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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-03-09

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, 09/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis confident of Greece's EMU entry
  • Greece united, ready to deal with any Turkish threat
  • Turkish politicians use Greece to offset political instability
  • Greek diplomat in Ankara temporarily detained by Turkish police
  • Greek envoy in US replies to latest Turkish claims
  • Karamanlis continues contacts in US
  • Greece's 1998 fiscal deficit meets EU convergence criterion
  • Stocks jump in better sentiment
  • Moody's gets facts on Greek economy before review
  • German tourists to Greece seen rising in 1999
  • Kokkalis interview on CNN programme
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis confident of Greece's EMU entry

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that he was confident Greece would meet all its goals, including inclusion in Economic and Monetary Union.

Mr. Simitis was speaking after his meeting with President Kostis Stephanopoulos.

"The course of the economy is not about to be affected by the general climate," the prime minister said.

"All the indications are positive - inflation is falling and the general economic picture is positive."

Mr. Simitis told Mr. Stephanopoulos that, despite the difficult conditions, Greece would make all its targets, including EMU.

The prime minister also announced that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will be in Athens on March 17.

Bonn's proposal on co-financing in the agriculture sectors has been withdrawn, Mr. Simitis also announced.

Greece united, ready to deal with any Turkish threat

Turkey would be well advised not to involve Greece and Greek-Turkish relations in its pre-election period, Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis stressed yesterday.

Mr. Kranidiotis, who was replying to reporters' questions, said Greece was "united and ready to deal with any threat from the Turkish side."

"Unfortunately, the only result of Turkey's behaviour is the creation of dangerous impasses," he said.

The Greek minister added that although he did not fear that Ankara might provoke some serious incident in the Aegean, Greece was nevertheless ready - militarily, defensively and diplomatically - to deal with any threat, and expressed a view that Turkey wo uld not attempt such "lunacy".

Replying to other questions, Mr. Kranidiotis said Greece did not support secessionist movements.

Emphasising his opposition to secession through force, he underlined that international relations and borders must be respected.

Referring to the Greek veto on EU funding of Turkey, he said:

"An effort is being made by the European countries to have the veto sidestepped and the principle of unanimity abandoned for subsidisations to Turkey to be promoted. We are opposed and we are determined to prevent this course.

"We have set a series of preconditions for the funding of Turkey, which are valid, and provided these preconditions are met Greece is prepared to view the issue again. These preconditions are Turkey's position on its relations with Greece, in the Aegean , in Cyprus and its overall attitude on human rights issues. However, these are issues for discussion," he added.

Turkish politicians use Greece to offset political instability

Athens charged yesterday that a number of Turkish politicians had chosen Greece as a "hostile target" because of political instability in the neighbouring country and in order to reap popular support for the upcoming Turkish elections.

Replying to reporters' questions on developments in the wake of the Ocalan affair, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas described recent statements by Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit as "an anti-Greek frenzy."

Accusing Mr. Ecevit of "play-acting", he said attempts to associate Greece with acts of terrorism in Turkey were "manifestly spurious" and "excessively impudent" in view of the fact that Turkey continued to occupy one-third of Cypriot territory. He also said Turkey's continuing aggressive and provocative behaviour was "a very bad sign" and in order to confront it, "the only guarantors are Greece and the Greek people".

Replying to a question about Washington, Mr. Reppas said "each third party sees things through its own prism", adding that all Greece sought was the implementation of rules of law.

Asked whether the US wanted Greece to join EMU, he replied that Washington may want this "but it may also want Turkey in Europe, without fulfilling the prerequisites".

Greek diplomat in Ankara temporarily detained by Turkish police

The semi-official Turkish "Anadolu" news agency yesterday apparently distorted the reasons behind the detention of Greece's charge d' affaires in Ankara on Sunday. Michalis Christidis was detained by Turkish police during a stroll in the Turkish capital, despite the fact that he carried all the necessary identification documents, including a diplomatic passport, the Greek embassy stated. The embassy yesterday also forwarded a written demarche to the Turkish foreign ministry.

Anadolu reported that the "strange movements of the Greek diplomat" lead to his detention, insinuating mysterious circumstances.

Greek envoy in US replies to latest Turkish claims

A letter by Greece's ambassador to the US in Saturday's edition of the "Washington Post" rejected as "completely unfounded" Turkey's most recent propaganda and claims of Athens' support for terrorism.

