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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-03-10

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, 10/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Karamanlis-Albright meeting in Washington
  • 'November 17' issue discussed by Karamanlis, Albright
  • Greek euro bid seems immune to politics
  • Stocks jump on economy, politics
  • 10-year bond yield slips in auction
  • Capital market commission OKs Athens Bank-Eurobank public offer
  • G. Papandreou begins tour of Balkan capitals
  • Kaklamanis blasts Washington for encouraging Turkish provocations
  • FINABEL meeting on Crete
  • Defence ministry sources repeat purpose of NATO force
  • Apostolakis downplays possibility of Aegean incident
  • IHT-Kathimerini English edition celebrates a year of success
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Karamanlis-Albright meeting in Washington

Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis yesterday called on the United States to take an initiative on overcoming Turkish intransigence, and to proceed to a just and viable solution for the Cyprus problem.

Speaking to reporters after a 45-minute-long meeting with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the State Department, Mr. Karamanlis said he and Ms Albright had a "very useful" meeting. Talks focused on bilateral relations between Greece and the U S, issues concerning the wider region of southeastern Europe and the Balkans as well as, of course, Greek-Turkish relations.

"For Cyprus, I said the view that it is necessary for the American side to take an initiative to have Turkey's intransigence overcome and for a course to start towards a just and viable solution. It is also certain that we continue to support the position that Cyprus must join the European Union without problems or obstacles," he added.

Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Karamanlis said he had the opportunity of telling the US Secretary of State that "we believe in the prospect of their normalisation. We believe in Turkey having a European role because it is in the interest, primarily of Greece, for Turkey to be European and democratic."

"This, of course, on condition that Turkey will abandon its stance of aggressiveness and provocativeness which it has. It will accept respect for international treaties and international law. Ind eed, I believe that the US can have a more effective and resolute role in this direction," Mr. Karamanlis said.

'November 17' issue discussed by Karamanlis, Albright

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expressed the US administration's concern yesterday over the fact that no headway has been made in efforts to arrest members of the notorious "November 17" terrorist group, according to late reports. Ms Albright made the statements during talks in Washington with visiting main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis.

The ND president acknowledged that Greek authorities have been ineffective regarding the matter, although he added that most of the shadowy group's victims have been Greeks, and that "Greece has the foremost reason for stamping out terrorism."

According to reports, Ms Albright also called for a toning down of verbal sparring between Athens and Ankara and said the Ocalan affair has cast a shadow on Greek-Turkish relations. Finally, the US secretary stressed that the current impasse on the Cyprus issue is the responsibility of Turkish Cypriot leader Raouf Denktash, hinting that the US will again assume an "initiative" for the lifting of the

Greek euro bid seems immune to politics

Greece's drive to join the euro zone by January 1, 2001 has so far remained unscathed by politics, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

"No political development seems capable of overturning the economy's momentum," Mr. Papantoniou told reporters after a regular meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

"Progress towards European economic and monetary union is a fact, and we must remain steadfast and consistent with the policy we have forged. We are within a hair's breadth of EMU," the minister said.

Mr. Papantoniou added that he believed relations with Turkey would not go to extremes.

"I believe that Turkey is trying to make an impression rather than really question Greece's strength and its capability to defend its fundamental sovereign rights".

The minister said that 1999 would be a year of returns for the public because of a drop in inflation and interest rates, and tax reforms under discussion.

Mr. Papantoniou said that in the last few months the economy had received upgrades from financial houses abroad, borrowing costs had dropped, and the economy's position in the global system had improved.

The Athens Stock Exchange's performance had not been affected by the Ocalan affair, and its upward trend was directly linked to economic improvement, the minister said.

Stocks jump on economy, politics

Equity prices rallied yesterday helped by declining tension both in the domestic political scene and in relations with Turkey.

Favourable economic developments also fuelled the market. Encouraging buying was news that Greece had formally met the Maastricht fiscal deficit criterion.

The European Commission said that the country's fiscsal deficit fell to 2.4 percent of gross domestic product in 1998.

