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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-04-01

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

April 1, 2005

CONTENTS

  • [01] Karamanlis receives State. Dept. deputy Sec't Zoellick; FM says Ankara must fully implement customs protocol
  • [02] FM Molyviatis' talks with Rice, Burns, held in 'excellent' climate, State Department spokesman says
  • [03] Foreign ministry emphasizes implementation of customs protocol, not just signing
  • [04] Gov't comments on this week's Turkish provocation near Imia
  • [05] Gov't researches EU media law in preparation for its own media legislation
  • [06] Jerusalem Patriarch apologizes for possible omissions made 'without my knowledge'
  • [07] President Papoulias to meet with Bulgarian counterpart
  • [08] PASOK spokesman criticizes government's economic policy; Roussopoulos responds
  • [09] Molyviatis-Voulgarakis meeting
  • [10] Finmin calls for price restraint after tax rise
  • [11] Gov't calls off tender for international airport runway
  • [12] Gov't: Travel operators should not pass tax hike down to consumers
  • [13] Tourism minister says measures taken to curb bureaucratic procedures for visitors
  • [14] Farm minister approves livestock projects
  • [15] Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry president and Croatian ambassador discuss economic cooperation
  • [16] Gov't supports biotechnology, is careful of effects
  • [17] Athens bourse supports Special Olympics
  • [18] Late profit-taking causes Greek stocks to fall
  • [19] PM attends debut of 'Open Stadiums - Celebration of the Olympic Ideals Continued' program
  • [20] Public Order Ministry to share Olympics experience with other countries
  • [21] Officials say lightning bolt caused Rio-Antirrio bridge cable's fire
  • [22] Prosecutor orders probe into spoiled yogurt case
  • [23] Local administration union decides to hold conference on municipalities' finances
  • [24] Cyprus Foreign Ministry welcomes Turkey's commitment to accept protocol
  • [25] President Papadopoulos meets US Congress delegation
  • [26] Ereli: US favors Cyprus' reunification based on Annan plan

  • [01] Karamanlis receives State. Dept. deputy Sec't Zoellick; FM says Ankara must fully implement customs protocol

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday received visiting Deputy US State Department Secretary Robert Zoellick at his office, as the Cyprus issue, Balkans developments as well as relations with Turkey dominated a later meeting between the high-ranking US diplomat and Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis.

    The latter commented directly on Turkey's announcement this past week that it will extend a customs union protocol with the European Union's 10 newest members -- the significance lying with Cyprus.

    "...it (Ankara's decision) was a first step. Others must follow; the signing of the protocol (extension) and its implementation, because someone doesn't sign something he has no intention of implementing," the veteran Greek diplomat said.

    On his part, Zoellick referred to a "strategic friendship" between Athens and Washington, while praising Greece for the successful hosting of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.

    Moreover, he noted that a possible Greek initiative aimed at promoting the Mideast peace process could come in the form of hosting a US-backed international conference.

    Returning to the long-standing Cyprus issue, Molyviatis reiterated "a common desire by all interested sides" to restart a process for reuniting the east Mediterranean island republic. However, he said meticulous preparations should precede any new initiative in order to guarantee a successful outcome -- an allusion to the failed Annan peace plan several months ago.

    In an unrelated development, Molyviatis repeated Athens' support for spreading democracy around the world, while clarifying however, that this should be done without interfering in states' internal affairs and without taking on the form of an imposition by outside forces -- a position echoing his statements last week in Washington.

    [02] FM Molyviatis' talks with Rice, Burns, held in 'excellent' climate, State Department spokesman says

    WASHINGTON 1/4/2005 (ANA/T. Ellis)

    Foreign minister Petros Molyviatis' talks in Washington earlier in the week with US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and state department undersecretary for political affairs Nicholas Burns were held in an excellent climate, state department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Wednesday, replying to questions during a regular press briefing.

