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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-09-01

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 01/09/1997 (ANA)


  • Greece on track for convergence
  • Transport minister resigns
  • Bomb planted at Greek Olympic C'tee HQ
  • Alternate FM to visit Sarajevo
  • Greece, Lithuania discuss bilateral relations
  • Pangalos denounces Turkish post-Madrid policy
  • Greece expresses grief at Diana's tragic death
  • Book of condolences at British Embassy
  • Athens can help Turkey's EU ambitions, Papandreou says
  • Tsohatzopoulos: Turkey's behaviour self-defeating
  • Skopje criticised for lack of willingness to find solution
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange


Greece on track for convergence

Greece, whose economic growth rate is higher than the European Union average, is on track to align with other EU countries, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said.

GDP growth in 1997 was forecast at 3.5 percent or slightly more against two percent in the rest of the EU, said Papantoniou in a message to mark the opening on September 5 of the annual Thessaloniki Trade Fair.

"The Greek economic train is running faster than other European economies. If we keep this advantage in growth rates, we can reach Europe's level in a reasonable period of time," Papantoniou said.

Inflation was currently around five percent against 12.3 percent three and half years ago. The public sector deficit was forecast at 4.2 of GDP in 1997, sharply down from 14.5 percent in 1993.

Transport minister resigns

Prime Minister Costas Simitis today accepted the resignation of Transport and Communication Haris Kastanidis, according to a statement by government spokesman Dimtris Reppas.

Reppas said that both Kastanidis' letter of resignation, submitted at the end of last week, and the prime minister's reply would be released later today.

Simitis met with Kastanidis earlier this morning for an hour. It is the first resignation of a senior government minister since Simitis took over in January 1996 from the late Andreas Papandreou.

Kastanidis is to be replaced by current Undersecretary for the Interior, Public Adminstration and Decentralisation Tassos Mantelis, whose position would be assumed by Messinia deputy Stavros Benos, added the spokesman.

In his letter of resignation submitted on Saturday, Kastanidis referred to what he called leaks to the media regarding criticism by Simitis of delays by the Transport Ministry. Kastanidis also mentioned certain "centres who were trying to apportion blame for delays and obstacles to the government's work".

There were also certain vested interests, he added, that were undermining his work, viewing his presence at the Transport Ministry as a hindrance to their own goals.

Simitis' reply indicated that he was unconvinced by Kastanidis' arguments. The prime minister made reference to transport problems, particularly in Athens, which he said the government was obliged to solve. Raising these issues at last week's Cabinet meeting, he said, should not be a problem for any minister.

Indirectly saying Kastanidis had overreacted, Simitis also said that during his meeting earlier today with the former minister, no evidence had been produced to indicate a leak of information at Kastanidis's expense.

The government spokesman observed that Simitis had not made specific mention of any Cabinet member during its last session Friday, but had made general reference to problems and priorities.

Meanwhile, Reppas indirectly agreed with Kastanidis' views with regard to the existence of vested interests that were trying to influence the government.

"However, it is the ministers' duty to intensify their efforts to to resolve problems," he said.

Kastanidis, he noted, had not asked for the prime minister's support but had submitted his resignation. Reppas denied that anyone in the government or among the prime minister's associates were in any way connected with the press reports referred to by Kastanidis.

In conclusion, the government spokesman said the former Minister had made a great contribution, particularly during the flotation of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) and the modernisation of Olympic Airways.

Bomb planted at Greek Olympic C'tee HQ

The urban terrorist organisation "Anti-Power Struggle" this morning claimed responsibility for an explosion late last night outside the headquarters of the national Olympic Games Committee in the central Athens district of Kolonaki.

The explosion caused a small fire which was quickly extinguished by the fire brigade, but no one was injured, police said.

An unidentified caller telephoned the newspaper "Athinaiki" and the private television station "Skai" claiming the group had set the explosive mechanism, which was reportedly made of two gas canisters.

