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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-11-23

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, 23/11/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece, Cyprus call for substantive intercommunal talks
  • Greek, Turkish firms hope to aid political climate
  • Political understanding needed, minister says
  • Inflation to meet EMU criterion Feb, Papademos says
  • Current account deficit narrows
  • Unemployment up in October
  • No change in drachma policy, Papantoniou says
  • Greek stocks end slightly lower hit by banks
  • Hellenic Banking Institute launched
  • Papandreou, Moscovici discuss Turkey's and Cyprus' EU accession
  • Gov't terms Clinton visit as a success
  • Eighteen appear before magistrate over Friday's rioting
  • WEATHER
  • FOREIGN EXCHANGE

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece, Cyprus call for substantive intercommunal talks

Both Athens and Nicosia believe upcoming talks on the Cyprus issue should be substantive, with United Nations resolutions and a call by the G-8 countries as their basis.

"The two sides agreed that talks must be substantive and should be based on decisions by the UN Security Council and be conducted in line with the recent call by the G-8 countries," said a joint communique, issued after talks in Athens yesterday between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and visiting Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides.

The communique also stressed what it termed the crucial juncture facing the Cyprus issue, in the light of proximity talks between President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in New York on Dec. 3, as well as the Dec. 10-11 EU summit in Helsinki, the recent OSCE summit in Istanbul as well as US President Bill Clinton's visit to Athens over the weekend . The communique added that the general estimation was positive in the wake of the OSCE summit and the bilateral talks held by Mr. Simitis and Mr. Clerides with EU leaders and the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Mr. Annan, the communique read, pledged that proximity talks on Cyprus would touch on issues of substance.

Both leaders determined that Mr. Bill Clinton's statements on the Cyprus issue were in the right direction, and they both underlined his statement that the status quo on Cyprus was "unacceptable".

The US president made the statement during a speech in Athens on Saturday.

Greek, Turkish firms hope to aid political climate

The development of business ties between Greece and Turkey can contribute to an improvement in relations between the two countries, said a joint communique by the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) and the Union of Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen (TUSIAD).

The full text of the statement, which was released after talks by the two groups in Athens yesterday, is as follows:

"Economic relations between Greece and Turkey have increased at a steady pace over the last decade, totalling 700 million euros in 1998.

"Under the right circumstances, the business communities of Greece and Turkey foresee greater possibilities for trade as well as for investment and business partnerships between the two countries.

"On the European level, the acceptance of Turkey as a candidate country for European Union enlargement would advance its internal efforts to satisfy the political and economic criteria for entry into the EU, in this way promoting effective solutions to the political problems existing between Greece and Turkey.

The statement was released after a visit by the Turkish business delegation to Athens whose members met Greek businessmen, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, and Iason Stratos, president of the Federation of Greek Industry.

Political understanding needed, minister says

Greek-Turkish business relations cannot prosper unless the two countries can reach a fundamental political understanding, despite a climate of goodwill in the private sector, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with a Turkish business delegation, Mr. Papantoniou said: "I had the opportunity to meet with the Turkish Businessmens' Union, which is linked to the Federation of Greek Industries, and discussed the framework of Greek-Turkish business cooperation."

The Greek government has began a "low-level policy" dialogue with Turkey covering tourism, commerce and economic cooperation.

Inflation to meet EMU criterion Feb, Papademos says

The inflation rate will drop below 2.0 percent in February despite its recent slight acceleration, Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos said yesterday.

Presenting the central bank's interim report on this year's monetary policy to Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, Mr. Papademos said: "I am certain that the EMU entry criterion will be fulfilled" because the Greek economy's prospects remained fa vourable.

He noted, however, that "a prudent economic policy" should be continued, coupled with efforts to keep prices low.

Mr. Papademos said he expected the harmonised inflation index to continue falling although he predicted that rising oil prices in international markets could lead to a 0.2 percent increase in the consumer price index in the last two months of 1999.

Referring to the stock market, Mr. Papademos said it was irrational to draw conclusions from short-term fluctuations.

Current account deficit narrows

The current account deficit narrowed in January-May to 1.885 billion euros from 2.805 billion euros in the same period of 1998, the Bank of Greece said yesterday.

The decline in the deficit was due to a reduction in the trade deficit in January-May and to an increase in the services' surplus.

The trade deficit fell to 6.026 billion euros from 6.464 billion euros in the same period of last year, which the central bank attributed to a rise in the value of exports.

Unemployment up in October

The Manpower Employment Organisation said yesterday that the number of jobless rose to 309,601 in October from 290,305 in the same month a year ago.

Of the total, 122,086 were men and 187,515 women.

The newly registered unemployed in October 1998 came to 66,253 compared to 86,250 in the same month of this year.

The number of lay-offs increased to total 63,149 in October from 53,767 in the same month of 1998.

Also on the rise were the number of voluntary departures from jobs.

No change in drachma policy, Papantoniou says

The government will not change its foreign exchange policy and the country's course towards participating in European economic and monetary union has already been specified, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

Mr. Papantoniou, however, said he remained worried over the inflation criterion.

He noted that US President Bill Clinton's comments on the Greek economy were extremely positive.