In addition, the market discounted an upgrade for the country's credit rating by Moody's, the climate in international markets is positive, and listed firms are showing robust profits.

The general index ended 3.28 percent higher at 3,444.09 points, only 22 points below its all time record high of 3,466 points.

Turnover was a record 177.8 billion drachmas for 1999 and volume was 31,204, 466 shares.

Buying interest once again focused on Commercial Bank and Ionian Bank shares.

Commercial ended 7.7 percent up at 40,940 drachmas, while Ionian ended 5.2 percent higher at a new record close of 20,300 drachmas.

Sector indices scored gains.

Banks soared 4.07 percent, Leasing rose 2.0 percent, Insurance increased 0.57 percent, Investment ended 1.47 percent up, Construction ended 5.74 percent higher, Industrials rose 2.50 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.19 percent up and Holding rose 2.65 per cent.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,570 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 36, 850, Ergobank at 23,995, Titan Cement at 23,900, Hellenic Petroleum at 2, 535, Intracom at 20,300, Minoan Lines at 7,900, Panafon at 8,785 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,390.

10-year bond yield slips in auction

The 10-year bond yield fell slightly in yesterday's auction by the finance ministry.

The average weighed yield fell to 5.98 percent from 6.1 percent in the previous auction on January 26. The bonds on offer totalled 180 billion drachmas.

The paper, which has a 6.3 percent annual coupon, met heavy demand.

Bids submitted totalled 596 billion drachmas, 3.3 times more than the asked sum. The ministry accepted bids totalling 216 billion drachmas.

The average weighed price of the bond was 102.27.

Capital market commission OKs Athens Bank-Eurobank public offer

The capital market commission yesterday approved a public share offer sought by Athens Bank-EFG Eurobank SA, a member of Consolidated Eurofinance Holdings SA.

It also approved the award of an operating licence to Megatrust Securities, and a proposal to hold examinations in June for brokerage representatives to the bourse.

Finally, an application by Cretan Plastics to join the Athens Stock Exchange's parallel market for smaller cap firms was endorsed.

The initial public offer will be held at the end of the month. Cretan Plastics is one of the country's three largest plastics firms.

G. Papandreou begins tour of Balkan capitals

Foreign Minister George Papandreou will meet with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic during his brief tour of Balkan capitals, beginning today, the government announced yesterday.

Mr. Papandreou is undertaking a two-day tour ahead of a new round of talks focusing on the strife-torn Yugoslav province of Kosovo at Rambouillet, France.

Mr. Papandreou is due in Belgrade tomorrow along with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov, just a few days before the scheduled resumption of talks between the Yugoslav government and ethnic Albanian rebels. US envoy Richard Holbrooke arrived in Belgrade yesterday, and is beginning talks with Mr. Milosevic today.

According to diplomatic circles, Mr. Papandreou will reiterate to the Yugoslav leaderhip the standing Greek positions for a peaceful resolution of the problem and acceptance of the 10 basic principles of the Contact Group, in addition to expressing a co ncern on the possible negative repercussions of any crisis on all Balkan countries if hostilities continue.

The same circles said Mr. Papandreou will also stress to the Yugoslav leader that Greece is obliged to implement the embargo on flights by the Yugoslav national air carrier JAT to Athens and Thessaloniki, despite not agreeing with the measure. In additi on Athens will continue efforts to lift other European Union sanctions regarding investment and special trade relations.

Kaklamanis blasts Washington for encouraging Turkish provocations

Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis yesterday lashed out against Washington, accusing it "of encouraging Turkish provocations against Greece in the context of the Ocalan affair."

"Turkish elections (in April) and our participation in Economic and Monetary Union are crucial factors and points that will mark an escalation in Turkish provocations. The Ocalan affair is merely a pretext , as so many in the past, and why not in the future. The United States is fully aware of this, but is nevertheless, encouraging new pretexts for Turkish provocations.

