|Saturday, 4 April 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-05-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 21, 2004
 PM says very good climate and relations of cooperation between Greece and US confirmed
WASHINGTON 21/5/2004 (ANA / A. Panagopoulos)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, speaking after a working lunch and his meeting with US President George W. Bush on Thursday, said the very good climate and the relations of cooperation between Greece and the United States have been reaffirmed.
Referring to the Athens Olympic Games, Karamanlis said he is convinced that the country will organize good and safe Games and noted that "unprecedented funds and energy have been invested. We are preparing to hold very good Olympic Games with success."
The prime minister further said no issue was raised of armed American agents coming to Athens to ensure the security of American athletes.
Focusing on the issue of Cyprus, Karamanlis said the will of the two countries must be respected and regardless of latest developments, with the result of the referenda, the target of the island's reunification must remain firm.
Karamanlis stressed that an improvement in Greek-Turkish relations, both at bilateral level and in the framework of Europe, will contribute to the consolidation of stability in the region.
The Greek prime minister underlined the need for international cooperation to combat international terrorism which, as he said, is a source of insecurity for all, adding that the problem can be handled by all together and not by every country by itself.
According to reports, Karamanlis raised the issue of the Halki School of Theology with the US president, explaining its importance for the role played by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and President Bush, according to government sources, was positive and expressed support for the school's opening.
As regards the question of Cyprus, President Bush said he is fully aware of the issue and that the percentage with which the Annan plan was rejected was impressive, as reports said, but told Karamanlis that he had provided a realistic briefing during their communications.
"We must not allow whatever opportunity to be lost," the US president reportedly said.
The prime minister stressed that the Annan plan constitutes a base for discussion, but explained that it is not balanced and that the Greek Cypriot side wants more things and noted that "the discussion must be continued for the benefit of the region and of the two communities."
According to reports, issues discussed by the two leaders included Iraq, the Balkans, and the situation in Kosovo in particular, the economy, investments, tourism, the increase in oil prices, the situation in the Middle East, the Palestinian issue, child pornography in the internet and the trafficking of humans.
President Bush also asked Karamanlis about the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and whether there will be developments and the Greek prime minister replied that discussions are underway at the UN and that it is a very sensitive issue for Greece.
 US President George W. Bush receives PM, expresses satisfaction over Greece's hosting of Olympic Games
WASHINGTON 21/5/2004 (ANA /T. Ellis)US President George W. Bush received visiting Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at his oval office on Thursday and expressed satisfaction over the fact Greece will be hosting the Olympic Games this year.
President Bush said he would like to watch the Games but, unfortunately, he will be unable to visit Greece due to the election period underway in the United States and since the November elections will be drawing near.
However, the US president added that his father, former President George Bush, will be in Athens to represent the United States.
President Bush expressed his thanks for what he said was close cooperation existing between the two countries and his wishes for successful and safe Olympic Games in Athens, while adding that his government appreciates the hard work done by Greece.
"I wish to thank you for your very close cooperation. We are cooperating to ensure that the Games will be successful and that people will be in a position to travel to your beautiful country in as safe an environment as possible. You are making very good progress, Mr. prime minister, and I appreciate your hard work," President Bush said.
"I am aware that it is your intention to have these Games be the best possible and I am obliged to you for this. I look forward to the continuation of our discussion during the luncheon and, of course, I wish to congratulate you for the victories you have achieved and I look forward to cooperation with you," he added.
On his part, Karamanlis assured President Bush that Greece is doing everything "humanly possible" to enable the Athens Olympic Games to be safe and successful.
In a brief statement in the oval office, the Greek prime minister thanked the US president for his "warm hospitality' and stressed that the government is providing all the necessary funds to achieve the target of holding safe Games and that progress has indeed been achieved in this sensitive sector.
"I would like to take the opportunity to say that we are doing everything humanly possible regarding the energy, the funds and the participation of professionals to indeed ensure successful Games and I am confident that we shall succeed," Karamanlis said.
