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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-12-29

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Turkey must become genuinely European, Karamanlis stresses
  • [02] PM and Bakoyannis discuss PM's trips abroad in 2007
  • [03] FM Bakoyannis warns FYROM over Skopje airport name issue
  • [04] PM sends condolences for late U.S. President Ford
  • [05] Education minister visits Cyprus
  • [06] Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou meets Cyprus Archbishop
  • [07] Papandreou notes staff shortages at children's hospital
  • [08] Parliament Library to house Andreas Papandreou archives
  • [09] PASOK reacts against Parliament taking part of Andreas Papandreou Archive
  • [10] Outgoing and new Athens mayors visit central market
  • [11] POESY president hails UNSC resolution for protection of journalists in war zones
  • [12] Presentation of Athens Academy awards
  • [13] Sioufas: 2007 a year for competitiveness, innovation
  • [14] Greek Producer Price Index up 2.6 pct in November, yr/yr
  • [15] Information Society programme significantly improves funds' absorption rate
  • [16] Development ministry imposes sanctions on insurance firms
  • [17] Ster Cinemas issues 17.9 mln-euro bond loan
  • [18] Greek Stock Exchange Group provides information website
  • [19] Greek stocks end 0.24 pct higher on Thursday
  • [20] Police officers involved in shooting death before prosecutor
  • [21] Police uncover fake lottery scam
  • [22] Four charged with robbery in Eretria
  • [23] Elderly shooter released, ordered to remain in village
  • [24] Greek tourists in Petra, Jordan snowed-in
  • [25] Greek tourists return to Amman
  • [26] Fifteen kilos of hashish found in a Florina forest
  • [27] Snow and low temperatures in northern Greece
  • [28] Weather Forecast: Partly Cloudy on Friday
  • [29] Greek press review
  • [30] G/C side insists on its proposal on Ledra Street crossing point
  • [31] Papadopoulos: drafting a solution plan would be wrong
  • [32] House President: we have to work for serious talks in 2008
  • [33] Archbishop to meet Turkish Cypriot religious leader
  • [34] EU German Presidency to contribute to efforts for Cyprus solution

  • [01] Turkey must become genuinely European, Karamanlis stresses

    Turkey's European prospects depend on genuinely embracing reforms that will make it a European country and not just 'on paper', Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed in an interview with the German newspaper 'Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung' published on Thursday.

    Answering questions put to him by the newspaper's Athens correspondent Michael Martens, he denied that the EU had essentially rewarded Turkey for not fulfilling its obligations through the compromise reached in December over Turkey's refusal to open its ports and airports to ships and planes from Cyprus.

    Karamanlis pointed out that Turkey was under constant observation and that, in addition to the decision to stall eight of the 35 chapters in its accession negotiations, it would also be subject to a regular review of its progress.

    The Greek premier underlined, meanwhile, that the European Union must speak clearly to Turkey, while reiterating that a European Turkey was in everyone's interests.

    'Turkey has undertaken obligations toward the EU. If it fulfills these, then at the end there must be nothing else apart from its full accession,' he said, noting that this was a question of the EU's reliability.

    Karamanlis emphasised, however, that Turkey had so far failed to adequately fulfill these obligations and that pace of reforms had to be accelerated.

    On other questions, the Greek prime minister outlined his objection to proposals within Europe for a more "a-la-carte" relationship between the EU and Turkey, that would not involve the country having to adopt reforms "alien" to its culture.

    "To talk about reforms that are alien to a country would only stand if these were unusual duties. But this is not such a case. We are talking about fundamental issues, about democratic reforms. Turkey must be democraticised," Karamanlis said.

    According to the Greek premier, this was necessary even if the EU and Turkey were only aiming for a partnership relationship, since the EU could only enter into such a relationship with a country where the military had no special role, where individual rights and freedoms were protected and which abjured the use of force in its relations with neighbouring countries.

    "These are fundamental rules that must be observed by any country that seeks a special relationship with the EU - whatever form this cooperation takes," he added.

    He also referred to the referendum for the Annan plan held on Cyprus, pointing out that Greeks and Greek-Cypriots were aware that a solution to the Cyprus issue would contain elements of compromise.

    "At the same time, we must never forget that the Cyprus problem is one of invasion and occupation and that the solution proposed by the United Nations called for the long-term presence of military forces on the island," he added.

    He stressed that Athens worked closely with every Cypriot government, noting that this was a form of "national obligation", and that no side had ever though of imposing its will on the other.

    "The Cypriot people outlined their will with clarity and a great majority," he added.

    Commenting on whether a decrease in the influence of the military could lead to the danger of greater "Islamisation" in Turkey, the prime minister said "this argument is on condition that Turkey cannot become a democracy or that, if the will of the Turkish people was expressed freely, western interests would be jeopardised. Such analyses would be valid, if indeed, probably 30 years ago."

    He further said that "the great majority of Greeks want smooth relations with Turkey. The great majority equally wants Turkey to become Europeanised and to act accordingly. I am convinced that all issues are not suitable for a referendum. In any case, this also applies to the issue of a European constitution."

    Referring to the Balkans, Karamanlis said "an open and extensive discussion was held on this issue at the latest summit in Brussels. My impression was that at least it does not remain controversial whether the policy on the Western Balkans should not be changed. However, accession day is still far away. Initially, negotiating and the implementation of Stabilisation and Association Agreements with the EU is for these countries. There is the peculiarity in the discussion on enlargement that it is a region which, from the point of view of economic size and population, is almost a small replica."

