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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-04-16

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, 16/04/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Close Greek-Bulgarian ties reaffirmed
  • Greece to train Armenian officers
  • US State Dept. condemns new Turkish threats against Cyprus
  • Black Sea Bank governor briefs Greek minister
  • 'Treasures of Mt. Athos' exhibit ends April 30
  • Poaching on Ionian islands decried
  • New Cyprus ambassador to Greece
  • Film Festival on Lesvos
  • Greenpeace activists charged with disturbing the peace
  • Current account deficit rises 6.5 pct in 1997
  • Greek stocks jump 3.22 pct on govt's privatisation plan
  • Tourism federations call for creation of chamber
  • EU: Greece ready to absorb Santer package funds
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Close Greek-Bulgarian ties reaffirmed

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that his visit to Bulgaria this week was another step on the road to bring Balkan countries closer.

Speaking to reporters at a joint news conference held with his Bulgarian counterpart Ivan Kostov at the end of his two-day official yesterday he said that his talks with the Bulgarian leadership had been "cordial and friendly" and had provided an opportunity to define "joint efforts to resolve problems". There is agreement, he said, on the general framework of policy which should underpin relations in the region and said Greece had always supported Bulgaria's desire to join the European Union.

"The Balkans must be an area of friendship, peace, cooperation and development, without opposition, axes and alliance-building which create dividing lines," Mr. Simitis said, adding that the participation of Balkan countries in NATO would be a prelude to regional security.

He called bilateral relations with Sofia "right and good" and that agreement had been reached that the Bulgarian Parliament would ratify a bill on the avoidance of double taxation.

There was also agreement on pursuing pacts on the waters of the Nestos River and stepping up the pace of construction of border posts and the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline.

He said experts would be meeting on the issue of the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline at the beginning of May and that Sofia and Athens were awaiting clarifications from the Russian side on financing and other issues.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov expressed his gratitude for Greece's support for Bulgaria's bids to join the EU and NATO and said that there were prospects for more economic cooperation, citing infrastructure projects and Greek assistance in constructing a bridge over the Danube.

Both prime ministers said that tension in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo must be resolved through political means.

Mr. Simitis said Balkan countries needed to keep in touch on this issue to work on joint political moves and that he and Mr. Kostov favoured the creation of a Balkan rapid deployment force, although discussion had not extended to where the force would be based.

A joint communique issued at the end of the talks said the deepening of Bugarian-Greek relations was a strong contributing factor to the consolidation of peace and stability in the broader region.

"Greece fully supports the Bulgarian aspiration to join the EU and NATO.

"They underline the need to forward proposals and ideas concerning land and sea trade routes linking the Danube and Central Europe with the Aegean, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Black Sea. In this context they stressed the importance of linking the Paneuropean Crete Corridors IV, VIII, IX with the Transeuropean Corridor of Egnatia," the communique added.

The two delegations expressed satisfaction with the prospects of opening three new border crossing points and the agreement regarding distribution of the Mesta/Nestos river waters.

"They also agreed to increase cooperation between the respective police forces and relevant institutions for the combat of organized crime, terrorism, illegal drugs and arms trafficking.

Greece to train Armenian officers

Greece and Armenia yesterday signed a technical agreement for the training of Armenian officers at Greek military academies.

The accord was signed after talks on bilateral defence cooperation between Defence Undersecretary Dimitris Apostolakis and his visiting Armenian counterpart Vahan Shirkhantan.

The two men also discussed the general political situation in the wider region, as well as collaboration within the framework of the NATO-sponsored "Partnership for Peace" programme.

Mr. Shirkhantan later met with Greek military chief Gen. Athanasios Tzoganis and National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

The Greek defence minister expressed hope that bilateral cooperation between Greece and Armenia will help in a peaceful solution to the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh, as soon as possible, on the basis of principles of justice and mutual respect for the rights of peoples in the region.

US State Dept. condemns new Turkish threats against Cyprus

The United States yesterday criticised Turkey for its renewed threats against Cyprus over its decision to deploy Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles on the island republic.

"The problem with the missiles cannot be resolved with use of threats," US State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters.

"We have encouraged Turkey to approach the issue of the S-300 missiles in a diplomatic manner and to avoid threats of destroying them by military means, " Mr. Rubin added.

He nevertheless expressed US opposition to the deployment of the missiles.

A Turkish foreign ministry spokesman on Tuesday said Turkey's policy concerning the missiles issue has not and will not change, reminding statements by Turkish officials last year that Ankara would oppose by all means the deployment.

The S-300 missiles are scheduled to arrive on the island later in the summer, after an agreement was reached between Nicosia and Moscow in January 1997.

