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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-11-17
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>
NEWS IN ENGLISH
ATHENS, GREECE, 17/11/1999 (ANA)
NEWS IN DETAILGreece on track for euro entry in early 2000. OECD says
Greece is on the right track to meet the Maastricht criteria early next year, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said yesterday.
The Paris-based organisation's six-monthly country report said the growth rate in Greece was dynamic this year and was expected to accelerate in 2000 and 2001.
Rising growth was the result of strong domestic demand combined with an increase in exports, while lower domestic spending had helped to drive down inflation, the report said.
Easing indirect taxation had helped the country's effort to achieve the Maastricht inflation criterion, although a sudden short-term rise in consumer prices could not be ruled out due to higher demand, the OECD said.
The OECD urged the government to adopt more "ambitious" targets in the drive to lower inflation ahead of an anticipated easing of monetary policy to help interest rates converge with the euro zone.
The OECD noted a slight slowdown in economic activity in the first half of 1999 due to lower exports, but forecast that the country's gross domestic product would grow by 3.25 percent by the end of the year.
Tourism revenues remained at satisfactory levels despite a temporary slowdown due to the Kosovo crisis, the report said.
Developments in the labour market, however, were less satisfactory with the unemployment rate rising to 11.0 percent in mid-1999, although the OECD predicted a fall to 10.0 percent of the country's labour force in the next two years.
The OECD forecast that the country's GDP growth would exceed 4.0 percent in the year 2001 with the help of major investments in the private and public sectors and a significant rise in consumer demand.
Inflation was likely to fall to 2.25 percent next year, meeting the Maastricht criterion for entry into the euro zone, the OECD said.
Greece to see "Simitis packages" in future budgets
The performance of the Greek economy shows that there will be "Simitis packages" accompanying future budgets, Deputy National Economy Minister Christos Pahtas said yesterday.
Mr. Pahtas told the Athens News Agency in an interview that the outlook was good for Greece due to its forthcoming participation in European economic and monetary union.
The budget for the year 2000 was aimed at improving the public's standard of living, at the same time effecting changes in the public sector, he said.
The government has set a priority in coming years to reform and improve public administration in order to offer the public better services.
"Next year's budget is directed towards EMU participation, growth, social equity and the distribution of wealth," Mr. Pahtas said.
Mr. Pahtas forecast that the country's gross domestic product would rise by 3.5 percent this year and 3.7 percent in 2000, higher than the average EU growth rate. He said that growth rates would accelerate to four and five percent in the next few years with the help of a "giant public investments programme".
The "Simitis packages" in the future would be designed to support social cohesion.
IPO for Hellenic Industrial Development Bank
Hellenic Industrial Development Bank is to hold an initial public offer (IPO) to join the main market of the Athens Stock Exchange on December 14- 17.
The state-owned bank's planned entry into the bourse will be accompanied by a share capital increase, with proceeds expected to total 130 billion drachmas.
On offer are 30,081,730 new shares and 10,528,000 existing ones that together will represent 30 percent of the bank's share capital.
Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos told a shareholders' meeting that the bank would continue to be the main vehicle for industrial zones and for projects funded from the European Union's Third Community Support Framework.
Hellenic Petroleum posts 67 pct profit jump
Hellenic Petroleum, a heavily traded stock on the Athens bourse, yesterday reported a rise in January-September pre-tax profits to 43.6 billion drachmas from 25.2 billion drachmas in the same period of last year, up 66.7 percent.
Consolidated profits before tax rose by 48.9 percent to 48.5 billion drachmas from 32.6 billion drachmas in January-September 1998, Hellenic Petroleum said in a statement.
The company attributed the rise to corporate restructuring and the beneficial impact of the company's listing in the second quarter of 1998.
Also aiding results were a rise in international oil prices, entry into the Hellenic Petroleum Group of the Mamidakis owned companies, and the acquisition of OKTA, a refinery in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Stocks end lower, focus on small caps
Equity prices ended yesterday's session moderately lower with the market's focus shifting towards selected small and medium-sized capitalisation stocks.
