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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-11-18

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, 18/11/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Respect for borders and int'l law necessary to stabilise region
  • Clinton received by Patriarch Vartholomeos at Patriarchate
  • Simitis holds talks with Patriarch
  • Itinerary for Clinton's Athens visit unveiled
  • Opposition criticises rally ban
  • Oil prices will not affect euro zone entry
  • Average harmonised inflation to drop, Papademos says
  • Greece set for euro entry, Papantoniou says
  • Stocks continue moving lower
  • Mutual fund managers expect new rally
  • Athens 2004 organisers cite cash flow problem
  • Greece, Albania and FYROM sign air traffic protocol
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Respect for borders and int'l law necessary to stabilise region

Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed yesterday that Greece and the entire region were at a "critical crossroads of developments", as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Istanbul provided "an international forum to re inforce our firm positions".

Speaking at Athens airport before departing for Istanbul, Mr. Simitis said the policies for stabilisation and development in the Balkans needed to be further consolidated in order to reduce the danger of crises, "and this must be done without exclusions and with respect for existing borders and international legality".

The Greek premier noted that on the sidelines of the OSCE summit he would have separate meetings with the prime ministers of the other 14 EU member- states and the prime minister of Turkey, Bulent Ecevit.

"It is our firm conviction that the interests of peace in the region dictate good neighbourliness and cooperation between Turkey and Greece," Mr. Simitis said, adding that Athens had shown the way in that direction.

"We hope that Turkey will take similar initiatives, so that international law and the conditions in the area will be the framework of reference in our relations, and also that there will be progress towards solving the Cyprus issue in accordance with UN decisions and resolutions," Mr. Simitis said.

The premier added that, in the same framework, Greece looked forward to a "fruitful discussion" with US President Bill Clinton, who is due to visit Athens tomorrow and Saturday after the OSCE summit.

"The good relations between our two countries, the long-standing ties between the two peoples, the flourishing Greek community in the US, all dictate a good relationship and good hospitality towards our American guests and President Clinton," Mr. Simitis said.

Clinton received by Patriarch Vartholomeos at Patriarchate

US President Bill Clinton was received yesterday at the Patriarchate by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos of Constantinople and the new Archbishop of America Demetrios, in the first-ever visit by a standing US leader to the Patriarchate.

The US president was accompanied at the Patriarchate by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea.

Following a private meeting between Vartholomeos and Mr. Clinton, Archbishop Demetrios said discussions included issues of religious freedom around the world and the re-opening of the Halki Academy of Theology.

"The focus of the discussions was the contribution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the re-establishment of peaceful relations," Demetrios said.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Demirel reportedly requested a "little bit more time" to find a solution to the problem of the Halki Academy of Theology's reopening, following talks with Mr. Clinton, sources said.

Simitis holds talks with Patriarch

Prime Minister Costas Simitis arrived in Istanbul yesterday for the OSCE summit with his first visit being at the Ecumenical Patriarchate for a meeting with Patriarch Vartholomeos.

"The Phanar (the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) is a place which links us with our history, tradition and our religion," the prime minister said after meeting Vartholomeos.

"Our presence here is to underline the importance which we extend to the significant work being undertaken to ensure the voice of Orthodoxy is heard."

Patriarch Vartholomeos congratulated Mr. Simitis on the work he and the Greek government had undertaken, as well as the overtures "you have made in the direction of co-existence and cooperation between the peoples of Greece and Turkey."

Itinerary for Clinton's Athens visit unveiled

US President Bill Clinton arrives in Athens tomorrow afternoon on a long- awaited 24-hour visit and talks with the government, all amid stringent security measures as well as a ban on all protest rallies and street marches.

The US presidential airplane will land at approximately 6:35 p.m. at Athens airport, while Mr. Clinton's arrival and the rest of the schedule will be covered by a specially accredited pool of reporters and photographers.

Shortly after his arrival, Mr. Clinton and his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea will attend a reception at the Presidential Mansion to be given in his honour by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.

Both men will hold a brief private discussion at the presidential mansion on Saturday morning, after which they will be joined by aides. Mr. Clinton will hold talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis at the Maximos Mansion at around 11:30 a.m., to be followed by a 30-minute press conference at 1 p.m.

The US leader will then deliver an address at the Athens Intercontinental Hotel before departing in the early afternoon.

Opposition criticises rally ban

In a related development, a police ban on rallies and protest marches has drawn sharp criticism from several opposition parties.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which controls 11 seats in the 300- member Parliament, called the move an "American-inspired choice of the (Greek) government" and a "deeply anti-popular decision with a political goal".

The Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) said the government, "hiding behind the police authorities, is aligning itself with the demands of US authorities and going back on previous commitments".

In a similar announcement, the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) called the ban a "clearly undemocratic and unconstitutional decision that blatantly offends the democratic sensitivity and honour of the proud Greek people and also downgrades Greece into the role of a Third World country and into the role of a subject."

Oil prices will not affect euro zone entry

Rising oil prices in international markets will not have an impact on the inflation criterion that Greece has to meet for entry into European economic and monetary union, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters after addressing a parliamentary economic committee on next year's budget, Mr. Papantoniou said rising oil prices would be an "unpleasant development" for the country's inflation rate.

The development ministry and state-owned Hellenic Petroleum yesterday announced that indicative fuel prices would rise in the coming week in line with higher oil prices in international markets.

