|Friday, 28 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-04-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 19 April 2007 Issue No: 2573
 DM tells SE Europe Chiefs of General Staff: Devotion to peace, stability, growthThe Greek government's steadfast devotion to efforts to turn the wider Balkan region into a neighbourhood of peace, stability and growth was stressed on Wednesday by the country's national defence minister Evangelos Meimarakis, as he addressed the inaugural summit of Balkan and SE European countries' Chiefs of General Staff that opened in the morning in Thessaloniki.
"We neither desire, nor can allow, retroversion or tolerate situations that could once again serve as a brake on the course to a better tomorrow," the minister stressed.
The security of one is the security of the other. What threatens one also threatens the other, it threatens us all," Meimarakis said.
He said that although the Balkan region was no longer the powder-keg of Europe, it nevertheless required particular caution because the situation was fluid, and cited the example of Kosovo "where a mutually acceptable solution on its future status has not yet been found".
Meimarakis termed the first meeting of Balkan Chiefs of General Staff as "historic", saying it was a large contribution in the direction of consolidating peace, cooperation and security in SE Europe.
"Regular meetings contribute to the consolidation of a climate of confidence, through a frank dialogue. There may be different assessments on certain issues, but this must not create tension amongst us. We must, with respect for the opposing view and tolerance for the other viewpoint, carry on a dialogue, tear down walls, and build bridges of cooperation and under-standing among us," Meimarakis urged.
He said that the eyes of the citizens were turned on the summit, which must send a clear-cut message that "the citizens of our countries must feel safe".
"Despite the isues that exist, we can give solutions to the benefit of all, through dialogue and diplomacy," he continued.
Greece, as an EU and NATO member, was forming bilateral relations on an equal footing, materialising its Economic Reconstruction Plan for the Balkans (ERPB), and backing the Euro-Atlantic prospects of the SE Europe countries, and the programmes for cooperation and peace, Meimarakis stressed.
Greek National Defence General Staff chief meets Turkish counterpart
The chief of the Greek National Defence General Staff, Admiral Panagiotis Hinofotis met with his Turkish counterpart General Yashar Buyukanit on the sidelines of the inaugural summit of Balkan and SE European countries' Chiefs of General Staff that opened on Wednesday morning in Thessaloniki, central Macedonia.
The meeting, which lasted for about half an hour, took place at a central hotel after the close of the summit.
 KKE demonstration outside SE Europe chiefs of staff summit venue in ThessalonikiMembers of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and its youth organisation KNE staged a demonstration Wednesday morning in Thessaloniki outside a hotel where the inaugural summit of Balkan and SE European countries' Chiefs of General Staff was getting underway.
The demonstrators, kept at a distance of approximately 200 metres from the hotel by police vans, which have closed off the access road, were chanting anti-US and anti-NATO slogans.
On Tuesday night, the KKE called the summit a "provocation". An announcement by the KKE's Thessaloniki division charged that "the summit of the general staff chiefs of the countries of the Balkans, which is being held at the initiative of the Greek government, serves the promotion of the Euro-American plans for the further attachment of the Balkan countries to NATO".
"In a region which has recently received NATO bombs, enriched uranium, the dismemberment of countries and interventions with NATO occupation forces, the holding of such meetings, which aim at the 'maximisation of efficiency in confronting crises', constitutes a particular provocation," the announcement said.
National Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis will open the inaugural summit of Balkan and SE European countries' general staff chiefs in Thessaloniki, with the theme revolving around the subject of "Improvement of Cooperation and Security in the Region".
The summit will be attended by the armed forces chiefs of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, FYROM and Turkey, as well as the EU military committee chairman and the operational commander of NATO's southern wing.
The military leaders arrived in Thessaloniki on Tuesday afternoon, with Greece's National Defence General Staff Chief, Adm. Panagiotis Hinofotis, hosting a formal reception in their honor later in the evening.
A press conference will take place after the summit meeting on Wednesday.
 Foreign ministry spokesman on U.S. support for FYROM's NATO accessionSKOPJE (ANA-MPA/N. Frangopoulos)
Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, commenting on a letter addressed to the Foreign Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Antonio Milososky, by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and publicised in Skopje, said on Wednesday that "these references are moving in the framework of known American views."
Koumoutsakos added that "Greece has made its positions on this issue known with explicitness, on which it remains firm."
In her letter to Milososky, Rice reiterated the support of the American government for the accession of candidate countries to the NATO alliance, including FYROM, on condition that the necessary criteria are met.
"The government of the United States strongly respects the intentions of the alliance in Riga to call for accession to its ranks the countries that will achieve the fulfilment of the criteria of NATO by the next summit in 2008. I urge you to continue procedures towards the fulfilment of these criteria, focusing your efforts on political dialogue and on the rest of the important reforms that will strengthen the multinational democratic institutions of 'Macedonia', as well as the candidacy of your country for accession to NATO," Rice said.
The U.S. Secretary of State also refers to the recent decree by President George W. Bush with which the American government expresses its support for the accession of five countries to NATO (Croatia, FYROM, Albania, Ukraine and Georgia) in which FYROM, apart from its constitutional name, is referred to in brackets as FYROM.
"The support of the American government in the legislative act of 2007 on the enlargement of NATO does not constitute support for the temporary name for 'Macedonia' which is used at the UN," Rice added.
 Bakoyannis meets with Sri Lankan counterpartForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis had a working breakfast with her Sri Lankan counterpart Rohita Bogollagama on Wednesday, a ministry press release stated on Tuesday.
Bilateral political and economic relations, with emphasis on developmental cooperation and terrorism, were at the focus of the talks.
Bakoyannis stressed the Greek government's and people's active interest during the difficult period after the 2004 tsunami in SE Asia, as Sri Lanka had been the most hard-hit country in the area, with Bogollagama expressing appreciation for that interest.
He also said that the two countries shared common views on the confrontation of terrorism.
The two foreign ministers further noted that trade relations between the two countries were at a low level, and expressed the desire for intensifying cooperation in the sectors of construction, fisheries, shipping and tourism.
