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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-07-07

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] NATO's Scheffer meets with Greek leadership; extended presence for Greek KFOR troops
  • [02] Greece, Saudi Arabia eye closer economic ties
  • [03] Unique ancient statue of Artemis unearthed

  • [01] NATO's Scheffer meets with Greek leadership; extended presence for Greek KFOR troops

    Visiting NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Friday agreed to extend the presence of Greece's KFOR troops in Kosovo until the end of talks on the province's future, whereas the Alliance did not seek any increase in Greek forces stationed in Afghanistan -- in spite of Scheffer's reference to "confirmed shortages".

    The NATO chief had previously met with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis for a general political discussion on the Balkans and NATO enlargement, a government spokesman later said.

    In statements after his meeting with Bakoyannis, Scheffer referred to Greece's "very important" role within NATO, praising the part it has played in Kosovo, Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi troops, while he expressed support for Athens' efforts to agree on confidence-building measures with Turkey.

    He said the meeting with Bakoyannis had covered a wide range of issues in preparation for the upcoming NATO summit in Riga, including NATO's expansion and the need to adapt to a new global security environment. Scheffer also invited countries interested in joining NATO to come forward, naming Croatia, Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), in particular.

    "During my recent visit to these countries, I said that if they make every possible effort they will be able to align themselves with the terms that NATO has set and in Riga we will examine where they stand exactly with respect to their accession prospects," he noted.

    According to Bakoyannis, meanwhile, in addition to its presence in Kosovo and Afghanistan, Greece had a "commensurate contribution to the efforts to support an independent, secure, sovereign, united and democratic Iraq."

    "Greece's contribution to international security and peace is important and substantial and for this reason it enjoys proportionate recognition," she added.

    Regarding NATO enlargement, she said this should occur at times when the candidate-countries had fulfilled the political and military criteria and the Alliance was ready to enlarge.

    Bakoyannis also emphasised Athens' interest in promoting NATO relations with non-member Mediterranean countries via deepening the Mediterranean dialogue begun by NATO several years earlier.

    Both Scheffer and Bakoyannis expressed a need for closer ties between NATO and the European Union, while NATO's chief also referred to the need for joint action with other countries that are not NATO members, such as Australia and New Zealand, but which take part in NATO missions.

    Finally, he spoke about the need to modernise the Alliance so that it had faster response capability and more rapidly deployable forces, while stressing that "whatever changes are made, NATO will always be NATO, based on the Washington Treaty and will always operate on the basis of Article V."

    Asked whether the Alliance was concerned over the increased tension between Greece and Turkey over the Aegean, Scheffer said that both the Alliance and the General-Secretariat were concerned "following the sad incident involving the loss of a pilot".

    He was referring to a recent collision over the Aegean between a Turkish fighter jet and a Greek fighter aircraft sent out to intercept it, in which the Greek pilot was killed.

    The NATO secretary-general expressed pleasure at Greek and Turkish efforts to establish new confidence-building measures while singling out Bakoyannis for praise:

    "It is very important for me, for my role as Secretary-General, to display my support for such efforts carried out by anyone - in this case Ms Bakoyannis - in order to rebuild trust. Such a thing is of vital importance," he said.


    Earlier, during a separate meeting with Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, Scheffer discussed the situation in Afghanistan and Kosovo, while reiterating the Allianceās request for more assistance by Athens for air transport support in various theatres.

    On his part, Meimarakis said the Greek armed forces are currently stretched too thin to increase their presence in peacekeeping missions, while also referring to "particularities" of security conditions in the region, as well as economic constraints.

    Regarding the Kosovo, both sides agreed over the need for NATO to remain in the region until the provinceās status is decided.

    Scheffer also met with main opposition PASOK leader and foreign minister George Papandreou.

    Caption: Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis (R) and visiting NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer speak at a news conference shortly after their meeting in Athens on Friday July 7, 2006. ANA-MPA/O. PANAGIOTOU

    [02] Greece, Saudi Arabia eye closer economic ties

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Friday met in Athens with visiting Saudi Arabian Finance Minister Ibrahim Abd al-Aziz al-Asaf, with talks focusing on ways to further expand bilateral cooperation.

    Speaking to reporters, the minister said he invited Dr al-Asaf to officially visit Greece and stressed that Athens' support for Saudi Arabia's bid to join the World Trade Organization offered new impetus towards bilateral relations.

    The Saudi Arabian minister is currently in Athens to attend an international conference on efforts to promote bilateral economic relations in the wake of President Karolos Papoulias' recent visit to Riyadh.

    Caption: Sioufas, right, with Saudi Finance Minister al-Asaf in Athens on Friday, July 7, 2006. ANA-MPA / G. Antoniou.

    [03] Unique ancient statue of Artemis unearthed

    A unique ancient statue of the goddess Artemis, considered one of the most exquisite artifacts found in the Thessaly province of central Greece, was unearthed on Thursday by archaeologists at the site of an ancient theater near the modern city of Larissa, where restoration works are underway, it was announced on Friday.

    The 80cm-tall statue -- only the torso was found -- depicts Artemis, in Greek mythology (Diana in Roman mythology) the virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon, and the twin sister of Apollo. The artifact is tentatively dated back to the mid 1st Century BC.

    Caption: The head-less statue depicting Artemis. ANA-MPA / V. Paschali.

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