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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-07-08

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

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

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 08/07/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Thessaloniki forest, other areas plagued by devastating fires
  • Fires spread in several fronts
  • Judicial investigation into arson claims
  • IKA draft bill aims to combat negligent employers
  • Medical sector, chemists strikes
  • UN-led talks on Cyprus begin in New York Wednesday
  • Simitis meeting with Turkish leadership not ruled out
  • Group warns of serious pollution to Pagasitikos Gulf
  • EU's May inflation unchanged at 1.5 pct
  • Greek minister calls for polyglot Internet
  • Xiosbank posts 37 pct surge in H1 business credit
  • IOC President due in Athens today
  • Large German contingent for athletics championships
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Thessaloniki forest, other areas plagued by devastating fires

Greece was at the mercy of several forest fires raging throughout the country yesterday, with the most destructive being the blaze that enveloped the Seikh Sou urban forest above Thessaloniki, which was still burning late last night.

The agriculture ministry announced that a total of 56 fires had broken out in the areas of Ioannina, Lamia, Larisa, Hania, Tripoli, Grevena, Evia, Kozani, Agrinio, Trikala and the Argolida prefecture.

The Seikh Sou fire broke out on Sunday afternoon at five different spots, and continued after having burned about 40 per cent (more than 1,000 hectares) of the forest's total area. The fire damaged a few residences and threatened other inhabited areas, while reports late yesterday noted that the fire was beginning to subside following firefighting efforts.

The Greek government yesterday appealed through the foreign ministry to the European Commission for assistance in extinguishing the dozens of fires currently raging across Greece.

Athens also asked for both human and technical resources to help save the country's remaining forests.

Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas and the heads of forestry services are facing severe criticism over the blaze, which by conservative estimates has already destroyed thousands of hectares of forestland around the country during the past three days.

The agriculture minister admitted that forest fire-fighting forces were slow in their mobilisation, but pointed to the shortage in the appropriate equipment and staff. He said all forces available were utilised.

Mr. Tzoumakas told state radio in Thessaloniki earlier in the day that the Seikh Sou fire was the work of arsonists.

The president of forestry employees' union placed emphasis on the ineffective organisation and called for new standards in forest fire- fighting.

Fires spread in several fronts

While Thessaloniki was mourning the Seikh Sou forest,a fire in Farsala, Larisa prefecture, burned 4,000 hectares of wheat stubble before being put out.

Strong winds spread the fire to many fronts close to Farsala, threatening communities and burning down greenhouses, sheep-folds and farm storage areas.

In the same prefecture, a fire that broke out in Tyrnavos was put out early yesterday after burning dozens of sheep, damaging 14 sheep-folds and torching 80 hectares of mostly pastureland.

Smaller fires broke out in the Larisa area but were also placed under control soon.

Still burning yesterday was a fire that broke out Sunday afternoon at Dryovouno, Kozani, while a fire in Kilada, Kozani that destroyed forest and farmland was brought under control Sunday morning.

A further 1,200 hectares were burnt in the Dionysos area of Livadia, near Thebes, in a fire that was still blazing after all-night firefighting operations, while a fir forest was destroyed at Giona, in Fokida prefecture.

Farmland near Dervani, Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese, also caught on fire yesterday and efforts to extinguish it were being hampered by high winds.

Fires were also still blazing in northern Evia, Ioannina, Konitsa, Atalanti, Domokos, Farsala, Samos, Almyros, Argolida and Vyzitsa, near Pelion.

Meanwhile, a fire was still raging yesterday afternoon on Kaimakcalan mountain range in Kilkis prefecture, and near the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Judicial investigation into arson claims

In reaction to the massive destruction, the chief of Thessaloniki's appeals courts, Anastasios Kapolas, ordered an urgent preliminary inquiry yesterday into widespread allegations of arson as well as delays in dealing with the fires.

