|Friday, 28 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-03-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 19 March 2011 Issue No: 3746
 PM chairs meeting on developments in LibyaPrime Minister George Papandreou on Friday chaired a meeting on develop-ments in Libya.
The meeting was held at the Maximos Mansion with the participation of Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, the Defence and Alternate Defence Ministers Evangelos Venizelos and Panos Beglitis, National Defence General Staff chief Ioannis Yiangos and Foreign Ministry secretary general Ioannis Zeppos.
All parameters of the issue were examined during the meeting and, according to reports, Greece is pursuing a peaceful solution, respecting absolutely international legality and the resolutions of the UN Security Council, 1970 of February 26 and 1973 of March 17, while in parallel Greece also respects its alliance obligations.
According always to reports, Greece will not participate in military operations, however it is possible that will undertake a role on humanitarian aid issues and control of the implementation of the weapons embargo.
Consultations at NATO will be conluded at noon on Saturday while following the meeting at the Maximos Mansion.
 PM has telephone communications with Turkish, Libyan counterpartsPrime Minister George Papandreou held a telephone conversation on Friday, at his own initiative, with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which they discussed the developments on the issue of Libya.
On the occasion of this communication, Papandreou, due to the developments in Japan, had the possibility, even for a short while, to reiterate to Erdogan Greece's positions on the issue of nuclear energy and Greece's opposition to its use.
The prime minister also communicated by phone with the prime minuister of Libya Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi, to whom he stressed the need for the immediate implementation of the Security Council's resolution, and in particular the demand of all for an end to violence and for there to be a smooth exit from the crisis.
 PM Papandreou leaving for Paris on Saturday morningPrime Minister George Papandreou will be leaving for Paris on Saturday morning to participate in the meeting of Euromediterranean Cooperation leaders on developments in Libya.
The initiative for the meeting belongs to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Papandreou will leave for the French capital at 10:30 a.m., while earlier at 9 in the morning (instead of 10 a.m. that had been initially announced) he will chair a meeting of the Socialist International that will be taking place at the Acropolis Museum and will have as its theme the developments in the wider Middle East region and North Africa.
 Greece welcomes UNSC resolution on LIbya, calls for restoration of stability, smooth transition to democracyGreece on Friday called for a solution to the crisis in Libya, restoration of stability in that country and a smooth transition to democracy through a broad dialogue of the component peoples, in a statement by foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas after a meeting with defence minister Evangelos Venizelos.
The 75-minute meeting reviewed developments in Libya in light of Thursday's UN Security Council resolution.
"Greece believes that the goal of all of us should be the finding of a solution to the crisis in Libya, restoration of stability and a smooth transition to democracy, through a broad dialogue of the component peoples of that country. This should be the target, and this is the demand of the international community, the Arab League and the African union," Droutsas said.
"It is not too late," the Greek foreign minister stressed.
On the Security Council resolution for imposing a flight ban zone over Libya, Droutsas said that the international community, in sending a strong message and clear warning for an immediate cease fire, has moved one step forward in adopting stricter sanctions against the Gaddafi regime and enabling the assumption of any measure necessary for protection of the unarmed population.
Droutsas further reiterated Greece's preparedness to contribute, in cooperation with its EU partners and NATO allies, to adherence to international legality.
 KKE leader asks that Greece have zero involvement in LibyaCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga contacted Prime Minister George Papandreou on the telephone on Friday and asked that Greece should not in any way become involved in an "imperialist" military operation in Libya.
Among others, Papariga asked that the United States and NATO bases in Souda, Crete and Aktio, western Greece should not be used during any such operation.
According to a KKE announcement, Papariga rejected the humanitarian grounds cited for such an operation and said that it lacked legitimacy.
 National Foreign Policy Council meeting endsThe special meeting of the National Foreign Policy Council (ESEP), which was convened following an invitation by Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, came to an end late on Friday night.
The issues preoccupying the participants, who represented the Parliamentary parties with the exception of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which does not participate, were developments in Libya and the wider region of North Africa, as well as the results of the recent visit to Athens by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
No statements were made at the end of the meeting.
 PM chairs meeting on former Athens airportAnnouncements on what the government intends to do with the site of the former Athens airport at Elliniko can be expected even within the month, according to a minister attending a government meeting on the issue held on Friday.
