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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-04-21

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Thursday, 21 April 2011 Issue No: 3770


  • [01] Greek debt "absolutely sustainable" FinMin says
  • [02] PM Papandreou chairs meeting on tourism and social networking tools
  • [03] Greece-UAE sign economic cooperation agreement
  • [04] Droutsas at EU-Gulf Cooperation Council meeting
  • [05] Trilateral cooperation against illegal migration
  • [06] Education minister condemns arson attack on Corfu synagogue
  • [07] Public sector supervisor selection council
  • [08] Greek current accounts deficit down 29.7 pct in Jan-Feb
  • [09] Capital transfers balance
  • [10] Financial account balance
  • [11] Greek budget deficit 4.7 billion euros in Q1
  • [12] Funding to PPC trade union illegal
  • [13] Stocks end sharply lower
  • [14] Greek bond market closing report
  • [15] ADEX closing report
  • [16] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [17] Holy Thursday: Tradition of the red Easter eggs
  • [18] Deceased kidney patient becomes liver donor
  • [19] Archbishop Ieronymos visits 251 Air Force Hospital
  • [20] Three injured in fireworks storehouse explosion
  • [21] US Postal Service stamp collection dedicated to American philhellenes
  • [22] Cloudy on Thursday
  • [23] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Greek debt "absolutely sustainable" FinMin says

    Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Wednesday said the country's public debt was "absolutely sustainable" and categorically rejected -once again- speculation over a debt restructuring.

    Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister stressed that "a restructuring carried huge risks for the economy, the banking system, households and enterprises," and added that "we insist on implementing our program as in market's mind, the debt's sustainability depends on the progress of the program". Papaconstantinou attributed the reaction of markets last Friday when the government unveiled its Medium-term Fiscal Strategy Framework, which pushed Greek bond spreads higher, to speculation of a debt restructuring.

    The finance minister noted that the government's aim was "returning to markets the soonest possible and definitely in early 2012" and said there were two alternative solutions to covering interest payment needs totaling 27 billion euros next year: Either the market returns to markets if spreads are not prohibitive, or seeking funding from a European Financial Stability Mechansim. "No one intends to lead Greece into a dead-end," Papaconstantinou said and announced that diaspora bonds for Greeks living abroad would be launched after June.

    A goal of raising 15 billion euros from privatizations in a period of three years was "absolutely feasible" and noted that the goal of raising 50 billion euros by 2015 would be covered largely by exploiting the state's real estate property.

    A group of experts from the troika will visit Athens in early May, followed by the heads of the troika in mid-May, in order to finalize certain fields of the Medim-term Fiscal Strategy Framework. Papaconstantinou said there won't be additional cuts in wages and pensions, or VAT increases. He said that the ministry will present an action plan to combat tax-evasion by the end of next week.

    [02] PM Papandreou chairs meeting on tourism and social networking tools

    Prime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday chaired a meeting in parliament focusing on social networking tools and their utilization in promoting Greek tourism.

    The meeting was attended by Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos and Alternate Culture Minister Tilemachos Hytiris and is placed within the framework of the preparations being made by the government ahead of the summer tourism season.

    The programme adopted will be formally unveiled by the premier at the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) assembly meeting in early May.

    [03] Greece-UAE sign economic cooperation agreement

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and his United Arab Emirates counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding for the promotion of economic and commercial cooperation between Greece and the United Arab Emirates, following the conclusion of the joint ministerial EU-Gulf Cooperation Council held in Abu Dhabi.

    A committee is being created with this agreement under the chairmanship of the two Foreign ministers, that will coordinate the promotion of bilateral relations in a wide spectrum of sectors and it is expected to constitute the institutional mechanism for the promotion of bilateral economic and commercial relations. The committee is anticipated to convene once a year, in turn in Athens and in Abu Dhabi.

    Droutsas also met on the sidelines of the meeting with his counterparts of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman and exchanged views on developments in the region and Libya in particular.

    The Greek minister said Libya may be attracting the attention of the international community more at the moment, but it must not overshadow the fact that in many other countries in the region reforms have been scheduled in the right direction, without violence having prevailed.

    He reiterated that the EU, and Greece in particular, will support the efforts of the countries in the region, without dictating any reforms model, because the solution must ultimately come from the countries interested themselves, so that it will be viable in the longt term.