 FM meets with UNMIK chiefForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday met with the head of the UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK chief Joachim Rücker, who is visiting Athens.
No statements were made after the meeting.
Bakoyannis is due to travel to Belgrade on Thursday to attend the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organisation's ministerial meeting taking place in the city.
She is also scheduled to have bilateral meetings with the Serbian leadership and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the BSEC conference.
Later, Rücker addressed a symposium at the foreign ministry organised by the Hellenic Centre for European Studies and the European Union Club of Athens, where he outlined UNMIK's performance over the past eight years and efforts by UN mediator Martti Ahtisaari to iron out a final status agreement.
In pointing to a looming conclusion in the process, Rücker said UNMIK's has begun preparations for a 120-day transition period envisioned under the Ahtisaari plan.
On his part, the former ministry's SE Europe head, Amb. Michael Christidis, said Greece's standing position on the issue of Kosovo is backing the three "No's" -- no partition, no union with a neighboring country, no return to the pre-1999 status quo -- and support for Ahtisaari's efforts.
He outlined Greece's support for an "incremental approach", an exhaustion of all negotiation prospects and continued involvement by Russia, while warning against any solution that will lead to "arrogant winners and humiliated losers".
 Government responsible for bonds issue, Papandreou insists; Roussopoulos repliesMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday repeated accusations that the government was responsible for the bonds issue and the "looting" of pension fund reserves, while addressing an event for disabled groups organised by his party.
PASOK's leader said the government was trying to evade its "great and self-evident" political responsibility for the suspect investments in high-risk structured bonds with an unusually high commission by at least one Greek social insurance fund, while attempting to shunt the blame onto "banks and greedy brokers" and pension fund managements.
"Never in the post-junta period has the country witnessed such hypocrisy, such autocracy, such mockery and arrogance, such insensitivity, such an insult to the Greek people," he stressed.
In a full-scale assault on the ruling party, Papandreou said that it betrayed the hopes placed in it by the Greek people and that is sole purpose in seeking power was to serve its own supporters and the few at the expense of the many.
"Their goal was and is to assist a group with a "blue" label that feeds off the state. The so-called 'trophy-state' is their view, the welfare state is our view and this is the great difference between us," he added.
Repeating a demand that the money lost by social insurance funds be returned before the elections, PASOK's leader slammed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his government as "damaging to the country, to family incomes and the social state".
"We will not accept and will not allow the impasses of this government and Karamanlis to become impasses for the country....We will not allow New Democracy to level values, principles and policies and to hide its responsibilities behind the slogan that everyone is the same," Papandreou stressed.
 Papandreou using bonds issue to strengthen own position, government countersQuestioned about Papandreou's statement on Wednesday, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the main opposition leader was using the bonds issue and danger mongering on a issue that concerned the money of Greek citizens in order to strengthen his position within his own party at a difficult time for him.
"We do not danger monger about the Greek citizen's money - we respect and activate judicial proceedings," Roussopoulos said.
Asked whether the government might accept a proposal - also put forward by members of the ruling New Democracy party - for a Parliamentary investigative committee on this issue, the spokesman said the government was "open to suggestions" but generally considered that judicial investigation took precedence.
Roussopoulos also answered questions concerning a decision by Employment Minister Savvas Tsitouridis to approve a request by the TAP-OTE social insurance fund to invest in bonds, pointing out that the minister's job was to check whether a request was legal not whether it was advisable.
The procedure followed in this case was that the minister, in response to the fund's request for permission to invest its available surplus in a Greek State bond, had given his approval to modify the fund's budget and make the purchase of bonds possible, Roussopoulos said.
The fund's board convened some days later and decided what form these investments should actually take, he added.
"The minister's job ended with checking the legality of the proposed investment," the spokesman concluded, while noting that Greek state bonds had proved to be a good and robust investment over time.
Asked whether the law allowed pension funds to invest in bonds that are not listed on the secondary bonds market, Roussopoulos pointed to clarifications given on Tuesday on the same issue.
According to this, a joint decision passed by ministers under the previous PASOK government allowed social insurance bodies to freely invest in securities issued by the Greek state on the primary and secondary markets, where the secondary market is both the organised and non organised market in securities.
"The organised markets in Greece are the Electronic Secondary Securities Exchange (HDAT) and the Athens Stock Exchange, while apart from these there is the market outside the stock exchanges. From 1998 until today, nearly all transactions in Greek State bonds by funds have taken place outside organised markets," Roussopoulos claimed.
 National Authority president briefs Parliament on bonds issueThe President of the National Authority on handling the legalisation of revenues from criminal acts George Zorbas on Wednesday briefed the Parliamentary Institutions and Transparency Committee in an atmosphere of tension, after being summoned by deputies of the main opposition PASOK party and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party for a briefing on the investigation being carried out by his Committee on the issue of social insurance funds' investments in structured bonds.
The Authority President said that he will be completing his investigation soon, indicating that this will happen by the end of May.
Zorbas invoked at the beginning of the Committee's meeting the confidentiality of investigations at the stage of the preliminary investigation process, but drew strong reaction from opposition deputies who spoke of an "effort to make the issue obscure".
"The prejudicial investigation imposes on me the duty of confidentiality. I cannot announce specific events. Everything is being requested and investigated on the part of clarification. The National Authority will address every issue that requires investigation. I assume that I will have finished by the end of May," Zorbas said.
He also made it clear that he cannot conduct an investigation on all the social insurance funds unless he has "reports or other legal evidence."
PASOK deputy Miltiades Papaioannou said at this point that "we shall judge to what point your duty of confidentiality reaches, Mr. Zorbas. Did you observe confidentiality in your meeting with Mr. (Finance Minister George) Alogoskoufis, whom we consider to be the main person to blame, or did you brief him?"
Commenting on the objections of opposition deputies, the ruling New Democracy (ND) party's Parliamentary Group secretary Apostolos Stavrou said "Mr. Zorbas is not fortifying himself behind confidentiality due to expediency. But when he is conducting investigations that are at a crucial point it is not possible for him to reveal evidence because he will provide the possibility for some to be informed of what he is investigating and to conceal evidence of possible criminal acts. We must all realise the seriousness of the investigations."