The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou and included Minister of State Haris Pamboukis, Environment Minister Tina Birbili, Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou, Alternate Environment Minister Nikos Sifounakis, Athens Mayor George Kaminis and Spanish architect Josep Acebillo.
The site was originally destined to become a massive public park but various plans announced over the years that have envisaged partial development in order to raise funds for the rest of the project have failed to materialise.
 Samaras: gov't in recession spiralMain opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras once again attacked Prime Minister George Papandreou over his government's economic policy on Friday, saying that it was leading to a deeper recession and more business closures rather than a smaller deficit.
Samaras pointed out that, while the original Memorandum signed by the present government envisaged savage cuts in state spending amounting to 20 billion euros for 2011-2014, a current report by the International Monetary Fund called for double that amount in spending cuts, even though the IMF had already admitted that the recession was slowing the reduction of the deficit.
The government was trapped in a spiral of spending cuts and measures, which only led to deeper recession and more measures, he stressed.
 Samaras in Brussels Monday for EPP meetingMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras leaves on Monday for Brussels, where he will attend a meeting of the leaders of the parties of the European People's Party (EPP) grouping in the European Parliament.
 President Papoulias receives Iraqi President TalabaniPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received the President of Iraq Jalal Talabani on Friday evening.
The two leaders agreed that they are linked with a longstanding friendship, while President Papoulias noted that the visit is taking place "at a very crucial moment."
Talabani is in Athens to participate on Saturday in the meeting of the Socialist International's Directorate.
 President receives NBG chiefPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received National Bank of Greece (NBG) chairman of the board Vassilis Rapanos on Thursday, who stressed that "the impossible must be done" in this difficult period.
Papoulias spoke of "difficult times", while Rapanos noted the difficult period of trial which the Greek economy and society are going through.
"We, at National Bank at least, believe that, in a difficult period, we must make the impossible possible and make the effort in order to help the country exit from the crisis," Rapanos added.
 President Papoulias visits 114 Combat WingPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Friday visited the 114 Combat Wing in Tanagra, central Greece, and was briefed on the unit's operational work and activities and was given a guided tour of the land-based satellite station that was due to become fully operational officially on Friday.
President Papoulias had the opportunity to see pictures through the satellite station of the destruction caused to the installations of the nuclear plant in Japan. In a statement, President Papoulias termed "inconceivable at this moment", when all are shocked by the destruction at the nuclear reactors in Japan, "for Turkey to want to build its own nuclear reactor in a seismic region, opposite Rhodes. "Mr. (Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip) Erdogan must think about it many times" and called on the Europeans to intervene "so that we shall not have a disaster, that will be on our threshold."
President Papoulias, praising the Air Force's contribution said "we are in an era in which we must defend our sovereign rights and I think that the Air Force is doing it on a daily basis under adverse conditions, that are many times superhuman. Our Air Force is underlining that we are ready to defend at least what we received from the older with struggles, sacrifices and sweat."
 CoE secgen letter to PM on irregular migrants' detention conditionsCouncil of Europe (CoE) secretary general Thorbjorn Jagland has sent a letter to Greek prime minister George Papandreou encouraging the Greek authorities to take immediate action for compliance with recommendations by the CoE's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) for improvement of the detention conditions of irregular migrants.
Greece needs to improve the detention conditions of irregular migrants, Jagland said in his letter to Papandreou, and defended the concerns raised by the CPT.
"We are well aware of the many challenges facing Greece, especially during the past year with the increasing numbers of irregular migrants entering the country via its land borders," Jagland said in a statement, stressing at the same time that "Europe needs to demonstrate its solidarity and provide the necessary support to Greece to cope with these people."
"I have repeatedly stated that countries in Europe should refrain from returning asylum seekers and irregular migrants to Greece until proper detention conditions are ensured. Greece can count on the full assistance and support of the Council of Europe, in this endeavour. I also support the call for the European Union to assist the Greek authorities in the effort to improve the detention facilities in their country," Jagland said in his statement.
 Education minister briefed by Greek Atomic Energy Commission presidentEducation Minister Anna Diamantopoulou on Friday met with Greek Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) president Christos Housiadas and was briefed on developments in Japan.
