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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-05-13

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

May 13, 2004


  • [01] PM Karamanlis pledges to tighten the economy, boost growth
  • [02] Finmin says wrong deficit figure due to false revenue data
  • [03] PASOK party leader tells Parliamentary debate 'government unable to govern'
  • [04] Papariga says that gov't is trying in vain to distance itself from PASOK
  • [05] Coalition party leader criticizes mainstream parties during Parliamentary debate
  • [06] Gov't confirms plans for official visit to US by PM
  • [07] Gov't denies that Olympics security will roll back civil rights
  • [08] Mayor Bakoyianni briefs PM Karamanlis on Olympics-related programs
  • [09] Gov't shares worldwide abhorrence over Iraqi torture pictures
  • [10] FM Molyviatis meets U.S. Ambassador Miller
  • [11] Cyprus Parliament speaker holds talks with PASOK and Communist Party leaders
  • [12] Cyprus conference in Washington focuses on ''the next step''
  • [13] Council of Europe reinforces human rights
  • [14] Development ministers meets Turkish, German ambassadors
  • [15] New Palestinian representative to Athens presents his credentials
  • [16] Cuban envoy underlines danger of military intervention in Cuba
  • [17] Tourist Institute predicts mild recovery in this year's tourist movement
  • [18] Employment and business forum in Athens
  • [19] Stocks rise, bucking trend in Europe
  • [20] IOC's Oswald impressed with Athens' progress, doubts dispersed
  • [21] Oswald and Angelopoulos respond to Australia's travel advisory
  • [22] Athens 2004 president to brief PM on IOC session
  • [23] West arch of Calatrava roof to be in place by Thursday
  • [24] Coin to mark Athens 2004 Olympics in circulation on Thursday
  • [25] Marathon Tomb to open to the public June 10
  • [26] Foundation of Olympic and Sports Education to meet in Athens
  • [27] Four 'new lands' metropolitans fail to attend Holy Synod meeting
  • [28] Vari-Koropi road to be delivered by end June
  • [29] EU Council President Ahern concludes Cyprus talks
  • [30] Britain: no other possible basis for Cyprus solution than Annan plan

  • [01] PM Karamanlis pledges to tighten the economy, boost growth

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday pledged to tighten up the economy and boost growth after completing a review of the economy with Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency.

    ''We are tidying up the state, developing the economy, and serving society,'' Karamanlis told a parliamentary debate on the economy.

    The government's first step since coming to power in March 7 national elections had been to start a detailed investigation into state finances on suspicion that the previous government had misrepresented key indicators. ''Not only had there been no fiscal revitalization, but the problem had actually become more acute,'' the premier said.

    Citing an example, he noted that according to Eurostat data, the general government deficit in 2003 was 3.2 per cent of gross domestic product against the previous government's forecast of a 1.0 per cent surplus for that year. Euro stat's final estimates of the state deficit and the public debt had yet to be finalized as the EU agency believed that earlier data on a surplus for state organizations and on defense spending required further investigation. The public debt had provisionally been set at 103 per cent of GDP in 2003, higher than previously stated.

    ''This shows that the budget was false from the start,'' Karamanlis said. ''We are making every endeavor to limit, as far as we can, deviations from the budget and set a firm foundation for truthful and reliable budgets from 2005.''

    Also complicating an assessment of the country's finances were breaches of budgetary targets on spending for the Athens 2004 Olympics, and an attempt by the previous government to conceal major chunks of spending, the prime minister said.

    Among many examples was a division of the sports general secretariat, responsible for much construction linked to the Games, which had failed to submit a 2004 financing proposal before the March general election.

    The proposal given to the new government totalled 750 million euros, for which no provision had been made in the 2004 budget.

    ''Spending on preparations for the Olympics in 2004 is estimated at 2.4 billion euros. In the budget, however, there is a provision for only 1.4 billion euros, with the difference between the two figures representing nearly 0.7 per cent of GDP'' the prime minister said.

    Turning to a wider policy arena, Karamanlis told deputies that the government planned to shift state activity away from the economy and into improving social services, while lowering defense spending and restructuring state spending.

    Cutting extravagance in the state sector would save funds each year representing up to 1.0 per cent of GDP; and clamping down on tax evasion and a failure to pay social insurance while accelerating growth would reap another 0.5 per cent of GDP annually. ''Persistence in this endeavor will save monies totalling 4.5 per cent of GDP, or 7.5 billion euros, at the end of our four-year term of office,'' the prime minister said.

