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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-11-20

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, 20/11/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Clinton pledges to help improve Greek-Turkish relations
  • Stephanopoulos hosts state banquet for Clinton
  • Clinton arrival and statements
  • Simitis tells Turkish TV he envisages a tension-free Balkans
  • Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos receives Cyprus president
  • Violence in downtown Athens follows protests over Clinton visit
  • The Economist predictions for Greece
  • Greek stocks change direction, end higher
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Clinton pledges to help improve Greek-Turkish relations

Visiting US President Bill Clinton, who arrived in Athens Friday evening on a 24-hour visit, last night pledged to help resolve the protracted Cyprus problem and improve Greek-Turkish relations.

"Mr. President, I heard what you said in your address. As you know I just arrived from Turkey. I must tell you that I deployed my best efforts to help you resolve those issues and to promote friendship and reconciliation. Talks on the Cyprus issue are due to begin. I must also tell you I will do everything on my part in order to have progress on this issue as well," President Clinton said, in a response to Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos's address during an official dinner at the presidential mansion.

"The future we envision includes Greece. We expect (Greece) to assume a leading role in the region," the US president said.

Earlier, the US president called Greece the "economic powerhouse in SE Europe, the country with the highest growth rate in the EU" and with a "booming stock market."

"Greece is one of only seven nations of the world that has sided with the United States in every major military conflict," Mr. Clinton said, before referring in detail to the contribution of the ethnic Greek community in the United States over two centuries since Greek sailors permanently settled in New England as well as US President James Monroe's encouragement of the Greek Independence struggle in 1822. He also lauded Greek-Americans for their "hard work and devotion to church and family," saying the United States would not be the same without them.

"Oli mazi (all together)," was President Clinton's final remark in his address.

President Clinton, along with his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea, arrived at the presidential mansion at approximately 9:10 p.m. They were greeted by President Stephanopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Simitis, before the playing of the American and Greek national anthems.

Among the Greek president's gifts to the Arkansas native were two classic volumes, Aristotle's 'Politics' and Plato's 'Republic'. Premier Simitis headed a high-ranking government delegation at the official dinner, including top Cabinet ministers, most of Greece's party leaders -- sans the leftist opposition leaders -- past presidents and premiers, Greek-American leaders, including well-known businessman Angelos Tsakopoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, new Ar chbishop of America Demetrios and Mr. Clinton's entourage -- a total guest list of 162 in all.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright preceded the US president at the presidential mansion by about 20 minutes.

Stephanopoulos hosts state banquet for Clinton

President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos hosted a state banquet Friday night for his visiting US counterpart Bill Clinton.

"Welcome to Greece. We greet you and Mrs. Clinton with feelings of sincere friendship and great respect towards your person, as well as towards your great country, with which Greece is connected by strong past and present ties."

"We greet you as a distinguished president of the United States; who with his policy reinforced even more the prosperity of his country, and as president of the leading country of the western world, (a country) that aspires to express and support the grand principles of freedom, democracy and respect of human rights," Mr. Stephanopoulos added.

"Greece today is a peaceful nation, fully respecting its international obligations, with an impeccably functioning democratic system of government, with a strong and growing economy , a member of the European Union and many other international organisations, an important factor of stability in the Balkan region. We do not like war, nor do we project it as a means for resolving differences, we accept and support United Nations resolutions , we respect international law and international treaties, and mai ntain friendly relations with all our neighbours, not having problems other than those caused against us by Turkey's aggressive policy," he said.

Referring to the Cyprus problem, Mr. Stephanopoulos said it should be resolved according to the principles of justice and democracy.

"It is not possible to be resolved through the acceptance of military force and accomplished facts. It is not conceivable for the bicommunal system of government being studied to disregard the overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots, as it is not concei vable for the rights of all Cypriots to be disregarded... The entry of the Republic of Cyprus in the EU cannot be permitted to depend on a previous solution of the Cyprus problem. This problem, I believe, is of primary importance," he said. The Greek president stressed that no nation desired friendship and cooperation with Turkey more than Greece, as this would be beneficial to the economic development of both countries and save money from expensive armaments.

"Greece has proposed to all sides and, of course, to Turkey, the (adoption of the) procedure of the International Court at The Hague, which bears the guarantees and the binding nature of the rulings of this court. The international community also concurs to this proposal".

Clinton arrival and statements

President Bill Clinton arrived at Athens international airport at approximately 6:50 yesterday afternoon for a 24-hour lightning trip to the Greek capital following a brief flight from Istanbul, where he participated in an Organisation for Security an d Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit.

President Clinton's arrival was delayed by about 15 minutes, with the scheduled time of arrival originally set for 6:35 p.m.

A complete flight ban was in effect over Attica prefecture as the US president, accompanied by his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea, arrived aboard Air Force One. Security in and around the airport, located in a seaside Athens suburb, was described as draconian.