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) deputy Antonis Skyllakos said on his part that "indeed, people cannot be independent when they are appointed by the government," adding that "this applied to the past and it also applies now."
 Merchant marine minister briefs Parliament on 'Sea Diamond' sinkingMerchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis on Wednesday briefed the relevant parliamentary committee on the recent sinking of the cruise ship Sea Diamond at the Aegean island of Santorini.
He assured that everything possible will be made for the protection of Santorini's sea environment.
He said that in this direction, the government will not spare added financial means, than those which the responsible shipping company and the insurance companies are obliged to allot, for the cleaning up of the sea.
He stressed that the ministry does not intend to give its approval, that the sea environment has been restored, if it is not convinced that the last drop of oil has been pumped up from the sunken ship.
At the same time, Kefaloyiannis, expressed his particular satisfaction over the manner with which the system of accident management operated, due to the systematic preparation and readiness shown by the services of the Merchant Marine Ministry.
"When I assumed duties at the ministry, I was anxious. Not to have good public relations or to be involved in politics with terms of public opinion polls, but for me not to have the fate of such a shipwreck occurring to me," said Kefaloyiannis, in reference to the continuous exercises which took place these past few years for similar incidents.
On his part, main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) head of the party's parliamentary council Shipping Department, Christos Papoutsis said that the shipwreck "is not offered for party clashes". However, he stressed that the government is checked for the choice of the point where the ship was led and sank, for the "delay" in the activation of the apparatus for the protection of the environment and for its "privileged" relations with the 'Louis' company.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) deputy Elpida Pantelaki accused the ruling New Democracy (ND) party and PASOK for covering up responsibilities of those "who play human lives and the environment heads and tails, to the alter of ship-owners' profits."
Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) deputy Asimina Xirotyri-Ekaterinari said that the sinking was not averted and that there is confusion on the planning for the clearing up of the sea.
 KKE leader Papariga meets seamenCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary-General Aleka Papariga gave a press conference on Wednesday after meeting representatives of seamen's associations.
She referred to the sinking of the cruise ship Sea Diamond at the Aegean island of Santorini, the bonds issue, the Seamen's Pension Fund (NAT) and to the KKE's role in the creation of a pole against bipartisanship.
Papariga said that "in Santorini, not only did the Sea Diamond sank, but also an entire strategy of competitiveness, the promotion of Greece as a central force of southeast Europe, a country of a tough nucleus of the EU, a country of strategic partner of the USA, a country which seeks an important position in the so-called process of globalisation."
She added that "hand in hand with the shipwreck of Sea Diamond walks the crime at the expense of all the social insurance funds and those who did one or the other gamble at the Stock Exchange and those who did not."
 PASOK unveils new policy for disabledMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday unveiled his party's new policies for the disabled, stressing that their aim was to end discrimination, inequality and social exclusion.
Addressing a meeting with representatives of 50 organizations of people with disabilities, Papandreou stated that the quality of a civilised society is undermined by prejudice, stressing that when PASOK came into power the "walls of social exclusion will fall".
Parity of treatment is regarded as self-evident but the reality is different, as there is no respect for the citizen, pointed out the leader of PASOK.
Referring to the policy followed by the government, he said that the social state is being systematically underfinanced and undermined, whereas the goal of PASOK is to have it fundamentally restructured in order to become effective and be able to meet the needs of the 21st century.
Underlining that PASOK was "determined to proceed with the redistribution of wealth in favour of the many and of the weak," Papandreou said the party's new policy for welfare included a radical reorganisation of the National Health Service (ESY) with strong state support that would offer 24-hour care, seven days a week.
Pointing out that people with disabilities accounted for 12 percent of Greece's population - and up to 50 million people throughout the European Union - Papandreou stressed that the disabled were a priority for PASOK, which sought to bring hope at a time when the dignity of Greek men and women was under attack.
PASOK had decided to financially support the families of those with disabilities through social security and tax benefits and to assist mothers caring for disabled children, PASOK's leader announced. On a political level, meanwhile, the party planned to involved disabled people at all levels - starting with a decision to have disabled young people represented on every organ of PASOK's youth party.
The party's policy was presented in more detail by PASOK MP Anna Diamantopoulou, who said it planned to enlist the aid of local and regional authorities - who would be given much greater powers and responsibilities - in the effort to lift social exclusion.
This would include creating a "social network" and a "solidarity fund" in each municipality, encouraging the active involvement of volunteer groups and NGOs using local government funds and putting local authorities in charge of ensuring access for the disabled in their area.
Diamantopoulos also highlighted the role of the media, stressing that the Greek media must shift from presenting disability as a personal drama and tragedy to emphasising its positive aspects, as a triumph over difficulty and a positive element of progress for society.
Regarding access to employment for disabled people, the MP said that increasing quotas for the disabled in the state sector was not the answer and that they should be given real opportunities for training and work, utilising the possibilities opened up by new technologies.
The president of the National Confederation of People with Disabilities Yiannis Vardakastanis, on his part, called for mandatory education of people with disabilities at all levels of education with special funds set aside in the education ministry budget for this purpose.
 US Ambassador Ries addresses IENE eventUS Ambassador in Athens Charles Ries on Wednesday addressed an event organised by the Institute of Technology for South-East Europe (IENE).
He reiterated the steadfast position of the United States in favour of the differentiation of the sources and routes of energy supply, noting that more transport corridors is to the benefit of the consumers, stressing that the European Union has very few suppliers and that it was in its interest to acquire more.
"We are working for there to be an international agreement for the southern transport route of natural gas from the Caspian Sea to the European Union, including the Turkey-Greece-Italy pipeline. The control of the transport routes does harm, the same is valid in all the markets and not only in energy," Ries underlined.
The US Ambassador dedicated the greatest part of his speech to climatic change, noting that the target of restricting the greenhouse effect is common with the European Union but that the means for its achievement is different. He reminded that the United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol but that does not mean that it does not care about the environment.