The latter stated that the commission is prepared to deal with any secondary consequences stemming from the nuclear accident in Japan.
Referring to the measures taken at Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, Housiadas stated that only those passengers, who believe that they were near the nuclear plant accident in the northern part of Japan, go through radiation checks.
 Precautionary radiological checks in airportsGreek Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) experts will be available at Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport as of Friday evening to provide information pertaining to radiation-related issues if requested by passengers coming from Japan.
Precautionary radiological checks will also be available.
Similar measures will be in effect at Thessaloniki's Macedonia International Airport as of Saturday, March 19.
Foods, farm products and animal feed originating from Japan will undergo radiological checks in the National Centre of Scientific Research (NCSR) Democritus and GAEC labs in compliance with a relevant European recommendation and Hellenic Food Authority (EFET) guidelines.
Greek citizens in Japan and the crews of Greek vessels sailing in the region have been advised by GAEC to stay at least 80 km away from the Fukushima nuclear plant.
 Preventive controls on plant/animal products, food imports from JapanThe Hellenic Atomic Energy Commission (EEAE) on Friday urged all Greeks in Japan to distance themselves to a radius of at least 80 kilometers from Fukushima, where the Daichi nuclear power plant is located, and announced that it is proceeding with radiology checks at Athens International Airport on all arrivals from Japan, while it also recommended to Greeks to refrain from travel to Japan.
The Greek finance ministry, in turn, called for radioactivity testing on all foodstuffs and animal feed imported from Japan, in a circular sent Thursday to the relevant services and market agencies, in order to prevent the introduction of contaminated products into the food chain in Greece, while health deputy minister Christos Aidonis announced the commencement of preventive testing of all animal and plant products imported from Japan.
 Deputy labour minister holds talks on migration issues with Cyprus governmentNICOSIA (ANA-MPA - A. Viketos)
Deputy Labour Minister Anna Dalara, currently on an official visit to Cyprus, was received by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias on Friday in a meeting dominated by the issue of migration.
The minister said they had agreed that the two governments should closely coordinate their actions in this area, while they had analysed ways of managing migration flows. She had also outlined the Greek government's initiatives for a comprehensive and effective migration policy and arguments for the necessity to share out the migration burden among EU countries.
In addition to the Cyprus president, Dalara met the Cyprus ministers of the interior and labour, Neoclis Sylikiotes and Sotiroula Haralambous, respectively, briefing them on action taken by the Greek government for legal migrants living in Greece and for managing migration flows.
"We have steady and constant cooperation with the Cyprus side but also a substantial agreement of views. I especially want to underline the value of the initiative of Mediterranean countries to develop coordinated action on issues of migration, refugees etc," Dalara said.
The Greek minister said that Greece was grateful for the Cyprus government's expression of understanding and support for the problems faced by the country due to its geographical position, which made it a gateway for migrants trying to get into Europe.
She stressed the need to review the Dublin II treaty and discuss dividing the burden of migration between EU countries, noting that Cyprus' EU presidency in 2012 would be an opportunity to examine new ideas and practices on these issues.
 German court rules in favour of injunctionBERLIN (ANA-MPA / G. Pappas)
A Hamburg Court of Appeals issued an injunction against the German magazine "Der Spiegel", ruling in favour of a petition filed by former defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos in response to a report alleging possible bribes by the German company Ferrostaal in the purchase of four German submarines by Greece.
Magazine representatives confirmed to ANA-MPA that an injunction was served earlier in the week and refused to make any comments, stressing that the case is still in progress. The injunction will be effective until the case is tried in court. The magazine is forbidden to mention Tsohatzopoulos' name and has the obligation to publish a response prepared by him as regards earlier reports on the submarine case.
A "Der Spiegel" report on Feb. 2, 2011, cited testimonies available to the Munich prosecutor's office investigating roughly 50 Ferrostaal executives who face charges for bribery, breach of faith and for attempting to suppress evidence on illegal activities and kickbacks relating to contract allocation.
Tsohatzopoulos' office on Friday issued a statement referring to the Hamburg court's decision in favor of his injunction petition, underlining that "as regards the sale of German submarines to Greece" he "never introduced anybody to anyone".
