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Athens News Agency: News in English, 02-02-12
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 EU finance ministers welcome Greek stability plan12/02/2002 22:18:55
BRUSSELS (ANA/G.Zitouniati) - The European Union's finance ministers on Tuesday approved Greece's stability plan for 2001-2004, which was updated at the end of last year.
Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis told reporters after a meeting with his 15 counterparts in the Belgian capital that despite the endorsement, Greece needed to continue lowering its public debt and allocate more funds to social policy.
In the text of the approval, which is called an opinion, the ministers also warn that vigilance should be maintained over price shifts, especially in the context of wage negotiations.
The stability plan forecasts inflation of 2.8 percent in 2004 from 2.7 percent in 2003 and 2.8 percent in 2002. Growth is set in both 2004 and 2003 at 4.0 percent from 3.8 percent in 2002.
In addition, the budget surplus is seen at 1.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2004, 1.0 percent of GDP in 2003, and 0.8 percent of GDP in 2002.
Furthermore, unemployment is forecast at 9.0 percent in 2004, 9.8 percent in 2003, and 10.5 percent in 2002; and the plan contains real wage rises of 2.3 percent and 2.5 percent.
Policy will be based on curbing consumerist spending in the public sector, completing a tax overhaul in the second half of 2002, and advancing privatisation that is expected to bring revenue of 1.7 trillion drachmas over the three-year period.
Finally, the plan contains a worst case scenario to take adverse global conditions into account. The new computation envisages a rate of growth over the three year period that will be an average of 0.6 percentage point lower, and an average rise in real wages of 2.1 percent against 2.4 percent in the main scenario.
The ministers also said that Greece needed to speed up structural reforms in products, services, labour and pensions.
The government had pledged to begin talks with the social partners on social insurance reform at the end of March, Christodoulakis said.
 Greek, Turkish FMs meet in Istanbul, discuss "exploratory contacts"12/02/2002 22:17:44
ISTANBUL (ANA - D. Konstantakopoulos) - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou met his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem on Tuesday on the sidelines of the European Union - Islamic Conference Organization joint forum taking place here.
The two men reasserted their willingness to begin exploratory contacts so as to find out if there is a framework for a wider dialogue.
Papandreou stressed that "we should not be afraid (of such a dialogue) based on the fact that we are securing our sovereign rights".
The European framework is an important guarantee, he added, expressing the hope for a common rapprochement.
In these exploratory contacts Greece will be represented by the foreign ministry's civil director ambassador Alexandros Skopelitis, while Turkey's representative has not yet been named.
 Greek FM at EU-Islamic Conference forum in Istanbul12/02/2002 22:16:28
ISTANBUL (ANA - D. Konstantakopoulos) Athens was in favour of dialogue between cultures and religions, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou told an Istanbul forum attended by representatives of over 70 European and Islamic countries on Tuesday.
Papandreou also linked this dialogue of cultures with a Greek proposal for an Olympic Truce, saying the dialogue could continue until the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.
The joint European Union - Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) forum in Istanbul was designed to bridge cultural misunderstandings stemming from the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
 Greece, Bulgaria sign defence cooperation pact12/02/2002 22:15:30
SOFIA (ANA) -- Greece and Bulgaria on Tuesday signed a memorandum of cooperation in the defence sector, which foresees, among others, technology transfers and joint defence industry initiatives.
?I would like to express the Greek governments desire to further strengthen this cooperation within the framework of further harmonising the operation of the Bulgarian armed forces at the organisational level, as well as in terms of weaponry, to that of respective NATO models,? visiting Greek Defence Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told reporters here.
Papantoniou arrived in the Bulgarian capital for an official two-day visit and talks with Bulgarias leadership, including his counterpart Nikolayo Svinarov.
The Greek minister added that Athens wants to assist Sofia in meeting any and all criteria for NATO membership.
On his part, Svinarov noted that a Greek officer will be stationed as a permanent liaison at the Bulgarian defence ministry to assist with reforms currently being implemented by Bulgarias armed forces, all aimed at securing compatibility with NATO standards.
Both men also confirmed a common position by the two countries governments in the international campaign against terrorism, as both Greece and Bulgaria are dispatching troops to war-torn Afghanistan.
In terms of Balkan developments, Papantoniou said that despite significant progress in establishing democracy and stability in the region, flashpoints such as Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia still exist.
He also called for better coordination amongst regional states to combat illegal immigration and organised crime.
Finally, he reiterated Athens standing position in favour of Bulgaria and Romanias full and rapid accession to NATO.
 Greek-Turkish economic cooperation interministerial talks commence12/02/2002 22:15:13
The first Conference of the Greek-Turkish economic cooperation ministerial committee opened Tuesday in Athens, a continuation of the 9 economic and trade agreements signed between the two countries in recent years.
Heading the two delegations are Greece's deputy foreign minister Andreas Loverdos and Turkish deputy minister for external trade Kursad Tuzmen.
Opening the conference, Loverdos said this was the first such meeting in the history of economic relations between the two countries and an important milestone in the efforts initiatived by foreign ministers George Papandreou and Ismail Cem in New York in 1999 for cooperation on "low-impact" issues such as economic and commercial matters.
