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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-04-26

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, 26/04/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • 1915 Armenian genocide remembered in Athens, Thessaloniki events
  • Bulgarian army commander due for talks
  • PASOK secretary blasts 'early elections' rumours
  • Olympic Airways pilots urged to end overtime ban
  • Defence Minister in FYROM visit
  • General Bank decides share capital increase
  • Tourism representatives discuss merger trend in industry
  • Albanians arrested for series of shop burglaries
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

1915 Armenian genocide remembered in Athens, Thessaloniki events

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos today said that Greeks were better aware than any other western peoples of the price paid by the Armenians and its historic significance, addressing an event in Athens marking the 83rd anniversary of the Armenian genocide by Turkey.

He said Greek-Armenian relations were developing rapidly, were of a defence- oriented nature, and were not aimed against any third country, while at the same time they covered a broad raange of activities and sectors, including economic cooperation, which focussed on the materialisation of Greek investments in Armenia.

Tsohatzopoulos called on Greek businessmen to invest in and cooperate with Armenia, following the example set by various state agencies.

"Today, in the wake of globalisation of the economy and the effort of international organisations to create an environment of security and peace, Greeks and Armenians all over the world have a duty to develop and cooperate closely," the minister said.

Parliament president Apostolos Kaklamanis, speaking at the same event, held under the aegis of the Municipality of Athens, outlined the ties of friendship between the two peoples and their common struggles for freedom, democracy and protection of human rights.

"We believe in peace, and are fighting for the smooth and peaceful coexistence of all nations," Kaklamanis said.

He added, however, that "as long there is a threat and that threat is manifested in a violent and unprovoked manner, as long as Turkey continues its barbaric occupation of northern Cyprus and refuses to comply with the rules of international law and act like a civilised country, we are obliged to be vigilant and reinforce our defence shielding".

In a similar event in Thessaloniki, the Armenian National Committee of Greece called on the international community to recognise the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians on April 24, 1915 by Turkish troops in Asia Minor.

The Greek parliament recognised the genocide two years ago.

Armenian National Committee speakers also called for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from and lifting of the blockade on Armenia and Karabakh, and also for the withdrawal of the Turkish troops from Cyprus.

Bulgarian army commander due for talks

The chief of Bulgaria's army general staff, Lieutenant General Ginio Tonev, on Monday begins a three-day visit to Athens and talks with Greek counterpart Lt.-Gen. Manoussos Parayoudakis.

Defence Ministry sources told the ANA the two men would discuss issues of mutual interest focusing on bilateral relations and developments in the region.

Tonev would also visit formations, infantry units and archaeological sites while in Greece.

PASOK secretary blasts 'early elections' rumours

Ruling party PASOK Secretary Costas Skandalidis on Saturday slammed rumours of early elections, intimating that the reports originated from inside the ruling party from those who hoped to consolidate their positions of power.

Speaking at a party meeting of prefectural and local committees, Skandalidis painted a picture of internal jostling for power that he said was endangering the party's hold on the government and the government's work.

Reports said that Skandalidis's comments were indirect references to officials close to the prime minister. Skandalidis called for the "effective transfer of decision-making to collective bodies (of the party)".

He said that government practice was often lacking in social dialogue, ideological and political preparation and in policy-planning.

He also criticised the "internal opposition" in the ruling party, which, he said, was working as though it wanted to create a new leadership within the party.

Political developments are expected to be on the agenda of the meeting to be chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Thursday of the inner cabinet and the PASOK executive bureau. The party's Central Committee meets on Wednesday.

Olympic Airways pilots urged to end overtime ban

Olympic Airways today urged its pilots to end an overtime ban that has led to daily flight cancellations and delays, crippling the ailing national carrier's finances.

OA's management said in a statement that it had no wish to formally reduce the airline's operations, but continuing disruption meant that a new flight schedule would have to be drawn up based on commercial and financial criteria.

The pilots' union has so far indicated it will stick to its original strike plan and order one or more stoppages during the week, probably on Wednesday or Thursday.

Meanwhile Transport and Communications Minister Tasos Mantelis said the government will not intervene in the operational and commercial plans of Olympic Airways. He was speaking to a delegation of the airline's pilots who met him today to set out their objections to the curtailment of flight routes and their reasons for refusing to work overtime.

The minister emphasised that the recently approved law on restructuring and streamlining the airline must be implemented, and that the changes introduced to the bill at the last minute were made on the recommendation of the OA employees' unions. He urged pilots to sort out problems with management so that the carrier's operation could return to normal.

The OA management on Saturday did not rule out the possibility of suspending operations if flight schedules do not return to normal.

The airline's flight attendants' union, meanwhile, has reportedly withdrawn its threat to start work stoppages on Monday.

Defence Minister in FYROM visit

Greek Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said on Saturday that a Balkan peacekeeping force, whose creation was being discussed by regional leaders, should have the right to act in any country facing a crisis, including its own members.

Tsohatzopoulos was speaking at a news conference in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) after talks with his counterpart, Lazar Kitanovski.

FYROM believes that the multi-national force should not intervene to keep the peace in countries that take part in the group, an ANA report from FYROM said.

The final decision on the peacekeeping force's sphere of activity will be taken in September at a meeting in Skopje, FYROM's capital, the report said.

Turning to Kosovo, the two ministers agreed that borders in the Balkans should remain intact, and that a solution to the crisis should be sought through an immediate, unconditional start to talks between the two sides.