Black Sea Bank governor briefs Greek minister

The governor of the Black Sea Commercial and Development Bank, Ersoy Volkan, met yesterday in Thessaloniki with Macedonia-Thrace Minister Philippos Petsalnikos, whom he briefed on preparations for the multi-national bank's operation.

Both men agreed that the Thessaloniki-based development bank should play an important role in relation to development and investement activities in the Balkans and Black Sea region.

Mr. Petsalnikos assured the Mr. Volkan that his ministry will do anything it could to assist in efforts.

'Treasures of Mt. Athos' exhibit ends April 30

The highly successful "Treasures of Mount Athos" exhibition will officially end at Thessaloniki's Byzantine Museum on April 30, with hundreds of priceless manuscripts, artifacts and icons set to return to participating monasteries on the autonomous monast ic community.

The exhibition will be open from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow - Orthodox Good Friday - and from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Holy Saturday, with free public entrance.

Poaching on Ionian islands decried

The Greek Ornithological Society (EOE) issued an announcement yesterday referring to poaching of thousands of migratory birds on Ionian islands, particularly Zakinthos, Strofadia, Paxoi and Antipaxoi.

EOE said that many local people are equally to blame since they either hunt themselves or rent "good spots" to poachers from other areas.

In 1997, EOE requested the intervention of the state without, however, the situation being remedied. This year, the intervention of forestry, port and police authorities was requested since March 23 and a mobilisation has already begun by the merchant marine ministry and the public order ministry.

However, initial reports show that the carnage is being repeated.

New Cyprus ambassador to Greece

The Cyprus Republic's new ambassador to Greece, Christodoulos Pashiardis, yesterday presented his credentials to President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.

Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis was among officials present at the ceremony.

Mr. Pashiardis later had a meeting with Mr. Stephanopoulos, during which they discussed the latest developments regarding the Cyprus problem and the republic's European Union course.

Mr. Pashiardis succeeds Mr. Charalambos Christoforou who has retired.

Film festival on Lesvos

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Lesvos prefect Alekos Mathiellis yesterday signed a contract for the holding of an annual international film festival on the Aegean island beginning 1999.

The "International Creative Documentary Film Festival" is expected be held each spring in Mytilene and surrounding villages.

Mr. Mathiellis said in an announcement its cost will be 90 million drachmas, 50 per cent of which will be financed by the culture ministry.

Greenpeace activists charged with disturbing the peace

Twenty-two Greenpeace activists arrested on Tuesday at a protest over genetically altered soya were bound over yesterday for trial on July 3 on charges of disturbing the peace.

The 22 activists, including two German nationals, were among 30 who had blockaded a major soy mill plant near the Corinth Canal in protest over genetically altered soya.

The activists of the international environmental advocacy group blocked the gates of the Soy Mills Co., demanding an end to the importation of genetically altered products.

Greenpeace demands that consumers be provided only with unaltered foodstuffs. Greek and German activists taking part in the protest erected a huge banner outside the facility stating: "Genetic Danger Stop".

A Greenpeace official later said that Soy Mills Co. cannot guarantee a non- genetically altered supply for supermarkets, consumers, food industries and stockbreeders.

According to a Greenpeace, more than 300,000 tons of soy beans are consumed in Greece annually, while the genetic alterations were induced with the use of non-edible organisms.

Current account deficit rises 6.5 pct in 1997

The current account deficit rose by 6.5 percent in 1997 to total 4.8 billion dollars from 4.5 billion in 1996, the Bank of Greece said yesterday.

The central bank also said that foreign currency reserves were 20.4 billion dollars at the end of March 1998, up from 13.3 billion dollars in December 1997.

The bank attributed the rise to the drachma's entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechanism on March 14.

Greek stocks jump 3.22 pct on govt's privatisation plan

Greek equities yesterday jumped to their 13th record close in the last 22 sessions on the Athens Stock Exchange reflecting strong foreign buying in blue chips.

Traders said the market welcomed the government's intention to move forward with its ambitious privatisation programme.

Foreign investors were once again particularly active in the aftermath of the Easter holiday in the rest of Europe. Greek markets are closed for Greek Orthodox Good Friday on April 17, and for Easter Monday on April 20. The general index ended 3.22 pe rcent higher at 2,339.28 points with all sector indices scoring gains.

Banks rose 3.71 percent, Insurance was 2.19 percent up, Leasing soared 8.0 percent, Investment ended 3.86 percent up, Construction rose 2.04 percent, Industrials increased 1.23 perc ent, Miscellaneous was 3.99 percent up and Holding rose 3.28 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 4.53 percent higher.

The FTSE/ASE 20 blue chip index jumped 3.36 percent to 1,394.52.