    On Molyviatis' meeting with Rice, Ereli said: "They had a good opportunity to discuss, I think, the full range of bilateral relations as well as regional issues. And as they -- as both foreign ministers said in their availability to the press, our relationship is strong, our relationship is cordial, we have excellent, excellent cooperation and respect for one another as allies."

    "And that was, obviously, the spirit in which Under Secretary Burns conducted his meeting (with Molyviatis) as well," Ereli added.

    [03] Foreign ministry emphasizes implementation of customs protocol, not just signing

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    Athens repeated on Thursday that the Turkish government's promise this week that it will extend a customs protocol with the European Union's 10 new members -- particularly Cyprus -- must also translate into "implementation".

    "Turkey's response to an obligation, one emanating from a European Union decision on Dec. 17, is a given It is clear that when someone signs (a document), he recognizes that his signature brings about specific results. Signatures aren't placed with the intent of not being honored A signature means assuming a specific implementation and a specific behavior for implementation," foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told reporters at a regular press briefing.

    Conversely, he said it was too early to prescribe deadlines and methods of implementation.

    Asked about the Cyprus issue, he echoed Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis' statement of ensuring conditions, before-and, for a successful peace process.

    "The clear procedural proposals set out by Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos served exactly that purpose," the spokesman added.

    [04] Gov't comments on this week's Turkish provocation near Imia

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    Athens on Thursday reiterated that actions -- such as this week's violation of Greek territorial waters by Turkish coast guard patrol boat near the Imia isles -- absolutely do not aid in Greece's standing volition to normalize bilateral relations.

    "Such behaviors are always dealt with within the framework of a specific policy, as was the case with this incident," foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told reporters.

    Moreover, he said such provocations expectedly do not aid the Turkish government's volition to fully normalize bilateral ties.

    National Defense General Staff denies Turkish allegations of aircraft harassment: A National Defense General Staff spokesman on Thursday denied Turkish allegations of the harassment of Turkish aircraft by Greek jets and the violation of Turkish territorial waters.

    "The announcement by the Turkish General Staff, provided it was conveyed correctly, once again echoes the Turkish interpretation of events which, however, does not reflect reality which is that illegal Turkish activity is continuing and is being handled in accordance with international law," the spokesman said.

    According to the Turkish allegations, a Greek coast guard vessel violated Turkish territorial waters in the region of the islet of Imia at 11 a.m. on Wednesday and Turkish aircraft were harassed by Greek jets and Turkish air space was violated in the area of Karaburun last Monday.

    According to relevant sources of the Greek National Defense General Staff, 40 Turkish aircraft had entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) on Monday without submitting flight plans and in 24 cases they had violated national air space in the regions of the northern, central and southern Aegean.

    The sources added that in one case a Turkish aircraft had flown over the island of Oinouses, located near the island of Chios, at a height of 25,000 feet.

    "Greece has repeatedly stressed in every direction that these activities (by the neighboring country), which lie outside the limits of internationally recognized legal procedures, are incompatible with the spirit of understanding that must govern two neighboring and allied countries," the spokesman added.

    [05] Gov't researches EU media law in preparation for its own media legislation

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos told reporters on Thursday that the government is already in the process of conducting research regarding media laws in the EU as it prepares to submit its own media anti-trust law in Parliament.

    Specifically, Roussopoulos already met with German Minister of the Interior Otto Schily and German Deputy Minister of Culture and Media Affairs Christina Weiss in February, as well as with Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, French Minister of Culture and Communications. Meetings have also been held with European Commission officials, while on April 10, government representatives will be meeting with British media officials.

    Roussopoulos clarified that not much progress has been made on the issue of limiting concentration of media power on an EU level, which is why the Greek government is trying to gather information from EU member-states individually, focusing on each country's experience.

    He explained that factors vary from country to country, whether it's monitoring finances or market penetration.

    However, Roussopoulos explained that the media law will be dealt with separately from the primary shareholder law, as the former deals with limiting concentration of power in the media, while the latter deals with stemming conflict of interest in the public works sector.

    The objective of the law will be to protect the public's constitutional right of having access to unbiased information.

