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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-03-12

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, 12/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • G. Papandreou talks with Holbrooke, sees Milosevic today
  • Karamanlis-Gore meeting focuses on Greek-Turkish relations, Cyprus
  • US envoy hears Athens' complaints over recent Turkish behaviour
  • Eighteen persons implicated in Ocalan affair
  • Branson project for Hydra again rejected by KAS
  • Cremation issue spurs Church debate
  • Stocks hit fresh all-time high in brisk trade
  • Greek-Turkish tension blocking closer business ties
  • Share price for EFG Eurobank set at Dr 8,500
  • Greek economy split in two, minister says
  • Passenger shippers forge strategic alliance
  • Athens satisfied with agreement on CAP
  • Japanese trade specialist focuses on Greek software sector
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

G. Papandreou talks with Holbrooke, sees Milosevic today

Foreign Minister George Papandreou, on a lightning tour of Balkan capitals to promote a Greek initiative to end the crisis in the strife-torn Yugoslav province of Kosovo, met here yesterday with US envoy Richard Holbrooke.

Mr. Papandreou said talks had been useful and had gone into depth over the positions prevailing.

He declined to comment on the substance of Mr. Holbrooke's talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on Wednesday, saying the aim of his visit to Belgrade was talks with the Yugoslav leadership.

During the previous days, Mr. Holbrooke failed to persuade Mr. Milosevic to back a Western peace deal.

"We all have concerns about the developments in Kosovo in common and Greece, to the extent it can will attempt to provide a contribution for a peaceful resolution of the problem," Mr. Papandreou said.

"Greece and Yugoslavia have close relations and for this reason I am hopeful that the Greek contribution will be found useful in the process under way for a peaceful resolution."

He is scheduled to have meetings today with President Milosevic, Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, Yugoslav FM Zivadin Jovanovic and Yugoslav Deputy PM Vuk Draskovic.

Mr. Papandreou may also meet with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who was due to arrive in Belgrade yesterday.

Karamanlis-Gore meeting focuses on Greek-Turkish relations, Cyprus

Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis was received here yesterday by US Vice President Al Gore, with issues touching on terrorism, Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus problem.

At the end of the 30-minute talks, Mr. Karamanlis said he had an extremely interesting meeting and discussion, in which he set out Greek positions on Greek-Turkish relations and the question of Cyprus.

"Our common pursuit is stability in the region and I explained our steadfast position that Greece desires peace in the region, as well as that the future of Greek-Turkish relations can only move on international law and existing conditions of good neigh bourliness and cooperation," he said.

Mr. Karamanlis denounced Turkey's tactic of threats of the use of force, saying it is a tactic which neither suits modern states nor its European orientation.

Mr. Karamanlis said they discussed the issue of terrorism at length, adding that he reiterated to Mr. Gore that Greece condemns terrorism and that Greece in particular has been hit by it.

Mr. Karamanlis said Turkey should abandon what he called its "favourite tactic of threats, accept respect for international law as a basis for understanding and normalisation and abandon territorial claims."

"I made it clear to my interlocutors that Greece is a country which respects and supports the international status quo, while Turkey is following a position with which it is pursuing its overthrow," he said.

Referring to Cyprus, Mr. Karamanlis said all US officials conceded that this protracted problem and its stagnation could not continue because of Turkish intransigence. He added that it was time for a new initiative and that he had the impression a similar climate also prevails in the US administration.

Commenting on the case of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, Mr. Karamanlis said Athens never harboured, nor supported nor helped acts related to force and terrorism.

US envoy hears Athens' complaints over recent Turkish behaviour

Turkey must cease "its futile effort to link its pre-election campaign with statements against Greece", Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis told visiting special US State Department envoy for Cyprus Thomas Miller yesterday.

"Greece condemns terrorism, but Turkey must not disorient public opinion with statements on this issue," he said after two hours of talks with Mr. Miller on Greek-Turkish relations, Cyprus and the Kosovo problem.

He also said Washington had a role to play in improving Greek-Turkish relations.

"We are in favour of good relations with Turkey and are trying to improve them in a constructive manner, but the US must also play a role in this," he stressed.

Responding to questions, Mr. Miller, who also visited Cyprus and Turkey, said "we shall do everything we can" to bring about the necessary de- escalation of tension in Greek-Turkish relations.

He added that Greek-US relations were strong, that the Cyprus issue had become stagnant for too long, but noted that the situation in the broader region was worse a few years ago.

Eighteen persons implicated in Ocalan affair

A much-anticipated report by three prosecutors investigating the circumstances surrounding Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan's entry and brief stay in Greece attributes responsibility to 18 individuals.

The head of the Athens public prosecutor's office released a statement yesterday noting that the individuals in question face charges involving 10 offences, including the felony of complicity in "harming the country's international peaceful relations."

