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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-10-31

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, 31/10/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greek, German diplomats to draw up Turkey proposal
  • Iraqi immigrants killed in minefield
  • New measures mulled to lower inflation
  • PM takes measures to help farmers
  • Protests planned over Clinton visit
  • Hellenic Petroleum eyes electricity before deregulation
  • Papandreou, Fischer begins talks on EU Balkan policy
  • Mild tremor in Parnitha
  • WEU conference praises Greece's role in Balkans
  • Greece and Turkey are taking positive steps in ongoing dialogue
  • President calls on Ankara to change its position on Cyprus issue
  • Gov't says no hitch in Clinton visit preparations
  • Alexander the Great gold coin found in Turkey
  • Kritikos denies Turkish TV claim he visited northern Iraq Oct. 21
  • Central bank releases money supply figures
  • Bank of Greece governor optimistic over course of inflation
  • Equities end week moderately higher
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greek, German diplomats to draw up Turkey proposal

Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his German counterpart Joschka Fischer on Saturday agreed that diplomats of the two countries would forge joint proposals on Turkey's bid to join the European Union, and on the EU's Balkan policy.

The proposals are to be drawn up by the diplomats ahead of an EU summit to be held in Helsinki in December.

They are to cover the framework that would be set for Turkey's EU candidacy, and the conditions for entry talks to begin.

Speaking to reporters, Papandreou said that the decision to draw up proposals showed that Greece and Germany had the political will to work concretely together for a joint approach that would facilitate a mutually acceptable outcome at Helsinki.

Greek diplomats are expected to visit Berlin in the near future - possibly even next week - to work out a plan on EU Balkan policy for presentation at the summit.

On Turkey, a proposal would be drawn up containing assurances over Cyprus' course towards Europe as well as the principles and control mechanisms for progress that Ankara has to make.

Asked by the Athens News Agency to name Germany's position if the protracted Cyprus problem could not be resolved, and Cyprus was not to blame, Fischer replied:

"Then the European Union must, in the foreseeable future, reconsider what has to be done. Cyprus' desire to become a member of the Union is legal and legitimate. We would wish that a solution could be found for the whole of Cyprus, on the basis of consensus of the two sides and of the neighbouring countries (Greece and Turkey). Finding such a solution would also benefit the international community."

Answering a question on measures to accompany Turkey's candidacy, Fischer said: "The recognition of Turkey as a candidate country also entails the recognition that Turkey does not meet the Copenhagen criteria, which are also the conditions for the start of entry talks between Turkey and the Union, and it simultaneously entails the acceptance of discussion of a route map."

The German minister said that proposals put forward by the EU's executive Commission as a pre-entry strategy for Turkey were "good, because they contain all the elements that refer to a de-escalation of tension and the need for internal reform, especially in human rights and the protection of minorities."

Iraqi immigrants killed in minefield

Five Iraqis were killed and 16 injured on Sunday when they strayed into a minefield in northeastern Greece after illegally crossing the border from Turkey, police said.

The accident at the minefield near the Kipi border post in Evros took place in the early hours of the morning.

Five of the injured, who are being treated at Alexandroupolis General Regional Hospital, were reported to be in critical condition.

Military personnel removed the wounded and 15 other Iraqis, who were unhurt, from the site of the blast. No names have been released.

Survivors claimed they had paid two Iraqi immigrant traffickers a fee of $3, 600 to ferry them across the Evros river, police said.

One of the traffickers had pointed to the barbed wire fence surrounding the minefield as the group's entry point into Greece, the survivors said.

The triple fencing around the signposted minefield is 1.5 metres high.

New measures mulled to lower inflation

Greek monetary authorities are considering new measures to nudge down consumer price inflation and keep it around 2.0 percent, central bank governor Lucas Papademos said on Saturday.

"All the necessary measures will be taken in order to safeguard the counter- inflationary nature of monetary policy," Papademos told the daily Ta Nea newspaper.

Both the Bank of Greece and the government have worked hard to bridle inflation, seen as the last hurdle to the country's planned entry into the euro zone by January 1, 2001.

The government has said it will apply to the European Union in March 2000 to join the 11-member zone with a decision expected in June of that year.

Among new steps being considered to tackle inflation are a reduction in public utility charges and a freeze on interest rates.

Authorities have expressed fears that higher oil prices could jeopardise a long-term declining trend in inflation.

Many manufacturers and retailers have kept a pledge to the government to hold prices steady or lower them.

PM takes measures to help farmers

Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Saturday announced new measures to tone up the agricultural sector, focusing on aid for young farmers.

