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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-03-19

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, 19/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • `Greece first`, Simitis tells opening of PASOK congress
  • Opposition reactions to Simitis speech
  • PASOK congress also addressed by foreign speakers
  • Tipper Gore: no hints on husband's possible bid
  • Solana: Greek PM has condemned terrorism
  • Japanese Prince Hitachi arrives for official visit in Greece
  • Greek state telecom only bidder in Bulgarian tender
  • Stocks hit new high, fuelled by selected banks
  • Bond prices stay firm
  • Bank of Piraeus shows consolidated profit jump of 376 pct
  • Xiosbank to boost share cap by Dr 51.3 bln
  • Minoan Lines to acquire Air Greece through share cap rise
  • Crete to get solar-powered electricity plant by 2001
  • Panathinaikos in Gotham Cup
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

`Greece first`, Simitis tells opening of PASOK congress

Prime Minister and president of ruling PASOK Costas Simitis yesterday called on delegates attending the party's congress in Athens to concentrate on positions and leave aside petty political considerations.

Addressing the party's 5th congress, which began yesterday, Mr. Simitis said the "prophets of doom" who had predicted the dissolution of the party following the death in 1996 of its founder, Andreas Papandreou, had been proven wrong.

He forecast that PASOK would emerge victorious in June Euroelections and win the general elections scheduled for 2000.

Mr. Simitis said the party's slogan is "Greece first", adding that government policy was aimed at a strong Greece, "a Greece providing security, stability, peace, development and prosperity, a Greece of humanity and of social solidarity. Greece as an equal memebr in the European Union, Greece having a voice and prestige in Europe and a powerful Greece which will be respected by friends and foes."

The premier added that the government had sharply increased social spending in recent years and was ready to implement a fiscal policy which would considerably relieve the tax burden on low- and middle-income wage earners.

Mr. Simitis predicted that interest rates will also drop.

The premier said that now was the time to proceed with certain major incisions in the taxation system, adding that social dialogue on the reform of the country's taxation system had started at the government's initiative.

Turning to national issues, Mr. Simitis said that Turkey had in recent years become "an imponderable factor" in the eastern Mediterranean.

"Greece refuses to play the game of aggravation and tension, and will not provide an alibi for the impasses facing Ankara's military cum political establishment," Mr. Simitis said.

"Greek sovereign rights along the entire line of contact between Hellenism and Turkey, from Thrace and the Aegean as far as Cyprus, are not negotiable, " he said

Regarding the Ocalan affair, which resulted in the resignation of three Greek ministers, Mr. Simitis said "no one has the right to play with the fortunes of the country".

"The supposed fervent patriots who recently presented Greece with faits accomplis, dealt a severe blow to our national interests and bear heavy responsibility," Mr. Simitis said, referring to the persons who arranged for the illegal entry and short stay in Greece of rebel Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The prime minister said Turkey must abandon the "vicious circle of propaganda which traps Ankara into making mistakes".

"Turkey's problem is not Greece but the choices made by Ankara itself, which simply recycle the neighbouring country's domestic problems," Mr. Simitis said.

Mr Simitis also accused opposition parties of following an "irresponsible" policy and singled out the main opposition New Democracy party for strong criticism.

He accused ND of forming a common front with the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), saying the alliance would probably "operate" during European elections in June.

The premier issued an open invitation for dialogue with the forces of the Left without preconditions.

Opposition reactions to Simitis speech

In response, ND spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said that Mr. Simitis had launched his election slogan "Greece first" but in "reality had relegated the country to the bottom of Europe".

Responding to Mr. Simitis' address Mr. Spiliotopoulos said Greek citizens were the "most heavily and unjustly taxed Europeans, had the worst public services and a standard of state which was Third World-like".

Mr. Spiliotopoulos charged that Mr. Simitis "had lost all political and economic battles" in Brussels, citing in particular "the scandalous negligence and incompetence in failing to safeguard traditional Greek products".

An announcement by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said "the PM's arrogant and intimidating address towards working people showed once again that PASOK's leadership and the government are determined to impose anti- popular policy with the whip and false dilemmas.

In a similar statement, Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas said that "with his address at the congress, the PASOK president and prime minister proved that he has nothing to do with Greek reality."

PASOK congress also addressed by foreign speakers

The PASOK congress was also addressed by representatives and officials of other parties, both Greek and foreign ones.

Cypriot Socialist EDEK party leader Vassos Lyssaridis said a realignment of forces on a world level was inevitable and had to be utilised.

"But we shall never accept to determine our policy on the basis of threats and blackmail," he added.

Walter Veltroni, representing Italy's Democratic Party of the Left, said the European Centre Left proposed a common political vision for the continent and the building of new alliances between all reform and democratic movements that would start amending European policies, particularly on the management of immigrant flows, investment in human resources, education and cultural development, a reform of the social security systems and the protection of workers' rights.