    [04] Droutsas at EU-Gulf Cooperation Council meeting

    Any reform, in order to be viable, must come from the Arab countries themselves, whereas the EU will provide every possible support in that direction, on the basis of mutual respect, Greek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas said on Wednesday, addressing the 21st EU-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ministerial meeting taking place in Abu Dhabi (UAE), co-chaired by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

    Items on the Ministerial's agenda include EU-GCC relations and matters of common interest pertaining to the wider region.

    "The EU cannot, and does not want to dictate any model of reforms," Droutsas stressed.

    Speaking on behalf of the EU, in light of the recent regional developments, Droutsas stressed the shared view by the two organisations concerning the major challenges such as preserving regional security and stability, combating terrorism, and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

    [05] Trilateral cooperation against illegal migration

    The competent ministers of Greece, Bulgaria and Romania met in Athens on Wednesday focusing on the problem of illegal migration and decided to call for greater EU assistance while intensifying the pressures exerted on Turkey and the countries from where the majority of illegal migrants originate.

    Citizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, Bulgaria's Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov and Romania's Home Minister Constantin Traian Igas addressed a letter to their Turkish counterpart inviting him to a meeting at the borders shared by Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey to discuss the illegal migration issue.

    The three ministers decided to request the participation of FRONTEX in the repatriation of illegal migrants and adopt a number of measures and joint actions on issues concerning migration, asylum and organized crime.

    They also agreed to reinforce cross-border cooperation, while Papoutsis expressed Greece's support to Bulgaria's and Romania's bid to join the Schengen zone.

    [06] Education minister condemns arson attack on Corfu synagogue

    Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou on Wednesday condemned an arson attack targeting the Jewish synagogue on the Ionian Sea island of Corfu, NW Greece, characterizing the "break-in and the destruction of holy books as unethical and hideous".

    "Greece is a country that respects and defends the right of the citizens, regardless of race, sex, religion and origin, to live and act free in a safe and well-ruled state, despite the wishes of certain brainless people," she stressed.

    [07] Public sector supervisor selection council

    The Special Council for Selection of Supervisors (EISEP) was formally set up on Wednesday after a decision issued by Interior, Decentralization and e-Governance Minister Yiannis Ragoussis following a recommendation by the president of the Supreme Council for Staff Selection (ASEP) and the Greek Ombudsman Office, was announced on Wednesday. The council is established pursuant to Law No 3839/2010.

    EISEP will be made up of four ASEP members and one Greek Ombudsman Office representative and is set to guarantee transparency in civil servant promotion procedures.

    Financial News

    [08] Greek current accounts deficit down 29.7 pct in Jan-Feb

    Greece's current accounts deficit fell by 2.0 billion euros, or 29.7 pct in the first two months of 2011, compared with the same period last year, to 4.7 billion euros, while the deficit fell by 38 pct in February 2011 compared with the same month in 2010, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.

    The account deficit decreased substantially to 1.959 billion euros in February, from 3.159 billion in February 2010. This narrowing in the deficit reflects primarily a considerable increase of 1.091 billion euros in the current transfer receipts of general government (mainly from the EU) and, secondarily, a 237 million euros decline in non-oil imports, a 142 million rise in exports of goods excluding oil and ships, and an 82 million decrease in net payments for interest, dividends and profits.

    These developments more than offset a 322 million rise in the net oil import bill, the central bank said in a report. The improvement in the trade deficit excluding oil and ships reflects the continued recovery of export receipts in this category (up by 17.2%) and a decrease in the corresponding import bill by 5.5%.

    The surplus of the services balance remained virtually unchanged, as the small rise in net transport receipts and the decrease in net payments for "other" services were offset by the fact that net travel payments reached 15 million euros in February 2011, compared with net receipts of 16 million euros in February 2010.

    Transport receipts (mainly from merchant shipping) fell by 4.1%, while the corresponding payments declined by 8.0%. The income account deficit dropped by 78 million euros, or 11.2%, as net payments for interest, dividends and profits fell by 11.9%.

    Finally, the current transfers balance showed a surplus of 669 million euros, compared with a deficit of 383 million in February 2010, chiefly as a result of increased general government receipts from the EU, concerning direct aid and subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy.

    In the January-February 2011 period, the current account deficit fell by 2.0 billion euros, or 29.7% year-on-year, to 4.7 billion. This development reflects primarily a large increase of 2.1 billion euros in the current transfer receipts of general government (mainly from the EU) and, secondarily, a 504 million decline in the non-oil import bill, a 453 million rise in receipts from overall exports of goods and a ? 80 million decrease in net payments for interest, dividends and profits.