The general index ended 0.70 percent down at 5,683.06 points, off the day's low of 5.639 points. Turnover was a moderate 290.3 billion drachmas.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 194 to 102 with another 25 issues unchanged.
National Bank of Greece ended at 21,450 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 25, 000, Commercial Bank at 23,980, Titan Cement (common) at 38,400, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,745, Intracom at 13,895, Minoan Lines at 10,000, Panafon at 3,575 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,400.
Three-year bond yield rises in tender
Three-year bond yields rose slightly in yesterday's weekly auction of state securities by the finance ministry, without deviating from recent levels in international, mainly European, markets.
The average weighed interest rate for the 150 billion drachmas of three- year bonds on auction rose to 7.61 percent from 7.32 pct in the previous auction on September 21.
The paper carried a coupon of 7.6 percent.
The auction, held through the market's primary dealers, was a reopening of the original issue of January 22, 1999.
The average weighed price of the bond was 99.913 with a cut-off price of 99.860.
'Open agenda' for talks between Simitis, Ecevit in Istanbul
Athens reiterated yesterday that tomorrow's scheduled talks between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his Turkish counterpart Bulent Ecevit, on the sidelines of an OSCE summit in Istanbul, will be conducted with an "open agenda".
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said there would be no joint communique after the talks, adding that the two leaders will probably make separate statements afterwards.
Asked whether the Cyprus problem will be brought up at the Simitis-Ecevit talks, Mr. Reppas said "this issue is of vital importance to Greece and it will be definitely brought up at the talks".
Protests banned in central Athens on Friday, Saturday
All protests, rallies and marches have been banned in central Athens during the upcoming visit of US President Bill Clinton on orders of the Attica police chief, issued late yesterday.
The orders stated that for "reasons of public safety" all outdoor assemblies or marches of organised groups throughout central Athens and from the airport to the centre of the Greek capital are banned, beginning on Friday at 3 p.m. and ending on Saturd ay at 5 p.m.
The orders, issued by police chief Giorgos Skaltsas, noted that any attempt to violate the ban will be "opposed with all legal means, while participants in such protests will be prosecuted".
Meanwhile, traffic police in Attica announced that several main boulevards and roads leading from the airport to the centre of the city via Piraeus will be closed to traffic at certain sections during the arrival and departure of the US president.
All other traffic will be directed through detours.
ND views Clinton visit as means to improving Greek-US cooperation
Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis stressed yesterday that from the start his party considered US President Bill Clinton's visit to Greece as an event serving the development of bilateral relations and strengthening Athens' cooperation with Washington.
Mr. Karamanlis, addressing a conference of the Hellenic American Institute at a downtown Athens hotel, said emotional and extreme reactions as well as protests are of no use, adding that no political party should encourage them.
However, he criticised the government over its handling of the issue of the postponement of Mr. Clinton's visit, saying that in this way it created serious national harm because petty party expediencies preceded national interests.
He also said Washington, as the sole superpower, had particular responsibilities in maintaining global and regional security and stability, while adding that Turkey is undermining this common interest because it was aiming at overturning the status quo in the Aegean and continued to occupy the northern part of Cyprus unimpeded.
Burns calls for more emphasis on talks during Clinton visit
US ambassador in Athens Nicholas Burns said yesterday it was ironic that everyone seemed to be focusing on security measures surrounding US President Bill Clinton's upcoming visit to Athens instead of on the talks' agenda.
Addressing a conference on Greek-US relations organised by the Hellenic American Institute, Mr. Burns said he was impressed that "all this time the press coverage" of the Mr. Clinton visit "has focused on the atmosphere and security measures to be applied and not on the substance of the visit".
Mr. Burns said the Greek and US leaderships had been working for months on the substance of the visit and the talks, which he said would "toucn on some very sensitive areas and very important ones, such as trade relations, military cooperation, the Cyprus issue and the Aegean, which must be a sea that unites rather than separates peoples".
