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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-03-31
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 31/03/1999 (ANA)
NEWS IN DETAILFM Papandreou on lightning visit to Tirana
Foreign Minister George Papandreou left shortly after noon today for a lightning visit to Albania and talks with the neighbouring country's leadership. He is due to hold consultations with Albanian prime minister Pandeli Majko and Archbishop Anastassios of Tirana and All Albania, and possibly also with Albanian president Rexhep Mejdani, before returning to Athens late tonight. Papandreou is further due to meet in Tirana with European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs Emma Bonino, who will be holding consultations today in FYROM and Albania. problem.
PM voices concerns to Albanian counterpart
Prime Minister Costas Simitis spoke earlier on Wednesday with his Albanian counterpart Pandeli Majko, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas revealed later. Reppas said Simitis had underlined to Majko the government's "abiding interest" in the interests and property belonging to the Greek minority in southern Albania and requested these rights not be harmed in the process of relieving the plight of the Kosovar refugees. Many of the ethnic Greeks from Albania are working and residing in Greece, in the wake of financial and social turmoil in Albania over the past few years. Majko assured the Greek prime minister that the refugees heading to the south of the country would not harm the interests of the Greek minority.
Alternate FM in Skopje on Thursday
Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis will be in Skopje for talks on how to alleviate the refugee crisis on Thursday, the government spokesman said. Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos meanwhile will touch on these issues during his visit to Bucharest, Sofia and Skopje. Reppas reiterated that the Greek government had not been asked for permission to move further NATO troops through its territory. He said that the Russian initiative to mediate a ceasefire had indicated that both sides were far from achieving agreement but called again for a solution to the problem "as soon as yesterday".
Former FM Papoulias says NATO lacking in answers
Before leaving for Tirana, Foreign Minister Papandreou conferred with former PASOK foreign ministers, including Karolos Papoulias and Yiannis Capsis. Papoulias told reporters that the government appeared ready to deal with the many problems - including the refugee issue - that the Kosovo crisis had thrown up. Referring to the NATO bombings, Papoulias said that NATO was attempting to weaken Serbian but had failed to provide an answer to the question of what happens after Milosevic. He said the patriotic feelings of Serbs had to be taken into account and further expressed concern about the dire situation the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was facing.
Greece sends humanitarian aid to Tirana
Papandreou arrived in Tirana on one of two Hellenic Air Force C-130 transport planes carrying humanitarian aid for refugees arriving from Kosovo, according to an ANA despatch from the Albanian capital. Responding immediately to Tirana's request for assistance, the Greek government sent 20 tons of foodstuff, pharmaceutical supplies for 2,000 people, 1,000 tents, 5,000 blankets, 20 prefabricated homes and two ambulances.
Turkey relief mission waved through Greek air space
Greece has granted Turkey permission allowing a transport plane to fly through Greek air space with humanitarian aid to neighbouring Albania, a foreign ministry announcement said today. It said Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem had telephoned his Greek counterpart George Papandreou requesting permission for the plane's overflight, within the framework of a recent decision taken by Balkan foreign ministers in Bucharest calling for inter-Balkan cooperation in coordinating humanitarian assistance.
Germany rejects Easter Sunday truce proposal
The German government on Wednesday rejected a proposal put forward by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou for the suspension of NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia on the Catholic and Orthodox Easter Sundays on April 4 and 11 respectively. An ANA despatch from Bonn said the rejection was announced by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer at a joint news conference with Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping. Fischer reportedly told reporters that acceptance of Papandreou's proposal would be tantamount to granting permission to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to continue ethnic cleansing operations in Kosovo at Easter "and this would be inconceivable". Fischer yesterday dismissed peace proposals by Milosevic to Russian Premier Yevgeny Primakov earlier in the day as "wholly unacceptable". He said NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia would stop only when Belgrade's troops stop killing ethnic Albanians.
