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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-03-27
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 27/03/1999 (ANA)
NEWS IN DETAILGive diplomacy a new chance in Kosovo, Greece says
Greece on Friday relayed to the the U.S. ambassador in Athens its view that there could be no military solution to the Kosovo crisis adding that talks should resume for the finding of a political solution.
Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis held separate meetings yesterday with US Ambassador Nicholas Burns and exchanged views on the Yugoslav crisis.
Mr. Papandreou and Mr. Burns held lengthy talks in the afternoon at the latter's request, while diplomatic sources disclosed that the US envoy underlined to the Greek foreign minister the US point of view that NATO should appear and act united regarding the Alliance's strikes against Yugoslavia with the aim of convincing President Slobodan Milosevic to accept the proposed agreement on the strife-torn province of Kosovo.
The same sources stated that Mr. Papandreou reiterated to Mr. Burns the Greek government's stance that whatever military solution will create more problems than solve. The diplomatic sources added that Mr. Burns requested from the Greek side to keep its reactions low key, regarding US President Bill Clinton's statements that Greece and Turkey could be drawn into the Kosovo conflict if it worsened, while he reiterated that those statements were misinterpreted.
Mr. Kranidiotis, who met earlier in the day with Ambassador Burns, expressed the Greek government's wish to see an end to NATO strikes against Yugoslavia and give diplomacy a new chance.
Diplomatic sources said Greece was even considering using its veto if the offensive continued up to the third phase.
Greece's permanent representative to NATO has been instructed to keep a close watch on developments.
Mr. Burns, who requested the meeting with Mr. Kranidiotis, reiterated the U.S. position that NATO's objective was to convince Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic to concede.
According to diplomatic sources, Mr. Burns told the Greek minister that President Clinton's remarks about Greece and Turkey had been misinterpreted.
"Mr. Burns told Mr. Kranidiotis that President Clinton did not mean that there could be a war. He meant that the continuation of the Kosovo crisis could intensify and take on wider dimensions in the region but not with the meaning that there would be a military clash between Greece and Turkey," the sources said.
Mr. Kranidiotis, however, pointed out that such statements created a climate of insecurity.
The goverment spokesman, Yiannis Nikolaou, said that Greece's stance on the latest developments in the Balkans have not affected or been affected by its relationship with NATO or the United States.
Greece has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a resumption of diplomatic efforts for a political solution.
"It is time for all of us to return to dialogue, to try for a political setttlement and for the bombing to stop," Mr. Nikolaou said.
Asked about U.S. President Bill Clinton's warnings that the Kosovo situation could spiral out of control and drag Greece and Turkey into a war, Mr. Nikolaou said Greece was "an oasis of stability in the region".
Meanwhile thousands of protesters clashed with riot police outside the US embassy in Athens after a march against NATO bombings in Yugoslavia.
The protesters, mainly members of lelf-wing youth organisations and trade unionists burned American flags and threw stones and paint at police in full riot gear, after breaking glass at the residence of Britain's ambassador and hurling similar objects a t the embassy during the march.
The crowd dispersed after police used tear gas and there were reports of several arrests.
Rallies were also held in Thessaloniki, Piraeus, Patra and Irakleion.
Rubin clarifies statements on Greece, Turkey
WASHINGTON (ANA- T. Ellis) - State Department spokesman James Rubin on Friday clarified that the US statements on a possible involvement of Greece and Turkey in the Kosovo conflict did not imply a clash between the two countries.
"We do not mean that Greece and Turkey will attack each other. What we mean is that as the pressure expressed by this conflict spread, it could also influence Greece and Turkey if the war spread. And given the interest we have for Geece and Turkey and the close relationship we have wih both countries, we are concerned over the situation," he said.
Greece braces for wave of Kosovar refugees
Greece braced for a new wave of Kosovar refugees fleeing the NATO bombing raids in neighbouring Yugoslavia, officials said on Friday.
A series of receiving centres have been set up in three prefectures in central Macedonia to house an eventual influx of refugees through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Albania.
The officials said that the Greek government would also grant humanitarian aid to Skopje and Tirana to harbour the refugees.
The centres, in the northern Greek prefectures of Pella, Kilkis and Serres are already in the process of getting organised and equipped.
The officials said that an estimated 1,200 refugees will be housed in an orphanage in Serres while another 900 will be hosted at a closed gymnasium in Pella.
"The refugees will be sheltered for a few days, or even weeks, before being transfered to Larissa, Fthiotida and near Mt Olympus in central Greece", the officials said.
German military planes land in Thessaloniki
Three German military transport aircraft on Friday landed at Thessaloniki airport with military personnel and supplies destined for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), while a German transport ship was expected to reach the city's port later.
Three German Air Force C-130 planes landed at the "Macedonia" airport transporting 30 men and war supplies while one of them was used to transport 120 observers of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who were based in Kosov o. According to reports, an additional German C-130 is expected to land in Thessaloniki today.
Army general staff denies missiles report
The Army General Staff on Friday denied reports published in an Athens daily, according to which 300 missiles were transported to an undisclosed location the day before NATO's air attacks in Yugoslavia.
The officials said that on March 24 two C-130 transport planes loaded with a number of Russian-made RM-70 ground to ground missiles were destined for a Slovak maintainance facility for scheduled periodic operational maintainance.
This event was in no way connected to the recent developments in the region, the officials said.
Acting government spokesman Yiannis Nikolaou affirmed the above information and added that all should be more careful with such issues.
Greece says satisfied with deal at Berlin Agenda 2000 summit
BERLIN (ANA/M.Spinthourakis-G. Zitouniati) - Greece said on Friday it had driven a hard bargain and was "fully satisfied" with the deal on EU funding agreed at the Berlin Agenda 2000 summit, after marathon talks.
