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The Hellenic Radio (ERA): News in English, 10-02-28
From: The Hellenic Radio (ERA) <www.ert.gr/>
 Poll Says Greeks Are Willing to Make SacrificesSunday, 28 February 2010 14:33
An MRB poll commissioned for Real News paper suggested that the Greeks are willing to make sacrifices, terming the government's measures are insufficient. In particular, 58.7% of the respondent said it would say yes to sacrifices so that Greece's economy can recover, while 64.6% opposed strikes. Furthermore, 53% of those surveyed branded the measures taken to trim the deficit as insufficient, 64.3% dismissed them as financially unfair and 73.9% underlined the lack of growth prospects in them.
The majority of the respondents suggested there should be a further cutting in public spending, and took a favourable stance on issues pertaining to the lifting of permanent working status in the public sector.
However, most of them opposed the abolition of the Easter benefit, the rise in VAT rates, and the changes in the pension system and the labour relations.
Source: NET 105.8 News item: 33849
 Deadly Storm Hits Portugal, Spain and FranceSunday, 28 February 2010 13:07
A strong storm that battered Saturday Portugal, Spain and France killed ten people and caused extensive power cuts. In Portugal, a 10-year-old boy was killed by a falling tree in the north, said the country's Civil Protection authority. At least seven people perished when a fierce storm battered France, reported France Info radio. Gale-force winds left a trail of damage, while the torrential rains flooded several houses and caused power cuts, mostly in western France. An old lady, 88, who was drowned inside her house, was among the victims. It is one of the worst storms that have ever hit the country since 1999 when as many as 92 people were killed.
In Galicia, NW Spain, a woman, 82, was killed after a wall collapse, said the local authorities. And Spain's Canary Islands were not spared either, as several flights were cancelled, while about 10,000 houses were left with no electricity.
Source: ANA/MPA News item: 33847
 Olli Rehn Due in Athens on MondaySunday, 28 February 2010 12:18
EU Commissioner for Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn is due in Athens on Monday to discuss Greece's fiscal problems. Olli Rehn will hold talks with government vice president Theodoros Pangalos, Finance Minister Giorgos Papakonstantinou, Employment Minister Andreas Loverdos and Governor of the Bank of Greece Giorgos Provopoulos.
A European Commission spokesman said that after Olli Rehn wraps up his meeting, he will give a press conference in the evening.
Source: ANA/MPA News item: 33845
 Papandreou Holds Crucial Talks with Merkel-ObamaSaturday, 27 February 2010 13:02
The talks Greek Premier George Papandreou will hold in Germany and the USA on 5 and 9 March respectively will be crucial to the Greek economy. In the meantime, at a Friday video conference call Barack Obama held with Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown, the US President estimated that the EU can and will take the proper steps to effectively address Greece's fiscal crisis. The latest developments were also brought up at the meeting George Papandreou had with Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann.
Commenting on imminent meeting between Obama and Papandreou, the White House released a statement reading that President Obama will welcome the Greek Prime Minister in Washington on 9 March. The statement also said that Greece has always been an ally to the USA in their joint efforts to promote stability and prosperity both in the Balkans and in the entire world. Being the homeland of Democracy, Greece and the USA share deep-rooted cultural and historical bonds, continued the statement.
A White House spokesman claimed that Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel discussed the crisis in Greek, as well as foreign policy issues, including the war in Afghanistan.
Asked whether the US President thinks that the Europeans' response to the Greek crisis sufficient, he said that the USA believes that the EU can and will take the proper steps to effectively address Greece's fiscal crisis.
Source: ANA/MPA, NET 105.8 News item: 33836
 Parliament: Prime Minister's QuestionsFriday, 26 February 2010 11:59
The people's sacrifices will yield results, assured Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou while answering Friday morning questions posed by KKE (Greek Communist Party) leader Aleka Papariga and SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) head Alexis Tsipras on the impact the measures taken to address the fiscal problem could have. Papandreou blasted the six-year-long Conservative ruling of ND (New Democracy) for the current financial situation, stressing that his government will reverse the situation. Aleka Papariga accused the government of weighing down the employees, while Alexis Tsipras spoke of unfair measures.
Were the economy to collapse, the low-income earners would be the first to be affected, stressed the Prime Minsiter, further adding that everyone will pay their own share, lest those who are less responsible for the crisis should pay for it.
He then went on to attack ND, arguing that Greece has to pay the price for a risky six-year-long ruling. He added that the main opposition party was scared to should its responsibilities.
"The crisis is a pretext for the government," said Aleka Papariga.
"The government is doing what we expected it to do, to hold the previous government responsible," commented Alexis Tsipras. "Being both socially unfair and inefficient, the measures will sink the country into recession for the following five years," added he.
