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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-07-16

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Thursday, 16 July 2009 Issue No: 3246


  • [01] Karamanlis, Berlusconi discuss illegal migration
  • [02] Athens responds to Turkish statements on the Aegean
  • [03] Markoyiannakis chairs meeting on Home Security Council
  • [04] Markoyiannakis meets UK junior minister
  • [05] New measures for novel influenza
  • [06] President briefed by health minister
  • [07] Defense ministry launches professional training programs for soldiers
  • [08] Pavlopoulos addresses conference on simplification of administrative procedures
  • [09] Education minister: true parity for universities, TEI
  • [10] PASOK leader on Cyprus invasion 'anniversary'
  • [11] KKE's Papariga on state funding of political parties; new EYP leadership
  • [12] Parties demand briefing on change in NIS leadership
  • [13] Controversy in Parliament over cameras, opinion polls
  • [14] Papoulias meets Special Olympics Hellas President
  • [15] Greek inflation rate at 0.7 pct in June, Eurostat
  • [16] Summer sales period opens in Greece
  • [17] Credit conditions worsened in June
  • [18] ASE to hold 4th Annual Roadshow in London
  • [19] Greek stocks moderately up on Wednesday
  • [20] Greek bond market closing report
  • [21] ADEX closing report
  • [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [23] Greece re-admits Afghan illegal migrants; arrests four traffickers
  • [24] Samos fire partially contained
  • [25] Fire in Sithonia destroys wooded area
  • [26] Contraband cigarettes bust
  • [27] Drug arrest in Chania, Crete
  • [28] Two arrested for illegally dumping industrial waste
  • [29] Hot and sunny on Thursday
  • [30] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [31] President: Solution possible by December if Turkey changes course
  • [32] Cyprus commemorates 1974 coup dead
  • [33] House President denounces 1974 coup and Turkish invasion

  • [01] Karamanlis, Berlusconi discuss illegal migration

    ROME (ANA-MPA - T. Andreadis)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi held talks focusing on the issue of illegal immigration here on Wednesday, after which both premiers made brief statements to reporters before sitting down to an official dinner.

    "The European Union must take action for the solution of problems shared by both countries," Karamanlis stressed.

    Greece and Italy were already cooperating closely and had secured the inclusion of the points that interested both countries in the joint communique at the last European Summit, the Greek premier added.

    Karamanlis said that the two main issues discussed with Berlusconi were the signing of re-admission agreements with the countries immigrants originate from and strengthening the EU's border agency Frontex.

    Energy issues were also discussed, especially the progress made in the two major projects currently underway, the South Stream and the Turkish-Greek-Italian (TGI) natural gas pipelines.

    The Italian premier underlined the excellent relations between Italy and Greece during his statements and said that the nine billion euros in trade transactions between the two countries can definitely increase further.

    He also referred to the possibility of developing joint holiday packages in Greece and Italy that might attract visitors from the Far East, in particular.

    On illegal immigration, Berlusconi insisted on the need to make the EU the main reference point of efforts and for action to sign re-admission treaties with African countries.

    [02] Athens responds to Turkish statements on the Aegean

    The Greek foreign ministry said Wednesday that Greece was ready to refer the issue of delimiting the continental shelf in the Aegean at the International Court of The Hague, calling at the same time on Ankara to respect International Law and the Law of the Sea.

    "Greek-Turkish relations and the declared volition of the two governments for their improvement does not go along with the behaviour which is unacceptable and opposite to any idea of international law, behaviour that reaches the point of flights over Greek territory by Turkish aircraft," foreign ministry spokesman Gregoris Delavekouras siad in response to a Turkish foreign ministry announcement earlier in the day.

    "The status quo in the Aegean is not affected by such practices. On the contrary, Turkey's declared pursuit of zero problems with its neighbours is negated by itself," Delavekouras pointed out.

    A spokeman of the Turkish foreign ministry said that "the problems in the Aegean can be solved if the two countries (Greece and Turkey) accept that they are heading towards a partnership within the European Union."

    The Greek spokesman also said "the only, simple and clear solution is the implementation of Intarnational Law with respect to the international conventional framework regarding the Aegean as well as the Law of the Sea as it is depicted in the 1982 UN Convention in its entirety."

