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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-04-30

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, 30/04/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Premier brushes off talk of new devaluation, early elections
  • Simitis calls Turkish threat 'strong'
  • Gov't backs Pangalos over recent Chirac criticism
  • Athens condemns dismissals of two noted Turkish journalists
  • Kozloduy issue raised during Simitis' recent Sofia visit
  • Greece and Italy call for strong Albanian military
  • Defence minister to visit Sweden
  • Papoutsis voices concern over lifting of cabotage
  • Ecumenical Patriarch on new Greek Prelate's election
  • Cutbacks in expenditures envisioned
  • Auction for state securities
  • German tourist agents visit Crete
  • State telecom share sale raises 126 bln for state coffer
  • Greek stocks sprint ahead for second straight session
  • Foreign investors absorb domestic drachma sales in money markets
  • Gov't backs economic diplomacy
  • Port of Piraeus definitely set for privatisation
  • Panionios wins 1997-98 football Cup
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Premier brushes off talk of new devaluation, early elections

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday dismissed media reports that a second devaluation of the drachma was pending.

Reports of a new devaluation have been fuelled by speculation that a European Union summit over the weekend to launch the euro will readjust the parities of currencies in the EU's Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM).

"(The rumours) are absurdities coming from speculators who want to recoup the money they lost in the March devaluation," Mr. Simitis told a meeting of the ruling PASOK Parliamentary group.

The drachma was devalued by 13.8 percent on March 14 to ease entry into the ERM. The government announced measures to speed up cuts in public spending in order to further align the economy with other EU countries.

Mr. Simitis also shrugged off talk of early national elections, saying the polls would be held on schedule in 2000, "after the policy being applied by the government today is completed".

Simitis calls Turkish threat 'strong'

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday said the Turkish threat was strong and the government did not underestimate it.

Addressing the ruling PASOK's Parliamentary group, Mr. Simitis also warned that Greece should not be dragged into a "mentality of rhetoric", which only benefitted Turkey.

The premier further said that Greece was not opposed to Turkey's European orientation, adding however, that Athens' acceptance hinged on such conditions as Ankara's acceptance of international treaties, its contribution to a resolution of the Cyprus pro blem and improvement of its relations with Greece.

Gov't backs Pangalos over recent Chirac criticism

The government fully shares Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos' concern and interest in vigorously promoting Athens' positions and defending national rights, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday in reply to a question regarding the Greek FM's harsh criticism this week of French President Jacques Chirac.

Mr. Reppas said that it was not the French president that provoked criticism by the Greek foreign minister, but Paris' policy in terms of EU- Turkey and Greek-Turkish relations, saying France finds it difficult to understand the reason why Athens was ins isting on maintaining its veto of the EU financial protocol for Ankara.

Instead, what is hard to understand, according to Mr. Reppas, is the stance of those who insisted on turning a blind eye to Ankara's questioning of Greek sovereignty of several islets in the eastern Aegean.

French ambassador in Athens Bernard Kessedjian yesterday protested to the Greek foreign ministry over Mr. Pangalos' remarks on French policies on the Cyprus issue and EU-Turkish relations.

The ministry's secretary general, ambassador Alexandros Philon, responded to Mr. Kessedjian that there is a general displeasure in the country over French policies, underlining that the positions of the French government on the Cyprus issue, for instance, deviate from those of the European Union.

France repeatedly has supported the unconditional withdrawal of the Greek veto for EU aid to Ankara.

Athens condemns dismissals of two noted Turkish journalists

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas yesterday said that the firing from a major Turkish daily of two Turkish columnists on Tuesday is a reaffirmation that democracy does not function in that country and that human rights are not respected.

In a related development, Eurodeputy Yiannis Roumbatis denounced the actions against "Sabah's" Mehmet Ali Birand and Cengiz Kandar to the European Commission and the European Union Council of Ministers in Brussels.

The two columnists were sacked after former Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) military leader Semdin Sakik had told Turkish judicial authorities that they were linked to the group, which is fighting since 1984 for Kurdish self-rule.

Kozloduy issue raised during Simitis' recent Sofia visit

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas yesterday said that during his recent visit to Bulgaria, Prime Minister Costas Simitis emphatically raised the issue of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant.

He was responding to a question concerning the construction of a nuclear power plant on the southwestern coast of Turkey.

Mr. Reppas said that according to Athens' information, construction of the plant has not proceeded and that the entire process is at a preliminary stage. He further said that Greece is following the issue and its development.

