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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 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
  • Over 700,000 Athenians expected to leave capital for Easter
  • 'Treasures of Mt. Athos' exhibit ends April 30
  • Poaching on Ionian islands decried
  • Karamanlis develops slight fever, condition still critical
  • Film Festival on Lesvos
  • Iraq rejects conference, ambassador tells ANA
  • Current account deficit rises 6.5 pct in 1997
  • Two Moroccans killed in minefield blast
  • 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.

Over 700,000 Athenians expected to leave capital for Easter

Over 700,000 Athenians are expected to flee the capital by car, boat, train and - conditions permitting, by plane - to spend the Orthodox Easter vacation in the countryside this weekend.

According to Public Order Ministry estimates, 120,000 cars are expected to pass through toll posts on the two main highways leading out of the capital to northern and southern Greece.

The managements of Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE), the intercity coach organisation (KTEL) and the Piraeus port authority have put on additional services to meet demand.

The police are taking special measures to facilitate the flow of traffic on highways and secondary roads, with ambulances being positioned at key points.

Problems for travellers have been caused by cancellations and long delays in Olympic Airways flights resulting from pesonnel shortages.

'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.

Karamanlis develops slight fever, condition still critical

Doctors treating elder statesman Constantine Karamanlis at a private Athens hospital fear a new infection as the 91-year-old politician remained in critical condition and on a respirator.

Karamanlis was admitted to Ygeia Hospital on April 7 with a lung infection. He suffered a mild heart attack early Sunday and was placed on a respirator. Several efforts since to take him off the breathing apparatus have failed.

A medical bulletin this morning said Karamanlis developed a slight fever, around 38 C, which was being treated with medication, and remained in a critical but stable condition.

Doctors are worried, however, that a new infection could develop, although they say the slight temperature might have been in reaction the repeated use of needles to help monitor Karamanlis's health.

The physicians told reporters that Karamanlis' breathing appeared to be steady, but were not qualitatively satisfactory to allow removal of the respirator.

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.

Iraq rejects conference, ambassador tells ANA

Baghdad will not accept or be bound by the results of an international conference planned by Britain to speed up an oil-for-food agreement, Iraq's Ambassador to Greece, Issam Saoud Khalil, told the Athens News Agency today.

The envoy said the London conference, which British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook proposed should be held in June, clashed with UN Security Council resolutions on an oil-for-food and medicine deal.

It also ran contrary to special procedures agreed between Iraq and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Khalil said.

As a member of the Security Council, the ambassador added, Britain had approved the oil-for-food formula.

The conference, which was first announced by Cook in mid-March, is "suspicious" and "ambiguous", Khalil said, charging that it constituted "direct interference" in Iraq's domestic affairs.

Khalil expressed the view that the real objective of the conference was to prolong the embargo imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

According to Cook, the conference will be attended by representatives of the United Nations, the European Union, interested countries and non- governmental organisations.

Khalil said Baghdad had notified a number of countries, including Greece, of its position concerning the British initiative.

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.

Two Moroccans killed in minefield blast

Two Moroccans were killed in northern Greece when they entered a fenced-off minefield after illegally crossing into Greece from Turkey, police said today.

They said the two men, killed last night in the region of Kastaneon, Orestiada near the Evros border crossing between the two countries, had papers on them identifying them as Abdelaziz Belahual, 22, and Mohamet Hikhami, 26.

Their bodies were recovered this morning by an army mine retrieval unit.

A police spokesman told the ANA that the army had reinforced fencing around the Evros minefields following a spate of accidents in recent years involving illegal immigrants.

He said the fence around the minefield the Moroccans entered was 1.70 metres high and surrounded by red prohibited entry signs.

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

The weather in most parts of the country will be cloudy today with some scattered showers. Athens will be overcast with temperatures ranging from 10C to 25C. In Thessaloniki, cloud will turn to rain during the night. Temperatures in the second city will be 8C-22C.

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.S.)


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