    Reiterating that Greece supports Turkey's EU entry based on the implementaion of the Copenhagen criteria and the priciple of good neighbourly relations, Delavekouras said: "We continue contacts on the basis of International Law and we reiterate Greece's readiness to refer the issue of delimiting the continental shelf in the Aegean at the International Court of The Hague. Respecting the above, the Aegean can truly be a sea of peace and a bridge of friendship between our countries."

    [03] Markoyiannakis chairs meeting on Home Security Council

    Alternate Interior Minister for public order issues Christos Markoyiannakis on Wednesday met representatives of the political parties at the interior ministry in order to discuss a proposed National Council for Home Security recently announced by the government. The proposal was originally unveiled by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in Parliament, who said the body would act in an advisory capacity, making decisions and submitting recommendations to the interior ministry on issues it considers important.

    The minister clarified that the proposed council will be convened by whatever interior minister was in office, either at regular intervals or on an ad hoc basis, while no decisions have yet been made about the compsition of its members. Based on the existing proposal, likely candidates include politicians, former public order ministers, former police chiefs, party representatives and possibly the director general of the National Intelligence Service, the Supreme Court Public Prosecutor and academics dealing with related issues, such as criminologists, sociologists and experts in law.

    Markoyiannakis said that other proposals for the composition of the Council will also be considered and specified that the proposed body would not have powers over the police force or have access to classified or confidential information.

    Party representatives emerging from the meeting expressed reservations about the proposal and all agreed to discuss the issue further at future meetings.

    [04] Markoyiannakis meets UK junior minister

    The behavior of certain British tourists in Greece, as well as security issues concerning the 2012 Olympic Games in London, dominated a meeting on Wednesday between Alternate Interior Minister for public order Christos Markoyiannakis and Britain's Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Chris Bryant, responsible for Olympic Games 2012 issues.

    Present at the meeting were Greek Police Chief Lieut. General Vassilios Tsiatouras and the British Ambassador to Athens.

    In comments made afterwards, Markoyiannakis stated that he briefed the British government official on the measures that will be taken during the current tourist season aimed at reducing the problems stemming from the behavior of certain tourists.

    Markoyiannakis stated that a meeting will be held on the Ionian island of Zakynthos on July 23 with the participation of the police directors in Rhodes, Iraklion, Zakynthos and Corfu, regions that face such problems. Three high-ranking British Police officers will attend the meeting as observers.

    On his part, Bryant stated that he is grateful to Greek authorities for their efforts to ensure safe vacations for all.

    [05] New measures for novel influenza

    A new package of measures for coping with an anticipated outbreak of A/H1N1 novel influenza (also known as swine flu) was announced by Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos in a press conference on Wednesday, shortly after meeting with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.

    Avramopoulos said that the health ministry was stepping up measures and moving on from simply recording incidents to action for preventing the spread of the virus. He clarified that the emphasis will shift from the recording cases to assessing their gravity and likely complications.

    The minister explained that 90 pct of novel influenza incidents in the country have been fully cured and only a few required hospitalization and anti-influenza drug treatment. Regarding the administration of antiviral drugs, he stressed that their use for precautionary purposes was strictly prohibited and was recommended only in more serious cases, in order to avoid the development of virus resistance that would make them ineffective.

    Meanwhile, a total of 1,000 beds are already available in hospitals nationwide for patients that develop complications, while their number is expected to increase by September.

    Aside from infants, children suffering from long-term ailments, the elderly and the chronically ill - who will all be vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available in Greece - other vulnerable groups include the obese, women in the second and third month of pregnancy, patients will weak immune systems and health sector personnel.

    Scientists are concerned that the novel influenza virus has similarities with the Spanish Influenza pandemic in 1918 that killed millions of people. Health ministry scientists underlined that the "pandemic waves are a shared characteristic of the two influenzas, a fact that calls for vigilance."

    [06] President briefed by health minister

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias was briefed by health minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Wednesday on the measures that have been taken in light of the worldwide new flu A/H1N1 pandemic, as well as on progress in the ministry's anti-smoking campaign and actions.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Avamopoulos said that vaccination of high-risk groups would begin in early September, with the priority on children up to 15 years of age and elderly with heart and respiratory problems.

    The children, he added, would be vaccinated in the schools and daycare centers, while the innoculation of the elderly will be the responsibility of the local governments.

    Avramopoulos said that all steps have been taken so that the local residents and visitors in Greece may feel secure, while the alert and preparedness levels have been increased. He also noted that the largest proportion of new flu sufferers were either tourists or Greeks returning from abroad, adding that their detection had been made possible due to the effectiveness of the controls system in place at the country's borders and gates of entry.

