expected to further burden the road cargo transport sector, although a series of major investments in logistics, particularly in Attica and central Macedonia, were expected to facilitate the work of road transport and help improve the sector's competitiveness. A recent report by the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said a gradual deregulation of road cargo transport in the country would result to lower fares (up to 2.5 pct annually), lower inflation, raising the number of enterprises in the sector, boosting employment and improving services.
The sector reported sales of 314.6 million euros in 2005, up 2.2 pct from the previous year, while pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings EBITDA fell by 27.7 pct to 63.3 million euros. Net profits fell in 2005. The five biggest enterprises of the sector accounted for 43.87 pct of total operating earnings and 35.2 percent of total sales in the sector.
 Passenger traffic up at Athens airportAthens International Airport (AIA) on Thursday reported that passenger traffic in 2006 totalled 15.1 million, up 5.6% against a year earlier.
The number of flights rose by 5.5% from 2005 to total 190,872, AIA said in a statement.
Cargo traffic in 2006 topped 120,000 tonnes, marking a 3.6% increase, the statement noted.
The highest rate of increase in passenger movement was in December at 13.5% versus the same month of the previous year.
The month with the highest number of passengers was July at 1,697,613, AIA added.
 New Black Sea Bank intermediary in RussiaThe Thessaloniki-based Black Sea Trade & Development Bank (BSTDB) said on Thursday that it had approved a new interme-diary in Russia, NBD Bank, to help manage financing to small and medium-sized enterprises in the country.
The total of intermediaries in Russia is now four, BSTDB said in a statement.
BSTDB is an international financial institution established by Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
The bank supports economic development and regional cooperation by providing financing, guarantees, and equity for projects in the public and private sectors in its member countries.
 Greek stocks end flat on ThursdayGreek stocks ended flat on Thursday at the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index rose barely, 0.03 pct, to end at 4,699.75 points with turnover a heavy 469.4 million euros.
Sector indices ended higher with the Financial Services (1.46 pct), Oil (1.04 pct) and Chemicals (0.82 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Media (1.69 pct), Telecoms (1.29 pct) and Personal/Home Products (0.85 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index rose 0.05 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.13 percent higher and the Small Cap index fell 0.06 pct.
Tasoglou (17.65 pct), Ikona-Ihos (13.33 pct) and Evik (11.55 pct) were top gainers, while Mohlos (11.11 pct), Atermon (6.94 pct) and Vis (4.29 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 145 to 119 with another 46 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.04%
Personal & Household: -0.85%
Raw Materials: +0.55%
Travel & Leisure: -0.48%
Food & Beverages: -0.25%
Financial Services: +0.40%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Eurobank, Piraeus Bank, and Motor Oil.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 25.02
Public Power Corp (PPC): 21.62
HBC Coca Cola: 29.40
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.32
Emporiki Bank: 23.06
National Bank of Greece: 39.48
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 30.20
Titan Cement Company: 43.10
 Derivatives Market Close: Motor Oil top in stock futures tradeEquity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 4.31 pct
 Foreign Exchange RatesReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.308
Pound sterling 0.663
Danish kroner 7.513
Swedish kroner 9.147
Japanese yen 158.1
Swiss franc 1.628
Norwegian kroner 8.277
Cyprus pound 0.583
Canadian dollar 1.540
Australian dollar 1.677
 Culture minister receives three lists of Tatoi Palace works of artCulture Minister George Voulgarakis received three new lists, one of which is the list of works of art assessments by the Christie's firm that ex-King Constantine had submitted to the European Human Rights Court from the inventory of 1991, by the manager of the National Art Gallery Marina Lambraki-Plaka late on Wednesday night.
They are lists "referring to works and items of art that had received export permission and a list of works of art that have been kept at the Tatoi Palace."
On hearing of the existence of the file, Voulgarakis created a committee on Thursday morning to compare the lists with the list of Christie's auction. The committee's work is continuing.
Alogoskoufis on former Greek royals' effects
Greece's Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday said that he had asked ministry staff to find out if there was any list of the effects taken out of the country by Greece's former royal family from the estate that they used in Tatoi.
"Our predecessors did not advise us that there was any such list," he added.
He was responding to questions regarding the issue that has arisen with an auction of items belonging to the early 20th-century Greek monarch George I organized by Christie's in London, which Greece has attempted to stop until the origins of the items on sale has been clarified.
