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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-03-24

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, 24/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Tsohatzopoulos, Robertson London talks focus on Kosovo crisis
  • Greek-British military cooperation
  • Tsohatzopoulos press interviews
  • Parliament committee calls for peaceful solution to Kosovo crisis
  • Gov't reaction to Clinton's statement on Kosovo
  • Independence Day messages
  • Israel to honour several Greeks for saving Jews
  • Gov't denies it has received application for Kurdish TV station
  • Stocks dive on fears of NATO attack on Serbs
  • Bond prices end lower in Kosovo tension
  • Central bank to propose Dr 1,550 dividend
  • Bulgaria begins talks with Greek-Dutch group in telecom sale
  • Cosmote claims 16 pct of mobile phone market
  • NYSE president on possibilities of more Greek firms being listed
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Tsohatzopoulos, Robertson London talks focus on Kosovo crisis

The Kosovo crisis was the focal point in the London talks between British Secretary of Defence George Robertson and his Greek counterpart Akis Tsohatzopoulos, both men said at a joint press conference after their working lunch.

Both ministers also expressed grave concern over latest developments in this part of the Balkans.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos expressed fears over a possible major wave of refugees from Kosovo to Greece, adding that NATO's political and military force must exhaust all limits for the finding of a diplomatic solution to the Kosovo issue.

Mr. Robertson conceded that the situation in Kosovo has reached its last stage, but believes that a political solution might be found at the last moment, although he said this is up to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The two ministers also discussed bilateral relations, issues concerning the upcoming NATO summit, as well as the procurement of military equipment for the Greek armed forces. Mr. Tsohatzopoulos specifically discussed the latter issue with British Defence Undersecretary Douglas Henderson.

During talks with Mr. Roberston, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos called for alternative ideas on guarantees for implementaion of an agreement, so that a political solution may be found.

Commenting on British PM Tony Blair's earlier statement that if Kosovo were left to be handled by Serbia, one of the repercussions would be a crisis in Greek-Turkish relations, he said developments would directly affect neighbouring countries but not Turkey.

Greek-British military cooperation

During a second press conference later in the day, the minister said the Greek and British defence ministries had already established a close cooperation on issues of telecommunications and information systems, adding that Britain was interested in supply ing the "Challenger 2" main battle tank to the Greek military.

"Greece is also interested in participating in production of the Eurofighter aircraft, planned to be integrated into the Hellenic Air Force after 2005," he said, adding that negotiations were already underway with British Aerospace on the issue.

Finally, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said Britain was interested in supplying the Hellenic navy with missiles and gunboats, saying he would visit bases and shipyards of the Royal Navy.

Tsohatzopoulos press interviews

In the morning, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos gave a five-minute live interview to the Atlanta-based CNN TV network. Afterwards, he had a working breakfast at his hotel with the diplomatic editors of the "Financial Times", the "Independent", "Times", Reuters and the economic weekly "The Economist".

Speaking to CNN, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said Greece wants a solution to the problem of Kosovo on a political basis.

He said Greece is a neighbour in the Kosovo region and wants political pressure to be exerted by the international community to convince the Yugoslav leadership and the Albanian separatists to accept an agreement. He said the NATO force can be used as a n argument to have a political solution honoured.

Asked by the CNN's reporter whether Greece supports NATO bombings, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said Greece has accepted this initiative by NATO, while its allies in NATO have accepted, in turn, that Greece, being a neighbouring country, cannot contribute with its armed forces to this military operation.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that Greece, having good relations with the Balkan countries, is trying to exert its influence for a political solution. He said the crisis in Kosovo is not only a problem for Yugoslavia, but influences the entire region. The For mer Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Albania, Bulgaria and Greece.

The CNN's anchor then asked Mr. Tsohatzopoulos on the possibility of a major European war breaking out in the event Mr. Milosevic does not back down, who replied that the crisis has the characteristics of a local crisis.

Asked whether Greece is ready to get involved in a conflict, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that Greece is concerned because thousands of refugees had flocked into the country in the past and such an eventuality could create a new upheaval in the entire region . He said the solution to all the problems is a peaceful solution.