Several individuals also filed lawsuits at the appeals court yesterday against any official responsible, directly pointing to what their motions cited as "state negligence" over dealing with the Seikh Sou blaze.

In addition, local residents charged that fire-fighting aircraft were about three and a half hours late in arriving at the fronts of the fire.

The prosecutor will also investigate whether fire-fighting airplanes were made available at the Macedonia airport on a permanent alert for such emergency cases in northern Greece, as they ought to have been.

IKA draft bill aims to combat negligent employers

The Social Security Foundation (IKA) will stand to gain billions of drachmas owed by state-run agencies and private sector companies under a draft bill expected to be tabled in Parliament this summer.

Labour and Social Security Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou said yesterday that the draft bill aims at bringing debtors to IKA on par with debtors to the state.

Mr. Papaioannou said the total contributions owed to IKA exceeded 570 billion drachmas, of which 75 billion drachmas were owed to IKA by the state itself.

In the case of public utilities and corporations, which owed IKA 25 billion drachmas, they would be allowed to borrow in order to repay their debts to IKA.

This, he said, had been agreed in cooperation with National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou.

Another source of repayment will come from privatisations of state utilities such as the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) and the Public Power Corp. (DEH).

The bill will include the following provisions: - The formation of a special service to locate uninsured employees that will conduct surprise checks 24 hours a day and level fines amounting to more than half a million drachmas per uninsured employee. - Each company will have a special form stamped by IKA to fill out right before an individual is hired. - Employers must notify of any change in a company's status, headquarters and the home address of the owner or businessman.

  • Any dismissal of an uninsured person will be considered invalid.
  • The insurance payment status of each company will be taken into account for any transaction concerning a company's ownership, making it impossible to proceed if it owes funds to IKA.

    Medical sector, chemists strikes

    Pharmacies in Greece will go on strike Thursday and Friday, to protest against the government's revised drug pricelist.

    The doctors working for the Social Security Foundation (IKA) will go on strike July 14 and 15 over financial and organisational demands.

    Doctors working in hospitals have been on strike which ends tomorrow. They are expected to extend their strike, putting more pressure on large hospitals which have only been accepting emergency cases.

    UN-led talks on Cyprus begin in New York Wednesday

    President Glafcos Clerides arrived in New York yesterday for UN-led direct talks with Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, scheduled to start tomorrow and last until Sunday, aiming at a settlement of the protracted Cyprus problem.

    Speaking to the press on arrival, President Clerides said that UN resolutions cannot be subject to interpretation, pointing out that the Greek Cypriot side enters the talks "in good will, ready to negotiate a solution that will secure the future of the two communities on the island."

    Answering a relevant question, Mr. Clerides stressed that to reach a solution "we have to accept what is stated in UN resolutions is not subject to interpretation."

    Regarding the security issue, Mr. Clerides stressed that it is "one of the basic aspects" of the Cyprus problem, noting that "a solution will be impossible if the Greek and Turkish Cypriots do not feel secure in the future."

    He reiterated the proposals made by the Greek Cypriot side on security, that included the demilitarisation of the island and the stationing of an international force under a UN Security Council mandate.

    These proposals, he noted, were rejected by the Turkish Cypriot side which insists on the Treaty of Guarantee which became part and parcel of the package deal reached in Zurich in 1959 that established the Republic of Cyprus.

    Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash had two informal meetings in Nicosia in October 1994, which reached a deadlock. The two men have not met since.

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

    Simitis meeting with Turkish leadership not ruled out

    The possibility of Prime Minister Costas Simitis meeting Turkey's representative on the sidelines of the NATO summit, due to start in Madrid today, cannot be ruled out.

    Diplomatic sources said that no relevant request had been made on the part of Greece, while Ankara's position is the same. However, the same sources stressed that a meeting cannot be ruled out on the sidelines of the NATO conference.

    The leaders of the 16 NATO member-states will also discuss the alliance's new military structure, although it is considered absolutely certain that no decisions will be taken and that the whole issue will be referred to the next summit conference in December.