The talks should aim to secure the greatest degree of autonomy feasible for Kosovo within the framework of the Yugoslav Federation.

Tsohatzopoulos, who said Athens was willing to contribute to guaranteeingborders throughout the Balkans, stressed that inhabitants of the region had every reason to fear the crisis in Kosovo, and its repercussions.

Although the dispute was an internal matter for Yugoslavia to resolve, Balkan countries and the international community had the right to contribute to a political solution to the crisis, he said.

Greece and FYROM both opposed any violence or terrorism as a solution, Kitanovski said.

Setting up a corridor for Albanians fleeing Kosovo was not discussed at the talks as Greece and FYROM placed emphasis on initiatives to resolve the crisis and therefore avoid an exodus, Tsohatzopoulos said.

Finally, the two countries agreed that bilateral cooperation should be promoted, and the armed forces of the two countries could cooperate to safeguard borders.

Tsohatzopoulos said a positive outcome to talks in New York would contribute to closer cooperation between the two countries that had already begun with signature of an interim agreement, also in New York.

General Bank decides share capital increase

An extroardinary general assembly of shareholders of the General Bank of Greece today decided an 8.4 billion dr. share capital increase for the bank.

The share capital increase would be effected with the deposit of cash and the issue of 4,794,380 new common bearer shares with a nominal value of 1, 770 dr. and purchase price of 4,800 dr. per share.

The total revenues from the increase, according to the president of the board Y. Daskalakis, was estimated at 23 billion dr. and would be used for the technological upgrading and futher automation of the bank's services.

Part of the revenues would also be used to finance the expamsion and improvement of the bank's network of overseas branches, particularly in the Balkan countries, and to reinforce the activities of the General Bank Group's subsidiaries.

Following the successful completion of the "tendering book" process for the sale of 33 percent of the bank's share capital to Greek and foreign institutional investors, the bank's main shareholder, the Army Share Fund (Metochiko Tameio Stratou), now holds a 35.5 percent interest from its previous 68.5 percent.

After the share capital increase is completed, the General Bank's shareholders will comprise: Army Share Fund 35.5 percent, institutional investors, insurance funds and small-scale investors 54.5 percent, and the Interamerican Group 10 percent.

Tourism representatives discuss merger trend in industry

Representatives of tourist agencies from Greece, Armenia, Malta, Turkey and Cyprus on Saturday met to discuss how to deal with a growing trend in the tourism industry that may leave domestic tour operators at the mercy of larger northern European organisations.

Speakers at the Hellenic Association of Tourist and Travel Agencies (HATTA) conference on "Expansion: development or threat?" said the travel industry - the third largest sector in Europe - was being transformed by mergers and buyouts by strong travel organisations primarily based in northern Europe, such as Neckermann, TUI, LTU and Alltours.

Speakers said that these groups had the power to place demands on local hoteliers and tourist agents who could comply or face extinction.

This trend was of immediate concern to the countries of southern Europe, the main destination of package tours by holidaymakers from the north of Europe.

Speakers said 75 percent of organised tours in Europe were in the hands of only 10 tour operators. In Germany, the biggest market for tourists for the southern states, just two companies control 75 percent of the market. In the equally important market of Britain, three companies shared 58 percent while in Belgium one company held 50 percent. These firms were internationally- oriented, with interests in charter companies, hotels, shipping and retail stores.

In Greece, the problem is particularly acute as most businesses in the sector are small by European standards and vulnerable to these operators. Sixty-four percent of Greek hotels have less than 50 beds, while 86 percent have less than 100. Ninety-eight percent of hotels have staffs of less than 50 people.

Nikos Skoulas, the secretary-general of the Greek National Tourist Organisation, told the conference that the Greek tourist agent was "an endangered species" and said that what was needed was modernisation, mergers and consortiums between medium-sized tourist businesses, such as agencies and accomodation.

He urged Greek tour operators to diversify their product and extend the tourist season and said Greece could take a leaf out of Turkey's book and create private charter companies with the participation of domestic hoteliers and agents.

Otherwise, he said, Greek tourist operators were in danger of becoming simple handmaidens of foreign tour operators, unable to effectively influence the demand of tourist services for Greece.

Albanians arrested for series of shop burglaries

Two Albanians were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of conducting up to 15 break-ins of stores in downtown Athens.

Police said Lefteris Moukas, 28, and Spyros Votsos, 23, would steal goods and pass them on to Greek national Panayiotis Mercouris, 36, who would transfer them to at least two other people involved in selling stolen goods.

Mercouris was also arrested, while police are seeking another two people involved in the ring.

Moukas is an escapee from Trikala jail and was found in possession of a fake passport, while Mercouris has been sentenced to a total of 51 months in jail on past charges of theft.

WEATHER

Overcast weather is forecast throughout the country Monday, with local showers. Athens and Thessaloniki will be cloudy, with temperatures of 10-19 C and 7-18 C respectively.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)

U.S. dollar 310.794 British pound 517.784 Japanese yen(100) 239.528 French franc 51.584 German mark 172.920 Italian lira (100) 17.502 Irish Punt 436.480 Belgian franc 8.388 Finnish mark 56.990 Dutch guilder 153.700 Danish kr. 45.378 Austrian sch. 24.587 Spanish peseta 2.037 Swedish kr. 40.319 Norwegian kr. 41.614 Swiss franc 208.464 Port. Escudo 1.686 Aus. dollar 202.829 Can. dollar 217.228 Cyprus pound 591.351

(L.G.)


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