Greece and Italy call for strong Albanian military

The defence ministers of Greece and Italy pledged on Wednesday to help rebuild Albania's military so that it can effectively defend its borders in view of the escalating crisis in neighbouring Kosovo.

"Greece and Italy have a joint responsibility to support the Albanian military so that it can defend its borders on its own," Italian Defence Minister Beniamino Andreatta told reporters after talks with his Greek counterpart Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

Both Greece and Italy sent troops to Albania last year as part of a multinational force to restore order in the poor Balkan nation after widespread disturbances.

Athens and Rome help train Albania's military and retain some troops and military advisers in Albania.

Andreatta was on a one-day visit to Athens and he was also scheduled to meet Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos.

On a proposal for the formation of a multi-national Balkan peace force, Mr. Andreatta said Rome was in favour of the unit being based in a NATO country and its command alternating between the participating countries.

Defence minister to visit Sweden

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos will pay an official visit to Sweden from May 17-19 at the invitation of his Swedish counterpart Bjorn von Sydow.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos will also meet with Swedish Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm Wallen and visit the installations of electronics giant LM Eriksson.

It is believed that Mr. Tsohatzopoulos' talks will be related to recent efforts by Sweden to reorganise its defence structures, establish cooperation in the production of defence material and participate in military exercises within the framework of the "Partnership for Peace" programme.

Papoutsis voices concern over lifting of cabotage

The likely adoption of a text on coastal shipping by the EU's ship-ping ministers' council, containing a series of amendments of the EU Directive on cabotage, will have adverse effects on Greek shipping, according to EU Commissioner Christos Papoutsis.

Athens' concerns are focused on the number of crewmembers on passenger ships and their working hours.

Serious problems may arise in Greek shipping in 2004, according to Mr. Papoutsis, when foreign-flag-ged vessels will be allowed to carry out routes in Greek waters.

Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock has proposed that issues like the above not be governed by national laws but by the laws of the registry under which the ships are registered.

Mr. Papoutsis wondered how it was possible for the Commission to impose such an arrangement of issues of such importance to Greek shipping without acknwoledging the fact that the relevant Greek laws were fully adjusted to the needs of the specific sector in Greece.

Ecumenical Patriarch on new Greek Prelate's election

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos stated yesterday that he is looking forward to a "close and friendly" cooperation with new Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos.

"We are particularly close with the new Archbishop, we are friends," he told ANA, stressing their "strong spiritual link".

"We are looking forward to receiving him at the Ecumenical Patriarchate with particular joy," he said, adding that he hopes to visit Athens soon after.

The Autocephalus Orthodox Church of Greece is the only Orthodox Church that the Patriarch has not visited. A planned visit was postponed three times due to the ill health of late Archbishop Serapheim.

Cutbacks in expenditures envisioned

Expenditures contained in the 1999 budget will freeze in order to facilitate a decrease in the deficit, according to a target set by the Convergence Programme.

Considerable cutbacks are anticipated in special categories of expenditures, such as operational expenses (electricity, water, telephone, etc), transport costs and civil servants' travel expenses.

Cutbacks in expenses are anticipated in a circular on the preparation of the 1999 budget, expected to be sent to all ministries and public agencies next week, to enable them to start processes for a new budget. The main points in the circular were annou nced beforehand by Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis.

Auction for state securities

An auction of state securities will be held on May 4, according to an announcement by the finance ministry. The date of issue and settlement will be May 6, 1998.

The securities to be auctioned will be treasury bills of a three-month duration amounting to 70 billion drachmas and six-month T-bills amounting to 50 billion drachmas.

German tourist agents visit Crete

Some 800 tourist agents from Germany recently visited Crete for a presentation of tourism-related programmes and their further acquaintance with Crete.

The seminar was also attended by the Greek National Tourist Organisation's (EOT) director in Germany, Platon Davakis.

The German tourist agents were invited by the Codor, Air Marin, Fischer Reisen and Kreutzer firms and were hosted by the Maris Hotels group.

State telecom share sale raises 126 bln for state coffer

The sale of 3.5 percent of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) to Greek and foreign institutional investors raised 126 billion drachmas, Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis said yesterday.

The private placement carried out this week, brings the total of shares sold to private investors to around 24 percent of the state telecom's share capital, Mr. Christodoulakis said.

All shares available in the float were placed, with a minor stake reserved as an incentive for OTE's staff. Institutional investors bought 15 million shares and OTE took one million for its personnel.

The stock's price was 8,700 drachmas less a 3.4 percent discount, a practice customary on international markets for private placements. The discount was offered for bids on large blocs of shares.

Eighty percent of shares were sold to foreign institutionals and 20 percent to domestic institutions.

