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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-04-02

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, 02/04/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Defence Minister winds up Russian visit
  • 'Children of November' claim bomb
  • Russian Cyprus emissary in Athens
  • Talks begin again at Olympic Airways
  • Euro-Mediterranean conference begins
  • Navy chief to visit Albania
  • President to visit Hungary
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Defence Minister winds up Russian visit

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said today that speculation in the Greek press about the possibility of Greece eventually taking delivery of Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles ordered by Cyprus was "a theoretical scenario which does not reflect reality", according to an ANA despatch from Moscow.

"The government of Cyprus has purchased S-300 missiles which are to be installed (on the island) by October," Tsohatzopoulos told reporters before winding up an official visit to Russia.

Commenting on Turkish threats to Nicosia not to install the missiles, which Cyprus needs to bolster its defences, Tsohatzopoulos said the Russian government "has made it clear that it guarantees the transportation and installation of the system, unless there is a general agreement for the demilitarisation of the island republic".

Replying to reporters questions about Russia's ability to provide after- sales support and spare parts for the system, which is also competing with US Patriot missiles for a lucrative Greek tender, Tsohatzopoulos said:

"Anyone concerned about the capability of the Russian defence industry has only to come here and see the reality for themselves. We who are interested in cooperation on weapons systems have ascertained that Moscow would is fully able to cope with requirements and is willing to give the guarantees which we need in order to take decisions".

Asked whether Greece expected pressure from its NATO allies not to purchase Russian arms, Tsohatzopoulos acknowledged that the procurement of weapons systems from Moscow might cause some displeasure in arms-producing countries.

"But within the framework of the free market, the sole criteria should be quality, reliability and cost. Greece is entitled to procure the systems which suit it best, without any restriction. We must understand that there are countries in NATO such as Germany which have Russian-made arms. The dividing lines have been abolished in Europe once and for all and cooperation is now being promoted on a pan-European level among the defence industries of Europe," he said.

Replying to other questions about purchasing arms from Moscow, Tsohatzopoulos said Greece may be interested in purchasing Russian long- and medium-range, vessels for the rapid transportation of up to 500 troops such as hovercraft and electronic technology in the field of guided missiles.

Tsohatzopoulos returns to Athens later today.

'Children of November' claim bomb

A group calling itself the "Children of November" has claimed responsibility for a makeshift gas-cannister bomb attack that damaged the political office of labour undersecretary Christos Protopapas and the former office of labour minister Miltiades Papaioannou in the same building yesterday afternoon, police said today.

An unidentified caller told an Athens private television station that the makeshift bombs, which caused extensive damage but no induries, were the work of the "Children of November" terrorist group.

The first bomb went off at the 6th floor political office of Protopapas in a downtown Athens building on the corner of Sina and Acadimias street.

A second explosion rocked the third-floor office, in the same building, vacated three months ago by Papaioannou.

Russian Cyprus emissary in Athens

Russia's special emissary for Cyprus Vladimir Tchijov today did not rule out a meeting with his American counterpart Richard Holbrooke while they were on coinciding visits to the island republic over this weekend.

"If we find ourselves in the same place at the same time, it would be normal to have such a meeting," Tchijov told reporters in Athens during a joint press conference with Greek foreign undersecretary Yannos Kranidiotis after talks between the two men.

Tchijov, who is on a tour of the region, arrived here last night from and leaves for Nicosia tomorrow for a visit running through Sunday.

Holbrooke, the US troubleshooter who brokered the Bosnia peace deal, was due in Nicosia tomorrow to revive the stalled intercommunal talks. He will hold separate meetings, first with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and then with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides. Holbrooke was due to leave Cyprus on Monday.

Asked whether he would discuss the planned deployment of Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft defence missiles on Cyprus, Tchijov said "only if the question is raised by the Cypriot side".

Tchijov said that apart from talks with Clerides, he also had a "programmed meeting" with Denktash.

He said that "Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has a role to play in the settlement of the Cyprus problem".

Speaking at the same press conference, Kranidiotis described Russia's positions on the Cyprus issue as "constructive" and said its role and stance were "particularly substantial".

Kranidiotis reiterated that the Cyprus problem was at a "crucial turning point" and said that "efforts for its settlement should be intensiified".