    Although Roussopoulos acknowledged that current legislation is not "useless" and that it contains some positive terms, he did not elaborate further.

    State minister comments on media issues: State Minister Theodoros Roussopoulos told reporters on Thursday that following a Greek proposal, the European Council which recently met in Kiev, called on EU member-states and the EU itself to find ways to ensure the maximum transparency regarding media ownership.

    Roussopoulos also referred to the 'primary shareholder' law, which has caused controversy at home and with the European Commission, saying that the government will be sending a letter to the relevant Commissioner within the deadline set by the Commission. Once the letter is sent, Roussopoulos said that it will also be publicized in order to provide the public with a complete picture of developments.

    The minister also announced that on April 8 a conference will be held in Brussels, regarding the production of a one-minute program by state television networks in every EU state that will air EU-wide at the same time - an idea presented by Roussopoulos during the Ministerial Council on Audiovisual Issues in 2004. The aim of the program is to foster communication among EU peoples.

    Additionally, Roussopoulos announced the decision to create awards for programs targeting children between the ages of 6 and 12, as a means to upgrade children's TV programming in Greece.

    Minister of state says National Radio and TV Corporation's real estate will be utilized: Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, speaking to reporters on Thursday, indicated that real estate belonging to the National Radio and TV Corporation (ERT) will be utilized.

    "We are not thinking of selling the property of ERT, but of entering the market with new business activities, with leasing logic, etc, and of being in a position to rent part of the real estate," he said.

    Giving an example, Roussopoulos referred to real estate belonging to ERT in Perea, in the Thessaloniki prefecture, covering an area of about 190 acres, and real estate belonging to the corporation in the cities of Patra and Hania.

    [06] Jerusalem Patriarch apologizes for possible omissions made 'without my knowledge'

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    The primate of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem, Patriarch Eirinaios (Irineos), on Thursday apologized for any omissions that may have occurred "without my knowledge and due to my good faith", and pledged to do his utmost to maintain the status quo and restore tranquility among the Church flock following the furor caused by allegations that Patriarchate real estate holdings in the Holy City had been sold, "something which has not been ascertained".

    In a statement issued in Jerusalem following a call by the Greek government a day earlier that he "rise to the occasion and assume his historical responsibilities", considering the "gravity of the situation", Eirinaios said:

    "As life-long Chairman of the Brotherhood (Guards) of the Holy Sepulchre, and responding to my duty vis-a-vis the institution of the Patriarchate, my Flock and the Nation, I apologies for any omissions that may have occurred without my knowledge and in my good faith".

    However, back in Athens, a government spokesman noted that Greece's foreign ministry "called on Patriarch Eirinaios to consider the seriousness of the situation", while repeating that he should assume his "historical responsibilities".

    Asked about Athens' response to any commencement of a dethronement procedure against Eirinaios, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros reminded that the Patriarchate lies beyond Greece's jurisdiction and is governed by canon rules and laws that are unrelated to Greek laws.

    "Therefore, the specific procedure for dethronement has nothing to do with the Greek state," he said.

    The Patriarchate of Jerusalem is known as the "Mother of All Churches". The Brotherhood, or Guards, of the Holy Sepulchre comprises everyone belonging to the Patriarchate -- metropolitans, archbishops, bishops, Archimandrites, priests, monks and deacons, and is administrated by an 18-member standing council, the chairman of which is the Jerusalem Patriarch.

    On Wednesday, Greece called on Eirinaios to "consider the gravity of the situation; rise to the occasion and assume his historical responsibilities," although the government clarified that it would not intervene in the furor encompassing the venerable Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

    Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told regular press briefing Wednesday that a ministry team sent to the Holy Land last week to investigate charges that the Patriarchate illegally sold-off -- or signed a long-term lease, by some accounts -- several properties in east Jerusalem to Israeli interests "could not put together a clear and precise picture (of the situation) ... because specific information was not provided...as such information does not show up in the Patriarchate's records".

