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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-03-05

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, 05/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Top diplomat appointed new head of intelligence service
  • Greece has time to cut inflation, Bear Stearns says
  • Stocks dive on politics, shrug off economic forecasts
  • Bond prices slump, yield steady with bunds
  • ANEK, NEL approve strategic deal
  • Delta Dairy to become holding company
  • Drys: Gov't will reduce taxes in '99
  • Thessaloniki signs draft agreement with Lithuania's Kaunas region
  • Land registry progress cited
  • Lifting of EU protocol veto will be considered if guarantees given
  • G. Papandreou briefs Karamanlis on Ocalan affair, Kosovo
  • 'Temporary delay' cited in US weapons sales to Greece
  • Turkish warplanes violate Athens FIR
  • US reportedly requests 'lower tones' by Greece, Turkey
  • Greek antiquities again exhibited at Met
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Top diplomat appointed new head of intelligence service

The current foreign ministry secretary-general was appointed head of the Greek intelligence service yesterday.

Pavlos Apostolidis replaces Haralambos Stavrakakis, who was recently asked to resign in the wake of the Ocalan affair. His appointment was announced by Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou following a Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KY SEA) meeting.

Ms Papandreou said her proposals regarding the new director of the National Information Service (EYP) and a new framework of operation of EYP had been unanimously accepted by KYSEA.

"I hope in the next few days to inform political party leaders about EYP's new operating framework," she said.

Along with Mr. Stavrakakis, three prominent ministers were also sacked following the capture in Kenya and transfer to Turkey of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The PKK leader had been staying at the Greek ambassador's residence in Nairobi.

Greece has time to cut inflation, Bear Stearns says

The European Union wants Greece to join the euro and the country still has plenty of time to lower its inflation, Bear Stearns said in a report yesterday.

The US investment firm noted in the report carried by Reuters: "Where there is political will, there is a way".

Bear Stearns was confident that Greece, which had come a long way towards convergence, would not face any problems meeting the Maastricht criteria for entry into the euro zone in the next two years.

The report underlined that even if performance was less than expected, "the European Union is highly unlikely to block Greece's participation in EMU in January 2001" because of a major improvement in the country's economy.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas stressed yesterday that Greece would join the "euro zone" according to the scheduled timetable, dismissing speculation about a review of relevant Maastricht Treaty criteria. He said Greece had not raised an issue of more flexible criteria for EMU entry, but added that there were now more general concerns as some parametres had changed.

Stocks dive on politics, shrug off economic forecasts

A sell-off hit the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday pushing share prices sharply lower.

Traders said market sentiment has been damaged by tension in Greek-Turkish relations.

Largely ignored by the market were the prime minister's optimistic predictions on the future of the economy and the central bank governor's estimates of 2.0 percent inflation in June or soon after.

The general index ended 108.37 points, or 3.24 percent off, at 3,232.02 points. Turnover was 126.5 billion drachmas and volume 27,263,448 shares.

Sector indices suffered losses.

Banks fell 3.12 percent, Leasing dropped 3.56 percent, Insurance eased 1.84 percent, Investment ended 3.42 percent off, Construction plunged 5.48 percent, Industrials fell 3.20 percent, Miscellaneous ended 3.73 percent down and Holding dropped 4.58 perc ent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 2.0 percent off, while the FTSE/ASE 20 index dropped 3.32 percent to 1,994.90.

Buying activity focused on 20 stocks, mainly textiles, which ended sharply higher, hitting the daily 8.0 percent limit up.

Among them were Gnomon, Daring, Levenderis, Alysida, Zampa, Benroubi, Doudos and Klonatex.

A total of 23 shares hit the daily 8.0 percent limit down including Delta Dairy, Aegek, Atemke, Vioter, Proodeftiki, Metka, Nematemboriki, Diekat and Mevaco.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 242 to 50 with only two issues unchanged. Thessaliki, Mytilineos, Hellenic Telecoms and Strintzis were the most heavily traded stocks. National Bank of Greece ended at 19,895 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 32,500, Ergobank at 22,250, Ionian Bank at 17,975, Titan Cement at 21,750, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,420, Intracom at 19, 600, Minoan Lines at 7,470, Panafon at 8,610 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7, 195.

Bond prices slump, yield steady with bunds

Bond prices in the domestic market for 10- and 15-year paper slumped 100- 115 basis points yesterday largely due to sales by investors abroad but yields held steady with German bunds as the two kept pace, traders said. Electronic trade was 117 billion drachmas.

The latest 10-year bonds were trading at 100.30 with yield at 6.26 percent, and 15-year paper at 101.30 with yield of 6.36 percent.

The foreign currency market was unscathed by negative sentiment, and bond sales were not accompanied by a demand for foreign currency, and therefore outflows.The euro was flat versus the drachma. It was set at 321.900 drachmas at the central bank's dai ly fix from 321.660 in the previous session.