Parliament committee calls for peaceful solution to Kosovo crisis

Members of Parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee yesterday expressed concern over the "especially dangerous situation" created by the impasse in efforts to resolve the Kosovo problem.

They also expressed opposition to "any military intervention" and called on interested parties to show the necessary political will for a peaceful resolution of the problem.

"The committee believes the problem in Kosovo can only be resolved by political and peaceful means and expresses its opposition to any military intervention without the approval of the (United Nations) Security Council, " a statement read.

Gov't reaction to Clinton's statement on Kosovo

Greece was and will continue to be an "oasis of stability in the region", the acting government spokesman said yesterday when asked to comment on US President Bill Clinton's statement concerning possible Greek and Turkish involvement over Kosovo.

Acting government spokesman Yiannis Nikolaou said the US president did not anticipate involvement, but simply expressed his concern over possible developments in the region.

"Greece is an oasis of stability in the region, and shall continue to be," he said.

Independence Day messages

In a message on the March 25 anniversary of Greek Independence Day, celebrating the 1821 revolution against Ottoman rule, President Kostis Stephanopoulos stressed the need for national unity.

"At a time of fluidity throughout the world and uncertainty, when our country is faced with challenges and dangers, it is necessary for us to follow the example set by the heroes of the Greek Revolution, namely, their patriotic spirit, determination and unlimited love for the motherland and freedom, avoiding their mistakes and dissensions," the message read.

"Strengthening our confidence in the capabilities of our country and our people, forging national unanimity and offering all our strength at the service of the country, we can achieve all our targets. Let us proclaim once again that we are not prepared to make the slightest concession on our sovereign rights and let us assure that we are ready to work with all our strength for peace, stability and prosperity in our region," the message added.

In his message on the opportunity on Independence Day, main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis said it constituted a "day for everyone to rally and rise together."

Israel to honour several Greeks for saving Jews

The Israeli ambassador to Athens will honour several Greek citizens by adding their names to a list of more than 200 Greeks already honoured by the state of Israel for their efforts in saving the lives of persecuted Jews during the 1941-44 occupation, the Isreali embassy announced yesterday.

Ambassador Ran Curiel will bestow the title of the "Righteous Among the Nations" during a special event at the Municipality of Athens' cultural centre on Monday.

Mr. Curiel and the president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, Moses Konstantinis, will present the medals awarded by Yad Vashem, the Israeli institute devoted to "perpetuation of the memories of the heroes and martyrs" of the Jewish Holocaust during WWII.

Gov't denies it has received application for Kurdish TV station

Athens denied yesterday that it had received any application from Kurdish groups to establish a television station in Greece.

"There has been no application to the Greek government for it to extend a broadcasting licence for a Kurdish channel in Greece," government spokesman Yiannis Nikolaou said.

He was responding to reporters' questions in the wake of the decision by the British Independent Television Commission (ITC) to order the Kurdish channel MED TV to cease broadcasting for 21 days.

ITC said it had given Med TV three weeks to convince it to allow the station to continue broadcasting, after the station allegedly broadcast calls for acts of violence in Turkey.

Stocks dive on fears of NATO attack on Serbs

Fears of NATO air strikes against Serb military targets undermined sentiment on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday reversing a record- breaking price rally.

The general index ended 3.24 percent down at 3,637.80 points, off the day's lows. Turnover was 142.838 billion drachmas and volume 25,056,863 shares.

Traders said worries over developments in Kosovo offered investors a pretext to take profits.

The general index has gained 37 percent this year without experiencing a prolonged period of correction.

Banks dropped 3.69 percent, Leasing was 3.58 percent off, Insurance fell 2.32 percent, Investment ended 1.19 percent down, Construction fell 2.21 percent, Industrials plunged 3.17 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.97 percent off and Holding fell 2.92 percent .

National Bank of Greece ended at 22,540 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 39, 340, Ergobank at 26,630, Ionian Bank at 22,280, Titan Cement at 26,080, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,570, Intracom at 21,100, Minoan Lines at 7,500, Panafon at 8,375 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,350.

Bond prices end lower in Kosovo tension

Secondary bond market prices ended down yesterday on fears of military action by NATO against the Serbs. European markets also finished lower.