In a brief statement at the airport shortly after exiting Air Force One at 7 p.m. President Clinton said: "Hello, thank you all for coming out to greet us...my family and our American delegation are very happy to be here in Greece, I have come here as a philhellene (a friend of Greece), and I look forward to experiencing that wonderful quality of hospitality -- philoxenia -- known to all the world."

Besides Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and White House Chief of Staff John Podesta also accompanied the US president, who was officially greeted at the airport by Foreign Minister George Papandreou and the US Ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns.

President Clinton noted that he wanted "through this visit" to demonstrate to the US people the significant role that Greece plays today in southeastern Europe in terms of stability and economic vigour, mentioning the Athens Stock Exchange in particular .

"...we look to ancient Greece for inspiration, we look to modern Greece for leadership," he stressed, before heading with Hillary Clinton into a crowd of supporters gathered on the runway and waving Greek and US flags.

"Our nations have so much in common, we are allies with a long tradition in democracy, two nations proud of our past which also look to the future. I look forward to my stay here," he said.

Mr. Clinton mentioned both a solution to the long-standing Cyprus problem and "building a Europe in which the Balkans are stabilised". "Our nations have so much in common...democracies with a long tradition of impassioned political debate about issue s which affect our lives..." he said.

The US president's motorcade has reached the Intercontinental Hotel in central Athens, running a route from the airport cleared of all vehicular traffic and with no one in sight, sans police.

Speaking in Istanbul yesterday before leaving for Greece, President Clinton said the Greek government and the Greek people have hopes over the new initiative on the Cyprus issue, adding that he was not concerned over the prospect of protests against him in Athens.

"If there is a question of protest rallies, there should be a possibility for them to take place," he said and went on to say that the majority of the Greek people "think differently" from himself and that "facts have proved that I was right."

President Clinton said he was not concerned over the rallies and that "the US and Greece are allies and Greece is very important to us. Greece has achieved amazing progress over the past 10 years."

Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, President Clinton said that "in three different speeches I made in Turkey, I referred to the need for a compromise between the peoples of Turkey and Greece and I received a receptive ear."

Simitis tells Turkish TV he envisages a tension-free Balkans

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said in Istanbul yesterday that he envisaged peace, friendship and cooperation in the region, without tensions and nationalistic tendencies.

"My dream is for there to be peace in this area, that there be friendship and progress," Mr. Simitis said in his first-ever interview on Turkish television.

"We want a relationship between the two countries (Greece and Turkey), the growth of one to aid the growth of the other, and both countries contributing, together with the rest of the Balkans, to prosperity in the region, to ending foolish nationalistic sentiments and tensions, which can be easily resolved on the basis of the international pacts and treaties," the Greek premier told Turkish state television TRT1.

Replying to a question on Turkey's bid for European Union membership, Mr. Simitis said Greece has repeatedly said it welcomes Turkey's European vocation.

"But we have also said that Turkey's candidacy is acceptable under certain terms and conditions," he warned, referring to the conditions under which Greece would agree to upgrading Turkey's status to "candidate-country".

Regarding Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's agreement to take part in UN-sponsored proximity talks with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides at the invitation of the UN Secretary General, due to commence December 3 in New York, Mr. Simitis noted that "we are continuing something that had been going on for some time, had been discontinued, and there was a pledge for its resumption".

"It (Denktash's agreement) is not an event that radically changes things," Mr. Simitis said.

Asked on the prospect of a repeat of crises such as that over the Imia islets in 1996, the prime minister said repetition of such an incident would be totally contrary to the present climate in Greek-Turkish relations.

"Naturally, I cannot completely rule out such an eventuality in the future, but I certainly hope not," he added.

"I believe it would be foolish if some embarked on such an effort," Mr. Simitis said, adding that he believed that the Turkish people, like the Greeks, desired a "very friendly relationship between the two countries".

Questioned on the resolution of specific differences between Greece and Turkey, he said: "The solution that Greece proposes is simple: Since for so long we have been unable to agree, let the International Court of Justice at The Hague give an opinion, let it take a decision. It will be an objective and binding decision and will not give rise to disputes by any side."

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos receives Cyprus president

Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Varholomeos yesterday received Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and wished him a speedy resolution of the Cyprus problem.

The Orthodox prelate noted that the Cyprus problem has had a negative impact on the Greek community in Istanbul and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, adding that this outfall was not instigated by the Greek Cypriots.

On his part, President Clerides, the first ever leader of Cyprus to visit the Patriarchate, offered a pastoral staff to Patriarch Vartholomeos and expressed the decision of the Cyprus government to aid in the reconstruction and repairs of Church and Greek community buildings damaged by the earthquakes since August.