The US envoy praised Greece's role in the Balkans and Europe, noting that it was the only European country, and NATO ally, that could "truly help the fragile democracies in the Balkans," since "Greece has a lot to teach as it is the oldest democracy in the world".
Party messages for Polytechnic anniversary
Greece's political parties and several organisations issued statements yesterday to mark today's anniversary of a students' uprising against the military junta on Nov. 17, 1973.
A joint message by Prime Minister and PASOK leader Costas Simitis as well as the party's executive bureau said the greatest honour for the Polytechnic is "for us to refuse its sale to opportunistic banners and to place ourselves at the service of a nobler idea, namely, that of a democratic Greece."
The Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) said the celebration "should be a source of inspiration and renewal of historical memory. With new struggles for peace, stability and multifaceted cooperation in the region, without the undesirable arbitrations and hegemony of US policy; for democratic and social rights, for a modern public education for all; for productive work...for a better quality of life."
Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas said the mandates of the students' uprising are clear: "Resistance to the barbaric 'New World Order', no to subdued and subservient political leaderships, for national dignity, peace, social solidarity and justice", adding that "the arrival of the President of the US, at the head of the new barbarism, in our country these days constitutes a provocation to the Greek people and an affront to the Polytechnic's dead."
Prosecutors to observe Athens Polytechnic rally
Twenty prosecutors will supervise security measures in downtown Athens today for the rally culminating Polytechnic celebrations.
The head of the prosecuting authority has appointed 14 prosecutors to be on permanent standby, two others who will be at police headquarters and nine others who will remain at their residences on a 24-hour basis to intervene when necessary to order arrests and other measures in the event of incidents.
Regarding the premises of the Athens Polytechnic, an understanding was reached between the prosecuting authority and the faculty senate which, if it ascertains a violation of the university asylum code by non-student elements, will request the immediate intervention of the prosecuting authority.
Third Community Support Framework allocations
The culture ministry aims to absorb 450 billion drachmas from the Third Community Support Framework fund earmarked for Greece, Culture Minister Elizabeth Papazoi said yesterday.
She added that of the 450 billion, 195 regard national or regional programmes; 190 billion are for regional programmes; 25 billion are border programmes and 40 billion are for computer network programmes.
Increases compared to the Second Communi ty Support Framework fund by region include 10 billion drachmas for eastern Macedonia and Thrace; 32 billion for central Macedonia; seven for western Macedonia; 12 billion for Epirus; seven billion for Thessaly; nine billion for the Ionian Islands; 19 bi llion for western Greece; 10 billion for south-central Greece; 28 billion for Attica; 16 billion for the Peloponnese; 14 billion for the islands of the northern Aegean; 16 billion for the islands of the southern Aegean and 10 billion for Crete.
More Greek aid to quake-stricken Turkey
The Hellenic Air Force (HAF) said yesterday that two C-130 transport planes flew humanitarian assistance to Turkey.
The two aircraft carried three doctors, members of the Doctors of the World organisation, a mini-bus, 350 space heaters and 3,500 blankets to Topel, an airport in northern Turkey.
The aid was part of Athens' efforts to alleviate the repercussions of the devastating earthquake that hit the neighbouring country on Nov. 12.
WEATHEROvercast weather will prevail throughout the country today with rain and storms in mainland Greece, the islands of the northern and eastern Aegean Sea and the Ionian Sea. Winds variable, moderate to strong, turning gale force in the Aegean Sea. Scattered cloud in Athens. Rain and storms in Thessaloniki.
Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 315.615 Pound sterling 511.773 Japanese yen (100) 298.810 French franc 49.711 German mark 166.722 Italian lira (100) 16.840 Irish Punt 414.037 Belgian franc 8.083 Finnish mark 54.843 Dutch guilder 147.969 Danish kr. 43.846 Austrian sch. 23.697 Spanish peseta 1.960 Swedish kr. 37.746 Norwegian kr. 39.801 Swiss franc 203.300 Port. Escudo 1.627 Can. dollar 215.204 Aus. dollar 202.517 Cyprus pound 565.242 Euro 326.080(C.E.)
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