|Friday, 28 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-09-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 7 September 2011 Issue No: 3883
 Gov't announces extensive plan to immediately kick-start privatisations, reformsThe Greek government on Tuesday evening cited an urgent plan of immediate privatisations and widespread reforms in both the country's cavernous public sector and in the domestic labour market, promising to overcome foot-dragging and to implement measures in full.
Speaking during a televised address carried by most prime time newscasts, government vice-president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos ticked off assets for immediate sale, while he promised that the government will abolish and merge public sector entities, expand the labour reserve measure in the wider public sector and adopt a unified pay scale (towards the lower end), along with liberalising the private sector labour market and opening up so-called "closed" professions and occupations. All of measures aim to ensure the release of the sixth tranche, worth eight billion euros, of an EU-ECB-IMF loan package, and meet provisions in the Mid-term Fiscal Framework Strategy agreed to between the Greek government and the EU-ECB-IMF "troika".
Venizelos spoke immediately after a Cabinet meeting, noting that an inter-ministerial privatisations commission on Wednesday will transfer several major state assets to the Public Property Exploitation Fund, so that privatisation procedures can begin immediately.
Venizelos said privatisations will include OPAP, the state's betting pools monopoly, its share in the Athens International Airport, the natgas provider DE.PA, the Hellenic Petroleum (EL.PE) petro-chemical group and the sale-and-lease back of office space housing state-run and affiliated entities.
Venizelos said the Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou, approved the plan's details.
Specifically, Venizelos said the Cabinet agreed to speed up privatisations -- aimed to raise 5.0 billion euros by the end of the year -- and to draft plan for a new tax system to curb widespread tax evasion in the country.
The Finance minister added that the announced structural reforms were an internal necessity of the country and their implementation sends a message to Greek citizens, the market and the institutional partners. Venizelos also called for the mobilisation of the country's productive forces.
 PM Papandreou addresses cabinet meetingPrime Minister George Papandreou, addressing a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, stressed that "it is very important today for us to send a clear message. That we are 'going full' for the big changes."
The prime minister spoke of "the patriotic duty" that the government has in order to take the country out of the crisis and, in parallel, to utilise the time it has for the country to stand on its own feet.
Papandreou made special reference to the implementation of the important decisions taken on July 21 that create, as he said, "the preconditions for greater stability and security for our country. The struggle, as well as the sacrifices of the Greek people, is vindicated in this way."
He added that "apart from the necessary decisions that will be taken by the parliaments, the governments, and at the level of the various institutions of the European Union, we must also proceed rapidly with the priorities that we have decided, for ourselves, for our country, for our credibility."
The prime minister underlined that the fulfillment of the commitments that Greece has assumed will make it productive and competitive and will give the possibility for a sure development course, that will give jobs and prosperity to the country.
"It is important for us to give with clarity this stigma, within the government, to Greek society, and internationally. That we are proceeding rapidly with the great reforms," he said.
 Opposition parties react to FinMin's statementsThe announcements made by Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on decisions taken during the cabinet meeting on Tuesday evening, drew reaction from opposition parties.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) spoke in an announcement of "the government's audacity to announce the speedy implementation of the savage measures of the medium-term programme that smash the present and the future of the working people and of youth and to pretend to be sinning for their benefit."
Coalition of the Left (SYN) spokesman Panos Skourletis said that "the Papandreou-Venizelos government decided in a cabinet meeting to sell out the country and to level society."
 Greece will meet all targets in 2011, FinMin saysThe Greek government will meet its goals in terms of privatisations and fiscal consolidation this year, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Tuesday.
Speaking in Parliament, Venizelos said the country will move very fast, adding that he expects results this month.
"There is a strong disbelief vis-?-vis Greece in the Eurozone and in the international financial system ... our only one weapon against this (front) is unity, responsibility and credibility," he told a Parliamentary commission.
"We have to send a clear message, that Greece respects and implements - without any deviation - all of its agreements, especially structural changes, the future of our country," Venizelos said, adding he will present a series of initiatives aimed at promoting all structural changes at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting.
Commenting on very low prices currently prevailing on the Athens Stock Exchange, Venizelos reassured that low prices would not be a problem in promoting a privatisations programme, as the government's plans envisaged pre-payment procedures and exploitation of the state's real estate in sectors not related with the stock market (real estate, lottery, gaming, etc.).