    The prime minister went on to say that "new destabilisation in the Balkans cannot be ruled out. Let us take the delicate issue of Kosovo as an example, which is possibly entailing new destabilisation in the Balkans."

    Karamanlis noted that every solution must be judged by its results.

    "Will the solution provide all the sides involved with incentives to enable them to act constructively, even if they do not agree with some of its parts? What will the repercussions be? Will the state of ordinary people improve? How much European commitment will be necessary to ensure this solution through troops and for how long will this commitment be necessary?" he further said.

    Focusing on the issue of Kosovo in particular, the prime minister said "I expect that the society of states and the UN Security Council will find a solution that will be politically and morally acceptable. It is an issue whose solution requires logic and prudence by all sides."

    Lastly, asked what would lead to greater instability in the region, giving Kosovo independence or not, Karamanlis said "first of all, the question is raised whether the solution should be independence or not. In any case, the result will create for an unforseeable period of time a situation that will require stabilisation from the outside."

    [02] PM and Bakoyannis discuss PM's trips abroad in 2007

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis had a meeting on Thursday to discuss foreign policy and planning for the premier's trips abroad during the coming year.

    Emerging from the meeting, Bakoyannis said the meeting with Karamanlis had also examined the issue of the planned Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, where she noted that there were certain differences of opinion between the countries involved.

    Commenting on a report that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) planned to name Skopje's airport "Alexander the Great", Bakoyannis said that there had been no official announcement and no such information had reached the foreign ministry.

    "The interim agreement is in force and it would be best to avoid actions that could be misunderstood," she added.

    [03] FM Bakoyannis warns FYROM over Skopje airport name issue

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis reacted strongly on Thursday to the decision taken earlier in the day by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) cabinet to accept a proposal by the public management corporation for the country's two airports to rename Skopje's "Petrovec" airport to "Alexander the Great" and Ohrid's airport to "Apostle Paul."

    "Alexander the Great is a leading personality of worldwide range. Spreading Greek civilisation to all over the known world at the time, the Greek military leader established himself in history," she said.

    "With its statement today, Skopje, once again, is seeking false support from the past," she noted, adding that 2,300 years later, history can neither change nor be falsified.

    "This attitude by Skopje is not compatible with obligations of good neighbourliness that emanate from the Interim Agreement and from commitments towards the European Union, nor does it serve their Euro-Atlantic expectations," the foreign minister said.

    "Greece has made its positions known to partners and allies, positions that express all of the political forces of the country," Bakoyannis pointed out.

    It is reminded that earlier FYROM's cabinet ratified the proposal made by the public management corporation for the two airports to rename them during its session.

    FYROM Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki said that "the decision to rename the airport of Skopje does not conceal cunning designs and does not constitute an effort to monopolise the name of a worldwide historic personality which is honoured in many countries, such as in Greece, FYROM, Bulgaria, India and elsewhere."

    Earlier statements

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Thursday urged the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to "avoid actions that might be misunderstood", in response to reports that authorities in Skopje had proposed renaming the city's "Petrovec" airport to "Alexander of Macedon".

    Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, she said that the foreign ministry had received no official notification or information regarding the reports.

    She also pointed out that an interim agreement between the two countries regarding the dispute of the use of the name 'Macedonia' by FYROM was still in force.

    According to a report by the ANA-MPA correspondent in Skopje, the board of directors of the state-run company managing the two FYROM airports in Skopje and Ochrid has prepared a proposal for renaming both, the first after Alexander the Great and the second after the Apostle Paul.

    The proposal had been forwarded to the FYROM government to reach a decision.

    It was strongly criticised on Thursday by the mayor and prefect of Thessaloniki, capital of the northern Greek province of Macedonia.

    Greece objects to FYROM's use of the name 'Macedonia' as historically unsound and opening the way for future expansionist designs against the northern Greek province of the same name. Greeks also object to the claims of FYROM Slavs to be descended from Alexander the Great - the famous Macedonian general of antiquity who was born in the Greek province of Macedonia - seeing this as an attempt to 'usurp' a historical figure that is inalienably Greek.

    [04] PM sends condolences for late U.S. President Ford

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday sent a telegram of condolence to U.S. President George Bush, expressing his sorrow for the passing of the 38th president of the United States Gerald. R. Ford.

    [05] Education minister visits Cyprus

    Nicosia (ANA-MPA / A.Viketos)

    Education Minister Marietta Yannakou arrived in Cyprus on Thursday for a formal visit.

    In statements she made upon her arrival Yiannakou referred to the cooperation shared by Greece and Cyprus stressing that they have cooperated closely both on issues concerning educators and training. Yiannakou stressed that Greece like Cyprus strives to adjust to the Lisbon indexes.

    The two countries have common interests, language and culture and the efforts made have a greater effect, she concluded.

    Receiving his Greek counterpart, Cypriot Education Minister Pefkios Georgiades stated that her presence in Cyprus confirms that the ties shared by the two countries are strong and eternal and education is the umbilical cord that nourishes and preserves relations between Greece and Cyprus.

    [06] Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou meets Cyprus Archbishop

    NICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A. Viketos)

    Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou, currently on an official visit to Cyprus, held a meeting on Thursday evening with the Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos at the Holy Archdiocese.

    The education minister said that a discussion took place during the meeting on the role of the Church in educational issues.