According to data presented by Ries, during the period 2000-2004, the emission of gases of the greenhouse in the US increased by 1.3%, while in the EU by 2.1%. He further said that the Kyoto Protocol does not foresee targets for the restriction of the emission of gases for the developing countries, among them India and China, which in 2009 will surpass the US in emissions.
 Information Secretary General concludes contacts in New YorkNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Information Secretary General Panos Livadas, speaking to the ANA-MPA at the end of his contacts in New York, said that not only has the image of Greece changed, but at the same time the impression that those who shape public opinion in the United States have of our country has also changed.
Livadas, who participated in celebrations of the Greek community on the anniversary of March 25, met with officials of the biggest American mass media, such as the CBS, CNN, the New York Times and New York Sun newspapers, the WNYC, the New York magazine and others.
"We ascertained that all the messages that they are receiving from Greece are that it is a serious and stable country whose economy is progressing in the region of southeastern Europe," Livadas said.
"They now see that it is a country which all its neighbours look upon as an example worthy of copying, but also as a force and ally that helps the implementation of their major goals, that is nothing else than a turn to free economy, the European Union and NATO," the Information Secretary General added.
 FinMin assures Parliament social insurance funds' property not in dangerFinance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis assured the Parliament plenum on Wednesday that the property of social insurance funds is not in danger from the purchase of complex state bonds.
Deputy Minister Petros Doukas also reassured that in the event that profiteering at the expense of the funds is ascertained, the state "will claim even the last euro," while, satisfying a relevant request by the main opposition PASOK party, he also submitted the contract with the British JP Morgan Chase Bank, together with a ministerial decision on the sale of the controversial bond worth 280 million euros.
During the discussion on the bill concerning transparency in the issuing of mobile assets, the government was faced with tough criticism by the main opposition party and its Parliamentary representative George Floridis, with references to the scandal of the stock exchange in 1999 and with accusations on the loss of hundreds of millions of euros for the Hellenic state from a swap in 2001.
Alogoskoufis said that "the government has shown absolute political responsibility on this issue and the issues that have appeared, they were investigated immediately and referred to Justice by the employment minister."
Floridis responded by saying that "the Capital Market Committee, according to its president Alexis Pilavios, acted following a report and not of its own accord, while it had been seeing for a long time what had been happening there. The issue of the secret bond worth 280 million euros came to light through a journalistic investigation. If it was up to you, nothing would have come to light, but these issues would have been covered up by black darkness."
The finance and economy minister pointed out that "the performance of complex bonds can be assessed in a depth of time and, in every case, the capital that is invested in them is secured. They are state bonds, they are not like shares whose value can decrease and nobody be able to guarantee their value. When the bond matures, the investor takes the capital that is guaranteed, having gained all the interest that he would have received in the meantime."
Alogoskoufis further said that "social insurance funds all over the world also invest in complex bonds. Funds will not lose their capital, as was the case with the purchases of shares in 1999 and 2000."
On the part of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Angelos Tzekis said that the plenum watched "an anxious effort by the government and the deputies of the majority to offset today with the past, thinking in this way that the government will avoid the serious political responsibilities that it has on the specific issue. However, no matter how many efforts the government makes, it cannot shake off its serious political responsibilities for gambling at the expense of the funds' reserves."
Lastly, on the part of the Coalition party, Athanassios Leventis referred to the "scandals with the bonds" and wondered "whether it was an unfortunate case, as the New Democracy party claims, or a deliberate one."
 Acropolis Securities license revokedGreece's Capital Markets Commission on Wednesday revoked the operating license of Acropolis Securities and placed the company under liquidation supervision after a meeting found that the company has breached securities legislation making it risky to investors and to the market's smooth operation.
An inspection on the company's transactions in 2006 found that Acropolis was executing bond transactions to its benefit and inflicting significant losses to its customer (pension fund), while it also breached securities legislation in offering investment services to pension funds in the period 2006-2007.
 Gov't spokesman on revocation of Acropolis Securities licenseMinister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Wednesday evening commented on the revocation of the operating license of Acropolis Securities by Greece's Capital Markets Commission earlier in the day.
"Today's decision by the Capital Markets Commission as well shows the government's political will for the safeguarding of transparency and of proper management," Roussopoulos said.
"It reveals the systematic cover-up by the main opposition party of the fact that the Acropolis Securities company cooperated with the (pension) funds already under PASOK governments, obtaining excessive commissions during the years 2002 and 2003," he added.
"Today's decision by the Commission is the best answer to the recital of hypocrisy which PASOK wages to cover up reality and mislead," Roussopoulos concluded.
 Development minister visits Romania, Bulgaria and TurkeyDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas, accompanied by the ministry's secretary-general Nikos Stephanou, on Wednesday began an official visit to Romania and Bulgaria for talks to promote bilateral cooperation in energy, commerce and enterprising.
Sioufas will first visit Bucarest and later in the day will visit Sofia.
The Greek minister will the fly to Ankara to discuss progress in a Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline project and a plan to interconnect the two countries' electricity grids.
Sioufas, before leaving for Bucarest, met with visiting Greek-American senator Leonidas Raptakis.
 Tourist development minister addresses event on tourism as lever of growthTourist Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia addressed an event held in the city of Kalamata, in the Peloponnese, on Wednesday evening on the issue of "Tourism-A basic lever of growth."
"Tourism is a basic lever of growth for the entire country, as is for each region separately. Tourist activity yielded one billion euros a month in Greece for all of 2006 and the result for 2007 is better," she said.
The minister further said that it is a known fact that the industry of holidays and recreation is one of the most speedily developing sectors of the world economy and will continue to be so, adding that in this environment Greece is already one of the leading tourist destinations.
The event was organised by the Messinia Chamber of Commerce and the newspaper "Naftemporiki."
 Conference on energy, fotovoltaic parksThe production of electric power from renewable energy sources is one of the main preconditions for the sustainable development that guarantees a better future for humanity, and this is so because they are sources that are inexhaustible and pure, which provide considerable benefits for the business community, but primarily for society at large.
This was the main conclusion drawn at a conference organised by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Athens daily "Apogevmatini" on Wednesday on the issue of "Energy - fotovoltaic Parks."