    In particular, the overall trade deficit grew by 113 million euros, as a result of a 921 million increase in the net oil import bill, whereas net payments for purchases of ships dropped by 171 million and the trade deficit excluding oil and ships shrank by 637 million. Receipts from exports of goods excluding oil and ships rose by 15.7%, while the corresponding import bill declined by 8.4%.

    The 42 million euros increase in the surplus of the services balance reflects lower net payments for "other" services, which offset a decrease in net transport receipts and a rise in net travel payments. It should be noted that gross transport receipts (chiefly from merchant shipping) and the corresponding payments both fell slightly by 3.2%; as a result, net receipts dropped by 32 million. Moreover, travel spending in Greece by non-residents grew by 6.1%, while travel spending by residents abroad rose by 11.6%. As a result, net travel payments increased by 21 million euros.

    The income account deficit shrank by 70 million euros year-on-year, mainly reflecting lower net payments for interest, dividends and profits (down by 6.3%). Finally, the current transfers balance showed a surplus of 1.358 billion euros, compared with a deficit of 651 million in the same period of 2010, mainly as a result of the aforementioned increase in EU transfers to general government.

    [09] Capital transfers balance

    In February 2011, the capital transfers balance showed a surplus of 338 million euros, up by 244 million year-on-year, due to the implementation of projects under the National Strategic Reference Framework. In the January-February 2011 period, the capital transfers balance showed a surplus of 326 million, compared with 126 million in the corresponding period of 2010. This mostly reflects a rise in EU capital transfers to general government.

    The overall transfers balance (current transfers plus capital transfers) recorded a surplus of 1.684 billion euros, compared with a deficit of 524 million in the corresponding period of 2010, reflecting the above-mentioned development in EU current transfers. In February 2011, the deficit of the combined current account and capital transfers balance reached 1.6 billion euros, compared with 3.1 billion in February 2010. In the January-February 2011 period, the deficit of the combined current account and capital transfers balance came to 4.4 billion euros, compared with 6.6 billion in the corresponding period of 2010 (down by 33.3%).

    [10] Financial account balance

    In February 2011, non-residents' direct investment in Greece showed a net inflow of 23 million. The most important transaction concerned (a) a 43 million inflow for the participation of Cosco Pacific Limited (Hong Kong) in the share capital increase of Piraeus Container Terminal SA; and (b) a 30 million inflow for the participation of Velti Plc (United Kingdom) in the capital increase of its subsidiary "Velti Software and Related Products and Services SA". Residents' direct investment abroad recorded a net outflow of 141 million.

    The most remarkable transaction under this category concerned an outflow of 101 million by EFG Eurobank Ergasias SA for the endowment of its branch EFG Eurobank Ergasias SA Spolka (Poland).

    Under portfolio investment, a net inflow of 796 million was recorded, reflecting a 1.7 billion decrease in residents' investment in foreign bonds and Treasury bills (inflow). This development was partly offset by a 1.0 billion decrease in non-residents' investment in Greek bonds and Treasury bills (outflow). At end-February 2011, Greece's reserve assets stood at 4.75 billion euros.

    [11] Greek budget deficit 4.7 billion euros in Q1

    Greek budget deficit met budget provisions in the first quarter of 2011, rising to 4.701 billion euros from 4.371 billion euros in the same period last year, the Finance ministry said on Wednesday.

    The ministry, in a report on budget execution in the January-March period, said this goal was achieved through a significant reduction of spending despite the fact that state budget revenues fell short by 766 million euros in the three-month period.

    Net revenues totaled 11.123 billion euros in the January-March period, down 8.0 pct from the same period in 2010, reflecting a larger-than-expected economic recession in the last quarter of 2010, a non-repeat of vehicle registration duties by 393 million euros, lower revenues from an extra tax charge on profitable corporations and lower revenues from withholding taxes. On other hand, revenues of a Public Investment Program was up 121.4 pct, or 605 million euros. First quarter revenues were based on a cash flow basis.

    Regular budget spending grew 3.5 pct compared with the first quarter of 2010, reflecting higher spending on state hospital debt and higher interest payments. Primary spending, however, fell 2.3 pct while spending on a Public Investment Program dropped 55.3 pct.

    The ministry report said the figures covered state budget execution and not total fiscal data for the general government's deficit.

