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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-04-07

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, 07/04/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Polish president's visit continues
  • Commission president Santer in Greece this week
  • Pangalos dismisses comments over Burns
  • Archbishop's health takes downturn
  • Port workers begin 48-hour strike
  • FM comments on Turkish arson claims
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Polish president's visit continues

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski had separate meetings this morning with Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos.

Kwasniewski arrived here yesterday on a three-day official visit at the invitation of his Greek counterpart, Kostis Stephanopoulos.

In statements after talks with Kaklamanis, Kwasniewski expressed satisfaction that the Greek parliament will in May be ratifying the protocol for the accession of new members to NATO.

Kaklamanis meanwhile announced that parliament would tomorrow ratify the Greek-Polish Friendship and Cooperation Protocol.

He underlined to Kwasniewski Greece's interest in negotiations on the accession of new countries to the European Union, particularly of Cyprus and Poland. Kaklamanis stressed that the Polish economy had made significant progress.

Kaklamanis briefed the Polish president on Greece's initiatives for peace and cooperation in the Balkans. Kwasniewski, whose country will soon assume the OSCE presidency, said Poland valued Greece's efforts.

Commission president Santer in Greece this week

European Commission President Jacques Santer arrives in Greece on Thursday for a visit lasting until April 13, his third visit to the country since assuming the post in January 1995.

During his stay, Santer will meet with President Kostis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis and main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis.

On Thursday evening, Santer will be the key speaker at a dinner to be held within the framework of a conference organised by the periodical "The Economist". His address will be entitled "The European Union at the Dawn of the 21st Century".

Santer will fly to Heraklion on Friday evening for a three-day tour of Crete, during which he will deliver a number of speeches and meet with deputies, Eurodeputies and local authorities.

Pangalos dismisses comments over Burns

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said today that the Greek government found "nothing annoying" in US Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns' activities, and therefore saw no reason for protest.

At the same time he dismissed the altercation in parliament yesterday between parliament president Apostolos Kaklamanis and alternate foreign minister George Papandreou over recent statements by Burns, and said it was unacceptable for the House speaker to intervene on the substance of parliamentary discussions.

Pangalos attributed the controversy that has arisen over Burns' statements to "a bad history in Greece with the activities of American envoys under other conditions in other periods", in an obvious reference to the period of the 1967-74 7-year military junta in Greece.

Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis today remained adamant in his insistence that Burns was acting like a "preconsul" and should be "reined in", and declined comment on a US State Department statement placing full support behind its envoy to Greece.

In a debate in parliament last night sparked by a question tabled by a Communist Party of Greece deputy on Burns' recent public activities, Kaklamanis told Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou that Burns should be kept in check and was acting like a "preconsul" in Greece, adding that it was unacceptable for foreign ambassadors to officially visit military and police officers or public sector officials.

Papandreou replied that the US ambassador's recent tours and contacts "lie within the usual practice of democratic and liberal countries, provided that the rules of diplomatic etiquette are observed".

Acting State Department spokesman Jim Foley said in Washington later that "Ambassador Burns enjoys Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's full confidence. We think he does an excellent job".

Pangalos told a press briefing today that the limits of the activities of diplomatic representatives among allied countries was "quite broad nowadays as there are more open socieites both in Europe and in America".

He said last night's incident was an "unprecedented phenomenon of the House speaker intervening at the expense of the government" and in favour of the oppposition MP.

"The incident," he said, "reflects the objectivity of the parliament president, the degree to which things have changed, and how democratically we function".

Pangalos also said Papandreou was not a man prone to clashes and that he had departed Parliament "not in protest but because the discussion on the question at hand had ended".

The foreign minister warned that the "bad past that exists in relation to the activities of earlier American ambassadors should not lead us to complex-ruled reactions", adding that "the framework of Greek-American relations and the conditions themselves have changed".

The US today, he said, "is neither an opponent, nor a reigning authority'.

Pangalos described Greek-American relations as "excellent to exceptional", adding that in matters of general interest, the two countries "at times agree and at times disagree", aiming always at convergence or coincidence of views.

