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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 96-11-13

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

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


NEWS IN ENGLISH

ATHENS, Greece, 13/11/1996 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece announces defence spending plans
  • Opposition calls for inquiry into handling of bourse crisis
  • US State Dept. official has talks in Athens on Cyprus issue
  • Foreign ministry concern at Great Lakes tragedy
  • Kuchma expresses satisfaction over contacts with Greek leadership

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Simitis announces defence spending plans

    Greece will spend two trillion drachmas on defence up to the year 2000 and a further two trillion by 2007, Prime Minister Costas Simitis announced today immediately after a meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Policy and Defence (KYSEA).

    Simitis and National Defence Minister Akis Tsohadzopoulos said the Greek armed forces would purchase an AWACS early-warning aircraft, 60 new warplanes, training aircraft, transport helicopters and aircraft and would modernise its F-4 Phantom jet fighters.

    In addition, new tanks will be purchased while those already in service with the army are to be modernised.

    The 4-trillion drachma (approximately 16 billion US dollars) armaments programme will also involve the purchase of modern munitions and the acquisition of new anti-aircraft systems and warships, including submarines and nine surface vessels.

    Replying to reporters' questions, Simitis said that the Greek people would have to make sacrifices and stressed that ''there must be no waste''.

    He ruled out the possibility of Greece missing the economic convergence targets set by the Maastricht Treaty as a result of the massive programme.

    Noting that the necessary funds for the programme would be raised also through foreign borrowing, Simitis said that a large part of the armaments would be supplied by the Greek defence industry.

    Greece's defence strategy is one of deterrence, Simitis said, adding that ''we do not claim anything but we shall not give anything up.

    Simitis underlined that the country's armed forces had to be bolstered in order to face ''the threats around us'', and that emphasis would be placed on upgrading the military qualitatively in order to counterbalance the ''opponent's'' numerical strength.

    Simitis said that the defence programme had taken into consideration the needs of the armed forces without overlooking the limits of the country's economic endurance.

    On land, he continued, the objective of the programme is to create flexible, rapid intervention forces with strong firepower.

    The aim at sea was to create a naval force capable of securing control in the Greek seas, repulsing any invasion from the sea and maintaining a naval presence in the broader region of the Eastern Mediterranean, the premier said.

    As far as the air was concerned, he added, the aim was to create a force capable of securing the air defence of the country, maintaining the necessary air superiority and providing air support for army and navy units.

    All efforts would be made to increase the participation of the domestic defence industry in the implementation of the programme, Simitis said, adding that within this framework there would be cooperation between the ministries of national defence, of national economy and of development with both private and state-controlled industrial concerns.

    The necessary funds for the programme would be secured from FMS credits, foreign borrowing on the international capital market and the regular state budget, ''the burden on which will be 100 billion drachmas annually''.

    Asked if new taxes would be imposed in order to implement the programme, Simitis replied that ''there will be taxes within the framework of economic policy in general, if and when we decide this''.

    Simitis underlined that Greece was facing the great challenge of securing its equal participation in the EU, but at the same time was up against the Turkish threat and provocativeness.

    ''Our position towards Turkey is steadfast and quite clear. Greece does not claim anything but will not concede anything. Greece will never concede or negotiate its sovereign rights, rights which emanate from historical truth, which have been consolidated with the blood of generations of Greeks and have been acknowledged as being final by virtue of undisputable international treaties,'' Simitis said.

    Opposition leader calls for inquiry into handling of bourse crisis

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Miltiades Evert said today that the party would next Monday table a motion in Parliament proposing the formation of a committe of inquiry ''to reveal all the government's peculiar handling with respect to the institution of the Athens Stock Exchange''.

    In an announcement, Evert described as ''unprecedented the fact that the government used state-controlled banks, which also have responsibility for the scandal, as strike-breakers in order to force a quick solution and cover up the scandal''.

    The Athens Stock Exchange resumed operation today after the Association of Athens Stock Exchange Members (SMEHA) yesterday accepted a National Economy Ministry proposal to resolve a deep crisis which had plagued the bourse since last Friday.

    Under the proposal, a Delta Securities default of 2.6 billion drachmas will be made up from the Joint-Surety Fund and the Titles Depository. According to a Capital Market Committee decision, disputed transactions must be cleared by all brokerage firms by Thursday, while those firms which do not fulfil their obligations will be barred from bourse sessions.

    The Stock Exchange supervising authority yesterday attempted to operate the bourse with the participation only of brokerage firms which are subsidiaries of the major state-controlled banks, sparking protests from other brokerage firms.

    Evert said that the Stock Exchange must regain its credibility at the earliest, adding he was convinced that the vast majority of small investors and brokerage firms were in favour of a clearing up of the situation in order to put the bourse on a solid footing.

    On his part, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday announced that international auditing firms would conduct special audits in all ASE-affiliated brokerage firms, following the collapse of Delta Securities - an incident that led to an unprecedented suspension of trading on the Athens bourse on Friday and Monday.

    He added that the measure aims to fully clear up responsibilities and to draw conclusions, adding that the government intends to deal comprehensively with the trading settlement, giving solutions to both the problem of Delta's inability to meet obligations and to improvement of clearing procedures and reducing market risks.