Coordinating the float was National Bank of Greece, the country's largest bank. Among foreign banks handling the float were Credit Suisse First Boston and Salomon Smith Barney.

The third float, representing 10-15 percent of the firm's share capital, will be held in autumn.

Greek stocks sprint ahead for second straight session

Greek equities ended higher yesterday for the second consecutive session pushing the general index above the 2,500-point level.

The index ended 2.69 percent higher at 2,511.56 points.

Traders said the market was relieved after a barrage of comments from government officials dismissing talk of a new drachma devaluation.

The market was also encouraged by a successful offering of a 3.0 percent stake of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation to institutional investors via the market.

Trading was heavy with turnover at a new record of 222.3 billion drachmas with 130 billion of the total accounting for the state telecom share transaction.

Sector indices scored gains. Banks rose 4.04 percent, Insurance was 3.33 percent up, Investments ended 3.93 percent higher, Leasing increased 4.15 percent, Industrials rose 2.16 percent, Construction ended 1.20 percent up, Miscellaneous increased 4.22 p ercent and Holding was up 3.81 percent.

The parallel market index rose 1.59 percent, and the FTSE/ASE 20 blue chip index increased 2.74 percent to 1,513.24.

Strintzis Lines, Klonatex, Nikas, Alpha Invest, Ergodata, Bank of Central Greece, Bank of Athens, Sea Farm Ionian and Etma scored the biggest percentage gains at the day's 8.0 percent limit up.

Ergas, Viokarpet and Desmos suffered the heaviest losses hitting the 8.0 percent down limit.

National Bank of Greece ended at 53,350 drachmas, Ergobank at 27,895, Alpha Credit Bank at 30,700, Delta Dairy at 4,290, Titan Cement at 25,100 Intracom at 18,900 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,650.

Foreign investors absorb domestic drachma sales in money market

The domestic money market was stable yesterday as foreign investors positioned themselves in drachmas, offsetting increased sales of the national currency by domestic investors.

Banking sources reported a 20-million US dollar capital outflow, reflecting a drachma/foreign currency swap in the domestic market totalling 500 billion drachmas.

Gov't backs economic diplomacy

Economic diplomacy could play a key role in creating permanent cooperation among Balkan states, Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos told a meeting of foreign diplomats yesterday.

Mr. Pangalos underlined Greece's strong presence in the European Union's financial aid programmes (PHARE, TACIS) and in SECI, a US initiative to promote administration infrastructure in the Balkans and adaptation to a free market economy.

He stressed the need for the creation of a communications network among Balkan states in transport, telecommunications, energy and information.

Attending the monthly meeting, which is backed by the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board, were ambassadors and commercial and trade attaches from countries of the European Union, Balkans, eastern Europe, Americas, north Africa and Asia.

Port of Piraeus definitely set for privatisation

Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis repeated that the port of Piraeus would be modernised through privatisation, a move that has brought protests from dockworkers unions.

The transition, which would not be accomplished hastily, was being studied, Mr. Soumakis told a news conference yesterday.

He was speaking in the wake of a rift with the port authority's president, George Klavdianos, who on Tuesday submitted his resignation to the prime minister, alleging unwarranted intervention by the minister in the port's operation. Saying he had erred in choosing Mr. Klavdianos for the post, Mr. Soumakis insisted he would continue visiting the port to check the standard of services.

Panionios wins 1997-98 Football Cup

The underrated Panionios Nea Smyrni club beat cross-town power Panathinaikos Athens 1-0 yesterday to win the 1997-98 Greek football Cup. The only goal of the match was posted in the 53rd minute with a short header. The Nea Smyrni team finished with nine players, following two players' exit with red cards.

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos watched the game and later awarded the Cup to the Panionios side.

WEATHER

Fair weather is forecast for most parts of Greece today with scattered showers in eastern Macedonia, Thrace, the islands of the eastern Aegean, and the Dodecanese. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 10-22C. Possibility of scattered showers in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 9- 21C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 314.166 British pound 523.974 Japanese yen(100) 238.308 French franc 52.072 German mark 174.592 Italian lira (100) 17.682 Irish Punt 440.964 Belgian franc 8.455 Finnish mark 57.603 Dutch guilder 155.099 Danish kr. 45.830 Austrian sch. 24.840 Spanish peseta 2.058 Swedish kr. 40.495 Norwegian kr. 42.091 Swiss franc 210.175 Port. Escudo 1.706 Aus. dollar 203.955 Can. dollar 218.716 Cyprus pound 596.807

(C.E.)


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