"It does not rest on the standing position of our country and Europe, as a whole, in favour of a political solution of the Kurdish problem and against any form of terrorism, including the one originating in the official state itself, but is pressing for humiliating 'statements of repentance and condemnation of the PKK' that remind the Greek people of similar past practices regarding the Communist Party and its sympathisers at the time of the American-sponsored civil war regime (late 1940s)," he told rep orters.

He also called for increased vigilance to face any threats to national interests.

"Under such conditions, leadership and people have to rally together. I am certain that all machinations will be allowed to go no further than the stage of blackmail if our steady message is unity at the top and unanimity among the people...No provocation , but also a unanimous response in the case of an even minimal encroachment on our national interests and sovereign rights. This message must not only be addressed to the militarists of Ankara but also to our friends in Washington," he stressed.

He made the statements upon his return from Majorca, where he participated in the conference by parliament presidents of the Euro-Mediterranean Forum.

FINABEL meeting on Crete

The army chiefs of 10 Western European Union (WEU) member-states will meet on Friday in Rethymno, Crete during the annual "FINABEL" meeting.

Lt. Gen. Constantinos Panayiotakis will represent Greece at the meeting, the unofficial committee for coordination and drafting of studies for the armies of the 10 permanent WEU members.

Defence ministry sources repeat purpose of NATO force

Defence ministry sources repeated yesterday that a force being forwarded to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) via Thessaloniki is a NATO force, whose "exclusive purpose" is the security of OSCE observers in Kosovo as well as their secure evacuation in case of military conflict.

This force is composed of 1,800 troops and will be reinforced with another 4,000 soldiers.

Sources said the specific force had nothing to do either with a NATO force which may possibly intervene in the Yugoslav province in the event an agreement is not achieved between the parties involved or with a NATO force potentially called upon to super vise any such agreement.

Apostolakis downplays possibility of Aegean incident

Deputy Defence Minister Dimitris Apostolakis said yesterday that the possibility of some serious incident involving Greece and Turkey in the Aegean was small.

In an interview with a private TV station given in the wake of the Ocalan affair, Mr. Apostolakis said he believed that cool-headedness would eventually prevail "and no one will attempt to gain something from an adventure which will only lead to an impasse".

He also maintained that the Greek mass media were exaggerating Turkey's efforts to create tension, adding that Ankara's efforts were only to be expected in the run-up to elections in the neighbouring country and for domestic reasons. Mr. Apostolakis expressed the view that Turkey would confine itself to verbal attacks, driven by the myriad problems which it faces at home. "At all events, we here at the defence ministry are always concerned and do not let up our guard," he added.

IHT-Kathimerini English edition celebrates a year of success

The joint venture formed by the Paris-based "International Herald Tribune" and Athens' "Kathimerini", celebrated the first anniversary of their combined English-language daily yesterday.

Since March 9, 1998, the IHT has been printed on the Kathimerini's presses, with the combined paper is available for early delivery in the greater Athens area and same day delivery throughout Greece.

The chairman and chief executive officer of IHT, Peter Goldmark, said in Athens on Monday that the "IHT-Kathimerini English edition has been a tremendous success."

IHT, the well-respected international daily is a subsidiary of "The New York Times" and "Washington Post", with more than 630,000 readers on five continents. Kathimerini, which was established in 1919, is touted as one of the most authoritative Greek ne wspapers, with a tradition of independence.

WEATHER

Sunshine with higher temperatures in most parts of Greece today. Local fog in the morning in the Ionian Sea and mainland Greece. Winds variable, light to moderate. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 6-18C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 4-18C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          293.245
Pound sterling       471.577
Japanese yen (100)   241.492
French franc          48.636
German mark          163.116
Italian lira (100)    16.476
Irish Punt           405.081
Belgian franc          7.909
Luxembourg franc       7.909
Finnish mark          53.656
Dutch guilder        144.769
Danish kr.            42.890
Austrian sch.         23.185
Spanish peseta         1.918
Swedish kr.           35.710
Norwegian kr.         37.260
Swiss franc          200.235
Port. Escudo           1.591
Aus. dollar          186.218
Can. dollar          193.896
Cyprus pound         550.362
Euro                 319.027
(C.E.)
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