President Bush, welcoming Karamanlis, also wished him well on the occasion of his name day on Friday.
 US positive over President Bush's talks with PM, comments on Cyprus, Olympic Games
WASHINGTON 21/5/2004 (ANA/T. Ellis)The United States made a positive account of talks held at the White House on Thursday between US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
A senior official termed the meeting "very constructive", adding that the presence of the Greek prime minister was "impressive."
Referring to the prime minister's positions and to the way with which he presented them, the same official said "Mr. Karamanlis spoke with the strategic thought of Fletcher", referring to the school of diplomacy from which the prime minister had received his postgraduate degree.
On the question of Cyprus, the relevant official noted that Karamanlis and President Bush share the view that "the Turkish Cypriots must be helped", adding that the Greek Cypriot side must realize the new reality created after the referenda and expressing the view that the Annan plan is the only solution.
As regards the issue of security for the Athens Olympic Games, an issue topping the agenda of talks with both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, the US official said the Greek authorities have achieved "great progress" in the direction of safeguarding the protection of all who will be visiting Athens during the Games.
According to reports, the US side is not concealing its desire, without this necessarily meaning that it will be satisfied, for American athletes coming to Athens to have "increased protection."
The assessment by the American side regarding Greek-Turkish relations is that they are moving in the right direction, while special emphasis is placed on the ''personal chemistry'' which has been developed between the two prime ministers, Karamanlis and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while satisfaction was also expressed for Greece's support of Turkey's European vocation and, in this framework, the position stressed by Athens in favor of a date for the beginning of accession negotiations with Turkey at the EU summit in December was underlined.
 US reiterates confidence Greece will host safe Games
Washington 21/5/2004 (ANA/T. Ellis)The US government on Wednesday reiterated its confidence that Greece will host secure Olympic Games.
State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli, in reply to press questions during a regular press briefing, said the US continued to have confidence in Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis' promise that Athens will organize safe and successful Olympic Games.
Meanwhile, a State Department official said that cooperation between the Greek and US security authorities, and with the relevant authorities of other countries, for confronting the prospect of a terrorist attack was continuing in "a very positive way".
 Prime minister fully satisfied with President Bush's statement on Olympics security
WASHINGTON 21/5/2004 (ANA/ A. Papanagopoulos / T.Ellis)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis early Friday (Greek time) expressed full satisfaction over U.S. President George W. Bush's statement on the security of this summer's Athens Olympic Games, saying that it ''constitutes a vote of confidence the fact that his father will in essence head the U.S. delegation.''
Addressing a press conference for Greek and foreign journalists, Karamanlis noted that he briefed the U.S. leadership in depth on preparations for the Olympic Games and on the close cooperation with allies and partners, which is in progress, on security matters, underlining that Bush's response was very satisfactory.
The Greek prime minister yet again denied information that the American side indirectly raised a demand for tighter security measures for U.S. athletes.
Karamanlis underlined that regarding the security of the Games, Greece has spent 1.2 billion dollars, three times more than Sidney in the previous Games and thirty times more than at the Games in Atlanta in 1996.
Turning to the Cyprus issue, the premier said that he conveyed to the U.S. president the message that Greece is pursuing the reunification of Cyprus and that the Greek Cypriot rejection of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's plan should not be interpreted as a 'no' to the solution of the long standing political problem of the island republic.
He termed as ''encouraging'' the fact that in his talks at the White House and the Congress there were no objections to the basic aim which is the reunification of the island. He described the Annan plan as a basis for every new effort for a solution to the problem, noting that for any points needing renegotiation the Republic of Cyprus has the first word.
''If there is no solution we will have a situation where both sides will be losers while if it is solved we will have a situation of victory for both sides," Karamanlis said, adding that the Turkish Cypriots will also benefit from a solution.
The premier said that during his talks the upgrading of relations between the U.S. and the Turkish Cypriots was not raised, adding that ''any effort for their strengthening cannot mean a de facto recognition.'' He added that both Greece and the Greek Cypriot side agree on the promotion of programs supporting Turkish Cypriots.