Source: NET 105.8, NET News item: 33798
 P. Mantouvalos Acquitted over Extra-Judicial Ring ChargesFriday, 26 February 2010 10:35
Former Conservative deputy Petros Mantouvalos was cleared of charges against him with regard to the extra-judicial ring. The court also acquitted his former co-workers, Sotiris Dinopoulos and Christos Hatzipanagiotou. However, former First Instance chief Evangelos Kaloussis was found guilty of money laundering and breach of power. Businessman Evangelos Boletsis was also found guilty of money laundering.
Source: NET 105.8 News item: 33790
 Nationwide Strike in GreeceThursday, 25 February 2010 08:15
Tens of thousands of Greeks took to the streets on Wednesday to participate in the 24-hour general strike organized by the country's two largest trade union groups, the private sector GSEE and the public sector ADEDY in protest against austerity measures. Demonstrations in Athens, Thessaloniki and other large cities were larger compared to previous demonstrations. The two marches, GSEE- ADEDY and PAME were peaceful but some 300 anarchists broke out between some demonstrators and caused damages to 13 shops and 5 bank ATMs'. During the clashes 23 policemen were slightly injured and three people arrested.
Some minor incidents occurred during the march from Pedion tou Areos towards Syntagma when a small group broke out between demonstrators and smashed shop windows of Ianos bookstore because 3 workers had been laid off.
The government should adopt a mix of economic and social policies that would not lead to recession, but create jobs said the head of the GSEE, Yiannis Panagopoulos.
On his part, the head of the umbrella union for public sector workers ADEDY Spiros Papaspiros told Reuters that strike actions will continue in March.
The secretary of European Unions John Monks expressed European workers solidarity to Greece's efforts to face its state debt.
Source: ÍĹÔ 105.8- ÁNA News item: 33723
 Market Running out of Fuel-Some Customs OpenedFriday, 19 February 2010 11:46
The fuel reserves stored in the customs of Diavaton, Evzonoi and Crete supplied the petrol stations of Thessaloniki and Crete. The customs officers who are not on strike do whatever it takes. In Athens, on the other hand, drivers are looking for petrol stations to refill their deposits. In the meantime, the federation of the customs officers decided to call an additional three rolling 48-hour strikes.
The Thessaloniki Trade Union urged both the customs officers and the state to do their best so that the customs officers suspend their strikes. Thessaloniki's traders clamed that the impact of the strike is huge.
Some privileged professional groups should claim their responsibilities and make some sacrifices, commented government spokesman G. Petalotis.
LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) spokesman Kostas Aivaliotis commented, "The customs officers and some others who are socially and financially privileged had better follow the farmer's example..."
Source: NET 105.8, ANA/MPA News item: 33509
 Evros Prefecture Turned into SeaThursday, 18 February 2010 12:41
The residents of the river-side regions of Evros prefecture, on the northernmost tip of Greece, had a nightmarish night, since, despite the herculean efforts of the soldiers, firefighters, prefecture crews and volunteers, several regions have been turned into sea. Yet another village, that of Pyros, was also evacuated late on Wednesday, with its residents staying in hotels. The prefectural authorities, however, are optimistic, since the water deposits coming from Bulgaria have been brought under control. Water level in rivers remains above the alert level.
More than 200,000 square metres have been flooded, while the railway line connecting Alexandroupoli to Dikea remains closed for a fifth day running.
About 40 houses in the village of Lavara have been evacuated, another 15 houses in the village of Mandra, while 200 residents of the village of Poros have already fled their houses for precautionary reasons.
Deputy Civil Protection Minister Spyros Vougias is due in Alexandroupoli on Thursday evening to attend a meeting at the Prefecture and visit the stricken areas.
Source: ANA/MPA News item: 33444
 Strikes Cause Problems in Fuel MarketThursday, 18 February 2010 10:30
Customs officers continue their strikes until Wednesday. Their decision will cause huge problems in the fuel market, since several petrol stations have already run out of fuel. Taxi drivers have called for a new 24-hour strike on 19 February, while GSEE and ADEDY are to state a strike on 24 February.
Customs Remain Closed
The customs at the border crossings for Evzoni and Doirani are closed. . Meanwhile six railway wagons are waiting for clearance of the products they are transporting at the Idomeni railway border pass in Kilkis prefecture.
Source: ANA/MPA, NET News item: 33436
 Newborn Missing from Maternity Hospital FoundThursday, 18 February 2010 08:15
The newborn that went missing in the early hours of Thursday from the Elena maternity hospital in central Athens was found a few hours later in a woman's house in Egaleo, western Athenian suburb. As per information, it was kidnapped by a woman who suffers from psychological disorder after losing her baby. The woman was arrested, while the baby returned with a police patrol car to the hospital and is with its mother.