Addressing the conference, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas underlined the importance of local societies being briefed by businessmen before starting their investments activity, so as to avoid unjustified confrontations.
"The government is taking all necessary measures for the protection of the environment, as well as for strong financial incentives for municipalities to host renewable energy source projects. We must all be in the same direction:the replacement of oil by green energy. For this reason, businesses have a duty to inform," the minister said.
Sioufas recommended seriousness and responsibility by all who are interested in exploiting investments opportunities in the sector of renewable energy sources, particularly in the fotovoaltaics which, as he said, are not investments for circumstantial and easy gain.
 Greek employers present proposals on the restructuring of IKAThe Association of Hellenic Industries on Wednesday presented its proposals on the restructuring of the Social Insurance Fund (IKA) urging for a more fundamental role of the institutional representation of workers and employers in the organisation's board.
The proposals were presented during a meeting between IKA's governor George Mergos and the Association's representation headed by its president Dimitris Daskalopoulos.
Daskalopoulos said its was a necessary precondition to complete and implement an integrated information system to be used as a tool for transparency and efficient operation of the organization.
The five proposals made by the Association of Hellenic Industries envisage: upgrading the level of servicing citizens, timely and transparent information over its financial situation, reducing overspending in the healthcare sector, combating contribution evasion and adopting a more efficient management of IKA's real estate assets.
 Unemployment rate falls to 8.6% in Jan., yr/yrGreece's unemployment rate fell to 8.6 pct of the total workforce in January, down from 9.6 pct in January 2006 and 10.4 pct in January 2005, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.
The statistics service said the number of unemployed totaled 421,130 in January, from 461,640 and 496,668 in the same months of 2006 and 2005, respectively.
The statistics service also announced its would publish unemployment and employment data each month.
The south Aegean (14.9 pct), central Greece and Evia (11.7 pct), west Macedonia (13.7 pct) and Epirus (11.6 pct) recorded the biggest unemployment percentage rates in January, while the Peloponnese (6.6 pct), north Aegean (11 pct) and Crete (7.3 pct) recorded the lowest rates.
 Intralot to pay 0.66 euros per share dividend to shareholdersIntralot on Wednesday said it expected this year's turnover to reach 880 million euros and after-tax and minorities profits to total 115 million euros, up 11.2 pct and 10.0 pct compared with 2006, respectively.
A general shareholders' meeting approved a board plan to pay a 0.66 euros per share dividend to shareholders (including a 0.30 euros per share pre-dividend payment), up 20 percent from last year.
Addressing the shareholders' meeting, Socrates Kokkalis, the group's chairman, criticized OPAP over its delay in completing an international tender for the upgrading of the state lottery's technological platform 15 months after launching the tender procedure. Kokkalis sounded optimistic that Intralot would win the tender.
Constantinos Antonopoulos, Intralot's chief executive, confirmed talks with larger foreign funds to finance the acquisition of state lotteries in the United States.
 Greek wine presentation in CanadaOTTAWA (ANA-MPA / I. Fragouli)
A presentation of Greek wines was held in Montreal, Canada, on Tuesday, attended by sommeliers, journalists and wine tasters, organised by major Greek wine producers.
The event, organised by the "Greek Wines" organization and the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board, HEPO, was aimed at presenting the new wine production to the Canadian consumers and dispelling the myth of cheap Greek "retsina" wine.
The traveling wine presentation will also take place in Toronto, Canada, followed by California and New York in the United States with the intent of becoming an annual event for the promotion of quality Greek wine.
 Greek car market recovering in 2007, reportThe Greek passenger car market is recovering this year after a two-year decline, Stat Bank said in a report on Wednesday. The report said new car registrations were expected to reach 270-275,000 units this year.
Stat Bank said this prediction was based on expectations of a slight improvement of economic climate in the country, relatively steady oil prices and an accomodating monetary policy. The report also said that increasing competition between car dealers, offering more incentives to consumers, and the organising of an International Car Show in May 12-20 in Athens were expected to boost demand for new cars.
Official figures showed new car registrations grew 4.3 pct in the first quarter of 2007, compared with the same period last year. The Greek market surpassed the 290,000-barrier for the first time in 2000 and revisited that level in 2004 (289,753), but fell in the next two years.
The report said that including used cars, car registrations totaled around 305,000 last year.
Toyota maintained its leading position in the domestic car market, raising its market share to 11 pct in the January-March period, from 9.4 pct last year, followed by Opel (8.4 pct), and Volkswagen (8.0 pct).
 HATTA forum held on air transportThe Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA) and the financial newspaper Express on Wednesday held a forum on air transport on the theme "Air transport and development of Greek tourism: Utilisation of new opportunities".
The basic conclusion drawn at the forum was the necessity of institutional reforms in the direction of the further deregulation of the air transport market and of its complementary services, as well as the strengthening of Greek airline companies.
The speakers also deemed necessary the support of the infrastructure of regional airports and incentives to be given to the new companies which will serve them, as well as for coordinated action to be taken of the tourism and air transport branches in the direction of expanding the tourism season.
 Heracles Cement shuts down Chalkis unitHeracles Cement on Wednesday announced it was putting its cement unit in Chalkis our of operation after a series of industrial actions by the workers' union did not allow the company to proceed with necessary repair work, leading to a cease of production and the creation of serious safety problems in the factory. The company offered a paid leave to all its workers.
Heracles said it had repeatedly expressed its intention of developing the Chalkis unit, through significant investments and organising reforms. The company has already made investments totalling tens of million of euros in the last few years and was planning to invest 16 million euros this year.
 Household debt lags behind Eurozone average levels, reportGreek households' and enterprises' debt burden is steadily increasing as a percentage of GDP, but still lags behind average Eurozone levels, Alpha Bank said in a monthly economic bulletin.
The bank's analysts said household debt, after a recent revision of GDP, eased to 35.2 pct of GDP in January 2007, from 44.3 pct based on non-revised GDP, while the average Eurozone rate is 59.7 pct.
Housing loans, as a percentage of GDP, reached 29.5 pct in January from 43.9 pct in the Eurozone, while consumer loans totaled 14.8 pct of GDP, 15.8 pct in the Eurozone.