He said that it is premature for one to speak of a resumption of initiatives at this period of time, but underlined that ''this not the end of the road".
 EU position on association with Turkey, Cyprus issue
BRUSSELS 21/5/2004 (ANA)The need for the full and effective implementation of the reforms advanced by the Turkish government was stressed in the common position of the European Union which was drawn up on the occasion of the 43rd meeting of the EU-Turkey Association Council meeting here on Thursday.
Particularly, the text refers the progress achieved in Turkey regarding its effort to meet the Copenhagen criteria in order for it to start negotiations for its accession to the European Union. As referred, it is important for there to be a full and effective implementation of the reforms, while there are sectors where progress is limited. The text also expresses satisfaction over the Turkish government's intention to intensify the observation of the situation regarding human rights and to draw up a monthly report on this issue. At the same time, however, concern is expressed on the restricted briefing of Turkish public opinion on the reforms which have been advanced.
As for the independence and effectiveness of the judicial authority, the text mentions that greater effort is needed, mainly with regard to the adoption of a new penal code which will correspond to European criteria.
The text also notes that it is important for legislative changes to continue in Turkey for freedom of expression and the right of religious expression. It states that despite the reforms, there are still a large number of decrees which could be interpreted as restricting basic rights.
Regarding Cyprus, the European Union recognizes the contribution of Greece and Turkey in the effort for a settlement of the Cyprus issue. It also expresses its regret that a reunited Cyprus did not enter the EU on May 1, as well as its determination to guarantee that the citizens of Cyprus will soon share their common future as citizens of a united Cyprus within the framework of the EU.
As stated:"The EU is determined to put an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus, strengthening the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community."
Finally, the text notes the EU's satisfaction over the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations in various sectors and states that the EU looks forward to further progress which will be based on the principle of the peaceful settlement of differences, in accordance with the conclusions of the European Council in Helsinki and the relevant priority of the EU-Turkey partnership relationship which was agreed there.
 Coalition party unveils list of candidates for Euro-elections, manifesto
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)The Coalition of the Radical Left party on Thursday unveiled its list of candidates and manifesto for the upcoming European elections in June. It also said that its goals in the polls was to elect at least three MEPs to the European Parliament.
Top of the list are two members of the political bureau, Dimitris Papadimoulis and Nikos Houndis, while third is Maria Fragiadaki, a former member of main opposition PASOK's central committee and a member of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) trade union board.
In its manifesto, the Coalition notes that the neoliberal policies currently espoused by Europe, which favored big capital while rolling back the social state and exacerbating social problems, were not part of the European Left's vision for Europe's future.
It underlines the potentially valuable contribution of the newly formed Party of the European Left in realizing the common vision for a Europe that is united, democratic, social, ecological, autonomous, feminist and pacifist.
Among the party's proposal are a redistribution of the tax burden in favor of the working classes, eradicating inequality between men and women in the labor market, a common agricultural policy that supports farmers' incomes, support for small and medium-sized enterprises and a comprehensive European policy for the environment, while it rejects the draft European Constitution.
 Gov't aims to double exports' contribution to GDP
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday urged exporters to take initiatives and submit proposals aimed to remove export counter-incentives.
Representatives of the Organization of Export Credit Insurance, addressing a National Export Council meeting, said there were many structural and institutional problems, lack of infrastructure, that raised hurdles to export promotion and noted that Greek exports remained "locked" at around 10 billion US dollars annually in the last 10-15 years. According to organization figures, Greek exports doubled in the last 20 years, while Portugal's exports rose five times and Ireland's exports rose nine times over the same period.
A finance ministry report said that the contribution of exports to the country's Gross Domestic Product could reach 18 percent by 2012, helped by the implementation of new suitable measures, from 9.0 percent in 2003. The report, by the ministry's macro-economic analysis department, said that such a development could offer an additional 1.1 percent economic growth rate annually.