    "We reached the joint ascertainment that the real hope for Cyprus and for Greece is quality in education," the education minister said.

    Archbishop Chrysostomos said that the Church of Cyprus wants close cooperation between the education ministries of Greece and Cyprus "so that we can offer more to our children."

    Yiannakou also held separate meetings with Democratic Rally (DHSY) party leader Nikos Anastasiadis, Democratic Party (DHKO) leader Marios Karoyan and EDEK social democratic party leader Yiannakis Omirou.

    [07] Papandreou notes staff shortages at children's hospital

    Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou found a significant shortage of nurses and paramedics during his visit to the Aglaia Kyriakou childrens' hospital in Athens on Thursday.

    He accused the government of downgrading the national health system, stressing the need for more funding and more staff.

    Papandreou held talks with parents of children being treated in the hospital, as well as the hospital staff and management, including hospital governor George Yiannopoulos, who outlined the problems caused by a lack of nurses.

    According to PASOK's leader only 815 new employees had been hired to replace some 1,500 that had gone into retirement, with the shortages particularly apparent on weekends and when the hospital was on emergency duty.

    Staff said the shortage was particularly acute in the newborn's wing, where there were just three nurses for 30 beds.

    [08] Parliament Library to house Andreas Papandreou archives

    The Greek Parliament's Library will house the archives of the late prime minister Andreas Papandreou, after an agreement reached between Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki and the late premier's widow, Dimitra Liani Papandreou.

    The decision was outlined a series of letters between Psarouda-Benaki and Liani-Papandreou released by Parliament's press office on Thursday.

    The archives are from the periods when Papandreou was Greece's prime minister, while in a letter dated December 27, the late premier's widow also said that personal items linked to his time as a prime minister are also at Parliament's disposal.

    In her reply on Thursday, Psarouda-Benaki thanked Liani-Papandreou and accepted the offer, saying that it helped the Parliamentary library acquire valuable historical material regarding the actions of a leader that had opened new paths in the political life of the country.

    Papandreou was thrice elected prime minister of Greece during crucial periods in the country's history, including its transition into the then European Economic Community.

    [09] PASOK reacts against Parliament taking part of Andreas Papandreou Archive

    The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Thursday strongly reacted to the decision by Dimitra Liani, widow of late prime minister and party founder Andreas Papandreou, to give part of the Archive of Andreas Papandreou to Parliament.

    PASOK National Council Secretary Nikos Athanassakis, who a few days ago met with Liani and had discussed the issue, sent her a letter on Thursday, following statements she made to television stations, announcing her decision.

    Athanassakis attributed to Liani that she did not keep her promise on what they had agreed upon, that is, for there to be a small margin of time before she decides what she will do with the archive. The agrrement also foresaw that before Liani announced her decision, she would communicate anew with Athanassakis.

    The PASOK National Council Secretary said in his letter, which he said he was compelled to make public after Liani's statements, that the issue of the archive is pending for quite a few years and that according to his assessments, could not be dealt with in such a very close time margin "only because the proposal by the Parliament president arose," to whom he attributed "certain expediencies."

    [10] Outgoing and new Athens mayors visit central market

    New Athens mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, who officially takes over as mayor at the start of 2007, and outgoing Mayor Theodoros Behrakis on Thursday paid a joint visit to the central Varvakio meat market in Athens, to exchange New Year wishes with those working there.

    During the visit, Kaklamanis underlined the massive improve-ments that have taken place in the market in recent years, both in terms of infrastructure and in terms of service and quality. He pledged to iron out remaining problems with infrastructure from his position as mayor in the next two years.

    Kaklamanis also answered questions concerning the problems with rubbish disposal for the capital, stressing that the answer in the long-term did not lie in creating new landfills but in adopting new technologies for processing waste without causing atmospheric pollution.

    "In 2007, we can no longer talk about landfills. It is the time of new technologies," he told reporters.

    [11] POESY president hails UNSC resolution for protection of journalists in war zones

    Confederation of Journalists' Unions in Greece (POESY) board president Dimitris Tsalapatis on Thursday welcomed the adoption last week of a UN Security Council resolution for the protection of journalists in war zones.

    "The initiative by the International Federation of Journalists, of Greek journalists' unions and POESY, as well as by the Greek Presidency of the Security Council from last September, which already constitutes a UN resolution, vindicates the struggles of journalists and substantially contributes to the right of information," the POESY president said.

    [12] Presentation of Athens Academy awards

    The Athens Academy on Thursday evening awarded its golden award to Eginitio Hospital, for "its more than a century contribution to medical care," and awarded its golden medals to Manolis Glezos and Apostolos Santas "for their great service to the Greek nation and humanity" with their heroic act on the night of May 30, 1941, when they took down the Nazi flag from the Acropolis.

    The silver medal of merit and self-sacrifice was presented in memory of Flight Lieutenant Constantine Iliakis, who lost his life on May 23, defending Greece's air space.

    The awards, medals and distinctions of the Athens Acedemy were presented by the Academy's president Costas Stefanis during a session which was attended, among others, by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, former prime minister Costas Simitis, Anastasios Peponis, George Alexandros Mangakis and Tilemachos Hytiris.

    Financial News

    [13] Sioufas: 2007 a year for competitiveness, innovation

    The year 2007 will be a year for competitiveness, innovation and new technologies, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas stated on Thursday as he emerged from a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    He said his talks with the prime minister had focused on the preparation of reforms to reinforce the ministry's developmental planning, including the 11 draft bills that are to be tabled in Parliament before April.

