30 October, 2006
Greece on Saturday commemorated the nation's refusal to allow Axis forces to occupy the country on Oct. 28, 1940 -- essentially marking its entry into WWII -- with military and students' parades around the east Mediterranean nation.
In Thessaloniki, the annual military parade was held in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and main opposition leader George Papandreou, with several other top ministers and local political and religious leaders on a review stand.
Immediately after the parade, Papoulias greeted handicapped veterans and National Resistance fighters.
"Our military is a pre-emptive force to be reckoned with by those that may think they can dispute our country's sovereign rights," Papoulias told reporters, while adding that the armed forces are also a creative force for peace in the region, “a force of peace that is based on a respect for international law, treaties and pacts..."
Papoulias arrived in the northern port city of Thessaloniki on Thursday to attend three-day celebrations marking the feast day of the city's patron saint, Aghios Demetrius (St. Demetrius), the anniversary of the city's liberation from Ottoman rule (1912) and the anniversary of Greece's entry into WWII (1940).
On his part, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday stressed that the Greek people are proud of Thessaloniki for its tradition and history, dynamism and culture, adding that “it is our duty to do everything in our power to enable Thessaloniki to evolve in the near future into a major financial, education and cultural hub in the SE Europe we are visualizing”.
Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, in a message on the occasion of the Oct. 28 national holiday, said on Thursday that the "No" of 1940 -- rejection of an ultimatum by the Mussolini regime and the ensuing war -- confirmed a tradition of Greeks' love for their homeland and an adherence to the non-negotiable value of freedom.
"The Greeks fought in adverse conditions with determination and courage. They fought for freedom, independence, justice, dignity, democracy and human rights," he said.
In a related development, the approximately 11,000 Greek servicemen that died on the Albanian front were honored on Saturday during a memorial service at a military cemetery in the village of Vouliarati, in the Gjirokastr district of southern Albania.
Relatives of the fallen servicemen from throughout Greece, ethnic Greek politicians in the Albanian government and parliament as well as local officials and Greece's diplomatic mission in Tirana attended the service.
In brief comments, Greece's ambassador to Tirana expressed his optimism that a proper burial ground will soon be created in the neighboring country for Greece's 1940-41 war dead.
Other events were held in Tirana, Sarande and Himare by ethnic Greek minority groups.
Source: Athens News Agency