Speaking during a one-day tour of Arcadia, Simitis said the government wanted to raise the quality of life of farmers, boost their income and bring cultivation methods up to date.

From January 1, early retirement incentives for farmers would rise by 25 percent to encourage the older generation to make way for youth, and loan rates for young farmers would fall to 7.5 percent from 12.0 percent in the rest of the agricultural sector.

Furthermore, farmers' pensions would rise by 10 percent with the minimum monthly payment at 43,000 drachmas, Simitis said.

In a new departure, the government for the first time would pay interest on allowances or compensation payments to farmers that were delayed by state servives.

In addition, the government would order the immediate disbursement of a down payment for compensation in natural disasters with the balance to follow as soon as possible, the prime minister said.

Finally, interest on loans for cultivation would drop from 12.0 percent to a single digit at the beginning of the new year.

Accompanying Simitis on his trip were Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis, Public Works, Town Planning and Environment Minister Costas Laliotis, Labour and Social Insurance Minister Miltiades Papaioannou, Justice Minister Evangelos Yiannopoulos, Press and Media Minister Dimitris Reppas, and Minister Of State Costas Geitonas.

Protests planned over Clinton visit

Demonstrations are expected to take place around the country next month to protest against a visit to Greece by US President Bill Clinton.

In Athens, trade unionists and peace activists are to rally in Syntagma Square and then march to the American Embassy in a demonstration timed to coincide with Clinton's arrival on November 13.

At the same time, students and other groups will gather outside the central Athens university building, joining the first group of marchers on the way to the embassy.

The Coalition of the Left's youth movement has proposed another march to the embassy on November 14 for the youth groups of political parties.

Clinton leaves Greece on November 15.

Protests are also being planned in other parts of Greece, organised by local authorities, trade unions and political groups.

However, students and activists rejected a proposal to reschedule an annual march commemorating a student uprising against the 1967-1974 dictatorship to November 14 from November 17 in order to fall within Clinton's stay.

Hellenic Petroleum eyes electricity before deregulation

THESSALONIKI (ANA) - Hellenic Petroleum, a heavily traded stock on the Athens bourse, is to enter the electricity market ahead of liberalisation of the sector.

Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos told a news conference on Friday that the state-owned corporation planned to build a 15-billion-drachma electricity station with a capacity of 50 megawatts in the Thessaloniki area.

The plant will power Hellenic Petroleum's own installations with the surplus for sale on the open market when deregulation occurs.

Mr. Venizelos, who was inaugurating construction of a polypropylene plant for Hellenic Petroleum, also announced that a bill allowing liberalisation of the electricity market in line with European Union rules will be submitted to parliament in coming da ys.

In another investment, Hellenic Petroleum is to modernise its Thessaloniki refinery at a cost of 150 billion drachmas.

"The refinery is badly lagging the company's Aspropyrgos refinery (near Piraeus) and should now overtake it," the minister said.

He added that the two investments were designed to protect the environment. A working group would be set up by Hellenic Petroleum and local authorities to handle environmental questions.

The two investments are to be funded under the European Union's 3rd Community Support Framework and development ministry programmes.

The polypropylene plant Mr. Venizelos inaugurated cost 49.6 billion drachmas to build. It forms part of a 75-billion-drachma project to achieve vertical integration.

Workers staged a protest at the plant during the inauguration ceremony. They were objecting the the planned closure of an ethlyene unit in the first quarter of 2000 and a reduction in the operations of a caustic soda plant. The minister pledged to look into their grievances.

Finally, Mr. Venizelos said in reply to a reporter's question that Hellenic Petroleum had expressed interest in becoming a strategic investor in Romania's Petrom.

It was seeking an alliance with a sector firm from a European Union country in order to carry out the project, he added.

Papandreou, Fischer begins talks on EU Balkan policy

BERLIN (ANA) - Foreign Minister George Papandreou began talks here on Friday with his German counterpart Joschka Fischer focusing on the European Union`s Balkan policy.

The issue of Turkey`s candidacy for EU accession, in conjunction with safeguarding Cyprus` accession prospects, will be discussed during the "marathon" private talks the two ministers were due to have until final consultations between the two countries' delegations.

After their meeting, the two ministers referred only to the general outline of issues preoccupying them in light of the EU summit in Helsinki in December and, according to Mr. Fischer, a "great degree of convergence" was ascertained.

Mr. Papandreou underlined the role the EU has to play for stability and the establishment of democratic institutions in the Balkans.

Replying to a relevant question by the Athens News Agency, Mr. Fischer assured that it has been made clear to Ankara that "the problems of an EU member-state are collective problems of the EU" and that "the principle of EU solidarity has effect."