    As in earlier talks with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, the premier's meeting with the development minister was occupied by the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.

    According to Sioufas, the Greek side has discussed all the issues involved with the other two countries involved in the project, Russia and Bulgaria, including some outstanding differences.

    He noted that elections in Bulgaria had caused a delay but that actions by the Greek side, including trips undertaken by Sioufas and development ministry general secretary Nikos Stefanou to Moscow and Sofia, had helped make up for lost time.

    Asked to comment on high prices for consumer goods, the minister stressed that he had never claimed that prices were not high, adding that the problems and inflexibility of the past could not be solved overnight.

    He underlined, however, that the ministry was constantly carrying out inspections and imposing high penalties when transgressions were discovered. He also stressed that a sharp rise in oil prices had contributed to the problem, while pointing out that the country had managed to absorb these large increases smoothly.

    [14] Greek Producer Price Index up 2.6 pct in November, yr/yr

    Greece's Producer Price Index rose by 2.6 pct in November compared with the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.

    The statistics service said the index was down 0.4 pct from October while the average index was up 6.6 pct in the 12-month period from December 2005 to November 2006 compared with the corresponding period last year.

    The monthly decline of the index reflected a 0.5 pct drop in the domestic market price index.

    [15] Information Society programme significantly improves funds' absorption rate

    Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday said there would be no loss of funds by an 'Infor-mation Society' business programme this year.

    Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister stressed that absorption rate of the programme surpassed 55 percent of its budget so far this year and noted that the programme was significantly restructured. Alogoskoufis said it was extremely encouraging that both citizens and businesses were increasingly acknowledging the benefits of all information projects promoted in the country. The Greek minister said the programme's absorption rate was 11.8 pct in March 2004.

    [16] Development ministry imposes sanctions on insurance firms

    Development ministry on Thursday announced a decision to impose heavy sanctions on Aspis Insurance and to offer an one-month deadline to three other insurance firms to covering their reserve capital.

    The decisions were taken after completion of a thorough inspection in the insurance market.

    A ministry decision said that Egnatia Insurance, Le Monde and La Vie Life Insurance presented problems in their equity capital and their reserve capital.

    Egnatia and Le Monde, part of the same group, held extraordinary general shareholders' meetings and decided share capita increase plans, totalling 35 million euros and 15 million euros respectively. Both share capital increases will be covered by a foreign corporate firm.

    The ministry imposed an 1.3 million euros fine on Aspis Insurance and ended the offering a its 'Mega Asset' product for breach of market regulation.

    Commenting on the decisions, Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said the ministry policies were bringing results and reiterated that ministry's determination to continue moving towards the same direction. 'We are consistent with our pledge to make the insurance market a credible, reliable and competitive sector,' he noted.

    [17] Ster Cinemas issues 17.9 mln-euro bond loan

    Ster Cinemas, a subsidiary of Greek-listed Audio Visual Enter-prises SA, on Thursday announced an agreement with National Bank to issue a bond loan worth 17.9 million euros.

    The six-year bond issue will be covered almost exclusively by National Bank.

    Ster Cinemas said the proceeds from the bond loan would be used to refinance its existing short-term bank debt and other business projects.

    [18] Greek Stock Exchange Group provides information website

    The Greek Stock Exchange Group, taking the first step in the implementation of the Ethics Code signed in Brussels on November 7, 2006, is now presenting all the debit charts and relevant documents in its website

    This development further strengthens transparency in the frame-work of the Code of Conduct for Clearing & Settlement that the Greek Stock Exchange Group jointly signed.

    Among other things, the code determines transparency require-ments for prices that apply in every negotiating and settlement stage , providing necessary assistance for Stock Exchange clients in this way.

    [19] Greek stocks end 0.24 pct higher on Thursday

    Greek stocks moved cautiously higher on Thursday pushing the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange 0.24 pct up to end at 4,388.63 points. Turnover was a low 195.9 million euros.

    Sector indices scored gains with the Financial Services (1.25 pct), Utilities (0.92 pct) and Healthcare (0.81 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Insurance (1.87 pct), Food-Beverage (1.50 pct) and Oil (1.23 pct) suffered losses.

    The Big Cap index rose 0.29 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.62 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.31 pct.

    Desmos (10.34 pct), Gener (6.67 pct) and Yalco (5.65 pct) were top gainers, while Tria Alpha (20.0 pct), Hitech (11.11 pct) and Fintexport (6.82 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 147 to 104 with another 57 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.87%

    Industrials: +0.31%

    Commercial: -0.06%

    Construction: -0.21%

    Media: -0.31%

    Oil & Gas: -1.23%

    Personal & Household: +0.25%

    Raw Materials: +0.36%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.62%

    Technology: +0.30%

    Telecoms: +0.12%

    Banks: +0.57%

    Food & Beverages: -1.50%

    Health: +0.81%

    Utilities: +0.92%

    Chemicals: -0.06%

    Financial Services: +1.25%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, Proton Investment Bank, National Bank, Alpha Bank and Eurobank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 23.04

    ATEbank: 3.86

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 19.34

    HBC Coca Cola: 29.32

    Hellenic Petroleum: 10.24

    Emporiki Bank: 23.28

    National Bank of Greece: 35.08

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 27.26

    Intralot: 25.70

    Cosmote: 22.60

    OPAP: 29.50

    OTE: 22.76

    Titan Cement Company: 41.04

    ADEX closing report

    Futures contract prices maintained their premium after a dull session in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover a low 44.147 million euros.