 Incendiary device explodes outside Health minister's political officeAn improvised incendiary device exploded at 17:54 on Friday outside the political office of Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, in Apollonos street 6 at Syntagma Square.
The device, composed of three gas cannisters, had been placed at the entrance to the political office which is located on the first floor of the building. The explosion and ensuing fire caused slight damage to the door.
 FinMin Papaconstantinou on the utilization of state-owned real propertyThe issue of the utilization of the state-owned real property on Friday sparked a strong confrontation in parliament between Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras.
Papaconstantinou stressed that all decisions concerning the utilization of state-owned real property will be presented in parliament, adding that the government has public interest in mind.
He lashed out at the SYRIZA parliamentary group leader accusing him of "advocating a conservative and backward point of view resisting all change in the county".
Papaconstantinou rejected Tsipras' calls for a referendum or early elections, stressing that the government is elected by the Greek people every 4 years and therefore, needs no new mandate.
The finance minister also underlined that wherever the utilization of the state-owned real property was implemented in a reasonable and transparent manner always resulted in economic growth, investments and new job positions.
 Gov't to present new round of tax restructuring policyThe government will re-examine all tax breaks offered both to enterprises and individual taxpayers, along with a plan to drastically cut the number of tax bureaus in the country, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said on Friday.
Addressing a seminar organised by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce on the tax system, the minister announced a new round of tax policy reviews, while stressing that "a second step was needed to re-examine each tax-break and other taxes burdening the business community and to agree on something more simple, more transparent and fair".
Papaconstantinou also announced a series of mergers and closures of tens of tax agencies around the country as part of a restructuring of the tax agency system. "Tax agencies will close down. I do not want citizens to go to tax agencies, we have too many tax agencies," the finance minister said. "This country does not need 289 tax bureaus, it needs 100 at most," he added.
Papaconstantinou also announced more intense tax inspections on specific professional groups.
 Greek economy shrank 6.6 pct in Q4The Greek economy shrank by 6.6 pct in the fourth quarter of 2010, with the country's Gross Domestic Product falling by 4.35 pct last year, after a decline of 2.1 pct in 2009 and a growth rate of 1.0 pct in 2008, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Friday.
The deep economic recession in Greece (the GDP shrank by 0.7 pct in the first quarter, by 5.0 pct in the second, by 5.1 pct in the third and by 6.6 pct in the fourth quarter of 2010) was the result of a significant decline in investments and consumption.
The statistics service, in a report, said total consumption spending fell 67 pct in the October-December period, compared with the same period in 2009 (public consumption fell 1.9 pct and private consumption fell 8.6 pct), gross fixed capital investments fell 7.6 pct, while exports grew 12.8 pct and imports fell 3.2 pct resulting to a 27.8 pct decline in the country's trade deficit.
 Registered unemployment up 0.43 pct in FebruaryThe number of registered unemployed totaled 692,496 in February, the Workforce Employment Organization (OAED) said on Friday. In a report, OAED said 43.46 pct of them were men (300,951) and 56.54 pct (391,545) women. The figure was up 0.43 pct compared with January.
The 30-54 age group accounted for 62.49 pct of registered unempmloyed, the below-30s age group accounted for 28.09 pct and the above-50s age group accounted for 9.42 pct. Greek citizens accounted for 92.06 pct of registered unemployed, third countries' citizens accounted for 6.33 pct and EU citizens 1.60 pct.
The number of unemployed receiving unemployment benefit totaled 280,076 in February, up 8.44 pct from the previous month. New hirings totaled 45,702 in February, from January, while lay-offs totaled 21,475 (down 29.55 pct). Net flows of employment in the private sector was -10,652 in February from -28,995 in January.
 ADEDY, GSEE to hold rally in Athens on March 22The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) announced on Friday that it will participate in the rally to be held on Tuesday March 22 at 6 p.m. in Klafthmonos Square and that has already been announced by the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY).
The rally will be held in light of the European Union's summit during which the so-called competitiveness treaty will be discussed.
