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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-10-11
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>
NEWS IN ENGLISH
ATHENS, GREECE, 11/10/1999 (ANA)
NEWS IN DETAILSimitis: Early elections could jeopardise EMU entry
Prime Minister Costas Simitis warned on Saturday that possible national elections this spring emanating from the failure to elect a president could jeopardise Greece's bid to enter the "euro zone" by Jan. 1, 2001.
"While the country's application to join Economic and Monetary Union is being judged, political stability is needed, and the avoidance of any factor to upset the outcome, even slightly," Mr. Simitis told a ruling PASOK party meeting.
Addressing 2,500 members of PASOK's rallying committees, responsible for grass roots campaigning, PASOK's leader repeated that national elections should be held in September 2000 at the end of the government's four-year term. A failure by Parliament to muster enough votes for a winner to emerge in the presidential election early next year would lead to dissolution of the legislature and early national polls.
Greece is to submit its euro bid to the European Union in mid-March, while a decision is expected in June. Turning to the party's internal practice, Mr. Simitis cautioned party cadres against allowing personal ambition to override party cohesion, which had led to defeat for PASOK in the European parliamentary election.
He also reiterated the party's socialist roots, citing as policy the "redistribution of wealth", a strong social state, higher employment and a better standard of living.
He accused the main opposition New Democracy party of refusing to state its views clearly and concealing its ideological base, which he called support for an unbridled free market that would lead to an arbitrary and unfair distribution of the surplus of growth.
He also rapped left-wing opposition parties for hanging on to outmoded concepts of a state-centred economy, and what they saw as the immutable rights of narrow sector groups that hinder progress, as he noted.
Karamanlis touches on education issues in northern Greece
Software and computer hardware firms should be given incentives to import the latest state-of-the-art technologies for education, main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis said.
Speaking during his visit at the 13th international software exhibition "Infosystem '99" in Thessaloniki, Mr. Karamanlis expressed his satisfaction over the exhibits, stating that the private sector and several universities are on the cutting edge of new technologies.
"The state is lacking considerably and as a country we are last in the European Union in all sectors in new technologies," Mr. Karamanlis said.
He added that Greece should rush ahead because knowledge and new technologies will become the most important criterion of wealth.
Greek Americans urged to push Clinton to act on Cyprus issue
The president of the United Hellenic American Congress, Andrew Athens, urged Greek-Americans yesterday to write and request of US President Bill Clinton and the National Security Council to aid efforts of the new US presidential envoy charged with the Cyprus problem.
Stephanopoulos comments on upcoming visit to Iran
President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos stressed from Athens that his upcoming visit to Iran underlines the excellent level of Greek-Iranian relations.
In an interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the Greek president said the Greek government has taken the decision to allow the opening of an Islamic centre and a mosque in Athens.
He also said his visit will turn a new page in economic ties between Greece and Iran.
"Iran and Greece have reached a very promising level of bilateral relations and have established an excellent climate of mutual confidence and cooperation for the benefit of our peoples," Mr. Stephanopoulos.
The Greek head of state begins a four-day official visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran tomorrow, the first by a Greek president to the Mideast country. He will be accompanied by the minister of foreign affairs and agriculture, as well as a large deleg ation of entrepreneurs and reporters.
Historic Etz Hayyim synagogue in Hania reopened
A restored mediaeval-era synagogue was formally reopened in Hania yesterday after its closure in 1944 by Nazi forces then occupying Crete.
Leading the campaign to reopen the 14th century Etz Hayyim, or "Tree of Life", synagogue was the Central Jewish Council of Greece (KIS), which spearheaded a fund-raising drive for the project in 1996.
"May monuments of the future stand in peace to honour works of diligence and progress by mankind," Moses Konstantinis, KAS' president told an inauguration ceremony.
The crumbling shell of the edifice was restored by the World Monuments Fund, the Rothchild Foundation, the culture ministry and private donors from around the world, who funded its reconstruction.
When reconstruction began in 1997, the synagogue was on the verge of collapse after severe damage it sustained from bombing in World War II and then years of neglect.
The synagogue is the only surviving monument on Crete to mark a 2,300-year- old Jewish presence on the island. It is located in the town's former Jewish quarter near the harbour.
Manos' Liberals Party holds its first congress
Liberals Party founder Stephanos Manos yesterday accused both ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy (ND) of "populism and pre-election bidding",during the new party's first-ever congress.
Mr. Manos, a former high-ranking ND cadre and one-time minister, was also officially elected as the party's president.
Speaking at the congress, he said elections should not be held before Greece's entry into the 'euro-zone', while he proposed tax reductions, education reform and investments in hi-tech technologies for the reduction of unemployment.
Mr. Manos, a proponent of a more free-market economy and widespread public sector reform, noted his satisfaction over number of new Liberals Party members.