The report stressed that to achieve this goal, the government should offer new incentives to exporters and to remove existing barriers. Improving the quality of Greek products was the key both to increasing exports and to the country's economic growth.
A report by the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE), showed that Greek exports were steadily losing market share in the EU since 1995, to 0.17 percent in 2002 from 0.27 percent in 1995. The sectors suffering more were beverages, tobacco and oils, while Greek exports were focusing more on traditional industrial sectors.
Alogoskoufis urged the National Export Council to take advantage of the Olympic Games to promote more Greek products and their quality. The finance ministry is promoting two programs, related with the Olympic Games, aimed to promote exports. First, the "Athens Club 2004", a program aimed to bring together Greek and foreign businessmen -members of the club- to discuss bilateral cooperation, and second, a Greek Innovation and Technology Showcase aimed to promote selected Greek companies with innovative and high-technology products.
 FinMin urges for improved export product quality
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)We have a long way to go to improve our export performance, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday.
Addressing a National Export Council meeting, Alogoskoufis noted that the country needed to define the sectors with specific comparative advantages and the possible areas that "we can increase our exports". "This can be achieved through improving the quality of our products," the Greek minister stressed.
Alogoskoufis said that the country needed to move forward without past "taboos" and to give emphasis on policies strengthening Greek economy's international orientation.
The contribution of exports in the country's Gross Domestic Product is limited and efforts should be make to reverse this situation, Alogoskoufis said, adding that the Olympic Games offered a great opportunity to promote Greek products and urged members of the National Export Council to take initiatives and to submit proposals in that direction.
 Bank of Greece governor urges for measures to contain spending
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)Bank of Greece governor Nikolaos Garganas on Thursday urged for urgent measures to contain spending, aiming to hold the country's fiscal deficit below 3.0 percent.
In his testimony before the Parliament's Economic Affairs Commission on the Greek economic outlook, Garganas said he did not agree with criticism by the main opposition party PASOK that the country has been placed under surveillance by the European Union after the revision of Greek fiscal deficit, saying this criticism was "slightly excessive."
"Our country's position has not changed. The fact that our fiscal deficit has surpassed 3.0 percent is not the end of the world, on the precondition that we take timely measures. I don't think that the country is under surveillance. It is a slightly excessive remark. There are five other countries at this position and it is up to us to take the necessary measures," Garganas said.
The central banker painted a more favorable picture of the economy in 2003, saying there was a decline in the general government's funding by banks, a lower current accounts deficit, a slowdown in the annual growth rate of household debt, lower deposit and lending interest rates, reduced unemployment among young people, and a smaller gap in the inflation rate with the eurozone.
Garganas admitted, however, that higher labor cost per unit and continuing inflationary pressures (likely to accelerate due to higher oil prices and the Olympic Games) were negative developments last year.
Commenting on the general government's shortfall, Garganas said that "after 2000 we are witnessing a relaxation of fiscal policy, a development maintaining high inflation rates."
Based on these estimates, Garganas said he expected this year's budget to diverge from initial projections and that the government would find it difficult to hold the deficit below 3.0 percent of GDP. He rejected the idea of drafting a supplementary budget.
The central bank also urged for measures to contain the country's high public debt, reducing inflation and accelerating structural reforms.
He urged both employers and workers to take responsibility in this effort, by signing agreements "that will contribute to reducing inflationary pressures". Businesses should lower their profit margins instead of rolling over their labor costs to product prices and should promote structural reforms to boost their competitiveness. On the other hand, workers should accept a gradual readjustment of wages on the way to converging with the European average and more flexible labor conditions.
Garganas noted that Greek exports, although stabilized in recent years, still remained at very low levels and underlined that economic indices showed loss of competitiveness. The central banker said that the country's pension system needed restructuring and not necessarily lower employers' contributions. "We are facing a serious ageing problem," Garganas warned.