    Asked if the Greek government was calling on Eirinaios to resign, Koumoutsakos reiterated that Athens stands by its position of not interfering in the Patriarchate's internal issues. He added, however, "...but this should not be misinterpreted as support towards either individuals or behaviors that do not support the Patriarchate's prestige".

    Moreover, he said the government will not counsel Eirinaios on the manner in which he will "meet his obligation to the institution of the Patriarchate, his congregation and to the nation".

    "The only concern of the Greek government is the strengthening of the Patriarchate as an institution, according to the existing status quo..." Koumoutsakos said.

    In a report composed by the team of experts, which was released on Wednesday, it is noted that the two crucial documents giving power of attorney to the Patriarchate's former treasurer for managing the properties were missing.

    Auditors said Eirinaios told them he signed one document -- giving Nikos Papadimas, who is wanted in connection with the case -- power of attorney to lease one store in east Jerusalem, accusing the latter of subsequently forging the contents of the notarized document to allow a long-term lease option.

    The Jerusalem Patriarchate is considered as the "jewel in the crown" of Orthodox Christian Hellenism's centuries-old presence in the Middle East, and especially in the Holy Land, one reason why the situation is being closely monitored by the Greek government, other Orthodox Churches and expatriate communities around the world.

    Party reps briefed: Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Panayiotis Skandalakis on Thursday separately briefed a Communist Party (KKE) representative, Orestis Kolozov, as the leader of the LA.OS party, Euro-deputy George Karatzaferis, over the latest developments concerning the Jerusalem Patriarchate.

    "We're interested in the institution of the Patriarchate, which must be respected by all, and whose Greek heritage is undisputed," Kolozov said.

    On his part, Karatzaferis termed the issue one of "national importance".

    [07] President Papoulias to meet with Bulgarian counterpart

    SOFIA 1/4/2005 (ANA/M.Borisov)

    Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov will be meeting with President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias for the first time on April 8 in Thessaloniki, according to an announcement issued by Bulgaria's presidential press office.

    According to the announcement, issued on Thursday, Parvanov will be visiting Serbia & Montenegro, Greece and Romania during the month of April in order to meet with country leaders and to participate in international forums.

    [08] PASOK spokesman criticizes government's economic policy; Roussopoulos responds

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said on Thursday that "the only thing that the popular classes can expect from the New Democracy party is the worsening of their standard of living."

    The government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, he added, "has only to show as an achievement, lies, inconsistencies, untrustworthiness and its wrong policies."

    He termed as a "joke", references by the government that "PASOK is to blame for everything" and accused the government of using on a daily basis "incredible lies to justify what is unjustifiable."

    Athanassakis said that those who have benefited up to now from the government's economic policy are only the large incomes, which benefited from the decision for the reduction of taxes to distributed profits.

    All the rest (working people, pensioners, unemployed etc,) "lose from the government's economic policy, which is entering a cycle of recession and at the same time the growth rate is diminishing," he said.

    In response to Athanassakis' criticism, Minister of State and Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos stated: "The PASOK governance left behind it more than 80 taxes and a deficit of about eight billion, along with the lack of credibility for the country. These cannot be covered with the tones of propaganda which the spokesman of the main opposition launched."

    [09] Molyviatis-Voulgarakis meeting

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis met with Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis on Thursday ahead of the latter's official visit to the United States in early April.

    [10] Finmin calls for price restraint after tax rise

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday that a rise in Value Added Tax brackets announced this week should not be passed down in its entirety to prices.

    "We inherited a situation in the economy with a deficit above 6.0% that should drop to 3.0% by next year, and we have no leeway to fool ourselves," Alogoskoufis told Sky radio in an interview.

    "We did whatever we could to avoid the new tax measures, but when it became clear at the close of the 2004 budget that much ground had to be covered, that is when we began to seek the best way to lower the deficit," he added.

    Asked if this week's extra tax measure was the last, the minister replied: "Certainly, wide-ranging tax measures, are not foreseen from now on. If there are adverse developments, some minor moves may be made, but moves of this scope and this nature, no."

