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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-11-11

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, 11/11/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Clinton visit to Greece postponed one week
  • Opposition reactions to postponement of Clinton's visit
  • EU Commission affirms Greece's fiscal adjustment
  • Greek stocks end lower, turnover rises
  • Alpha Credit-Ionian Bank announce swap deal
  • OSE awards rail connection contract for Spata airport
  • Greece, Slovenia opposed to change of borders
  • `Guardian` supports return of Parthenon Marbles
  • Construction inaugurated on oil pipeline to FYROM
  • Turkish railways 'Friendship Train' arrives in Thessaloniki
  • European Catholic bishops' council convenes in Athens
  • WEATHER
  • FOREIGN EXCHANGE

NEWS IN DETAIL

Clinton visit to Greece postponed one week

Athens and Washington yesterday announced a one-week postponement of US President Bill Clinton's visit to Greece on the recommendation of the Greek government.

The visit, the first-ever by Mr. Clinton to Greece, will now take place between Nov. 19-20, following an Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe summit, instead of Nov. 13-15 as originally planned, an announcement from Press and Media

Minister Dimitris Reppas read.

In Washington, a White House announcement also stated that the Clinton visit was postponed for Nov. 19-20 after consultations with Athens.

Initially, Mr. Clinton was scheduled to visit Greece between Nov. 22-24 before the date was changed to Nov. 13-15.

"Following consultations between the two countries and in the interest of Greek-American relations, the Greek government has proposed to the White House that the visit of the President of the United States, Mr. Clinton, take place Nov. 19-20, 1999, after the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit," Mr. Reppas' statement read, adding that the White House had accepted the Greek proposal.

In responding to a question on the postponement vis-a-vis security concerns, Mr. Clinton stated: "I am not concerned at all..."

"As you know, if the Greek government and the Secret Service aren't concerned. I am not concerned," he added.

"I explained yesterday (Tuesday) that the Greeks have a tradition of large demonstrations, and the communists, the anarchists, perhaps some others in Greece, want to demonstrate in large measure, I understand, because they strongly disagree with my policy in Kosovo and presumably before that in Bosnia," Mr. Clinton said.

"And you know, I think we were right, and I disagree with them. But the fact that they have the right to free speech doesn't concern me," he added.

"The Greek government asked us to put the trip the way we did, I think, largely for other reasons. I think they thought it would be better for them and that meetings we had might be more relevant if we did it after, rather than before, the OSCE meeting in Turkey. And so they asked to do it," Mr. Clinton said.

Foreign Minister George Papandreou, currently on an official visit to the Netherlands, said last night that the Greek government and Washington jointly decided to postpone Mr. Clinton's visit.

He said there was no doubt that on certain issues, such as the Kosovo issue, sentimental upsurges existed in Greece over US policy, while on other issues such as the Cyprus issue, cooperation between the governments of Greece and the US was constructive .

Opposition reactions to postponement of Clinton's visit

Main opposition New Democracy spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos described the government's announcement as a "monumental irresponsibility", charging also that the prime minister did not provide convincing explanations over the development.

"The government lacks the boldness to express clear and stable positions. It prevaricates, being crushed by pressures from home and abroad. Its makeshift and amateurish methods strike at Greece's credibility, prestige and international image," he said.

Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos said he believed the government had concealed the truth regarding the matter, and that "developments constitute clear pressure and blackmail against our country by the US".

He also rejected the notion that planned protests were the real cause of the postponement.

Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas told reporters that the postponement is "to the advantage of the Greek people".

"President Clinton's visit to Greece is part of the US attempt to impose a 'new order' in the region, including upgrading Turkey's role, dropping Greece's right to veto and pressuring Greece and Cyprus over legitimising the results of the invasion and o ccupation of the island," Mr. Tsovolas said.

EU Commission affirms Greece's fiscal adjustment

The European Commission yesterday opened the door to Greece's participation in EMU with a recommendation to the Council of Ministers to abolish the country's excessive fiscal deficit criterion.