A Liberals platform also calls for civil servants' tenure; separation of Church and state; a greater role for local governments; decriminalisation of the use of controlled substances but not decriminalisation of the sale of drugs; as well as abolition of the constitutional clause against private universities in Greece.
Rokofyllos: Specific moves by Ankara now needed
Alternate Foreign Minister Christos Rokofyllos said on Saturday that a better climate in Greece's relations with Turkey should be accompanied by specific moves on the part of Ankara in order to achieve genuine progress.
Mr. Rokofyllos was speaking to a visiting delegation of youth groups from Cyprus, whom he briefed at the ministry on government policy towards the island republic, Turkey and the European Union.
"Inaction does not solve problems. Only initiatives, movement and the use of international interest can create opportunities and offer ways out," a foreign ministry statement quoted Mr. Rokofyllos as saying. Greece backed a European orientation for Turkey if the neighbouring country conformed to European values of democracy, justice, human rights, minorities and respect for international law. Part of Ankara's commitment in order to approach the EU would also be a substantive contribution to resolution of the Cyprus issue, he said.
Higher institutes link with Europe and north America
Greece's higher educational institutes and technical schools are expected to be directly linked with European and North American counterparts via a National Network of Research and Technology (EDET) system. During a press conference at the 13th Internat ional software exhibition "Infosystem '99" in Thessaloniki, Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the new system will soon allow for two 45Mbps lines to connect Greece-based institutes with those of Europe and North America. He noted that about half of the 350,000 Internet users in Greece at present are connected with academic institutions, adding that these PC users will now be able to connect with Greece's 50 institutions free of charge. It was also announced that a Macedonian centre of resear ch and technological development aims to boost research and development activities in northern Greece.
EU mayors promise support for quake-stricken Athens, Istanbul
The European Union's Capital Cities Mayors Union conference met in Brussels over the weekend for talks on current political and social issues.
The mayors' conference adopted a resolution to undertake initiatives for the combatting of social marginalisation through the creation of more jobs and localised economic development.
Additional financial support for earthquake-stricken Athens and Istanbul was also promised.
Greece was represented by Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos and Cyprus by Nicosia Mayor Lelos Demitriades.
UK-based Blue Circle's bid for Aget accepted over Greek offer
Calcemento International SpA, the owner of the Aget Heracles cement maker, is to be acquired by Blue Circle of the UK after the rejection of two last- minute bids by Greek concerns.
Calcemento announced on Saturday that it had signed a contract in London with the British building materials group late on Friday, following a preliminary buyout agreement between the two firms in May.
The statement, which reported an acquisition price of 388 million pounds sterling, made no mention of the Greek offers.
Through its Concretum subsidiary, Calcemento owns 54.48 per cent of Aget Heracles, Greece's largest cement producer, and 72.65 per cent of Halkis Cement, which is also a member of the group.
The purchase agreement will come into force if clearance is obtained from Greek anti-trust authorities.
Greek bidders for Calcemento were a consortium comprising Greece-based construction contractors Technodomiki, Aktor, TEB, AEGEK and GEK along with Intracom Construction, Greek Energy and Bank of Piraeus, whose offer was delivered in Milan last week.
In addition, bourse-listed Mechaniki, one of Greece's largest construction and engineering contractor, submitted a separate bid for Calcemento.
Mechaniki managing director Marina Emfietzoglou said on Friday that the company had secured a letter of guarantee for its offer from Alpha Credit Bank, the country's largest private sector credit institution.
The losing consortium said in a statement on Saturday that it was stunned by Calcemento's choice of Blue Circle as buyer.
The group would complain to national and European Union authorities over the fact that its bid had been ignored, the statement read.
The consortium claimed that its offer was at least 30 billion drachmas higher than Blue Circle's, and that EU competition laws had been breached.
Some of Greece's most influential business leaders - Sallas, Bobolas, Kokkalis and Kallitsantsis - are among the shareowners of companies in the consortium.
A successful Greek bid would have returned Heracles to domestic control ahead of construction projects eligible for funding under the EU's Third Community Support Framework for 2000-2006.
WEATHERSunny weather is forecast for most parts of Greece today with cloud in the east and the south. Winds northerly, moderate to strong, turning gale force in the Aegean Sea. Scattered cloud in Athens with temperatures ranging between 15-24C. Mostly sunny in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 11- 21C.
Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 305.328 Pound sterling 503.976 Japanese yen (100) 284.228 French franc 49.663 German mark 166.565 Italian lira (100) 16.824 Irish Punt 413.646 Belgian franc 8.076 Finnish mark 54.791 Dutch guilder 147.829 Danish kr. 43.829 Austrian sch. 23.675 Spanish peseta 1.958 Swedish kr. 37.426 Norwegian kr. 39.188 Swiss franc 204.357 Port. Escudo 1.625 Can. dollar 207.288 Aus. dollar 200.667 Cyprus pound 563.952 Euro 325.773(C.E.)
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