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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-10-29

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, 29/10/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece and Turkey are taking positive steps in ongoing dialogue
  • President calls on Ankara to change its position on Cyprus issue
  • Greek experts in London to examine state of Parthenon Marbles
  • Greece celobrates 59th anniversary of `OHI` Day
  • Security situation in SE Europe analysed at confereence in Crete
  • KKE holds rally protesting upcoming Clinton visit
  • Alexander the Great gold coin found in Turkey
  • Kritikos denies Turkish TV claim he visited northern Iraq Oct. 21
  • Fitch IBCA upgrades Greece to 'BBB+'
  • Bank of Greece governor says optimistic over course of inflation
  • Worries over inflation create negative climate at ASE
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece and Turkey are taking positive steps in ongoing dialogue

Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem met in Thessaloniki on Wednesday afternoon on the sidelines of a Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) pact foreign ministers conference and expressed satisfaction over the progress made in the talks between senior foreign ministry officials of the two countries.

The two men agreed that positive steps have been made and appeared determined to advance the process of Greek-Turkish dialogue. Assessing the course of the discussions which have taken place between the commissions of the two ministries, Mr. Papandreou said "I can say that we are satisfied with the course of these discussions" and that this was an indication that there are many sectors of common interest which could conclude in agreements.

"I think this is a positive development in relations between Greece and Turkey and I believe that this procedure will yield other positive results, " Mr. Papandreou concluded.

Mr. Cem said the commissions were progressing well in their work.

"The initial phase has ended. There will be very soon a plan containing common positions of the two sides and agreements. I do not expect that the procedure will end soon, but we are progressing in a positive manner and I see some reserved results," Mr. Cem said.

He reffered to a "great number of Turkish tourists that visited" the island of Rhodes last summer and to "many applications by Greek businessmen to the Turkish embassy in Athens asking for information to invest in Turkey".

"Tensions are beginning to ease. We must not exaggerate but there are positive signs," the Turkish foreign minister said.

On arrival statements, Mr. Cem said that Turkish-Greek relations were on a good path, and anticipated they would improve even further in the immediate future.

"Our relations with Greece are on a good path. We are both cautious in our moves and look forward to cultivating mutual confidence. This is a positive step. Over the coming months the relations between the two countries will improve."

While in Thessaloniki on Wednesday, Mr. Cem also visited the house in which Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, was born.

President calls on Ankara to change its position on Cyprus issue

President Kostis Stephanopoulos called on Ankara to take specific steps such as changing its position on the Cyprus issue and accepting UN Security Council resolutions in order for Greece to consent to Turkey's European rapprochement.

Speaking in Thessaloniki at the traditional dinner given in his honour by the Commander of the 3rd Army Corps on Wednesday night, on the eve of the traditional military parade for the celebration of the October 28 1940 anniversary, President Stephanopoulos said that "sentiment should not prevail in the country's national interests when, indeed, the neighbouring country is the first to follow this example".

He expressed the hope that the European Union will request from Turkey, as a precondition for its candidacy and for Greece's consent for this candidacy, to recognise the importance of human rights and democratic processes applied in the western world.

Referring to the killer earthquakes which struck Turkey and Greece last August and September and the mutual assistance that followed, Mr. Stephanopoulos said Greece, "rightly doing so, undertook an initiative for financial aid to Turkey on behalf of the EU to help it heal wounds left by the earthquake".

However, as to whether or not Greece's objections to date to Turkey's funding should be lifted, he said Greece's arguments and views are not of a temporary nature for some to cease to exist, adding that it should be "ensured that the funds given to Turk ey as aid will be used exclusively for the restoration of the extensive damage it sustained and, in parallel, it should be pointed out to it that the amounts it spends on armaments are disproportionate to its needs and possibilities, and even more so because it is not threatened by anyone".

He said that in no way does Greece desire the maintenance of tension between the two countries and hopes the earthquake will indeed provide the opportunity for a permanent rapprochement between them.

"However, the emotional aspect and the corresponding impulse are not enough, unfortunately," the president said, reminding that Turkey's politicians and military officials announced immediately after the earthquakes that the earthquakes are one thing and the country's foreign policy another.

President Stephanopoulos said that "since this is appropriate for Turkey then it should also be appropriate for us and our national interest".

Greek experts in London to examine state of Parthenon Marbles

A team of Culture Ministry experts arrived in London yesterday to examine the state of the Parthenon Marbles following revelations made in a book by historian Ian Saint Clair that they were seriously damaged during their cleaning process by British Museum workers about 50 years ago.

The committee's report and ascertainments will be forwarded to Culture Minister Elizabeth Papazoi first and will be presented at a special conference to be organised by the British Museum at the end of November on the state of these historic monuments.

The committee made its first visit to the British Museum yesterday and discussed the timetable and the process of the mission they have scheduled with the Museum's director Mr. Anderson.

Greece celobrates 59th anniversary of `OHI` Day

Greece yesterday celebrated the 59th anniversary of "Ohi (No) Day" when it was dragged into World War II after rejecting Mussolini's ultimatum to surrender to the fascist forces or be invaded.