As per information, the 38-year-old woman, mother to two children aged 4 and 10, called the Alexadra hospital and claimed she had given birth to her child at home.
An ambulance escorted by police went to her house, where they found out her claims were not true.
The baby returned with a police patrol car to the hospital and is with its mother.
Earlier, Health Ministry secretary general N. Polyzos had gone to the maternity hospital and participated in consecutive meetings.
The baby was born on Wednesday and was sleeping in its bassinette beside its mother, 28.
Public maternity hospitals in Greece, including Elena, allow the infants to be in the room with the mothers throughout the night in order to promote breast-feeding.
At around 4.30am, the young mother woke up, kissed her baby and then went back to sleep. Waken up by noise, she realized that her baby was missing. She then saw a figure leaving the room and she started screaming. Police was called in immediately.
Source: NET, NET 105.8, ANA/MPA News item: 33428
 Chrysohoides Expresses Concern and SorrowWednesday, 17 February 2010 14:14
Civil Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoides put down the deadly gun battle between police and two notorious criminals to police's weakness to deal with crime, which is growing. "A crucial battle was given, however the cost was high," said Chrysohoides, who added that no one can speak of success when there is human loss.
The Minister said an investigation is underway, while he announced measures with a view to enhancing police's efficiency against crime.
The Greek police heads are also concerned. They are expected to reform the structure of the police bodies to boost crime crackdown.
Police chief Lefteris Oikonomou, referring to the case, stressed that the police officers were taken aback because they were there just to make sure there is a hideout in the area.
"They just went to see if there is a hideout there. However, the case took a surprisingly unexpected twist and they could not afford to wait for reinforcements," said Oikonomou. News item: 33408
 Obama Holds Extraordinary Afghan War Cabinet MeetingWednesday, 17 February 2010 14:37
US President Barack Obama will convene an extraordinary meeting of his Afghan war cabinet on Wednesday to assess the first major offensive in Afghanistan after his troop surge strategy against the Taliban. The meeting in the secure White House Situation Room comes after the capture by US and Pakistan intelligence of the Taliban's top military commander.
Major Offensive in South Afghanistan Continues
The meeting is similar to the long series of high-level consultations Obama initiated before deciding on the strategy to surge 30,000 extra troops into the Afghan war late last year.
Obama will chair the meeting to be attended by top officials including Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and General David Petraeus, head of US Central Command.
War commander General Stanley McChrystal and US ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry were due to take part in the meeting by video conference, the White House said.
US and other media reported on Tuesday that Taliban top military commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was arrested in Karachi several days ago.The White House refused to confirm the arrest. Meanwhile, US, NATO and Afghan troops continue with a major assault in Marjah, in southern Afghanistan, considered Taliban stronghold. Also on Wednesday, Obama will meet the top US general in Iraq, Ray Odierno, and US ambassador to Baghdad Christopher Hill in the Oval Office.
Sources: Reuters, ÁNA-ĚPA
News item: 33406
 Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Most Popular Figure on the French Political StageWednesday, 17 February 2010 10:17
French Socialist, chief of International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn has emerged as the most popular figure on the French political stage. An IFOP survey for Paris Match said 76% of people had a positive opinion of Strauss-Kahn, a 4% rise in his popularity at the moment that other politicians popularity, including President Nikola Sarkozy, slides.
Sarkozy Popularity Slides
Two recent polls, indicating IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the most popular figure in the French political stage, are likely to fuel speculation about his return to politics.
However, Strauss-Kahn was deliberately coy in a radio interview last week when asked if he might leave his post at IMF early and return to his native France in time to mount a challenge against President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 elections.
In the meantime, French President Nikola Sarkozy sees his popularity ratings sliding as the same survey indicates he has support of 38% a drop of 5% points compared against January popularity poll.
A separate survey by BVA showed 39% of respondents were satisfied with Sarkozy's performance while 56% disapproved, his worst reading since August 2008.
When asked which politician they would like to see have more influence in France, Strauss-Kahn led the field by a full nine points, with 53% percent against 44% of Nikola Sarkozy intensifying scenarios about his political future.
Source: Reuters, Le Monde Also Read: Sondages : Sarkozy au plus bas News item: 33387
 Pakistan: Top Taliban Commander CapturedTuesday, 16 February 2010 15:28
The top military commander of the Taliban, Mullah Baradar, was captured nine days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret raid by Pakistani and U.S. intelligence forces, according to article in "The New York Times". The Taliban belied the report.
