|Sunday, 19 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-04-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 7 April 2011 Issue No: 3761
 Gov't, troika discuss Medium-term Fiscal Consolidation Framework programGreek Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou completed on Wednesday afternoon a first round of talks with the heads of the troika to finalize details of a Medium-term Fiscal Consolidation Framework for the period 2012-2015.
Ministry officials said talks with the troika will continue on a technical level on Thursday and maybe next week as well in an effort to finalize fiscal interventions, worth 22 billion euros, envisaged in the Framework.
The same officials told ANA-MPA that by April 15, when the Medium-term Framework will be presented to the cabinet before being tabled to Parliament, the government will be in constant contact with the troika on a technical level, following a pattern adopted during preparations of the Framework.
Ministry officials said "no major issues" emerged from the talks and stressed that the troika's high-ranking officials were generally satisfied with the presentation made by the Greek finance minister and his staff. They also added, that the talks between the minister and the troika did not focus on any other issue than the Medium-term Fiscal Consolidation Framework.
Papaconstantinou flies to Budapest on Thursday for informal Ecofin and Eurogroup meetings.
 Gov't again blasts speculation over debt restructuring"Debt restructuring is out of the question," government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis reiterated on Wednesday echoing continuing and repeated statements by other top government ministers and the prime minister.
The spokesman added that those who "fuel such rumours are not aware of the situation and are not following developments". He also referred to "imaginative scenarios", stressing that those who repeatedly "cried wolf" about bankruptcy are now hawking debt restructuring.
Commenting on relevant news reports, Petalotis stated that "we do not need a vote of confidence. We get a vote of confidence from MPs every day, while the country's salvation in itself constitutes a clear vote of confidence from the people; everything else is not of our concern."
Petalotis added that medium-term strategic planning is a proposal that will be submitted by the government to be voted in parliament and the political parties will have to assume their share of responsibility.
 Brussels rules out Greek debt restructuringBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
Amadeu Altafaj, the spokesman of Economy Commissioner Olli Rehn, categorically denied here on Wednesday the holding of consultations with the participation of the European Commission regarding Greece's public debt.
Altafaj stated that despite all that is being said and written, the Greek economy is in a correct orbit and that this is also recorded by the quarterly assessments and checks that are carried out by the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, in cooperation with the European Central Bank.
"The Commission supports the Greek Authorities absolutely in the efforts for serving the public debt of the country and the reforming of the economy," the press spokesman said, noting that the target is for Greece "to return as soon as possible to the markets, with reasonable borrowing terms."
 PM chairs meeting on medium-term strategic planningPrime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday chaired a meeting attended by Finance Minister George Papacon-stantinou, Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Minister of State Haris Pamboukis. According to sources, the meeting was on issues concerning medium-term strategic planning and the new 'euro pact'.
 PM discusses North Africa, Libya developments with former UN sec-gen AnnanPrime minister George Papandreou had a telephone discussion on Tuesday night with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), at the latter's initiative, and discussed developments in North Africa with the main focus on Libya.
The two officials discussed the proposals that have been put forward regarding the policies and international communities on the issue, as well as Greece's thoughts and proposals, which the Athens government has already discuss with a number of international officials, according to sources.
Papandreou and Annan agreed to communicate on a frequent basis.
 PM receives noted Korean executive Seung Youn KimGreek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday received the president of Korea's Hanwha Group, Seung Youn Kim, who has also served as Greece's honorary consul general in Korea.
Kim, a noted Philhellene, is also scheduled to meet with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
Amongst others, the Korean city of Pyeongchang has again expressed interest in hosting a Winter Olympics, specifically the 2018 Games.
 PM Papandreou to visit Poland ThursdayGreek Prime Minister George Papandreou begins an official visit to Poland on Thursday.
