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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-03-20

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, 20/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Five SE Europe FMs press for Kosovo autonomy within present borders
  • Tsohatzopoulos: NATO a Europe-wide security organisation
  • Latvia's Ulmanis begins tour of northern Greece
  • Panamanian leader Balladares in Greece this month
  • Simitis-Majko talks on congress' sidelines
  • Second day of PASOK congress continues with lively addresses
  • Japanese Crown Prince Hitachi honoured by City of Athens
  • Cuban official received by Synaspismos, DHKKI leaders
  • Karamanlis says Euroelections a 'referendum' of gov't policies
  • Greek trustees brief on appeal against Swiss court decision
  • Convictions handed down in fatal '97 ferry-gunboat collision
  • Bond prices, turnover hit record highs
  • Stocks skyrocket in heavy trade
  • Eurobank's shareholders okay Dr 110 bln share cap rise
  • Finance ministry to auction T-bills
  • Ionian consumer loan at 14.5%
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Five SE Europe FMs press for Kosovo autonomy within present borders

The foreign ministers of five SE European countries yesterday reaffirmed their "commitment to the immediate peaceful settlement of the Kosovo crisis on the basis of substantial autonomy for Kosovo in full respect for the so vereignty and the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." A statement issued after a meeting of the foreign ministers of Romania, Andrei Plesu; Greece, George Papandreou; Bulgaria, Nadezhda Mihailova; the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Aleksandar Dimitrov and Turkey, Ismail Cem, said that the ministers also "appealed to the parties concerned to ensure the fullest possible protection of the rights of all inhabitants, citizens, national minorities and ethnic communities, in accordance with the relevant international norms and principles." Speaking at a joint press conference with his counterparts afterwards, Mr. Papandreou said the meeting was absolutely successful and stressed that its target was "to unite all our voices into one voice for peace and cooperation in our region." Shortly before the start to the conference, Mr. Papandreou held brief contacts with his Balkan counterparts, including Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem.

Asked to comment on the content of these discussions, Mr. Papandreou said he did not discuss bilateral issues with Mr. Cem, but issues concerning the wider region and the crisis in Kosovo in particular.

Tsohatzopoulos: NATO a Europe-wide security organisation

NATO is evolving into a Europe-wide security organisation and the April summit in Washington will reaffirm that role, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said yesterday.

He told an Athens international conference of the North Atlantic Treaty Association, marking NATO's 50th anniversary, that the alliance now covered multi-lateral security needs and lead to the countries of central and eastern Europe as well as the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet Union) to no longer view the organisation competitively but as an institution of cooperation.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the Atlantic alliance had opted for a new structure and enlargement as the firm foundation of its evolution.

Russia and the Ukraine were now strategic partners of NATO, and this was the "basis for recognition of the principle of common security for all of Europe," he said.

Also indicative of NATO's new role was its cooperation with the European Union on the role of the Western European Union (WEU) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), he added.

Latvia's Ulmanis begins tour of northern Greece

Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis yesterday began a two-day visit to northern Greece after signing several cooperation agreements previously in Athens.

Inclement weather forced Mr. Ulmanis to cancel a trip by helicopter to the all-male monastic community of Mount Athos, where he was to have visited the Monastery of Xenophon, which this year celebrates the 1,000th anniversary of its founding.

Instead, shortly after arriving in Thessaloniki, Mr. Ulmanis and his entourage visited the archaeological site of Vergina, where the royal Macedonian tombs were uncovered more than a decade ago.

President Ulmanis is accompanied by Foreign Minister Virkas Valtis, Defence Minister Girtz Kristovskis, Orthodox Archbishop of Latvia Alexandros and other officials.

Panamanian leader Balladares in Greece this month

Panamanian President Ernesto Perez Balladares will pay an official visit to Greece from March 31 to April 2, the office of the presidency announced yesterday.

Mr. Balladares is visiting Greece at the invitation of Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos.

Simitis-Majko talks on congress' sidelines

On the sidelines of PASOK's 5th congress yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Simitis met with his Albanian counterpart Pandeli Majko, with talks focusing primarily on the Kosovo issue.

The two men exchanged views aimed at avoiding a spillover of the crisis. Speaking from the congress' podium later, Mr. Majko said that in accepting the peace agreement, the Albanian-speaking populace proved that they are seeking a dignified compromise.

Second day of PASOK congress continues with lively addresses

Combative former FM Theodoros Pangalos received a warm welcome from most participants at the 5th PASOK congress yesterday but went almost straight into battle with a section of the crowd over the relevance of the ruling party to the new generation.