    [12] Funding to PPC trade union illegal

    Public Administration General Inspector Leandros Rakintzis concluded that the financial support the state-run utility Public Power Corp. (PPC) gave to GENOP-DEH trade union (representing PPC employees) was illegal. GENOP and its Social Activities Organization have received a total of 31.2 million euros in the past 12 years (from 1999 to 2010).

    The findings of the investigation were delivered to Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili on Wednesday and will be forwarded to the First Instance Court Prosecutor in Athens to study the "legal issues that have emerged".

    Birbili has notified the PPC management to "freeze" all payments to GENOP until the issue is settled.

    [13] Stocks end sharply lower

    Greek stocks came under strong selling pressure in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday to end sharply lower, in sharp contrast with a very positive trend prevailing in other European markets. The composite index fell 2.62 pct to end below the 1,400 level, at 1,399.69 points, with turnover remaining a low 99.037 million euros.

    The Big Cap index dropped 3.02 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.04 pct down and the Small Cap index fell 0.72 pct. The Industrial Products (2.85 pct) and Construction (2.54 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (4.58 pct), Travel (4.50 pct) and Financial Services (4.36 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 101 to 45 with another 42 issues unchanged. Tegopoulos (17.65 pct), Mohlos (11.11 pct) and Demetriou (10 pct) were top gainers, while Attikat (20 pct), Pasal (11.11 pct) and Koumpas (10 pct) were top losers.

    [14] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to new record highs of 11.38 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 11.27 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 14.67 pct and the German Bund 3.29 pct. Turnover in the market was an improved 209 million euros, of which 193 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 91 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved higher. The 12-month rate was 2.12 pct, the six-month rate 1.65 pct, the three-month 1.35 pct and the one-month rate 1.18 pct.

    [15] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.23 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 38.814 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,358 contracts worth 33.277 million euros, with 28,655 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 16,854 contracts worth 5.536 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,957), followed by Eurobank (1,002), OTE (785), PPC (416), Piraeus Bank (1,621), Alpha Bank (1,547), Marfin Popular Bank (482), Mytilineos (369), Hellenic Postbank (450) and ATEbank (671).

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.72%

    Industrials: +2.85%

    Commercial: -0.03%

    Construction: +2.54%

    Media: -0.67%

    Oil & Gas: -0.95%

    Personal & Household: +1.96%

    Raw Materials: +0.87%

    Travel & Leisure: -4.50%

    Technology: -1.84%

    Telecoms: -1.01%

    Banks: -4.58%

    Food & Beverages: -4.03%

    Health: -1.63%

    Utilities: -0.35%

    Chemicals: -2.99%

    Financial Services: -4.36%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Vivere, OPAP and Alpha Bank.

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

    Alpha Bank: 3.58

    ATEbank: 0.45

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.07

    HBC Coca Cola: 18.30

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.20

    National Bank of Greece: 5.24

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.36

    OPAP: 14.04

    OTE: 7.84

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.11

    Titan: 17.70

    [16] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.473

    Pound sterling 0.9

    Danish kroner 7.569

    Swedish kroner 9.034

    Japanese yen 121.93

    Swiss franc 1.313

    Norwegian kroner 7.906

    Canadian dollar 1.401

    Australian dollar 1.381

    General News

    [17] Holy Thursday: Tradition of the red Easter eggs

    For Orthodox Christians, the red Easter egg is much more than a celebration of the end of fasting -- it is an attestation of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Traditionally, Easter eggs are dyed throughout the Orthodox Christian world on Holy Thursday, and they are dyed red to represent the redeeming blood of Christ that was shed on the Cross, the white egg (before being dyed) represents the white marble tomb were Christ's body was laid after He was taken down from the Cross, and the hard shell of the egg symbolises the sealed tomb of Christ.

    On Easter Sunday, a ritual of the cracking of the eggs take place, with people tapping each others' egg, symbolising the 'cracking' of Christ's tomb and the bonds of death, and His resurrection.

    The traditional greeting on Easter, and for the next 40 days, until the Ascension, is "Christos Anesti" (Christ is risen), followed by the response "Alithos Anesti" (Truly he is risen).

    The egg was a symbol of life in antiquity, and from the tomb life came out, the Risen Lord, while the red color of the Easter egg symbolises crucified and resurrected Christ's life-giving blood.

    According to the Romanian tradition, the Holy Mother of God had placed a basket full of eggs at the feet of the crucified Jesus, which turned red from the blood dripping from His wounds.