    The January contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a premium of 0.32 percent and on the FTSE 40 index at a premium of 0.41 percent.

    Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totalled 1,301 contracts worth 15.531 million euros with 14,882 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index totalled 391 contracts worth 10.191 million euros with 1,215 open positions.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 1,510 contracts worth 2.989 million euros with investors' interest focusing on ELTECH' contracts (248), followed by Eurobank (11), OTE (45), PPC (41), OPAP (55), Piraeus Bank (41), National Bank (178), Alpha Bank (76) and Intracom (203).

    Volume in stock repos totalled 1,056 contracts and in reverse stock repos 541 contracts.

    Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totalled 572 million euros on Thursday, of which 255 million were bid orders and 317 million euros were sell orders.

    The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2016) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 365 million euros followed by the 10-year bond (July 20, 2015) with 60 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was unchanged at 0.265 percent.

    In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate fell to 3.67 percent from 3.71 pct on Wednesday, the two-day rate rose to 3.78 pct from 3.71 pct, the one-month rate eased to 3.64 pct from 3.67 pct and the 12-month rate rose to 4.02 pct from 4.01 pct.

    Foreign Exchange Rates

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.327

    Pound sterling 0.676

    Danish kroner 7.517

    Swedish kroner 9.118

    Japanese yen 157.86

    Swiss franc 1.618

    Norwegian kroner 8.303

    Cyprus pound 0.582

    Canadian dollar 1.539

    Australian dollar 1.683

    General News

    [20] Police officers involved in shooting death before prosecutor

    The two police officers involved in a shooting in Kalabaki, Drama in northern Greece that resulted to the death of a 35-year-old man will be led before a prosecutor, authorities said on Thursday.

    According to police, the incident took place on Wednesday evening when the two officers on patrol spotted the victim and another five individuals entering the grounds of the Voirani land reclamation department (TOEB) in a jeep in order to steal electrical transformers.

    As soon as the five trespassers realized that they had been spotted, they got onto a crane lorry and drove off, while the 35-year-old who was driving the jeep moved toward the police officers, threatening them with a toy pistol.

    The officers opened fire, killing the man, and a few hours later two of his accomplices were arrested in Thessaloniki, while the remaining three are still wanted. Police found in their possession two electrical transformers which had been removed from another TOEB in the Drama prefecture.

    Just recently the Voirani TOEB water pumping station was again targeted by robbers who managed to remove power transformers and electricity cables of great value while, according to police, similar incidents were recorded four times during the past five months.

    [21] Police uncover fake lottery scam

    Attica police on Thursday announced that they had uncovered an Internet scam involving a fake UK-based lottery, placing one Nigerian man under arrest.

    The suspect and his accomplices operated by sending e-mails to random recipients, informing them that they had won large sums in a non-existent lottery in the United Kingdom. If anyone responded, they were persuaded to deposit money is bank accounts so that their alleged winnings might be released.

    The Nigerian man and a second accomplice are suspected of using this method to persuade a Saudi-Arabian national to deposit 3,705 dollars in a Greek bank account so that he might receive a prize of two million dollars. They were also asking for an additional 5,800, allegedly to complete the process.

    The Nigerian was arrested on Wednesday when he arrived at a hotel in Piraeus, where he had arranged to meet the scam victim to hand over his winnings. He also has a past criminal record for counterfeiting money. He appeared before a public prosecutor in Piraeus on Thursday.

    [22] Four charged with robbery in Eretria

    Four foreign nationals were brought before a Halkida public prosecutor on Thursday and charged with an attempted robbery committed in Eretria in the early hours of that morning.

    The four are accused of attacking a 66-year-old man in his home during the night with the intention of robbing him. They were caught when one of their number appeared at a local hospital after sustaining a gunshot wound during a struggle with the victim.

    According to police, three of the four men entered the 66-year-old's house through a kitchen door while he was asleep and attacked him in his bed, beating him with the butt of a sawn-off shotgun to make him hand over any money in the house.

    The man resisted fiercely, however, managing to pull off a hood masking one of his assailants. One of the robbers was also injured when the gun backfired during the struggle.

    The three robbers then fled in a getaway car driven by a fourth man and later turned up at Halkida hospital with their injured accomplice, claiming he had been shot by unknown assailants in Vassiliko in Evia.

    A police investigation showed that they were the culprits of the Eretria robbery, however, while the 66-year-old - who was being treated in the same hospital - also identified one of them through his voice.

    Under questioning, they admitted to the attempted robbery and led police to the spot where they had discarded the gun, while three hoods and ammunition were found in their car.

    [23] Elderly shooter released, ordered to remain in village

    A 90-year-old man charged with shooting an intruder that entered his home while he was asleep was released without bail after appearing before an examining magistrate in Hania on Thursday but ordered to remain within the confines of his village of Kalamitsi Alexandros on Crete unless forced to leave for health reasons.

    On Wednesday, a public prosecutor pressed charges of attempted manslaughter, illegal weapons possession and illegal weapons use against the elderly villager, who on Tuesday night had shot a 25-year-old Moldovan man in the belly with a double-barrelled shotgun, inflicting life-threatening injuries. Police said the Moldovan appeared to have entered the old man's home from an unsecured entrance, apparently with the intention of robbing him.

