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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-03-15

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, 15/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • EU foreign ministers voice solidarity with Greece over
  • Simitis terms PASOK congress a 'political milestone' for party
  • Karamanlis-Annan talks in NY
  • Tsohatzopoulos talks with Egyptian counterpart Tantawi
  • Turkish claims over Athens-PKK connection a 'verbal delirium'
  • Tipper Gore in Thessaloniki this week
  • Iridium satellite system licensed in Greece
  • Apostolakis: S-300s in Grete by end of March
  • Cancellation of charter flights to Turkey reported
  • Sunken wreckage of missing trawler found
  • Three missing in Mountain climbing accident
  • OA unions to attempt to block decision for management contractor
  • Greek First Division soccer results
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

EU foreign ministers voice solidarity with Greece over

European Union foreign ministers expressed solidarity with Athens over the weekend amid repeated Turkish accusations claiming a fostering of Kurdish separatist activities, and following the recent arrest of PKK leader Abdull ah Ocalan. "We expressed solidarity with Greece, as a member-state facing attacks which we reject as fully unjustified," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said during an informal two-day session here for the Union's FMs.

Bonn currently holds the six-month presidency of the European Union.

Mr. Fischer made the statement after the first round of deliberations on Saturday, focusing on the situation in the Balkans, especially Kosovo.

He also said the claims did not take into account Turkey's future interests, which included the promotion of a solution to the Kurdish problem.

"We hope that the opportunity will now be seized to promote a comprehensive and viable solution to the Kurdish problem, in the interests of Turkey itself...We expect that self-restraint and prudence will prevail, and that the potential for peace can be secured, based on respect for human rights, Turkey's territorial integrity and a fair trial for Mr. Ocalan," he said.

Earlier, Foreign Minister George Papandreou briefed his counterparts on the Turkish claims and results of his recent tour of Balkan capitals to promote a peace deal for Kosovo.

Speaking to reporters after the informal summit, Mr. Papandreou stressed the "common view" of the 15 is that the situation in Turkey following Ocalan's capture as well as increased sensitivity in several governments and public opinion regarding issues of democratisation, the Kurdish problem, human rights and Turkey's policy towards Greece provided an opportunity for "a fresh start".

"Turkey is at a crossroads...Either its distance from Europe will grow and it will be led to isolation, or it will revise its policy on the Kurdish problem and the issue of democratic liberties, proceeding to the necessary reforms based on the criteria of respect for legality both at home and in its international relations," he said, adding:

"Greece has every reason to contribute to a democratisation of Turkish society, and is in favour of a political dialogue between Brussels and Ankara, on condition that it contains all the issues raised at various times, such as the Kurdish problem, Cyprus, and referring disputes to the International Court at The Hague."

Mr. Papandreou also lauded the EU foreign ministers' show of solidarity towards Greece and the recongnition for the need for a coordinated and comprehensive European policy in the Balkans.

On Kosovo he told Greek reporters that the initiative for the convening of an inter-Balkan conference on Kosovo remained on the table.

He added that no decision had been made regarding his possible visit to Ankara, but Greece was always willing to enter into dialogue with Ankara but not on conditions that affect national interests.

The Greek FM added that "a foreign minister should be ready to make any move, which can help the national interest of the country. However, there has not been a specific decision for a visit to Ankara."

Speaking on Saturday's statements by Mr. Fischer on Turkey's EU accession, Mr. Papandreou said the German FM used the expression that Turkey wants to be a candidate country and has specific obligations.

"There are decisions of the Council, decisions of the European Union, of the Summit Council and are still in force, there will be no change on this issue...A country which wants to be in this family, which considers itself a candidate country, can not but adhere to the principles set by the European Union," he said.

Simitis terms PASOK congress a 'political milestone' for party

Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Saturday expressed a view that ruling PASOK's congress this week was a "significant political milestone" for the country's and the party's course.

He again reiterated that the government's major goals are the upcoming June Euroelections, national elections next year and Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) entry in 2001.

"We need the greatest possible rallying of forces. The country is in the final phase of EMU entry; we are precisely at the point where the struggle begins to yield results and new prospects emerge," he told a conference of PASOK's central committee at a downtown Athens hotel.

"The Euroelections are not a national opinion poll, but a political contest for the present and future of Europe and Greece...The government's work will be judged in the national elections of 2000," he stressed.