 Hellenic Post says net profits up 9.2 pct in 2006Hellenic Post Office on Wednesday reported a 5.6 pct increase in its 2006 turnover to 523.4 million euros and a 9.2 pct rise in net profits to 14.5 million euros and said its remained in profitability for the eighth consecutive year.
Pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) rose 14 percent to 30.3 million euros, while EBITDA margin rose to 5.8 pct in 2006, from 5.4 pct in 2005.
Hellenic Post said investments in fixed assets totaled 28.5 million euros, while its participations rose by 158.5 million euros because of the purchase of a 10 percent equity stake in Postal Savings Bank.
 Greek stocks fall 0.93 pctGreek stocks fell 0.93 percent on Wednesday pushing the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange to the 4,800 level. The index ended at 4,805.38 points with turnover a moderate 363.6 million euros.
Sector indices ended lower, with the Industrial Products (2.81 pct), Raw Materials (2.02 pct) and Media (1.58 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses, while the Personal/Home Products (1.22 pct), Food/Beverage (0.68 pct) and Technology (0.66 pct) scored gains.
The Big Cap index fell 1.21 pct, the Mid Cap index was 0.73 pct lower and the Small Cap index ended 0.70 pct down.
Desmos (16.13 pct), Imako (15.70 pct) and Tria Alpha (9.79 pct) were top gainers, while Lanakam (18.98 pct), Vivere (16.19 pct) and MLS (15.05 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 149 to 99 with another 63 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.60%
Personal & Household: +1.22%
Raw Materials: -2.02%
Travel & Leisure: -1.40%
Food & Beverages: +0.68%
Financial Services: -0.92%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 24.00
Public Power Corp (PPC): 18.00
HBC Coca Cola: 33.14
Hellenic Petroleum: 11.38
Emporiki Bank: 20.94
National Bank of Greece: 42.20
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 31.28
Titan Cement Company: 43.00
 ADEX closing reportFutures contract prices continued trading at a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover an improved 188.258 million euros.
The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.84 pct and the April contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.39 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 10,171 contracts worth 129.265 million euros, with 31,786 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 605 contracts worth 18.309 million euros, with 1,754 open positions.
Volume on futures contracts on equities totaled 12,449 contracts worth 7.867 million euros, with investment interest focusing on ATEbank's contracts (2,196), followed by OTE (263), Piraeus Bank (324), National Bank (578), Alpha Bank (337), Intracom (982), Intralot (1,111) and Mutilineos (416).
Volume in stock repos was 9,543 contracts and in reverse stock repos 12,776 contracts.
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market eased to 2.680 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.332 billion were bid orders and the remaining 1.348 billion sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.305 billion euros, while the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was unchanged at 0.23 percent. The Greek bond yielded 4.40 pct and the German Bund 4.17 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate fell to 3.84 pct from 3.85 pct on Tuesday, the two-day rate rose to 3.84 pct from 3.82 pct, the one-month rate was 3.85 pct and the 12-month rate was 4.26 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - TursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.368
Pound sterling 0.682
Danish kroner 7.513
Swedish kroner 9.291
Japanese yen 162.06
Swiss franc 1.649
Norwegian kroner 8.174
Cyprus pound 0.586
Canadian dollar 1.550
Australian dollar 1.642
 Greek envoy addresses UN conference on aid for Iraqi refugeesGreece's permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG), Ambassador Franciscos Verros, addressing a two-day international conference on aid for Iraqi refugees at the UN building in Geneva, stressed Greece's consistent effort to assist the people of Iraq since 2005.
Verros recalled Greece's participation in the refugee assistance programmes of the UN and other international organisations, and announced that Greece was prepared to donate more funds for the relief of the displaced and refugee Iraqis.
The Greek envoy noted, inter alia, that in every instance confrontation of the huge humanitarian problem faced by the people of Iraq obviously depended on the return of conditions of smooth coexistence among the Sunnites, Shi'ites and Kurds of Iraq and the advancement of democracy and respect among the different population groups of that country.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which is chairing the two-day meeting, approximates that 4 million Iraqis have abandoned their homes.
Sixty countries are taking part in the Geneva conference, while Iraq is represented by its foreign affairs minister Hoshyar Mahmud Zebari
 Health minister announces new drive for national vaccination programmeHealth Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Wednesday announced a new drive to increase the efficiency of the country's national vaccinations programme. The minister said that a record of all children that have been vaccinated in the country will be created over the next three years in a bid to ensure that no child slipped through the net.
Avramopoulos said that he was raising the issue to mark European Immunization Week - from April 16-22 - using the World Health Organisation slogan "Prevent. Protect. Immunize". The health minister underlined that awareness of the issue among parents, teachers and doctors was the main "protective shield" of the population.
Since the majority of the population in Greece was covered by health insurance, coverage for basic vaccinations ranged between 95-100 percent and was one of the best in Europe, Avramopoulos said.
For newer vaccines this percentage dropped to 70-80 percent while for the newest vaccines, such as those for pneumonia, meningitis and chickenpox it was around 40 percent, indicating the need for more effort, the minister added.
The aim over the next three years was to provide free immunization for the children of the extremely poor, homeless and immigrants and hoped to eradicate the inequality seen in certan groups concerning their coverage, such as gypsies.
 President of HFC Babiniotis meets EU commissionerBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Aroni)
The president of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, Prof. George Babiniotis, met here on Wednesday with Leonard Orban, EU Commissioner for Multilingualism and other union officials.
Talks focused on ways to preserve cultural diversity and multilingualism within the European Union.
The Greek official noted that the learning of at least two foreign languages in the EU should be made feasible, while also underlining the need to support and disseminate the Greek language and to promote Greek culture.
On Thursday, Babiniotis is due to address an event organised by EU interpreters.
 Priceless miniature vases returned to Ancient AgoraA poignant ceremony was held at the Ancient Athens Agora's Stoa of Attalus on Wednesday to mark the return of six priceless black-glazed ceremonial vases from the collection of eminent British scholar and philhellene Martin Robertson.
