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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-03-11

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, 11/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • G. Papandreou takes Athens initiative on Kosovo to Skopje, Tirana
  • Greece, Bulgaria agree on Kosovo initiative
  • Intracom to seek Wall Street listing
  • Stocks post new record in robust trade
  • State revenue rises by 5.26 pct in February
  • Bank of Macedonia-Thrace plans Dr 80-100 bln share cap rise
  • Balkan exports promotion organisations heads meet in Thessaloniki
  • Christodoulakis meets with Israeli Finance Minister
  • Burns: Claims of leaked NATO secrets to Russia groundless
  • Turkish infringements of Athens FIR
  • Karamanlis meeting with White House chief of staff Podesta
  • Athens asks info on reports of Turkish ships at Vlore's port
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

G. Papandreou takes Athens initiative on Kosovo to Skopje, Tirana

Foreign Minister George Papandreou stressed yesterday that Athens was ready to promote an initiative to promote a joint statement by all Balkan countries regarding developments in the strife-torn Yugoslav province of Kosovo.

Speaking to reporters after talks with Albanian leadership, Mr. Papandreou also said an effort was underway to enable the issuing of the statement through a meeting of Balkan foreign ministers in the immediate future.

Mr. Papandreou yesterday began a two-day tour of Balkan capitals to promote a Greek initiative on Kosovo. Earlier in the day he held talks in Skopje, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), saying a peaceful resolution of the Kosovo crisis was imperative not only to avert the destabilisation of the entire region, but also to project a new image of the Balkans internationally.

His tour continues today in Bucharest, Sofia and Belgrade, where he is due to meet with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

In Tirana, Mr. Papandreou held talks with President Rexhep Mejdani, Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and his counterpart Paskal Milo.

In talks with Mr. Majko, Mr. Papandreou said the immediate signing of an agreement was necessary at the next meeting between the two sides (the Kosovo Albanians and the Serbs) on March 15, in Rambouillet, Paris.

Mr. Papandreou's talks with the FYROM leadership covered developments in Kosovo, the international community's efforts for the signing of an agreement at peace talks in Rambouillet and the repercussions of the Kosovo crisis for security in the greater region.

He said his first visit to Skopje in the capacity of foreign minister marked a new era in bilateral relations, the objective being for both countries to become an "axis of stability" in the region.

He said a peaceful resolution of the Kosovo crisis was imperative not only to avert the destabilisation of the entire region, but also to project a new image of the Balkans internationally.

Mr. Papandreou said the positions of Greece and FYROM were identical regarding the need for a Kosovo solution within the framework of existing borders and on the basis of European principles and rules.

He said he agreed with a proposal by his FYROM counterpart Aleksandr Dimitrov for a meeting in Skopje on March 15-16 with the participation of the foreign ministers of Albania, FYROM, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece, for the purpose of putting together a joint declaration concerning a settlement in Kosovo.

On a bilateral level, Mr. Papandreou said Greece would support FYROM's accession to Euro-Atlantic structures.

Greece, Bulgaria agree on Kosovo initiative

Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his Bulgarian counterpart Nadezda Michailova yesterday announced an initiative to convene a Balkan foreign ministers' conference on the Kosovo issue before the crucial second round of negotiations in Rambouillet, France.

"Despite the difficulties in the Balkans, there is a simultaneous political will for regional cooperation, with a view to solving problems," said Mr. Papandreou at a brief press conference after completing their talks late in the evening.

Intracom to seek Wall Street listing

Intracom will seek a 15 percent rise in its share capital and then a second increase in order to enter the New York Stock Exchange within 1999, the group's chairman, Socrates Kokkalis, told shareholders yesterday.

Mr. Kokkalis also predicted that the Athens Stock Exchange will jump to 5, 000 points by the end of the year, anticipating the country's planned entry into the euro zone on January 1, 2001.

Presenting the group's globalisation plans, Mr. Kokkalis also announced that Intracom would acquire a stake in a major telecommunications company in the US, also in 1999.

He said expanding Intracom's activities across the Atlantic was a decision based on the need for further technological cooperation with the United States and geographical expansion throughout the Americas.

Part of the new capital to be raised would be used to expand Intrarom, the firm's Romanian subsidiary, a major player in the country's Romtelecom investment programme.

Greece's future adoption of the euro and a shift in status of its stock market from emerging to mature were likely to attract new funds from foreign institutional investors, also contributing to Intracom's growth plans, Mr. Kokkalis said.

Intracom's sales in the first quarter of this year rose 72 percent to 25 billion drachmas from 14.5 billion the same period of 1998.