 KKE tables question on farm producersDeputy Agricultural Development & Foods Minister Yiannis Koutsoukos on Friday responded to a relevant question by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and pledged to undertake an initiative aimed at revising the cash register measure for outdoor market vendors to ensure that "open-air street markets will be preserved? considering the problems recorded".
KKE parliamentary spokesman Spyros Halvatzis criticised the government policy, stressing that it "leads farmers with small-to-medium incomes to disaster".
 Green neighborhood to be created in Agia Varvara district in AthensEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili on Thursday visited Athens's Agia Varvara district, which is set to become the first green neighborhood.
The "green neighborhoods" pilot programme that will be launched within the next 40 days aims to construct buildings and neighborhoods that consume zero or very low energy, leading to improved microclimate.
The building improvement projects will use materials, techniques and methods with minimal environmental cost and in combination with the implementation of energy saving systems and Renewable Energy Sources (RES) will lead to zero energy balance. The plans also include the environmental upgrading of buildings for optimal water and waste management.
 Pre-bookings by Russian tourists reportedly upMOSCOW (ANA-MPA / Th. Avgerinos)
Deputy Culture & Tourism Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis on Friday held successive meetings here with tour operators promoting Greek travel packages in the Russian market, with the latter underlining a notable increase recorded in pre-bookings. The meetings were held on the sidelines of the 18th Moscow international tourism fair, MITT.
During the inauguration of the Greek pavilion on Thursday, Nikitiadis referred to the efforts to further facilitate the easier visa issuance for Russian citizens through the planned establishment of a consulate office in Novosibirsk.
He also referred to the informal summit of EU tourism ministers scheduled to take place on the island of Rhodes in the summer.
 Merchant shipping fleet down in volume, up in capacity in JanThe Greek merchant shipping fleet fell 1.1 pct in volume in January this year, compared with the same month in 2010, after an increase of 1.5 pct recorded in the previous 12-month period, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Friday.
The statistics service, in a report, said a total of 2,098 vessels were registered. The report also said that the capacity of the Greek merchant shipping fleet grew 4.0 pct in January, after a 5.2 pct increase recorded in January 2010, to 43,358,556 dwt.
 Motor Oil to return capital, pay dividend to shareholdersMotor Oil Hellas will seek shareholders' approval to a plan to return capital to shareholders (through lowering its nominal share value) and to pay a 0.25-euro per share dividend, the group's board said during an annual presentation to analysts of the Association of Institutional Investors.
Motor Oil said 2010 was a very significant year as the group began operating a new crude distillation unit - with a capacity of 60,000 barrels per day. The cost of the investment totaled 180 million euros. In June 2010, Motor Oil completed the purchase of 100 pct of Shell Hellas (renamed into Coral SA) and Shell Gas (renamed into Coral Gas). The group said its investment spending surpassed 1.0 billion euros in the 2001-2010 period, excluding sums paid for acquisitions (Avin Oil, Coral).
Parent sales surpassed the 9.0 million MT for the third consecutive year and turnover was 4.879 billion euros, up from 3.493 billion euros in 2009. EBITDA rose to 215 million euros, pre-tax profits eased to 126.6 million euros and after tax profits eased to 82.3 million euros.
 Trade deficit down in Jan.BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
Greece's trade deficit was 22.4 billion euros in January, down 11.5 billion euros compared with the same month last year, Eurostat said on Friday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report published here, said Greek exports totaled 15.8 billion euros in the first month of 2011, while imports totaled 38.3 billion euros. Greek exports grew 8.0 pct while imports were 21 pct down.
Eurostat said Germany recorded the biggest trade surplus (152.4 billion euros), followed by Ireland (43.4 billion euros). The UK recorded the highest trade deficit (115.5 billion euros), followed by France (64.1 billion), Spain (51.8 billion) and Italy (27.3 billion).
Eurozone recorded a trade deficit of 14.8 billion euros in its transactions with the rest of the world, while the EU-27 recorded a trade deficit of 29.8 billion euros.
 Stocks end 1.65% downStocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday, pushing the composite index of the market below the 1,600 level. The composite index fell 1.65 pct to end at 1,593,78 points, for a net gain of 0.81 pct in the week. Turnover was a moderate 139.582 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 1.65 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.94 pct lower and the Small Cap index rose 0.15 pct. The Media (1.44 pct), Chemicals (0.87 pct) and Commerce (0.33 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Constructions (5.48 pct), Oil (4.32 pct) and Health (2.31 pct) suffered losses.