The miniature artifacts were bequeathed to the Athens Agora's museum, as stipulated in Robertson's will, following his death in December 2004. The author of the authoritative "A History of Greek Art" (Cambridge University Press 1975), considered his magnum opus, inherited the vases from American archaeologist Lucy Talcott, the recording secretary of Agora excavations in the 1930s and '40s.
The vases were officially presented by one of Robertson's sons, Stephen, at the ceremony, who stressed that he was bringing a gift by his father to "his beloved Greece". Stephen Robertson also drew a comparison to the ongoing campaign for return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens, saying Wednesday's ceremony can demonstrate to the British Museum's administration that a similar return of antiquities is not impossible.
On his part, the curator of the Acropolis archaeological site, Alexandros Mantis, expressed his thanks to the Robertson family, before noting that the vases' return marks the eighth repatriation over the past year of artifacts taken from Acropolis-related sites.
Finally, Culture Minister George Voulgarakis expressed his satisfaction with the fact the ceremony coincided with UNESCO's World Heritage Day.
 Hi-tech cane for vision-impaired recognizes pavement colorsAn innovative cane for the vision impaired that recognizes the color white on the pavement and cross-walks is expected to aid people with poor or no eyesight.
The cane operates with a color sensor that can identify three colors: black, white and green. The path on the pavement used by vison-impaired pedestrians is white, defined by two black lines on each side, while the green color is used in the pedestrian crossing.
A sound signal or a vibration will warn the user that is stepping outside the path while a remote control system will allow them to activate the "walk" sign and be able to cross the street safely.
The patent cane was designed by students at a technological institute in Nigrita, Serres prefecture, and was presented in Thessaloniki.
 Search on for police guard's attackersPolice launched an extensive manhunt with three control zones in Glyfada early on Wednesday morning in order to pick up the the two hooded gunmen that attacked and disarmed a police guard outside the home of Supreme Court President Romylos Kedikoglou late on Tuesday night.
The two men stripped the guard of his arms - a service revolver and a sub-machine gun - and his bullet-proof vest before escaping on foot.
Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras said that authorities were investigating all angles regarding the incident. It had also led to a revision of the terms and demands for guarding, protecting and patrolling important persons and facilities, especially static sentries, the minister said.
The head of the Judges and Prosecutors Union condemned the incident as a direct attack on justice that sabotaged the rule of law.
According to Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras, meanwhile, "justice could be neither intimidated nor disarmed".
 Probe ordered on ambush of police sentryA preliminary probe by Greek Police and the anti-terrorist squad was launched on Wednesday to shed light on an incident against a police sentry guarding the residence of Supreme Court chief justice Rolymos Kedikoglou, in the Athens coastal suburb of Glyfada.
Kedikoglou on Wednesday said he was not the target of the attack, adding he had no cause for concern.
Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras has ordered an inquiry on the incident.
 Prosecutors on disarmament of Supreme Court president's guardThe Union of Public Prosecutors of Greece in an announcement on Wednesday commented on the disarmament on Tuesday night of the special police guard at the home of Supreme Court President Romylos Kedikoglou.
In their announcement, the public prosecutors said, "We ascertain with surprise, the weakness of the state to secure the fundamental sufficient measures for the safeguarding and protection of persons who, due to their position, represent the judicial functioning of the state. And this, despite the extremely increased magnitude of the police force and of the technical means available for this purpose. We view that it is imperatively necessary for the specific issue to be examined in depth by the Public Order Ministry, for the avoidance in future of similar incidents which ridicule the meaning of the state and shake the feeling of trust of the citizens to it."
 Wife killed in gunmen's attack on businessmanPolice were continuing a search Wednesday morning for three assailants who opened fire on the car of a 72-year-old businessman in the Kifissia suburb of Athens on Tuesday night, killing the businessman's wife and injuring the man.
According to police, two masked gunmen fired 4-5 shots at the car of Panayotis Papadakis, who is involved in the stock brokerage and loans business, shattering the windows. One of the bullets struck the man's 71-year-old wife Alexandra, who was sitting in the back seat, killing her on the spot.
Papadakis was also injured in the incident, which took place at about 9:00 p.m., and taken to an Athens hospital.
The car was being driven by Papadakis' 50-year-old nephew.
The assailants fled with the women's handbag, in a car driven by a third accomplice.
 No injuries reported after copter's emergency landingThe three-member crew of a Greek Army "Huey" helicopter flying a routine training mission escaped unharmed after an emergency landing on Wednesday on a military airfield in Megara, west of Athens.
The helicopter sustained damages caused by the landing, reported caused by a mechanical malfunction.
A probe into the causes of the accident was ordered.
 Drug trafficking arrestsAn Albanian national was arrested on the Ioannina-Athens national motorway when police found a total of 64 kilos and 120 grams in his car.
Police also found an assault rifle and 29 rounds in the car.
In an unrelated incident, a 40-year-old man was arrested in Thessaloniki after police found roughly two kilos of methadone in his house.
 Drive-by shooting in VoulaUnidentified gunmen opened fire with a Kalashnikov assault rifle against a private car and a house in Voula, Athens on Wednesday morning.
The gunmen fired at least 15 shots from their car, targeting a parked jeep and a maisonette, and sped off abandoning the rifle on the scene.
Police are examining the gun and an investigation is underway for the arrest of the assailants.
 Church break-ins in wider Athens areaThree church break-ins in the wider Athens area were reported to have taken place in the early hours of Wednesday.
The robberies took place in churches in Nea Makri, Ilioupolis and Kallithea and in all instances the alms boxes were stolen.
In Kallithea, the alms box was abandoned in the church yard.
 Greeks resort to antibiotics more often than other EuropeansGreece occupies the top place among EU states in the overuse of antibiotics, while their unnecessary use leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains, according to data presented at a press conference in Thessaloniki on the occasion of the 22nd Medical Conference in Northern Greece, to take place on April 19-21.
The unnecessary use of antibiotics, the hospital personnel shortage, inadequate sterilization and the large number of patients sharing a hospital room are some of the causes that lead to antibiotics-resistant bacteria, based on the conclusions reached by an EU infectious disease control team that visited Athens and Thessaloniki on March 10-16.