Intracom's 1998 exports totalled 23 billion drachmas and sales 90.7 billion drachmas.

A general shareholders meeting will decide on March 29 on the first share capital increase, to be effected through cash.

Mr. Kokkalis said that the group's research and development department had hired 220 new scientists in 1998, and the group was in the final stage of creating its software development centre in Patras, western Greece, which is due to employ 250 scientis ts in its first phase of operation.

Intracom plans to open another software development centre in Thrace, near the university.

Intracom has signed a contract worth 102 million dollars with Raytheon of the US for the production of telecoms components for Patriot missile systems ordered by the Greek armed forces.

Stocks post new record in robust trade

Equity prices rallied to new records yesterday led by strong buying interest in construction and miscellaneous shares.

The general index ended 0.70 percent up at 3,468.24 points surpassing its previous record of 3,466.95 points on February 15, although it ended off the day's intra-day highs of 3,518 points.

The index recorded its 15th all-time high this year to show a 26.7 percent gain from January 1.

Turnover was 175.8 billion drachmas and volume 34,779,057 shares.

Sector indices scored gains. Construction soared 3.30 percent, Investment was 1.12 percent up, Miscellaneous surged 3.52 percent, Holding jumped 3.40 percent, Industrials increased 1.01 percent, Insurance rose 0.10 percent and Banks ended 0.07 percent u p. Leasing bucked the trend to end 0.23 percent off.

Thessaliki, Delta Inform, Atticat and Mytilineos were the most heavily traded stocks.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,400 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 37, 100, Ergobank at 23,810, Ionian Bank at 20,590, Titan Cement at 23,600, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,710, Intracom at 20,100, Minoan Lines at 7,895, Panafon at 8,960 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,400.

State revenue rises by 5.26 pct in February

Budgetary revenue increased by 5.26 percent in February this year, higher than a target of 4.7 percent, Deputy Finance Minister George Drys said yesterday.

Mr. Drys said that revenue increased by 10.04 percent in the period January- February, sharply higher than an annual target of 5.83 percent, and representing a surplus of 31.5 billion drachmas.

Revenue from Value Added Tax rose 8.5 percent in February and 3.35 percent in the first two months of 1999.

Revenue from tax departments increased 5.37 percent in February, and 11.87 percent in January-February.

Bank of Macedonia-Thrace plans Dr 80-100 bln share cap rise

Management of the Bank of Macedonia-Thrace has decided to recommend to shareholders a share capital rise of 80-100 billion drachmas in order to aid expansion at home and abroad.

The bank, which belongs to the Piraeus Bank group, would also use the cash for acquisitions and the creation of subsidiaries planned by Piraeus Bank.

Chairman Mihalis Sallas said yesterday that shareholders' approval would be sought in the autumn for the move.

In 1998, the Bank of Piraeus Group showed profits of 30 billion drachmas which Mr. Sallas forecast would double this year.

Balkan exports promotion organisations heads meet in Thessaloniki

Macedonia-Thrace Minister Yiannis Mangriotis underlined yesterday what he called the leading role Greece can play in developing commercial relations between Balkan countries.

He spoke during a meeting yesterday with the presidents of the exports promotion organisations of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and Turkey.

Representatives of these exports promotion organisations are participating in a regional centre for promoting exports, created by decision of the leaders of countries in the region following recent meetings. The centre is headquartered in Ankara, while Greece holds the presidency this year.

Referring to the Balkan Centre's targets, the minister said the purpose is "harmonising commercial transaction conditions between countries in the region for the greater development of transactions and to restrict problems."

Commenting on the role Greece can play, Mr. Mangriotis said that "Greece, being the only country which is an EU member-state and which is exercising the Centre's presidency for 1999, has undertaken a leading role because on the one hand it has the know- how, it has the most developed commercial transactions system and will try, with the EU's support, to facilitate the development of economic and commercial cooperation in the zone of southeastern Europe."

Christodoulakis meets with Israeli Finance Minister

An Israeli embassy press release said yesterday that Deputy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis met with Israeli Finance Minister Meir Sheetrit, during the former's visit to Jerusalem on Monday.

"The two ministers stressed the good relations between Greece and Israel and discussed the prospects for expanding existing economic ties, with an emphasis on cooperation in the field of tourism and within the Euro- Mediterranean MEDA programmes," the release stated.

"The two ministers discussed the Middle East peace process. Mr. Sheetrit thanked the Greek government for its initiatives in organising meetings between Israeli and Palestinian Parliamentarians in Athens," the release concluded.