"I don't know if burning the midnight oil works generally, but this time it did," Prime Minister Costas Simitis told reporters on the conclusion of the extraordinary summit.
Mr. Simitis said Greece would receive nine trillion drachmas from structural funds over the 2000-2006 period, a 13 percent increase over allocations for the 1993-1996 period.
"The final result is positive because inflows to Greece from the Common Agricultural Policy are expected to be higher - albeit marginally - in the next seven years, while inflows from structural funds will be significantly higher," he said. The promised funds will ensure Greece will be able to build on developmental and social policies, including tax reform, he added.
Along with national resources, public investments over the next seven-year period will total 15 trillion drachmas, an increase of 50 percent over previous years and will constitute five to six percent of GDP.
The exploitation of Community funds will create the basis for an increase in the purchasing power of the average Greek to 80 percent of the EU average in 2006, compared to 69 percent today, the prime minister said.
"With this development, the Greek economy is realising real convergence with the economies of other member-states," Mr. Simitis said.
Two bidders vying for Ionian Bank
Two bids were received in a tender for the privatisation of Ionian Bank, its main shareholder, Commercial Bank of Greece, said in a statement on Friday.
According to sources, the bidders for the 51 percent stake in Ionian were Alpha Credit Bank and the Bank of Piraeus Group. The deadline for offers expired at yesterday evening.
EFG Eurobank, which had submitted a non-binding offer in the first round of the tender, said in a separate statement that it had not bid in the second round.
Piraeus' bid was around 250 billion drachmas, according to sources at the bank.
Trade unionists opposed to Ionian Bank's privatisation vowed to launch a new wave of strikes and take its main shareholder, Commercial Bank of Greece, to court if the sale price is too low.
Stocks jump with investors seeing economy unscathed by Kosovo
Equities rebounded spectacularly on Friday, recovering a chunk of sharp losses earlier in the week on tension stemming from NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia.
The general index ended a highly volatile session 2.22 percent up at 3, 548.46 points reflecting gains in banks, construction, investment and insurance stocks.
Financial analysts said that adverse developments in the Balkans would only have a limited impact on the domestic economy.
They predicted a gradual decoupling of the market from regional developments if the current crisis did not escalate.
Traders noted that an EU summit agreement earmarking nine trillion drachmas from structural funds for Greece in the period 2000-2006 would greatly benefit the country's economic growth.
The market has also discounted a positive outcome in a second tender for the sale of a majority stake in Ionian Bank whose deadline for bids was yesterday.
Turnover was 155.9 billion drachmas and volume 22,539,062 shares.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index rose 2.09 percent to 2,210.18 points.
Athens bourse to phase in paperless trade from Monday
The Athens Stock Exchange is to begin the first phase of a switch to paperless trade on Monday with a group of 20 less heavily traded stocks. The first phase ends on April 2.
Two more groups of stocks will follow in the middle of April and the beginning of May.
Remaining shares will switch to paperless trade on the day following their annual general shareholders meetings.
Finance ministry to auction 12M T-bills on Tuesday
The finance ministry will auction 200 billion drachmas' worth of 12-month Treasury bills on Tuesday in electronic form. The commission is 0.45 percent.
The ministry also said in a statement that it will hold a public offering of tax-free savings bonds in paperless form from Thursday, April 1 until Monday, April 5.
Northern exporters see Kosovo crisis hurting exports
The crisis in Yugoslavia will hurt domestic exports if it continues, with companies based in the north likely to be hit especially hard, the Association of Northern Greek Exporters (SEBE) said on Friday.
"(The situation) will immediately create problems, mainly at border posts, and will affect the transportation of our products," said SEBE president Thomas Algianakoglou.
According to SEBE's Institute of Export Research and Studies, Greek exports to Yugoslavia represent 2.0 percent of total exports and 11.0 percent of exports to Balkan countries.
The main products Greece exports to Yugoslavia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are petroleum products (11.4 billion drachmas); vehicles (5.3 billion drachmas); tobacco products (4.7 billion drachmas); and fruit and vegetables (4.3 billion drachmas). In 1997, total exports to the two countries were 56.8 billion drachmas, up from 40 billion in 1996 and 4.5 billion in 1995. Greece's main imports from Yugoslavia are ferrous ores (23.3 billion drachmas).
Total imports totalled 38.2 billion drachmas in 1997 from 18.9 billion in 1996 and 240 million drachmas in 1995.
Changeable weather is expected throughout the country on Sunday with rain and storms due in eastern Macedonia, Thrace, the eastern Aegean islands and Dodecanese islands, easing off in the afternoon. Athens will be rainy with brighter weather forecast later in the day. Temperatures 9C to 16C. The same weather is expected in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 14C.
Athens Foreign Exchange
Bank of Greece closing rates of: March 26,1999
Buying Selling US dollar 296.013 302.876 Canadian dollar 196.416 200.970 Australian dollar 188.510 192.880 Pound sterling 480.981 492.133 Irish punt 406.781 416.213 Cyprus pound 552.167 564.969 French franc 48.839 49.971 Swiss franc 200.468 205.116 Belgian franc 7.942 8.126 German mark 163.801 167.599 Finnish mark 53.881 55.131 Dutch guilder 145.376 148.746 Danish kroner 43.114 44.114 Swedish kroner 35.807 36.637 Norwegian kroner 38.228 39.114 Austrian schilling 23.282 23.822 Italian lira (100) 16.546 16.929 Japanese yen (100) 248.298 254.055 Spanish peseta 1.925 1.970 Portuguese escudo 1.598 1.635(C.S.)
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