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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-03-26

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, 26/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis says political solution "only possible solution" to Kosovo
  • Tsohatzopoulos calls for peaceful dialogue on Kosovo
  • Stephanopoulos, Kaklamanis statements on Kosovo conflict
  • Opposition reactions to Kosovo crisis
  • Kranidiotis says NATO strikes must stop
  • Greek Orthodox archbishop talks to Clinton
  • NATO forces 'hit' ASE
  • Piraeus Bank-NatWest
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis says political solution "only possible solution" to Kosovo

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that the only possible solution to the Kosovo crisis was a political one, stressing it could not be resolved through force of arms and military intervention.

Expressing grief for the victims of the NATO air strikes during a press conference on the sidelines of a European Union Summit, Mr. Simitis said the strikes had been announced in advance some days ago. If they had not been carried out, he added, it woul d have damaged the credibility of both NATO and Europe.

"We had pointed out to (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic, in fact (then foreign minister) Theodoros Pangalos had paid a special visit for precisely this reason, that if he went too far he would be faced with an impasse," Mr. Simitis said.

Mr. Simitis categorically rejected any linking of developments in Kosovo with Greek-Turkish relations, saying Athens had already delivered a demarche to Washington protesting the "erroneous" linking of the two issues by US President Bill Clinton.

President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said this week that fighting in Kosovo could spill over into neighbouring countries and eventually spark a clash between Greece and Turkey.

"Kosovo is a special case and has nothing to do with Greek-Turkish relations and if it is seen as having some connection with these relations, then this view is erroneous," Mr. Simitis said.

Mr. Simitis said he completely disagreed with President Clinton and Mr. Blair.

Mr. Simitis said he had told his EU counterparts that "he totally disagrees with the view that developments in Kosovo could provoke a conflict between Greece and Turkey". "This view can in no way be justified," Mr. Simitis underlined.

In his press conference yesterday, the premier said Greece had already undertaken a number of initiatives aimed at the peaceful settlement of the Kosovo crisis and would continue in this direction. He said Greece had also taken steps concerning the dispatch of humanitarian aid, while with respect to the possibility of Greece facing a wave of refugees, Mr. Simitis said: "We are obliged to receive the refugees but I hope they won't come."

Mr. Simitis said Foreign Minister George Papandreou had already contacted his counterparts in neighbouring countries, particularly the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), in an effort to contain any refugee wave there.

Replying to reporters' questions, Mr. Simitis said the EU statement on Wednesday expressing support for the NATO attacks on Yugoslavia, was not directed against the Serbian people with whom Greece maintains long- standing friendly relations.

He added that Greece had pointed out the need for military intervention in Yugoslavia to have the "cover" of a UN Security Council resolution, but that it was eventually decided that the previous resolution of the Security Council would suffice.

Mr. Simitis expressed the view that developments in Kosovo would not have negative repercussions for Greece "which constitutes a force for peace and stability in the region".

Tsohatzopoulos calls for peaceful dialogue on Kosovo

Speaking in Athens in the early hours of yesterday morning, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said "the only path which can lead to a resolution of the crisis in Kosovo is peaceful dialogue and it is now imperative that those with the relevant competence take appropriate initiatives".

Despite Greece's insistence that the crisis be resolved peacefully, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said, Yugoslavia's failure to agree to decisions taken (in peace talks) at Rambouillet has resulted in the use of force against Yugoslavia. Mr. Tsohatzopoulos , who was earlier forced to cut short his London visit due to developments, said: "Now the Kosovo problem is unfolding (at the level of) the refugees and the dead. A new figure for victims has been added."

Earlier on Wednesday evening, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos continued, he had telephone conversations with his US and German counterparts, to whom he reiterated Greece's steadfast position that there could be no military solution to the Kosovo crisis.

"The Kosovo problem affects the neighbouring countries, it has repercussions in the region, but it cannot be linked with Greek-Turkish issues," he said.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said Greece had taken all the necessary measures to deal with any problems of a humanitarian nature which may arise as a result of developments in Kosovo.