Burns: Claims of leaked NATO secrets to Russia groundless

Accusations that Greece leaked NATO secrets to Russia have proved groundless, baseless and untrue, US ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns said on Tuesday.

In response to reporters' questions at the European Studies Center of New York University here, the US envoy said that a joint Greek-American committee established at his own initiative had reached the conclusion after in-depth investigations, including consultations with National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

He added that he briefed the US Congress on the issue at length last week, with a view to lifting a freeze of US weapons sales to Greece, such as the 'Patriot' missiles and the F-15 and F-16 fighters.

Speaking on the topic of "US-Greek relations today," Mr Burns noted that some three million Greek-Americans constituted the best bridge between the two countries, although Greece was penultimate in the list of European Union countries that absorbed US investment capital. He also referred to very positive economic achievements by the Greek government and expressed confidence that Greece would succeed in achieving entry to EMU, while praising the country's political and military role in the area, describ ing it as the only stabilising force in the Balkans.

"Greece, as an economically developed country, is responsible for maintaining peace in the region," he said, laying particular stress on its contribution to solutions of the Bosnian and Kosovo problems.

Mr. Burns described the Cyprus issue as one of the "thorniest problems" US diplomacy has faced in the last 40 years, saying that he did not see progress soon, due to forthcoming Turkish elections, polarisation in negotiations and unacceptable Turkish Cypriot positions.

"In 1998, the US made great efforts to break the impasse. President (Glafcos) Clerides responded very positively, but, as Mr. Holbrooke stressed last May, the problem is in the Turkish side, in the largely unacceptable terms set by Mr. (Rauf) Denktash," he said.

He further denied that the US exhibited greater favour towards either of Greece and Turkey.

"Our interests dictate that we work towards a reduction in tension in Greek- Turkish relations," he said, adding, in reply to questions, that he did not believe the two countries were either on a threshold of war or wanted a military confrontation.

"Relations are tense, due to the Ocalan affair," he conceded, "but not to the point of causing a confrontation."

Turkish infringements of Athens FIR

Four Turkish F-16 and two F-4 fighters yesterday infringed on Athens FIR regulations four times and violated Greek airspace once yesterday over the island of Limnos, according to reports.

In all cases, they were intercepted by Greek warplanes.

Defence ministry sources described the Turkish activity as "usual".

Karamanlis meeting with White House chief of staff Podesta

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis met yesterday with White House chief of staff John Podesta.

During the half hour meeting Mr. Karamanlis briefed the White House official on Greek national issues, the Cyprus problem and Greek-Turkish relations, while emphasising the possibility of closer economic ties between Greece and the United States.

Earlier, Mr. Karamanlis had met with US Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and representatives of various Jewish-American organisations.

Afterwards, he declined to criticise the Greek government while abroad, as he noted, adding: "not because we feel ashamed for the way recent events were handled, but because Greeks are too few in the world to appear split and divided.

"We should confront issues now and in the future united," Mr. Karamanlis said.

The ND leader also referred to the Cyprus issue, saying that "the international community cannot tolerate the illegal Turkish occupation and it is necessary to place all the weight and power on this affair, "the Greek-Turkish relations depend on a viable solution to the Cyprus problem."

Mr. Karamanlis meets with US Vice President Al Gore today.

Athens asks info on reports of Turkish ships at Vlore's port

Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis summoned the Albanian ambassador to Athens, P. Robo, on Tuesday and requested information on reports citing that Turkish warships will have use of port facilities at Albania's Adriatic port of Vlore.

According to sources, Mr. Robo told Mr. Kranidiotis that the reports have nothing to do with reality and conveyed a message from Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo, according to which there is no question of permission being granted to Turkish ships to dock at Vlore, while the only "involvement" by the Turkish side concerns a construction project at the port.

WEATHER

Sunny spring-like weather with higher temperatures will prevail throughout Greece today. Winds variable, light to moderate. Sunshine in Athens with temperatures between 5-20C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 6- 18C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          290.755
Pound sterling       472.013
Japanese yen (100)   241.770
French franc          48.613
German mark          163.040
Italian lira (100)    16.469
Irish Punt           404.892
Belgian franc          7.905
Luxembourg franc       7.905
Finnish mark          53.631
Dutch guilder        144.701
Danish kr.            42.898
Austrian sch.         23.174
Spanish peseta         1.917
Swedish kr.           35.813
Norwegian kr.         37.325
Swiss franc          199.243
Port. Escudo           1.590
Aus. dollar          185.271
Can. dollar          191.972
Cyprus pound         549.449
Euro                 318.878
(C.E.)
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