    [07] Defense ministry launches professional training programs for soldiers

    Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Wednesday inaugurated the 2nd center of professional training of the Greek Armed Forces in the city of Pyrgos, southwestern Greece.

    The professional training centers project is aimed at developing the skills of reserve soldiers during their obligatory military service, as part of the social-human-centered vision of the National Defense ministry, Evaggelos Meimarakis said during the inauguration ceremony.

    Employment Minister, in her address said investing on human resources was the most significant asset of a society, as it created the preconditions for development and prosperity. "Education is not only a matter of knowledge. It is a matter of life. It is the most important national asset," she said.

    The defense ministry plans to open more such centers in Loutraki, Thiva, Kavouri and Patras.

    [08] Pavlopoulos addresses conference on simplification of administrative procedures

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos addressed a one-day conference of the Central Committee for the Simplification of Administrative Procedures: Results-Prospects which was held Wednesday at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).

    Pavlopoulos underlined that the implementation of comprehen-sive strategic planning has led and continues to lead to crucial institutional interventions and initiatives for simpler and better administrative procedures mainly through the Administrative Reform Operational Programme.

    [09] Education minister: true parity for universities, TEI

    Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos on Wednesday briefed Parliament's educational affairs committee on a draft bill aiming to improve the quality of work done in universities and technological education institutes (TEI). Regarding the latter, the minister stressed that the focus was on giving them true parity with universities, so as to turn them into higher education institutes in practice and not just on paper.

    Measures in this direction will include reforms to the legislative framework governing TEI in order to bring it into line with that for universities, boosting their academic credentials, solving their operational problems and the introduction of research facilities and other changes, he said.

    [10] PASOK leader on Cyprus invasion 'anniversary'

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said it was grievous that for 35 years the Cyprus problem remains open as an issue of invasion and occupation by Turkey, and stressed that the occupation was the "essence" of the Cyprus problem, in a statement on Wednesday on the 35th anniversary of the coup on Cyprus by the military dictatorship ruling Greece at the time, which he added had brought so many tribulations to the island republic and to Hellenism.

    Speaking in Skiathos, where he is attending the Symi Symposium, Papandreou noted Turkey's stance on the Cyprus issue, while he also outlined the position that the Greek government must maintain at the EU summit in December, during which the EU-Turkey relations will be re-examined.

    "It is an opportunity for Greece to once again decisively re-determine the EU's relations with Turkey," Papandreou said, and accused the New Democracy government of omitting to say "something that it is its duty to have as its guideline: that no one should take for granted Greece's stance in December".

    Papandreou opined that a solution to the Cyprus issue presupposes a change of strategic perception on the part of Turkey, which needs to allow the Turkish Cypriots to freely negotiate, themselves, a common future in a reunited Cyprus in the EU, while adding that Turkey, as a candidate country for EU membership, has the obligation to fulfill all its commitments to the EU and, "first of all, to withdraw its occupation forces" from Cyprus.

    The PASOK leader further said that a ray of hope has recently been cast by Cyprus president Demetris Christofias' vision, which was shared by the entire political leadership of Cyprus, for a reunited European Cyprus without outside interventions, manufactured timetables and arbitration.

    He also described Turkey's provocative actions in the Aegean and on Cyprus as condemnable.

    [11] KKE's Papariga on state funding of political parties; new EYP leadership

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Central Committee General Secretary Aleka Papariga lashed out at the government on Wednesday over its plans to impose exclusive state funding of political parties and accused main opposition PASOK as well as the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) of supporting the government's designs.

    Speaking during a press conference, Papariga stated that corruption cannot be eradicated through "pseudo-transparent political party finances," clarifying that it is impossible for the people to know the exact economic situation of the political parties.

    Commenting on the change of leadership in the National Intelligence Service (EYP), Papariga characterized it as a "very serious" development considering the fact that its new Director General is a former assistant prosecutor "specializing on terrorism issues".

    [12] Parties demand briefing on change in NIS leadership

    The opposition parties in Parliament on Wednesday requested that the former National Intelligence Service (NIS) director general Ambassador Ioannis Korantis and his replacement, Deputy Public Prosecutor Dimitris Papaggelopoulos, appear before Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee.

    The party rapporteurs made the request during a debate on the crisis in the media, stressing the need for the Committee to be informed of the reasons for the sudden change in EYP's leadership and the way in which the intelligence service operates.