Philip Vujanovic, of the Democratic Socialist Party of Montenegro, stressed that Greece and Yugoslavia should not allow a change of borders in Kosovo. "This would be catastrophic for the Balkans and Europe," he stressed.

Other foreign delegates included Albanian Prime Minister Panteli Majko, Alexander Tomov, chairman of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Chinese ambassador Yang Guangsheng, Alberto Rodriguez Arufe of the Communist Party of Cuba, Andreas Christou of the Cypriot AKEL party, Leonidas Lazo Seregian of the Armenian Popular Movement, Rosemary Nuamah of the British Labour Party, Joaquin Almunia of the Spanish Socialist Party, Georgi Spasov of the Social Democratic Union of FYROM, Goran Percevic of the Socialist Party of Serbia, P. Passerieux of the Socialist Party of France, Zviad Mukbaniani of the Citizen's Union of Georgia, Mechtild Tothe of Germany's SPD, Vilmos Szabo of the Socialist Party of Hungary, Hanni Al Hasan of the PLO, and Nazim Yamak of the Kurdistan Socialist Party. Other countries represented were Iraq, Angola, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Syria, Tunisia, Gabon, Mali, and Lebanon.

Represenatives of the British and US embassies in Athens attended as observers.

Tipper Gore: no hints on husband's possible bid

The wife of US Vice President Al Gore, Tipper Gore, arrived in Athens on Wednesday, the second leg of her first-ever visit to Greece after initially travelling to northern Greece.

In statements to the ANA, Ms Gore called her visit to Greece something "she had dreamed about since college" and cited what she called the two countries' "dedication to democracy, values that as an American I can relate to. It's exciting to arrive here...the cradle of Democracy." In an interview, she also cited the "very strong US-Greek ties that must become stronger in the future" as well as "shared values", trade and economic relations and even military cooperation as binding the two countries.

Before arriving in Greece, she had visited Sarajevo.

Although not even hinted at in public, the fact that Al Gore is currently viewed as one of the top contenders -- if not the leading one -- to win the Democratic Party's nomination for US president in the November 2000 elections added to the significance of his wife's official visit to Greece, and the possible positive effect it could have with the Greek-American community back in the United States come election time.

Asked about her husband's "political aspirations" and future goals, Ms Gore sufficed to say that "he has demonstrated an ability to lead with identifiable action," adding that the one-time US senator from Tennessee has had the "most active vice presidency" in US history.

Al Gore has not officially declared his candidacy to succeed Bill Clinton, although he has taken the first tentative steps in line with US federal law to form a campaign committee.

Earlier, the wife of the US vice president was received by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, saying they discussed bilateral cooperation in the region as well as economic and trade ties.

Solana: Greek PM has condemned terrorism

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana yesterday emphasised that Prime Minister Costas Simitis has made explicit statements condemning terrorism, while corresponding statements have been made by all other leaders of NATO count ries.

Mr. Solana was replying to persistent questions by Turkish reporters.

Mr. Solana visited Ankara and met with President Suleyman Demirel, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, Foreign Minister Ismail Cem and Defence Minister Hikmet Sami Turk in the framework of his tour of NATO capitals to pave the way for the NATO summit in Washi ngton at the end of April.

Mr. Solana said he did not discuss issues concerning confidence-building measures between Greece and Turkey with the Turkish leadership, but noted that relevant initiatives are continuing. Mr. Solana appealed to Serbia to respond "wisely" and sign the Paris agreement.

Japanese Prince Hitachi arrives for official visit in Greece

Japanese Prince Hitachi and his wife yesterday attended an event in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first-ever Greek-Japanese friendship accord. The Japanese royal couple are guests of the Greek government. The event included traditional danc es from Okinawa, Ikebana flower arrangement, and other traditional Japanese art, while the Kiyiorakai dance group performed Kibuki and No theater popular Japanese themes.

The couple will be visiting the Vergina archaeological site in south- central Macedonia on Sunday.

Greek state telecom only bidder in Bulgarian tender

Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation with KPN of the Netherlands were the only bidders for a controlling stake in Bulgaria's BTK telecom, the government said yesterday.

The joint bid for a 51 percent stake in BTK through an international privatisation tender will be opened in London by the sale's consultant, Deutsche Bank, the state privatisation agency said.

The bank will send its evaluation to a Bulgarian government committee a week after receiving the bid.

Bulgaria's telephone network is relatively developed with 2.5-3 million telephone lines. It has the potential to be turned into a transit point for communications between Europe and the Middle East.

Stocks hit new high, fuelled by selected banks

Equities posted a record high yesterday buoyed by demand for Alpha Credit Bank, Ergobank and Ionian Bank.