Port protest in Thessaloniki on Wednesday
Members of the Communist Party of Greece youth group and of Youth for Peace said they would rally at the port of Thessaloniki on Wednesday to protest the city being used as a transit point for NATO forces in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). In an announcement, the groups called for the public to participate in the all-night protest, set to begin at 8 p.m., which will call for NATO troops to leave the Balkans. Thessaloniki was used as the transit post for the some 10,000 NATO troops now in FYROM and destined to be used in Kosovo in the event of an agreement at the Rambouillet peace talks. Another 27 tanks, 30 armoured personnel carriers, 102 jeeps and 31 trailers were unloaded from the German freighter Petersburg at the port on Wednesday morning.
Anti-war concert, border march planned
Thessaloniki will play host to a series of anti-war events being organised by local artists and intellectuals through to Sunday. On Friday, an anti- war rally and concert is scheduled in Thessaloniki's Aristotelous Square. Also scheduled for Friday is a symbolic blockade of the city's port with trawlers. "What we are saying is: Clinton and Milosevic - stop the human losses," university professor Antonis Manitakis said on Tuesday. On Sunday, a peace march to the town of Doiranis, on the border with FYROM, is scheduled. The group has also begun raising funds to send to both Serbs and Kosovars.
Panamanian president begins official visit
President Kostis Stephanopoulos on Wednesday had talks with his Panamanian counterpart, Ernesto Perez Balladares, who is currently on an official visit to Greece. The talks focused on bilateral and international isues, particularly the situation in the Balkan region in view of the Kosovo crisis. Also on Wednesday, Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis and Panamanian Foreign Minister Jorge Eduardo Ritter signed an economic and technological cooperation agreement. Balladares said the sizeable Greek community in Panama and Greece's merchant fleet served as bridges of friendship between the two countries.
Simitis considering visit to Cyprus - reports
Prime Minister Costas Simitis is considering paying a one-day visit to Cyprus to discuss recent developments in the region, according to an ANA despatch from Nicosia on Wednesday. The despatch quoted Cypriot government spokesman Costas Serezis as saying Simitis had expressed the desire to visit the island republic for an exchange views, particularly in view of the Kosovo crisis and its repercussions.
Central bank says inflation will be at 2.0pct mid-summer
The Bank of Greece anticipates that inflation would drop to around two percent by mid-summer, and warned that that rate must be maintained in order for achievement of the convergence criteria to be feasible. Lucas Papademos, the central bank's governor, today tabled in parliament the bank's six-monthly report on Greek monetary policy in 1998 and forecasts for 1999. Replying to press questions on whether the Yugoslav crisis would have repercussions on the Greek economy, Papdemos said the prospective duration of the Yugoslav developments was not expected to have direct repercussions on the economy, although it could prospectively create some edginess.
Equity price end sharply lower on failed Russian Kosovo bid
Equity prices ended sharply lower on Wednesday hit by fears over developments in Kosovo following an unsuccessful diplomatic initiative by Russia to end the crisis. Traders said investors largely ignored European Commission's positive report on the Greek economy, paving the way for the country's participation in EMU, and Bank of Greece's estimates that the country's economic strength would accelerate foreign capital inflows in the Athens Stock Exchange in the next few months, to an estimated 3.6 billion US dollars. The general index ended 3.84 percent off to 3,376.37 points, down 0.04 percent in March. The market has lost 10.19 percent of its value since the start of NATO air strikes in Kosovo. March's turnover totalled 3.8 billion drachmas, up from 2.7 billion in February. The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 5.71 percent lower.
Unstable weather will continue throughout Greece today with local showers and rainstorms. Winds variable, moderate to strong. Light rain in Athens with sunny spells and temperatures between 10-17C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 6-15C.
Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 300.844 Pound sterling 486.397 Japanese yen (100) 250.401 French franc 49.195 German mark 164.992 Italian lira (100) 16.666 Irish Punt 409.742 Belgian franc 7.999 Luxembourg franc 7.999 Finnish mark 54.274 Dutch guilder 146.434 Danish kr. 43.440 Austrian sch. 23.451 Spanish peseta 1.939 Swedish kr. 36.029 Norwegian kr. 38.583 Swiss franc 202.269 Port. Escudo 1.610 Aus. dollar 189.432 Can. dollar 198.519 Cyprus pound 557.504 Euro 322.698(M.P.)
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