Under the government's weekly price review, super gasoline will rise by 4.80 drachmas a litre, leadless gasoline by 5.0 drachmas a litre, diesel by 7.30 drachmas a litre and heating oil by 5.00 drachmas a litre.

Average harmonised inflation to drop, Papademos says

Average annual harmonised inflation is expected to fall gradually in the months ahead, reaching by early next year the level required for entry into the euro zone, central bank governor Lucas Papademos said yesterday.

"The average harmonised inflation index will fall gradually in the months ahead to two percent. We believe we shall reach this level and meet the inflation criterion in February or March 2000," he told the Italian financial newspaper "Sole 24 Ore" in an interview.

Average harmonised inflation stood at 2.6 percent in October.

Year-on-year harmonised inflation, which fell to 1.9 in the same month, is not expected to exceed two percent in the months ahead, Mr. Papademos said.

At the same time, the central bank does not expect a fall in consumer price inflation in November or December.

Greece set for euro entry, Papantoniou says

Greece will become the 12th member of economic and monetary union in June 2000 when its entry is expected to be endorsed at a European Union summit, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told parliament yesterday.

Addressing a parliamentary committee on economic affairs that is discussing next year's budget, Mr. Papantoniou referred to major changes in the Greek economy in the last six years, such as a drop in the inflation rate from 14 percent to 2.0 percent and an almost zero deficit.

The government had succeeded in completing a fiscal restructuring effort which opened the door to tax cuts and social benefits, he said.

"This was accomplished by expanding the tax base and securing a surplus of 400 billion drachmas, a result of combatting tax evasion and a rise in the stock market which led Greek companies to reveal their real profits and pay real taxes," Mr. Papantoniou said.

In addition, the government had raised 2.3 trillion drachmas from 10 major and medium-sized privatisations.

Stocks continue moving lower

Equity prices continued moving lower yesterday reflecting selling in blue chip stocks.

The general index ended 0.50 percent down at 5,654.07 points, off the day's low of 5,592 points. Turnover was higher at 323.354 billion drachmas.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-0.17 pct), Leasing (-0.52 pct), Insurance (+1.74 pct), Investment (-0.28 pct), Construction (-2.40 pct), Industrials (-0.88 pct), Miscellaneous (-0.48 pct) and Holding (-0.12 pct). The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks rose 0.17 pct while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks eased 0.11 percent to 2,789.18 points.

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,780 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 26, 000, Commercial Bank at 23,650, Titan Cement (common) at 37,400, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,800, Intracom at 13,540, Minoan Lines at 9,890, Panafon at 3, 580 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,440.

Mutual fund managers expect new rally

Mutual fund assets totalled 12.199 trillion drachmas on Tuesday, November 16, with 11.931 trillion drachmas invested in domestic funds and another 267.6 billion drachmas in international funds.

The data was released yesterday.

Market analysts noted that a wave of major share capital increases by listed companies on the Athens Stock Exchange had drained liquidity from the market, keeping the general index within a narrow trading range in the last few weeks.

However, stockbrokers and mutual fund managers anticipate a new round of interest rate cuts by the Bank of Greece and domestic commercial banks that will spur a new rally on the Athens Stock Exchange, pushing mutual fund returns higher.

They also noted that the rally would not resemble a spectacular jump in the period July-August.

Athens 2004 organisers cite cash flow problem

The Athens 2004 organising committee said yesterday it was suffering from cash flow problems, due in part to the government's decision last month to drop plans for a lottery that would have raised 70 billion drachmas for the Olympic Games.

Athens 2004 Managing Director Costas Bakouris told reporters that the committee faced an "enormous cash flow problem" and had appealed to the inter-ministerial committee to help.

Plans for the 'Olympic Video-lotto' were summarily dropped last month by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, after heightened criticism by the opposition and certain PASOK cadres.

According to Mr. Bakouris, the revenues from the lottery would have been the organising committee's first income, because monies from sponsorship deals is not expected to come in until 2001.

Greece, Albania and FYROM sign air traffic protocol

Greece, Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) yesterday signed a cooperation protocol on air traffic.

Transport Tassos Mantelis, his Albanian counterpart Ingrid Souli and FYROM Deputy Transport Minister Hassani Redrep signed the protocol in Thessaloniki, whose immediate aim is the establishment of a representative office in the northern port city.

The Greek government will organise the operation of the office.

The primary mission of the office, which was initiated by Greece at the Eurocontrol conference last September in Paris, will be to coordinate the air traffic control systems of the three countries.

Turkey has also expressed interest in joining the office.

WEATHER

Overcast weather will prevail throughout the country today with rain and storms in western Greece, the islands of the eastern Aegean Sea and the Dodecanese islands. Winds westerly, southwesterly, strong. Possibility of rain in the afternoon in Athens with temperatures between 16-23C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 13-17C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          313.710
Pound sterling       509.571
Japanese yen (100)   297.044
French franc          49.739
German mark          166.819
Italian lira (100)    16.850
Irish Punt           414.276
Belgian franc          8.088
Finnish mark          54.874
Dutch guilder        148.054
Danish kr.            43.876
Austrian sch.         23.711
Spanish peseta         1.961
Swedish kr.           37.597
Norwegian kr.         39.777
Swiss franc          203.682
Port. Escudo           1.628
Can. dollar          214.371
Aus. dollar          201.455
Cyprus pound         565.440
Euro                 326.269
(C.E.)
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