Mr. Pangalos drew fire from several delegates when he said PASOK needed to find more support from the younger generations of Greeks.

When the youth group members taunted the former minister with chants of "freedom to Ocalan", Mr. Pangalos said he agreed.

He was forced to resign his post a few weeks ago after following the botched handling of the Ocalan affair.

The Ocalan affair was widely seen as a national humiliation and resulted in the resignations of three ministers, including Mr. Pangalos. The affair has caused much soul-seeking in the ruling party and the government.

On the other hand, he was roundly cheered when he urged delegates to leave the congress "united like a fist".

Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the party was not facing genuine ideological or political divisions but "psychological problems."

On his part, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said that taming inflation was this government's greatest contribution to social justice.

Mr. Papantoniou said that "for years now we are protesting low income, high taxes, difficulty in finding employment, ineficacies in the social state, the state hospitals, public schools and transportationIbeyond the responsibilities carried by certain g overnments, there was a central cause: the failure of the economy during the past decades".

Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis noted that Greece's future depended on the European Union and developments within the bloc.

Conversely, PASOK deputy Antonis Kotsakas said "the 'silence of the lambs' is not becoming us" and pointed out that the "new collectivity, as promised by Costas Simitis immediately after the 1996 party congress, has not become a reality". He added that "(the idea of) a unified and large PASOK has nothing to do with reality".

In line with recent press reports, deputy Pantelis Economou announced that he would not be a candidate for the party's presidency.

On his part, European Commissioner Christos Papoutsis began his address by reminding that PASOK was born out of a "national liberation movement" (PAK). Finally, it was announced that Mr. Simitis is the only candidate for PASOK's presidency at the 5th party congress.

Japanese Crown Prince Hitachi honoured by City of Athens

Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos yesterday bestowed the Medal of the City of Athens on Japanese Crown Prince Mosahito Hitachi, during a ceremony at City Hall.

"The large number of Japanese citizens that visit Greece, the admiration (of the Japanese) about Greek civilisation and Greek lettersIare returned by the admiration of Greeks for the great Japanese tradition and culture, but also by the increasing coope ration between Greece and Japan in the business and trade sectors," Mr. Avramopoulos said in his address.

Crown Prince Hitachi replied that "Athens, which is the cradle of civilisationIis called to play a significant role today with the organisation of the 2004 Olympic Games, the first of the next millennium."

Cuban official received by Synaspismos, DHKKI leaders

Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos held talks with the Communist Party of Cuba's international relations secretary, Alberto Rodriguez Arufe, who is currently in Greece for the ruling PASOK's congress. Mr. Constan topoulos briefed the Cuban politician on the situation in the Balkans and on Greek-Turkish relations. In turn, he was briefed on efforts being made by the Castro government to overcome economic difficulties faced by the Caribbean island nation.

Mr. Arufe had a similar meeting with Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas whom he invited, as well as Mr. Constantopoulos, to visit Havana.

Karamanlis says Euroelections a 'referendum' of gov't policies

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis yesterday said the upcoming June Euroelections will determine the degree to which Greek citizens are pleased with current PASOK government's policies.

"No matter how hard (PM) Mr. Simitis is trying to downplay their importance, he cannot alter the character of these Euroelections," Mr. Karamanlis said from Leonidi, in the central Peloponnese, the first leg of his three-day tour of the region.

Referring to the PASOK congress, the ND leader spoke of an "apparent effort to preserve the remnants of a partisan army", and called on the Greek people not to compromise with "decadence and misery."

Greek trustees brief on appeal against Swiss court decision

The four Greek administrators of the patrimony of 14-year-old Athina Roussel, sole heir to the vast Onassis fortune, said yesterday that the initial stage of an appeal process against a Swiss court's decision to assign administration of the assets to a Lucerne-based auditing firm had been successful.

The Athens-based administrators on March 15 filed an appeal with a Swiss first instance court against the decision of the Guardianship Authority of Oberengadin removing administration of the patrimony from them and assigning it to the auditing firm KPMG Fides.

In a press release issued yesterday, the administrators said the president of the court ruled on Thursday that they had an arguable case and ordered a stay of execution of the Guardianship Authority's decision, even though they had made no request to th is effect.

The last surviving heir of the Onassis shipping fortune, Athina will inherit an estimated US$600 million on her 18th birthday. Four Greek administrators and Athina's father, Thierry Roussel, originally comprised the five-member board of administration.

The authority decided to remove the administration of the patrimony from the board on the grounds that Athina's patrimony was at risk "because of serious disputes between the Greek members of the board and Mr. Roussel", since such disputes "render impos sible" the functioning of the board.