    [13] Controversy in Parliament over cameras, opinion polls

    Discussion in Parliament became heated on Wednesday as the political parties debated amendments dealing with a number of privacy-related issues, such as identifying users of pre-paid mobiles, use of CCTV surveillance cameras to investigate crimes and a proposed police DNA bank, as well as the proposal to revert to the previous regime for opinion polls, banning their publication in the last two weeks before an election.

    The last amendment is a U-turn for the government, which had earlier introduced legislation allowing opinion polls to be published up until two days before elections. Explaining the decision to revert to the previous regime, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos reiterated that the changes had not brought the anticipated results, based on the experience during the European Parliament elections.

    The decision was strongly criticised by main opposition PASOK, however, with MP Christos Papoutsis accusing the government of "opportunism" and "legislating without principles". Also opposed to the specific amendment was the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which condemned all opinion polls as "tools of manipulation" and proposed that they be banned for four months before elections.

    All four opposition parties, even the far right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), refused to back the government's amendment for the use of CCTV cameras, on the grounds that it had not first obtained the approval of the independent Hellenic Data Protection Authority (DPA).

    Replying to the criticism, Justice Minister Nikolaos Dendias said the government had informed the DPA about the planned legislation and that the authority would be meeting in September to issue a decision. He also clarified that the DPA could not forbid measures concerning public safety and that the law did not require its approval, only that the authority be consulted.

    The amendment calling for a DNA bank, to be used in even minor crimes, was also opposed by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which accused the government of "creating a society of fear," and undermining fundamental freedoms while failing to address the reasons for rising crime.

    According to PASOK's Papoutsis, meanwhile, all the government's proposed amendments "were only marginally and questionably constitutional" while he pointed to experience in the United Kingdom and the United States, which had shown that the use of cameras had not served to reduce crime levels but only created "a false sense of security".

    [14] Papoulias meets Special Olympics Hellas President

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received Special Olympics Hellas President Joanna Despotopoulou at the Presidential Mansion on Wednesday and was briefed on the course of the preparations for the Special Olympics World Summer Games Athens 2011.

    Despotopoulou underlined the support expressed by President Papoulias, who was the first to sign up as a volunteer for the international event to be hosted in Greece in 2011, leading the way to other 4,750 applications by volunteers.

    President Papoulias expressed special interest in the "Polis Amphitryon" programme concerning the hosting of 10,000 athletes and their escorts from 185 countries in 80 Greek cities, a few days prior to the opening of the games.

    The President of the Republic confirmed that his home town Ioannina, northwestern Greece, will sign up to the hospitality programme on Sept. 17.

    Financial News

    [15] Greek inflation rate at 0.7 pct in June, Eurostat

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)

    Greek inflation was 0.7 pct in June, unchanged from May, Eurostat said on Wednesday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in a monthly report, said Eurozone's inflation rate eased to -0.1 pct in June, from 0.0 pct in May, sharply down from 4.0 pct in June 2008, while in the EU-27, the inflation rate eased to 0.6 pct in June, from 0.8 pct in May and 4.3 pct in June 2008.

    Ireland (-2.2 pct), Portugal (-1.6 pct), Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg (-1.0 pct) recorded the lowest inflation rates in June, while Romania (5.9 pct), Poland (4.2 pct) and Lithuania (3.9 pct) the highest rates.

    The inflation rate fell in 21 member states, it was unchanged in four and rose only in Finland.

    [16] Summer sales period opens in Greece

    The annual summer sales period opened in Greece on Wednesday, and will last to end-August.

    In a bid to rekindle movement on the market, following a slump in turnover in the last two months, retail shopowners are offering discounts of up to 70 percent.

    Merchant and consumer organisations said the sales period was an opportunity for purchasing top-rate items at bargain prices, but advised shoppers to buy wisely, focusing on their real needs and comparing quality and prices, and to not be carried away by flashy advertisements.

    [17] Credit conditions worsened in June

    Credit conditions worsened sharply in the Greek market in June, with the value of bounced checks soaring by 291.7 pct compared with the same month last year, official figures showed on Wednesday.

    The value of bounced checks totaled 338.3 million euros in June, slightly up (0.9 pct) from May 2009, while volume was down 1.1 pct over the same period. Volume of bounced checks was up 289.9 percent in June, compared with the corresponding period in 2008. In the six-month period from January to June 2009, the value of bounced checks totaled 1.6 billion euros.