"The improvement of relations between Greece and Turkey constitutes an improvement in relations not only between the two countries but an improvement in relations between the EU and Turkey," Mr. Fischer said.

On the question of Cyprus, Mr. Fischer wished "a consenting solution to the problem safeguarded by treaties" in the framework of an overall defusion of tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

The issue of safeguarding Cyprus' unimpeded accession to the EU is a major issue in the two men's talks in the coming hours.

Mild tremor in Parnitha

A tremor measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale was recorded in Parnitha on Saturday, located in the same area as the epicentre of a major earthquake that hit Athens on September 7.

The Geodynamic Institute of the Athens National Observatory and Thessaloniki University's Geophysics Laboratory both said the tremor, a mild aftershock of the main quake, occurred at 4.54 in the morning.

No damage or injuries were reported.

WEU conference praises Greece's role in Balkans

The conclusions of a conference on the security situation in Southeast Europe that ended in Chania, Crete on Friday contained praise of Greece's role in helping to consolidate peace in the Balkans. The conference, which opened on Wednesday, was organised by the political and defence committees of the Western European Union (WEU). In a resolution adopted by a majority, the members of the WEU Parliamentary Assembly urged the international community to work for the inviolability of existing borders in the Balkans, the protection of minorities in the region with no discrimination and the consolidation of democracy in all Balkan countries. Parliamentary Assembly president Luis Maria de Puig said Greece was the strongest country in the Balkans, both politically and economically, and had already contributed greatly to restoring peace in the region.

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.

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.

Gov't says no hitch in Clinton visit preparations

The Greek government on Friday said that no hitch had arisen in preparations for US President Bill Clinton's visit to the country next month. Replying to reporters' questions, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said Athens had not been the recipient of any expression of concern of any kind from Washington. Asked whether the government intended to take measures to prevent any possible demonstrations, Reppas replied that Greek citizens had the right to freely express their views. "It is the government's belief that the visit should proceed smoothly and for this reason, as always happens in such cases, the competent services take the necessary measures to maintain order," Reppas said, adding that this too would be the case with regard to Clinton's visit to Greece.

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".

Central Bank releases money supply figures

Total money supply fell by 237 billion drachmas in September although the M4N index rose to 6.9 percent from 5.6 percent in August to remain below the 7-9 percent target increase for the year, the Bank of Greece said today. The M4N index was running at 7.9 percent in July. The central bank said a fall in money circulation reflected a change in investment patterns in the month and helped to restrain credit expansion in domestic money markets. The money circulation index rose 11.2 percent year-on-year in September, up from 10.5 percent in August. Credits to the private sector accelerated to 16.4 percent from 9.8 percent, in the two months respectively.

Bank of Greece governor optimistic over course of inflation

Bank of Greece's governor, Lucas Papademos, said 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.

Equities end week moderately higher

A rebound in international markets helped Greek equities to end a volatile week moderately higher on Friday but failed to restore confidence in the Athens Stock Exchange.

The general index ended 0.96 percent higher at 5,442.14 points, off the day's highs of 5,540. Traders said investors remained cautious and preferred to take early profits.

Turnover was a moderate 298 billion drachmas.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (+2.17 pct), Leasing (-0.50 pct), Insurance (-2.57 pct), Investment (-0.37 pct), Construction (+3.03 pct), Industrials (+0.82 pct), Miscellaneous (+0.37 pct) and Holding (-1.43 pct).

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 202 to 99 with another 19 issues unchanged.

A total of 30 issues ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit, while Techniki Olympiaki, Doudos and Barba Stathis ended at the day's limit down.

WEATHER

Sunny weather is forecast throughout the country on Monday with scattered cloud in some areas. Winds northerly, northeasterly, light to strong. Gale force winds are expected in parts of the Aegean. Mainly sunny weather in Athens with temperatures ranging from 13C to 24C. The same is forecast for Thessaloniki with temperatures between 10C and 22C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar 313.512 Pound sterling 512.844 Japanese yen (100) 298.255 French franc 49.913 German mark 167.402 Italian lira (100) 16.910 Irish Punt 415.724 Belgian franc 8.116 Finnish mark 55.066 Dutch guilder 148.572 Danish kr. 44.057 Austrian sch. 23.794 Spanish peseta 1.968 Swedish kr. 37.710 Norwegian kr. 39.638 Swiss franc 204.248 Port. Escudo 1.633 Can. dollar 212.685 Aus. dollar 201.148 Cyprus pound 567.662 Euro 329.060

(C.S.)


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