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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-12-19
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 19/12/1999 (ANA)
NEWS IN DETAILGov't mulls bigger professional army
National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said in Thessaloniki on Sunday that the government was considering expansion of the professional armed forces accompanied by a reduction in the length of military service.
Speaking to reporters after the inauguration of a ministry exhibition in the northern port city, Tsohatzopoulos said a decision on the possible changes would be taken next year.
Being reviewed were an overhaul of the armed forces including expansion of the professional military, which, in turn, could lead to the cut in military service, the minister said.
A factor being studied in connection with the restructuring was the impact on the armed forces of Greece's ageing population, which already had lowered the number of recruits eligible each year for compulsory military service.
Young recruits reporting for service had fallen to 80,000 annually from 100, 000-120,000 in the past, Tsohatzopoulos noted.
"We must take immediate, systematic measures - not by increasing military service but by finding a way for the armed forces' needs to be met by using a larger chunk of the professional military. Better use could then be made of the shorter-term, military service component," he said.
Finance minister sees rates at 4% end-2000
Domestic interest rates will fall sharply to around 4.0 percent by the end of 2000 from 11.0 percent currently, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said.
In an interview to the Sunday Eleftherotypia newspaper, Papantoniou also forecast that unemployment would drop next year due to the government's growth-oriented policies.
In addition, the minister predicted that national elections would be held prematurely in March, and not in September when the government's term ends.
He said he believed Costas Karamanlis, leader of the main opposition New Democracy party, was already committed to opposing incumbent President Costis Stephanopoulos, which would entail early elections under the constitution.
Finally, the minister forecast that the Athens Stock Exchange, which has slumped recently, would recover in coming weeks.
Kurdish stowaways released
A Patras public prosecutor on Saturday ordered the release of 26 Kurdish stowaways arrested after they were found hiding in a tanker truck aboard a ferry to Italy.
On Thursday, a compatriot of the Iraqi Kurds had died in the same truck, apparently from inhaling a residue of liquid gas the vehicle had previously been carrying.
The two Greek drivers of the truck, identified as Mihalis Kilaras and Dimitris Raftopoulos, are being held for questioning by police in Italy and will later be interrogated in Patras.
The Superfast II ferry was travelling from the western port of Patras to Ancona in Italy when the illegal immigrants were discovered.
Also in Patras, a German truck driver was questioned by a public prosecutor after two illegal immigrants from Kosovo were found hiding in the cab of his vehicle, heading for Germany.
The merchant marine ministry identified the driver as Thomas Duttling Adolf, aged 33.
The driver and the two Kosovars have been detained since their arrest on Friday and are due to appear before the public prosecutor for a second time on Sunday.
All three said that no fee was involved in exchange for the ride in the truck, police said.
Government ready for ND's push for early polls, PM says
Prime Minister Costas Simitis put his cabinet on election footing on Friday, saying that Thursday's rally by main opposition New Democracy party clearly indicated the beginning of its election campaign.
It was the second indication in as many days that the prime minister was preparing to deal head-on with the eventuality of the opposition forcing through general elections by not re-electing President Kostis Stephanopoulos to a second term in February.
On Thursday, Mr. Simitis announced that the ruling party PASOK's election committee would convene immediately after the New Year holidays.
Sources said that the prime minister told the cabinet meeting yesterday that the government wanted to see out its four-year mandate and hold elections at the end of its term in September 2000.
But to date, the premier said, New Democracy's actions have indicated that they will try to force the issue of general elections when the president's term comes up for renewal.
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. Mr. Stephanopoulos' term expires on March 9, meaning that this session would be held on February 8.
If the presidential candidate fails to garner two-thirds of the total of MPs in Parliament - 200 deputies - at the first vote, a repeat is held in five days' time.
If at this poll, the quota of 200 fails to be reached, another vote is held in another five days. In the third and final vote, a president is elected on the basis of three-fifths of the House, or 180 deputies.
If the number falls short, parliament is dissolved in 10 days' time and general elections called. The first available Sunday for the holding of elections in this eventuality is March 26.
New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis' speech at a party rally in Piraeus on Thursday was clearly a pre-election speech, according to Mr. Simitis, who said it marked the beginning of the opposition's campaign.
He told the cabinet that it was necessary for PASOK to point out to the Greek people that it was the opposition, not the ruling party, which was pushing for early elections.
According to a poll released earlier this week, only 22 percent of Greeks asked believe early elections are desirable and 49.1 percent want the present Parliament to elect a president.
Kostis Stephanopoulos was far and away the most popular choice for president, according to the survey, polling 61.4 percent of the vote.
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas reiterated yesterday that New Democracy could vote for President Stephanopoulos' second term and that this would be a positive development.