 Gov't against ceiling for fuel prices
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas told parliament on Thursday that he was opposed to introduction of a ceiling for fuel prices as a means of combating hikes in the market, but would consider the measure as a last resort.
The minister was responding to a proposal by main opposition deputy Akis Tsohatzopoulos that the government should either persuade companies in the fuel sector to lower prices within 10 days or slap a ceiling on the market.
"A ceiling would be an extreme, final solution, and could only be used in exceptional circumstances," Sioufas said.
 Greek consumers threaten with fuel boycott
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)Greek Consumers' Union president Mihalis Tsifakis on Thursday said that consumers did not exclude boycotting actions in protest over a continuing increase in fuel prices in the domestic market. Fuel prices are rising fast with the retail price for unleaded petrol reaching an average 0.845 euros per liter last week.
Greece's Competition Commission has begun a series of inspections in the domestic fuel market in an effort to contain unjustified price increases. It has also began inspections in other domestic markets, such as food and banking services, in an effort to set reference and comparative price levels ahead of the Olympic Games.
A Commission announcement said that under Greek law, state authorities were allowed to offer a detailed categorization of domestic markets in order to avoid monopoly behavior by certain large enterprises.
 Food Inspection Agency launches seminars to improve food sector services
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)Greece's Food Inspection Agency (EFET), a government-sponsored body, on Thursday announced it was initiating a program to improved the performance of restaurant services in the country ahead of the Olympic Games.
The program envisages a series of seminars, due to begin next week, aimed to offer a HCCP quality certificate to businesses in the food sector.
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, presenting EFET's new board, said that the agency would contribute greatly in efforts to improve services in the country and pledged to increase financial support for the agency's activities.
Nikos Katsaros, EFET's new president, urged businesses in the food sector to hire more staff and underlined the need for cooperation.
Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou reiterated that the Olympic Games was a national and not a party mission and that the food inspection agency would have all the help it needed from the government.
 Athens international airport ranks high in IATA Europe monitor
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)Athens international airport said on Thursday that it ranked top in Europe in the IATA 2003 Global Airport Monitor for its size category in terms of overall passenger satisfaction, coming second globally after Cape Town..
The airport ranked second in Europe among all size categories, following Copenhagen.
The airport ranking first in sub-categories including security inspection, cleanliness of airport terminal and comfortable waiting areas and gates.
 Stocks slump in blue chip selling
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)Stocks finished lower on the bourse with intense selling in Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) dragging down the market for the second straight day, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,366.89 points, showing a 2.10 per cent decrease. Turnover was 139.8 million euros. OTE lost 5.66 per cent.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 2.69 per cent lower; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.70 per cent down; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.90 per cent lower.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 227 to 70 with 60 remaining unchanged
 Olympic Transport System presented Thursday
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)"The state, Athens 2004 and all related authorities have studied in-depth the issue of Olympic transportation. We want people's daily routine to be disrupted as little as possible," Athens 2004 Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said on Thursday during the presentation of the Olympic Transport System at the Athens 2004 conference centre.
"Athens in August will be completely different from what it is ordinarily. We believe that Athenians will be receptive to the increased needs in August. During that month, Athens will be functioning under Olympic Games conditions. We will need order, method, and patience," Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said.
The program, which was presented by Athens 2004 Executive Director Marton Simitsek, Secretary General of Transportation Yiannis Golias, Athens 2004 Transportation Manager Panayiotis Protopsaltis, and Attiki Traffic Police Chief Panayiotis Adamides, will be in effect from July 20 through August 31.
The system includes 6 Olympic routes from central locations or Olympic venues; 14 express routes from Metro stations; and 4 express routes from parking and transit areas. Certain routes will run 24 hrs./day.
Michalis Zaharatos, Athens 2004 Communications Manager, presented the communication strategy for the system, which will begin end of May and will inform the public through TV, radio, and outdoor advertising.