The commission approved a recommendation by Pedro Solbes, EU's Commissioner on Economic and Monetary Affairs.

Mr. Solbes said it was a significant step by Greece in its effort to enter a single European currency.

The commission's recommendation said that the Greek general government's deficit fell from 13.8 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in 1993 to 4.0 percent in 1997 and to 2.5 percent in 1998, below the criterion of 3.0 percent envisaged i n the Maastricht Pact. The report forecasts a further fall in the next two years.

"Greece has made significant and steady progress in correcting fiscal imbalances in the last few years. Fiscal adjustment, however, must be continued according to the targets set in a convergence programme for the years 2000-2001 along with Greece's efforts to achieve long-term price stability, preconditions for the country's entry in the euro-zone," Mr. Solbes said.

The general government's net borrowing fell to 2.5 percent of GDP in 1998, slightly above an ECOFIN's target of 2.4 percent for the year.

Greek stocks end lower, turnover rises

Equity prices ended moderately lower yesterday hit by renewed pressures on financial stocks, despite an increased turnover helped by strong buying interest in smaller capitalisation stocks.

The general index ended 0.41 percent off at 5,704.53 points with turnover at 366.2 billion drachmas.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-1.49 pct), Leasing (-0.90 pct), Insurance (+0.77 pct), Investments (-2.45 pct), Construction (+1.34 pct), Industrials (-0.64 pct), Miscellaneous (+4.38 pct) and Holding (+0.85 pct).

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,300 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 24, 900, Commercial Bank at 22,790, Titan Cement (common) at 40,800, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,800, Intracom at 14,455, Minoan Lines at 10,185, Panafon at 3,720 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,695.

Alpha Credit-Ionian Bank announce swap deal

A merger plan between Alpha Credit Bank and Ionian Bank will be completed through a 1.5-for-one stock swap, Alpha Credit Bank's chairman Yiannis Costopoulos said yesterday.

Speaking during a press conference, Mr. Costopoulos said that the two banks' general shareholders' meetings, due in the first quarter of 2000, were expected to approve the plan which envisages exchanging three Ionian Bank's shares for two shares in Alph a Credit Bank. The swap proposal was confirmed by international accounting firms Arthur Andersen and KPMG Peat Marwick.

Following the stock swap, Alpha Credit Bank's total number of shares will rise to 108,147,707 from 99,000,000 currently with their nominal value rising from 1,500 to 1,564 drachmas.

Mr. Costopoulos said that a procedure to issue new shares was expected to be completed by March next year.

MacKinsey, an international consulting firm, is expected to deliver this month its proposals for the creation of a new banking group aimed to become a regional force in the Balkans.

The two banks jointly accounted for 18.5 percent of the domestic banking market with total assets exceeding seven trillion drachmas, he said.

OSE awards rail connection contract for Spata airport

Construction of a suburban railway from central Athens to the new international airport at Spata has been awarded to the Attiki Odos consortium.

A relevant announcement was made yesterday by Hellenic Railway Organisation (OSE) officials following consultations with the public works ministry.

The project is budgeted at 39 billion drachmas. Work will start by the end of March and will develop simultaneously with construction of the Stavros- Elefsina-Spata motorway.

The cost of the entire project is budgeted at 474 billion drachmas, of which 123 billion have been secured from the European Union.

Greece, Slovenia opposed to change of borders

Greece and Slovenia stated yesterday they were staunchly opposed to any change of existing borders in the Balkans, during the first day of an official visit by President Kostis Stephanopoulos to that country.

Mr. Stephanopoulos, speaking during a meeting with Slovenian President Milan Kucan, said both countries shared a conviction that a change in borders would trigger a chain reaction which could threaten stability in the region.

The Greek president, on the first day of a three-day visit to the Slovenian capital, said he and Mr. Kucan shared the same views on all issues of mutual interest and that they discussed possibilities for furthering bilateral cooperation, mainly in the economic and investment sectors.