Eyewitnesses said they saw two young men drive off from the scene on a motorcycle.

Greece is one of the five finalist cities bidding to stage the 2004 Olympiad. The International Olympic Committee is to vote on Friday between Athens, Rome, Stockholm, Cape Town and Buenos Aires.

Alternate FM to visit Sarajevo

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou will visit Sarajevo tomorrow to inaugurate two schools and a hospital, according to an announcement.

Papandreou will also meet with government officials during his visit to the Bosnian capital.

No further details were available.

Greece, Lithuania discuss bilateral relations

Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis met today with Lithuania's Deputy Minister for European Affairs Birute Abraitiene to discuss bilateral relations and European issues, such as Lithuanian's hopes to accede to the European Union.

Pangalos denounces Turkish post-Madrid policy

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos yesterday called on the international community to take measures against Turkey in order to make it respect international legality, in an interview with the Sunday newspaper "To Vima".

Responding to recent declarations by Turkish officials on Cyprus and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's treats of war if Cyprus becomes a European Union member, Mr. Pangalos said: "The international community, and the United States in the first place, should take measures against Turkey, show Turkey rules of conduct and if it does not respect them take economic measures and measures concerning armaments against it".

Mr. Pangalos criticised Turkey for its stance following the Madrid communique, stressing that there was now an issue of a political framework, and revealing that, for this reason, the scheduled meeting next month between the two countries' committees of experts would not take place.

"The Turkish government has to explain to us what its final position is in relation to claims raised on Imia, as well as a number of other islands in the Aegean under Greek sovereignty," stressed the minister.

Mr. Pangalos said he will raise "everything that followed Madrid" with his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem, at a meeting requested by the Turkish minister to take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, and will ask him "how he perceives the continuation of contacts".

Mr. Pangalos will also seek a meeting with Richard Holbrooke, the US president's emissary on Cyprus, during his visit to the UN, in order to discuss with him "the entire range of issues".

Nevertheless, he clarified that the government had no reason to deviate from its policy, which he describes as "modest" and "constructive".

Statements by Turkish deputy prime minister Bulent Ecevit threatening to annex the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus, Mr. Pangalos said, indicated that "Turkey is a problem to international order".

Commenting on the issue raised by statements last week by Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini that there were "two governments" on Cyprus, Mr. Pangalos said he was aware of the fact that at the US State Department, as well as at "some European ministries", there is the perception that "no-one should do anything to displease Turkey".

However, he clarified that Greece is not willing to accept a suspension of Cyprus accession negotiations with the EU, stressing that if such an attempt is made, Greece "has the right to block all EU developments requiring unanimity".

According to Mr. Pangalos, EU accession negotiations will be completed with all countries at the same time and unanimously and admission will be approved for all countries unanimously. He said Greece accepted the idea that progress in the accession of Cyprus to the EU should be an instrument of pressure for the achievement of a solution of the Cyprus problem, but not vice-versa.

Greece expresses grief at Diana's tragic death

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos yesterday expressed his grief at the tragic death of Britain's Princess Diana.

Princess Diana and her companion Dodi Al Fayed were killed in a car crash in Paris early yesterday while the two were trying to evade photographers.

"The death of a celebrity always creates sorrow," Mr. Stephanopoulos said. "Diana was a philanthropist."

"We are expressing our grief for Diana because the death of a human being, especially in such tragic circumstances, is a most unpleasant event," Press and Media Minister Dimitris Reppas told the Athens News Agency.

"People's private lives must be safeguarded and must be respected by all," said Mr. Reppas, referring to the news that the crash occurred when the car in which Diana was travelling swerved to evade photographers on motorcycles.

Book of condolences at British embassy

The British Embassy in Athens has released a statement issued by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook regarding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in a road accident in Paris early yesterday.

"I am greatly shocked by this news. Our first thoughts must be with her children and her family at this time of immense loss to them. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity of working with the Princess on her international charity work. I believe what has happened is a tragic loss at a young age of someone who had shown great courage and commitment in drawing attention to a series of issues. For the next few days her family and the nation must have time to come to terms with their immense sadness and loss," said Cook.