 FinMin: 'implementation of reforms is underway'Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos addressing Tuesday a meeting with ruling PASOK's party Parliamentary group committee on the economy (KTE), he repeated that 80 pct of the reforms have already been voted and are currently in the process of implementation.
According to reports, Venizelos told the PASOK MPs that European officials are very concerned about the implementation pace of reforms. He also stated that the 'troika' representatives (EC-ECB-IMF) appear to acknowledge that any delays in the increase of revenues is caused by the economic recession, but has expressed reservations as regards the full implementation of the reforms.
He assured the PASOK cadres that in case the banks resort to the Financial Stability Fund they will have to use common and not preferred stocks, as was the practice until now. He also pledged that the supervising role of the Bank of Greece (BoG) in the operation of the banking system will be reinforced.
 Ratification of second support package for Greece to be completed in 4-6 weeks in eurozone parliamentsThe process of ratification of the July 21 EU summit decisions by the eurozone member states' parliaments will be completed by in the next 4-6 weeks, Greek minister of state and government spokesman Elias Mossialos said on private television on Tuesday as France, the first country to begin the relevant procedures, was to hold an extraordinary session of the National Assembly (lower house of the bicameral parliament) in the afternoon to discuss and vote on the second support package for Greece decided at the summit.
The second EU-IMF bailout loan could be voted on as early as Wednesday in the National Assembly, and then referred to the Senate for discussion on Thursday.
Speaking on state NET television station on Tuesday morning, Mossialos noted that the impression exists among the public that there has been a delay in the implementation of the July 21 summit decisions, but explained that the parliaments in Europe were in recess in August, while there are also political problems given that most of the member states' governments are either alliance or minority governments.
 FM Lambrinidis visits ZagrebZAGREB (ANA-MPA/N. Pelpas)
Bilateral relations, economic cooperation, the European course of the countries of Southeastern Europe and international issues were the focus of the meeting held in Zagreb between Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis and his Croatian counterpart Gordan Jandrokovic.
It was ascertained during the meeting that the two countries' relations are excellent and there are no open issues, while it was assessed that at economic level there is ground for widening cooperation.
The largest part of the discussion between the two ministers focused on Croatia's European integration and the course towards Europe of all the countries of the Western Balkans.
Lambrinidis expressed satisfaction over Croatia's accession to the European Union, stressing that "it was an achievement of the Croatian people who in a climate of Euroscepticism and economic recession succeeded in fulfilling all the terms and the country becoming a member of the EU."
Also discussed during the two ministers' meeting was the situation in north Africa and the Middle East and it was agreed that there should be coordinated efforts for handling humanitarian problems in Libya.
On the question of Turkey's European prospects, the Greek Foreign minister said "we support Turkey in its course towards Europe but it must fulfill its obligations."
The Greek Foreign minister was received by the President of the Republic of Croatia Ivo Josipovic. Earlier, he met with Parliament's vice-president and Chairman of the European Integration Committee Neven Mimica.
On Wednesday, the minister will be going to Belgrade and on Thursday he will be visiting Pristina.
In Belgrade, Lambrinidis will meet with Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic with whom he will hold private talks on regional issues and Serbia's European prospect, and will also be received by president Boris Tadic.
He will further have meetings with Serbian national assembly (parliament) president Slavica Dukic Dejanovic and government vice-president for European integration issues Bozidar Djelic.
While in Belgrade, the Greek foreign minister will also call on Patriarch Irineos of Serbia.
On Thursday, Lambrinidis will meet in Pristina with the Kosovo administration's prime minister Hashim Thaci.
 DM Beglitis concludes visit to IsraelGreek National Defence Minister Panos Beglitis once again addressed a strict message to Turkey, this time from Israel, where he concluded his three-day oficial visit on Tuesday.
Beglitis said "the threats, as they are expressed by various officials of Turkey do not help the climate of peaceful coexistence and cooperation of the countries" and added that "the relations of Greece with Israel are not competitive with the countries of the Arab world, nor of course with Turkey, but have an autonomous character, they are not related to third parties and we are looking ahead, through the development of these relations, as we are also interested in the further development of relations with Turkey, on the basis however of respect for International Law and International Treaties and not on a basis of unilateral practices, attitudes and threats. This, as is evident, cannot be accepted by anyone."
The Defence minister stressed "we are in a period where there must be calmness by all sides in the region of the Mediterranean."