Prime Minister Simitis told his ministers that while the government's achievements had been positive to date - and that this had been indicated in recent polls, giving the ruling party a lead over the opposition - the government could not afford to rest on its laurels.
He asked for the pace of ministers' work to be stepped up and for more emphasis to be given to issues affecting the daily lives of Greeks.
15 charged for selling bootleg CDS
A Thessaloniki public prosecutor on Saturday charged fifteen hawkers on a criminal count of violating intellectual property rights after they were arrested for selling bootleg CDs and CD-Roms outside the port city's university.
The 15, who were mostly from countries of the former Soviet Union, denied trafficking the illegal recordings after their arrest on Friday, but refused to state where they were obtained, court sources said.
The round-up was part of a Thessaloniki police operation against the bootlegging trade in which more than 9,000 CDs have been confiscated.
In Athens, two men were due to be charged for counterfeiting CDs after police raided an illegal recording factory in the Athens suburb of Aghia Varvara.
Police said the suspects arrested on Friday ran the operation from the basement of an apartment block. Confiscated were 760 copies of CDs by artists from Greece and abroad.
IHT feature on Rhodes Colossus
The International Herald Tribune (IHT) carried a feature on plans to build a monument for the new millennium based on the lost Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
In the IHT's December 17 edition, Rhodes Mayor George Yiannopoulos is quoted as saying:
"It will be a contemporary monument with modern artistic expression and technical construction that will surpass conventional standards.
"It will borrow all the ancient symbolic values of the original Colossus and will enrich them further with a current ideological content related mainly to world peace and cooperation and mankind's hopes for a better world in the new millennium."
The municipal council of Rhodes, which devised the scheme, also wants the renewed Colossus to be seen as an international millennium project that will symbolise growing European unification, the IHT said.
Architects, sculptors and engineers worldwide will be asked to submit their ideas based on the historical references available and symbolic values inspired by the Colossus, which was destroyed in 224 B.C.
Rhodes council endorsed the idea for the monument in July.
"Kranidiotis Forum" to be set up
Researchers from countries in southeastern Europe on Saturday agreed to set up a regional union of institutes to be named "The Kranidiotis Forum", in memory of the late Greek politician.
Meeting in Thessaloniki, the representatives of research institutes in fields including law and international relations said naming the union after Kranidiotis was a mark of respect as the veteran diplomat had actively supported the scheme.
Kranidiotis was killed on September 14 when the prime minister's Falcon jet on which he was travelling hit turbulence over Romania.
Attending the session were researchers from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus, Moldova, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia and Turkey.
At the session - the first of its kind - delegates agreed that their institutes should launch cooperation through exchanges of experts and information on reseach programmes.
The group's second meeting is scheduled for December 2000, again in Thessaloniki.
Former PM Rallis backs re-election of Stephanopoulos
Former New Democracy party Prime Minister George Rallis on Friday criticised both the ruling PASOK party and the main opposition New Democracy party in particular over their position concerning the issue of the election of the President of the Republic and after meeting President Kostis Stephanopoulos.
Mr. Rallis said the two parties misinterpreted the constitution, and on the occasion of statements by government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, but added that if he was an ND deputy he would vote for the incumbent president with both hands, who is deservedly fulfilling his duties.
He further said that the agreement reached at the European Union Helsinki summit was good because, as he said, Turkey was obliged to accept that Cyprus will join the EU regardless of whether the political problem is resolved and resort to the Internatio nal Court at The Hague, which was something it had been refusing for 20 years, if differences are not resolved by 2004.
Government releases bill on status of ex-USSR ethnic Greeks
The government on Friday revealed a draft law regulating the status of an estimated 150,000 ethnic Greeks who sought refuge in Greece in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union 10 years ago. The new bill provides the ethnic Greek refugees with formal Greek nationality, special passports providing them with the right to leave and enter the country without restriction and working papers.
The bill also introduces incentives in the form of subsidies to attract these ethnic Greeks to settle in underpopulated and economically depressed border regions, such as the northern Aegean or Thrace.
Sixty thousand refugees are estimated to be in Thessaloniki and around 30, 000 more in the Thrace region.
According to Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis and Mr. Magriotis, Parliament is expected to vote on the bill in late January.
Mr. Papandreou told a news conference yesterday that the text was a "significant innovation", attempting to build on the experience of a decade to deal with the problems created in the wake of the collapse of the communist system and the tidal wave of refugees to Greece. He said 11 ministries had been involved in the drafting of the text. Mr. Niotis said the legislation gave those people wanting to settle in these areas encouragement and noted that in Thrace 2,500 plots of land were available.
"Our aim is to liberate these people from the insecurity which they were trapped in in the wake of the collapse of the former Soviet Union," he said.
