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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-12-10
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>
NEWS IN ENGLISH
ATHENS, GREECE, 10/12/1999 (ANA)
NEWS IN DETAILSimitis tackles `difficult` issues ahead of key EU summit
Guarantees for Cyprus' unhindered progress towards Union membership, referral of Turkey's differences with Greece in the Aegean to The Hague and a so-called "road map" clearly identifying Ankara's obligations still stood as conditions for Greece's endorsement of the neighbouring country's EU candidacy, high-ranking government sources said here yesterday.
Prime Minister Costas Simitis said these issues were still the subject of negotiations and presented difficulties due to differing views.
"We are continuing negotiations and discussions with the Finnish presidency and the other governments of member-states to achieve what we believe is correct," Mr. Simitis told reporters at the media centre in Helsinki after meeting with the current pres ident of the European Union, his Finnish counterpart Paavo Lipponen as well as the EU's High Representative on foreign and defence policy, Javier Solana.
He also said that Athens wanted "a solution to the enlargement problems; a solution that would safeguard the interests of both Greece and the EU so it can operate smoothly". The Greek PM described the issues involved as "quite difficult" because of differing views.
"We insist and continue to insist on achieving the best possible for the country's interests," he added.
The same sources said the Greek government aimed at obtaining a reference in the final conclusions reiterating that the island republic would join the EU even if the Cyprus problem remained unresolved, leaving no room for any misinterpretation.
This position was said to have the support of Britain, which was trying to find the acceptable wording to all EU members.
The sources also reported that the chances for Athens' approval of Turkey's candidacy remained at 50-50.
OTE names Romtelecom chairman
State-controlled Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) announced yesterday the appointment of its deputy CEO, George Skarpelis, as the new chairman of the board of Romtelecom, Romania's national telecom.
OTE acquired a 35 percent stake and 51 percent voting rights in Romtelecom for 675 million dollars a year ago in an international tender for privatisation of the Romanian state company.
OTE said Mr. Skarpelis has been a staff member since 1968 and has "valuable experience in the management of telecoms". Mr. Skarpelis has served on the board of several companies, and in December 1998 was appointed deputy chief executive officer at OTE, a position he still holds.
OTE also said it was seeking a short-term bridge loan of 310 million euros for three months. The issuer will be selected after a tender.
The loan will be covered by an 800 million euro bond to be signed in February 2000, OTE said.
OA makes accord with Arab carriers
Greek national carrier Olympic Airways announced yesterday it had signed a three-year association agreement with 13 Arab airlines for the provision of ground services.
The 13 airlines, members of the Arab Air Carriers' Organisation (AACO) are: GULF AIR, SYRIAN ARAB AIRLINES, ROYAL AIR MAROC, TUNIS AIR, MIDDLE EAST AIRLINES, ROYAL JORDANIAN, KUWAIT AIRLINES, YEMEN AIRWAYS, SAUDI ARABIAN AIRLINES, EGYPTAIR, AIR ALGERIE,
SUDAN AIRWAYS, and LIBYAN ARAB AIRLINES. The alliance covers Athens Airport and regional airports, with an option for cooperation at Athens' new Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Spata, which is still being built.
"Today, Olympic Airways, as a handling agent, offers integrated ground handling services at 26 airports throught Greece. Its more than 40 years of experience, combined with the daily aspiration of all involved for continuous improvement of services offe red on the one hand, and on the other its seasonally-adapted fares policy give OA major advantages in maintaining a leading role," an OA announcement said.
"The effort aims at successful maintenance of this activity with relocation to the new Athens International Airport," the statement said.
Equities nose up in lower turnover
Equities increased slightly on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday with turnover dropping sharply.
The general index ended 0.34 percent higher at 5,289.45 points. Turnover was around 197.989 billion drachmas.
The parallel market index for small capitalisation stocks dropped 5.90 percent to 1,746.71 points.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 1.50 percent higher at 2,709.24 points.
National Bank of Greece ended at 23,170 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 25, 390, Titan Cement Company (common) at 37,940, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,140, Intracom at 12,255, Panafon at 3,745 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6,720.
Silver & Barytes gets Bulgarian deal
Silver & Barytes, which is listed on the Athens Stock Exchange, yesterday obtained a concession through Somin, its Bulgarian subsidiary, to explore for gold in the neighbouring country.
The contract, which was signed with the Bulgarian government, allows exploration for the precious metal over an area of 138 square kilometres.
The deal is for one year, with an option for extension to six years.
Rio-Antirrio bridge to see Olympic flame in 2004
Deputy Public Works Minister Christos Verelis said yesterday that the Rio- Antirrio bridge link would be inaugurated in 2004 with the Olympic flame.
Athens is to host the 2004 Olympic Games with the flame due to be carried across the bridge to the capital from the ancient town of Olympia in the Peloponnese, Mr. Verelis said.
He was speaking at the site of the bridge to inspect construction, accompanied by Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis.
The minister said he was satisfied with construction, which was about four months ahead of schedule.
Kaklamanis points to March 26 if early election needed
The most likely date for general elections if Parliament fails to elect a new president early next year will be March 26, Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis said yesterday.
Mr. Kaklamanis told reporters that if opposition parties insisted on pushing for early elections by not re-electing incumbent president Kostis Stephanopoulos, then elections would be slated for no earlier than March 26. The ruling PASOK party has repeatedly said it wants the current Parliament to re-elect Mr. Stephanopoulos to a second term, allowing it to serve out its own four-year mandate and with elections being held in the latter half of 2000.
