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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 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

  • Fires continue to rage around the country
  • Government ministers assessing Seikh Sou damage
  • IKA draft bill aims to combat negligent employers
  • Medical sector, chemists strikes
  • UN-led talks on Cyprus begin in New York Wednesday
  • President's office denies health rumours
  • Group warns of serious pollution to Pagasitikos Gulf
  • EU's May inflation unchanged at 1.5 pct
  • Greek minister calls for polyglot Internet
  • Large German contingent for athletics championships
  • Aegean Rally yacht race begins
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Fires continue to rage around the country

Fires were still raging in the regions of Euboea, Ileia, Arcadia, Messinia and the island of Ios at noon today, according to Forestry Service Coordination Centre assistant operations coordinator Maria Sagia, who said eight Candair firefighting planes, four Gruman firefighting planes, army contingents, forest and conventional firefighters, and dozens of forestry service and fire brigade vehicles were deployed at the varous fronts.

Sagia told the ANA that the massive fire in Seikh Sou forest in Thessaloniki, which broke out at noon on Sunday, had been contained after burning an estimated 17,000 stremma of forest land (visual calculation). She said two Canadair CL-215 airpcraft were on stand-by to drop water whenever required.

Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas has said that after the fire was completely extinguished, aerial photographs would be taken of the area while soil retention works and extensive reforestation would also be carried out.

In Euboea, Sagia said, the fire was subsiding although it had not been contained. About 30,000 stremma of pine forest have burned down at Pili village, while two Canadiars were spraying retardent liquid. Sagia said this fire would have greater repercussions than that of Seikh Sou.

In Ileia, a fire was still blazing near Kallithea, Olympia, where land forces assisted by civilians, two Canadairs and two privately-owned Gruman aircraft were battling to contain the flames.

In Arcadia, the fire had been contained without requiring the assistance of firefighting planes, Sagia said.

In Messinia, she continued, 11 fire engines, conscripts and citizens were fighting to halt the fire, which was headed towards Achladochori village.

On the island of Ios, the fire in the Mylopotamos region was still out of control and was being battled both on land and by two Canadairs.

Sagia said three Canadairs were on stand-by at Elefsis airport, covering the greater Athens area if the need arose.

Meanwhile, ANA reports from Ioannina said the fires in the prefecture had been partially contained, but high winds in the region threatened to rekindle the blaze.

More specifically, the fire in Amaranto, Konitsa, had burned 5 sq. km. of black pine and fir trees.

The fire in Negrades had burned 7 sq. km. of forest and pasture land, while in Distrato the blaze had destroyed 4 sq. km. of pine forest.

Forest firefighting crews, firemen and locals were continuing their efforts to put out the flames in all three blazes.

The task was particularly difficult in Amarantos, as the fire had spread to areas that were difficult to access.

Government ministers assessing Seikh Sou damage

A team of government ministers today flew to Thessaloniki from Athens to make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation following the Seikh Sou blaze.

During their stay, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas and Environment, Town Planning Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis will have talks with local authorities and agencies on the best way of dealing with the situation.

The ministers were due to make statements later in the day.

Earlier, Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister Alekos Papadopoulos chaired a meeting of the Crisis Management Committee. No announcements were made after the meeting.

The government later responded sharply to opposition criticism concerning the Seikh Sou fire.

Acting government spokesman Nikos Athanasakis described as "demagogy" and "political fire-walking" the criticism levelled at the government by the main opposition New Democracy party "which are neither necessary nor useful for the country, democracy or even ND itself".

ND leader Costas Karamanlis yesterday spoke of an ineffective and inadequate state apparatus.

Responding to Communist Party of Greece (KKE) charges that the government had made "political choices which serve specific interests", Athanasakis said it would be "a blessing if the KKE stopped seeing things through disorting mirrors".

"Unfortunately, we can only hope for this," he added.

The KKE had charged that the governments in recent years had abandoned the country's forests to profiteers and land speculators.

In a somewhat milder tone, the spokesman dismissed Coalition of the Left and Progress criticism as a "misconception" on the part of the opposition party which hinted that arsonists had targetted Thessaloniki's green belt after its designation as forest land had been lifted.

Countering this claim, Athanasakis stressed on behalf of the government that "there will be no development or building activity on even one inch of Seikh Sou".

Athanasakis rejected allegations of negligence on the part of the government and praised the determination and "self-sacrifice" of the fire brigade in battling to extinguish the huge blaze under extremely difficult conditions.

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.

    President's office denies health rumours

    The office of President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos today issued an announcement that the President was not facing any problems with his health and categorically denying press reports to the contrary.

    "The press reports concerning the President's health lack any seriousness. The President of the Republic does not have the slightest health problem," the announcement said.

    It also called for a halt to "such reports which, being untrue, serve no purpose".

    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.

    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.

    Aegean Rally yacht race begins

    Olympic windsurfing gold medallist Nikos Kaklamanakis will start the 34th international "Aegean Rally" sailing race at Phaleron on Friday, in which 40 yachts from Greece, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Ukraine and Russia will be competing.

    The first leg of the race will be from Phaleron to Milos, then from Milos to Leros, while the third and last leg will be Leros to Rhodes, where yachts will cross the finish line on July 19.

    Cultural and other events will be held on all the islands along the route, while on July 21 all the yachts which participated in the rally will sail to Kastellorizo with an Hellenic Navy escort.

    "The Aegean Rally, apart from being a sporting event, also serves national purposes, which is why it has the support of the Hellenic Navy and state agencies," the president of the Panhellenic Open Sea Yacht Club, Yiannis Maragoudakis told a press conference today.

    Maragoudakis said the rally comprised three main legs and four special local legs, two off Milos and two off Rhodes, covering a total distance of approximately 300 miles.

    Kaklamanakis stressed the particular importance of this year's rally, which is dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of the Dodecanese in the Greek state.

    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

    (M.S.)


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