    The value of unpaid bills totaled 23.6 million euros in June, up 28.42 pct compared with May, and up 73.83 pct compared with the same month last year. In the first half of 2009, the value of unpaid bills totaled 117.2 million euros.

    [18] ASE to hold 4th Annual Roadshow in London

    The Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday announced it would launch its fourth Annual Roadshow of Greek enterprises in London, October 1-2.

    This year's roadshow will include companies listed in the FTSE 20 and FTSE Liquid Mid indexes, accounting for almost 80 pct of the Greek market's capitalization. The 27 companies to participate in the roadshow are: National Bank, EFG Eurobank, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank, Cyprus Bank, Marfin Popular Bank, Coca Cola HBC, OPAP, OTE, PPC, Viohalco, Marfin Investment Group, Hellenic Petroleum, Ellaktor, Motor Oil, Intralot, Titan, Mytilineos, Alapis, GEK Terna-Terna Energy, Eurobank Properties, Folli Follie, Fourlis, Lamda Development, Michaniki, Sarants and Sidenor.

    ASE's chairman, Spyros Kapralos, commenting on the 4th annual roadshow said: "In a crucial period for stock markets and the global economy, we are particularly pleased that all large Greek enterprises responded to the market's call, boosting the market's outbound profile. I am certain that this fact will be appreciated by investors too and that demand for meetings with enterprises by foreign funds will be increased".

    [19] Greek stocks moderately up on Wednesday

    Greek stocks moved moderately higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with the composite index rising 0.74 pct to end at 2,185.47 points. Turnover was 229.7 million euros, of which 9.3 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved upwards, with the Insurance (7.91 pct), Banks (3.05 pct) and Utilities (2.37 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Travel (5.46 pct), Telecoms (3.35 pct) and Chemicals (0.95 pct) suffered losses.

    The FTSE 20 index rose 1.15 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.02 pct up and the FTSE 80 index rose 1.63 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 122 to 81 with another 55 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +7.91%

    Industrials: -0.08%

    Commercial: +0.05%

    Construction: +0.54%

    Media: -0.88%

    Oil & Gas: +0.31%

    Personal & Household: +0.45%

    Raw Materials: +0.91%

    Travel & Leisure: -5.46%

    Technology: +0.22%

    Telecoms: -3.35%

    Banks: +3.05%

    Food & Beverages: +1.09%

    Health: -0.69%

    Utilities: +2.37%

    Chemicals: -0.95%

    Financial Services: +1.61%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, National Bank, OTE and Public Power Corp (PPC).

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 8.25

    ATEbank: 1.50

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 16.00

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.76

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.14

    National Bank of Greece: 18.40

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 8.08

    Intralot: 4.08

    OPAP: 16.35

    OTE: 10.10

    Bank of Piraeus: 7.66

    Titan Cement Company: 18.29

    [20] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market surged to 1.875 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.160 billion were buy orders and the remaining 715 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.425 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year benchmark Greek and German bonds shrank to 161 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 4.97 pct and the German Bund 3.36 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates eased slightly. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.41 pct, the six-month rate 1.22 pct, the three-month rate 0.97 pct and the one-month rate 0.60 pct.

    [21] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading a -0.40 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 57.598 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,969 contracts worth 43.861 million euros, with 26,257 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,869 contracts worth 13.787 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OPAP's contracts (2,843), followed by Eurobank (450), OTE (740), PPC (412), GEK (459), Piraeus Bank (1,235), National Bank (2,127), Alpha Bank (972), Hellenic Postbank (874) and Cyprus Bank (855).

    [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.420

    Pound sterling 0.864

    Danish kroner 7.504

    Swedish kroner 11.062

    Japanese yen 132.62

    Swiss franc 1.53

    Norwegian kroner 9.091

    Canadian dollar 1.594

    Australian dollar 1.769

    General News

    [23] Greece re-admits Afghan illegal migrants; arrests four traffickers

    Thirty-seven Afghan illegal immigrants are being held at the Promahonas border post on Wednesday, at the border between Greece and Bulgaria. The immigrants were re-admitted into Greece from Hungary, where they were discovered riding in a truck driven by a Greek national.

    Serres Police director Nikolaos Rizos said the illegal immigrants were discovered while attempting to cross the Romania-Hungary border in a truck with Bulgarian licence plates, which had left Athens carrying fresh vegetables. The Greek driver was arrested and is still being held by Hungarian authorities.