He said that the party was more united than "some liked to think, but needed to explore new avenues if it wished to respond to the demands of the new era, introducing radical changes in its mode of functioning, positions and attitudes. "The c ongress must be a deeply ideological and political one. The recent one-sided image of internal friction and confrontations, which some tried to project, does injustice to the party..." he stressed.

At one point, more than 40 ruling PASOK party cadres, including several former ministers, walked out in protest on Saturday, claiming the election of delegates at the congress had been preceded by insufficient debate, while they also hinted election irregularities.

The central committee members walked out before the body, holding its last session, was to take a vote on its report to the congress, and after Mr. Skandalidis had announced that it would be attended by 5,168 elected and 635 appointed delegates - 400 more than previously estimated.

Commenting on the walk-out, Mr. Skandalidis accused critics of "adopting negative attitudes", and stressed that the procedures followed had been exactly the same as in previous congresses.

Six members of the central committee later voted against a report on its work, with one abstention.

In addition, six of the cadres that walked out later tabled a text to the session's presidium. The same group after the session circulated a list of 42 members they said had walked-out, claiming that another five were absent but agreed with the text.

The text, tabled by former Aegean minister Antonis Kotsakas, refers at some points to the course followed by the government and the party, often using negative characterisations. Mr. Kotsakas also said dialogue among the local PASOK organisations did not take place, while the congress was taking place in order to "cover-up insecurities some have with their role..."

Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos, speaking from his election district in Thessaloniki, said "there was no leadership question" within the ruling party, while he said the defence minister's published statements were a "positive omen. "

Regarding the departure of the more than 40 cadres from the central committee meeting, he said it was a "relatively mild move, of a symbolic character...that doesn't endanger PASOK's unity..."

Karamanlis-Annan talks in NY

The need for an end to the Cyprus stalemate, despite Turkish intransigence, was stressed in New York yesterday by main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis during talks with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Following a half-hour meeting, Mr. Karamanlis said he and Mr. Annan also discussed the Kosovo question and Cyprus.

The ND leader noted that he told Mr. Annan that it was "unthinkable that the 25-year occupation of Cyprus is continuing", while there was a lack of mobilisation on the issue that was entirely due to the Turkish Cypriot side.

He also stressed that there is a need for new initiatives and pressure from the international community on the Turkish side.

"One country should not block international legality, because it considers that such action serves its interests," he said.

Mr. Karamanlis said that they also discussed Greek-Turkish relations.

Regarding the possibility of conflict between Greece and Turkey, he said there was no such issue.

Later in the day, Mr. Karamanlis met with Archbishop of America Spyridon and US envoy in the Greece-FYROM talks, Matthew Nimits.

Speaking at the Maliotis Cultural Centre at the Hellenic College-Holy Cross School of Theology, he noted that there is need for better coordination with the Greek-American community.

Tsohatzopoulos talks with Egyptian counterpart Tantawi

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos met on Saturday with his Egyptian counterpart Mohammed Hussein Tantawi in Cairo for talks on issues concerning bilateral defence cooperation and conditions in the eastern Mediterranean.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos also inaugurated the "Alexander 2000" exhibition, which opened in the Egyptian capital.

He also met with Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Petros for discussions focusing on the prospects of economic, social and cultural developments in the region.

Turkish claims over Athens-PKK connection a 'verbal delirium'

Prime Minister Costas Simitis dismissed the recent and oft-repeated claims by Ankara that Athens fostered activities by the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK),saying they amounted to no more than a "verbal delirium" and were in line with "a standing practice of exporting internal problems."

"The Turkish claims belong to the sphere of the imaginary and illogical". Turkey is going through a pre-election period and such tactics attract votes," he said in an interview to published in the Athens "Ta Nea" on Saturday. Referring to the forthcoming trial of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, Mr. Simitis said "it will be staged, in support of the Turkish claims". "Turkey is losing ground in Europe and is seeking to obstruct Greece's drive to join EMU as an equal member," he added.

Tipper Gore in Thessaloniki this week

The wife of US Vice-President Al Gore, Tipper Gore, will be in Thessaloniki beginning today, in order to give the keynote speech tomorrow at a forum organised by the alumni of the Anatolia school.

A subsequent dinner will be attended by several ministers, including Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, local and prefecture officials, as well as the US ambassador in Greece.

Ms Gore will tour the city and travel to the nearby ancient Macedonian archaeological site in Vergina before briefs visits to Athens and Crete.

Iridium satellite system licensed in Greece

The government has approved a license for the "Iridium" satellite system in Greece.

