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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-11-16

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, 16/11/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Athens hails resumption of talks between Clerides, Denktash
  • Quake damage exceeds Dr 1.2 trillion
  • Greek shipowners call for better competitiveness
  • Stocks end moderately higher
  • Bank of Piraeus buys Romania's Pater Bank
  • Greece expects 2.5 mln UK tourists in 2000
  • Brown & Root leave Skaramanga
  • Simitis-Ecevit meeting on OSCE summit sidelines for Thursday
  • Clinton calls on Greece, Turkey to decrease Aegean tension
  • Security measures reviewed in light of Clinton visit
  • Events for annual Nov. 17 commemorations begin
  • Final approval for Balkan reconstruction agency in Thessaloniki
  • German Minister briefs Athens on work for EU human rights charter
  • Seismologist: latest Turkish quake shouldn't affect Greek territory
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Athens hails resumption of talks between Clerides, Denktash

Athens yesterday greeted the news of a new round of talks expected to commence between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in New York on Dec. 3.

"This is a positive development, but the continuation of dialogue must be ensured," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters.

Mr. Denktash on Sunday threatened to boycott the talks, apparently irked by a UN announcement regarding the talks, which referred to "President Clerides" and "Mr. Denktash".

But he later agreed to attend when an amended version of the announcement gave both leaders the politically neutral title of "His Excellency".

Mr. Reppas said there was no issue of convening a trilateral meeting between US President Bill Clinton, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and Prime Minister Costas Simitis, on the sidelines of the OSCE summit in Istanbul this week, adding that the foreign ministers would have the opportunity to meet on the sidelines of a dinner or at a meeting which Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem would organise for his counterparts of the 15-member bloc.

Diplomatic sources in Athens said both US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and US mediator Alfred Moses assured FM George Papandreou that Washington would insist on the conducting of substantial talks, without terms and conditions from the start.

The ball is now in the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot court as far as indicating the political will for a resolution of the Cyprus issue, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said here yesterday.

"Diplomacy needs persistence and responsibility. (UN chief) Kofi Annan's invitation to the two sides is nothing more than the beginning of a process which needs close attention," Mr. Papandreou told Greek Radio and Television.

Mr. Papandreou said the political will for a resolution to the occupation and division of the island was apparent from all EU member states and the UN Security Council members.

Quake damage exceeds Dr 1.2 trillion

The total cost of damage in a quake that hit Athens and Attica on September 7 will exceed 1.2 trillion drachmas, according to final estimates by the national economy ministry.

"The earthquake created severe and widespread damage to the country's capital at one of its most productive moments, halting its rapid growth rate and violently jolting the lives of four million inhabitants", a ministry report said.

Released yesterday, the report said that about 7,000 dwellings were fit for demolition, 65,000 uninhabitable until repaired, and 95,000 inhabitable but needing repair.

About 72,000 families in the first two categories were facing serious housing problems, the report said.

A total of 1,161 schools and 20 further and higher education buildings were also included in the list of damage.

Severely damaged were six hospitals with another 27 needing lesser repair.

Around 8,000 businesses, including 6,800 shops and offices, were also hit by the quake, leaving 3,500 people unemployed.

Greek shipowners call for better competitiveness

The London Committee of Greek shipowners yesterday called for measures to boost competitiveness and make the national register more flexible.

Meeting in the British capital, the group said that the level of withdrawals from the register between 1996 and October this year had reached a critical point.

In that period, 183 vessels joined the register and 423 left it. Among other repercussions were a loss of jobs for Greek seamen.

The shipowners said the merchant marine ministry should adopt European Union maritime policy.

"Greek shipping, as a major factor in the world economy, is under severe pressure without so far securing the necessary national backing of a kind that fleets enjoy in both EU and non-EU countries," the shipowners said in a statement.

The Greek-flagged and Greek-owned fleet comprised 16 percent of the world fleet, the shipowners said.

Stocks end moderately higher

Equity prices ended the first trading session of the week moderately higher, unable to hold on to their early gains on the Athens Stock Exchange.

The general index ended 0.36 percent up at 5,722.99 points, off the day's high of 5,777 points. Turnover was a moderate 302 billion drachmas.