    National Greek Trade Confederation says economic measures will mainly affect commercial businesses: The National Greek Trade Confederation (ESEE) reiterated in an announcement on Thursday that the economic measures will mainly affect commercial businesses, particularly small and medium-size enterprises, which will have to absorb almost the entire VAT increase.

    ESEE also rejected "views expressed by some with great ease that a wave of rounding off (prices) upwards will be coming."

    The Confederation added that "these views might be supported by those who are not experiencing and are not aware of the rules and of the real conditions that prevail in the market and who are still in the grips of the euro syndrome, which indeed created such phenomena in specific sectors of selling goods and services."

    Retailers warn of price hikes in wake of tax rise

    The Association of Retail Sales Companies of Greece (SELPE) on Thursday warned of a wave of consumer price hikes following the announcement this week of an increase in Value Added Tax brackets.

    "The repercussions on competitiveness of the economy and on business will be devastating due to absorption of this cost," SELPE said in a statement.

    "The measures are one-sided and inadequate if they are not coupled with a drastic reduction of the public sector and dynamic moves to rationalize its operation," the statement added.

    [11] Gov't calls off tender for international airport runway

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    The government on Thursday called off a controversial tender for extension of a runway in Macedonia international airport, Thessaloniki, following a stream of complaints from bidders, also replacing the head of a ministry department handling the sale.

    After studying tender documents, including technical specifications, Public Works Minister George Souflias said the project had moved haltingly since 2001 when shortcomings in the call for sale led to three years of court action by bidders protesting its terms.

    Re-tendering in March this year under a new law also brought complications, leading the government to end the process for reasons of transparency and to forestall new problems, the ministry said in a statement.

    [12] Gov't: Travel operators should not pass tax hike down to consumers

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    Travel operators should absorb a hike in Value Added Tax (VAT) from earnings on package tours, refraining from passing the increase down to consumers, Deputy Finance Minister Adam Rengouzas said on Thursday.

    Rengouzas was addressing an annual general meeting of HATTA, the Association of Tourism and Travel Bureaus in Greece.

    [13] Tourism minister says measures taken to curb bureaucratic procedures for visitors

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Thursday measures have been taken to curb bureaucratic procedures for visitors to the country.

    "All necessary measures have been taken to curb bureaucratic procedures and, primarily, for all those desiring to visit our country not to be inconvenienced," the minister said on the issue of visas, which mainly concerns tourists from Turkey and Russia.

    Avramopoulos was speaking after the end of the two-day conference of tourism ministers from the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization on the island of Rhodes.

    He said an interesting conclusion drawn both during private meetings and during the conference is that Greece is now one of the most desirable destinations in the world for tourists.

    Avramopoulos also said the new strategy adopted by the country will cover at least a decade, adding that thanks to a communicatory policy, which has begun to produce results, Greece is passing the threshold of stabilization which is also the harbinger of recovery.

    Lastly, he indicated that many such conferences will take place in the future since they not only contribute to tourist development but to the country's international promotion and image as well.

    [14] Farm minister approves livestock projects

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    Agricultural Development and Foodstuffs Minister Evangelos Basiakos on Thursday approved 99 livestock-oriented projects nationwide for inclusion in a 2000-2006 operational program devised to spur growth.

    Funding allocated to the program totals 7.7 million euros, the ministry said in a statement.

    [15] Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry president and Croatian ambassador discuss economic cooperation

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Dimitris Bakatselos and Croatian Ambassador Neven Madev held talks on Thursday on possibilities of expanding economic cooperation between Greece and Croatia.

    The two officials focused their interest on investment opportunities provided by the two countries, with particular emphasis being placed on the possibilities of Thessaloniki, and on prospects of cooperation in the sector of tourism.

    The Croatian ambassador announced that his country's government is scheduling a two-day forum in Athens on October 18-19 to present the advantages of the Croatian economy with the purpose of attracting foreign partners for investments and commercial transactions.