The dollar was stronger, ending at 296.530 drachmas at the fix from 294.590 a day earlier.

Rates were soft in the interbank market in high liquidity.

ANEK, NEL approve strategic deal

ANEK Lines and NEL Lines, both listed passenger shippers, yesterday informed the bourse of a strategic investment deal under which ANEK would buy into a share capital increase by NEL.

NEL's board approved ANEK's bid to buy a stake of up to four billion drachmas in the firm's anticipated share capital increase by 10-17 billion drachmas. NEL's shareholders will be asked to endorse the scheme.

The two companies' boards also agreed to cooperate in a series of strategic plans that will be announced when the details are finalised.

Delta Dairy to become holding company

Delta Dairy, a blue chip on the Athens bourse, is to become a holding company and create two new subsidiaries, Delta Foods and Delta Ice Cream.

General Foods (Uncle Stathis) along with the above firms will form the basis of the company.

Delta's strategic partner, Danone, is to retain its 20 percent holding.

The Greek company's managing director, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, told a news conference that creating a holding company would allow more flexibility to handle new business.

The Delta Group's consolidated profits were 4.0 billion drachmas in 1998 on turnover of 110 billion drachmas. Investments in the same year totalled 16 billion drachmas.

Drys: Gov't will reduce taxes in '99

Deputy Finance Minister George Drys yesterday reiterated that the government will reduce direct taxation this year.

Mr. Drys, speaking in Irakleio, Crete, also noted a modernisation of customs services on the island, as well as a more prompt provision of services to citizens.

He also announced the induction of the island's custom services to the "ISS" network by October and of the tax offices on Crete into the "TAXIS" programme by May.

Thessaloniki signs draft agreement with Lithuania's Kaunas region

A draft cooperation agreement was signed in Thessaloniki yesterday between the prefecture and the Kaunas region of Lithuania.

The agreement anticipates inter-regional cooperation and the development of economic, cultural and social relations, as well as facilitating businesses from the two regions.

Representatives of the two delegations agreed to extend cooperation to other sectors as well.

Land registry progress cited

Procedures for creating a national land registry are proceeding at a speedy rate. According to the registry's programme, unveiled yesterday by the environment town planning and public works ministry, on April 5 submission of ownership statements will begin in 276 municipalities in 46 prefectures. Twenty-four of these municipalities are in Attica.

Owners of the 276 municipalities included in the second programme have a period of three months to submit statements, while people living abroad have six months.

Greece is the only country in the European Union without even a partial national land registry in place.

Lifting of EU protocol veto will be considered if guarantees given

The daily informative bulletin "Agence Europe" recently published an interview with Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis, entitled "The Greek veto on the financial protocol for Turkey could be lifted if Athens secured guarantees from the EU."

"Greece is prepared to examine the lifting of its veto on the financial protocol concerning Customs Union with Turkey and will undertake an initiative for strengthening Common Foreign Policy and Security Policy (CFPSP), Greece's new European Affairs Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis told the 'Europe', also calling on the Union to undertake an initiative concerning Cyprus," the report reads.

Setting out Mr. Kranidiotis' views on a series of issues, the report went on to say:

"Financial Protocol. 'Greece is prepared to negotiate its veto provided it receives certain guarantees that it will receive something in exchange either from Turkey, or if this is not possible, from the Union partners,' Mr. Kranidiotis said and referred to two possibilities: a) Turkey accepts reference of the continental shelf issue and of disputed islets to the International Court at The Hague: Then 'we could reconsider our position,' he said, b) 'if this is not possible', Greece could also reconsider its position 'if the EU offers it certain guarantees.' In other words if the EU undertakes 'political commitments which guarantee and support the Greek position on the Aegean'."

On the question of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, "Europe is the victim of the absence of CFPSP" because "the Kurdish problem is ultimately a European one." According to Mr. Kranidiotis the EU "should have reacted" and should still do so because "the Kurdish problem remains open."

G. Papandreou briefs Karamanlis on Ocalan affair, Kosovo

Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday briefed main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on the latest developments in the wake of the Ocalan affair as well as issues related to the strife-torn Yugoslav province of Kosovo.

After the meeting, Mr. Karamanlis said questions still remained regarding the circumstances surrounding the capture of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya, stressing that the government had an obligation to give political party leaders a copy of a report on the affair by Greece's ambassador to Nairobi, Georgios Costoulas.

Mr. Karamanlis reiterated ND's call for the establishment of a "national council on foreign policy" to formulate a responsible national policy. He underlined that Prime Minister Costas Simitis should reconsider his refusal in this respect. Mr. Papandreou said he had also briefed Mr. Karamanlis on developments in Greek-Turkish relations, while saying that the Kurdish issue was not a Greek-Turkish problem.