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 0.70 percent higher while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks rose 0.39 percent to 2,803.84 points.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 161 to 134 with another 19 issues unchanged.

A total of 43 shares ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit up, while another 12 ended at the day's limit down.

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,500 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 26, 520, Commercial Bank at 23,400, Titan Cement (common) at 38,950, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,890, Intracom at 14,180, Minoan Lines at 10,050, Panafon at 3,620 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,475.

Bank of Piraeus buys Romania's Pater Bank

The Bank of Piraeus yesterday announced the acquisition of Romania's Pater Bank as part of its dynamic expansion drive in the Balkans.

Pater Bank, which operates two branches in Romania, has a health portfolio and holds a permit to develop its banking activities.

The purchase deal was signed by Bank of Piraeus and Hungary's Budapest Bank, parent of Pater Bank.

Budapest Bank and its strategic partner General Electric Capital (GEC) agreed to the sale of their subsidiary because the former has decided to focus its activities on the rapidly growing Hungarian market, and the latter has recently acquired Banc Post in Romania.

Greece expects 2.5 mln UK tourists in 2000

More than 2.5 million tourists from the United Kingdom are expected to visit Greece in 2000, Greek National Tourism Organisation secretary-general Eugenios Giannakopoulos said in London yesterday.

He was speaking to reporters following the inauguration of GNTO's pavillion at the World Travel Market trade fair in London.

The pavillion also included 40 Greek businesses and agencies from the private and public sectors.

Mr. Giannakopoulos held a series of meetings with tourism representatives from China, Egypt and Cyprus.

Brown & Root leave Skaramanga

Brown & Root of the United Kingdom is leaving Skaramanga Shipyard, which it has managed since 1996, Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos told a news conference yesterday.

The company will now be managed by six of the company's executives, Mr. Venizelos said.

The shipyard is owned by Hellenic Industrial Development Bank, which holds 51 percent of stock, and company employees, who have the remaining 49 percent.

Simitis-Ecevit meeting on OSCE summit sidelines for Thursday

Prime Minister Costas Simitis will meet with his Turkish counterpart Bulent Ecevit on Thursday in Istanbul on the sidelines of an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit, the government announced yesterday.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said Athens expected a "tangible response" from Ankara that it desired a normalisation of bilateral relations.

"Greece is in favour of a European prospect for Turkey," Mr. Reppas said, adding: "Greece's advocacy is based on the foreign policy being followed in Greek-Turkish relations."

Mr. Simitis leaves for Istanbul tomorrow and returns to Athens on Friday, ahead of the expected arrival of US President Bill Clinton.

Clinton calls on Greece, Turkey to decrease Aegean tension

US President Bill Clinton stressed yesterday that Turkey and Greece should make efforts to decrease tension in the Aegean, adding that efforts should also be made to find a permanent solution on Cyprus.

"Securing a better future also depends on a decrease in tension in the Aegean," Mr. Clinton said in an address to a Turkish assembly plenum yesterday.

The US president is on an official visit to Ankara before attending the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit in Istanbul.

Mr. Clinton said that in terms of recent Greek-Turkish rapprochement, "the Ecevit government has made leaps in this direction", and that "Greece has also made efforts in this direction, showing that it sees Turkey's future in Europe."

"After the earthquake in August, the peoples of the two countries united because the earthquakes were not a Greek or a Turkish tragedy, but a tragedy for humanity," he said.

Referring to the Cyprus issue, Mr. Clinton expressed satisfaction over the fact "the two sides accepted the proposal by the UN Secretary General for a start to talks" and expressed the hope "we will be led to a permanent solution."

Replying to questions from the press, he noted that the improvement in Turkey's relations with Greece was an important element in the improvement of relations between Turkey and the US.

Referring to the Cyprus problem, Mr. Clinton expressed "hope that the coming talks on Cyprus will bring us closer to a lasting peace with real security for all Cypriots and an end to the island's division."

Security measures reviewed in light of Clinton visit

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday chaired the latest government meeting to review security measures planned for US President Bill Clinton's visit to Athens, scheduled for Friday and Saturday. No statements were made afterwards.

Meanwhile, organisers of protests scheduled during the Clinton visit said they were determined to march to the US embassy to demonstrate their opposition to US and NATO policies.