Replying to the newspaper's editorial, published on Feb. 26 under the headline "Greece's Turn", Alexandros Philon stated:

"First, Greece condemns terrorism in all its forms and has developed a long- standing close collaboration with many countries and in particular with its European Union partners and the United States in combating terrorism. The allegation that Greece supports terrorist activities is completely unfounded but remains a constant theme of Turkish propaganda, based on the well-tested principle that the more a fabrication is repeated, the more it is believed.

"The editorial rightly casts doubt on the 'confessions' made by Abdullah Ocalan to his captors and leaked to the Turkish press. Previous claims by Ankara have been thoroughly investigated and proved inaccurate and baseless. The State Department spokesman, when asked on Feb. 23, replied that he has not seen evidence to substantiate such claims. Recently, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees rejected Ankara's claim that terrorists were being trained in the Lavrion refugee center in Greece, given that this center is under permanent inspection by the Red Cross and the United Nations.

"Second, regarding the handling of the Ocalan case by the Greek authorities, it should be pointed out that Mr. Ocalan entered Greece illegally, despite the fact that the Greek government had made it perfectly clear that he should not come to Greece and that it would not grant him political asylum. In fact he already had submitted a request for political asylum in another European country, which was under examination. Greek judicial authorities are investigating his illegal entry into Greece.

"This European country has explained why Mr. Ocalan could not be extradited to Turkey. The same reason holds for Greece. But in order not to make the Ocalan question an issue between Greece and Turkey, the Greek government insisted on his departure from

Greece but gave him, for humanitarian reasons, temporary refuge in Kenya until asylum could be granted by another country.

"Finally, I would like to point out that Greece has repeatedly stated that it supports the territorial integrity and borders of all states and especially those of our troubled region and, therefore, is against separatist movements.

"It is ironic, to say the least, that Turkey, which purports to support territorial integrity and condemns separatism, invaded the state of Cyprus in 1974 and continues an illegal occupation, attempting to impose separatism on an independent state that is a member of the United Nations."

Karamanlis continues contacts in US

Visiting main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis held talks with US officials on developments in Greek-Turkish relations. The Ocalan affair, Cyprus and the economy were discussed on the second day o f his official visit here.

Mr. Karamanlis pointed out to his interlocutors that normalisation of Greek- Turkish relations passes through a change in Turkey's position. He also met US Sen. Edward Kennedy at noon yesterday, saying afterwards that they had a very interesting discussi on.

The ND leader added that they also discussed the issue of Cyprus and added that he and the US senator agreed that UN resolutions must be supported.

Mr. Karamanlis said it was obvious that the intransigent side was Turkey which is not allowing progress towards a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue.

"I must reiterate and underline that we both agree that the accession course of Cyprus must be promoted at last, without this constituting a point of extortion for the political solution," he said. Earlier, Mr. Karamanlis had a working luncheon with th e president and members of the Strategic and Economic Studies Institute, as well as a meeting with the editorial staff of the "Washington Post".

Talks focused on the Ocalan affair, the Greek government's handlings, its repercussions on Greek-Turkish relations and the country's course towards Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

Greece's 1998 fiscal deficit meets EU convergence criterion

The country's fiscal deficit dropped to 2.4 percent of the gross domestic product in 1998 from 3.9 percent a year earlier, for the first time meeting the European Union's alignment criterion.

The Maastricht Treaty's criterion for the key indicator is that a country's fiscal deficit must lie below 3.0 percent of GDP in order to qualify for entry into the euro zone.

Greece posted the fastest rate of decline in the fiscal deficit among EU members from 1995 to 1998.

The country's fiscal deficit for 1998 was released in Brussels yesterday by Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency.

The average fiscal deficit in the EU's 11 euro zone countries was 2.1 percent of GDP in 1998, and an average 1.5 percent of GDP for the 15-nation EU.

Eurostat said in the same statement that Greece's public debt was 106.5 percent of GDP in 1998, down from 109.4 percent in 1997.

The country meets the Maastricht criterion for a declining public debt, whose target is 60 percent of GDP in the medium term.

Stocks jump in better sentiment

Share prices ended the first trading session of the week sharply higher on the Athens Stock Exchange.