Archbishop's health takes downturn

Greece's prelate Archbishop Serapheim of Athens and All Greece remained in critical condition this morning, as the Holy Synod, ruling body of the Orthodox Church of Greece, met urgently to discuss his possible replacement.

Archbishop Serapheim's condition was "steadily in critical condition" after a setback last night, his doctors said.

Serapheim, 85, was rushed to the Laiko Hospital in Athens on February 24 with a viral infection and respiratory problems.

Laiko Hospital president Yannis Papadopoulos told the ANA that the Archbishop's constitution was "exhausted due to old age and chronic renal failure" since the early 1990s.

"At times he (his condition) makes us despair, such as last night when his blood pressure plunged, and at other times he revives," Papadopoulos said, adding that the Archbishop's blood pressure had returned to normal today and he was not on life-support.

Meanwhile, the Holy Synod, ruling body of the Orthodox Church of Greece, met this morning to decide whether the Archbishop's condition warranted a replacement to be designated immediately, in a break with the tradition of replacing a prelate 20 days after his decease.

Serapheim's attending physicians have said the Archbishop was longer able to carry out his duties.

Health Minister Kostas Geitonas told reporters after visiting Serapheim that the Archbishop was in critical condition and the doctors were on alert.

Port workers begin 48-hour strike

The operation of the country's commercial ports is expected to be seriously disrupted for two days as dockworkers hold a 48-hour strike beginning tomorrow to protest the government's plans to privatise the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki.

The Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) will meanwhile be taking part in the 24-hour nationwide strike called for Thursday by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE).

The PNO strike begins at 6 am local time Thursday and will end at the same time the following day.

In an announcement, PNO said that Greek seamen were "adding their voices to the protests of all workers in the country, to express their complete opposition to the (government's) policy of one-sided austerity and abolition of vested rights which is aimed at the people and the workers".

At a branch level, PNO is demanding the signing of collective labour agreements bearing in mind the recent 14 percent devaluation of the drachma.

The federation is also seeking the safeguarding of jobs for Greek seamen and the continuation of cabotage restrictions.

FM comments on Turkish arson claims

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said today that the government had been aware of a document pointing to the involvement of Turkish agents provacteurs in forest fires in Greece and had and was continuing to lodge protests internationally.

An article in Sunday's edition of Eleftherotypia cites a confidential report by the "investigation department" of the Turkish prime minister's office indicating secret ties between the official Turkish state and the underworld during the premiership of Tansu Ciller.

According to Eleftherotypia, the Turkish states that "forest fires and bomb explosions on Greek islands were the work of Turkish intelligence services".

Referring in general to the scandals rocking Turkish political life, Pangalos said they were "symptoms of the lack of transparency and democracy which our country too experienced in the past, during the civil war".

He expressed the view that the majority of Turkish politicians and the Turkish people condemned such phenomena and called on Ankara and the Turkish authorities in general "to take the necessary steps".

He added that talks within the framework of NATO on the adoption of confidence-building measures (CBMs) in the Aegean had progressed to the point that "decisions must now be taken".

"If the Turkish side does not try to create faits accomplis on other matters pertaining to national sovereignty, we shall be able to adopt favourable measures which will improve the climate in relations between the two countries," Pangalos said, citing as an example of such measures the extension of the summer moratorium on military exercises in the Aegean from two to four months.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather is forecast for most parts of Greece today with scattered clouds in the mainland and the Ionian Sea. Fog in the morning. Winds southerly, light to moderate, turning strong in the Ionian Sea. Athens will partly cloudy with temperatures between. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 8-24C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's closing rates (buying): U.S. dollar 317.361 British pound 526.752 Japanese Yen(100) 235.620 French franc 51.439 German mark 172.509 Italian lira (100) 17.472 Irish Punt 434.298 Belgian franc 8.357 Finnish mark 56.792 Dutch guilder 153.041 Danish kr. 45.215 Austrian sch. 24.516 Spanish peseta 2.032 Swedish kr. 39.662 Norwegian kr. 41.565 Swiss franc 208.449 Port. Escudo 1.683 AUS dollar 209.987 Can. dollar 224.113 Cyprus pound 592.522

(M.P.)


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