Papandreou will be holding talks with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
 Government denies that uniform pay-scale amounts to wages 'haircut'Government spokesman George Petalotis on Wednesday denied that the envisaged uniform pay scale for the public sector would amount to a "haircut" for wages and stressed that it was linked to "social equity between classes of public-sector staff, reducing the huge wage differences from ministry to ministry and organisation to organisation". He said the changes would assert social equity and put the wage scale in order.
Commenting on a reference by IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn to "expensive wages" in Greece, Petalotis said that there would be no more 'horizontal' cuts.
"On whether social criteria are introduced for the huge differences due to benefits in Greek public-sector wages, this is another matter," he added.
 Samaras: Economic crisis 'only the tip of the iceberg'Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Wednesday called for a new charter for Greece that will institute a new social contract and reflect the volition of the Greek society, addressing a meeting of ND's committee on Constitutional reform.
"The economic crisis is the top of the iceberg of the crisis of the political system. The post-dictatorship model had gone systemically bankrupt before the threat of economic bankruptcy," Samaras said, adding that the structural and organisational model of the Greek state in the post-dictatorship period, having served the targets of that era, has proved unable to adapt to the new conditions.
"Greece adapted itself to the European environment only on the surface," Samaras said.
He said the crisis the country is currently going through is complex and multifaceted, and potentially dangerous, and cannot be tackled single dimensionally.
ND's proposal does not focus solely on the economic crisis, but extends to the political crisis as well, he said, adding that the revision of the Constitution needs to aim at the heart of the system's ails and create conditions for upsets in all sectors of society.
"With the process for revision of the Constitution, which has begun at ND's initiative, we want to turn the crisis of the political system into an opportunity for a new, bold and forward-looking proposal for Greece to emerge," Samaras stressed.
He added that the revision proposed by ND "should not be in the absence of the Greek society". The country's founding charter needs to be the result of popular collaboration and reflect the volition of the majority of the society. The participational process, Samaras continued, must be a springboard for restoring the deeply wounded relations of the citizen with the political system and its functionaries.
Samaras urged the committee members to "proceed with breaks with the established attitudes, mentalities and personal interests that want only changes that won't change anything to be made".
He stressed that attracting the citizens back to the political life will be effected through their essential, and not typical, participation.
The issues of top priority for the committee, he added, are the role and authorities of the President of the Republic, separation of the executive and legislative authority, the electoral law, the finances of the political parties and MPs, ridding public administration from political party dependence, and state contribution to the growth of healthy private initiative and entrepreneurship.
 ND on gov't ministers' statements; media strikeThe main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Wednesday called on Finance Minister George Papacon-stantinou to "tell the truth to the people", as it characteristically said.
ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis on Wednesday presented what he claimed were a number of "contradictory statements" made recently by the finance minister, charging that "when is Mr. Papaconstantinou actually telling the truth?" He also referred to comments made by ruling PASOK MPs who also call on the finance minister to take a stance.
Mihelakis stressed that the publicising of the 2010 deficit figures is being delayed and called on Papaconstantinou to tell the people how high is the deficit.
Referring to the statements made by government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis concerning a failed initiative for the salvation of a textile factory, the ND spokesman stated that the government is looking for accomplices in an effort to dodge its responsibilities.
In an unrelated development, he referred to a four-day mass media strike to be launched on Thursday, saying that "no measures have been taken for the mass media sector which is faced with major problems. In France, the government had taken specific measures. ND media sector head is considering specific proposals. For instance, interventions have been made in the case of ANA-MPA, which is faced with major problems".
Referring to the Siemens bribery case, the ND spokesman reiterated a statement by ND leader Antonis Samaras, namely, that maneuvering is merely designed to let PASOK ministers "off the hook" and proceed with the prosecution of ND cadres who stand accused without incriminating evidence.
He also lashed out at the financial crimes squad SDOE and the government as regards press claims alleging that a former ND government minister has 175 million euros in his bank accounts.
Mihelakis spoke of a "ghost-minister" and stated that "we have submitted a question to Parliament on the issue and we are asking for a thorough investigation on the case".