The general index ended 0.81 percent up at 3,666.26 points, its 21st record this year, after showing gains of nearly 1.50 percent in early trade.

Also attracting strong buying interest was Intracom, a blue-chip information technology and telecoms manufacturer.

Turnover was 176.443 billion drachmas and volume 27,537,948 shares.

Sector indices mostly scored gains.

Banks gained 1.17 percent, Leasing dived 2.52 percent, Insurance closed flat, Investment edged down 0.47 percent, Construction dropped 0.72 percent, Industrials nosed up 0.30 percent, Miscellaneous increased 1.58 percent and Holding jumped 2.06 percent.

Of 293 shares traded advancers led decliners at 142 to 131 with another 20 issues unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 22,800 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 40, 200, Ergobank at 26,495, Ionian Bank at 23,590, Titan Cement at 26,480, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,655, Intracom at 21,350, Minoan Lines at 7,560, Panafon at 8,805 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 7,700 drachmas.

Bond prices stay firm

Bond prices ended flat at yesterday's high levels after jumping in early trade, only to fall later in the session on profit-taking, dealers said.

The new 10-year bond finished at 103.40, posting a yield of 5.81 percent. The previous 10-year issue carrying the highest coupon ended at 118.30- 117.55 to show a yield of 5.91 percent.

Many bond prices gained an average 10-15 basis points.

Electronic trade was at 58 billion drachmas, slightly up from 57 billion drachmas a day earlier.

The drachma nosed down against the euro in the foreign currency market.

Bank of Piraeus shows consolidated profit jump of 376 pct

The Bank of Piraeus Group yesterday reported consolidated profits of 9.2 billion drachmas in the first two months of the year from 2.4 billion in same-period 1997, marking a 376 percent rise.

The banks that comprise the group are Bank of Piraeus, Xiosbank and Macedonia-Thrace Bank.

Also yesterday, the Athens Stock Exchange approved an application by Bank of Piraeus for a share capital increase with preference rights.

For issue are 39,150,000 new shares at 3,000 drachmas each, including a private placement for staff.

Xiosbank to boost share cap by Dr 51.3 bln

Shareholders of Xiosbank, which is listed on the Athens bourse, yesterday endorsed a share capital rise of 51.3 billion drachmas.

Also approved was management's proposed dividend of 152 drachmas per share. The private bank posted pre-tax profits of 7.8 billion drachmas, up 73 percent on 1997. Consolidated pre-tax profits were 9.4 billion drachmas. Capital managed by Xiosbank total led 834.9 billion drachmas, up 58 percent on 1997.

Deposits including repos totalled 403.9 billion drachmas last year, up 94 percent.

Loans were 174.7 billion drachmas, posting a 32 percent increase on 1997.

Minoan Lines to acquire Air Greece through share cap rise

Shareholders of Air Greece yesterday approved a share capital rise of 1.1 billion drachmas to allow the company's acquisition by Minoan Lines, a listed passenger shipper. Through the share capital rise, Crete-based Minoan Lines will be able to take a 51 percent stake in the private airline due to the abolition of preference rights for existing shareholders.

Crete to get solar-powered electricity plant by 2001

A solar-powered electricity station is to operate on the island of Crete by 2001 in a 40 billion drachma project, local officials told a news conference yesterday.

The 50 megawatt station is being built in Sfakia by private investors and will create 50 permanent jobs.

The station's output will be 113 million kilowatt hours, accounting for one tenth of the island's needs.

Panathinaikos in Gotham Cup

European soccer powers Ajax of the Netherlands, Benfica of Portugal and Panathinaikos of Greece will compete in the inaugural Gotham Cup at Giants Stadium on July 23 and 25, MetroStars officials said Thursday. A fourth club will be added for the event, which will award a trophy in a total points tournament.

WEATHER

Unstable weather with rain and snow will prevail throughout Greece today. Snowfall in the northern mountainous regions. Winds variable, moderate to strong. Athens will be cloudy and rainy with an improvement later in the day and temperatures between 8-13C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 2-7C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          289.565
Pound sterling       471.656
Japanese yen (100)   244.865
French franc          48.605
German mark          163.014
Italian lira (100)    16.466
Irish Punt           404.829
Belgian franc          7.904
Luxembourg franc       7.904
Finnish mark          53.624
Dutch guilder        144.678
Danish kr.            42.902
Austrian sch.         23.170
Spanish peseta         1.917
Swedish kr.           35.627
Norwegian kr.         37.517
Swiss franc          199.610
Port. Escudo           1.590
Aus. dollar          182.330
Can. dollar          190.464
Cyprus pound         549.667
Euro                 318.829
(C.E.)
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