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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-07-09

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, 09/07/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Tsohatzopoulos calls for Cyprus' demilitarisation
  • EFG Eurobank buys stake in Ergobank
  • Greek stocks end higher again propelled by banks
  • Gov't soon to tender two banks
  • Greece seeks closer transport, communications ties with Balkans
  • Government plan to overhaul urban transport for release end-July
  • New Democracy lashes out at gov't over urban transport
  • Greek, EU officials meet to debate combatting unemployment
  • Altec buys out Unisoft
  • Prices of 87 pharmaceuticals change
  • Greek military chief confers with Hungarian counterpart
  • G. Papandreou calls on Turkey to stop creating tension in Cyprus
  • Lesvos police ticket a second cyclist
  • Moscow exhibition on Athens
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Tsohatzopoulos calls for Cyprus' demilitarisation

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said here yesterday that the paramount problem in Cyprus was not how to win an arms race but how to solve the island's political problem.

"The problem is not the strengthening of weapons systems on Cyprus. The problem we should be discussing is the resolution of the Cyprus issue," he stated at a joint press conference, and after talks with his US counterpart William Cohen at the Pentagon.

He stressed that Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides' proposal for demilitarisation of the island republic offered the best chance for a solution.

"The island is indeed highly militarised. A continuously increasing military presence is noted in its (Turkish occupied) northern part, which actually fuels tensions.

For us there is only one solution: It is the policy of demilitarisation which has been proposed by President Clerides and will provide the opportunity to reduce and abolish the weapons systems," he said.

Mr. Cohen said that during their talks they discussed ways of reducing tension, including the idea for the establishment of a no-fly zone for Greek and Turkish aircraft and a possible cancellation of the Russian S-300 missiles ordered by Cyprus.

"The no-fly zone is one possibility that could be explored, but we have not made any decision on what the results should be in terms of how we achieve this reduction in tensions," the US defense secretary said.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that if Turkey agreed to the demilitarisation "possibly one could envisage the non-installation of the S-300 system."

"If Turkey refused to accept a 'no-fly zone' as part of even a partial demilitarisation, it's very, very difficult for the Cypriot government to unilaterally move towards disarmament," he added.

The Cypriot government has postponed the planned delivery from Russia of the anti-aircraft missiles until November to give more time for a solution. The deployment had been initially scheduled for the end of the summer.

EFG Eurobank buys stake in Ergobank

EFG Eurobank, a member of the Latsis Group, has bought a stake in Ergobank, a blue chip on the Athens bourse, bankers and brokers said yesterday.

Neither bank immediately confirmed the report.

According to market sources, EFG Eurobank bought around 12 percent of stock from Lazaros Efremoglou, a major shareholder of Ergobank.

Mr. Efremoglou had clashed with Ergobank's board over its strategic choices and was seeking a buyer, the same sources said.

The stake in Ergobank owned by Mr. Efremoglou,a former New Democracy party deputy, is believed to be worth more than 100 billion drachmas.

EFG Eurobank recently surprised the market by offering 93 billion drachmas payable over four years for Cretabank, which the government tendered as part of its privatisation plan.

The offer was roughly double that of two other bidding banks. The official outcome of the tender has yet to be announced.

Greek stocks end higher again propelled by banks

Greek equities ended higher for the third consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday led by a buying spree in bank shares.

The general index ended 1.20 percent higher at 2,628.40 points, sharply off the day's highs, which showed gains of more than 2.70 percent. Trading remained heavy with turnover at 80 billion drachmas.

Sector indices scored gains. Banks rose 1.91 percent, Insurance jumped 2.49 percent, Investment soared 4.12 percent, Leasing jumped 7.98 percent, Industrials increased 0.82 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.28 percent up, Holding rose 0.26 percent, but Construction bucked the trend to end 0.21 percent off.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 0.86 percent down. The FTSE/ASE 20 index rose 1.46 percent to 1,595.88.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 122 to 118 with another 15 issues unchanged.

Ergobank, Bank of Piraeus, Macedonia-Thrace Bank, Attica Bank, Bank of Central Greece, Alpha Leasing, ETBA Leasing, Ionian Hotels, Rokas, Britania, Etma, Ergodata, Commercial Invest, Ionian Invest, Piraeus Leasing and Phoenix scored the biggest percentage gains hitting the daily 8.0 percent limit up.