Electronic trade was 84 billion drachmas from 55 billion drachmas a day earlier. The 10-year bond was 103.35, showing a yield of 5.84 percent.

Aided by the drop in German bunds, the yield spread between the two- countries' paper was 1.85 percent.

The drachma slipped against the euro in the foreign currency market.

The euro was set at 322.300 drachmas at the central bank's daily fix from 321.600 drachmas in the previous session.

Central bank to propose Dr 1,550 dividend

The Bank of Greece, which is listed on the Athens bourse, is to propose a dividend of 1,550 drachmas, up from 1,208 drachmas a year earlier.

In addition, the central bank raised its assets by 904 billion drachmas, or 8.4 percent, due to a jump in foreign currency reserves by 37 percent in the wake of the drachma's entry into the European Union's Exchange Rate Mechanism last year and accompan ying devaluation.

On March 19, foreign currency reserves were 22.7 billion dollars.

At the end of 1998, drachma deposits at the central bank totalled 3.146 trillion drachmas, up 78.7 from a year earlier.

The figures were endorsed at a meeting on March 19 of the bank's general council.

Bulgaria begins talks with Greek-Dutch group in telecom sale

The Bulgarian government will begin negotiations with a Greek-Dutch consortium, the sole bidder in a privatisation tender for BTK, the state telecom.

The offer was opened yesterday but government officials released no information, citing a confidentiality agreement between the state and bidders Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation with KPN Telecom. The officials said details of the deal would be given following endorsement of the sale by the cabinet.

Sources told the Athens News Agency that the bid may fall at the top of a range of 400-600 million dollars that the government had set for sale of the 51 percent stake in BTK, including a licence to create a second mobile phone network.

Cosmote claims 16 pct of mobile phone market

Cosmote, the mobile phone subsidiary of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, has 420,000 subscribers, accounting for 16 percent of the market, it said in a statement yesterday.

The firm has 720 cells covering 92 percent of the population, and plans by the end of April to offer equal coverage with its two competitors.

The company's service for subscribers abroad handles all European countries, Latvia, Ukraine, Russia, Cyprus, India, Lebanon, South Africa, Singapore, Taiwan, Turkey and Hong Kong.

NYSE president on possibilities of more Greek firms being listed

New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) President William Johnston said yesterday that more Greek companies and banks were on the way to being listed, after OTE last year.

Speaking at a forum organised by the Capital Link company in Manhattan, he noted the Greek economy's dynamism, the high growth rates, and the fall in inflation, adding that the government had committed itself to large-scale privatisations in 1999.

Greek ambassador to the US Alexandros Filon pointed out Greece's increased productivity, reductions in public deficits and debt, a comparative flexibility in the labour market, and the country's advantageous position for access to Balkan and Black Sea countries.

Capital Market Commission president Stavros Thomadakis set out the radical institutional changes and innovations already introduced or on the way for improving transparency and efficiency.

OTE president Vasilis Rapanos referred to the state-run organisation's strategies and domestic and international activities and the framework of operational regulations in the new extremely competitive environment in telecommunications.

Olympics 2004 director Giorgos Leventis referred to the funding of the projects from the private sector, and cited the benefits which Greece will derive from the 2004 event, both in improving infrastructure and the quality of life in Athens, as well as in terms of employment and development.

WEATHER

Unsettled weather will prevail throughout Greece today with local rainfall and rainstorms. Snow in the mountainous regions of central and northern Greece. An improvement is expected in the evening. Winds variable, strong, turning gale force in the Aegean Sea. Partly cloudy in Athens with temperatures between 9-15C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 4- 12C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          293.364
Pound sterling       476.279
Japanese yen (100)   247.821
French franc          48.741
German mark          163.471
Italian lira (100)    16.512
Irish Punt           405.963
Belgian franc          7.926
Luxembourg franc       7.926
Finnish mark          53.773
Dutch guilder        145.083
Danish kr.            43.033
Austrian sch.         23.235
Spanish peseta         1.922
Swedish kr.           35.805
Norwegian kr.         37.946
Swiss franc          200.523
Port. Escudo           1.595
Aus. dollar          187.468
Can. dollar          194.968
Cyprus pound         553.119
Euro                 319.722
(C.E.)
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