"The recognition by our international partners of the substantial progress achieved by the Greek economy is always welcome," the minister added.

He added that President Clinton's comments would have a significant long- term positive impact on the Greek economy's participation in the global economy.

Greek stocks end slightly lower hit by banks

Greek stocks ended yesterday's session slightly lower hit by losses in blue chip stocks in the Banks sector, although the wider market showed solid gains on the Athens Stock Exchange

Traders said the market initially jumped 2.0 percent reflecting euphoria after the US President's positive comments on the Greek economy during his visit to Athens on November 19-20, but moved into negative territory later in the day on short-selling.

Market sources attributed the change in climate to a statement by the Bank of Greece governor on keeping monetary policy unchanged until the end of the year.

The general index ended 0.13 percent lower at 5,603.09 points, with turnover a hefty 468 billion drachmas, reflecting a block trade of 10 million Panafon shares.

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,100 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 24, 870, Commercial Bank at 22,990, Titan Cement (common) at 37,350, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,630, Intracom at 14,030, Minoan Lines at 9,750, Panafon at 3, 865 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,340.

Hellenic Banking Institute launched

The Hellenic Banks Association yesterday launched operations of the Hellenic Banking Institute, a body that aims to provide quality education in Greece and abroad.

The Institute's activities will include undertaking and promoting educational initiatives and programmes in the Balkans and in east European countries.

It also aims to improve the quality of banking staff through vocational seminars; supply information to merchants, professionals and manufacturers; and publish up to date educational material.

Ioannis Manos, the Hellenic Banks Association's secretary general, said the Institute would function under the direct surveillance and control of the Association, and its staff would include university professors and high- ranking banking officials.

Papandreou, Moscovici discuss Turkey's and Cyprus' EU accession

The Cyprus problem and Turkey's possible candidacy to the European Union were the focus of talks between Foreign Minister George Papandreou and French Minister of European Affairs Pierre Moscovici yesterday.

"We welcome and support efforts by the United Nations and we all believe that there should be a resolution of the Cyprus political problem," said Mr. Moscovici, who arrived in Athens on Monday following talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem in Ankara. "The positions of all other countries are developing and so are ours," Mr. Moscovici said in reference to statements in London and Berlin over the unhindered accession of Cyprus to the Union before a resolution of the 25-year division of the island republic caused by the Turkish invasion.

"This is a new position on the part of France. We are ready to reassure that none of the candidate states has the right of veto against any other candidate," he added.

Mr. Papandreou said "we focused our attention towards the Turkish candidacy. We discussed the framework within which Greece sees the Turkish candidacy in a positive light...We have come closer, but we need more time to work (on it)."

Gov't terms Clinton visit as a success

The government yesterday termed US President Bill Clinton's 24-hour visit to Greece on Friday and Saturday as a success, adding that talks had gone exceptionally well.

"We were shown to be present in word and deeds on the international stage," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

He added that Athens was satisfied with the understanding shown by Washington on several major issues of concern to Athens.

"President Clinton's statements have contributed to Greece's bilateral and wider relations...Greece will continue to be a presence on the international stage," the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis yesterday called Mr. Clinton's statement over the stance taken by the US government during Greece's 1967-74 military junta "a brave move which the US had failed to make until now".

He said Mr. Clinton's references to the Cyprus problem, the Greek-Turkish relations and the Parthenon Marbles were also positive.

Eighteen appear before magistrate over Friday's rioting

Eighteen out of 26 individuals arrested in connection with violence Friday evening to protest the arrival of US President Bill Clinton appeared before an investigating magistrate yesterday.

Filed charges ranged from arson to possession and the manufacture of explosive devices to disturbing the peace and resisting arrest.

Three of the 18 were ordered remanded to custody, while 10 were freed on bail. The rest were freed without restrictions placed. The rest of the eight will appear before the magistrate today.

A strong police force was on hand at the court house to prevent any outbreak of further violence from supporters of those charged.

Meanwhile, students from the Polytechnic held a solidarity march from the university premises to the courthouse.

Several leftist political supporters blamed the government and police for failing to arrest what they referred to as the "real perpetrators" of the violence.

WEATHER

Cloudy weather with rainfall and storms is forecast for today in mainland Greece and the northern and eastern Aegean islands, with snowfall on highground in the north. Gradual improvement expected from the west in the afternoon. Winds south, southwesterly, medium to strong, turning gale force in the Aegean. Rain and possible local storms in Athens with temperatures from 14-19C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 11-13C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          316.398
Pound sterling       512.765
Japanese yen (100)   300.824
French franc          49.755
German mark          166.869
Italian lira (100)    16.855
Irish Punt           414.402
Belgian franc          8.090
Finnish mark          54.891
Dutch guilder        148.100
Danish kr.            43.886
Austrian sch.         23.718
Spanish peseta         1.961
Swedish kr.           37.855
Norwegian kr.         39.849
Swiss franc          203.573
Port. Escudo           1.628
Can. dollar          216.018
Aus. dollar          201.515
Cyprus pound         564.091
Euro                 326.368
(C.E.)
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