    This would involve legislation, he said, according to which the Titles Depository would immediately pay the National Bank of Greece the sum of Delta's worthless checks, and would in turn demand the sum from Delta and the Joint-Surety Fund.

    He added that according to a decision of the Capital Market Commission, all transactions entered up until Nov. 7 had to be cleared by tomorrow morning, and any firms not complying would not be allowed to participate in the market.

    Any arrears ascertained would be met in the same way as those of Delta's, he said.

    In a related development, it was announced that ASE president Manolis Xanthakis had been summoned to appear before a Supreme Court prosecutor to make a deposition in connection with conditions at the ASE and the Delta affair.

    Meanwhile, an Athens first instance prosecuting authority is already carrying out an investigation into the affair.

    US State Dept. official has talks in Athens on Cyprus issue

    The US State Department's southern European representative, Carey Cavanaugh, today described his talks in Athens as ''fruitful and useful'' and said Washington shared the same targets as Greece with respect to securing peace, stability and prosperity for Cyprus.

    Cavanaugh, who has unofficially become Washington's coordinator for the Cyprus problem following the resignation of James Williams, arrived in Athens yesterday.

    After talks today with Foreign Undersecretary Christos Rozakis he told reporters that his meetings on Tuesday and today in Athens and those he will be having tomorrow in Nicosia ''underline the emphasis which the United States attaches to efforts for a settlement of the Cyprus problem''.

    US State Department spokesman Glyn Davis said yesterday that Cavanaugh's visit to Athens, Ankara and Cyprus was ''a diplomatic mission on a working level and does not constitute the start of a US initiative on the Cyprus problem''.

    Asked by reporters here today when such a US initiative would begin, Cavanaugh replied that ''this depends on the course of the talks''.

    Replying to other questions, Cavanaugh described Greece's positions as ''positive'' and reiterated that the US shared the same targets as Athens.

    Earlier, Cavanaugh had talks with the director of the foreign ministry political affairs directorate Alexandros Filon and the general secretary for European affairs Stelios Perrakis with whom he discussed Cyprus' course towards accession to the European Union.

    Cavanaugh, who leaves later today for Nicosia, had the opportunity to exchange views with foreign ministry officials during a dinner given in his honour last night by US Ambassador in Athens Thomas Niles.

    According to diplomatic sources, the US is placing particular emphasis on the implementation of previous proposals put forward by Washington's permanent representative at the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, aimed at reducing tension and commencing military dialogue on Cyprus.

    Foreign ministry concern at Great Lakes tragedy

    The foreign ministry said today that Greece was following ''with concern'' the developments in Central Africa's troubled Great Lakes region and ''the drama'' of the refugees.

    At the same time, a ministry announcement said, Greece condemns all acts of violence and calls for an immediate end to hostilities in the region.

    The ministry underlined that all initiatives by the United Nations and the international community in general aimed at relieving human suffering must be strengthened.

    ''On their part, the countries (directly) involved must create the right conditions for an overall political settlement of the crisis and refrain from actions which prejudice the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the states of the region, so that the appropriate conditions might exist for a speedy and peaceful settlement of the problems in the Great Lakes region,'' the announcement said.

    Kuchma expresses satisfaction over contacts with Greek leadership

    Visiting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma yesterday expressed satisfaction at the results of his official talks in Greece, stressing the "great possibility for the development of economic relations between the two countries."

    Speaking during a meeting with Greek businessmen yesterday morning, the Ukrainian president referred to the signing on Monday of a friendship and cooperation agreement between the two countries, saying it formed the basis for further cooperation.

    In relation to the political and economic situation in his country, Mr. Kuchma said the Ukraine's accession to the European Union was a "strategic goal of national importance," adding that the former Soviet republic looked forward to Greece's support to achieve this goal.

    Elaborating on economic developments in the Ukraine, Mr. Kuchma drew attention to the voting of a new constitution defining the principles for the country's further development, downward trends in inflation, completion of a privatisation process for sma ll-to-medium-sized enterprises and initiation of privatisation procedures for larger companies.

    The president of the Athens Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Yiannis Papathanasiou, stressed that the two countries' "economies, which are complementary, have a mutual interest in building closer ties of commercial, industrial, tourism and technological cooperation."

    "Mr. Kuchma's visit to our country will undoubtedly have positive results in this direction," he added.

    Mr. Kuchma also held a meeting yesterday with Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis.

    At the meeting both men expressed a will for further bilateral relations.

    WEATHER

    Mild with local clouds, with temperatures in Athens ranging from 11-22 C and in Thessaloniki 9-18 C.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE (Buying)

    U.S. dlr 234.806 Can. dlr.175.802, Australian dlr. 185.048 Pound sterling 387.455, Irish punt 388.765, Cyprus pd 514.253, French franc 46.392, Swiss franc 186.794 Belgian franc 7.619, German mark 156.994 Finnish mark 51.955, Dutch guilder 139.991 Danish Kr. 40.857, Swedish Kr. 35.623, Norwegian Kr. 37.375, Austrian Sh. 22.316, Italian lira (100) 15.543 Yen (100) 211.108 Spanish Peseta 1.864, Portuguese Escudo 1.551.

    (M.P.)


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