 Ministers address Economist Con'f; gov't cites new 'green isle' projectInterior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis on Wednesday addressed the Economist Conference on Innovation and referred to the initiatives undertaken by the interior ministry aimed at promoting new technologies and broadband services in the public sector through the draft law on e-governance to be submitted to parliament shortly.
Ragoussis expressed certainty that the country will not be able to recover without investing in the aforementioned sectors.
He stressed that the relevant draft law to be submitted to parliament next week at the latest is a transition for the Greek state from the "document period" to the "post-Citizen Service Centres (KEP) era" through the implementation of e-transactions and innovations such as the online issuance of administrative acts that will rid the people or enterprises of economic burden and red tape thus minimizing corruption. He added that the draft law will save an estimated 4 billion euros annually.
Speaking in the conference, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili announced that the islet of Lipsi, near Patmos, will become the second "green island", after Aghios Efstratios, and meet its energy needs through the use of Renewable Energy Sources (RES).
Birbili also announced the creation of a "green village" in the prefecture of Arta, northwestern Greece, that will be self-sufficient energy-wise, while a number of pilot energy saving actions in public and private buildings are being promoted.
The ministry actions include programmes for green roofs, green army camps, and neighborhoods with zero energy consumption, as well as, green museums and buildings.
 Parliament President Petsalnikos on official visit to BerlinBERLIN (ANA-MPA/G. Pappas)
Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos presented the results of efforts made until now to handle the crisis in Greece, as well as the reforms and measures to decrease the public debt, in a series of contacts during his official visit to Berlin.
Petsalnikos termed his talks with his counterpart, German Parliament president Norbert Lammert "very useful", while he was also received by the President of the Republic Christian Wulff.
The Greek Parliament president said he reassured his interlocutors in Berlin categorically that there is no question of restructuring the Greek debt.
Petsalnikos also met with the members of the Greek-German Friendship Group, a delegation of which will be visiting Greece between May 16-20.
Petsalnikos's official visit to Berlin will be concluded on Thursday with his official welcoming by the German Federal Parliament's plenum.
 FM spokesman on reports regarding ethnic Greek's killing in AlbaniaForeign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Wednesday expressed Athens' "heightened concern and skepticism" over the fact that nine months of investigations in Albania have merely led to the "renaming" of the killing of an ethnic Greek man in Himare "into an accident".
Delavekouras made the comment in response to a press question as regards Albanian news reports that refer to the conclusions of an investigation conducted by crime experts.
"We expect from Albania, being a Council of Europe member-state and an EU candidate state to guarantee proper and speed administration of justice," he said, pointing out that "all options are being considered as regards our future moves".
Based on the news reports published on Wednesday, the experts' investigation reached the conclusion that "Aristotelis Goumas died in a road accident he caused".
The spokesman reminded that "on Aug. 12, 2010, a group of nationalists pursued and murdered ethnic Greek Aristotelis Goumas because he spoke Greek", and this fact was admitted then by the political leadership in Tirana.
"The crime was condemned by the entire political world in Albania. Albanian PM Sali Berisha stated back then that it 'is a horrible act when someone is murdered on his way home. It is a barbaric act'. Then Albanian government vice-president Ilir Meta stated that 'I believe that the prosecutor and the competent authorities will solve this ugly crime and bring those responsible to justice'."
Delavekouras also underlined that "we will monitor the court trial very carefully. Greece has no intention of interfering with the Albanian justice system, but it keeps all options open as regards future moves".
 LAOS leader calls for early electionsA call for early elections to change the current "anaemic and incapable" government was made on Wednesday by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis.
In statements on the television station ALTER, Karatzaferis said the country was now in a worse position than before it had signed the Memorandum for the EU-IMF loans and that elections, while 'expensive', were the least worst outcome because keeping the present government in power would inflict "irreparable harm".