Among those facing charges, is retired naval officer Antonis Naxakis, Stephanos Evangelatos, the former head of the Athens airport's public relations department, as well as elderly writer Stavroula Damianakou and her daughter, who offered hospitality to Ocalan.

Deputy Costas Badouvas, who was expelled from ruling PASOK following the Ocalan affair, will also face charges if Parliament approves the lifting of his Parliamentary immunity.

The findings of the three-member investigative committee will be sent to Parliament to establish whether responsibility can be attributed to any ministers.

Although none of the 18 persons were actually named in the prosecutors' statement, Mr. Naxakis and Mr. Badouvas have featured prominently in press reports detailing the circumstances surrounding Ocalan's entry, stay and departure from Greece.

Other charges referred to in the statement include perjury, making false declarations, possession of forged travel documents, illegal transportation of a foreigner to Greece, failure to submit a passenger arrival card at Athens airport's passport control, and illegal stay of a foreigner in the country.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas commenting on the prosecutors' statement said that it was obvious there was "no issue of criminal responsibility on the part of political persons, or officials who acted on their instructions in the Ocalan affair."

"After Ocalan's entry to Greece, the issue was handled in a political manner, for reasons that have been adequately explained and concern the country's foreign policy and international relations, but also the functioning of the state," he said.

"There is, however, a most serious issue of responsibility on the part of those who, acting on their own initiative and for their own reasons, organised Ocalan's entry to Greece and brought the country before faits accomplis and dilemmas, despite knowing the government's clear and steady position on the issue," he added.

Parliament will today discuss a proposal for establishing a fact-finding committee regarding the Ocalan affair.

The proposal was signed by 116 deputies of ruling PASOK on Feb. 26

Branson project for Hydra again rejected by KAS

The Central Archaeological Council (KAS) rejected for a second time plans by British multi-millionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson to build a hotel complex on the small holiday island of Hydra.

It was the third 'no' in a row from archaeologists to Mr. Branson's plans. In January, the 2nd Department of Byzantine Antiquities rejected plans on the grounds that "a large area of rock would have to be cleared, the limits of the settlement under a preservation order would be altered and the proposed new holiday homes would be visible from the sea, which would spoil the natural landscape."

Mr. Branson's firm, "Virgin Hellas Hotels SA", had submitted an application for the construction of 40 holiday homes on land which it owns within the town planning area of the Kamini settlement.

KAS had similarly rejected plans in April 1997. The latest vote was unanimous in rejecting the proposal.

In 1973, a similar application for building - within town planning limits - was rejected, as was an application for the construction of a hotel complex in 1981 and a camping ground in 1983.

Cremation issue spurs Church debate

A bill allowing cremation that is set to be tabled in Parliament by the government has apparently brought debate on the issue within the Autocephalus Orthodox Church of Greece to the forefront.

Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos reportedly counseled Metropolitan Theoclitos of Ioannina for saying, without Holy Synod approval, that "the state has the right to legislate". On his part, the Ioannina Metropolitan, who recently resigned from the Church's financial management council, said he will continue to express his opinion.

The government spokesman yesterday said the Church's initiative to support families with three children was very positive and "within the framework of the Church's social role", adding that "the government, within the framework of the social policy it follows has taken a series of measures for women and mothers, while a change in that policy is not anticipated, at least at this time."

Stocks hit fresh all-time high in brisk trade

Equity prices yesterday moved to a new record close for the second consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange with the market's rise curbed by profit taking.

The general index, which gained 7.3 percent over the last four sessions, ended 0.11 percent up at 3,471.98 points, off the day's highs above 3,500 points.

Turnover was 147.058 billion drachmas and volume 33,133,663 shares.

Buying activity focused on smaller capitalisation stocks.

Sector indices were mixed. Banks fell 0.19 percent, Leasing dropped 0.25 percent, Insurance ended 0.43 percent higher, Investment ended 0.10 percent up, Construction dropped 2.97 percent, Industrials rose 0.14 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.06 percent off and Holding fell 1.52 percent.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,400 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 37, 400, Ergobank at 24,000, Ionian Bank at 20,700, Titan Cement at 23,580, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,850, Intracom at 20,140, Minoan Lines at 7,890, Panafon at 8,970 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,690.

Greek-Turkish tension blocking closer business ties

Renewed tension between Greece and Turkey is undermining efforts to bring closer the two countries' business communities, Ersoy Volkan, the Turkish chairman of the Black Sea Bank, told reporters yesterday.

Speaking after a World Bank seminar in Thessaloniki, Mr. Volkan said that both he and the bank's general secretary, Nikos Zahariadis of Greece, would continue the drive for rapprochement in the business sector, but he declined to predict the outcome.

The Black Sea Bank is to participate in a $70-million project to upgrade border posts in the Balkans and Black Sea region.