    In four years, the rate of growth should top 5.0 per cent, he added.

    [02] Finmin says wrong deficit figure due to false revenue data

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday that a major upward revision of Greece's fiscal deficit by state services and Eurostat was due to the previous government's inflated revenue data and hidden spending, and not to a change in accounting practices as it claimed.

    Addressing a parliamentary debate on the economy, Alogoskoufis also said that another factor to artificially lower the deficit figure was inclusion by the previous government under revenue of a capital transfer by the Post Office Savings Bank.

    ''Essentially, Eurostat has asked for a change in the accounting rules employed by the last government to conceal fiscal deficits,'' Alogoskoufis said.

    He added that an investigation of state accounts had also revealed hidden debts for hospitals, public transport and defense; and final figures would be released at the end of the enquiry.

    [03] PASOK party leader tells Parliamentary debate 'government unable to govern'

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, speaking in Parliament during an off-the-agenda debate on the economy on Wednesday evening, stressed that ''the government is unable to govern, being prepared very little after 12 years in the opposition.''

    Referring to the issue of Cyprus, Papandreou said ''you are trying to hide that you had said a resounding yes to the process of Lucerne, but you went to Lucerne as a tourist.''

    On the question of Greek-Turkish relations, the PASOK party leader said ''we were always positive on the strategy of rapprochement which, however, we always considered was attached to a solution to the issue of Cyprus and a settlement to the continental shelf issue. You lost heart and said that you do not assume responsibility, you have announced as of now that you will not raise a veto in December and have shelved the Cyprus issue, while the very friendly visit by (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan highlighted the diplomatic triumph of the Turkish side.''

    Commenting on the situation prevailing in the economy, Papandreou predicted that ''with this lack of governance the time of compulsory decisions will come. The cohesion of society will be put to the test and social pain will be intolerable.''

    Papandreou also attributed a large share of responsibility to the same ''lack of policy'' regarding the upsurge in the cost of living.

    Even in the case of the increase in fuel prices, Papandreou noted that it is an unjustifiable fact that ''our country holds a European record in the profits of petroleum companies and petrol stations.''

    Papandreou warned the government ''not to interpret our politeness and seriousness in the opposition as a sign of weakness'' since ''we have the strength for new struggles to protect the achievements of the Greek citizen and the independence and autonomy of Greece in the world.''

    [04] Papariga says that gov't is trying in vain to distance itself from PASOK

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary Aleka Papariga told a parliamentary debate on the economy on Wednesday that the New Democracy government was attempting to distance itself from the management options which had been made by the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) when it was in power so as to justify new austerity measures.

    ''The ND government wants to distance itself from the management options made by PASOK so as to justify the new austerity measures which are coming,'' she said.

    She accused both the ND and PASOK of ''being two of a kind in that there was no improvement in the standard of living of the Greek people and no wage increases.''

    She said that it was of no consequence to the people what ''indexes'' the ND or PASOK gave to the people.

    Noting that ''we cannot underestimate the intelligence of the people,'' she said:' The working people cannot choose between low and high inflation. The Greek economy may be a frontrunner in growth rate in Europe but it concerns the development of profit.''

    Referring to the state of the economy in the past few years, Papariga said that some problems were not made acute in Greece because there were specific circumstances ''which will not exist in the coming years'' such as the opening of the markets in the Balkans, the Olympic Games and the 3rd Community Support Framework.

    [05] Coalition party leader criticizes mainstream parties during Parliamentary debate

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party leader Nikos Constantopoulos, addressing Parliament during an off-the-agenda debate on the economy on Wednesday night, criticized both the mainstream New Democracy and PASOK parties.

    Constantopoulos said the situation is difficult and the people do not show interest in such discussions when every government creates its own myth about a strong economy.

    Speaking of the main opposition PASOK party, he said ''the citizens were hearing about a strong economy until now and are seeing that much talk about modernization is a wreck.''

    Referring to the fiscal inventory promised by the ND government, Constantopoulos said it must contain answers on such issues as what will its position be towards interests, if it will shape conditions of transparency and whether it will take into consideration unemployment, poverty and indebted households.

    Conveying ''questions by society'', Constantopoulos called for answers on whether those who paid unfairly and disproportionately the country's entry in the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) will be paying again and if the national product and employment will increase with productive reconstruction or will the failed model of consuming European Union and loan funds continue.