Karatzaferis asserted that the European summit of March 25 was a new 'springboard' but expressed doubts about whether the government was capable of guiding things to a better outcome.
"We must not lose this opportunity, which by itself cannot get us out of the impasse. Elections to get rid of this government. The country can definitely be saved but not with this government. It is a matter of different policies," he added.
Concerning a recent visit by financier George Soros and his meeting with Prime Minister George Papandreou, Karatzaferis questioned both the purpose and appropriateness of the visit, asserting that Soros has invested several billions in a Greece's potential default.
"These things are inconceivable. It is as if a murderer paid a visit to a house where he committed the crime to see if everyone was dead," he added.
 EcoGreens ask Greece to adopt tougher standards for radiation in foodThe Greek Ecologists-Greens party on Wednesday asked the government to adopt the same strict standards for radiation levels in food as those adopted in Japan, despite the refusal of the European Commission and the European Union to adopt stricter limits.
In a letter to Health Minister Andreas Loverdos and Agricultural Development and Food Minister Costas Skandalidis, the party said it was a major political problem that "acceptable levels of radiation on imported Japanese foods are up to 20 times more lenient than those established by Japan."
Attached to the letter was a table showing that European radiation limits were between 2.5 and 20 times higher for various kinds of radioactive substances, such as radioactive caesium and plutonioum, in food and water.
"It is inconceivable for foods that cannot be consumed in Japan due to their radiation levels to be distributed legally in Europe," said EcoGreens spokeswoman Eleanna Ioannidou. "It is like inviting them to export to our countries."
She called on the Greek government to immediately take measures to effectively protect public health, saying that the EcoGreens demanded an immediate and effective response.
 Nationwide media strike Thursday to Monday in GreeceTwo rolling 48-hour nationwide strikes involving all the Greek media, including administrative staff and press distributors, will start at 6:00 a.m. on Thursday and end at 6:00 a.m. on Monday morning.
The strike action was decided by the boards of the unions ESHEA (Athens journalists), EPHEA (Athens media enterprise staff) and other media sector unions and will affect all newspapers, broadcast media, news websites, press distribution agencies, the Athens News Agency-Macedonian Press Agency, magazines and all broader public sector and local authority media enterprises in the country.
The unions are demanding that employers sign satisfactory collective labour agreements, a stop to wage cuts, protection of entitlements and a stop to dismissals.
 Papoulias invites Azeri entrepreneurs to invest in GreeceBAKU (ANA-MPA/M. Michail)
Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias outlined the efforts being made by the Greek government and people for recovery of the economy, and invited Azeri businessmen to invest in Greece and take advantage of the new investment framework and recent "fast track" law, addressing a business forum in Baku on Wednesday morning that he jointly inaugurated with Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev.
Addressing the 4th Greek-Azeri Business Forum, Papoulias also noted the repercussions of the global economic and credit crisis on the Greek economy, but also stressed the developmental prospects arising.
"We are working for the Greek economy's speedy return to a recovery track. For that reason, apart from the fiscal streamlining, we are also proceeding with the implementation of developmental policies, which take into consideration our country's comparative advantages and our productive potential," Papoulias said.
In a special reference to the export prospects of various branches of the Greek economy, such as foods, construction materials, cosmetics and medicines, he invited Azeri entrepreneurs to take advantage of the recently passed new investment framework and fast track law and invest in Greece.
He urged Azeri businessmen to take up joint ventures with their Greek counterparts in the sector of energy, and particularly in renewable energy sources (RES), green development and oil refining, a sector in which, the President noted, Greece has significant knowhow and guarantees profitable cooperation.
In a brief divergence from the official itinerary after the official banquet on Tuesday evening, Papoulias and Aliyev and their delegations put aside protocol and went to a jazz club in Baku.
 Greece, Azerbaijan sign MoU on natural gas suppliesGreece and Azerbaijan on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding making "the first decisive step to open the south corridor for the transfer of Azeri natural gas to Europe".
