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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-08-28

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, 28/08/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Rome backtracks on Dini statements over Cyprus
  • Cyprus told it was a 'misunderstanding'
  • US: Clerides gov't the only legal one on Cyprus
  • Israel reacts to Pangalos statements
  • Foundation of Hellenic Culture acquires new status
  • New South Wales premier in Athens
  • Gov't optimistic over Softex papermill sale
  • Greek exports to Tunisia increase by 23.2 per cent
  • Battered Greek stocks driven down by banks, lose 1.53 pct
  • Greek business development plan absorbs 176 bln in funds
  • Greek workers to stage nationwide strike Oct. 23
  • Greece drafts law to combat loan sharks
  • Business mission to Slovenia
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Rome backtracks on Dini statements over Cyprus

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi reaffirmed yesterday that a solution to the protracted Cyprus problem should be based on United Nations resolutions.

According to a statement released by the Italian prime minister's office in Rome, Mr. Prodi had a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, in which both men "expressed their common concern on the Cyprus problem, and on this matter the Italian premier underlined that the solution to this problem should be based on resolutions adopted by the United Nations."

"The two sides will take actions in order that the European Union can proceed, on this basis, in view of negotiations for the island's (Cyprus) accession to the EU," the Italian statement added.

On Tuesday, Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini was reported as saying, after talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem in Rome, that in Cyprus "there existed two governments and two entities".

Mr. Dini was also reported as saying that the question "is to see whether in negotiations with the EU, these two entities are recognised as equal".

The Italian foreign minister's statements provoked sharp reaction from Athens, which asked clarifications on what it called "outrageous" statements, saying late Tuesday evening that if Mr. Dini's statements were exact "a major issue between the two co untries arises".

Earlier yesterday, the Italian foreign ministry issued a statement saying that Italy recognises only the Republic of Cyprus.

The statement "reconfirms that on the issue of the start of negotiations for Cyprus' accession to the EU, Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini stated that they should constitute a positive element in the search for a political agreement, which would be to the benefit of both communities on the island".

It also notes that "in its international relations, Italy, along with other EU countries, only recognises the Republic of Cyprus".

Cyprus told it was a 'misunderstanding'

President Glafcos Clerides has expressed the view that there had been a misunderstanding from Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini's statement.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides called on Italy's charge d' affaires to Cyprus, Rafaelle de Benedictis, early yesterday afternoon and requested clarifications on Mr. Dini's statements.

Asked after an hour-long meeting with Mr. Kasoulides if there was a misunderstanding from Mr. Dini's statement, the Italian official said "the minister never talked about recognition of the Turkish Cypriot community as a state and there is a misunderstanding in the wording, as it was reported by the media".

Mr. de Benedictis added that this comes out from a press release the Italian foreign ministry circulated earlier yesterday and a second press release after the telephone call later between the premiers of Greece and Italy.

"There is no change in the Italian position on that," he added, stressing "of course, we recognise only the government of Cyprus".

Replying to a question about the accession talks Cyprus will begin early next year with the European Union (EU), Mr. de Benedictis said "the main message was that during the meeting he made it clear and he recommended Turkey to push Cyprus in favour of the accession to the European Union".

"What I mean by this is that Italy is supporting Cyprus starting the negotiations according to the European Union's Council decisions. And this is the type of message that Mr. Dini wanted to give", he added.

Speaking to the press before the meeting between Mr. Kasoulides and Mr. de Benedictis, President Clerides said the clarifications given by the Italian foreign ministry were "very clear" and expressed the view the whole issue was a "misunderstanding".

US: Clerides gov't the only legal one on Cyprus

The United States recognises only the government of Cyprus Republic President Glafcos Clerides as the only legal government in Cyprus, US State Department spokesman James Rubin said yesterday.

"The United States recognises the government of Nicosia as the legal government of Cyprus. Despite this, we are keeping touch with both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders," the spokesman said.

He declined comment on the process of Cyprus' accession to the European Union (EU), saying that this was entirely an EU issue.