    Constantopoulos called for the implementation of a new program of reforms for the country's recovery and warned that ''a possible repetition of the same neo-liberal policies, or variations of theirs, will lead the country to a definite deviation from developments in the EU.''

    [06] Gov't confirms plans for official visit to US by PM

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Wednesday confirmed that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be carrying out an official visit to the United States next week.

    He also announced that Karamanlis will be speaking in Parliament this evening in an off-the-agenda debate on the state of the economy, in accordance with New Democracy's pre-election pledges to provide a full and objective account on economic issues.

    According to the spokesman, there were now clear and objective facts to be presented and the government hoped for a constructive dialogue with the participation of all the parties.

    At another point, Roussopoulos said the government did not criticize the previous administration so much for its handling of economic policy and its results as its political choice to hide the truth.

    He also stressed that the government had no plans for further reforms to the pensions system.

    The spokesman announced that the prime minister is scheduled to meet Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, on Thursday morning.

    After the meeting with Ahern, Karamanlis is due to visit the culture ministry, the head of the Greek Union of Industry (SEB) Odysseas Kyriakopoulos and the head of Olympic Organizers ATHOC, Gianna Angelopoulos, on Thursday evening.

    On Friday, Karamanlis will have a meeting with visiting Georgia Patriarch Ilia II at 13:00.

    Earlier on Wednesday, the premier met Denis Oswald from the IOC and Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni for talks on the Olympics.

    [07] Gov't denies that Olympics security will roll back civil rights

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    The government on Wednesday denied that Olympics security measures will roll back civil rights and liberties, following reports that the 285 cameras to be installed for the Games will remain in use afterwards in violation of privacy rights.

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the sole government intervention will concern regulating traffic flow within the Olympic zone. He also denied reports of a planned moratorium on rallies during the Olympic Games.

    [08] Mayor Bakoyianni briefs PM Karamanlis on Olympics-related programs

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday conferred with Athens mayor Dora Bakoyianni, who briefed the premier on programs underway in the Greek capital in view of preparations for the 2004 Olympic Games.

    Bakoyianni told reporters after the meeting that she also briefed Karamanlis on the campaign to project Athens abroad, with her recent visits to several capitals.

    [09] Gov't shares worldwide abhorrence over Iraqi torture pictures

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    The Greek government shares the abhorrence of the international public opinion over the photographs brought to light of the torture of Iraqi prisoners, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said Wednesday.

    Replying to questions at a regular press briefing, Roussopoulos underlined that "the Greek government condemns violence from wherever it originates", and warned that "violence only breeds violence". 71 MPs condemn human rights violations in Iraq in a letter, 70 MPs of the main opposition PASOK party and a Coalition of the Radical Left (SYN) MP on Wednesday condemned the "unprecedented violation of human rights in Iraq".

    The MPs called on the US government to take measures proving that it actively condemns the tortures and degradations suffered by Iraqi citizens.

    They further called for an emergency discussion of the issue of torture and human rights violations in Iraq at the upcoming session of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly.

    [10] FM Molyviatis meets U.S. Ambassador Miller

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister George Molyviatis on Wednesday met with U.S. Ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller with whom he discussed Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' visit to the United States next week.

    Miller told reporters that it was part of the regular meetings he has with the foreign minister.

    Asked to comment whether he shared the concerns of Australia, expressed through a Travel Advisory, on security issues in Greece during the Olympic Games, Miller said that he does not speak on behalf of another country and speaks only on behalf of the U.S. government. ''I'm here,'' he said when asked whether he viewed Greece a safe country to live in.

    [11] Cyprus Parliament speaker holds talks with PASOK and Communist Party leaders

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Visiting Cyprus House of Representatives Speaker and Leftist AKEL party Secretary General Demetris Christofias discussed latest developments on the issue of Cyprus with main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou and Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga on Wednesday.

    Papandreou and Christofias agreed during their talks in Parliament on the need for the strategy of the Greek Cypriots to be clarified in the wake of the recent referenda held on the island.

    Speaking after the meeting, Papandreou said PASOK is always prepared to support every effort aimed at keeping the issue of Cyprus open and which, as he said, must not be considered closed after the referendum.

    ''We are prepared to listen to the thoughts of the Greek Cypriot political leadership and to move in every direction to support them,'' he said.