    Also detained at the border crossing are another 15 illegal immigrants from Somalia and Palestine that arrived in Greece via Rhodes two weeks ago.

    Further south, Greek authorities announced the arrest of four immigrant traffickers, two Palestinians and two Syrians, believed to be members of an international migrant-trafficking ring.

    The four men were arrested on Tuesday on the national highway near the coastal city of Volos in central Greece and were carrying five Pakistani illegal immigrants in a car heading toward Athens.

    One of the men arrested was driving the car carrying the immigrants, while the other three were riding in a 'lookout' car checking for road blocks. Each of the immigrants had paid 3,000 euros for his passage into Greece.

    [24] Samos fire partially contained

    A fire that broke out just before 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday in the island of Samos was partially contained at noon, according to firefighters who rushed to the site.

    The fire, which broke out at 9:45 a.m. in a forest expanse near the island's Heraion sanctuary, dating to the Late Archaic period and the first of the gigantic Ionic temples order, was being combated by land and air, with a massive fire brigade force, volunteer firefighters, conscripts and local residents, aided by two firefighting planes.

    No occupied areas were at risk from the fire, while initial strong winds that had fanned the blaze receded later in the day.

    [25] Fire in Sithonia destroys wooded area

    The fire that broke out in the region of Tripotamos in Sithonia Peninsula, Halkidiki Prefecture in northern Greece, was extinguished before noon on Wednesday after destroying roughly 600 stremma of olive trees and pine trees.

    The causes of the fire, that broke out on Tuesday afternoon, remain unknown and firefighters with volunteers are still in the region to prevent rekindling.

    [26] Contraband cigarettes bust

    The Attica Police have uncovered a major contraband cigarettes smuggling operation, after investigations spanning two years, it was announced on Wednesday.

    More specifically, a Greek transport company was smuggling large quantities of cigarettes into the country via the port of Piraeus and Astakos port in Aetoloakarnania prefecture, declaring them as sundry merchandise imports destined for bogus companies, and would then ship them to Malta with forged documents.

    The headquarters and telephone numbers of the bogus companies appearing on the invoices were the same as those of the real company that was smuggling the cigarettes, according to police.

    Following the completion of the investigation by police and the Financial Crimes Squad, the case file and evidence have been forwarded to the public prosecutor and Customs authorities.

    The fine for the contraband cigarettes is estimated to be some 4 million euros, of which 2.5 million euros are the calculated import duties not paid while the remaining 1.5 million euros are in evaded taxes.

    [27] Drug arrest in Chania, Crete

    A 24-year-old local man was arrested in Chania, on the southern Aegean island of Crete, on cannabis cultivation and possession charges.

    Police discovered a total of 160 cannabis plants grown by the suspect in an old house in the region of Kolymvari, while a search in his home revealed a small quantity of cocaine, 75 grams of dried cannabis mixed with tobacco and an air gun.

    The specific drug case is the 55th solved by Chania Police this year. Since the beginning of the year, a total of 97 people were arrested, while 9 of them are still wanted. In addition, 1,493 cannabis plants have been confiscated as well as 11 kilos of unprocessed cannabis, 1,600 grams of heroin, 3.5 grams of cocaine, 11 cannabis cigarettes, and 198 narcotic pills.

    [28] Two arrested for illegally dumping industrial waste

    A 37-year-old truck driver and the owner of the truck he was driving were led before a public prosecutor on Wednesday after the driver was caught illegally dumping industrial waste from a paper factory in a field in Aspropyrgos.

    The truck driver was sighted by a team of environment inspectors accompanied by traffic police at dawn on Wednesday, after he had just dumped the waste and was attempting to cover it up. The truck owner, also 37, was arrested after he voluntarily presented himself at the Aspropyrgos police station.

    Weather forecast

    [29] Hot and sunny on Thursday

    Clear skies and moderate to strong winds of up to 8 Beaufort are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Temperatures wil rise, ranging from 17C and 37C. Sunny and hot in Athens, with temperatures between 22C and 36C. Same in Thessaloniki, with light winds and temperatures between 21C and 35C.

    [30] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The unemployment rate, which jumped to 9.4 percent, Turkey's stance in the Aegean, planned changes in Education, concern over the new flu pandemic, and the Greece-Bulgaria-Romania agreement on a natural gas pipeline were the main front-page items in Wednesday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Government advancing 'Smart School', aimed at educational reform".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Greece, Bulgaria, Romania agree on construction of pipeline that will ensure flow of natural gas in the Balkans".