Israel reacts to Pangalos statements

The Israeli foreign ministry yesterday reacted strongly to comments by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, following his meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Abdel Meguid on Monday.

The meeting covered the Middle East situation and Greece's relations with the Arab world.

Referring to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Mr. Pangalos said that he condemned terrorism, but that it was "also not right to carry out reprisals against non-combatants".

The European Union, he added, had the means at its disposal to exert pressure on Israel and "should use it".

Israel said the Greek foreign minister's statements were "unfortunate and detrimental to the peace process" and that it was certain the statements did not reflect the positions of the "overwhelming majority of European Union members".

"We completely and categorically reject these arguments," the Israeli foreign ministry statement said.

"Mr. Pangalos's statements reflect a one-sided view and are incompatible with Greece's expressed willingness and intention to contribute to the peace process."

Foundation of Hellenic Culture acquires new status

Parliament passed a bill yesterday granting the Foundation of Hellenic Culture a status comparable to the British Council and the Goethe Institut.

The bill was supported by all wings in Parliament, where Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the foundation would "become the main agency of the Greek state for realising Greece's cultural policy overseas while also promoting the Greek lan guage".

The foundation was founded by 38 well-known Greeks in 1992 under the aegis of the president of the republic and the supervision of the foreign ministry.

New South Wales premier in Athens

The premier of the Australian state of New South Wales, Bob Carr, will visit Greece on Sept. 3 for talks with Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, an Australian embassy announcement said yesterday.

New South Wales is the most populous state of Australia and its capital, Sydney, will host the 2000 Olympic Games.

Gov't optimistic over Softex papermill sale

Development ministry officials are optimistic regarding the sale of the country's largest papermill, Softex, sources said yesterday.

The same sources said there is both Greek and foreign interest in the purchase.

Development Undersecretary Anna Diamantopoulou said a few days ago that the first enquiry was made a few days ago, while the deadline expires on Sept. 24. The privatisation process of other firms, Kerafina, MEL and Elefsis Bauxite is also reported to be evolving.

Development Minister Vasso Papandreou has said claims by creditor banks are causing delays in the whole process.

"There are problems with the banks, leading to major divergences from the privatisation programme of certain businesses," she said, adding that efforts were being made to minimise the delays.

She said the Business Restructuring Organisation (OAE) has to complete the privatisation process for 20 ailing enterprises by early 1998.

Greek exports to Tunisia increase by 23.2 per cent

Greek exports to Tunisia recorded a 23.2 per cent increase last year in relation to 1995, while imports from that country fell by 35.5 per cent, according to data contained in the Association of Exporters of Northern Greece's latest export bulletin.

Top of the list in Greek exports was cotton, while the import list was headed by fuels.

In total, Greek exports to Tunisia amounted to Ecu48 million, while imports did not exceed Ecu18 million.

Cotton exports were valued at Ecu11.4 million, followed by cotton iron products, totalling 50 per cent of all exports.

Battered Greek stocks driven down by banks, lose 1.53 pct

Greek equity prices yesterday came under renewed selling pressure to end sharply lower on the Athens Stock Exchange, reflecting heavy losses in the banking sector.

Traders said the market looked extremely volatile ahead of the socialist government's final decisions on drafting next year's budget.

Also creating nervousness was a vote on September 5 by the International Olympic Committee on whether Athens would host the 2004 Olympic Games.

The general index ended 1.53 percent down at 1,541.99 points. Banks fell 2.22 percent, Leasing was 0.77 percent up, Insurance dropped 0.84 percent, Investment eased 0.92 percent, Industrials fell 1.41 percent, Construction was 0.77 percent off, Holding dropped 1.27 percent and Miscellaneous rose 0.79 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies fell 0.70 percent.

Trade was more active with turnover at 13 billion drachmas.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 145 to 44 with another 26 issues unchanged.