Trading was extremely heavy with turnover at 96.9 billion drachmas.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 186 to 57 with another 21 issues unchanged.

Hellenic Telecoms, Duty Free Shops, Mouriades, Vis,Selonda, Ionian Bank, Bank of Piraeus, Eskimo, Balkan Export, ETBA Leasing, Alpha Leasing and Intrasoft scored the biggest percentage gains at the day's 8.0 percent limit up.

Dane, Barba Stathis, Shelman and Rokas suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 42,995 drachmas, Ergobank at 25,900, Alpha Credit Bank at 26,500, Delta Dairy at 4,370, Titan Cement at 25,100, Intracom at 19,700 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at a new record close of 8,947 drachmas in h eavy volume of 2,208,650 shares.

Tourism federations call for creation of chamber

Tourism federations called for the creation of a tourism chamber to cover the entire sector.

The proposal made by the country's tourism and travel agents' association, HATTA, was included in a memorandum sent to Development Minister Vasso Papandreou.

Greek hoteliers were the only group to distance themselves rom the proposal.

EU: Greece ready to absorb Santer package funds - EU

Greece is ready to absorb monies from a fresh package of European Union funds currently being drafted by the 15-nation bloc.

During a visit to Athens this month, EU Commission President Jacques Santer said Greece had worked hard to make structural changes that would aid the absorption of Community Support Framework (CSF) funds.

The Commission said in a report outlining the Greek economy in 1994-1997 that a recovery in private investments and the implementation of major infrastructure works, coupled with a major improvement in absorption mechanisms, meant the conditions were ri ght for use of CSF funds.

This applied to the absorption of credits, the repercussions on macroeconomic indicators and the creation of permanent employment. "Greece will continue to reap 17.6 percent of available monies from structural funds or the 5.4 trillion drachmas of its entitlement," Mr. Santer told a small group of Greek and foreign correspondent s in a private briefing.

Saying structural funds would rise by 15 percent in 2000-2006, Mr. Santer indicated that Greece could expect inflows of 6.2 trillion drachmas from structural funds in that period while continuing to reap subsidies from the European Social Fund and Cohesion Fund.

It would also receive a stake in 2.8 billion Ecus that are transferred each year for restructuring in the agricultural economy. No radical change would be made to current quotas for Mediterranean products, Mr. Santer said.

"For purely Mediterranean products proposals have been made but I do not think that in the future these products will be in a disadvantageous position to goods produced in the other EU countries," he said.

The EU expects to settle the allocation of the new CSF, or third Santer package, by June 13, 1999 ahead of Euro-parliament elections.

Greece's government has set up a ministerial planning group to work out a development plan for 2000-2006.

A key task will be to prepare for absorption of the third Santer package.

Deputy National Economy Minister Christos Pachtas has said the government and EU had agreed that in 2000-2001 certain projects funded under the second CSF, or Delors package of funds, will continue to receive monies under the new Santer package.

Within a policy of overall development, the government's target is to give priority to completion of major projects including a highway linking Patras to Thessaloniki, a city ring road between Elefsina and Stavros, the railway network and the northern branch of a highway on Crete.

"We have decided that certain key projects, which should be completed in 2000, such as the Rio-Andirrio bridge link, the Athens ringroad, the Thessaloniki metro, the Egnatia Way, natural gas and the national land registry will be the projects to straddle the old CSF and the new," Mr. Pachtas said.

The Commission has released the following information on Greece:


Greece ranked eighth among EU member states in terms of absorption with a 32 percent rate of execution of projects in 1994-1996
Funds absorbed in 1994 were 120 billion drachmas; in 1995, 320 billion drachmas; in 1996, 550 billion; and in 1997, 700 billion. The target in 1998 was absorption of 820 billion drachmas.

WEATHER

Fine weather with few clouds is forecast in most parts of the country today with scattered showers in the northwest, central and northern Greece from the afternoon. Winds variable, moderate to strong. Athens will be sunny with few clouds and temperatures between 11-27C. Possibility of rain in the evening in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 8-23C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's closing rates (buying): U.S. dollar 310.923 British pound 523.716 Japanese Yen(100) 239.489 French franc 51.411 German mark 172.320 Italian lira (100) 17.421 Irish Punt 435.111 Belgian franc 8.349 Finnish mark 56.760 Dutch guilder 152.956 Danish kr. 45.213 Austrian sch. 24.488 Spanish peseta 2.030 Swedish kr. 39.872 Norwegian kr. 41.325 Swiss franc 207.814 Port. Escudo 1.683 AUS dollar 201.753 Can. dollar 217.268 Cyprus pound 590.815

(C.E.)


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