"It is not a period of conflicts and confrontations," he added and called on all sides to contribute, through the development of cooperation, to the effort for a better and safer region "where all will find their interest, the interest in peace, security and cooperation."
After his meetings on Tuesday with the President of the Republic of Israel Shimon Peres and Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Beglitis spoke of a "common will for the further development and deepening of bilateral relations at all levels of mutual interest," while, as he said, he ascertained that "there are always margins for us to widen our relation always on an equal basis and with mutual benefit."
The agenda of talks with the Israeli officials included the situation in the Middle East.
"There is, as is evident, an increased concern on the part of Israel, on developments more widely in the region of the Middle East. They are concerns that we share for its security as well as wider security in the region," the minister said and added "the political message that I sent to the Israeli government and my colleagues ministers who I met is that Greece and Israel can work together in the shaping of a strategic relation that will help the stability and security of the wider region. We can constitute two reliable and stable pylons for the security and stability of the wider region and this is important in a period of big upheavals and reversals. Greece and Israel can, through a strategic partnership relation, shape those conditions for the stability of the wider region that we all need so much."
 Deputy FM Dollis on LibyaBENGHAZI (ANA-MPA/S. Aravopoulou)
Greece sent a clear message that it is by the side of the Libyan people, now and in the future, with 24 tons of drinking water delivered in Tripoli on Tuesday and with a series of contacts by Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis with the leadership of the National Transitional Council.
"Our country gave the example for Europe and the rest of the world today with its presence in Libya," Dollis said after the completion of his meetings with the president and vice president of the National Transitional Council, Moustafa Abdel Zalil and Abdul Hafiz Goga, as well as with the official for political issues Fathi Bazaa.
"The people of Libya are forging ahead, democracy has already won. Our role as Greece is not only to help with words but practically as well. To help how this country will be rebuilt and how it will be democratised. We were and are friends of this country," he added.
 Two Greek military planes leave for Libya with drinking waterTwo Greek military transport planes carrying 24 tons of drinking water took off from Athens Tuesday morning headed for Libya, with deputy foreign minister Dimitris Dollis on board at the head of the humanitarian aid mission.
Two Air Force C-130 helicopters departed at 7:00 a.m. from Elefsis military airport carrying 48,000 half-liter bottles of water, heading first for the Libyan capital of Tripoli and then on to Benghazi.
Dollis, who is accompanied by ministry staff, will hold talks in Benghazi with the chairman and members of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC), and will also visit Tahrir Square and a Greek school in Libya, where he will meet with members of the Greek community in the country.
"Once again, Greece is operating in Libya. We must not forget that in times of difficulty, Greece is capable," Dollis said in a departure statement.
He thanked Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece for his contribution to the speedy and organised collection of the drinking water.
The first stop will be in Tripoli, where the water will be delivered. One of the two planes will immediately return to Athens, while the second will head on to Benghazi with Dollis on board, who will meet with the NTC officials.
The second plane is due to return to Athens at 7:00 on Tuesday evening.
 Iranian foreign ministry spokesman in AthensIranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast on Tuesday expressed his country's support to the efforts for Greece's economic growth.
Beyond the strictly bilateral sphere, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, currently in Athens at the invitation of his Greek counterpart Grigoris Delavekouras, strongly criticised Washington for its stance as regards Iran's nuclear programme, as he claimed that the international protests to Iran are not justified, considering that inspections conducted so far have revealed "no deviation on the part of Iran".
Speaking to reporters, he accused the US administration of exercising "a policy of double standards" vis-?-vis the issue of terrorism and the nuclear weapons proliferation.
Speaking to reporters, he accused the United States of exercising "a policy of double standards" vis-?-vis the issue of terrorism and the nuclear weapons non proliferation and warned that "Iran will respond dynamically to any effort by foreign powers in the region that will undermine its security and stability."
Parast said that a conference against terrorism was recently held in Teheran with the participation of 60 countries and stressed that "the United States is trying to convince the international public opinion that Iran is linked with terrorism", while it was proved that "the Americans supported a terrorist organization in Iran, named 'separatist movement' by them".