    Christofias agreed that there must be a clarification of the Greek Cypriot strategy, adding that the situation following the ''no'' vote in the referendum must be evaluated and a specific strategy must be redefined.

    He further said what is necessary is not a pending Cyprus issue but its settlement and the finding of ways to enable the Greek Cypriots to say a great ''yes.''

    Speaking after her meeting with Christofias, Papariga underlined KKE's position in favor of a rapprochement between Greek and Turkish Cypriots and in favor of a bizonal and bicommunal federation.

    ''The Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can rely on the solidarity and support of KKE and even wider so, in our view, of the Greek people and of progressive and radical people,'' she said.

    ''We remain steadfast on support for a solution to the problem of Cyprus on the policy of a bizonal, bicommunal federation and on the effort of the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to approach each other as much as possible and to confront whatever divisive, nationalist spirit that may exist,'' she added.

    Coalition leader meets Cypriot Parliament president: Cyprus House of Representatives president Dimitris Christofias, also the leader of Cyprus' AKEL party, on Wednesday visited Coalition of the Radical Left party president Nikos Constantopoulos in Athens for talks on handling the Cyprus issue.

    After the meeting, Christofias said that dealing with the repercussions of the Greek Cypriots rejection of the Annan plan in the April referendum must be done collectively by Cyprus' political leadership, with the assistance of political forces in Greece.

    He underlined the need for Cyprus to precisely define its goals in this respect and act at an opportune time rather than waiting for initiatives by others.

    He also thanked the Coalition party for its support of AKEL over the past period.

    Constantopoulos stressed that security guarantees were vital for a solution to be implemented and said that Cyprus' accession to the European Union should be used so that the issue was not forgotten by the United Nations and a fait accompli established.

    [12] Cyprus conference in Washington focuses on ''the next step''

    WASHINGTON 11/5/2004 (ANA/A. Ellis)

    The 15th Annual Cyprus Conference, held here from May 12-14, will focus on the necessary ''next steps'' for the effective handling of the Cyprus issue and will be attended by Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides and White House officials, among others. The conference is organized by the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), the International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) and the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH).

    On Wednesday evening (local time), Cypriot Ambassador to Washington Evripides Evriviades will hold a reception in honor of conference attendees.

    On Thursday, conference attendees will visit Capitol Hill and will meet with congressmen.

    [13] Council of Europe reinforces human rights

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    The Council of Europe, which held its annual Ministerial Conference on Wednesday in Strasbourg, adopted a protocol which modifies the European Convention on Human Rights, by reinforcing the effectiveness of the European Human Rights Court. The protocol will be signed on Thursday.

    The situation in the Balkans, the Council of Europe's efforts in fighting human trafficking, organized crime and terrorism were some of the issues discussed during the conference, according to an announcement issued by the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Regarding Kosovo specifically, the ministers expressed their concern for the area's political situation and emphasized the need for European institutions and organizations to play a greater role in dealing with it.

    Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Yiannis Valinakis, representing Greece at the conference, underlined the emphasis Greece places on the Council of Europe's role and on its decisions which must be implemented. He also stressed that independence, objectivity, and effectiveness are three necessary elements if the European Human Rights Court is to be effective.

    [14] Development ministers meets Turkish, German ambassadors

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Deputy Development Minister George Salagoudis on Wednesday met Turkish Ambassador to Athens Yigit Alpogan and German Ambassador to Athens Albert Spiegel at the ministry.

    They said that the climate of good friendship and cooperation between Greece and the two countries in question had been confirmed during the meeting, and that there had been an exchange of views on improving cooperation on development issues.

    [15] New Palestinian representative to Athens presents his credentials

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis on Wednesday accepted the credentials of the Palestinian Authority's new representative to Athens, Marwan Rida Abdelhamid.

    The former president of the Union of Arab Engineers told reporters after his meeting with Molyviatis that he conveyed the personal greetings of Yasser Arafat to the Greek minister and for Greek President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.

    "Let me take this opportunity to express, on behalf of the Palestinian people, our gratitude towards all successive Greek governments; to all Greek political parties; to all the mass media, and to the entire Greek people, for their courageous and generous support of the Palestinian people, and their just struggle for freedom, independence, democracy and peace," Abdelhamid said.

