Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-07-08
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 08/07/1997 (ANA)
- 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
- 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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
Mr. Papaioannou said the total contributions owed to IKA exceeded 570
billion drachmas, of which 75 billion drachmas were owed to IKA by the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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