    AVGHI: "The government a spectator of the drama - New wave of uneployed creates explosive situation in the Greek society".

    AVRIANI: "Many nightclubs are mafia headquarters and money laundering facilities".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Burning unemployment - 85 percent of businesses predict that the worst is still ahead".

    ESTIA: "Revolution in taxation, with introduction if single coefficient".

    ETHNOS: "Virtual attack on Farmakonissi - The Turks exceeded all limits in the Aegean".

    KATHIMERINI: "Unemployment jumps to 9.4 percent - Further deterioration on the job market predicted in IOBE study".

    LOGOS: "Unemployment jumps to 9.4 percent - Big rise in relation to last year".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Vigilance and action against the state terrorism - Package of measures for surveillance and keeping files on the people".

    TA NEA: "The new law on Education to be tabled end September".

    TO VIMA: "The new flu getting tougher - It could cause severe pneumonia".

    VRADYNI: "Social security guide for women".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [31] President: Solution possible by December if Turkey changes course


    President Demetris Christofias believes that a political settlement in Cyprus is possible by December, if Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership change course.

    President Christofias' comments came in the wake of positions expressed by Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in Ankara, that the current UN-led negotiations could conclude by December this year. Foreign officials speak of an ''international timeframe'' expiring in December, when the European Commission is expected to assess Turkey's accession course.

    ''There is no international timeframe,'' the president stressed replying to questions, adding that ''if there is something which could be considered international, that is our agreement with the UN Secretary-General that there will be no timeframes and especially no suffocating ones and that there will be no arbitration,'' in the ongoing talks, which began in September last year.

    Stressing that he remains committed to this agreement, President Christofias expressed ''anger and regret'' at any suggestion that EU leading personalities or UN officials might be talking about timeframes.

    ''We want a solution soon,'' the president said, stressing that ''if Turkey needs a solution, it must first help itself. In my opinion, Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership must change course and respect the fundamental principles of international law, in addition to showing respect for the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus, of the United Republic of Cyprus, which I hope will emerge out of the unitary state."

    ''If Turkey shows this respect and shifts its policy, it is possible to reach a settlement by December,'' Christofias said, warning everybody that they should remind Ankara, not Nicosia, of this coming December. Ankara, he added, must be reminded of its obligations towards the EU, Cyprus and the international community, which so far it has failed to meet.

    Turkey has refused to recognise the Republic of Cyprus, where it maintains some 40,000 occupation troops in the northern part of the country. Turkey has failed to open its ports and airports to Cypriot flagged ships and aircraft, in spite of repeated calls from Brussels.

    Replying to questions, the President said it is high time that the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee is abolished. The Treaty designated Britain, Turkey and Greece as guarantor powers of the independence and territorial integrity of the newly established Republic of Cyprus. Ankara insists on continuing with the existing guarantee system.

    The president explained that "a lot has changed in the world, Cyprus, Greece and Britain have joined the EU and Turkey is knocking on the EU door, the Cypriot people have suffered and I believe the people are now mature and the conditions are ripe to do away with guarantors."

    He also said that the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee and the Treaty of Alliance give no right for unilateral military intervention to any of the three guarantor powers (the UK, Greece and Turkey).

    "The guarantors, instead of safeguarding the independence of Cyprus, have worked for its dissolution,'' he said.

    He noted that Greece, after the fall of the military junta, punished those responsible for the heinous crime, and pointed out that Turkey continues to commit a crime, which is the substance of the problem, the continuing military occupation of Cyprus' northern part.

    Five days after the July 15 coup, in 1974, inspired by the Greek military junta, Turkey invaded on the pretext of restoring constitutional order on the island. Since then, its troops occupy 37 per cent of Cyprus' territory, in spite of repeated UN calls to withdraw.

    Christofias and Talat have been engaged in UN-led talks since September last year, with a view to finding a negotiated settlement that will reunite the country.

    [32] Cyprus commemorates 1974 coup dead


    Cyprus commemorated Wednesday all those killed defending the Republic, during the 1974 military coup, on July 15, against the democratically elected President of Cyprus. The coup, engineered by the Greek military junta, then ruling Greece, was followed by the Turkish invasion five days later, which resulted in the occupation of Cyprus' northern third.

    The Cypriot political, religious and state leadership attended the annual commemoration ceremony, in the presence of President Demetris Christofias.