Stephanopoulos, Kaklamanis statements on Kosovo conflict

In statements made on the occasion of Greece's national day yesterday, President Kostis Stephanopoulos expressed regret at developments in the region and stressed that a political solution for Kosovo was attainable, provided it was based on respect for the "borders and principles of states".

President Stephanopoulos said other areas also existed in which human rights should be protected with other methods and not the one in question.

Referring to statements linking the crisis in Kosovo to Greek-Turkish relations, President Stephanopoulos said he had "never thought that the bombing of Serbia would be a way of averting a conflict between Greece and Turkey".

Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis said he felt "shame", as a European citizen, over the fact that Europe had not managed "to stand up and be counted" and was "being led into adventures with the responsibility of Washington, which is using humani tarian considerations as a pretext for the intervention".

Opposition reactions to Kosovo crisis

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis stressed also that a political solution should be found to the Kosovo problem, saying "we do not believe that major international problems can be settled by the use of force".

Speaking on the island of Lesbos yesterday, where he was attending 25 March events marking the commencement in 1821 of the Greek struggle for independence against the Ottoman Turks, Mr. Karamanlis said that under no circumstances should there be any change in borders in the region and spoke of double standards on the part of the international community.

"Force has been used in the case of Kosovo without the consent of the United Nations Security Council, while in the case of Cyprus, many resolutions have been adopted without the intervention of NATO being requested," Mr. Karamanlis said.

He also addressed himself to Ankara, saying Greece "wants to walk along the path of peace and stability with Turkey, on the basis of mutual respect for international treaties and conventions".

He underlined however that Greece was determined to confront any threat, irrespective of where it originated.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) issued a statement calling on Greeks "to rise up, to stand at the side of the Yugoslav people and demand that NATO withdraw from the region and stop the war".

The Coalition of the Left condemning the NATO strikes against Yugoslavia demanded an immediate end to the NATO strikes.

A Coalition statement said the NATO bombardment and the circumventing of the UN Security Council was a blatant violation of international law and "an act of brutal imposition".

Kranidiotis says NATO strikes must stop

Strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia must stop immediately, Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis said last night, adding that otherwise there was a danger of increasing tension and the spreading of the crisis.

He furthermore underlined the need for a resumption of diplomatic efforts for the search of a political solution, noting that Greece was in contact with neighbouring countries and its European Union partners stressing this need.

Mr. Kranidiotis announced that Greece intends to raise the issue of the economic consequences of the crisis and the need to seek ways of tackling them at the next EU Council of General Affairs, adding that the European Union should examine the idea of convening an international conference on the economic development of the Balkans.

He also said that instructions have been given to Greece's permanent NATO representative, ambassador G. Savaidis, to express Greece's reservations when the issue of NATO's operations passing into the "third phase" is raised.

The "second phase" of the alliance's operations is currently underway and for which the consensus of member-states has been secured with a previous decision. The "third phase" anticipates mass bombings of military targets throughout the entire territory of Yugoslavia.

On the question of the "fourth phase", concerning the sending of ground forces, Mr. Kranidiotis said that Greece "is extremely reserved to the point of being negative."

Today, Mr. Kranidiotis will have successive meetings with the ambassadors of Romania, Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. US Ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns has also requested a meeting with M. Kranidiotis.

Greek Orthodox archbishop talks to Clinton

Archbishop of America Spyridon and leading members of the Greek-American community had a meeting with US President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office of the White House yesterday in the framework of the established annual ceremony for the signing of the declaration on Greek Independence Day by the US President.

The brief courtesy meeting was attended by Deputy Foreign Minister on Expatriate Issues Grigoris Niotis, who is in Washington to attend events commemorating March 25 national celebrations. On the occasion,he was due to meet Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Mark Grossman later yesterday.

Speaking after the meeting. Mr. Niotis said he thanked President Clinton for the interest he is showing for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue and for the initiatives he has launched in this direction. He called on him to continue efforts to achieve this target.

Mr. Niotis said developments in Kosovo were also discussed, while President Clinton expressed his personal interest in the Greek minority in southern Albania as well as on the prevention of the war from spreading.