Papandreou says Greece and Turkey must not dwell on the past
Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Friday that the new spirit in Greek-Turkish relations had to be given a chance to bloom and that dwelling on the past was detrimental to both sides.
"At Helsinki we saw the opening of a new dynamic which will allow a new long-term strategy of improvement in the climate," he said. Mr. Papandreou was responding to reporters' questions on infringements of Greek air space by Turkish fighter jets.
"If we dwell on isolated incidents and on practices of the past, we will not be able to see the wood for the trees," Mr. Papandreou said.
"We didn't open the gates to paradise at Helsinki, but we did open the gate of opportunity."
According to reports on Thursday, seven formations of Turkish F-16 and Phantom fighter jets violated Athens FIR guidelines on nine occasions and proceeded to eight infringements of national air space between the islands of Lesvos, Hios and Rhodes.
Greek jets intercepted the Turkish aircraft on all occasions; on three, the interception developed into dogfights.
It was the first time that Turkish fighter activity had been noted over the Aegean since the EU summit at Helsinki last Friday decided to attribute candidacy status to Turkey.
In later comments, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters that Thursday's infringements of Greek air space were "a negative development and indicated a negative stance" on the part of the neighbouring country.
"Helsinki has not solved all the problems and reaching this solution will be a long road," he said.
Illegal immigrant found dead on Greek ferry
An illegal immigrant died and 46 others were arrested on two different Greek ferries on the way from the central Greek port city of Patras to Italy, harbour authorities said Friday. Harbour officials said one man, said to be an Iraqi of Kurdish origin, was found dead late Thursday night in a liquid gas tank truck in the garage section of the Superfast II ferry. Another 26 men, also said to be Iraqis of Kurdish origin, were found in the same truck as the ferry arrived in the Italian port of Ancona. In a separate incident, 20 illegal immigrants, including a young boy, were found hidden in a sealed Bulgarian truck on the Superfast I ferry also on the way from Patras to the Italian port of Bari. The boy, suffering from Mediterranean anaemia, was having breathing problems. The Italian authorities allowed only the boy and his parents to disembark so that the child could be given urgent medical attention.
Papandreou comments on Turkish fighter activity
Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Friday that the new spirit in Greek-Turkish relations had to be given a chance to bloom and that dwelling on the past was detrimental to both sides. "At Helsinki we saw the opening of a new dynamic which will allow a new long-term strategy of improvement in the climate," he said. Papandreou was responding to reporters' questions on infringements of Greek air space by Turkish fighter jets. "If we dwell on isolated incidents and on practices of the past, we will not be able to see the forest for all the trees," Papandreou said. "We didn't open the gates to paradise at Helsinki, but we did open the gate of opportunity." According to media reports on Thursday, seven formations of Turkish F-16 and Phantom fighter jets violated Athens FIR guidelines on nine occasions and proceeded to eight infringements of national air space between the islands of Lesvos, Hios and Rhodes. It was the first time that Turkish fighter activity had been noted over the Aegean since the EU summit at Helsinki last Friday decided to attribute candidacy status to Turkey.
Cypriot FM due in Athens on Monday
Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides will visit Athens on Monday for talks with his Greek counterpart George Papandreou, an ANA dispatch from Nicosia reported. Kasoulides is expected to brief Papandreou on the first round of proximity talks on the Cyprus issue, held in New York earlier this week. Papandreou will brief his Cypriot counterpart in turn on the decisions affecting Cyprus taken at last week's EU summit in Helsinki.
Kidnapping charges dropped against mother of five
A public prosecutor in the northern Greek town of Drama dropped charges of kidnapping filed against a 33-year-old mother of five after she returned her 16-year-old lover to his parents. Vassiliki Savvidou, who is also a grandmother, was sued for kidnapping by the parents of the technical school student after the couple disappeared on Friday evening. The charges were filed after the parents of the boy filed a missing persons' report with police. Police say the two began their illicit affair after the youth, Costas D. made frequent visits to his friend, Savvidou's son.
WEATHERCloudy weather and scattered showers are forecast throughout the country on Monday, turning to storms in many areas later in the day. Winds southerly, strong to gale force. Showers and maybe storms in Athens with temperatures ranging from 12C to 17C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 7C to 14C.
Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 320.922 Pound sterling 519.114 Japanese yen (100) 312.034 French franc 49.943 German mark 167.503 Italian lira (100) 16.920 Irish Punt 415.976 Belgian franc 8.121 Finnish mark 55.100 Dutch guilder 148.662 Danish kr. 44.035 Austrian sch. 23.808 Spanish peseta 1.969 Swedish kr. 38.113 Norwegian kr. 40.503 Swiss franc 204.347 Port. Escudo 1.634 Can. dollar 217.863 Aus. dollar 206.892 Cyprus pound 566.630 Euro 327.608(C.S.)
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