As regards the recent decision by Turkey to host NATO anti-ballistic radars on its territory, he said "when the Americans decided to install anti-missile systems to deal with the Iranian threat everybody knew which country they really meant and that they used Iran as a pretext. The target was another country" and pointed eastwards. "The US wants to justify its military presence in the region and we have advised our neighboring countries not to believe in the American arguments and be vigilant. We believe that the countries in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf can safeguard regional stability without the military presence of a foreign power," he stressed.
Referring to developments in Syria, he underlined that "peaceful claims should not be put down by force" and added that "interventions by third countries are not acceptable". He vaguely referred to "claims made by a minority" and pointed out that they should be considered adding, however, that "a minority cannot impose its will on an entire society."
As regards Syria, he said that the problems should be resolved "through dialogue between the people and the government," underlining that "any intervention is unacceptable". He stressed that armed groups have infiltrated into the country. Some 1,200 police officers have been killed and, undoubtedly, this was not done by ordinary protesters."
Parast called for regional cooperation, stressing that "we should cooperate for the sake of humanity" and "not create the conditions that will allow the presence of foreign powers." He pointed out that "speaking from experience cooperation with the Zionist regime is not beneficial."
 Education minister on implementing tertiary education reformsIn a press conference on Tuesday, Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou presented the time schedule for the tertiary education reforms contained in the omnibus bill recently passed by Parliament.
The minister also released a FAQ sheet with 50 questions and answers explaining the provisions of the new law, to be made available to all interested parties.
She stressed that the demands by various groups for changes to individual articles in the law were an "insult" to the Greek Parliament, which had voted in favour of the bill by a large majority.
Notwithstanding the minister's position, the university rectors' council has unanimously voted that some universities should file petitions with the Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, against articles that are deemed unconstitutional.
Diamantopoulou noted that she was at the disposal of any university, student union or academic for "civilised dialogue on the future of the institutions, so that the necessary clarifications can be made and we can go to the most efficient possible implementation of the law".
She noted that the bill was due to be published in the government gazette on Tuesday or Wednesday, after which it would be implemented as planned so that the new university Administrative Councils would be ready to take over fully in 2012.
Concerning the issue of university asylum, the minister stressed that this "was not the problem for Greek universities", adding that the academic community must itself prove that minorities would not be permitted to make decisions for everyone.
Asked about the numerous sit-in protests and occupation of university premises currently in progress, Diamantopoulou underlined that the government was determined to press ahead with the reforms, in spite of the opposition.
"Education is above all; if the classes are not held, they will take place at another time. The semester must begin in October, if not, then we will start at Christmas and if that is not enough, it will be lost," she said.
The minister dismissed much of the criticism against the new system as outright lies and denied claims that universities would be forced to cut the duration of course, not distribute textbooks or charge tuition fees for undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
Finally, she announced that a new system for getting into a university or technological educational institute will soon be ready to announce.
 Karatzaferis urges main parties to 'work together', pledges support for possible coalition gov'tEarly elections or an all-party government were now the only solutions to the country's current plight, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis asserted in statements to the media on Tuesday.
He said his party would support a coalition government of the two main parties without seeking any government position for either himself or any other member of his party.
Karatzaferis said that the government's decisions to "wage war on all fronts" was an attempt at a heroic exit by "fighting the evil establishment that they themselves created" because they knew they were about to fall.
He appealed to the two main parties to work together, in the same manner as for the bill on education reform.
 Draft bill for faster trials of political corruption cases sent to ParliamentGreece's justice ministry on Tuesday tabled in Parliament a draft bill on holding trials for acts of corruption by politicians and state officials, cases of major interest to society and of major importance for the public sector's interests.
The ministry said that the aim of the draft bill was to speed up the processes involved in bringing cases concerning political figures to trial as a priority and in a short space of time.
 Gov't eyes drastic spending cuts in 2012 budgetThe finance ministry ordered government ministries to drastically cut back on overtime pay, subsidies and operating spending, ahead of drafting a state budget for 2012 and based on targets envisaged in a Medium-term Fiscal Strategy programme for the Greek economy.
The government expects to focus on reducing the fiscal deficit by cutting spending, since any new tax measures could further deepen an already punishing recession in the country.
In a circular sent to government ministries, Filippos Sahinidis, the alternate finance minister, asked ministries to strictly adhere to targets envisaged in the programme and called on ministers to draft budgets based on reducing overtime pay and subsidies, better exploiting assets and cutting operating spending by 20 pct.