    The Moldovan, who in the past had worked for his attacker as an occasional farmhand, was declared out of danger by doctors after undergoing surgery to remove his spleen and one kidney but is still in hospital.

    Testifying before the examining magistrate, 90-year-old said he had opened fire as a warning when he was startled from sleep and saw someone's shadow looming over him, without realising that it was the 25-year-old that had helped him with farmwork in the past.

    Both the public prosecutor and examining magistrate agreed that the 90-year-old should not be remanded in custody.

    [24] Greek tourists in Petra, Jordan snowed-in

    All 16 Greek tourists stranded in the archaeological site of Petra in Jordan on Wednesday due to heavy snowfall are safe and well.

    After contacting Greek diplomatic authorities in Jordan and thanks to the immediate mobilization of the Jordanian state mechanism, 9 of them were picked up by the Jordanian army and taken to a nearby military base where they spent the night while the remaining 7 stayed on a tourist bus.

    Jordan's King Abdullah has sent the army to the region to evacuate any of the 300 tourists trapped in Petra who wished to leave the area.

    All tourists from Petra are expected to arrive in the Jordanian capital by bus, while the remaining Greek tourists, who couldn't travel on Wednesday because of the bad weather, are expected to return to Greece on a flight from Amman.

    [25] Greek tourists return to Amman

    AMMAN (ANA-MPA - P. Haritos)

    Sixteen Greek tourists who had arrived in Petra, Jordan, on Wednesday and had remained snowbound, arrived here on Thursday afternoon.

    Another group of 50 Greeks staying in hotels in Petra will remain until the end of their holidays, while 19 of them who had planned to return to Greece on Thursday and whose flight was cancelled will leave the region on Friday to return to Greece with the Jordanian Airlines, via Cyprus.

    According to Greek diplomatic authorities and following consultations with the relevant authorities of the Jordanian tourist ministry, all the Greek tourists faced with problems as a result of adverse weather conditions in the region will be assisted as much as possible to enable them to return to Greece when they decide to do so.

    Snowfall that began late on Wednesday night in the southern part of Jordan blocked almost the entire road network, while authorities are continuing efforts to this hour to open roads.

    [26] Fifteen kilos of hashish found in a Florina forest

    Border guards on Thursday announced finding a bag with 15 kilos and 300 grams of hashish hidden in a forest region in Florina, northwest Greece.

    The Florina police have launched an investigation for the arrest of the individuals who brought the drugs to the region.

    [27] Snow and low temperatures in northern Greece

    Snow chains are necessary on Thursday for cars using the Florina-Kastoria provincial road, via Vitsi, in northwest Greece.

    Winter temperatures are being recorded in central and western Macedonia, north Greece, with -2C in Thessaloniki, Katerini and Polygyros, Halkidiki.

    Temperature has dropped to -3C in Kilkis, north Greece and Grevena, northwest, while Edessa, Florina and Kastoria have -4C and Serres -5C.

    Traffic Police warns drivers to be extra careful during the early morning hours because there is a high risk of ice conditions on the road network of central and western Macedonia, north Greece.

    [28] Weather Forecast: Partly Cloudy on Friday

    Partly cloudy weather will prevail in all parts of the country on Friday. Frost in the morning and night on the mainland. Possibility of scattered showers or light snowfall in Thrace. Winds northerly, northwesterly, moderate to strong. Temperatures in Athens from 1C to 12C; and in Thessaloniki between -4C and 9C.

    [29] Greek press review

    The burglars' who know no limits, force their way into the people's homes, open fire, and hold hostages, the landfill impasse, the flu virus that crossed the Greek borders, the warning issued by nine ASEP (Supreme Staff Selection Council) members to its president that interview-based hirings will be ruled null and void by the courts, the labor conditions changes in ELTA (Hellenic Post) and the holiday exodus abroad for the Greeks were the main front-page items in Thursday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Public administration enters the electronic era - Against red tape and corruption".

    ANO KATO: "New provocation by Skopje - The country's (FYROM) airport is named after Alexander the Great".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Clever measures by Polydoras (public order minister) against violence during soccer games - Stricter measures against hooliganism".

    AVGHI: "Underestimates crime and is after protest rallies - The Polydoras policy on ELAS (Greek Police)".

    AVRIANI: "Put them back on street patrol - 4,000 police officers are assigned to protect parliament deputies, businessmen and journalists making them housemaids".

    CHORA: "A Hellenic Court of Audit decision provides final settlement for all temporary work contract holders".

    ELEFTHEROS: "The 2007 pensions - 4 percent rise in pensions in 2007".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "250,000 to celebrate New Year's Eve abroad - Record holiday exodus abroad for the Greeks".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "ASEP: Didn't pass the oral exam - Warning issued to its president by 9 of its members".

    ESTIA: "Fewer taxes after January 1 - Smaller tax deductions for salary earners".

    ETHNOS: "The flu has crossed the borders - A and B flu type cases detected".

    KATHIMERINI: "The people pay the deficit in security - ELAS is non existent in uptown neighbourhoods".

    LOGOS: "The burglars had a feast - Explosive rise in robbery incidents".

    NIKI: "The feat achieved by Vyron (public order minister Polydoras) - Crime has skyrocketed - ELAS in dissolution".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The sacrifices for education don't pay off - Education goes from bad to worse".

    TA NEA: "Buried in garbage - Impasse in the landfills".

    TO VIMA: "The OTE telecoms practice to be used in ELTA - Changes in labor regulation".