The general index ended 2.50 percent up at 3,334.86 points but off the day's highs. Turnover was 130.538 billion drachmas and volume 27,624,047 shares.

Traders said the market had regained confidence in the political scene, including an easing of tension with Turkey.

Also fuelling the market were Friday's euphoria in international markets, the prime minister's reaffirmation of the country's goal to join the euro, and positive comments on the economy by international financial houses.

Sector indices scored gains. Banks soared 3.30 percent, Leasing ended 1.25 percent up, Insurance increased 1.12 percent, Investment rose 1.75 percent, Industrials ended 1.74 percent up, Construction jumped 4.51 percent, Miscellaneous increased 1.67 perc ent and Holding rose 0.48 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 3.22 percent higher while the FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 2.73 percent up at 2,055.97.

Commercial Bank of Greece shares saw heavy demand to end at 38,016 drachmas, hitting the daily 8.0 percent limit up.

The market began to discount a positive outcome in a second tender for the privatisation of a majority stake in Ionian Bank.

Sixty shares hit the daily 8.0 percent limit up. Among them were Commercial Invest, Hellas Can, Viokarpet, Dias, Ionian Invest, Etem, Maxim, Elmec Sport and Daring.

Thessaliki, Mevaco, Doudos, Lambropoulos, Allatini, Technodomi, NEL Lines, Nematemboriki and Ermis suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,050 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 34, 700, Ergobank at 22,750, Ionian Bank at 19,300, Titan Cement at 23,500, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,490, Intracom at 20,345, Minoan Lines at 7,750, Panafon at 8,625 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,160.

Moody's gets facts on Greek economy before review

Analysts of Moody's, the US credit rating agency, are in Athens for two days to gather information on the economy before a regular review of the country's ratings.

The national economy and finance ministries will brief the analysts on inflation, deficits and debts during the visit, which ends today.

The Bank of Greece will supply data on interest rates, credit expansion and foreign exchange policy.

After the last review, Moody's upgraded the outlook for the country's foreign currency debt.

German tourists to Greece seen rising in 1999

Tourist arrivals from Germany are expected to increase in 1999, continuing last year's trend, the Greek National Tourism Organisation's secretary general, Mihalis Kyriakidis, said yesterday.

Mr. Kyriakidis, returning from a trip to Berlin for the international ITB tourism exhibition, said German tour operators were optimistic due to an improvement in the competitiveness of Greek package holidays compared with rival countries, better service , and a small but steady economic recovery in Germany.

During his trip, Mr. Kyriakidis met Gerd Hesselmann, president of the Travel Agents Association of Germany, and executives from major sector firms including TUI, Condor and Attika Reisen.

According to the GNTO, Greece was the fifth top European destination for German tourists in 1997 with 2.2 million arrivals.

Greece climbed to fourth position in 1998 attracting 5.0 percent of German tourists, up from 4.0 percent in 1997.

Kokkalis interview on CNN programme

Intracom group founder and president Socratis Kokkalis spoke to the international news network CNN yesterday, stressing that he wants to expand to the US.

Mr. Kokkalis, speaking on the CNN programme "Pinnacle Europe", said that "the Greek market is small for Intracom, which has already expanded to international markets."

Replying to a question on a possible purchase of Intracom by a larger firm, he said "Intracom was a child raised by me, but I should be a realist and think as a businessman...If there is a significant offer in the future to benefit the growth of the com pany, then I will be positive."

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather will prevail throughout Greece today with scattered clouds in Thrace and the islands of the eastern Aegean Sea. Winds northwesterly, moderate to strong. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 7-16C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 3-13C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          292.759
Pound sterling       470.605
Japanese yen (100)   240.778
French franc          48.673
German mark          163.243
Italian lira (100)    16.489
Irish Punt           405.396
Belgian franc          7.915
Luxembourg franc       7.915
Finnish mark          53.698
Dutch guilder        144.881
Danish kr.            42.966
Austrian sch.         23.203
Spanish peseta         1.919
Swedish kr.           35.645
Norwegian kr.         37.260
Swiss franc          200.592
Port. Escudo           1.592
Aus. dollar          183.664
Can. dollar          192.706
Cyprus pound         552.842
Euro                 319.275
(C.E.)
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