The circular also asks ministries to strictly adhere to payroll commitments, which include amongst others, cutting performance bonuses by 50 pct, suspending payroll maturity bonuses and implementing the 1:10 retirement / hiring ratio this year and 1:5 next year.
 Tourism a substantial sector for Greek economy, minister saysTourism is evolving into a sector of decisive sector of hope for the Greek economy, Greek tourism and culture minister Pavlos Geroulanos said in an interview with the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) appearing on Tuesday, noting that whereas the country's GDP declined by approximately 7 percent in the first half of the year, the tourism branch recorded large profits.
He also said that the German and British tourists, who had recently avoided Greece, were slowly returning, while there has been a substantial increase in the number of visitors from Russia, Israel, Serbia and Turkey.
On the negative events that struck a blow to Greek tourism in previous years, Geroulanos said that this year, due to visitors from new markets, the losses of the past have been recouped. "At this time, 16 percent of Greece's GDP derives from tourism. Almost every (Greek) family in some way relies on tourism, and that is why all forms of strike mobilisations that affect tourists are unpopular," Geroulanos said.
Turning to his ministry's activities to render Greece a year-round tourist destination, Geroulanos said that the country is taking 'new routes'. "We are seeking collaborations with other countries of the region in order to offer products that exceed our borders," he said, adding that packages such as 'Athens and Cairo' or 'Athens and Istanbul' are "more attractive" to travelers from China or India, for example.
However, the big development potential is in the markets of Asia and America. "In a decade, a large part of our visitors will come from China, India, the US and Latin America. These people will not be seeking sun and beach, but will want to see the things they have read about such as the Acropolis which, for many, is the birthplace of western civilization," he added.
Geroulanos further said that Greece is developing its tourism infrastructures and seeking foreign investors, noting that the relevant legislation was being changed under 'urgent' procedures and the procedures were being simplified.
"We want to reduce to half the required permits," the minister said, noting that the attitude of the people has already changed. Up until two years ago, many Greeks were speaking of a 'sell-off' of the country, but today things have changed and the people have realised that the foreigners as a rule want only to rent the land and create jobs, he added.
 Greece raises 1.3 billion euros from T-bills auctionGreece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a six-month Treasury bills issue raising 1.3 billion euros from the market with more favourable conditions. An announcement by the Public Debt Management Organization said that the average yield of the issue was set at 4.80 pct from 4.85 pct in the previous auction of same T-bills in August. Bids submitted totaled 3.020 billion euros, 3.02 times more than the asked sum.
The auction was made through the market's primary dealers with settlement date set for Friday, 9 September.
The organization accepted bids up to 1.0 billion euros, along with non-competitive bids worth 300 million euros. The organization will also accept non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, 8 September.
 Helexpo, TIF reunification prospectThe issue of merging Helexpo S.A. and the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair (T.I.F) S.A., the two companies that emerged after the state-run trade exhibition organisation was separated in 1999, and the urgency of finding a foreign strategic partner, was brought up during a press conference on Tuesday on the occasion of the 76th TIF this month.
The Helexpo S.A. and TIF S.A. boards clarified, however, that there is no official government plan as regards a merger, and underlined the need for a new exhibition and convention centre in Thessaloniki.
 State revenues up for 8th consecutive week, minister reportsState revenues had increased for the eighth consecutive week, Alternate Finance Minister Pantelis Economou told Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee on Tuesday, during a debate on a bill for national bequests.
"Not one week have we fallen below 3 percent (increase). But there is no reason to boast because tax evasion persists and illegal trade has intensified. This is where we are focusing and intensifying our efforts," he told MPs.
 Business Briefs-- Interamerican, a member of the Eureko Group, on Tuesday expressed its intention to participate in a Greek state bond swap programme, and will record any changes in the value of its bond portfolio at the time of the transaction.
-- Greek exports to Ukraine and Moldova rose significantly in the first half of 2011 compared with the same period last year, a report by the Greek embassy in Kiev showed on Tuesday.
-- Charter flights to Greek airports grew by more than 10 pct in the June-July period, evidence that the country will enjoy a very good tourist season in 2011. Charter flights totalled 17,073 in the June, carrying 1,323,742 passengers, for an increase of around 10 pct. In July, charter flights totalled 21,343 carrying 1,692,569 passengers.
 Stocks again reach 2011 lowsStocks ended moderately lower at the Athens Stock Exchange, with the composite index of the market again falling to new 2011 lows.