Hellenic Petroleum, Development Invest, Zampa, Thessaliki, Babyland, Dane, Eskimo, Ridenco and General Warehouses suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 47,150 drachmas, Ergobank at 32,724, Alpha Credit Bank at 27,300, Ionian Bank at 16,700, Delta Dairy at 3,800, Titan Cement at 22,900, Intracom at 13,050, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,655 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,480 drachmas.

Gov't soon to tender two banks

The government is expected to call international tenders shortly for the privatisation of Ionian Bank and Bank of Central Greece, ministry sources said yesterday.

A tender for Bank of Central Greece, a subsidiary of Agricultural Bank of Greece, is expected to be called within days.

The sale, which should be completed by the end of July, will be effected through the Athens Stock Exchange, the sources said.

Agricultural Bank holds around 55 percent of its subsidiary's stock. A dispute is still pending with past shareholders that could complicate the sale, but the government may use legal means to safeguard the rights of any new buyer, the sources said.

A tender for the sale of Ionian Bank, whose main shareholder is Commercial Bank of Greece, is expected to be called next week with the sale also being effected through the Athens bourse.

Commercial Bank is expected to sell 51 percent of the Ionian shares it holds, retaining around 4-5 percent, the sources said.

The deadline for bids is likely to be the end of August. JP Morgan will carry out a valuation of the bank, they said.

Greece seeks closer transport, communications ties with Balkans

Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis begins a three-day official visit to Belgrade today as part of a Greek initiative to promote cooperation with its Balkan neighbours in transport and communications.

Mr. Mantelis will head a team of senior executives from state enterprises that fall under his ministry's jurisdiction. He is scheduled to hold talks with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, Yugoslav federal Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, and the Yugos lav ministers of transport and communications.

The visit aims to review cooperation between the two countries in transport and communications and sign a new agreement on road transport.

Also due for debate are air traffic in the region, promoting rail transport, and developing telecommunications.

Government plan to overhaul urban transport for release end-July

The government's plan to overhaul public transport and write off debts of the Athens Urban Transport Organisation (OASA) will be released by the end of the month, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.

Many of the debts to be written off are book entries and compound interest on old loans, Mr. Reppas said in reply to a reporter's question.

The government wished urban transport to retain its social nature and keep ticket prices down. As a result, the government, which had allowed OASA to resort to borrowing, was burdened with the debt, the spokesman said.

The planned revitalisation was not linked to Athens bourse entry, he said. Mr. Reppas also charged past New Democracy (ND) governments with throwing urban transport to private concerns and increasing its debts.

This was the first time a concerted plan to overhaul OASA had been attempted with the backing of workers, he said.

New Democracy lashes out at gov't over urban transport

The main opposition New Democracy party yesterday criticised the government for extravagance, mismanagement and party favouritism in its debt write-off for OASA.

"After renationalising urban transport first to suit the whims of the trade union and party nomenclature, after allowing, through mismanagement, the creation of huge losses and debts, they are now appearing to throw almost one trillion drachmas down the drain, with no justification, no explanation, and no shame towards Greek taxpayers," ND leader Costas Karamanlis said in a statement.

He said the amount was equivalent to two Metros, more than 50 ultramodern hospitals and innumerable schools.

Mr. Karamanlis said that 700 billion drachmas had already been squandered on Olympic Airways and over 200 billion drachmas on agricultural cooperatives. ND spokesman,Akis Spiliotopoulos later char-ged the government with wasting around 900 billion of ta xpayers' money on the debt scheme in order to keep ruling PASOK party supporters in place.

ND deputy George Alogoskoufis, who is responsible for the party's economy section, said a debt write-off was unavoidable due to the state of OASA's finances. The point was to avoid new debts, he said.

Greek, EU officials meet to debate combatting unemployment

Officials of the government and the European Union's executive commission met in Brussels yesterday to find ways of combatting unemployment in Greece, especially among the young.

The government officials were from the labour ministry, the state-owned Manpower Employment Organisation and the National Labour Institute, which belongs to the General Confederation of Greek Labour.

The officials met to discuss the government's national employment plan, focusing on youth.

The plan includes proposals on backing investment proposals by small and medium sized enterprises and regular exchanges of information with EU organisations.

Altec buys out Unisoft

Altec is buying 70 percent of software company Unisoft for around one billion drachmas, ending the first round of Altec's acquisitions in the information technology sector, sources said yesterday. Last week it bought out Microland, signalling its entry into the retail sector.