    He also called on Bakatselos to have the Thessaloniki Chamber contribute to the holding of a similar event in Thessaloniki. The proposal was accepted and the event will be held on October 20.

    [16] Gov't supports biotechnology, is careful of effects

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    "The Development Ministry supports the development of the biotechnology sector in our country and encourages related research. At the same time, however, it also monitors and studies the social, genetic and any other consequences that may result from biological research," Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said during his address at the first national biotechnology and food technology conference held on Thursday.

    Sioufas noted that biotechnology has contributed significantly to improving and producing new ingredients. Additionally, biotechnological methods in food analysis and management of food by-products have improved both food safety and environmental protection, he said.

    The minister said that while the country has significant human resources in biotechnology and food technology research, he called on industry and universities to establish a closer association between their research and production and economic growth. Furthermore, he called on industry to contribute a larger share to research in order to boost product competitiveness, market reach and export value.

    As for genetically-modified (GM) foods, Sioufas said that as long as the scientific community is unable to prove that GM foods do not pose a long-term risk to public health and to the environment, "then we have no choice but to maintain our reservations and objections to the cultivation and consumption of genetically-modified foods," he said.

    [17] Athens bourse supports Special Olympics

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    The Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday presented Ioanna Despotopoulou, President of the Special Olympics in Greece, with a check amounting to 20% of revenues from the trading session of February 14 as a contribution to the Greek athletes who participated in the 8th Special Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

    The donation reflects the policy of the Athens bourse to actively support organizations - such as the Special Olympics - committed to creating a dignified environment, which respects diversity and encourages participation.

    The Athens Stock Exchange was awarded for its contribution. Despotopoulou, who aside from President of the Special Olympics in Greece is also Secretary General of the Health Ministry, presented bourse President Spyros Kapralos with the award.

    "It is an honor for the Athens Stock Exchange to support actions which raise public awareness and which highlight human effort that goes beyond diversity. The Athens Stock Exchange is committed to promoting healthy competition and a respectful and dignified environment," Kapralos said upon receiving it.

    [18] Late profit-taking causes Greek stocks to fall

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    A mostly bullish session on Thursday at the Athens Stock Exchange eventually succumbed to late profit taking, with overall stocks prices down 0.50 percent. The general price index closed at 2,854.91 points, while turnover stood at a brisk 232.5 million euros.

    Sector indices were mixed, with Publications (1.74 pct) and Textiles (1.38 pct) leading the pack; Holdings (-1.72 pct) and IT Solutions (-1.71) recording the biggest losses.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks declined by 0.69 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 0.09 percent lower and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index was marginally up by 0.06 percent.

    [19] PM attends debut of 'Open Stadiums - Celebration of the Olympic Ideals Continued' program

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday joined nearly 2,600 junior high-schoolers for a high-profile event at the Athens Olympic Stadium complex to kick-off the program "Open Stadiums - Celebration of the Olympic Ideals Continued".

    The program is a major culture ministry initiative supported by the premier's office, the ministry of education, various sports federations, Greece's Olympic champions and volunteers.

    "Our meeting here today is a continuation of the celebration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games ... The summer of 2004 was a major Greek summer, for culture, sports and our country," Karamanlis told a crowd of thousands of young adults, half a dozen Cabinet members and Olympic champions.

    [20] Public Order Ministry to share Olympics experience with other countries

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    The Public Order Ministry will be sharing Greece's Olympic Games experience with other countries looking to stage major sports events, it was announced on Thursday.

    Specifically, in early April, the ministry will be sending a delegation to Qatar, which will be hosting the PanAsian Games in 2006 and to China, host of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Ministry officials will also be visiting Germany, which will be hosting the 2006 World Soccer Cup; Brazil, which will be hosting the PanAmerican Games in 2007; and Algeria, which will be staging the 2007 PanAfrican Games.

    [21] Officials say lightning bolt caused Rio-Antirrio bridge cable's fire

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    A lightning bolt was apparently responsible for an unprecedented fire that erupted on one of the massive metal cables holding up the Rio-Antirrio bridge in western Greece, representatives of the Gefyra S.A. consortium -- which manages the bridge -- said on Thursday.