The World Bank will cover 80 percent of the project's funding and also guarantee Black Sea Bank's 20 percent stake.

Mr. Zahariadis welcomed the fact that all the bank's member-states, even the economically weakest, had made their contributions to the institution's share capital.

As a result, the bank would enjoy a trouble-free launch at the end of May, he said.

Share price for EFG Eurobank set at Dr 8,500

The price of shares in a public offer by EFG Eurobank was set at 8,500 drachmas yesterday.

The offer, which is to be held on March 16-19, is part of a process that began with the merger of the bank with listed Bank of Athens.

The process will end with a share capital rise by the new EFG Eurobank to emerge.

Trading of Bank of Athens shares was halted on the bourse yesterday until the end of the process.

Greek economy split in two, minister says

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday that the economy was divided into modern, forward-looking companies and a host of small firms that needed to update.

"Next year we will see many bankruptcies, but also many new firms being set up," said Mr. Papantoniou in an interview to a German weekly review.

He was asked to comment on the competitiveness of domestic companies in the euro zone.

The minister also said that opposition to the government's policy of modernising the economy stemmed from small groups that feared the loss of privileges they enjoyed.

He rejected criticism that the government was behind in its wide-ranging privatisation plan, saying that timetables were being adhered to.

As a result, revenue from privatisation totalled 3.0 percent of gross domestic product in 1998.

Mr. Papantoniou repeated that inflation would fall to 2.0 percent by summer, leading to an average annual rate of around 2.5 percent, aiding a decline in interest rates.

Passenger shippers forge strategic alliance

ANEK Lines and NEL Lines, which are listed on the Athens bourse, yesterday announced a strategic alliance in order to strengthen their expansion policy ahead of the abolition of cabotage in the domestic passenger shipping market.

Under the plan, ANEK will take part as a strategic investor in a share capital increase by Nel of 4.0 billion drachmas, taking a 20 percent stake. Operational costs will fall, income will rise and the firms are to enter the air transport and hotels sectors.

The alliance also includes joint advertising and participation in tourism trade fairs, and joint reservations.

ANEK is also due to take a single seat on NEL's board of directors.

NEL Lines was founded in 1972. It was listed on the Athens Stock Exchange in 1995 and owns five ferries.

The firm recently ordered a high-speed vessel due for delivery in February 2000.

ANEK Lines was listed at the end of 1998. It owns a 50 percent stake in LANE Lines and has announced a merger with another Cretan ferry line, Rethymniaki.

ANEK is also considering a strategic alliance with listed DANE Lines, which is facing financial troubles.

Athens satisfied with agreement on CAP

The Greek government expressed satisfaction over a compromise agreement reached on revising the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), achieved by the Council of Agriculture Ministers following marathon negotiations.

"Greece not only did not lose what it has feared, but also won something extra. The joint financing of CAP, which would have cost Greece 150-200 billion drachmas a year, was ruled out. Annual agricultural expenditures were ultimately increased from 40.5 to 41.6 billion euro, which secure for Greece a fiscal improvement with 150 million euro a year (about 35 billion drachmas). Greece won an increase in the milk quota," Greek Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis said.

He added that revising settlements in their entirety refer to arable products, milk and beef and have no negative affect on Mediterranean (products). However, he added that considerable improvements have been included for Greek producers in all the revi sing sectors of interest to Greece.

Japanese trade specialist focuses on Greek software sector

The Japanese External Trade Organisation's (JETRO) Athens office announced yesterday that it hosted a software Japanese specialist in Greece earlier this month.

JETRO, in an effort to promote and expand Greek exports to Japan, said the Japanese import specialist during his four-day stay in Greece visited five Greek firms - Unibrain, DCW, Finatec, Gennadios Editions and Teletel - active in the software sector.

In the past, Japanese specialists spoke highly of the growth and import potential of the Greek software sector, which in cooperation with JETRO and the national economy ministry's "Hermes Action Plan", hopes to expand exports to Japan.

WEATHER

Sunny spring-like weather and rising temperatures continue throughout Greece today. Winds variable, light to moderate. Athens will be sunny with temperatures ranging between 5-21C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 3-18C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          292.709
Pound sterling       475.466
Japanese yen (100)   242.931
French franc          48.645
German mark          163.146
Italian lira (100)    16.479
Irish Punt           405.157
Belgian franc          7.910
Luxembourg franc       7.910
Finnish mark          53.666
Dutch guilder        144.795
Danish kr.            42.926
Austrian sch.         23.189
Spanish peseta         1.918
Swedish kr.           36.027
Norwegian kr.         37.470
Swiss franc          199.714
Port. Escudo           1.591
Aus. dollar          185.792
Can. dollar          192.051
Cyprus pound         549.370
Euro                 319.087
(C.E.)
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