 Athens mayor and interior minister discuss Olympic Games, city finances
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos met on Thursday to discuss the city's finances and other issues, particularly those pertaining to the summer Olympics to be held in Athens in August.
Among the issues covered was that of the municipal police, managing the officers school wood, management of the National Gardens, an integrated approach to the handling of immigrant issues and the operation of Citizens' Service Centers. They also discussed economic and legal issues concerning the entire Attica region that involve the municipality.
After the meeting, Pavlopoulos stressed that the successful hosting of the Olympics would largely depend on municipal services in central Athens and that Thursday's meeting had provided immediate solutions to a number of issues that were still outstanding, despite the city's major part in the success of the Olympics.
For certain other issues, he added, there would be further action to deal with them in a final and irrevocable way, since there was no room for more of the piecemeal solutions that had long caused problems to the city and Attica as a whole.
Bakoyianni said that she had informed the interior ministry's leadership of the sum of the problems facing the city and expressed her confidence that these will be dealt with as quickly as possible through good and close cooperation, while stressing that the city's problems required special and particularly rapid measures in view of the Olympic Games.
 British shadow minister for sport, Moynihan, defends security operation for Athens Games
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)Britain's shadow minister for sport, Colin Moynihan, defended Greece's security operation for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, in a letter to the Times of London appearing in Thursday's edition, and expressed his confidence that Athens "has the will and the potential to deliver a safe Olympic Games", noting at the same time that this legacy "will be of benefit to us all for years to come".
Moynihan's letter was prompted by articles appearing in the newspaper claiming weaknesses in the security measures for the Athens Games, and came as a response to such claims by Times correspondent Laura Peek, who was briefly detained in Athens on the night of May 13th, together with another Times reporter, Paul Rogers, while attempting to enter the premises of the main Olympic complex (OAKA) through an unfenced section of the site, where construction was still in progress, after being turned away by a security guard outside the main entrance.
In his letter, the shadow minister stressed the fact that the Spyros Louis Stadium (in the OAKA complex) was still classified as a building (construction) site, which would be made fully secure and comprehensively "swept" when completed and handed over to the Athens Organizing Committee (ATHOC) on July 1, also noting that it was the Greek government that had established "the powerful Olympic Advisory Group on security planning" chaired by Scotland Yard's assistant police commissioner and head of special operations David Veness, sought NATO assistance to provide AWAC planes and maritime reconnaissance, and earmarked a security budget for the Games that was triple that of the Sydney Games.
The full text of Moynihan's letter to the London Times appears below:
I write in response to your correspondent, Laura Peek's breach of security at the Spyros Louis Stadium in Athens last week. First of all, we must not forget that the stadium is classified as a building site, albeit near to completion. It will be made fully secure and comprehensively 'swept' when handed over to the Athens Organizing Committee on 1st July.
Nor, with respect, should the focus on security be directed exclusively at the Greek Authorities. For it was the Greek Government which established the powerful Olympic Advisory Group on security planning chaired by the Assistant Police Commissioner and Head of Special Operations at Scotland Yard, David Veness. This UK-led seven-nation committee also draws on the expertise of its membership from Israel, the United States, France, Germany, Australia and Spain. On a fact-finding visit to Athens last week I was informed by Ministers that the UK has overseen the training of some 2,000 Greek security workers over the last three years. To add a further layer of security support, NATO is likely to provide AWAC spy planes and maritime reconnaissance. The security budget for the (Athens) Games currently stands at 675 million pounds, triple the amount spent in Sydney. The understandably cautious IOC, at a press conference attended both by Laura Peek and myself, echoed the view that everything humanly possible was being done with regard to security. The IOC cannot afford to be implicated in any kind of security lapse at these Games or any other Olympic Games and their confidence at this stage speaks volumes.
The Athenians themselves have focused on the vital importance of their security operation and have rightly begun to consider what legacy the Games will leave in this respect. The exponential rise in domestic security has led the Public Order Minister and former Navy Seal, George Voulgarakis, MP, to inform me that: 'we now have a greater ability to tackle the problems of drug trafficking through Europe, as well as international criminality and terrorism, in a way that would not have been possible without the Games...and that legacy will go far beyond our borders'.