The memorandum, signed by the President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev, highlights the political support offered by both countries to a plan to build and operate an ITGI pipeline, designed to carry Azeri natural gas to central European markets.
During talks held between Yiannis Maniatis, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Deputy Minister, and Azeri government officials in Baku, it was made clear that the Azeri government will take the final decisions -on whether it will support the ITGI pipeline project instead of the rival Nabucco- by the end of 2011.
Another strong evidence is the fact that Turkey agreed that SOCAR -the Azeri state oil company- would sell natural gas to a DEPA-Edison consortium directly. This decision was announced by Turkey's Energy Minister during a meeting with the Greek deputy Minister in an international oil forum in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, recently. Greek government officials said that if these signs were confirmed, "Greece would be established as an entry gate for Azeri gas to Europe and a factor of energy security for Europe".
Another advantage to promoting the ITGI pipeline, officials said, is the fact that its construction has made significant progress and that all environmental studies have been approved by Greek authorities. The project has been included in a Fourth Community Support Framework program.
During the last phase of negotiations, the Greek side has also left the door open to build vertical pipelines to the east and west Balkans.
 Finance ministry's omnibus bill ratified in principleThe Finance ministry's omnibus bill concerning the reshaping of the operational framework of the Deposits and Loans Fund, the Public Debt Management Organisation and of public utilities, the securing of 30 billion to banks and the creation of a Public Property general secretariat was ratified in principle and for its articles by the government majority at the Parliamentary Economic Committee.
The bill met with the opposition's reactions, as well as with reservations by ruling party MPs, particularly with regard to the banks, as well as the reshaped operational framework of the Public Debt Management Organisation.
The bill anticipates the separation and secession of the sectors of deposits and loans at the Fund in question, with the prohibiting of the subsidisation of the latter sector by the former.
 fYRoM FinMin requests double taxation agreement with GreeceSKOPJE (ANA-MPA / N. Frangopoulos)
The finance minister of the neighbouring former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYR?M), Zoran Stavreski, on Wednesday said his government has suggested to Athens the signing of a bilateral agreement to prevent double taxation.
He made the comment after a relevant treaty was signed in Pristina between the Kosovo province and fYRoM.
Stavreski said the proposal still stands, adding that "entrepreneurs in both countries should be cooperating to improve the living standards of the people, create new job positions and boost investments. Politics is politics, but the economy is the means to improve living standards. On our part, we will do everything we can to have such an agreement signed."
 Business briefs...-- Foreign investors lowered their equity holdings in the Greek market's capitalisation in March to 50.24 pct, down from 51.2 pct in February, and almost unchanged from March 2010 levels (50.30 pct), official figures showed on Wednesday. Local investors, on the other hand, raised their equity participation to 48.5 pct in March from 47.5 pct in February.
-- Public Power Corp. (PPC) president and managing director Arthuros Zervos on Wednesday announced varying power rates during the day, with higher charges at peak hours and lower rates when demand is reduced.
-- Capital outflows from Greek banks continued in February, as Greek households and enterprises withdrew a total of 2.4 billion euros from commercial banks in the month, the Bank of Greece announced on Wednesday.
The central bank, in a report, said saving deposits in Greek banks fell to 201.2 billion euros in February, down from 208.9 billion in early January.
-- Babis Vovos SA on Wednesday announced board decision for a share capital increase plan worth 20 million euros. The capital boosting plan will be discussed during a regular general shareholders' meeting schedule for June 3, 2011.
 Stocks recover stronglyStocks recovered strongly at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, ending a seven-day decline, which pushed the composite index of the market 8.18 pct down. The index ended 2.63 pct higher to end above the 1,500 level at 1,528.67 points. Turnover was a low 115.374 million euros.
The Big Cap index jumped 3.08 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.38 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.71 pct. Piraeus Bank (7.03 pct), Alpha Bank (5.50 pct), Hellenic Postbank (5.40 pct), OTE (5.19 pct) and Ellaktor (4.76 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while ATEbank (8.96 pct) and Motor Oil (1.45 pct) were top losers.