Loverdos said this had proved to be very positive, as bilateral working groups had drawn up 9 studies which have since been signed, creating an "adequate institutional framework" that "facilites economic and commercial cooperation between the two countries".
Loverdos said that the goal of the present Conference was to expand this institutional framework, resolve unsolved problems in bilateral economic relations, and encourage businessmen of both countries to invest.
Tuzmen, in turn, said that the conference topics were very important as they would contribute to further development of the commercial and economic relations between the two countries and would give greater incentives to foreign and Greek investors to invest in Turkey.
Today, he said, there were only 58 Greek businessmen active in Turkey, and Ankara desired expanded activity.
He said the overall volume of trade between the two countries was only one billion dollars, while the target of the two sides was to increase it to 5 billion dollars in the next few years.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - Wednesday12/02/2002 18:28:00
Indicative tourist buying rates per euro
U.S. dollar 0.882
Pound sterling 0.618
Danish kroner 7.489
Swedish kroner 9.324
Japanese yen 117.89
Swiss franc 1.488
Norwegian kroner 7.894
Cyprus pound 0.580
Canadian dollar 1.404
Australian dollar 1.734
 Weather Forecast: Sunny on Wednesday12/02/2002 17:46:42
Sunshine is forecast in all parts of the country, with mist likely in the morning. Winds west-northwesterly, light to moderate. In the north, temperatures will range from 1C to 17C; in the rest of the mainland and Ionian from 3C to 19C; and in the Aegean from 7C to 18C. Sunshine in Athens, with temperatures between 7C and 19C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 5C to 17C.
 US President extends official invitation to Patriarch12/02/2002 17:05:11
ISTANBUL (ANA) Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos will be received by US President George W. Bush at the White House early next month, sources at the Patriarchate said on Tuesday.
The US leaders invitation for March 5 comes in light of the Patriarchs recent high-profile initiatives to counter perceptions and views that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States constitute a chapter in the so-called ?clash of civilisations and religions? theory.
Vartholomeos, in fact, chaired an all-faiths meeting in Brussels in December, which was co-organised by European Commission President Romano Prodi. Some 80 high-ranking representatives from the worlds three major monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam attended that meeting.
Finally, the Patriarch officially visited Shiite-dominated Iran last month, where he reiterated his call for cooperation by the worlds religious faiths and a rejection of ideologies that blame various forms of violence on religion.
Vartholomeos is the ?Primus inter pares? among Orthodox Patriarchs representing approximately 250 million Eastern Orthodox faithful around the world.
 Greek stocks fall for eighth consecutive session12/02/2002 16:29:17
Equity prices ended lower for the eighth consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, undermined by lack of buying interest and a shortage of liquidity in the market.
The general index ended 0.35 percent lower at 2,502.40 points, with turnover a disappointing low Dr 29.5 billion, or 86.7 million euros. Traders said the market has found support at the 2,500 level in the short-term.
The Retail, Metals and Banks sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses (1.35 percent, 0.99 percent and 0.87 percent, respectively), while the Construction, Holdings and Textiles sectors scored gains (0.87 percent, 0.63 percent and 0.34 percent).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.42 percent lower, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index eased 0.23 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index fell 0.10 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 175 to 114 with another 73 issues unchanged.
 Ruling PASOK announces candidate for Athens12/02/2002 16:08:38
Former European Commissioner and current Athens-area deputy Christos Papoutsis will be ruling PASOKs candidate for the upcoming mayoral race in Athens, the party announced on Monday.
In making the announcement, PASOK secretary Costas Laliotis added that the until recently merchant marine minister will be received by Prime Minister Costas Simitis at his office on Tuesday, whereas he voiced his complete disagreement with certain assessments claiming the mayoral race will undoubtedly tilt to main opposition New Democracys side if Dora Bakoyianni decides to enter.
?No election battle is lost from the on-set,? Laliotis said, adding that anyone that underestimates Athenian voters power will be surprised by the election results.
Meanwhile, in terms of a possible Bakoyianni candidacy, the high-profile deputy and former minister will reportedly meet this week with ND leader Costas Karamanlis.
While press speculation over the past few months has repeatedly cast Bakoyianni as NDs candidate in Athens, no official announcement has been made, either by the main opposition party or the one-time minister.
 Cypriot FM arrives in Turkey for EU-OIC meeting12/02/2002 16:06:12
ISTANBUL (ANA) Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Monday received visiting Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides here, as the latter arrived in the Turkish metropolis to participate in a European Union-Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting.
?Were following the dialogue on Cyprus, and were hoping that this new phase will lead to a final, just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue,? Vartholomeos said, adding that expatriate Hellenism and the Patriarchate are both keenly interested in a final resolution to the long-standing division of the island republic.
He added that the Patriarchate backs every effort toward the peaceful coexistence of different civilisations.
On his part, Kasoulides conveyed greetings to the Patriarch from Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, while he added that the island republic is a ?multicultural country that wants peace...?
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