    Officials said the powerful bolt was a "very rare" phenomenon, one that has not been observed before on a bridge, whereas the initial fire first affected the cable's interior before appearing on its exterior hours later.

    [22] Prosecutor orders probe into spoiled yogurt case

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    The head of the Athens first instance prosecutor's office on Thursday ordered a preliminary investigation into reports that a well-known local dairy maker (FAGE) recalled 350,000 plastic containers of yogurt last month due to surface mold.

    The investigation will reportedly focus on whether the company or relevant authorities, namely, the Central Food Control Agency (EFET), violated public health laws.

    In a related development, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros dismissed the notion of any danger for consumers, noting that the yogurt in question was recalled before reaching store shelves.

    He also said the development ministry is continuing its own investigation.

    EFET leadership resigns after yogurt recall: Food Inspection Agency (EFET) President Nikos Katsaros and General Manager Christos Apostolopoulos resigned on Thursday after 350,000 containers of yogurt were recalled by local dairy producer FAGE in early March due to surface mold. EFET had failed to notify the public.

    Katsaros and Apostolopoulos submitted their resignations during a meeting presided over by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou.

    According to the development ministry, Katsaros' and Apostolopoulos' resignations were accepted for the following reasons:

    1) There was an inexcusable delay in carrying out the necessary inspections.

    2) The development ministry's political leadership was not notified.

    3) The public was not informed.

    4) Such practice exposes Greece in terms of its obligations in accordance with EU food safety regulations.

    5) The delayed reaction and the lack of providing timely information to consumers is not in line with the government's decision to upgrade and support EFET in order to protect public health.

    The European Commission also expressed its displeasure with the spoiled yogurt incident and the public health risk it could have posed.

    According to a statement issued on Thursday by Philip Tod, Spokesman for European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection Marios Kyprianou, Greek authorities failed to promptly notify the European Commission of the recall of Greek yogurt at the end of February. According to information provided by Greek authorities, Tod said that the problem was discovered after consumer complaints were made. The Commission awaits a written confirmation by Greek authorities on Friday that the incident did not pose a risk to public health and that other EU member states are not involved, since the faulty product was not exported.

    [23] Local administration union decides to hold conference on municipalities' finances

    Athens, 1/4/2005 (ANA)

    The Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) decided on Thursday to hold a special conference next week on the finances of municipalities and to call for the revocation of procedures for granting contract workers permanent status unless necessary funds are secured.

    KEDKE also decided to request an emergency meeting with the leaderships of relevant ministries and reiterated its request for a meeting with the prime minister.

    Municipalities are facing an "open account" amounting to at least 270 million euros for this year. The delay in the flow of funds approved by the government for municipalities in 2005 and the beginning of the process of granting permanent status for contract workers, without necessary funds having been accumulated for their salaries, have created an economic deadlock for municipalities.

    [24] Cyprus Foreign Ministry welcomes Turkey's commitment to accept protocol

    NICOSIA 1/4/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    The Cyprus government has welcomed Turkey's written commitment to accept the text of a protocol extending the Ankara Agreement to all ten new member states of the European Union, including the Republic of Cyprus.

    In a statement, the Foreign Ministry notes that there is no longer any reason to delay the signing and ratification of the protocol on the part of Turkey, including lifting restrictions on Cyprus maritime and air transport.

    In the statement, the Foreign Ministry "welcomes the written commitment on the part of Turkey to accept the text of the protocol extending the implementation of the Ankara Agreement to all EU member states, including the Republic of Cyprus, an act that denotes initialing" the protocol.

    ''Agreeing to the text means there is no longer any reason to delay the signing and ratification of the protocol on the part of Turkey, including lifting the restrictions on Cyprus maritime and air transport."

    "In any case, this is Turkey's legal obligation based on its Association Agreement with the European Community, its Customs Union Agreement with the EC, the obligations deriving from the Copenhagen criteria as well as the GATT agreement," the statement concluded.