Earlier this week, Mr. Papandreou met with Coalition of the Left leader Nikos Constantopoulos, Democratic Social Movement president Dimitris Tsovolas, honorary ND president Constantine Mitsotakis and the chairman of Parliament's foreign affairs committee and former foreign minister Karolos Papoulias.

Mr. Papandreou said on Tuesday that his aim was "to allow the participation of the political parties and continuously inform them within a framework of consensus in order to formulate a common strategy on a number of issues which cover the entire spectr um of Greek foreign policy".

The ultimate objective, he said, is to strengthen Greece's position internationally.

The foreign minister said Greece's reply to Turkey's efforts to create tension was "our national concord".

"Turkey is looking for scapegoats for its own domestic problems. Greece is a democratic country which allows Kurdish organisations to operate. But it does not permit terrorism. Greece has repeatedly condemned terrorism. Turkey's accusations will fall on deaf ears and its propaganda will not bear fruit," Mr. Papandreou said.

Greece will launch a campaign to inform not only diplomatic authorities but also international public opinion, he said, which will highlight respect for human rights while at the same time showing that Turkey's European orientation depends on its mainta ining relations befitting good neighbours, respecting the rules of international law and helping to resolve the Cyprus problem.

'Temporary delay' cited in US weapons sales to Greece

In response to a press question on whether there is an official freeze on US weapons sales to Greece after claims of an illegal transfer of technology from Athens to Moscow, a US Pentagon spokesman said "there is no official freeze, there is an unofficial and temporary delay and as soon as this issue is resolved I expect that sales will be resumed again."

Called on to comment on the course of this investigation, Ken Bacon said an in-depth investigation was conducted with absolute cooperation by the Greek government, while initial information appears to be very positive, but consultations are continuing w ithin the government, as well as with US Congress.

"The relationship between Greece and the US is very strong," Mr. Bacon said, pointing to the recent signing in Athens of a contract for the purchase by Greece of the "Patriot" missile system, valued at US$1.4 billion. "This agreement would not have been signed unless there was a strong relationship of trust between the US and Greece," Mr. Bacon said.

Turkish warplanes violate Athens FIR

The Greek government announced yesterday that several Turkish warplanes, more than likely equip-ped for aerial reconnaisance, had infringed on Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) regulations.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the infringements took place on Wednesday, while Athens would react through diplomatic channels.

He declined, however, to specify when the government would respond, saying "substantiation requires a certain amount of time."

Defence ministry sources attached no particular significance to Wednesday's FIR infringements by a small number of Turkish warplanes.

The same sources clarified that no violations of Greek airspace were reported.

However yesterday, according to sources, six Turkish F-16 warplanes again infringed on Athens FIR regulations and violated Greek national airspace over the eastern Aegean islands of Kos, Hios and Samos.

The Turkish warplanes were intercepted by Hellenic Air Force fighters, according to the same sources.

US reportedly requests 'lower tones' by Greece, Turkey

The US charge d' affaires in Athens reportedly handed a demarche yesterday from the US administration to Greece, requesting "lower tones" in the latest Greek-Turkish verbal exchanges.

Charge d' affaires Terry Snell met with the Greek foreign ministry's secretary general Pavlos Apostolidis.

According to diplomatic sources, the US ambassador to Turkey handed a similar demarche to Ankara.

Mr. Snell, who is acting ambassador to Greece in light of US ambassador Nicholas Burns' absence in the United States, initially requested to be received by Foreign Minister George Papandreou, according to the same sources.

Greek antiquities again exhibited at Met

The director of New York's Metropolitan Museum yesterday announced that, beginning April 20, several Greek antiquities will be exhibited again at the museum following extensive renovations in seven halls.

The 6,000-square-metre exhibition space will include antiquities from several eras, Philip de Montebelo said, while speaking in a central Athens hotel.

He added that the US$8 million spent for renovations was donated by the Kostopoulos family.

WEATHER

Cloudy weather with scattered showers will prevail in most parts of Greece today. Winds variable, strong, turning gale force in the Aegean Sea. Possibility of intermittent rain in Athens with temperatures between 11- 17C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 8-15C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          294.158
Pound sterling       473.839
Japanese yen (100)   239.062
French franc          48.680
German mark          163.268
Italian lira (100)    16.492
Irish Punt           405.459
Belgian franc          7.916
Luxembourg franc       7.916
Finnish mark          53.707
Dutch guilder        144.903
Danish kr.            42.954
Austrian sch.         23.206
Spanish peseta         1.920
Swedish kr.           35.654
Norwegian kr.         37.071
Swiss franc          201.009
Port. Escudo           1.593
Aus. dollar          182.310
Can. dollar          192.627
Cyprus pound         549.568
Euro                 319.325
(C.E.)
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