 Events in Thessaloniki to mark Holocaust Memorial DayGreece's Jewish communities, the ancient Romaniote and the Ladino-speaking Sephardim communities, today number approximately 10,000 members, of whom 1,500 live in Thessaloniki, Jewish Community of Thessaloniki president David Saltiel said on Thursday, days before the annual national commemoration in remembrance of the Greek Jews that died during the Holocaust.
Thessaloniki's Prefecture and the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki are jointly organizing several events to commemorate the Holocaust on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 in Thessaloniki -- the Macedonia region's historic capital and a metropolis that for centuries hosted the largest Sephardic community in the world.
Thessaloniki's Jewish population, which numbered up to 60,000 people before WWII, painstakingly rebuilt synagogues and other communal institutions after the devastating Nazi occupation of Greece (April 1941- October 1944), Saltiel noted on Thursday.
Events marking the revival of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki after the Holocaust commence on Sunday with a memorial service and a wreath-laying ceremony at the city's Holocaust monument. On Monday, American Jewish Committee (AJC) executive director David Harris will address a special event at the Royal Theatre of Thessaloniki.
 Athens mayor creates first of 7 'village squares' in cityAthens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Thursday transplanted a tall plane tree in the newly renovated Protomagias Square in Kato Petralona, the first of seven so-called "village squares" that the municipal authority plans to create in the city.
Plane trees, which provide deep and ample shade, are usually associated with traditional village squares in Greece, often with tables of the local coffee shop or taverna spread beneath them.
The measure was a pre-election pledge in a bid to increase greenery in Athens.
"At the end of the four-year term, in every municipal sector we will find a small square with its plane tree that will be a meeting point for the neighborhood's residents," Kaklamanis said after the ceremonial planting.
 Development ministry leadership tours atomic research centreDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou on Thursday toured the National Centre of Scientific Research (NCSR) "Demokritos" in northern Athens, meeting with the center's leadership as well as with the board of the Greek Atomic Energy Commission.
Afterwards, and following a tour of the NCSR's facilities, Sioufas said the Atomic Energy Commission's primary responsibility is to protect the country from "radiological threats".
 Polydoras meets with central bank's boardIssues dealing with the printing of the new passports and police-issued identity cards in Greece, a project undertaken by the Bank of Greece's printing presses, were discussed in the meeting on Thursday between Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras, Greek Police Chief Anastasios Dimoschakis and the central bank's board of directors.
 Former ND leader Evert in hospitalThe former president of the New Democracy party Miltiades Evert has been admitted to Ippokration hospital in Athens suffering from a high fever induced by a viral infection.
According to hospital president Dimitris Vandoros, Evert was admitted at the recommendation of his doctors for observation and a quick response to possible complications that may arise due to past medical problems.
The former party leader received a visit from Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who briefed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on his condition during their meeting on Thursday.
PM Karamanlis visits former ND president Evert
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday afternoon visited former president of the New Democracy (ND) party Miltiades Evert.
Karamanlis stayed at the hospital for about half an hour, spoke with the former ND president and was briefed on condition of Evert's health.
 OA Athens to Ioannina flight cancelled due to inclement weather in EpirusStorms in the regions of Epirus and in a great part of Ioannina, northwestern Greece, led to the cancellation on Thursday night of an Olympic Airlines flight from Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport to Ioannina Airport and vice-versa.
Olympic Airlines delayed the flight's departure, hoping that the weather would improve, but this did not occur and finally after about two-and-a-half hours, they cancelled it.
The other flights of Olympic Airlines and of Aegean were carried out as normal despite the inclement weather conditions, with minor storms.
 Remote controlled traffic lights for visually impairedThe members of the Greek Association for the Blind will be safer on the streets of Thessaloniki thanks to a new advanced system installed at the city's traffic lights that allows the visually impaired to activate a traffic light by remote control and cross the street without needing an escort or whatever dangers.
The new 200,000-euro system will be installed on a total of 230 traffic lights before summer after a decision by environment, land planning and public works ministry.
 Large cargo of contraband cigarettes seized in ThessalonikiA cargo of 357,000 contraband packets of cigarettes was impounded at the customs of the port of Thessaloniki, central Macedonia, on Thursday.
The cigarettes were detected in a container, which according to documents, transported cartons of towels. The dues avoided are estimated to exceed one million euros.
China was registered as the starting point country, while the illegal cargo was to have been finally transported to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
 Firebombs lobbed at ND offices in KavalaTwo ruling New Democracy party offices in the northern Greek city of Kavala were attacked on Thursday by unknown culprits using firebombs .
No one was injured in either attack, while the fires did not spread but both offices suffered extensive damage to their interiors.