 Scientists discuss desertificationThe island of Crete, in the southern Aegean, is among the regions threatened with desertification -- the transformation of arable or habitable land into desert -- as the climate changes and the intense weather phenomena in combination with human intervention affect it and will continue to do so.
This observation was made by scientists from Greece, Italy, Spain, France and Portugal meeting in Chania, Crete within the framework of a programme on the implementation of joint actions combating drought and desertification in the Mediterranean Basin.
 Results of Greek Super League soccer matches played over the weekend:AEK Athens - Egaleo Athens 5-2
Apollon Kalamaria - Panathinaikos Athens 1-1
Atromitos Athens - Panionios Athens 0-1
Kerkyra - Iraklis Thessaloniki 0-0
Larissa - Olympiakos Piraeus 0-0
OFI Crete - Ionikos Piraeus 2-1
PAOK Thessaloniki - Xanthi 1-0
Aris Thessaloniki - Ergotelis Crete 2-0
Standings after 27 weeks of play:
Olympiakos 64 points
Apollon Kalamaria 32
Note: Ionikos has been deducted five points for disciplinary reasons.
 Fair on ThursdayFair weather is forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Marked increase in temperatures. Winds westerly, southwesterly, light to moderate. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 10C and 24C and in Thessaloniki from 8C to 22C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe attack by masked assailants of the special guard outside the home of Areios Pagos (Greek Supreme Court) president Romylos Kedikoglou, in which they took the guard's service revolver, the bonds affair, and the proposed new Bankruptcy Code, which was approved by the Inner Cabinet on Tuesday, were the main front-page items in Wednesday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The (TV) channels do not govern Greece! - Savvas Tsitouridis (employment minister) spoke of mudslinging and disinformation during press conference".
APOGEVMATINI: "25,438 new hirings in public sector - Detailed charts with distribution of positions".
AVGHI: "Written confession of the scandal - The political responsibilities being proved".
AVRIANI: "1.2 trillion drachma 'theft' in the (social insurance) funds by the 'green' (PASOK-affiliated) crooks, too - The timeline of the huge scandal, from 1999-2002 (when the now main opposition PASOK party was in government)".
CHORA: "Second chance for businesses that went bankrupt in good faith - The bankruptcy legislation being reformed".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Tsitouridis goes on the counter-attack, accusing PASOK that 3.5 billion euros were lost during its days".
ELEFTHEROS: "How the Funds were looted under PASOK (government) - What the data made public by the employment minister reveal".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The night of the masked assailants - Dual attack in Glyfada, Kifissia" (Areios Pagos President's special guard in Glyfada, shooting attack against businessmen in Kifissia, in which the man's wife was killed).
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The 'unsuspecting' Tsitouridis signed for the purchase of the bond by TAP-OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation employees' social insurance/pension fund).
ESTIA: "Property taxes being abolished - Not in Greece, but in Sweden!".
ETHNOS: "Report of zero...guilt, as purchase of bond with Tsitouridis' signature is proved".
KATHIMERINI: "They disarmed the Areios Pagos President's guard - Terrorist act suspected".
LOGOS: "On the backs of the insured - Huge losses in the Funds from 1999-2002".
NIKI: "They're pushing him towards the exit - Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) pressuring Tsitouridis to resign".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Company 'Abbott Laboratories (Hellas) SA: The personal data protection network full of holes".
TA NEA: "Terror-show of strength at Kedikoglou's home by two masked assailants - They disarmed the Areios Pagos president's guard".
TO VIMA: "The Funds scandal: Government in state of confusion...".
VRADYNI: "Blow against the 'vultures' (middlemen) of the auctions (of bankrupt businesses) - Governmental initiative for protection of properties/assets".
 Government says issue of accession to PFP not closedNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The issue of Cyprus' accession to the Partnership for Peace (PFP) is not closed, Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis has said.
Responding to questions, Pashiardis said that just because the government does not discuss the issue of an application for accession to the organisation this does not mean that the issue is closed for ever, adding that the government will be the judge of if and when to proceed to submit such an application.
The government spokesman also pointed out that there are different opinions between the parties and the government on the issue, but it is the government that will take such a decision.
Asked if the continuous calls by the Greek government to Cyprus to join PFP bring the government in a difficult position, the spokesman said, "I am not aware of any calls, apart from a reference by the Greek Minister of Defence in a speech."
"The Cyprus Government will decide on this issue, taking into consideration every suggestion and every position, wherever it is coming from," he said.
 Morphou Mayor says puppet regime allocating property to Turkish settlersNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The Mayor of Morphou Charalambos Pittas said that the puppet regime in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus is bringing settlers to the occupied town of Morphou, in an effort to reap political gains.
Speaking at the Parliamentary Committee for Refugees, Pittas said that the occupation regime is using tricks and blackmail techniques, allocating land and properties not only to Turkish Cypriots but also settlers from Turkey, in order to prevent the return of the town to its legitimate citizens in case of a settlement of the long standing political problem of the island.
He noted that this information is derived from the Turkish Cypriot press, but also from Turkish Cypriots who are also concerned about the continuous arrival of settlers.
Pittas further said that the municipality has launched a campaign to prevent this development with contacts with British MPs who will raise the issue at the British parliament and government.
''The answer of the British Foreign Secretary is that according to his information there are settlers in the extended area of Morphou, but that he is not aware if the land belongs to Turkish Cypriots or Greek Cypriots," Pittas said.
He also said that according to the British Foreign Secretary, the issue of properties can only be solved with a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
"This is unacceptable for us, because Britain, as a guarantor power and as a country playing an important role in the efforts to solve the Cyprus issue, can contribute in efforts to prevent this illegal settling," the Mayor said.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Britain's Minister for Europe to visit CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Britain's Minister for Europe Geoff Hoon will briefly visit Cyprus on 25 April following a personal invitation from Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs George Lillikas.
According to a British High Commission press release, Lillikas and Hoon will continue discussions that began in London and Brussels aimed at improving UK-Cyprus bilateral cooperation as partners in the EU.
They will have a meeting with officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs followed by tete-a-tete lunch.
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