He called on the permanent members of the UN Security Council to exercise their influence on the Turkish side "to come to the negotiations table"

Kranidiotis said that "the conditions put forward by Turkey and its demands for a change in the basis of the talks cannot be accepted either by Greece or the international community", pointing out that all the Security Council resolutions and those of international and European organisations "have set out the intercommunal dialogue as the basis, and stress the need for a solution to be sought in the framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation".

Tchijov described his Athens talks as "useful and constructive" and stressed that his country "will continue playing an active role in the efforts for a settlement of the problem".

"We consider it Russia's duty to play such an active role," Tchijov said, adding that when he returned to Moscow he would submit to foreign minister Yevgeni Primakov "proposals for further action".

Replying to questions, Tchijov dismissed the view that the S-300 missiles issue complicated his mission, saying that, on the contary, "this issue has contributed to the Cyprus issue with respect to the time element".

Talks begin again at Olympic Airways

The administrative board of Olympic Airways will meet with workers' representatives at 17:00 local time today for a fresh round of negotiations on the government's plan to revitalise the company.

According to initial reports, the discussion will focus on the implementation of labour regulations along the lines of those of foreign airline companies, issues pertaining to collective labour agreements and the proposed abolition of the personnel's meal bonuses in order to cut expenditures.

Euro-Mediterranean conference begins

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou today said that the optimism over the prospects for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation at the first of the meetings on the issue 2.5 years ago had not been realised.

Papandreou was speaking at the opening of the two-day roundtable conference "The European Union's policy in the eastern Mediterranean", being held in Athens.

"The main reason for the lack of progress," Papandreou said, "lies in the political sector. The Mideast peace process is presenting serious problems and affecting the Barcelona process."

He stressed that Euro-Mediterranean cooperation could play a role and contribute to the peace process.

He added that when cooperation at government level was not progressing, contacts at the social level could help create an atmosphere to facilitate progress.

"Greece wants to and can be a bridge between Europe and the Mediterranean," he said.

A roundtable conference on "EU policy in the Eastern Mediterranean - Is the Barcelona Process working?" will be held in Athens April 2-3, it was announced today.

The controversial issue of the European Union's economic and strategic role in the Eastern Mediterranean basin as a major player in its development and political stability will be debated at the conference, a spokesman for the organisers told the ANA.

Guest speakers will include national economy and finance minister Yannos Papantoniou, former US ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter, EU Council of Ministers special envoy to the Middle East peace process Miguel Angel Moratinos, former Cyprus president George Vassiliou, European Commission advisor Thomas Jansen, NATO Political Affairs Division officer for Mediterranean countries Alberto Bin, Cairo's Ibd Khaldoun Centre for Development studies chairman Saad Eddin Ibrahim, and diretor of the East Jerusalem-based Palestinian Centre for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development, Riad Malki.

It is organised jointly by the Lambrakis Research Foundation, the Hellenic Foundation for Europe and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and the Philip Morris Institute under the auspices of Greece's Foreign Ministry and will focus on the d evelopments surrounding the Mediterranean since the launching of the EuroMediterranean Process (EMP), or partnership programme, at the Barcelona Conference in November 1995 -- aiming to promote closer financial and economic cooperation with a view to free trade and economic modernisation.

Navy chief to visit Albania

The Chief of the General Naval Staff, Vice Admiral George Ioannidis, will embark on a three-day official visit to Albania tomorrow.

During his stay, Ioannidis will have talks with his Albanian counterpart on issues of mutual interest.

President to visit Hungary

President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos will pay an official three- day visit to Hungary at the invitation of his Hungarian counterpart Arpad Goncz, it was announced here today.

In his visit, from April 22 to 24, Stephanopoulos will be accompanied by foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather with risimng temperatures is forecast for most parts of Greece today. Local rain in parts of the southeastern islands. Local fog in the morning. Winds westerly, light to moderate. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 5-19C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 3-17C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's closing rates (buying): U.S. dollar 319.424 British pound 537.307 Japanese Yen(100) 239.717 French franc 51.640 German mark 172.906 Italian lira (100) 17.536 Irish Punt 434.992 Belgian franc 8.394 Finnish mark 56.961 Dutch guilder 153.557 Danish kr. 45.392 Austrian sch. 24.582 Spanish peseta 2.039 Swedish kr. 39.997 Norwegian kr. 41.845 Swiss franc 209.282 Port. Escudo 1.689 AUS dollar 211.539 Can. dollar 225.382 Cyprus pound 595.021

(M.P.)


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