    Greece and the other southern countries maintain that enlargement must include Romania, Slovenia and Bulgaria. However, given the position of Washington and the other northern countries, diplomatic sources said that the southern countries will aim at having NATO's enlargement taking place in two phases.

    Group warns of serious pollution to Pagasitikos Gulf

    The Pagasitikos Gulf receives more than 10 tons of industrial waste every day, according to the environmental organisation "Mediterranean Network SOS".

    In a recent decision, the Council of State stressed that "the Pagasitikos Gulf is receiving serious pressures and unless the ecological destruction of the ecosystem is tackled in time there is the risk of the value of the gulf being degraded altogether. "

    The organisation said that large quantities of fertilizers and pesticides used all over the plain of Thessaly end up in the gulf.

    EU's May inflation unchanged at 1.5 pct

    The European Union's annual inflation rate was 1.5 percent in May, the same as in April and down from 2.6 percent one year earlier, the EU statistics office Eurostat said.

    Inflation was lowest in France and Finland (both 0.9 percent) while Greece had the highest rate at 5.3 percent.

    The rates are calculated as an average of member states' harmonised indices of consumer prices (HICPs).

    Greek minister calls for polyglot Internet

    Technical changes should be made to the Internet, currently dominated by English, to allow users to carry information in their own languages, Transport and Communications Minister Haris Kastanidis told a European data networks conference in Bonn.

    "The attempt to impose only one language for communications and data exchange on the networks will have a negative impact on the cultural and language identity of users, as culture and language are the fundamental means of expression of all peoples," Mr . Kastanidis said.

    Information technology specialists and more than 40 ministers mostly from eastern and western Europe are attending the two-day conference, which ends on Tuesday. Also represented are Japan, the United States and Canada.

    Xiosbank posts 37 pct surge in H1 business credit

    Xiosbank reported a 37 percent increase in its average balance of business credit lending in the first six months of 1997, totalling 49.8 billion drachmas compared with the corresponding period last year.

    The figure exceeded initial estimates for the whole of 1997. Xiosbank attributed the jump to its new lending policy created to meet special needs of its clientele by offering more flexible credit products.

    IOC President due in Athens today

    International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Antonio Samaranch arrives in Athens today to attend the commencement of the 37th International Summit of the International Olympic Academy.

    Prior to attending the ceremony, Mr. Samaranch will plant an olive tree in his name in the forest of the "IOC members."

    The IOC meets on September 5 in Lausanne, Switzerland, to choose the winner from the five-city shortlist.

    The shortlist includes Athens, Rome, Buenos Aires, Cape Town and Stockholm, chosen from eleven candidate cities originally bidding for the Games.

    Large German contingent for athletics championships

    Germany will participate in the World Athletics Championships in Athens between Aug. 1-10 with 34 male and 39 female athletes.

    The German team will be headed by discus thrower Lars Riedel and the women's shotput star Astrid Kubernuss.

    WEATHER

    Mostly sunny weather in most parts of the country today. Local clouds in central and northern Greece in the afternoon with the possibility of intermittent storms mainly in the north. Winds northwesterly, moderate to strong. Athens will be mostly sunny with temperatures between 23-33C. Thessaloniki sunny to partly cloudy with temperatures from 21-30C.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    Monday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 272.483 Pound sterling 458.483 Cyprus pd 531.712 French franc 46.368 Swiss franc 187.022 German mark 156.290 Italian lira (100) 16.031 Yen (100) 242.911 Canadian dlr. 198.400 Australian dlr. 203.137 Irish Punt 414.954 Belgian franc 7.573 Finnish mark 52.507 Dutch guilder 138.835 Danish kr. 41.023 Swedish kr. 35.442 Norwegian kr. 37.420 Austrian sch. 22.220 Spanish peseta 1.850 Port. Escudo 1.549

    (C.E.)


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