    VRADYNI: "Around the world with 2006 absurdities - The crazy and weird news that did not make it to the front page".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [30] G/C side insists on its proposal on Ledra Street crossing point


    The Greek Cypriot side insists on the proposals it put forward to the United Nations over the opening of a new crossing point between the free government-controlled southern part and the Turkish-occupied northern part of the world's last divided capital city Nicosia.

    Earlier Thursday a statement issued by the office of the Turkish Cypriot leader said that Mehmet Ali Talat had decided the removal of a footbridge the occupation regime constructed last year at the northern end of the UN-controlled buffer zone dividing Ledra Street in the old town of Nicosia, "with the purpose of contributing to the decision of the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides to resume the comprehensive settlement negotiations within the first quarter of 2007 and also, to the promotion of the cooperation sense of the two peoples."

    In a press release the UN Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) said it "welcomes this positive contribution to efforts to realize the opening of a crossing point at this location. UNFICYP stands ready to assist both sides in agreeing on practical arrangements to move this much anticipated process forward."

    Asked to comment on the Turkish Cypriot leader's decision Cyprus Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis recalled that the Greek Cypriot side put forward end of 2005 and on 8 July 2006 to the United Nations a set of proposals regarding the opening of the Ledra Street crossing point.

    He told CNA that "we insist on our proposals that we consider rational and constructive and we are ready and willing to enter a dialogue with the Turkish Cypriot side for a smooth, unhindered and without political expediencies opening of the Ledra Street crossing point with an aim to achieve contact and communi-cation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, as lawful citizens of the Republic of Cyprus."

    Earlier Thursday when asked to comment on press reports suggesting that the Turkish side was about to announce the de-molition of the bridge to allow opening of the Ledra Street crossing point, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos stated that "we have submitted our proposals on this topic to the United Nations about the removal of the bridge as well as all the symbols that indicate a border crossing and not a crossing point.''

    Among the measures that the Greek Cypriot side had put forward to the UN for a new crossing point at Ledra Street were the dismantling by the National Guard (Cyprus Army) of the wall with, in parallel, removal by the Turkish side of the new bridge, military disengagement at and around the crossing point, end of Turkish Armed Forces' patrols in the area, removal by both sides of the emblems, flags and materials of offensive and provocative nature and restoration of buildings in the area for civilian use.

    At the same time, implementation of safety measures, such as de-mining to the extent necessary to ensure safety of persons using the crossing, checking of and repairs or structural support of all buildings adjacent to the crossing to ensure that passage and passers-by are not endangered and construction and surfacing of the passage-way so that it is at ground level, easily passable and hurdle-free.

    Turkish troops have been occupying 37 per cent of Cyprus territory since 1974, in violation of repeated UN resolutions calling for their withdrawal.

    There are another five crossing points between the government controlled areas and the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus.

    [31] Papadopoulos: drafting a solution plan would be wrong


    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos believes that it would be wrong to draft a comprehensive plan for the solution of the Cyprus problem, as such a move would be tantamount to relinquishing UN initiatives towards this goal.

    The Cypriot president clarified that it is one thing to talk about a framework of principles for a solution and another thing to prepare a plan for a political settlement in Cyprus.

    "I think it would be wrong for us to draft a comprehensive solution plan. Such a move would mean that we are abandoning the UN initiative. In addition to this, there are many other political reasons not to do that, which I am not going to analyse here and now," he told journalists Thursday, when asked if there is a chance for the Greek Cypriot side to draft a solution plan.

    President Papadopoulos explained that "it is one thing to draft a framework of principles for a solution, something that has been well known for years, and it is another thing to prepare a plan."

    Asked if there are any moves on the part of the Turkish Cypriot side to open a crossing at the end of one of Nicosia's main commercial streets, Ledra street, Papadopoulos noted that there are statements on the matter but as he pointed out "I do not know how sincere these remarks are."

    "We have submitted our proposals on this topic to the UN, about the removal of the bridge as well as all the symbols that indicate a border crossing and not a crossing point," he said.

    Replying to questions, President Papadopoulos said there was no talk about this issue at Wednesday night's encounter between Cyprus House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.

    [32] House President: we have to work for serious talks in 2008


    House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias pointed out here Thursday that in the year ahead the ground work for negotiations towards a Cyprus solution has to be prepared to allow serious talks to take place in 2008.

    He also said that at a short meeting Wednesday night in the Turkish- occupied part of Nicosia he talked briefly about the prospects of a solution with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat, as they both attended a reception to mark 36 years since the Turkish Republican Party, which Talat led for years, was established.

    "We have all come to the conclusion that, irrespective of what others may say, next year we have to create those conditions that would enable us to launch the final offensive to deal with the substance of the Cyprus problem and have serious talks in 2008," he said, when asked if the effort towards a political settlement was part of his discussion with Talat.

    Replying to other questions, he said that elections in Turkey next year and later on in Cyprus would affect the peace effort and that is why there is talk of preparing the ground in 2007 and conduct "a very serious negotiation in 2008 with a view to reach a settlement."

    "I had a very human encounter with Talat, we have known each other for years and we talked about our health, our family ties which we need to warm up further, it was just an ordinary meeting that lasted about 15 minutes," he said of his conversation with Talat.

    Christofias, General Secretary of leftwing AKEL party, a government partner, which maintains good relations with RTP, crossed into the occupied areas Wednesday night, heading a party delegation to attend the reception.