The Telecoms (5.19 pct) and Banks (3.71 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Health (4.25 pct) and Media (4.70 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 96 to 61 with another 50 issues unchanged. Reds (15.25 pct), CPI (11.11 pct) and Sato (10 pct) were top gainers, while Technical Publications (19.35 pct), Alapis (19.05 pct) and Euromedica (17.70 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.26%
Personal & Household: +0.29%
Raw Materials: +2.26%
Travel & Leisure: +2.14%
Food & Beverages: +1.72%
Financial Services: +2.03%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, OTE and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.59
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.90
HBC Coca Cola: 19.49
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.29
National Bank of Greece: 6.15
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.23
Bank of Piraeus: 1.37
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened again to 930 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 926 bps on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.72 pct and the German Bund 3.42 pct. Turnover in the market was an improved 49 million euros, of which 42 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 7.0 million were buy orders. The six-month Treasury bill was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 9.0 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 2.02 pct, the six-month rate 1.57 pct, the three-month 1.26 pct and the one-month rate 1.01 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 1.01 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover improving slightly to 45.630 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 11,544 contracts worth 39.287 million euros, with 26,860 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 19,330 contracts worth 6.343 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (3,808), followed by Eurobank (1,219), OTE (1,832), PPC (497), OPAP (665), National Bank (3,739), Alpha Bank (1,821), Marfin Popular Bank (701), Mytilineos (611), Hellenic Postbank (865) and ATEbank (2,226).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.441
Pound sterling 0.884
Danish kroner 7.516
Swedish kroner 9.084
Japanese yen 122.79
Swiss franc 1.320
Norwegian kroner 7.847
Canadian dollar 1.382
Australian dollar 1.387
 Researcher cites ancient Minoan-era 'computer'The Minoan civilisation on pre-Classical Crete discovered the first rudimentary analog computer in mankind's history, according to researcher Minas Tsikritsis, an academic who specialises in ancient Aegean writing systems.
Tsikritsis, who also hails from Crete -- where the Bronze Age Minoan civilization flourished from approximately 2700 BC to 1500 century BC -- maintains that the Minoan Age object discovered in 1898 in Paleokastro site, in the Sitia district of western Crete, preceded the heralded "Antikythera Mechanism" by 1,400 years, and was the first analog and "portable computer" in history.
"While searching in the Archaeological Museum of Iraklion for Minoan Age findings with astronomical images on them we came across a stone-made matrix unearthed in the region of Paleokastro, Sitia. In the past, archaeologists had expressed the view that the carved symbols on its surface are related with the Sun and the Moon," Tsikritsis said.
The Cretan researcher and university professor told ANA-MPA that after the relief image of a spoked disc on the right side of the matrix was analysed it was established that it served as a cast to build a mechanism that functioned as an analog computer to calculate solar and lunar eclipses. The mechanism was also used as sundial and as an instrument calculating the geographical latitude.
 Police dismantle human-trafficking ring involved in begging racketThe Attica Security Police human-trafficking department on Wednesday announced the dismantling of a ring that smuggled mentally handicapped people and small children from Bulgaria into Greece and forced them to work as beggars through beatings and violence.
Police arrested a 30-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman on Tuesday afternoon, charging them with luring people in dire economic straits and having serious mental disabilities into Greece using the promise of legal employment. Their victims were then taken to a small apartment in Athens near Vathis Square, where they lived in squalid conditions, while the couple lived next door in order to supervise and control them.
Using repeated beatings and threats, the couple forced their victims to beg in areas around Evangelismos Station and the Athens Concert Hall and then hand over any money they were given, providing them only with enough food to keep them alive.
During a raid on the apartment, police detained 14 people - including two children - and confiscated 2,395 euro, a notebook and a private car. The ring's victims, some of which did not even have clothes to wear, were taken to a non-governmental organisation to be examined by doctors and given support and clothing.