Sysware, Lampsa Hotels, Lampropoulos and Xylemporia scored the biggest percentage gains, while Fintexport, Etma, Korinth Spin mills and Attica Bank suffered the heaviest losses of the day.

National Bank of Greece ended at 34,300 drachmas, Ergobank at 16,815, Alpha Credit Bank at 18,750, Delta Dairy at 3,945, Titan Cement at 14,470, Intracom ata 12,200 and OTE at 6,270.

In the domestic foreign exchange market the US dollar rose 0.31 percent against the drachma while the mark eased by 0.17 percent.

Greek business development plan absorbs 176 bln in funds

The Industry Business Programme, a project sponsored by the Greek government, has absorbed 176 billion drachmas from the start of the year until August 20, marking a 20.5 percent absorption rate against nine percent at the end of 1996.

Development Minister Vasso Papandreou yesterday told a news conference that in the three years from the start of the programme, 576 business projects and special investments totalling 488 billion drachmas had been promoted.

Ms. Papandreou said that the ministry had devised a new initiative on a business network called clusters that would encourage cooperation particularly among small and medium-sized enterprises.

The project, budgeted at 11.7 billion drachmas, will cover 19 networks including 215 Greek businesses from the country's more dynamic sectors of industry - foodstuffs, furniture, clothing, advanced technology, informatics and jewellery.

The ministry is also sponsoring worker safety projects totalling 2.46 billion drachmas in 12 major industrial firms.

Greek workers to stage nationwide strike Oct. 23

The General Workers Confederation of Greece (GSEE), the country's largest umbrella trade union, has called a 24-hour nationwide strike on October 23 to demand a rise in tax-free income, index-linked taxation and measures to combat unemployment.

GSSE is also expected to start the process of signing a new collective pay agreement with employers.

Speaking during a board meeting yesterday, the union's chairman Christos Polyzogopoulos announced the union's annual congress would be held 12-15 March in Kavala, northern Greece, to mark activism by local tobacco workers. GSEE is celebrating its 80th birthday this year.

Greece drafts law to combat loan sharks

Greek Justice Minister Evangelos Yiannopoulos yesterday announced he had set up a committee to investigate the illegal loans market and draft a bill to combat the growing phenomenon. The committee, headed by the ministry's secretary general, will have thr ee months to examine the cause of the problem, the workings of the market, and its impact on legitimate commerce. It will then propose the solutions.

Mr. Yiannopoulos conceded indirectly that legitimate banks also carry out dubious lending at high interest rates, and indicated that the socialist government may investigate their activities.

The newly-created committee, which comprises judicial officials and a lawyer, will restrict its activities to loan sharks and illegal financial institutions.

Business mission to Slovenia

The Hellenic Foreign Trade Board (HEPO) is organising a campaign for the promotion of economic relations with Slovenia, in September and October.

In cooperation with the Greek embassy in Ljubljana and the Commerce and Industry Chamber of Slovenia, HEPO is organising a one-day conference on Sept. 8 in Athens, entitled "Business Approach to Slovenia", while a business mission has been scheduled for Oct. 13.

For more information call (01) 99.82.251 until Sept. 5 at the latest.

WEATHER

Almost fine weather is forecast for most parts of the country today except for mainland and western Greece where scattered showers are expected in the afternoon. Winds westerly, light to moderate. Athens will be partly cloudy with temperatures between 19-33C. Same in Thessaloniki with possible showers in the afternoon and temperatures from 17-30C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 281.907 Pound sterling 453.364 Cyprus pd 528.835 French franc 46.396 Swiss franc 189.045 German mark 156.270 Italian lira (100) 16.002 Yen (100) 236.394 Canadian dlr. 201.872 Australian dlr. 210.616 Irish Punt 417.196 Belgian franc 7.570 Finnish mark 52.136 Dutch guilder 138.746 Danish kr. 41.039 Swedish kr. 35.875 Norwegian kr. 37.756 Austrian sch. 22.214 Spanish peseta 1.848 Port. Escudo 1.541

(C.E.)


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