Mr. Niotis said there is no reason for Greece and Turkey to get involved in the Kosovo crisis, which in past days has been raised as one of the main reasons leading NATO to go ahead with bombings against Yugoslavia.

The meeting was attended, among others, by Greece's Ambassadors in Washington Alexandros Philon, the President of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) Andrew A. Athens, Greek-American former Congressman John Brademas and the President of the Natio nal Coordinating Committee Andy Manatos.

In his declaration, President Clinton said:

"America has deep roots in Greece, and today we celebrate the friendship values and aspirations our two countries have shared for more than 2 centuries. Greek thought and the passion for truth and justice deeply influenced many of our Nation's earliest and greatest leaders. The documents our founders wrote to establish our democracy and the political and legal institutions they created to preserve our independence and protect our rights reveal that influence."

"The bonds of family have further reinforced our ties of friendship and shared ideals. All across our Nation, Americans of Greek descent have brought their energy, grace, and determination to every field of endeavour, and they have added immeasurably to the richness and diversity of our national life. The sons and daughters of Greece have flourished in America, and with their help, America too has flourished," it added.

"Today, as we celebrate the 178th anniversary of the onset of modern Greece's struggle for independence, let us celebrate as well the great partnership between our nations and the precious heritage of freedom and democracy we share," the declaration said.

NATO forces 'hit' ASE

Fears over developments in the Balkans as NATO-led forces were ready to launch air strikes against Serb military targets hit the Athens Stock Exchange and pushed equity prices sharply lower on Wednesday.

The general index dropped 4.57 percent to 3,471.48 points, off the day's lows of 3,359.61.

Traders said reports that Serbs were willing to resume talks with the West on the Kosovo issue helped in the partial recovery of the market as large institutional investors, mainly banks, bought blue-chip stocks to support the market.

Analysts predicted that the Greek market would remain nervous awaiting developments in Kosovo.

Turnover was 199.931 billion drachmas and volume 27,445,808 shares.

Sector indices suffered losses. Banks plunged 4.17 percent, Leasing dropped 5.15 percent, Insurance eased 3.91 percent, Investment fell 5.89 percent, Construction ended 5.46 percent off, Industrials dropped 5.04 percent, Miscellaneous fell 4.48 percent and Holding ended 5.16 percent down.

The parallel market index for small cap companies eased 3.99 percent and the FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 4.62 percent down to 2,164.84.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 263 to 16 with another 7 issues unchanged.

Piraeus Bank-NatWest

Two days before the deadline to submit binding bids for the purchase of a majority stake in Ionian Bank expires, the Bank of Piraeus - a participant in the tender - on Wednesday announced it was taking control of National Westminster Bank's operations in Greece.

NatWest's network includes five branches in Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki offering services to more than 11,000 customers. The bank's assets totalled 300 billion drachmas. NatWest's workforce in Greece totalled 190.

NatWest's operations focused in foreign exchange deposits, corporate and maritime finance, money market and securities transactions. Bank of Piraeus Group includes the Bank of Piraeus, Macedonia-Thrace Bank, Xiosbank, Piraeus Prime and their affiliates in the sectors of leasing, stockbroking and asset management.

The group's network totalled 145 branches with a workforce of more than 3, 000.

WEATHER

The forecast for today is cloudy in western regions with light rain gradually becoming stronger. Partly cloudy in the rest of the country, increasing after midday with possibility of scattered showers. Winds east- northeasterly, moderate, later becoming southerly with gale force in the Ionian Sea. Athens will be sunny with few clouds and temperatures of 7-17C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures of 3-15C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          294.624
Pound sterling       482.152
Japanese yen (100)   250.916
French franc          49.110
German mark          164.709
Italian lira (100)    16.637
Irish Punt           409.036
Belgian franc          7.986
Luxembourg franc       7.986
Finnish mark          54.180
Dutch guilder        146.182
Danish kr.            43.368
Austrian sch.         23.411
Spanish peseta         1.936
Swedish kr.           35.893
Norwegian kr.         37.212
Swiss franc          202.259
Port. Escudo           1.607
Aus. dollar          187.810
Can. dollar          194.829
Cyprus pound         556.909
Euro                 322.142
(C.E.)
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