Iridium is an international mobile phone provider and personal data communications system with 66 low-altitude satellites around Earth's orbit. The system reportedly allows a subscriber to communicate everywhere on the Earth's surface with any other point around the world, regardless of distance, climate conditions or terrain, even in mid ocean.

Iridium is also compatible with the MPCS mobile phone system and can provide voice, data, facsimile and paging services.

The system is represented in Greece by the Rome-based firm Iridium Italia SpA.

Apostolakis: S-300s in Grete by end of March

Deputy Defence Minister Dimitris Apostolakis said yesterday that infrastructure for the installation of the new Russian-made S-300 missile system on Crete was in place, while deployment would be completed before the end of the month.

In statements to a Cyprus TV station, Mr. Apostolakis added that deployment would be in the framework of the joint defence doctrine between Greece and Cyprus.

The Cyprus government cancelled plans to deploy the S-300s at the end of last year, and decided to enter into negotiations with Russia and Greece for their transfer to Crete instead.

Responsing to questions, Mr. Apostolakis said the idea for the provision of other missile systems to Cyprus by Greece was part of a general operational planning, with a view to finding the weapons suitable for the island's defence and its capabilities.

Further, he expressed certainty that Greece and Turkey would not reach the point of armed conflict.

"It would be unfair for the peoples and the entire region. I believe we shall not reach that point," he said.

Cancellation of charter flights to Turkey reported

The Swedish tour agency "Holiday" reported over the weekend that it was cancelling several charter flights to Turkey.

Five flights scheduled for March and April were cancelled, according to the agency.

The general director of the agency, Bo Estenious, blamed recent "bad press" among Sweden's media aimed at Turkey following the Ocalan arrest and a recent spate of bombings in various Turkish cities.

Sunken wreckage of missing trawler found

The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the trawler "Lyberios" was apparently solved on Saturday, as special deepwater video equipment spotted the wreckage of the vessel lying on the seabed just off the Cyclades island of Kythnos.

The trawler, found at a depth of some 350 metres, had been missing since Jan. 23. The bodies of the skipper and first mate were recovered in immediate region last month, while five Egyptian workers are still missing and believed dead.

Three missing in Mountain climbing accident

Three mountain climbers fell off a slope on Mount Olympus yesterday, with two of the men spotted lying motionless and with the third still missing.

A helicopter pilot spotted the bodies of the two alpinists in a 900-metre gorge, and reported that they are either dead or seriously injured.

The accident occurred at an altitude of about 2,500 metres between the villages of Vrontou and Barmala in the Xerolaki region.

Search and rescue teams are expected to continue their efforts early today.

OA unions to attempt to block decision for management contractor

Olympic Airways' (OA) employee unions on Saturday said they will seek recourse to the Council of State in order to block a government decision to appoint a management contractor for the debt-ridden state carrier.

The OA unions claim the decision for the state-run company's privatisation was unconstitutional.

Finally, they charged that any appointment of a management contractor would override the OA board's authority.

Greek First Division soccer results

Proodeftiki-Olympiakos Piraeus 0-1 Panionios Athens-Kavala 1-2 Veria-Panelefsiniakos 0-1 OFI Iraklion-Apollon Athens 0-1 Ethnikos Piraeus-Ionikos 1-2 Iraklis Thessaloniki-PAOK Thessaloniki 1- 0 Xanthi-Ethnikos Astir 0-1 Panathinaikos-Aris Thessaloniki 3-1 Points/Standings: Olympiakos 56, Panathinaikos 50, AEK 49, PAOK 43, Ionikos, Aris 39, Xanthi 38, Iraklis 33, OFI, Ethnikos 32.

WEATHER

Fair weather and a drop in temperatures for most of the country today, with scattered clouds in Thessaly, Evia, eastern Peloponnese, the Cyclades islands and northern Crete, with slight possibility of scattered showers. Winds northerly, moderate to strong, abating in the afternoon. Partly cloudy in Athens with temperatures from 8-18C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 8-16C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          291.906
Pound sterling       477.390
Japanese yen (100)   243.883
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.            42.922
Austrian sch.         23.185
Spanish peseta         1.918
Swedish kr.           35.960
Norwegian kr.         37.468
Swiss franc          199.308
Port. Escudo           1.591
Aus. dollar          185.231
Can. dollar          191.337
Cyprus pound         550.282
Euro                 319.027
(C.E.)
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