The index eased 0.37 pct to end at 860.74 points, following a negative trend prevailing in other European markets. The index reversed an early recovery which temporarily pushed the index above 883 points. Turnover remained a disappointing low 48.127 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 0.78 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 0.66 pct and the Small Cap index ended 1.40 pct lower. Alpha Bank (6.29 pct) and Eurobank (9.38 pct) top losers among blue chip stocks.
The Food (3.38 pct), Utilities (3.07 pct) and Chemicals (1.67 pct) sectors scored gains, while Travel (3.48 pct) and Financial Services (2.22 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 83 to 49 with another 55 issues unchanged. Pegasus (16.67 pct), Dromeas (13.33 pct) and BIK (9.46 pct) were top gainers, while Sanyo Hellas (16.67 pct), Petropoulos (15.48 pct) and Vovos (11.11 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.96%
Personal & Household: -1.36%
Raw Materials: -2.14%
Travel & Leisure: -3.48%
Food & Beverages: +3.38%
Financial Services: -2.22%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Coca Cola 3E, National Bank and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.64
Public Power Corp (PPC): 5.60
HBC Coca Cola: 14.18
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.65
National Bank of Greece: 2.78
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 1.16
Bank of Piraeus: 0.54
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 15.63 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 15.54 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 17.4 pct and the German Bund 1.83 pct. There was no transaction in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved slightly lower. The 12-month rate was 2.06 pct, the six-month rate 1.72 pct, the three-month rate 1.54 pct and the one-month rate 1.35 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.431
Pound sterling 0.890
Danish kroner 7.560
Swedish kroner 9.225
Japanese yen 110.73
Swiss franc 1.221
Norwegian kroner 7.710
Canadian dollar 1.420
Australian dollar 1.355
 Appeals court acquits Kenteris, Thanou of staging motorbike accidentA Three-Member Appeals Court on Tuesday unanimously overturned guilty verdicts against Olympic medallists Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, as well as their coach Christos Tzekos, for staging a motorbike accident before the start of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
A lower-level court had originally found the two champion sprinters guilty of lying about the accident in order to avoid a doping test, along with their coach, seven doctors at KAT hospital and two eye-witnesses of the accident.
According to the public prosecutor on the bench, who proposed acquittal, there was insufficient evidence brought before the court that the fall from the motorbike had not actually occurred in order to support the charge.
The appeal court upheld a guilty charge against Tzekos for possession of controlled substances, imposing a prison sentence of 12 months suspended for three years.
 Alexander the Great exhibition at LouvreSpecial events will be held in Paris to promote the province of Macedonia, on the sidelines of the archaeological exhibition entitled "Ancient Macedonia: In the Kingdom of Alexander the Great", to be hosted at the Louvre from Oct. 13 until Jan. 16, 2012.
The events, decided by a committee set up by the regional authority of Central Macedonia, include a conference on investment opportunities; meetings of Greek entrepreneurs with representatives of French companies; presentation of Macedonian wines to wine experts and restaurateurs; a Greek cuisine presentation; promotion of regional products in a French department store; a gastronomy exhibition and tourist promotion of the central Macedonia district.
 Drug lab raided; major heroin arrestPolice in Athens discovered a drug lab in a ground floor apartment in the western Agii Anargyri district, it was announced on Tuesday.
Police raided the apartment two days ago and seized 270 grams of heroin, 3.4 grams of cocaine, 7.760 grams of a drug adulteration substance, an assault rifle, two precision scales and paraphernalia used in drug adulteration and packaging.
An investigation is underway for the arrest of the lab operators.
In a separate incident, an Albanian woman, 31, was arrested in downtown Athens after police found in her possession 1.510 grams of heroin, 14,550 euros and three precision scales.
 Firebomb attacks on riot police in central AthensHooded perpetrators threw firebombs, stones and other objects in two separate overnight attacks on riot police officers stationed outside the ruling PASOK party offices in central Athens and at the culture ministry building, it was announced on Tuesday.
Three private cars were damaged during the attacks.
Police used teargas to disperse the attackers and one individual was taken in for questioning.
 Metro, ISAP railway strike on WednesdayThe Athens Metro and the ISAP electric railway will not run for four hours Wednesday due to a strike by engine drivers seeking the signing of a collective labour agreement, a "realistic and modern work code" and an organisational structure "reflecting the needs of the new company and its workers".