    [33] Archbishop to meet Turkish Cypriot religious leader


    Archbishop Chrysostomos II, leader of the autocephalous christian orthodox Church of Cyprus, will meet on January 8 with Mouftis, the head of religious affairs in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus.

    "We expect him here, we shall meet, speak as friends, have lunch together and visit the mosque in Larnaca," he said, adding that he intends to return the visit later in January to visit the monastery of Saint Barnabas, founder of the Church of Cyprus, in the occupied areas.

    The Archbishop refrained from disclosing anything about the agenda of his forthcoming meeting, noting that the people will be duly informed when the time comes.

    Responding to questions, he said he has made it clear that he has no intention of showing either his identity or any other document in order to cross into the Turkish-occupied part of the island.

    "I hope everything takes its course and runs smoothly so that we too can contribute to normalizing relations between the two communities," he added.

    The Archbishop, elected last month to the post, said that Greek and Turkish Cypriots, especially the older generation, have shared their joy and pain for years.

    Turkish troops have been occupying 37 per cent of Cyprus territory since 1974, in violation of repeated UN resolutions calling for their withdrawal.

    [34] EU German Presidency to contribute to efforts for Cyprus solution


    The European Union German presidency has assured that it would do its utmost to accommodate the parties concerned in order to work towards a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, in line with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and based on the principles on which the EU was founded.

    This was stated by Charges d' Affaires of the German embassy in Nicosia, Joachim Heidorn, whose country assumes the next EU rotating presidency on January 1st, 2007.

    "You can be assured that we will try to accommodate the parties involved whenever there is a possibility (for a Cyprus solution)", Heidorn said in an interview with CNA, stressing that the Cyprus problem remains a serious concern for Europe.

    Emphasizing the need to continue bicommunal talks, the German diplomat said that his country's EU presidency would "surely emphasize the need to quickly start preparatory work for a Cyprus solution".

    "There have been meetings but unfortunately with no progress. We hope that under the UN Secretary General's Good Offices, the mission can resume without any unnecessary delay", he said.

    Germany, he added, encourages the two communities on the island to ensure that the right atmosphere prevails so that progress under the UN can be achieved "for a comprehensive settlement in line with relevant UNSC resolutions and based on the principles on which the EU is founded".

    He underlined that the Cyprus issue is not a burden for Europe, but noted that the EU "can function more easily, can progress much quicker when the problem is resolved".

    Elaborating on that, he said that if the Cyprus issue was resolved "we wouldn't have the obstacles that we face at the moment, obstacles that are normal as long as a negotiating process is not finalized."

    "The Cyprus issue is not a burden for Europe, but a constant reminder that we have to try hard to solve this problem together", he added.

    On the Commission's proposal to start direct trade between the Turkish Cypriots and the EU, he recalled that the German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier had recently reiterated "the necessity to resume the work aiming at the adoption of the Commission's proposal for a direct trade regulation on special conditions for trade".

    "We have always been in close contact with the Finnish government. We will see what they have achieved so far on the matter", he said, and expressed the view that "according to the conclusions of 26th April 2004 there should be trade with the Republic of Cyprus and the areas on which the government does not exercise effective control".

    Noting that "this is a very difficult area", he said Germany will proceed with a positive approach and after talking to all parties involved, it will see what itinerary it will take.

    "It must not necessarily be the same itinerary the Finnish presidency has chosen, it could be, but this we will find out after we have taken over our presidency", he noted.

    But the German diplomat said that since 2004, when the Commission proposed this regulation, nothing has been achieved.

    "The occupied areas have a different idea of direct trade and the Republic has a different one. We have to see where both opinions can be compromised", he said, and wondered what in fact direct trade entails.

    "There is always this question, what does direct trade really mean? As long as we do not have a definition that is commonly accepted, we cannot effectively discuss it. We have to determine if there are other solutions to be found. Compromise is a give and take action and it would be wrong to speculate at this point in time," he pointed out.

    On the sanctions imposed on Turkey by the EU for its refusal to open its ports and airports to Cyprus, the German diplomat said that the EU decision is "a very well balanced compromise".

    He added that the non implementation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union Protocol has consequences but on the other hand the door remains open for Turkey.

    The German Presidency, Heidorn said, intends to open more negotiating chapters with Turkey, stressing, however, that there will be no special conditions for Turkey.

    "We will continue to negotiate. The EU decided that the screening process will continue and chapters for which technical preparations have been completed will be opened in accordance with established procedures, in line with the negotiating framework and based on EU principles", he said.

    Referring to migration, he said that the German EU presidency will look at legal and illegal migration as a whole and expressed the view that the EU should agree with the countries of origin on a certain number of legal immigrants, provided that the third countries contribute to the fight against illegal migration.

    On illegal migration via the Green Line, the demarcation line dividing the government controlled areas with the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, Heidorn said that the Cypriot government must solve this problem before entering the Schengen area, since when that time comes the problem will become a European one.

    "It has to be made clear that a solution has to be found. Once you become a Schengen country your problem will be a European one. It would serve your own interest since you are a smaller country which cannot absorb great numbers of immigrants", he pointed out.

    He added that "when you talk to the Cypriot police, they say our external borders are safe. But you have the Green Line which is a weak point and difficult to control".

    Heidorn also welcomed the fact that Cyprus will introduce at the new Larnaca and Paphos airports "proper security devices under Schengen rules".

    Referring to the German presidency's priorities, he referred to the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome that established the European Economic Community (EEC).

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