 Spokesman: We stick to our position regarding FamagustaNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Nicosia sticks to its position regarding the return of the occupied town of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants which is directly linked with the opening of the Famagusta port, Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardes has said.
Invited Thursday to comment a statement by EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn that the return of the fenced of town of Famagusta (occupied since 1974 by the Turkish army) is not linked with the discussions on the Commission's direct trade regulation between the Turkish Cypriots and the EU countries, but is rather part of the overall solution of the Cyprus problem, the spokesman said that Rehn's position "is in conflict with our position".
"We have not retreated from our position regarding the Famagusta issue. The opening of the Famagusta port is directly linked with the return of the occupied town to its lawful citizens", he said.
Nicosia's position regarding the proposed European Com-mission regulation on direct trade between the EU and Turkish Cypriots, includes the opening of the Famagusta port under EU supervision, the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Famagusta, the control of the fenced-off town of Varosha at first stage by the UN, as well as the return of the legitimate inhabitants back to Varosha and a moratorium regarding the illegal exploitation of Greek Cypriot property in the Turkish occupied areas.
The spokesman underlined that Cyprus' position is also the position of the EU on the basis of the unanimous decision of the EU Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER), noting that "this position and decision is not overruled by the recent EU General Affairs and External Relations Council".
Asked whether there is any development on the opening of Ledra Street crossing point, he said that the "United Nations continue their deliberations on the issue but until now there is no result", adding that "the Turkish side sticks to its positions".
Regarding a proposal on a united economy submitted Wednesday by ruling Democratic Party, at a meeting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot political parties, the spokes-man described the issue as very important and said it is "a key issue with political dimensions".
"The possibility of having two separate economies in a reunited Cyprus would undermine the economic foundations of the federal state and would become a serious cause of differences and disparities between the two constituent states", he said.
The spokesman welcomed the meetings between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot political parties, saying that "they promote a climate of trust and cooperation between the two communities, for the benefit of all people of Cyprus".
The Republic of Cyprus became an EU member state in 2004. Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.
 UN apologizes for "slip of the tongue" by Ban Ki-moonNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The UN has apologized for ''a slip of the tongue'' by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, when he referred to "two countries" in Cyprus, during a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday.
The apology came following oral representations by Cyprus' Permanent Mission at the UN, an official Press and Information Office press release, issued here on Thursday, said.
"Following a relevant demarche by the Cyprus Mission at the UN as soon as the Secretary General's remark were made, the Deputy Spokesman at the UN Farhan Haq apologized and said the reference was a slip of the tongue," the press release said, adding that Haq explained that "the Secretary General meant to say 'two communities'."
The text of the Secretary General's comments was rectified within minutes of its issue, and was posted on his website.
The office of the spokeswoman of the Secretary General explained that it was normal practice within the UN to rectify such errors.
The exact transcript as this was posted on the website is as follows:
"Brussels, Belgium, 24 January 2007 - Secretary - General's press encounter with President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barosso (unofficial transcript)
Q: What about Cyprus? Is the Cyprus question still a priority for you and can we count on the initiative of you and the United Nations about Cyprus?
SG: There was continued effort by the United Nations, including my predecessor, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He put forward his own proposals in 2004. Unfortunately, this proposal was not accepted by the two parties. Now, last year, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari, had a meeting with the leaders of the two sides, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and there was an agreement between the two leaders. It is important that the two leaders and the two [communities] should implement this agreement which was agreed last year. I will ensure to encourage them as well as to ensure the implementation of this agreement, which has been agreed between the leaders. It is very important to implement what has been agreed," the press release in Nicosia said.
Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion. The illegal Turkish Cypriot regime in northern Turkish occupied Cyprus has been described by the UN as ''legally invalid''. The UN has called on all states not to recognise any other state in Cyprus than the Republic of Cyprus and not to facilitate the regime. No country barring Turkey does.
 UNSG apologizes to Cyprus FM for his reference to ''two countries''UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon apologized personally to Cyprus Foreign Minister George Lillikas for what he himself has described "a slip of the tongue", when he referred to "two countries" in Cyprus during a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday.
The brief but good encounter took place on the sidelines of the international donors' conference on Lebanon, which took place in Paris on Thursday.
According to sources, the Secretary General approached the Foreign Minister and personally apologised for the "slip of the tongue", he made in his remarks in Brussels Wednesday.
Ban, the sources have said, has asked not to give any political or other significance to this unfortunate expression.
Lillikas said, during the brief conversation with the Secretary General, that it was understood right from the start that the reference to ''two countries'' was a slip of the tongue.