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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-04-09

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, 09/04/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Parliament approves OA bill
  • November 17 claims responsibility for Citibank attack
  • Strikes hits ports, transport
  • Inflation up slightly as expected
  • President to visit Cyprus
  • Defence talks between Greece, Netherlands
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Parliament approves OA bill

Parliament today approved a controversial bill to restructure Olympic Airways, Greece's ailing national carrier, as part of the government's efforts to prepare for European Monetary Union.

The vote was 158 in favour and 124 against. One deputy abstained and 17 were absent from the 300-member parliament, in which the ruling socialist PASOK party controls 159 seats.

The bill goes through a formal vote in Parliament later tonight.

The scourge of Olympic Airways and other public sector organisations has been the lack of cooperation between management and trade unions, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said during the debate.

Commenting on the agreement reached between OA management and workers, Papantoniou said the government had reckoned on spending cuts at the airline of 50 billion drachmas a year for the five-year duration of the restructuring programme, but because it wanted "social consent and cohesion", it had made certain changes which will result in savings of 42 billion drachmas a year.

"The government prefers to have 85 per cent with social agreement, rather than 100 per cent and conflict," Papantoniou said, adding that OA workers had accepted wage cuts totalling 5.5 billion drachma, a wage freeze and flexible working hours.

Papantoniou said enterprises could not be modernised without the contribution of workers.

"OA will serve as an example for the other public utilities and organisations, " he added.

Speaking after Papantoniou, Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis forecast profits of 74.5 billion drachmas for OA over the next five years.

More specifically, he said, OA would show a profit of 9.7 billion drachmas in 1998, 25.5 billion in 1999, 14.5 billion in 2000, 8.5 billion in 2001 and 16.5 billion in 2002.

Mantelis underlined that the 41.674 billion drachmas to be saved annually by the company over the next five years was an issue of less importance than the unimpeded continuation of flights and the labour peace secured through the agreement with OA workers.

November 17 claims responsibility for Citibank attack

The elusive "November 17" terrorist organisation today claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on an American Citibank branch on midnight Thursday and a series of bombings of US interests in Greece over the past few months.

"We have decided to strike at American imperialism-nationalism which is threatening our country's sovereign rights," the group said in an eight- page letter sent to the Athens afternoon daily Eleftherotypia.

The Citibank branch in the Athens district of Kypseli was the group's latests attack by a rocket which failed to explode causing only damage but no injuries.

The urban guerrilla organisation which emerged in 1975, also accused the Americans of being responsible for the Cyprus problem and the Turkish claims in the Aegean.

Focusing mainly on "nationalism, patriotism and American imperialism," the terrorist organisation also criticised the mass media which, it said, "poured mockery on patriotism by presenting it as nationalism".

It also criticised the government's handling of the Imia islets crisis and Greek-Turkish issues, but avoided direct threats against specific persons or targets.

The letter was found in a garbage bin in the Athens downtown district of Koukaki after an unidentifed caller telephoned the newspaper.

The group also claimed responsibility for a spate of bomb attacks against two McDonald's fast food restaurants and the offices of the American firms General Motors and Crysler and those of the German firm Opel.

Strikes hits ports, transport

The main Greek port of Piraeus was deserted today as seamen and dockworkers staged a 24-hour strike that halted passenger shipping and commercial operations.

The Panhellenic Seamen's Federation joined a one-day nationwide strike in protest at a government bill to revitalise Olympic Airways and plans to privatise, merge or abolish state firms and organisations.

The nationwide stoppage that disrupted public services, banks and transport was called by the civil servants union and the General Confederation of Greek Labour, which represents nearly one million workers.

Dockworkers staged the second day of a 48-hour strike against a government scheme to privatise the country's two major ports, Piraeus and Thessaloniki.

Strikers rallied at the port city's labour centre and marched to the merchant marine ministry, also located in Piraeus.

The seamen's stoppage ends at 0600 local time on Friday.

Inflation up slightly as expected

Greek consumer price inflation rose to 4.6 percent year-on-year in March from 4.3 percent the previous month, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said.

The consumer price index rose 2.5 percent on a monthly basis against a 2.2 percent rise in the corresponding month last year.

GNSS said that the rise in inflation was expected following the drachma's devaluation by 14 percent in March, which was linked to entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechanism.

Inflation was expected to continue rising in April before resuming its downward trend in May.

A 6.0-7.0 percent rise in car prices and some foodstuffs were the main factors behind the March increase.

President to visit Cyprus

President Kostis Stephanopoulos will pay an official visit to Cyprus from June 25-28 at the invitation of his Cypriot counterpart Glafcos Clerides, his press office announced here today.

Defence talks between Greece, Netherlands

National Defence Undersecretary Dimitris Apostolakis had talks today with his Dutch counterpart J.C. Gmelich Meijling on bilateral and armaments issues.

According to defence ministry sources, the Netherlands is interested in selling a certain class of submarine to Greece.

Also examined at today's meeting was the possibility of cooperation between the defence industries of the two countries.

After the talks, it was announced that commencing in the summer, the Netherlands will participate in the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus with 100 troops.

Replying to reporters' questions on the issue of the moratorium on the holding of military exercises in the Aegean by Greece and Turkey during the summer months, Apostolakis said Athens and Ankara had each put forward a proposal.

Greece is proposing that the present two-month moratorium is extended so as to cover the period June 15 - September 15, Apostolakis said, while Turkey wants all of September to be included.

WEATHER

Scattered clouds throughout Greece today with the possibility of rain in the north, western and central regions in the evening. Winds southerly, moderate to strong. Athens will be sunny with a few clouds and temperatures between 12-24C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 10-22C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's closing rates (buying): U.S. dollar 316.448 British pound 528.081 Japanese Yen(100) 238.159 French franc 51.584 German mark 172.916 Italian lira (100) 17.504 Irish Punt 435.885 Belgian franc 8.379 Finnish mark 56.978 Dutch guilder 153.502 Danish kr. 45.344 Austrian sch. 24.579 Spanish peseta 2.038 Swedish kr. 39.878 Norwegian kr. 41.616 Swiss franc 208.211 Port. Escudo 1.685 AUS dollar 208.528 Can. dollar 222.347 Cyprus pound 592.224

(M.P.)


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