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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 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

  • PM: Greece not accountable to Turkey or allies over Ocalan affair
  • Opposition leader reiterates call on Simitis to resign
  • Gov't confirms US move on Greek-Turkish relations
  • Top diplomat appointed new head of intelligence service
  • Inflation holds steady at 3.7 per cent in February
  • Greece has time to cut inflation, Bear Stearns says
  • Share prices slightly up after volatile session
  • Bond prices slump, yield steady with bunds
  • 'Temporary delay' cited in US weapons sales to Greece
  • Greek antiquities again exhibited at Met
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

PM: Greece not accountable to Turkey or allies over Ocalan affair

Prime minister Costas Simitis said today that Greece does not give account or explanations to anyone, "particularly to Turkey, which provocatively and shamelessly violates human rights".

Addressing an off-the-agenda parliamentary debate on foreign policy in the aftermath of the Ocalan affair, Simitis said that neither was Greece accountable to its allies "whose passive stance led (Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah) Ocalan to a sojourn without outlet and brought Greece before dilemmas and situations that only Greece had the right to avoid for reasons of stability in the region".

Nor was the country accountable to the Kurds "because Greece has actively shown its solidarity and does not need to prove its sentiments or stance," he added.

Simitis also said that Greece did not have to give account for its intentions in the Ocalan affair, and described as "unacceptable and deeply insulting" for the nation and its democratic form of government "even the slightest insinuation on the government's intentions and stance".

"No one has the right to hint at ulterior motives and expediencies," Simitis warned, adding that this applied not only to the current government but every government that formally represented Greece.

Opposition leader reiterates call on Simitis to resign

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis said during the parliamentary debate that "the only responsible act" would be for Simitis to resign.

During his address, Karamanlis variously labelled the government's handling of the Ocalan affair as "amateurish", "irresponsible" and "tragic", charging that it had resulted in unprecedented national humiliation and "the blackest page" in the country's history since democracy was restored in 1974 after a seven-year military dictatorship.

"Greek men and women feel sadness, shame and anger. Sadness because of where the country has been led, shame for the reckless handling and anger because those responsible for this handling refuse to shoulder their responsibility," Karamanlis said.

Gov't confirms US move on Greek-Turkish relations

The government on Friday confirmed that the US charge d'affaires in Athens, Terry Snell, had called on foreign ministry secretary-general Pavlos Apostolides advising Greece and Turkey to lower the tone of their verbal exchanges and stop quarrelling in order for their bilateral relations to become calm.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas confirmed that Snell met with Apostolidis yesterday afternoon and said that the United States had made a similar approach to Ankara.

Commenting on the US move, Reppas said Greece followed a policy based on principles in its desire for peace, security and stability in the region.

Asked why Washington addressed itself to Greece also, rather than just Turkey, Reppas replied that the United States believed Athens must also contribute to help defuse the tension in its relations with Ankara.

Replying to other questions, the spokesman said that Greece's veto on EU financial assistance to Turkey continued to apply. In order for there to be a normalisation of relations, he added, Turkey must display behaviour of a different kind.

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.

Inflation holds steady at 3.7 per cent in February

Year-on-year inflation in February remained at 3.7 per cent, the same as the previous month, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said on Friday.

The NSS said the February consumer price index rose 0.5 per cent compared to January, due to price increases of 0.3 per cent in "Foodstuffs and Non- alcoholic Beverages", 1.7 per cent in "Alcoholic Drinks-Tobacco" and 1.9 per cent in the category of "Entertainment-Culture".

Data revealed price increases in dairy products, fruit and vegetables, cigarettes, clothing and footwear in February.

The NSS predicted a de-escalation of inflation during the coming months, particularly after April, when the repercussions from the 14 per cent devaluation of the drachma in March last year are expected to have subsided.

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.

Share prices slightly up after volatile session

Share prices ended a volatile session moderately higher on the Athens Stock exchange on Friday.

The general index ended 0.67 percent up to 3,253.67 points after dropping as much as 0.70 percnet early in the session. The index showed a net loss of 3.67 percent in the week.

Turnover was 112.4 billion drachmas and volume 24,333,576 shares.

Traders said buying activity focused on shares in the construction, holding and small cap companies sectors.

Sector indices scored gains. Banks rose 0.48 percent, Leasing increased 0.70 percent, Insurance ended 0.94 percent up, Investment rose 0.86 percent, Construction jumped 2.31 percent, Industrials soared 1.48 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.24 percent higher and Holding rose 2.01 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 1.03 percent up, while the FTSE/ASE 20 index rose 0.32 percent to 2,001.31.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 196 to 75 with another 23 issues unchanged.

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 daily 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.

'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.

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 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
(S.S.)
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