Mytilineos (1.07 pct) and Alpha Bank (0.38 pct) were the only blue chip stocks to end higher, while Titan (6.28 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (5.47 pct), Ellaktor (4.60 pct) and MIG (3.41 pct) suffered the biggest losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 95 to 58 with another 46 issues unchanged. Altec (16.67 pct), Demetriou (15.38 pct) and Vovos (13.38 pct) were top gainers, while Kyriakoulis (18.75 pct), Allatini Ceramics (12.5 pct) and Q&R (10 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -4.32%
Personal & Household: -1.87%
Raw Materials: -4.32%
Travel & Leisure: -0.84%
Food & Beverages: -1.73%
Financial Services: -2.18%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 5.25
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.95
HBC Coca Cola: 19.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.26
National Bank of Greece: 6.84
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.04
Bank of Piraeus: 1.57
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds remained above 900 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.19 pct and the German Bund 3.17 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 69 million euros, of which 35 million were sell orders and the remaining 34 million euros were buy orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 12 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.91 pct, the six-month rate 1.47 pct, the three-month rate 1.17 pct and the one-month rate 0.89 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.49 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover remaining a heavy 106.685 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 21,534 contracts worth 80.683 million euors, with 21,194 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 56,317 contracts worth 26.002 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (11,894), followed by Eurobank (2,203), MIG (4,453), OTE (2,355), PPC (2,466), OPAP (1,168), Piraeus Bank (9,591), GEK (1,511), Alpha Bank (3,397), Marfin Popular Bank (2,836), Ellaktor (1,216), Mytilineos (1,588), Cyprus Bank (1,278), Hellenic Postbank (1,979) and ATEbank (2,422).
 Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.424
Pound sterling 0.880
Danish kroner 7.516
Swedish kroner 8.977
Japanese yen 115.6
Swiss franc 1.286
Norwegian kroner 7.946
Canadian dollar 1.400
Australian dollar 1.435
 Nireas, Mediterranean monk seal pup, ready for 'big splash'The big day has arrived for Nireas, a Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) pup that had been found last month on a Kythira island beach severely dehydrated, and after five weeks at the Seal Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (STRC) in Steni Valia on Alonissos island will be released back into the sea on Saturday.
Nireas, as the Monachus monachus seal pup was "christened" at the Center, was just 2 1/2 months old when he was found on February 14 on Feloti beach on Kythira very weakened, weighing just 30 kilos, severely dehydrated and its peptic system heavily infected by parasites, but responded quickly and well to intensive treatment at the center.
The pup now enjoys the best of health, and weighs in at over 50 kilos.
Nireas is scheduled to be released back into the open sea on Saturday, in the region of the Alonnisos Marine Park of the Northern Sporades island complex, from where he will begin his long journey through the Greek seas.
Rehabilitating injured or ailing seals is one of the most significant, and surely the most difficult, activities of the Center over the last 22 years, since its founding in 1990.
For a species threatened with extinction, to save even one animal is crucial for the species' protection and preservation, according to the Center's staff.
The Monachus monachus (Mediterranean monk seal) is listed as a "critically endangered" species.
 Manhunt launched after shootout with policePolice have launched a manhunt following a chase and shootout in the Athens districts of Galatsi and Patissia on Thursday night.
The chase began in Galatsi, where police attempted to stop a Skoda car that had been reported as stolen.
The three passengers inside the car, which attempted to speed off but was cornered later in a side-street in Patissia, opened fire on police in patrol cars and motorcycles, who returned the shots, but the suspects seized a passing van from its driver.
The chase and exchange of fire continued, and on Acharnon street the suspects abandoned the van and seized another car from a passing driver, speeding off towards the Aghious Anargyrous district, where they managed to escape after once again abandoning the vehicle they were in.
Police are investigating the possibility that the suspects in Thursday's chase are the perpetrators of the killing of two DIAS motorcycle squad police officers in the Renti district near Piraeus on March 1.