Representatives of the youth groups of ruling PASOK, the Communist Party of Greece(KKE), the Coalition of Left and the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) said they had reached agreement on the staging of protests during the visit.

However, while the organisers of the three opposition party groups said they would attempt to reach the US embassy, the ruling party's youth group differentiated its position, stating that although it endorsed the "political stance of the agreement", it would not participate in any such efforts to breach police lines and would hold protests only within limits set by authorities.

Events for annual Nov. 17 commemorations begin

The gates to the Athens Polytechnic opened to the public at dawn yesterday, marking the beginning of the three days of events commemorating the 26th anniversary of a 1973 students' uprising against a military junta then ruling Greece. The annual events, the same as each year, will last through Nov. 17 and will end with a march to the US embassy in downtown Athens - set for Wednesday.

This year's events will be held shortly before US President Bill Clinton's visit, however, as announced by Polytechnic authorities, these events will not continue beyond Wednesday.

Mr. Clinton arrives for his 24-hour visit on Friday.

The Polytechnic's gates will close on Nov. 17 upon the commencement of the protest march. Meanwhile, main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis proposed to universitiy rectors, especially the Athens Polytechnic, of the taking of a faculty senate decision at every school to enable asylum to be lifted when necessary.

Final approval for Balkan reconstruction agency in Thessaloniki

The European Union's General Affairs Council yesterday gave its final approval to Thessaloniki as the base for the EU reconstruction agency slated to aid the troubled Yugoslav province of Kosovo and the Balkans, in general.

A joint communique by the council noted that both the basic services and the base of the organisation will be stationed in Thessaloniki, adding that meetings of the managing board and the general administrative and accounting services will also be in the northern Greek city.

Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Alternate Foreign Minister Christos Rokofyllos both expressed their satisfaction over the expected decision.

German Minister briefs Athens on work for EU human rights charter

German federal Justice Minister Herta Daubler-Gmelin stressed in Athens' yesterday that an upgraded European Union charter on human rights must be respected by any new EU member-states, while harmonisation with the Union's 'acquis communautaire' also concerns candidate countries, something she termed a 'significant element'.

She was replying to a question on whether adherence to any future EU charter on human rights would be a necessary condition for Union accession or even candidate status. The German minister arrived in Athens at the invitation of the Friedrich Ebert Institute to participate in a discussion on the issue of "Fundamental Rights in the European Union: Protection of Human Rights After the Amsterdam Treaty".

Asked about the issue of immigration and illegal immigration, a problem slowing creeping towards the top of Athens' list of concerns at an EU-level of late, she said Germany faced the same problem 10 or 15 years ago, as do other EU states currently.

Seismologist: latest Turkish quake shouldn't affect Greek territory

One of Greece's most distinguished seismologists yesterday stressed that the latest devastating earthquake to hit NW Turkey was not expected to have any effect on seismic activity in Greek territory.

Thessaloniki University Prof. Vassilis Papazahos told Greek state television that the Nov. 12 tremor that hit NW Turkey was weaker and further away than the catastrophic Aug. 17 quake which struck southeast of Istanbul. He added that it was "in a chrono logical sense" connected to the quake that hit the Attica basin on Sept. 7.

The Aug. 17 quake, he said, had "accelerated" the manifestation of the Greek quake.

"We are going through a period of high seismic activity which is going to last up to three years," he added,

WEATHER

Rain and storms will prevail in western, central and northern Greece today. Cloudy in the rest of the country. Winds variable, strong to gale force. Possibility of rain in Athens with temperatures between 14-21C. Rain and storms in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 10-14C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          315.734
Pound sterling       510.444
Japanese yen (100)   300.794
French franc          49.651
German mark          166.519
Italian lira (100)    16.820
Irish Punt           413.533
Belgian franc          8.073
Finnish mark          54.776
Dutch guilder        147.789
Danish kr.            43.797
Austrian sch.         23.668
Spanish peseta         1.957
Swedish kr.           37.819
Norwegian kr.         39.878
Swiss franc          202.790
Port. Escudo           1.625
Can. dollar          215.383
Aus. dollar          203.310
Cyprus pound         564.944
Euro                 325.684
(C.E.)
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