    ''This day causes pain and indignation. Today we pay tribute to those who fought and fell defending the Republic to counter the fascist coup of the junta and EOAK B','' the president said in statements after the ceremony.

    Noting that the coup was the pretext for Turkey to invade Cyprus on the grounds of restoring constitutional order, the president recalled that ''very soon Makarios (the democratically elected President of Cyprus) returned to Cyprus, but for thirty five years now Turkey has been implementing old plans locked in drawers since the 1950s.''

    The president said some so-called patriots have led the country to partition, with Turkey controlling its northern part.

    ''Ever since we are striving to restore the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus,'' President Christofias said, recalling that ''Makarios took a courageous decision, to see the Republic of Cyprus evolve from a unitary state to a federal one, with the basic goal to end the occupation and restore the human rights of all Cypriots,'' he said.

    In 1977 the then Cyprus President Archbishop Makarios and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash signed the High Level Agreement envisaging ''an independent non-aligned, bi-communal federal republic''.

    President Christofias added that he has been consistently working to implement that decision but Turkish positions raise obstacles to this effect.

    ''We will not bow down. Through the talks which we conduct, I reiterate, we defend principles and we strive to restore the rights of Cyprus as a state, and of the Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, as citizens of the Republic of Cyprus'', he concluded.

    [33] House President denounces 1974 coup and Turkish invasion


    The Cyprus House of Representatives denounced Wednesday the twin crime against the Republic of Cyprus, the 15 July 1974 coup d' etat against the democratically elected President, Archbishop Makarios, and the Turkish invasion five days later that resulted in the occupation of the island's northern third.

    The House held an extraordinary plenary session to mark the occasion, attended by President Demetris Christofias and members of his Cabinet.

    Addressing the plenary, House President Marios Garoyian said that "the people of Cyprus will never compromise with the result of the invasion, never accept the results of the occupation, never give up asserting their rights".

    "We are here today first and foremost to reaffirm that we will never forget the greatest treachery and greatest tragedy of Cypriot Hellenism in modern times," he said and added that "honouring today the heroes and martyrs of freedom and democracy and all the martyrs and victims of our national tragedy, the House of Representatives fulfills its commitment to continue defending the principles and values served by those who were killed".

    "We know very well that our struggle to end the Turkish occupation is not easy and our will is not enough to reach a just, functional and viable solution to the Cyprus problem," he said, adding that the painful compromise Greek Cypriots have accepted - a bizonal bicommunal federation - is not enough to help find a negotiated settlement.

    He went on to stress that the only way to a just and viable solution is through talks and negotiations.

    The Greek Cypriot side, he continued, has the good will to work towards an agreed solution, an effort President of the Republic Demetris Christofias is pursuing in earnest.

    Garoyian said that "both the political and the military leadership of Turkey as well as the leader of the occupation regime Mehmet Ali Talat insist on putting forward rigid and intransigent positions", adding that "they actually want a solution based on Turkey's terms, which does not serve the interests of the Turkish Cypriots".

    On the contrary, he continued, "the Greek Cypriot side seeks a solution which will put an end to the occupation and the presence of illegal settlers, it will reunite the territory, the people, the economy, the institutions and will restore and safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Cyprus as a whole, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins".

    "A solution that will end the Turkish guarantees and provide security to the state and our people", he underlined.

    He went on to say that "our duty is to continue working towards the conclusion of the direct talks and support the President of the Republic, strengthen his negotiating position in his efforts to achieve a just, viable and functional solution in Cyprus based on UN principles and resolutions, the 1977 and 1979 High Level Agreements, the principles and values of the European Union and the rules of international law".

    The House President noted that in the recent past, some circles in the international community appear quick to support Turkish policies and relieve Turkey of its huge and heavy responsibilities to Cyprus, as well as its obligations and commitments towards the EU and its member states.

    "Such behavior and approaches certainly do not facilitate either the course of the direct negotiations or Turkey's accession process", he added.

    Reiterating that the solution of the Cyprus problem must comply fully with the acquis communautaire, he stressed that "we expect that the EU will reject any Turkish request for deviation from the acquis communautaire."

    Garoyian reiterated that Turkey will find Cyprus in its EU accession course, if it continues to show provocative behavior and refuses to fulfill its obligations and commitments towards the EE and Cyprus.

    In conclusion, he sent a message to all directions that "no power can compel us to accept and endorse an unjust solution and abandon from our reasonable positions, which provide for a just, functional and viable solution to the Cyprus problem".

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