    In the Orthodox faith, the red color of the eggs symbolises several things. The Roman soldiers put a red cloak on Christ, as the King of the Jews, while mocking and torturing Him. Also, two years after the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene was carrying a basket full of white eggs as she went to Jerusalem, and met up with Tiberius, the governor after Pontius Pilate, whom she welcomed to Jerusalem and wished him to be righteous to the people of Jerusalem, unlike his predecessor, who crucified the Son of God who was resurrected on the third day. Tiberius replied that, if all she had told him of the resurrection and the miracles performed by Christ were true, the white eggs in her basket should turn red, and then he would believe. And behold, the eggs turned red. Mary Magdalene gave one red egg to the governor Tiberius and took one herself, saying "Christ is Risen", to which he replied "Truly, he is risen".

    In another account, a woman who did not believe in the Resurrection of Christ said "if the white eggs I am holding turn red, then I will believe", and the eggs miraculously turned red.

    Still yet, the red color symbolises the joy of the Resurrection, and also wards off all evil.

    [18] Deceased kidney patient becomes liver donor

    A 44-year-old kidney patient who died of cerebral haemorrhage gave a new lease on life to a 54-year-old suffering from liver cirrhosis.

    National Health System (ESY) Director and transplant surgeon Dimitris Gakis told ANA-MPA that the surgery is considered as rare because the liver graft came from a kidney patient. This is the first time such an operation is performed in Greece and only a few of them have been performed worldwide.

    The transplant was performed last Saturday at the Transplantation Clinic of Thessaloniki's Ippokrateion Hospital and the patient has already been moved from the intensive care unit to a regular hospital room.

    [19] Archbishop Ieronymos visits 251 Air Force Hospital

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos visited the 251 General Air Force Hospital in Athens on Wednesday, on the occasion of the Easter holiday, to exchange wishes and gifts with the staff and fellow countrymen who are far from their families these days.

    The Archbishop was accompanied by Alternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis.

    [20] Three injured in fireworks storehouse explosion

    Three people were injured when an explosion occurred shortly after 7:30 on Wednesday evening in a storehouse in the city of Kalamata, in the Peloponnese, during the making of fireworks for the "fireworks battle" that takes place at Easter on the city's west coast.

    The explosion took place due to unspecified causes and the fireworks exploded, while due to the gunpowder kept in the storehouse an ensuing fire spread but was eventually placed under control.

    The three injured persons are a 29-year-old man, a 20-year-old woman and a 70-year-old man. The first two have been taken to a hospital in Kalamata and the elderly man, who was initially taken to the Kalamata hospital, was being taken to the Thriasio hospital, in Attica, to be treated for serious burns.

    [21] US Postal Service stamp collection dedicated to American philhellenes

    A new collection of postage stamps dedicated to American philhelleneswill be on sale at US post offices as of April 19, celebrated in Greece as the Day of Philhellenism and International Solidarity. The collection honors the Americans who fought and died in the struggle for Greek Independence.

    The stamp series "Association of American Philhellenes 1810-1840" features an image of the grave of George Jarvis, a portrait of Samuel Gridley Howe and the emblem of the Association of American Philhellenes, according to the Greek service of the Voice of America.

    The decision to issue the series was made following an initiative by association president Panagiotis Nikolopoulos.

    April 19 was proclaimed Philhellenism and International Solidarity Day by the Greek Parliament, commemorating the anniversary of the death of the famous poet and philhellene Lord Byron.

    Weather Forecast

    [22] Cloudy on Thursday

    Cloudy 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 6C and 22C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with northerly 5-8 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 8C to 17C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 17C.

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

    The economy and the first public utilities/organisations that will be privatised were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Wednesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Renegotiation of the Memorandum the only solution."

    AVGHI: "The state hospitals undergoing 'surgery'."

    AVRIANI: "Leave, George (prime minister Papandreou), so that we can be saved".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Pangalos a slanderer and a liar".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The first 6 DEKO (public utilities and organisations) up for sale".

    ESTIA: "How an economy is destroyed".

    ETHNOS: "The passions of the Public Power Corporation".

    IMERISSIA: "10 immediate denationalisations - Race against time for 4 billion euros revenues this year".

    KATHIMERINI: "Tough conditions for new help".

    LOGOS: "Counterfeit goods have flooded the market".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Final stretch for state 'exodus' from Hellenic Telecoms Organisation".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Enough with the sacrifices by the people for the debt and the crisis".

    TA NEA: "Public Power Corporation employees' union threatens blackout".

    VRADYNI: "Reduction of fines on unlicensed buildings".

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: ILIAS MATSIKAS

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