The work stoppage will begin at noon and end at 4:00 p.m. but trains will actually be withdrawn from circulation before that time and only begin operating after 4:00 p.m.
 Wildfires in Ioannina and Thesprotia prefecturesThe wildfire near ther village of Pades in Konitsa, on mount Smolikas, Northwestern Greece, is continuing to burn a dense pine tree forest. The fire is raging in an inaccessible area, while a firefighting helicopter is trying to place it under control.
In addition, abandoned ammunition from the time of the civil war is in the area and there is a serious danger of explosions. Wildfires are also raging in Gardiki Lapsistas in Ioannina and in Skandalo in the municipality of Souli in Thesprotia.
 Mainalo wildfire worsensThe wildfire breaking out in Mainalo, in the Peloponnese, on Sunday has worsened on Tuesday, but the Fire Brigade believes that the situation does not entail serious danger. However, a strong force of firemen is at the location and two firefighting aircraft are tackling the flames.
 Cloudy on WednesdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 13C and 32C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Athens, with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 21C to 30C. Rainy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 19C to 26C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe big decline on the international stockmarkets, the climate concerning Greece in the EU, and the new extraordinary tax contributions were the main front-page items in Athens' newspapers on Tuesday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Early elections on the doorstep - Venizelos (government vice president and finance minister) preparing 'heroic exit' from the government if the premier does not endorse his proposal for passing of the new bailout loan contract with an increased three fifths (180 votes in the 300 member parliament) majority".
AVGHI: "Bank nightmare over Europe - Black Monday on European stockmarkets due to fears of banks collapsing".
AVRIANI: "Countdown to default".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Europe a boiling pot - Greece the 'knock-about' toy".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Balance of tax returns, extraordinary contribution".
ESTIA: "Who's to blame for the deficit".
ETHNOS: "Vendetta over...personal difference - Harsh clash between government and troika, which is using 'vendetta' tactics".
IMERISSIA: "Eurozone in the 'red' - Alert in Brussels, Frankfurt".
KATHIMERINI: "Heavy climate over Greece in the EU".
LOGOS: "Schools opening with photocopies instead of books".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Critical three days ahead for the Greek problem".
NIKI: "The 'Iphigenia' plan to placate the troika - Thousands of civil servants to be sacrificed at the altar of expenditure reduction in the public sector".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Prohibition of foundation of student association because it is fighting against NATO, EU, US".
TA NEA: "Tax Bureau - Triple surcharges coming - Extraordinary contribution, profession fee and extra tax on luxury cars, boats, swimming pools".
VRADYNI: "Government cutting 32,500 disability pensions".
 Leaders continue talks on property issueNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu discussed on Tuesday the Property issue, during the UN-led direct talks to solve the Cyprus problem.
Speaking to the press after the meeting, the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer said that the community leaders brought along a series of proposals on property issue, which were due to be discussed amongst the negotiating teams on Tuesday afternoon. He also announced that the UN "property people" will be meeting with the negotiating teams in separate meetings on Wednesday and that leaders will resume their talks on Thursday, September 8.
"The two teams will be meeting this (Tuesday) afternoon to analyze in a great deal more detail the specifics that were put forward today, without going into the specifics, because we've agreed we won't do that, there is a quite a lot to think about here and to work through. I think some convergences can be built actually, myself, I think that's possible", Downer said.
Downer said that the meeting was held in a good atmosphere, underlying that "this is an example of both sides continuing to work hard to try to build convergences".
He also told the press that on Wednesday he will be briefing the Security Council in an informal session -via video link-on how the talks are going and then he will deal with any issues that they themselves (SC members) may wish to raise.
"I want to keep the Security Council informed so that they understand how we are getting on in the talks, what the difficulties are, what the problems are, and where the progress is being made", he said, noting that "ultimately the Security Council wants to know whether it's possible for the two sides to fulfill what the Security Council requires of them, which is to negotiate successfully a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation".
The UN Special Adviser also referred to the meeting he had with Greek FM on Monday. He said that the Cyprus problem and broader regional issues were discussed.
"Obviously, it really is important to us from time to time to meet with the Guarantor powers, and particularly with the Turks and the Greeks; so I do that from time to time", he said.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The leaders of the two communities are currently engaged in UN-led talks, with an aim to reunify the island under a federal roof.
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