Mullah Baradar, described as the most significant Taliban figure captured since the start of the Afghanistan war, is being interrogated by Pakistani and U.S. intelligence. The officials voiced hope he would provide the location of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
US Marines are currently leading one of NATO'S biggest offensives against Taliban militants in Afghanistan. The assault is the first test of U.S. President Barrack Obama plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
Sources: Reuters, ÁNA-ĚPA BBC: Taliban commander Mullah Baradar 'seized in Pakistan' News item: 33347
 Bomb Hit in IndiaTuesday, 16 February 2010 12:29
Ten people were killed and as many as 60 were injured in a bomb hit at a restaurant in Pune, western India, at the weekend. Four people have been taken into custody in connection with a deadly bomb blast. Indian news agency PTI said one of the suspects was arrested in Pune, while another one was seized in a neighbouring town. One of the victims, a 24-year-old university student, succumbed to his wounds Tuesday morning raising the death toll to 10, said police.
Thirty-seven people have been admitted to hospital. Two of the patients, including a Sudanese national, is in a critical condition. Forensic scientists have determined that the bomb, left in an abandoned rucksack, was made from a mixture of RDX high explosives, ammonium nitrate and petrol, the officer said, without specifying quantities.
The hit came just a day after India and Pakistan agreed to resume dialogue with a meeting between their foreign secretaries. The government has so far refused to confirm media speculation that an India-based Islamist group, the Indian Mujahideen, was responsible for the attack.
Source: AFP News item: 33334
 Rome Witnesses Rare SnowfallFriday, 12 February 2010 12:24
Tourists took rare pictures of snow falling on the Colosseum and the Trevi fountain on Friday, and the Pope reportedly appeared at a Vatican window to watch Rome's heaviest snowfall in nearly a quarter century.
In scenes usually only glimpsed in souvenir "snow domes" Italy's capital was blanketed in white, snarling road and air traffic but delighting many Romans who rode scooters with their feet on the ground and snapped pictures with mobile phones.
Rome was last dusted in snow in 2005, but one meteorologist said the steady snowfall through Friday morning was the heaviest seen in the Italian capital in 24 years.
"It's very exciting. I have been taking pictures of my husband in front of the Colosseum because I thought nobody would believe me if I told them it was snowing in Rome today," said Margaret Jones, a tourist from London.
The ancient Roman forum and the Colosseum were later closed for safety reasons.
Heavy rain, snow and strong winds lashed central and southern Italy, prompting the closure of roads in many areas and some schools were shut on the island of Sardinia.
In Rome, Ciampino airport was shut and flights diverted to the bigger Fiumicino airport while the city's normally chaotic traffic slowed to a crawl in many areas.
"It's beautiful but we are not used to it in Rome," said one Rome motorist, Mario Strillandi. "Rain is enough to block traffic in the city -- imagine what it's like with snow."
Source: Reuters News item: 33235
 Turkey Lashes out at European Parliament ReportThursday, 11 February 2010 14:56
Turkey's Foreign Ministry lashed out at the European Parliament, blasting it for being in favour of Greece and Cyprus. The European Parliament's role should not be that of the spokesman of the Greek-Cypriot side, said the Turkish Foreign Ministry, after the European Parliament released its report.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued an announcement reading that although the report numbered Turkey's obligations, it made no reference to the EU's pledges towards Turkey.
The announcement also said that the European Parliament's reports sidestepped the constant talks and the creative efforts made by the Turkish-Cypriot side for a solution to the Cyprus row. It also said that such an approach has caused grave disappointment, as the European Parliament's role is not to represent the Greek-Cypriots and adopt all their groundless claims.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry's report concluded arguing that Turkey, despite the negative stance of certain cycles and despite the obstacles, will continue defending its rights and will continue going after to meet its target and join the EU.
Source: ANA/MPA News item: 33189
 US-Led Attack on Taliban in AfghanistanSaturday, 13 February 2010 12:11
Thousands of US-led troops Saturday launched the first major offensive against Taliban insurgents since US President Barack Obama began sending more troops to Afghanistan, NATO said.
For the first time, Afghan soldiers are involved shoulder-to-shoulder with the international troops at the tip of the spear as they bring their fight to insurgents holding sway over the Marjah district of Helmand province.
"The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan announced today that key military 'clearing' operations for Operation Mushtarak have begun in central Helmand," NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.
"These 'clearing' operations follow the smaller-scaled 'shaping' operations that have helped set the conditions for this new phase of operations," it said, referring to weeks of build-up and skirmishes with militants in the area.
US Marines are leading a combined force of 15,000, ISAF said, in Operation Mushtarak, meaning "together" in Dari, an assault aimed at undermining Taliban control over one of the world's biggest opium-producing regions.
Mushtarak is the first phase of a major operation to re-establish Afghan government control over the region.
The goal of the operation is to assist the Afghan government "in asserting its authority in central Helmand, thereby demonstrating the Afghan government?s commitment to the people living there," the ISAF statement said.
The operation, described as the biggest military assault in Afghanistan since the war began more than eight years ago, got under way soon after midnight (1930 GMT), backed by NATO air support.
Source: AFP News item: 33271