Convictions handed down in fatal '97 ferry-gunboat collision

A Samos court yesterday convicted the one-time skipper and second in command of the ferry boat "Samaina" to slightly more than five years in prison and a million-drachma fine over the 1996 collision of the gunboat "Kostakos", which resulted in the death o f four sailors.

Mattheos Pneumatikis and Antonis Tzoanos where convicted on four counts of manslaughter and negligence in performing their duty.

Both men appealed their conviction.

However, the court accepted that both vessels were at fault, while it accepted the right to appeal.

Bond prices, turnover hit record highs

Secondary bond market prices yesterday hit all-time records in the highest turnover ever with domestic players leading the rally, followed by institutional investors abroad.

The new 10-year bond finished at 103.80-104.20, posting a yield of 5.38 percent from 5.81 percent in the previous session. The yield spread with German bunds hitting a historic low of 1.88 percent, boding well for Greece's entry into the euro zone.

The previous 10-year issue ended at 118.75-119.15.

Electronic trade was 231 billion drachmas from 58 billion drachmas a day earlier.

The drachma nosed down against the euro in the foreign currency market, where trade was lacklustre.

The euro was set at 321.710 drachmas at the central bank's daily fix from 321.400 drachmas in the previous session.

Stocks skyrocket in heavy trade

Equities surged to new records yesterday as the market reacted positively to a speech by the prime minister at the opening of the ruling PASOK party's congress the previous day.

The general index broke through the 3,700-point level to end at a record 3, 774.29 points, up 3.12 percent. It was the market's 22nd record close this year.

Turnover was heavy at 210.097 billion drachmas on 31,240,071 shares traded.

Foreign institutional investors were active, opening new positions in Greek blue chips.

Traders said the premier's pledge to keep to the timetable for the country's participation in the euro inspired confidence in the country's political and economic outlook.

Bank shares led the rally, focusing on Commercial, Alpha Credit, National and Ionian Bank.

Investors again discounted a positive outcome for a second tender to privatise a majority stake in Ionian Bank, and anticipated robust profitability for the sector in the first quarter.

According to market estimates, listed companies' profits will rise 50 percent in the first quarter of 1999 compared with the same period last year.

Sector indices scored gains.

Banks soared 4.79 percent, Leasing rose 0.37 percent, Insurance jumped 7.49 percent, Investment increased 1.46 percent, Construction fell 0.48 percent, Industrials rose 2.28 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.16 percent up and Holding eased 0.77 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies was unchanged from Thursday's close.

Advancers led decliners by 165 to 114 with another 13 issues unchanged.

The FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 3.67 percent up at 2,350.63 points.

Eurobank's shareholders okay Dr 110 bln share cap rise

Shareholders of EFG Eurobank yesterday endorsed management's proposal for a share capital increase of 110 billion drachmas.

Preference rights may be exercised for one month, with the process expected to end at the end of May or early June.

Eligible to take part in the rights issue will be buyers of stock in the current public offer, which ended yesterday after attracting strong interest from retail investors.

Finance ministry to auction T-bills

The finance ministry yesterday announced that it will auction three- and six-month Treasury bills in paperless form on Tuesday.

Thirty billion drachmas' worth of each term are on auction.

The sale will be held through primary dealers with a commission of 0.15 percent for the three-month T-bills and 0.25 percent for the six-month paper.

Ionian consumer loan at 14.5%

Ionian Bank will offer a consumer loan during the Easter period with a slightly lower interest rate.

The loan concerns a total of up to one million drachmas without collateral and with a 14.5 per cent interest rate plus tax charges. Borrowers can select a four-month grace period with the first instalment payable five months after the payment date and a total duration of 12 or 18 months.

WEATHER

Scattered clouds throughout Greece on Sunday, increased on the east and south of the country with possible scattered rainfall. Partly cloudy in Athens with temperatures ranging between 4-16C. Partly cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures ranging between -2C to 12C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          291.727
Pound sterling       474.672
Japanese yen (100)   248.655
French franc          48.652
German mark          163.172
Italian lira (100)    16.482
Irish Punt           405.219
Belgian franc          7.911
Luxembourg franc       7.911
Finnish mark          53.675
Dutch guilder        144.818
Danish kr.            42.944
Austrian sch.         23.193
Spanish peseta         1.919
Swedish kr.           35.752
Norwegian kr.         37.746
Swiss franc          199.650
Port. Escudo           1.592
Aus. dollar          183.153
Can. dollar          192.091
Cyprus pound         550.560
Euro                 319.136
(M.S.)
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