The Embassy has opened a book of condolences at the British Ambassador's residence, 2 Loukianou St., from 11.00 to 13.00 from today until Wednesday.

Athens can help Turkey's EU ambitions, Papandreou says

Turkey's road to the European Union passes through good neighbourly relations with Greece, Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou said yesterday.

Speaking in Komotini, Mr. Papandreou said Greece desired good relations with its neighbour, relations that would be governed by principles and rules.

Greece's prerequisites for Turkey's accession to the European Union, he said, are respect for human rights, international and minority rights, the acceptance of international treaties, active political will to resolve the Cypriot problem and an end to expansionist designs on neighbouring countries, particularly Greece, a member of the EU.

He noted that "unfortunately, with recent statements, positions have appeared which are foreign to the spirit of the recent Madrid communique."

"If these statements are not chance statements, then Turkey is once again distancing itself from a European prospective, and Ankara must realise that Greece can help this prospect in Europe. If Turkey understands this, it will also realise that it is not in its interests to maintain instability and the shameful occupation of Cyprus, as well as designs in the Aegean," he said.

Tsohatzopoulos: Turkey`s behaviour self-defeating

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said on Saturday that the sooner Turkey realised that its behaviour flouted international law, the easier it would be for it to converge with Europe and the free world.

Speaking on the sidelines of a two-day conference on narcotics abuse in Thessaloniki, Mr. Tsohatsopoulos told reporters that "all international organisations on security, stability and cooperation, to which Turkey belongs, cannot accept behaviour which is in essence a repetition of the annexation used by Hitler in the Second World War, when he annexed a part of Czechoslovakia".

The actions of Turkey "which now attempts to annex (occupied) northern Cyprus, cannot be accepted by the international community", he said.

"The sooner the Turkish side realises this, the easier it will be for it to be eased into a prospect of convergence with Europe, with the free world and with a prospect of inclusion in the procedures and practices of all those countries which today dem and security, stability and cooperation," he said.

Skopje criticised for lack of willingness to find solution

In an interview published in yesterday's edition of the Sunday newspaper "To Vima", Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos criticised Skopje for "grossly violating the New York interim agreement" signed between Athens and Skopje.

Commenting on recent statements by President of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Kiro Gligorov, Mr. Pangalos accused the neighbouring state of having rejected all the proposals on a mutually-acceptable name put forth by the United Nations medi ator Cyrus Vance, at a time when Greece was willing to discuss the proposals.

He clarified that the final official name for Skopje should be mutually- acceptable and the name "Republic of Macedonia" could not be its official name. He added that the final name to be given to Skopje has to be approved by the Greek Parliament and the Greek people, not just the Greek government.

The foreign minister said he expected that the UN process under mediator Cyrus Vance will be completed by the end of the year. In the event that the talks fail, he saw two options: first, that the current name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia remains applicable; and second, Skopje calling itself the name it wishes, which Mr. Pangalos believes is unlikely.


Fine weather is forecast for most parts of the country today with local clouds in northern Greece especially in the afternoon. North winds moderate. Athens will be mostly sunny with temperatures ranging from 20C to 32C. Thessaloniki will be sunny with some local cloudiness and temperatures from 19-29C.


Friday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 280.567 Pound sterling 454.991 Cyprus pd 530.323 French franc 46.380 Swiss franc 188.773 German mark 156.071 Italian lira (100) 15.939 Yen (100) 234.995 Canadian dlr. 202.110 Australian dlr. 206.098 Irish Punt 417.434 Belgian franc 7.559 Finnish mark 52.040 Dutch guilder 138.572 Danish kr. 40.997 Swedish kr. 35.865 Norwegian kr. 37.726 Austrian sch. 22.176 Spanish peseta 1.847 Port. Escudo 1.537


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