Britain is at the heart of the security operation. A trouble-free Games will greatly enhance our chances of securing the 2012 Olympics for London. I am confident that with continued vigilance and full international support Athens has the will and the potential to deliver a safe Olympic Games, the legacy of which will be of benefit to us all for years to come. "
 Athletes stay outside Olympic Village at their own risk
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)"Athletes staying somewhere else other than the Olympic Village will not have the same level of security as those staying in the Olympic Village under the protection provided by the Greek government," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said after an IOC Executive Board meeting held in Lausanne on Thursday.
"We cannot require the Greeks to surround every hotel room with armed guards. That is impossible. Athletes staying outside the Olympic Village must realize that they are doing so at their own risk," he said.
However, the National Olympic Committees are free to bring their own security team as was done in previous Olympiads. "It's not a new practice, it's been done in the past," Rogge explained. But, the Greek government will decide whether it will allow foreign security teams escorting athletes to carry weapons.
According to Larry Bedford, head of the US Olympic Committee's security division, the US athletes coming to Athens for the Olympics will be escorted by 300 support staff and 100 federal agents.
 Acropolis closed due to culture ministry contract workers strike
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)Tourists that climbed up to the Sacred Rock beneath the Athens Acropolis found the site closed on Thursday morning, due to a 24-hour strike by temporary contract workers hired by the culture ministry.
The strikers had occupied the Acropolis in protest at their exclusion from a presidential decree granting permanent positions to public-sector hired on a contract basis throughout the country. Visitors were given flyers explaining the reasons for the strike in English and German.
The culture ministry staff are also planning to hold a rally and protest concert at Klafthmonos Square in central Athens next Wednesday.
 Deputy Foreign minister receives students from Bilfen College, Istanbul
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Evripides Stylianidis, in charge of international economic relations, on Thursday received a visit from 36 students aged 12-14 and six teachers from Bilfen College in Istanbul. The college has been twinned with a Greek educational institute since 2000 and takes part in events organized to promote Greek-Turkish friendship.
The Bilfen school mission, which is also accompanied by Turkish journalists, is also scheduled to visit Greek Parliament speaker Anna Psarouda-Benaki, Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou and Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni.
On Wednesday they took part in an event to promote Greek-Turkish friendship in Plaka.
 School children send 95,000 letters for return of Parthenon Marbles to British PM
Athens, 21/5/2004 (ANA)Children from private schools throughout Greece on Thursday delivered 95,000 letters addressed to British Prime Minister Tony Blair asking for the return of the Parthenon Marbles. The letters were delivered to the British Consulate in Thessaloniki and the British Embassy in Athens.
In Athens, the children were received by British Ambassador to Athens Sir David Madden, who assured them that the letters will be answered, while in Thessaloniki they were received by British Consul Sara Edwards-Economides. She assured them that all the letters will be read and then transferred to the British Embassy in Athens and from there to the British premier's office.
Over 65 yellow school buses were parked outside the British Embassy on Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, while the roughly 1,000 school children handed over their letters to the Ambassador. They included delegations from schools throughout the country, such as Corinth, Crete, Ioannina, Corfu and Karditsa.
 Cyprus President to meet UN SG on 3 June
NICOSIA 21/5/2004 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos will meet UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 3 June in New York.
President Papadopoulos announced the meeting on the sidelines of the Pancyprian Hoteliers Association annual general meeting. The president is scheduled to depart Cyprus on 27 May.
Responding to questions, he said he had no information about Annan's report on Cyprus but noted that ''there are certain reports but we do not have any specific information as to what he (Annan) intends to do''.
Annan's report will follow the rejection by the overwhelming majority of the Greek Cypriots (76 per cent) of his plan for a comprehensive settlement. Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the UN proposal by 65 per cent in last month's referendum.