    The new Palestinian representative to Athens has also served as the first deputy chairman of the World Federation of Engineering Federations (WFEO), as well as the Palestinian Authority's deputy minister of public works & housing.

    [16] Cuban envoy underlines danger of military intervention in Cuba

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Cuban Ambassador to Athens Jorge Quesada on Wednesday underlined the danger of a military intervention in Cuba as a continuation and climax of the new measures for its ''isolation'', adopted by the United States, on the basis of which ''the domestic overturn and economic strangulation of the country is promoted.''

    Quesada denounced the taking of these measures which he described as ''a flagrant violation of human rights'' and called for international solidarity to the suffering, for 45 years, people of a ''free state.''

    He announced measures of reaction which Cuba will take against the United States, such as strict maintenance of the peso-dollar parity in its market, as well as the strong anti-American demonstration of the Cuban people in Havana on Friday.

    Advisor to PM on public administration matters named Athens University professor of administrative sciences Antonis Makrydimitris has been appointed advisor to prime minister Costas Karamanlis on matters of public administration, the premier's press office announced Wednesday.

    [17] Tourist Institute predicts mild recovery in this year's tourist movement

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    The Tourist Research and Predictions Institute (ITEM) predicts a mild recovery, or in the worst of cases stagnation, in this year's tourist movement, according to its latest report publicised on Wednesday.

    The report said that due to the Athens Olympic Games there should normally have been expected a considerable increase in tourist arrivals in the country and a corresponding increase in tourist exchange.

    However, ITEP added that ''the way things are, it is extremely difficult, if not hypocritical, for one to pretend to be optimistic.''

    Greek tourism, despite the fact it is experiencing an Olympic Games year, is moving along an inaccessible path under pressure by intense price competition by other destinations in the Mediterranean (particularly by all who give prices in dollars), the upsurge of the euro and other adverse factors. The difference in prices of Greek hotels, particularly with the emerging tourist destinations in the Mediterranean, as well as the loss of competitiveness for Greek accommodation due to the euro's rising value, is very great, the report said.

    [18] Employment and business forum in Athens

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    The municipality of Athens in cooperation with the French embassy in Athens is organizing the "2nd Open Forum on Employment and Business" at the Technopolis, Saturday 22, Sunday 23 May.

    Presenting the forum, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni, said it was aimed to inform the citizens of Athens over employment, self-employment and business activity issues.

    "We believe that local authorities should have an institutional and fiscal role in drafting and implementing policies for supporting employment, particularly among young people and women," Mrs. Bakoyianni told reporters.

    [19] Stocks rise, bucking trend in Europe

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    The Athens bourse finished higher with players buying into high capitalization stocks, bucking the trend in other European markets, which showed a decline, traders said.

    The general share index gained 0.97 per cent to end at 2,473.84 points. Turnover was 162.3 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 0.95 per cent up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization paper 0.17 per cent down; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap equities lost 0.51 per cent.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 162 to 120 with 79 issues remaining unchanged.


    Closing rates of May 7 2004

    Parities in euro


    For. Exchange Buying Selling

    US Dollar 1,195 1,167

    [20] IOC's Oswald impressed with Athens' progress, doubts dispersed

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Denis Oswald, the influential chairman of the IOC's coordination commission for the Athens 2004 Games, expressed his satisfaction on Wednesday with progress in a series of key Olympics venues and related projects, days after the eagerly awaited process to slide a massive metallic skeleton over the main Olympic stadium (OAKA) began in earnest.

    His comments came during an internationally televised press conference at Athens organizers' (ATHOC) Nea Ionia headquarters, and with ATHOC chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki at his side.

    Oswald told reporters that the IOC is now confident that all Olympics-related projects, venues and infrastructure will be delivered in time for the 2004 Games, which begin on Aug. 13 with an Opening Ceremony at the very stadium where the new state-of-the-art roof began to slide into place.

    He further noted that any doubts he or the IOC may have had are now "dispersed", before again stressing that the process to slide the Olympic Stadium roof into place demonstrated Greece's ability to accomplish such major tasks.

    However, Oswald repeated the IOC's standing warning, namely, that the same intensive rates of work must be maintained, and that only when the last visitor has departed can organizers relax.

    Asked about this week's sudden announcement of "travel advice" by the Australian government towards its citizens wishing to visit Greece this summer, the Swiss IOC executive said he was "surprised" and disappointed, before citing a lack of communication on the matter.