The October 28, 1940 anniversary was celebrated with church te deums and parades in Athens and other cities, and an impressive military parade inspected by President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos in Thessaloniki.

"The parade was indeed impressive. The day of the 28th of October is always charged with national feeling and memories. The feeling involves us all, however the memories are the privilege of the elders, but the younger generations should learn all about such days," Mr. Stephanopoulos said.

On his part, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said "the Armed Forces, with their presence (here today), have shown that Greeks can be sure and calm. The decisiveness, the perfection, the modern (equipment and training) of the Armed Forces are in line with the great moments of decisiveness of the Greek people in the epic times of the Albanian (front during World War II).

He concluded "...it is for this reason that we support all efforts for peace, cooperation and stability in the region having the certainty of a decisive and deterrent force of the armed forces of the country."

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis, who was also present at the events in Thessaloniki, said "today's message is that of national unity and union of hearts, so we can play a protagonist role in the region, to be able to defend our national rights and our vital interests."

Security situation in SE Europe analysed at confereence in Crete

The continuing persecution of Serbs in Kosovo poses a risk to efforts to consolidate peace and stability in the Balkans, speakers at a conference on the security situation in Southeast Europe said on Wednesday.

Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis opened proceedings at the conference by condemning the continuing violence in Kosovo and saying that a "policy of the ethnic cleansing of Serbs is not only dangerous for regional peace and stability but also flew in the face of NATO declarations to resolve the crisis and protect the indigenous population".

Under this policy, anything but peace and stability can be discussed, Mr. Kaklamanis said. Also taking a battering is the effectiveness of EU external affairs policy as well as the prestige and standing of international organisations.

"This situation brings our thoughts to another great open issue, the Cyprus issue, which has preoccupied the international community for some 25 years, " Mr. Kaklamanis said.

The security status of countries in southeast Europe and particularly the vulnerable region of the Balkans and Yugoslavia and their repercussions for world peace are the focus of the three-day conference in Hania, Crete.

Organised by the political and defence committees of the Western European Union, the meeting hopes to analytically look at those parameters affecting the problems in an integrated defence and security policy for Europe, and particularly in maintaining p eace and stability in the Balkans.

Deputy Defence Minister Dimitris Apostolakis said that Europe had showed itself to be lacking a defence policy and this was an issue that had to be tackled and effectively dealt with with the requisite means and willingness.

Mr. Apostolakis proposed that dialogue be aided by considering issues such as improvement of administrative and military capability and the development of an independent source of information. A complete overhaul was also needed of the orientation of the Western European Union Armaments Group - due to meet this month in Crete - at the general armaments directors level.

The deputy minister said decision-making for crisis management in Europe could be ensured through committees meeting on a standing basis, particularly in the wake of the activation of the EU high representative on security issues.

Mr. Apostolakis said that the gradual operation of common foreign and defence policy was the prerogative of the 15 present members of the European Union and not to countries aspiring to join. These countries' opinions, he said, are respected but should be taken into consideration in the next phase. Luis Maria de Puig, president of the Western European Union's parliamentary assembly, admitted that there were problems and difficulties in the effort to bring stabilisation and peace to the region.

He said basic prerequisites to resolve these problems was maintaining existing borders in the Balkan regions and completing efforts to bring about harmonious co-existence to the region's populations.

It is self-evident that borders in the Balkans do not need to change for peace and security to be restored in Yugoslavia, he said.

In a message read out to the conference, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said that the current stage in making the Stability Pact a reality and bringing stability, cooperation and development to the wider region of southeast Europe was a historic op portunity that could overcome the negative consequences of the hostilities in Yugoslavia and should not be lost.

"The consequences of the crisis in southeast Europe are still being felt and will continue to plague the Balkans," Mr. Papandreou said.

"The Greek government will continue to work steadily to bring peace and stability to Kosovo at the same time as developing and rebuilding the whole of the southeast Europe region," he said.

KKE holds rally protesting upcoming Clinton visit

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) yesterday held a rally to express its opposition to the visit of US President Clinton to Greece next month.

The rally took place during events commemorating the World War II October 28 "OHI" Day in the city and was held on a street parallel to the military parade held traditionally in the northern Greek capital, on this day.

Participants at the rally also protested Greece's aid to the NATO forces in Kosovo.

Alexander the Great gold coin found in Turkey

A gold coin dating back to the era of Alexander the Great was found in Bodrum, Turkey, during renovation work taking place on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the Ottoman Empire at the "Ottoman Tower" in the region.

According to an announcement by the Turkish mobile telephone company Turksel, which has undertaken to fund the works, "it is a coin from the era immediately after the enthronement of Alexander the Great." The director of Bodrum's museum Oyuz Alpozen told the Turkish news agency Anadolu that one side of the coin, estimated as belonging to the year 336 and weighing 8.6 grams, depicts Athena and the other the name of Alexander written in Greek."