    Turkey, whose troops occupy Cyprus' northern areas since they invaded in 1974, does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus and has said that its announcement that it will sign the protocol extending its customs union agreement to all ten new members, including Cyprus, does not signify recognition of the Republic.

    Cyprus says non-implementation of protocol a double violation: Cypriot Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said on Thursday that failure on behalf of Turkey to sign and implement the protocol extending its customs union with the EU to the ten new member-states, including Cyprus, would be a double violation of its international obligations towards the EU and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

    He said remarks by Turkish officials that the docking of Cypriot ships in Turkish ports and the use of Turkish airspace by Cypriot aircraft were ''services'' and thus not covered by the customs union, was ''a shaky and unfounded argument, which is denied by the content of the customs union and the broader international obligations of Turkey towards the WTO.''

    ''The government's position is that Turkey has time to sign and implement the protocol, and in the context of the time it has before October 3 it is considered that Turkey must sign and implement it, especially those aspects covered by other international obligations of Turkey towards EE and the international community in general,'' he said, adding that all necessary moves are being made ''on a diplomatic level to promote our positions.''

    Chrysostomides said ''the observing of a state's international obligations in good faith means not only the signing but the implementation as well, otherwise the signing alone and the refusal to implement would be an indication of bad faith.''

    The spokesman noted that ''the signing of the protocol on behalf of Turkey is unavoidable and this has been made clear by the EU,'' adding that ''the signing of the protocol would gradually lead to the normalization of Turkey's relations with all EU member states, including Cyprus.''

    ''The European Commission has requested the implementation of the customs union. Turkey is refusing to do so. Thus, there is a difference in opinion between the EU and Turkey,'' Chrysostomides pointed out.

    Asked if President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos would actually go ahead and veto the commencement of Turkey's accession talks on October 3, if Ankara did not implement the protocol, Chrysostomides said ''this will be clear on October 3'' and that all conditions and developments in the meantime would be evaluated.

    Invited to say if the implementation of the protocol would be left indefinitely if the matter was not sorted out by October 3, the spokesman said this was unlikely ''because then Turkey would be in total contradiction with its obligations towards the EU.''

    Asked about Greece's stance, Chrysostomides said ''Greece is one of the countries that agrees with us, that signing means implementation.''

    [25] President Papadopoulos meets US Congress delegation

    NICOSIA 1/4/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on Thursday received a five-member US Congress delegation, headed by Republican David Dreier, Chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on Rules.

    During the one-hour meeting the Congressmen discussed with President Papadopoulos the Cyprus issue, ways to combat terrorism, the Middle East issue, as well as ways to stop the spreading of nuclear weapons, CNA has learned.

    The delegation was accompanied by US Ambassador in Nicosia Michael Klosson.

    Earlier in the morning the US Congress delegation crossed into the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus for a meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.

    The delegation was due leave Cyprus on Thursday afternoon.

    [26] Ereli: US favors Cyprus' reunification based on Annan plan

    WASHINGTON 1/4/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    The US favors the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of the Annan plan, US State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli stated on Wednesday when invited to say if the US wants Turkish occupation forces to leave the Republic of Cyprus.

    Invited to comment on remarks by US Ambassador in Nicosia Michael Klosson, that ''the US has long opposed the militarization of the island," Ereli said he had not seen Klosson's remarks, adding that ''there's been no change in US policy towards Cyprus, towards the resolution of the division of the island.''

    ''We favor the reunification of the island on the basis of the Annan plan. That's our policy,'' he said.

    Asked about Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis' meetings in the US, Ereli said Molyviatis and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ''had a good opportunity to discuss the full range of bilateral relations as well as regional issues.''

    ''And as both Foreign Ministers said in their availability to the press, our relationship is strong, our relationship is cordial. We have excellent -- excellent cooperation and respect for one another as allies. And that was obviously the spirit in which Undersecretary (Nicholas) Burns conducted his meeting, as well,'' he added.


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