    Touching on another extremely sensitive topic -- security -- for the upcoming Games, and in reference to last week's triple bomb blast outside an Athens police station, Oswald said the explosions were nowhere near an Olympic site, and that such an incident was possible anywhere in the world.

    He also said it was important to distinguish between terrorist acts and explosions.

    In taking the floor, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki noted that preparations essentially began in 2000 and under the "shadow" of a "yellow card" issued by the IOC's leadership at the time.

    "Since then we have been able to complete, in four years, what should have been done in seven, as in all other Olympics," she said.

    The high-profile ATHOC chief again promised the IOC's coordination commission that everything will be ready to greet the world's best athletes in three month's time, when the Games begin.

    Finally, in summing up the progress to date, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said 15 venues are finished, along with the Olympic village, whereas 10 venues and one media village have been delivered to organizers. She said progress on the remaining venues and facilities exceeds 85 percent.

    In terms of security, she cited seven major exercises that have taken place, with an eighth on the way, and the support of a seven-nation advisory group.

    "From the beginning we wanted to have security as our number one priority. In the summer of 2004, no other country will have done more for security of athletes, spectators and residents than Greece," she said.

    Meeting with PM Karamanlis: Earlier, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis received the high-ranking IOC official at his office.

    Karamanlis has retained the culture ministry portfolio for himself in order to underline the priority placed by his government on the Games.

    According to sources, both men expressed their certainty that Athens would host safe and impeccable Games

    The sources said Oswald, who was accompanied by Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, was impressed by the progress in all the delayed projects, such as the tram, the suburban rail line, Marathon roadway (along the route on which the Marathon race will follow), the Goudi venue, and landscaping and access around most Olympic venues.

    Oswald was also relieved with the success in Monday's attempt to slide the landmark Calatrava roof for the main Olympic complex (OAKA) into place. The sliding process of the west arch is due to be completed by Wednesday evening or early Thursday, while the east arch will be maneuvered into place next week, followed by positioning of the tinted synthetic tiles that will form the roof by the end of June.

    The landmark architectural project, long plagued by delays and at times criticized for its enormous cost (roughly 170 million euros) and complexity, is the brainchild of noted Spanish architect and civil engineer Santiago Calatrava. Although not part of Athens' formal commitments to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), organizers nevertheless commissioned the state-of-the-art roof in the hope that it will become the "signature landmark" of the 2004 Olympic Games.

    Oswald is heading a technical delegation from the Lausanne-based organization on a regular inspection of the venues.

    Oswald and the IOC team of experts held meetings on Tuesday with Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, public order deputy minister Christos Markoyiannakis, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, Olympic Games secretary general Spyros Kapralos, and other ministry officials, after which Oswald claimed ''reinforced'' confidence in the success of the Athens Games.

    [21] Oswald and Angelopoulos respond to Australia's travel advisory

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    IOC Coordination Commission Chairman Denis Oswald said he was ''surprised and disappointed,'' with the travel advisory Australia issued recently, during a press conference he and Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki gave on Wednesday.

    ''I don't know if it's a misunderstanding or a lack of communication, because Australia is one of the seven countries represented in the advisory [security] group. And the advisory group's assessment is absolutely positive and I'm truly surprised. The only explanation I can give is that there must be a lack of communication,'' Oswald said.

    Also asked to comment on Australia's recent announcement, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, said: ''As far as we know, Australia's government has issued many such travel directives for many countries in the world and in Europe. However, this travel advisory creates a negative impression of Greece and it is unfair for my country. Every year, Greece receives more than 12 million visitors and we know very well the meaning of hospitality in our beautiful country and these concepts are very familiar to us. We would therefore like to suggest caution to our Australian friends.''

    Le Monde interviews IOC President Rogge: IOC President Jacques Rogge said that he is convinced that everything has been done to ensure the maximum security possible during the Olympic Games in Athens, in an interview he gave to the French newspaper Le Monde, published on Wednesday. ''Whatever was humanly possible, has been done,'' he said.

    In reference to the bombs in Kallithea, Rogge noted that, ''Similar events occur in other countries as well. There is the Basque ETA in Corsica. I don't want to belittle the incident, but it happened exactly 100 days before the Games and everyone was watching.''

    Speaking of several countries' intentions to provide their own security forces for their teams, the IOC president said he had reservations, but added that ''the Greek government will be the one to decide.''