Mr. Stephanopoulos is accompanied by several Greek entrepreneurs.

`Guardian` supports return of Parthenon Marbles

The London daily "Guardian" on Wednesday offered its support for the return of the Parthenon Marbles

"The British Museum refuses to return the marbles to Greece on a number of spurious grounds, among them the contention that, unlike the cultural super- heroes of the British Museum, the Greeks would not take care of them properly," a 'Guar-dian' article stated.

"That case was looking a little thin even before this latest form of marble abuse broke surface. The discovery that the marbles had been "cleaned" while in the museum's care and the subsequent concealment of the "cleaning" had already alerted marble fan s to the possibility that the BM's position on the marbles might not be entirely sound," the article added.

"But now the mystery of why the trustees are so determined to hang on to them at all costs has been solved - it is because they make the perfect party decor..."

"Serious fundraisers and responsible wealthy individuals" are permitted to dress up in Greek costumes and have dinner in front of the marbles, served by waiters also dressed as ancient Greeks, though no doubt less splendid ones," the paper wrote.

Construction inaugurated on oil pipeline to FYROM

Construction of a 90-million-dollar oil pipeline connecting northern Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was inaugurated yesterday.

The pipeline is expected to be completed in 18 months and will run the 280 kilometres between Skopje and Thessaloniki. The cost will be covered by Greece to the tune of 80 per cent, with FYROM providing the remaining 20 per cent.

Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos and FYROM Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski were on hand for the event.

Mr. Venizelos noted that this is not a "usual" inauguration but the "joining of the two counties' flags.

Mr. Georgievski said the project is of both political and economic importance since it strengthens bilateral bonds and provides proof that Greece is ready to invest in FYROM.

Turkish railways 'Friendship Train' arrives in Thessaloniki

A Turkish railways "Friendship Train" arrived in Thessaloniki yesterday morning and was welcomed by local railway workers.

The train's 65 passengers, Turkish reporters and railway workers as well as representatives of the Turkish emergency rescue unit attended an event on the anniversary of the death of the founder of the modern Turkish state, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, at the Turkish consulate of Thessaloniki.

In a statement, the moslem deputy of the main opposition New Democracy party, Birol Akifoglu, said the moslem minority in Thrace constitutes a bridge of friendship and wants, more than anyone else, pea-ceful cohabitation between Christians and Moslems in the Greek province.

European Catholic bishops' council convenes in Athens

The 29th general assembly of the council of European Catholic bishops (Consilum Conferentiarum Episcopalium Europae) meets in Athens today through Sunday at the Athens Catholic Archdiocese.

The council is made up of the 34 presidents of local Catholic synods in various countries of Europe - stretching from Portugal to Russia and the Scandinavian countries to Malta - and meets in a different country each year.

The head of the council is Archbishop of Prague Cardinal Miroslav Vlk. This year's council will focus on the outcome of the second special council of bishops of Europe held in Rome last month.

WEATHER

Overcast weather and rain will prevail in most parts of Greece today. Sunny spells in eastern Macedonia, Thrace, the Aegean and Dodecanese islands. Winds variable, moderate to strong, turning gale force in the Aegean sea. Partly cloudy with sunny spells in Athens and temperatures between 13-19C. Same in Thessaloniki with small possibility of rain and temperatures from 11-15C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          313.303
Pound sterling       507.686
Japanese yen (100)   298.027
French franc          49.686
German mark          166.641
Italian lira (100)    16.832
Irish Punt           413.835
Belgian franc          8.079
Finnish mark          54.816
Dutch guilder        147.896
Danish kr.            43.844
Austrian sch.         23.686
Spanish peseta         1.959
Swedish kr.           37.640
Norwegian kr.         39.819
Swiss franc          202.586
Port. Escudo           1.626
Can. dollar          212.367
Aus. dollar          200.622
Cyprus pound         563.952
Euro                 325.922
(C.E.)
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