According to the Constitution, Parliament must hold a roll-call vote at a special session at least one month before the incumbent president's five- year term expires.
President Stephanopoulos' term expires on March 9, meaning that this session would be held on Feb. 8, Mr. Kaklamanis said.
Greek teams bow out of UEFA Cup
Two Greek teams were knocked out of the third round in the second leg of the UEFA Cup yesterday.
AEK Athens lost 0-1 to Monaco away (2-3 on aggregate), and Panathinaikos drew 1-1 at home with Spain's La Coruna (3-4 on aggregate).
Gov't close to allowing cremation for non-Orthodox faithful
The interior ministry is reportedly set to introduce legislation allowing non-Orthodox faithful to opt for cremation rather than burial, members of a group lobbying for the right to cremation stated yesterday.
Speakers at a news conference said the final touches were being put on a law allowing those whose religious beliefs permitted cremation to have such ceremonies conducted in Greece, something that would place the country in line with EU human rights dire ctives.
"Greece is the only country in the EU which does not respect foreign customs and traditions," Coalition of the Left Eurodeputy Alekos Alavanos told a news conference.
One of the lobbyists, Christel Schneider Andrikopoulos, said that thousands of foreigners, whether residing temporarily or permanently in Greece, experienced unnecessary grief due to the lack of facilities for cremations.
The Autocephalus Orthodox Church of Greece has said that the practice runs counter to the teachings of the Church, but some, including a number of deputies, want the practice to be made available to all regardless of religion.
Greek-Turkish conference of media professionals set for February
An initiative to convene a Greek-Turkish conference of journalists and mass media executives in Athens this February has gained the support of 52 Greek media professionals.
The 52 signatories include Athens News Agency (ANA) General Director Andreas Christodoulides and Managing Director Nicholas Voulelis, as well as noted journalists and correspondents Giorgos Votsis, Alkis Kourkoulas and Nikos Mengrelis.
"Bilateral meetings between free and independent Greek and Turkish journalists and mass media executives undoubtedly improve the climate between them. They possibly affect positively, directly or indirectly, public opinion in both countries by weakening traditional tensions and strengthening common values and conceptions," the text signed by the journalists read.
The targets of the initiative are to promote in the mass media the conception of mutual understanding between the two countries. The journalistic exploitation of events in bad faith should be avoided. The deliberate charging of situations which create an atmosphere of crisis should be avoided. Creative dialogue should be promoted systematically at all possible levels between the two countries.
EU Commission dissatisfied with Greek subsidy payment system
Greek farmers are in danger of losing 23 billion drachmas in 1999 from direct European Union agricultural subsidies due to the payment system and deductions imposed on Greece-based payment organisations.
This is deduced by a reply given by EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler to a question by main opposition New Democracy Eurodeputies Antonis Trakatellis, Yiannis Averof and Costis Hatzidakis.
"The Commission is not satisfied with the existing system of paying EU subsidies to Greece. The Greek authorities have not yet fully implemented the integrated administration and control system as is necessary according to (EEC) regulation No. 3508/92," Mr. Fischler said.
"The European Commission has already reduced monthly payments paid in Greece - amounting to 2.78 billion drachmas in 1998 - and 22.9 billion in (all of) 1999," he said, adding that "these amounts are based on 10 per cent reductions of amounts requested for the subsidisation of bovines; 2 per cent for the subsidisation of sheep and goats; 5 per cent for payments of arable cultivations, and 5 per cent in the olive oil sector (only for 1999)."
Ulcer-busting properties of mastic touted
A Nottingham University biochemistry researcher told a press conference in Athens yesterday that mastic is capable of neutralising, to a great degree, the bacteria causing stomach ulcers.
The mastic trees on the southern part of the eastern Aegean island of Hios have been renowned since antiquity for their reputed therapeutic abilities and fresh taste.
Results of research were published in the British Medical Journal and reportedly did not surprise British experts, as past studies on patients suffering from ulcers showed a distinct lessening of symptoms following the systematic chewing of mastic.
According to Prof. N. Ladin, it appears that small quantities of mastic - a gram every day for two weeks -were capable of curing stomach ulcers over a short period of time.
Police search for US members of alleged doomsday cult
Authorities have been alerted throughout the country for any members of the alleged doomsday cult "Concerned Christians", following the deportation of 25 members of the group last week.
According to reports, police have been investigating homes in the Kozani region, although these searches to date have not uncovered anything.
Greece deported 25 US citizens residing in Rafina and Neos Voutzas regions of eastern Attica region last week. Authorities said the group - which included women and young children - no longer held valid residency permits. The same fate awaits any other member of the group detected by police, according to one source.
Authorities fear that members of Concerned Christians will commit acts of violence or suicide as the new millennium approaches.
Some of the group's members deported over the past week were expelled from Israel in January.
WEATHERScattered showers in most parts of Greece today. Winds southerly, southwesterly, moderate to strong. Partly cloudy in Athens. Possibility of rain in the evening
Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 320.634 Pound sterling 519.153 Japanese yen (100) 310.456 French franc 49.732 German mark 166.793 Italian lira (100) 16.848 Irish Punt 414.213 Belgian franc 8.087 Finnish mark 54.867 Dutch guilder 148.032 Danish kr. 43.886 Austrian sch. 23.707 Spanish peseta 1.960 Swedish kr. 38.027 Norwegian kr. 40.216 Swiss franc 204.049 Port. Escudo 1.627 Can. dollar 216.335 Aus. dollar 204.744 Cyprus pound 566.987 Euro 326.219(C.E.)
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