Prices of 87 pharmaceuticals change

The prices of 116 pharmaceuticals were changed yesterday following a request by drug companies and a decision by Development Undersecretary Mihalis Chrysohoidis. The prices of 87 medicines will increase on average between 3.5 to 4 per cent.

The prices of a remaining 29 pharmaceuticals will decrease by up to 7 per cent to enable them to be included in the list of prescribed medicines.

Greek military chief confers with Hungarian counterpart

The military chiefs of Greece and Hungary, Gen. Athanasios Tzoganis and Gen. Ferenc Veg, yesterday expressed here their desire for bilateral cooperation towards maintaining stability and security in the Balkans as well as for resolution of crises through peaceful means.

The two military chiefs were speaking at a joint press conference in the Hungarian capital during Gen. Tzoganis' three-day official visit to the country.

Replying to reporters' questions on Nicosia's plans to purchase and install Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles on Cyprus later in the year, Gen. Tzoganis said there had been too much fuss over the issue.

He said the planned purchase was a commercial deal between Cyprus and Russia concerning the defence of the divided island republic.

Gen. Tzoganis stressed that the missiles were purely defensive in nature and that Cyprus, like any other country, had every right to improve its defences.

Referring to arms purchases by Greece and Turkey, Gen. Tzoganis said Athens had no desire to enter into an arms race but had to ensure its defence and security. He added that the purchase of a number of military aircraft was necessary in order to modern ise the country's armed forces.

G. Papandreou calls on Turkey to stop creating tension in Cyprus

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday urged Turkey to realise that its efforts to create tension do not hamper Cyprus' position but its own vis-a-vis the European Union and the international community.

"On the contrary, Cyprus, with its stand has shown all the ways for a peaceful resolution of the Cyprus problem, demilitarisation, and a reduction in tension, to which Turkey has not responded," he said after a meeting in Athens with George Vassiliou, head of the Cypriot negotiating team at the EU accession talks and former president of the island republic.

The meeting, in which participants also included Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis and foreign ministry officials, focused on the issue of the harmonisation of Cypriot legislation to the acquis communautaire.

Before the meeting, and responding to questions, Mr. Vassiliou said tension on the island was on the way to de-escalation, and that no country of the European Union was seriously concerned over Turkey's effort to create tension. He added that he hoped a recent letter by Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, reiterating the proposal for the island's demilitarisation, had helped in defusing the tension.

Also responding to questions, Mr. Kranidiotis said he hoped Turkey would realise that commencement of dialogue for a just and viable solution to the problem was to its own interest.

Lesvos police ticket a second cyclist

A Norwegian foreign language teacher will be the second person tried on the island of Lesvos for riding a bicycle without a proper licence.

The first cyclist led to court on a similar charge was a 14-year-old girl injured last year by a bus while riding her bicycle.

According to reports, the Norwegian national apparently tried to register her bicycle but authorities refused her application. They reportedly cited lack of a sales receipt or any other proof of ownership for the 10-year-old bicycle.

Greek traffic code stipulates the need for all vehicles, whether engine- powered or not, to be registered, although practically all bicycles throughout Greece are presently unregistered.

Moscow exhibition on Athens

An exhibition opening in Moscow today until Aug. 12 will focus on the city of Athens during the late 19th century.

The event, entitled "Greece - The Birthplace of the Olympic Games", is organised in view of the Youth Olympics, starting in the Russian capital in a few days.

Apart from more than 50 paintings from Greek museums by Greek and European artists, to be exhibited at Moscow's History Museum, visitors will also have the chance to see a scale model of Athens' centre and daily life in 1896, during the first modern Olympics.

WEATHER

Scattered cloud with the possibility of local rain in the Ionian Sea, mainland Greece and the north Aegean Sea. Winds westerly to northerly mild to strong and occasionally very strong. Fine weather in Athens with temperatures between 21-36C. Same in Thessaloniki with the possibility of light rain and temperatures from 19-33C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 300.437 British pound 492.746 Japanese yen (100) 215.324 French franc 49.400 German mark 165.590 Italian lira (100) 16.816 Irish Punt 417.334 Belgian franc 8.031 Finnish mark 54.441 Dutch guilder 146.954 Danish kr. 43.452 Austrian sch. 23.552 Spanish peseta 1.953 Swedish kr. 37.355 Norwegian kr. 39.073 Swiss franc 196.917 Port. Escudo 1.619 Aus. dollar 185.702 Can. dollar 204.491 Cyprus pound 566.333

(C.E.)


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