 New finds in terror investigation in Volos, AthensPolice said Friday that new finds have been uncovered in the ongoing counter-terrorism squad investigation, in suspected terror safehouses in the Volos town of Nea Ionia and in the Athens district of Kallithea, a raid on which this past Monday turned up substantial weaponry and led to six arrests.
They said eight detonators and more than 10,000 euros in cash have further been found in Volos, while projectiles were found in the Kallithea safehouse.
 Three dead bodies, possibly of migrants, found in Evros riverThree unidentified dead bodies, believed to have been illegal migrants, were found by an army patrol in the Evros River on Friday.
The bodies are those of three men between the ages of 25 and 30 years old. They show no marks of a struggle or other criminal action and are believed to have drowned in an attempt to swim across the river.
Two of the bodies were naked and in an advanced state of decay while the third was significantly disfigured by bites from fish. The three bodies were taken out of the water by a team of fire men and transported to the University General Hospital in Alexandroupolis for an autopsy.
In a related incident, police arrested a suspected migrant trafficker transporting five illegal migrants in his car in the region of Iasmos, Rodopi. The suspect was arrested following police pursuit as he refused to obey a signal to pull over on the Egnatia highway. The car was later found to be stolen and the six occupants have been arrested and will be led before a public prosecutor in Alexandroupolis.
 Contraband cigarettesA 32-year-old foreign national was arrested in the port of Igoumenitsa on Friday after 412,240 cartons of contraband cigarettes of various brands were found in his truck.
The contraband cigarettes were found hidden behind stacked crates of frozen spinach.
According to authorities, the uncollected taxes from the contraband cigarettes was 1.315 billion euros.
The shipment was destined for the Netherlands.
Port authorities seized the contraband cigarettes as well as the truck.
 Woman killed, one injured in train-truck accidentOne woman was killed and a second person seriously injured when a truck collided with an oncoming train at an unguarded level crossing in Himonio, Orestiada on Friday. The injured man was the driver of the truck and the dead woman his passenger.
 Drug arrests in AthensTwo Albanian nationals, a mother, 62, and her son, 30, were arrested in Athens' Haidari district accused of drug trafficking, authorities announced on Friday.
The two suspects had turned their house into a drug cutting and packaging lab. In this, police found and seized 7,606 grams of heroin, 16,160 grams of an unidentified powder possibly used as an adulterant, roughly 15,000 euros of drug money, precision scales and a hydraulic press used in drug packaging.
In a separate incident, two Iranians, 28 and 31, were arrested in Athens and accused of smuggling methamphetamine into Greece through the post. They were arrested when they received a methamphetamine package that had originated from Turkey.
Police seized roughly a kilo of the drug, a precision scale and forged asylum request application forms.
 Rainy on SaturdayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 3C and 20C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Athens, with southerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 11C to 18C. Cloudy and rainy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 14C.
 Downer: Differences between sides on citizenship existNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus held a meeting Friday afternoon during which they focused on the chapter of citizenship in the framework of direct talks for a solution of the Cyprus problem.
Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General on Cyprus Alexander Downer said after the meeting that the leaders continued the discussion on the issue of citizenship, noting that "there were, it has to be said, differences of opinion expressed".
Recalling that this was the 100th meeting between the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot leaders since September 2008 when the direct talks began, Downer noted that both leaders agreed to refer the issue of citizenship to their representatives who will meet on Tuesday.
The leaders' next meeting will take place Wednesday morning to continue the discussion on the topic of citizenship.
Replying to questions, Downer said that the UN Secretary-General will get in touch with the leaders around the end of the month to discuss with them about how they feel they have been going on the core issues and whether a meeting with him would be valuable.
"Obviously at some point such a meeting will occur, but what we will want to do is assess whether it would be worth having a meeting with him relatively soon during the course of April", he continued.
Replying to another question, he said that the UN is ready to assist the two sides in the event they wish to hold a census.
He said that the United Nations Population Agency [UNFPA] has great experience of censuses, adding that "should either side or both sides wish to have the expert advice of the United Nations in terms of conducting any census they wish to do, then we would be happy to make our services available to them".
"And I have made that point to both Mr Christofias and Mr Eroglu separately", he concluded.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu are currently engaged in UN-led negotiations, with an aim to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem.
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