President Clerides, who visited the patriarchal church of Saint George at Phanar, on the sidelines of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit, was given by Patriarch Vartholomeos a set of rosary beeds, a patriarchal publication on the environment and a copy of the US Congress medal awarded to the Patriarch.

Violence in downtown Athens follows protests over Clinton visit

The government last night strongly condemned the violent incidents that broke out in down town Athens following a protest against US President Bill Clinton's visit.

"Organised groups of protesters are responsible for the violent events, which took place tonight. A group of protesters, which was at the head of the rally in Syntagma Square, attacked the police and naturally were repelled," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

Several bank storefronts were destroyed in the heart of Athens yesterday evening as widespread rioting by mostly young masked demonstrators left scores of offices and trash bins in flames at almost as the same moment as Bill Clinton's plane touched down in the Greek capital for a long-awaited visit.

Violence broke out at several points near the Greek parliament, particularly on Panepistimiou, Stadiou, Solonos and Philellinon streets. The earlier mass protest winded its way peacefully through central Athens, even though Greek police authorities this week had banned any demonstrations in the city's centre, particularly near the presidential mansion and the US embassy.

Police rounded up about 40 persons by 10 p.m. and detained at least 18 of them for their involvement in the incidents.

About 15 people were taken to Athens hospitals, as they experienced respiratory probelms caused by tear gas discharged by riot police, in efforts to stop the violent incidents.

"Among others, the responsibility of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which has been cultivating a climate of confrontation and conflict, is great, while today (on Friday) it provided political cover and contributed to the creation of conditions of tension and incidents," Mr. Reppas said.

"We condemn and denounce this minority, which with its stance turns directly against democratic legality. Such actions not only are not related to the principles of free movement of ideas, but are also a slander to the struggles of the popular movement, in the name of which they are supposedly manifested.

"The Greek people know how to defend our country's interests, while the government safeguards and guarantees the nation's safe course to the future, especially in this difficult period," Mr. Reppas concluded.

Calm returned to the city centre after the fire brigade had put out all the fires, about two hours later. President Clinton leaves.

Earlier yesterday, Public Order Minister Michalis Chrisohoidis appealed to organisers of protest rallies over the Clinton visit to "display a sense of responsibility".

Citing "reasons of public safety", the Athens chief of police issued a prohibition of rallies and marches in several areas of the Greek capital for the duration of the Clinton visit, including the route to and from Athens' international airport to be followed by President Clinton's motorcade and in the vicinity of the US embassy.

The move sparked sharp criticism from the left-wing opposition parties, and the organisers of the march said they were determined to break through the police cordon to reach the embassy.

The Economist predictions for Greece

Elections in March, re-election of PASOK and strong economic growth were predicted for Greece by The Economist in its latest report published yesterday.

"We expect an election to be held in March 2000, probably before it is known whether the government has achieved its goal of securing Greek participation in EMU (European Monetary Union)," the report's summary for Greece stated.

It added that "although the election will be close, we expect PASOK to be returned to office, helped by substantial tax cuts in the 2000 budget.

"Inflation will remain low. We expect growth to fall short of the government's revised forecast of 3.5 per cent in 1999, owing to a slowdown in investment growth to 6 per cent, but stronger investment, as well as export growth, should lead to 3.7 per ce nt growth in 2000, moderating to 3.4 per cent in 2001," the report noted.

The report forecast conditions for the remainder of the fourth quarter of 1999 for the short term and through 2001 for the long term.

Greek stocks change direction, end higher

Greek equities showed signs of recovery in the last trading session of the week, reversing a three-day decline on the Athens Stock Exchange.

The general index ended 0.70 percent higher at 5,610.50 points, off the day's highs of 5,625.16 points with turnover at 310 billion drachmas.

Smaller capitalisation stocks, mainly in the Construction and Miscellaneous sectors, were at the focus of attention although Banks remained under pressure.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 228 to 79 with another 29 issues unchanged.

WEATHER

Cloudy weather with rainfall and local rainstorms will prevail on high ground, the Ionian sea and the eastern Aegean islands on Saturday. The rest of the country will be cloudy with possibility of local rainfall. Winds will be nothernwesterly, strong to very strong, turning gale force in the Aegean and the Ionian seas. Cloudy in Athens with sporadic rainfall and relative improvement in the evening and temperatures around 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with average temperature at 15C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          316.349
Pound sterling       511.059
Japanese yen (100)   298.493
French franc          49.732
German mark          166.793
Italian lira (100)    16.848
Irish Punt           414.213
Belgian franc          8.870
Finnish mark          54.867
Dutch guilder        148.032
Danish kr.            43.854
Austrian sch.         23.707
Spanish peseta         1.960
Swedish kr.           37.894
Norwegian kr.         39.847
Swiss franc          203.653
Port. Escudo           1.627
Can. dollar          215.244
Aus. dollar          201.693
Cyprus pound         563.020
Euro                 326.219
(L.G.)
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