Kritikos denies Turkish TV claim he visited northern Iraq Oct. 21

Parliament vice-president Panayotis Kritikos on Wednesday denied, as "sordidness of Turkish propaganda", claims by a private Turkish television station alleging he had visited northern Iraq on October 21 and met with leading members of the Kurdistan Worke rs' Party.

"I do not reply to such kinds of provocations," Mr. Kritikos said of the claims aired by the Turkish private television station NTV.

"My presence in Greece on the said date is proved by the Minutes of Parliament, the session of which I attended on the cited date," Mr. Kritikos added.

He blasted the claims as "crass, provocative actions".

Mr. Kritikos added, however, that the Greek side "must concern itself with and seek the provocative reasons behind the claims".

"One asks oneself: is it, perhaps, that the militarists of Ankara do not want even the most elementary climate of non-tension? Is it perhaps that they want to coerce to achieve more auspicious conditions at the Helsinki EU summit? Is it perhaps the begi nning of more provocative actions in view of the Clinton visit to Greece?", he questioned.

"Let the authorities investigate," Mr. Kritikos said.

Fitch IBCA upgrades Greece to 'BBB+'

Fitch IBCA, the international rating agency, has upgraded Greece's long- term foreign currency rating to "BBB+" from "BBB" and its short-term rating to "F2" from "F3", removing it from Rating Alert positive. It also assigned a long-term local currency rating of "A-". The action reflects Greece's impressive fiscal consolidation, decline in inflation and high profitability of entering European Monetary Union (EMU) in 2001.

Fitch IBCA comments that the general government deficit has declined from a high of 13.8 per cent of GDP in 1993 and should hit near 1.6 per cent this year, although deficit reduction has been aided by certain "accounting devices", such as the government purchases of equities in public companies. While general government debt is above the 60 per cent of GDP Maastricht reference value, it has declined from a high of 112.2 per cent of GDP in 1996 to a projected 105 per cent in 1999. Further declines are envisaged thanks to continued privatisation receipts and the high primary surplus at 6.7 per cent of GDP in 1998. Still, general government debt is the third highest in the European Union (after Belgium and Italy). The need for further reduction in debt, a nd for reforms in the social security and pension system, is heightened by the projected ageing of the population.

Bank of Greece governor says optimistic over course of inflation

Bank of Greece's governor, Lucas Papademos, said on Wednesday he was optimistic over the course of inflation.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Mr. Papademos noted that the harmonised consumer price index (to be used in evaluating Greece's progress in fulfilling the inflation criterion) was moving smoothly.

He said that harmonised inflation figures were moving within ranges that ensured fulfillment of the Maastricht criterion.

He attributed recent pressures on the inflation rate, based on the national consumer price index, to temporary phenomena.

Mr. Papademos said monetary authorities would take measures to establish a low inflation environment and urged for a coordination of efforts. He expressed his belief that the country would achieve all convergence criteria to participate in EMU.

Meanwhile, National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou said remained worried over the course of inflation and urged all business and monetary authorities to remain alerted and aware "of the great responsibility we have to achieve the in flation criterion for participating in EMU".

Mr. Papantoniou said there were two more parameters in a joint effort to combat inflation: the Bank of Greece to continue its strict monetary policy and a package of measures to contain agricultural produce prices in cooperation with the development ministry.

Worries over inflation create negative climate at ASE

Worries over developments in the inflation front combined with technical selling ahead of the end of the month created a very negative climate on the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pushing share prices sharply lower.

The general index ended 2.42 percent lower at 5,390.37 points with the FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks down 1.20 percent at 2,744.20 points.

Turnover was moderate 267.463 billion drachmas.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-0.78 pct), Leasing (-2.52 pct), Insurance (-3.50 pct), Investment (-4.14 pct), Construction (-5.10 pct), Industrials (-3.32 pct), Holding (-4.07 pct) and Miscellaneous (-3.35 pct). The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks plunged 6.77 percent.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 278 to 42 with another six issues unchanged.

A large number of shares ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit down, among them were Techniki Olympiaki, Giannousis, Klonatex, Mouzakis and Kekrops. Olympic Catering, Ellatex, Macedonian Spinn Mills, Viosol and Vis ended at the day's limit up.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather with scattered cloud will prevail throughout the country on Friday. Winds northerly, moderate to strong. Fair weather with light cloud in Athens and temperatures between 15-22C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 12-20C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          308.353
Pound sterling       510.384
Japanese yen (100)   295.943
French franc          49.909
German mark          167.387
Italian lira (100)    16.908
Irish Punt           415.687
Belgian franc          8.116
Finnish mark          55.061
Dutch guilder        148.559
Danish kr.            44.053
Austrian sch.         23.791
Spanish peseta         1.967
Swedish kr.           37.853
Norwegian kr.         39.660
Swiss franc          204.635
Port. Escudo           1.633
Can. dollar          208.995
Aus. dollar          199.561
Cyprus pound         567.126
Euro                 327.380
(L.G.)
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