    [22] Athens 2004 president to brief PM on IOC session

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki will be meeting Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at the Maximos Mansion on Thursday to brief him on the results of the 12th IOC Coordinating Commission session, as well as on issues concerning Olympic Games preparations in general.

    [23] West arch of Calatrava roof to be in place by Thursday

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Technicians involved with sliding the Calatrava roof into place over the Athens Olympic Sports Complex, expressed satisfaction with the way the project was progressing on Wednesday. The west arch of the roof will be in place by Thursday afternoon. According to those supervising the project, the east arch is expected to be slipped into place by the end of May and should prove an easier task given the experience gained with the west arch.

    [24] Coin to mark Athens 2004 Olympics in circulation on Thursday

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    The Bank of Greece is to circulate a new two-euro coin on Thursday to mark the Athens 2004 Olympics.

    The 50 million commemorative coins totalling 100 million euros will circulate in all eurozone countries, central bank officials told a presentation on Wednesday.

    Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas said that collectors at home and abroad had shown strong interest in the issue.

    [25] Marathon Tomb to open to the public June 10

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis visited the Marathon Tomb and the surrounding site on Wednesday, where work is currently under way to create an archaeological park. The Marathon Tomb will open to the public on June 10, while the surrounding area will be completed by end of July, shortly before the Olympic Games.

    Tatoulis expressed optimism that the project would be completed in time and said that the Culture Ministry is doing everything in its power to ensure that it does.

    The Marathon Museum is also expected to be completed by July 20.

    [26] Foundation of Olympic and Sports Education to meet in Athens

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    The International Foundation of Olympic and Sports Education will be holding a conference in Athens in the upcoming days to discuss the creation of a European Research Centre, whose aim will be to prevent and deal with ''anti-sports phenomena,'' such as violence, drug abuse, and vandalism in the context of sports events.

    The results of the conference will be announced at a press conference scheduled to take place at noon on Monday, May 17 at St. George Lycabettus Hotel. One of the speakers will be the Foundation's President Antonios Tzikas.

    Representatives of international sports federations and educational organizations, as well as experts in the field will participate in the conference.

    [27] Four 'new lands' metropolitans fail to attend Holy Synod meeting

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    Four out of six 'New Lands' metropolitans participating in the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece on Wednesday failed to attend a meeting, while two of them wrote to say that they intend to stay away until a dispute between the Greek Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been resolved.

    Their stance has incensed the leadership of the Greek Church and the Synod, which considers them unjustifiably absent and has warned that it will activate the provisions of the church charter and the penalties contained herein, up to and including their replacement, if they insist on this stance.

    The 'New lands' is the name given to a number of Greek dioceses, mainly in northern Greece, which were liberated from Turkish rule after 1912 and whose ecclesiastical administration was given to the Church of Greece in 'trusteeship' with an act in 1928 though they remained under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    The dispute concerns Episcopal elections for these bishoprics, with the Patriarch demanding to be allowed to approve and list of candidates and make additions to it, something that the Church of Greece believes would compromise its Autocephalous status and contravene Greek laws.

    A Synod spokesman said that the repercussions of a decision by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos to break off communion with the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos will be examined at the next Synod meeting, after the conclusion of the government's initiative to mediate in the dispute.

    The spokesman also advised the metropolitans to await for the outcome of these efforts and for the Greek Church's position on the issue before adopting a position themselves that put their dignity and responsibility at risk.

    ''The obligation of every member of the Synod is to support his positions within the Synodic body,'' he said.

    During the meeting, Christodoulos informed the Synod on the government's initiative and the contents of his talks with Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Yiannakou.

    The meeting decided to await the results of the government initiative, expressing its desire that a solution be found quickly to avoid shocking the congregation and irrevocably damaging its morale.

    Regarding the letters sent to the Archbishop from the Moscow Patriarchate, the Synod's spokesman said only that these were ''within the spirit of good relations with the other Orthodox Churches''.

    He also announced that Georgia Patriarch Ilia II was due to arrive on Thursday and that an official mass will be held at the Athens Metropolitan Church immediately afterward.

    [28] Vari-Koropi road to be delivered by end June

    Athens, 11/5/2004 (ANA)

    The Vari-Koropi avenue, a 13-kilometre road linking the southeastern suburbs of Attica and coastal municipalities with Attica Road, will be fully operational by the end of June, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias said on Wednesday.