The couple arrested were charged based on recently amended laws that includes exploitation of begging into crimes of human trafficking and led before an Athens public prosecutor.
 Qatari evacuated to Crete from Libya succumbs to injuriesOne of five wounded people transported to the Greek island of Crete last Saturday by a Qatari military helicopter carrying evacuees from Libya succumbed to his extensive wounds in Chania university hospital at dawn Wednesday.
Hospital chief Haralambos Doulgerakis said the critically injured 28-year-old man suffered multiple organ failure and septicaemia, and succumbed to his injuries.
One other critically injured patient from the five evacuees, all Qatari nationals, is also in extremely critical condition, and will be transported to Athens. The three other patients were transported to an Athens hospital on Tuesday.
All expenses have been undertaken by the Qatari embassy in Athens.
 Three of six defendants in terror case released pending trialThree out of the six jailed defendants in the "Revolutionary Struggle" urban terrorism case were freed on bail on Wednesday, following a ruling by a council of appellate jurists.
Specifically, Christoforos Kortessis, Evangelos Stathopoulos and Sarantos Nikitopoulos were conditionally released, while ordered put up a 3,000-bond; not to leave the country and to appear in a police precinct twice every month. The last of the trio avoided the posting of a bond condition.
 Rainy on ThursdayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 4C and 20C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with northerly 5-8 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 18C. Cloudy with possible showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 18C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe EU/IMF 'troika' team of experts' visit to Greece and in-party criticism by PASOK MPs on the government's economic policy were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Wednesday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "You're leading us to national depression - Papaconstantinou (finance minister) on the receiving end of sharp criticism from ruling PASOK MPs".
AVGHI: "Households will withdraw at least 19 billion euros from bank deposits this year to meet their living needs".
AVRIANI: "PASOK MPs criticise Memorandum and Papaconstantinou, and openly dispute premier Papandreou's policy".
ELEFTHEROS: "Outburst by Mikis Theodorakis: They humiliated us, tied us up, and are selling us off - 'How can a government with a 20 percent vote commit us for 20 years?".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Debt restructure here and now, before the foreigners force us".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Double outburst by PASOK MPs".
ESTIA: "How development will come".
ETHNOS: "Alert on the social security funds and the retirement superannuity".
IMERISSIA: "You're off target on the program, troika ascertains".
KATHIMERINI: "Ultimatum from the troika".
LOGOS: "Bank deposits declining".
NIKI: "The Memorandum 'strangling' PASOK and IKA (state Social Security Foundation)".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The social security funds 'sinking' in the recession".
PARASKEVI+13 (weekly): "Tsunami of dismissals and salary cuts of up to 40 percent in civil service".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Today the 16th Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) opens in Athens".
TA NEA: "Papandreou will turn the vote in parliament on the Medium-Term Stability Program into a vote of confidence".
VRADYNI: "Troika demands dissolution of the DEKO (public utilities and state organisations)".
 Christofias: good meeting with ErogluNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias has described as "good" Wednesday's meeting with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Dervis Eroglu, in the context of the ongoing UN-led peace talks.
Speaking after the talks at the UN Protected area in Nicosia, President Christofias stated that Eroglu responded on Wednesday to the Greek Cypriot proposals on the federal police force, the federal police units and the joint investigation authority.
"I can't say that we have agreed, but I think the prospects are not that bad and with more discussion on the matter I believe we could come to an agreement on the issue,'' he added.
Replying to a question whether there is an agreement on who will have the final say regarding the federal police and local police units, President Christofias said that this issue was not raised by Eroglu Wednesday but it is among the issues they will keep on discussing.
"The issue is simple. At the end of the day, are we going to have a federation or not?" he added.
When there is an agreement, this will be announced, the President said.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island's northern third. The leaders of the two communities are currently engaged in UN-sponsored talks to find a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus issue.
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