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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-05-28
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Karamanlis wraps up unprecedented official visits to Australia, New Zealand, VietnamPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis arrived back in Athens late Sunday evening after completing a 10-day tour that took him to New Zealand, Australia and, finally, Vietnam. During the trip, the Greek prime minister held numerous meetings with local Greek expatriate organisations, including large rallies in Australia attended by thousands of Greek-Australians, and held talks with the political leadership of each country.
Among the most important results of the trip was the signature of a bilateral agreement settling pensions and social insurance issues with Australia.
While in Hanoi during the last leg of his tour on Sunday, the first-ever state visit by a Greek premier to Vietnam, Karamanlis invited his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung to pay an official visit to Greece.
The Greek prime minister, accompanied by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis, arrived in Hanoi on Saturday evening.
Karamanlis, speaking to reporters after a meeting with Dung in Hanoi, stressed that Vietnam, with its rapidly developing economy and active participation in international organisations, has become a new addition as a trade partner of Greece.
During the meeting, a tourism cooperation agreement between the two countries was signed, with Kassimis signing on behalf of Greece.
Karamanlis said talks covered a broad range of bilateral relations, noting that cooperation between the two countries was good and that they aspired to strengthen their cooperation in the economic and commercial sectors, while agreeing to give mutual support and cooperation in international organisations.
Greece has agreed to back Vietnam's candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in the period 2008-2009. Vietnam had backed Greece's successful candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council, on which it served in the period 2005-2006.
Dung, in turn, accepted Karamanlis' invitation, adding that he aspired to further reinforce relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries on a permanent basis, stressing that the Greek prime minister's visit "will bring a new era in our bilateral relations".
The Vietnamese prime minister further noted that Karamanlis backed economic reforms being advanced in Vietnam, adding that negotiations were currently underway for two more cooperation accords between the two countries in the sectors of the economy and avoidance of double taxation.
Both prime ministers noted that bilateral cooperation could be further expanded to the sectors of shipping and technology, in addition to the sectors of tourism and commerce.
In 2006, the trade balance between Greece and Vietnam was 84 million US dollars, with the target to reach 100 million dollars, Dung said, adding that Vietnam was acknowledged by many countries as a market economy, and stressing that, as a new member of the World Health Organisation (WHO), it would live up to its obligations.
Karamanlis said relations at political level were very good, adding that these relations should also be reflected in the sector of economic cooperation.
Earlier, Karamanlis laid a wreath at the Monument to Heroes and Martyrs, and another wreath at the Ho Chi Ming Mausoleum.
After their talks and joint press conference, Dung hosted an official luncheon for Karamanlis, who later also met with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet.
The Greek prime minister departed Vietnam on Sunday afternoon (local time), and is expected to arrive back in Athens shortly before midnight Sunday (Greek time).
Caption: Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis (L) and Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Tan Dung (R) appear at a reception ceremony for the former on Monday, May 28, 2007. Karamanlis is the first Greek Prime Minister to visit Vietnam. ANA-MPA/ G. ANTONIOU
 Papandreou to chair Parliamentary council meetingMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Tuesday morning will chair a meeting of his party's Parliamentary Council.
According to a PASOK press release on Monday -- a state holiday in Greece -- Papandreou, also in his capacity as Socialist International (SI) president, will attend a luncheon early Tuesday afternoon in his honor hosted by the ambassadors and heads of accredited Arab diplomatic missions in Greece.
The event will be held at the residence of the ambassador of Syria to Greece, the doyen of Arab envoys in Athens.
On Friday evening, during an address at the 7th Annual World Meeting of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Glasgow, Papandreou said that "cooperation by political parties and political organisations with non-governmental organisations is necessary for changes to be advanced in the world. Together, we can change the world," the PASOK leader and SI president also stressed.
He also referred to his experience as foreign minister and to the example of cooperation between Greek and Turkish NGOs "which acted as a catalyst in the improvement of the two countries' relations."
He added that "a similar example also exists in the Middle East where women's non-governmental organisations cooperate with corresponding Palestinian ones, while similar cooperation has also started in the Balkans."
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of PASOK leader George Papandreou.
 Arrests follow 6 hiking trip deathsPolice on Monday announced that two people have been arrested and charged over the tragic trekking accident that cost the lives of at least six hikers on the swollen Lousios River.
By order of a Tripolis, southern Greece, public prosecutor, police arrested the co-owners of the excursion firm "K. Christopoulos-L. Moraitis, Special Tourism" -- based in Karytaina, Arcadia prefecture in the central Peloponnese -- which organised the ill-fated trekking holiday that cost the life of six people. One of the two owners of the company had been the guide for the unfortunate hiking excursion.
The two were charged with multiple counts of manslaughter and causing bodily harm through negligence.
The search to find two hikers still missing in the remote and water-logged Lousios Gorge continued throughout the day on Monday, even as weather conditions deteriorated and further hampered rescue workers. Taking part in the search were fire fighters, the EMAK special disaster response unit, volunteers and every army commandos.
At least six people had been confirmed dead on Sunday evening after a group of 18 hikers were swept away by a torrent on the Lousios River in Arcadia prefecture the previous evening. Earlier reports that one of the two missing hikers had been spotted and that help was on the way could not be corroborated by authorities, with the two still missing as of Monday afternoon.
According to officials, a group of 18 hikers from Athens, after visiting the nearby towns of Dimitsana and Stemnitsa, set off for a trek along the riverbed and an ascent of a waterfall when they were swept away by a torrent of floodwater and mud as they attempted to cross the swollen river.
Civil Protection secretary general Panayiotis Fourlas also arrived on the spot on Friday evening to coordinate the efforts, accompanied by the entire police and fire brigade leadership of southern Greece.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of the Lousios River in the Peloponnese province of southern Greece.
 Patriarch on upcoming elections in TurkeyEcumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Monday appeared optimistic that general elections in Turkey on July 22 "will lead to a solution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's problems."
"We hope and pray that after the formation of a new government in Ankara there will be spectacular and radical changes in this direction," the Patriarch said after officiating at a service at the Aghia Triada (Holy Trinity) Cathedral here on the occasion of the Holy Trinity feast day.
Addressing pilgrims from Greece, members of Istanbul's dwindling ethnic Greek community and to Euro-MPs of the Greens Party visiting Turkey, the Patriarch stressed that "we are not asking anything more than the self-evident, the ease and full freedom to exercise our religious duties.
"We want there to be complete freedom in our lives for our minority rights, as is happening with our Muslim brothers in Germany and in other European countries where they are continuously building new mosques without any restriction whatsoever, participating in local government and are elected deputies in the corresponding (European countries') parliaments," Vartholomeos said.
Caption: A file photo of Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos. ANA-MPA
 Greek, Russian energy ministers to meetDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas will meet with Russian Industry and Energy Minister Victor Khristenko in Athens on Tuesday to discuss the two countries' relations in energy and industrial sectors.
Sioufas and Khristenko, along with their Bulgarian counterpart Asen Gagauzov, are the signatories to a March 2007 inter-state agreement for the construction, management and operation of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.
The agreement has already been ratified by the Greek Parliament and the Russian Duma.
A development ministry press release on Monday reminded that the procedure for ratification by the Bulgarian Parliament is in its final stage and is expected to be concluded in the coming days.
Captoin: ANA-MPA file photo of Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas.
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