    The project, budgeted at 58 million euros, will improve significantly road traffic to the "El.Venizelos" international airport in Spata.

    Speaking to reporters, after visiting the site, Mr Souflias said that the ministry would offer additional credits, worth 4.0 million euros, for the construction of anti-flooding works alongside the avenue.

    [29] EU Council President Ahern concludes Cyprus talks


    European Council President, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said the people of Cyprus have decided in last month's referendum and now it was time to move on.

    Ahern was speaking during his arrival on the island where he held talks with Acting Foreign Minister Andreas Christou at Larnaca International Airport.

    In his statements, Ahern said it was ''the wish of the EU that on the 1st of May a united Cyprus would join the EU'' but ''ultimately, it was a matter for the people, and the people have decided and now we move on.''

    The Irish Premier was scheduled to hold talks with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, but Papadopoulos is recovering after collapsing during a funeral service today from what is thought to be heat exhaustion. Ahern sent his best wishes to Cyprus President Papadopoulos for a speedy recovery.

    On his part, Christou said thanked the Irish Premier for his country's firm support during the island's accession process.

    In his statements, Ahern said he was in Cyprus on his tour of capitals in preparation for the European Council meeting next month.

    ''It is an opportunity for me to discuss the agenda and the ongoing work that the Irish presidency has in preparation for the meeting. I intend to go through all the issues.''

    He said he wanted to ''acknowledge and to wish Cyprus well, now as a full member of the EU.''

    The Irish premier said ''the European Constitution is of fundamental importance'' and that in the next five to six weeks, leading to the European Council we will be discussing the issues in the Constitution, areas of difficulty and the institutional and non-institutional and the technical areas that are still outstanding.''

    He said he hoped to get the support of Cyprus ''in trying to bring into conclusion the constitution. We will continue right up until June, the aim is to try to reach the end,'' he said.

    Ahern said the two were to discuss issues pertaining the EU-Latin American and Caribbean summit and the EU-Russia relations, as well as the difficulties in the Middle East and other international issues.

    To a question whether Cyprus should be punished for saying no in last months referendum where it rejected a UN plan for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem, Ahern said he was involved in the negotiations and discussed the ongoing negotiations several times with President Papadopoulos.

    ''It was of course the wish of the EU that on the 1st of May that a united Cyprus would join the EU'' but ''ultimately, it was a matter for the people, and the people have decided and now we move on.''

    Ahern extended his best wishes ''to my friend and colleague President Papadopoulos and to wish him a speedy recovery,'' noting he appreciated his attendance on enlargement day in Dublin.

    Acting Foreign Minister Christou described the visit as ''a very significant event'' and congratulated Ahern for the Irish Presidency's ''exceptional way of handling the issues during its presidency.''

    He also praised Ireland's ''firm support in Cyprus' accession course and for fully appreciating the problems of the country (Cyprus) and especially its political problem.''

    ''We have repeatedly said that our role in the EU will be responsible and we will be a creative member of the European family always seeking conciliatory solutions to big issues,'' the Acting Foreign Affairs Minister added.

    [30] Britain: no other possible basis for Cyprus solution than Annan plan


    Britain continues to believe the UN Secretary-General's proposals offer the best prospect for a fair, just and viable future for Cyprus, British Minister of State Baroness Symons of Vern ham Dean has said, adding that ''we see no other possible basis for a settlement.''

    The Baroness, who was answering a question by Lord Hylton at the House of Lords also said ''a Cyprus settlement is not a precondition for opening of EU accession negotiations with Turkey.''

    Lord Hylton asked whether Britain is involved in discussion concerning the withdrawal of Turkish armed forces, no in occupation of northern Cyprus and what is the relationship between this and Turkey's application for membership of the EU.

    Baroness Symons said ''the UK was closely involved in support of the UN Secretary General's efforts to broker a Cyprus settlement.''

    ''An integral element of the UN Secretary-General's comprehensive proposals was the demilitarization of the island and progressive withdrawal of foreign troops (both Greek and Turkish) - ultimately leaving just 950 Greek and 650 Turkish troops,'' she added.

    Unfortunately, she said, ''the plan has not been accepted by both sides - therefore there is no agreement on early withdrawal of Turkish troops.''

    ''We continue to believe the UN Secretary - General's proposals offer the best prospect for a fair, just and viable future for the island,'' the Baroness noted.

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