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Athens News Agency: News in English, 00-12-01
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece-Albania-Simitis-Meta01/12/2000 22:07:22
Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Friday received his Albanian counterpart Illir Meta, who arrived in Athens to participate in the conference on "Albanians as minorities in the Balkans", taking place here.
The two prime ministers, during a private meeting, discussed bilateral relations.
Following the meeting, Simitis said that Greece is willing to provide further aid to Albania, adding that in accordance to the declaration of the Zagreb EU-western Balkans summit, it was up to the Albanian government to soon undertake measures, based on European Union criteria, paving the way toward negotiations for an agreement of stabilisation and association.
The two men agreed to look into new possibilities of cooperation in the military sector, as well as to undertake measures for the joint confrontation of organised crime and illegal immigration.
They also discussed Greeces position for the abolishing of the ?minority zones? in Albania. The Greek premier reiterated Greeces concern over several irregularities that were noted during the last local elections in Albania.
The two premiers discussed Greek investments in the neighbouring country, focusing on the case of three Greek oil companies in Durres.
On his part, Meta said that the Albanian government considers Greece a strategic partner and thanked Greece for its economic and political aid toward Albanias course to the Euro-Atlantic institutions.
Regarding the Greek oil firms, Meta said that his government would respect all its legal and economic obligations toward them, committing to personally resolve the issue in a short while and with a mutually acceptable solution.
He reiterated his invitation to Greek companies to invest in his country, adding that the Albanian authorities would continue their efforts to further improve the economic environment of the country.
Regarding the ?minority zones?, he promised to speedily promote relevant amendments to the Albanian legislation regarding human rights of Greek minority members in accordance to the European specifications, adding that his government would consult European experts on the issue.
 Thessaloniki-Interior Ministers-Balkans01/12/2000 21:56:58
Balkan countries will jointly tackle crises caused by natural disasters such as big fires, earthquakes and floods, following a decision taken by the Conference of Balkan countries' Interior and Public Administration Ministers in Thessaloniki on Friday, chaired by Greek Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou.
To this end, ministers from Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Yugoslavia, Greece, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Romania agreed to the creation of two experts' committees on emergency issues. The committees will form intervention groups which will be in constant contact to coordinate action.
They further agreed to cooperation between their countries on public and local administration issues through the International Public Administration Centre in Thessaloniki, inaugurated by Papandreou at noon.
Earlier, Papandreou held private meetings with her Bulgarian and Yugoslav counterparts for talks, according to reports, on issues concerning the transfer of know-how and expertise from Greece in light of administrative reforms due to take place in the neighbouring countries.
 Greek Church - Papal visit01/12/2000 18:28:00
The Greek Churchs powerful Holy Synod on Friday essentially referred the controversial issue of acquiescing to a long-desired papal visit to Greece to the government, almost a year since the top ecclesiastical body clearly voiced its opposition to such a prospect.
A Holy Synod spokesman emphasised that ?its the right of any individual, and therefore the pope as well, to visit our country, especially in order to worship at the site where the Apostle Paul preached to the Athenians on Pnyx Hill.?
However, the Holy Synod spokesman, Metropolitan of Sparta Efstathios, clarified in further statements that any final decision by authorities to facilitate a visit by Pope John Paul II to the predominately Eastern Orthodox nation ?must consider all the facts that comprise the ? historical, social and religious composition of our country; and its natural for these to influence the holding, or not, of this pilgrimage.?
 Papoutsanis-results01/12/2000 16:59:07
Papoutsanis SA on Friday cut its estimates for the current year's results and warned of a pre-tax loss in 2000.
A company statement said that turnover would total 9.156 billion drachmas and pre-tax losses would reach 1.211 billion drachmas this year. Both figures were significantly changed from its initial forecasts for the year.
In a letter to the Athens Stock Exchange, Papoutsanis said that extraordinary facts had negatively affected its results in the second and third quarters of 2000.
The company's turnover did not match predictions because production in solid and liquid soap and cosmetics was not sufficient, in quality and quantity, to cover demand.
Papoutsanis expects that its turnover figures would be 2.5 billion drachmas less than originally forecast. The company said its results were burdened by a 200 million drachmas charge due to a voluntary retirement programme this year.
 Hellenic Telecoms-billing policy01/12/2000 16:13:10
Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation plans to establish a single telephone rate around the country by the end of 2001, and to implement a per second billing policy on fixed telephony following the installation and operation of a new billing system - to operate on a pilot basis from January 2001.
Hellenic Telecoms' commercial director, Athanassios Gitzenis, speaking at a press conference in Thessaloniki, on the occasion of a 3rd Panhellenic Sales Conference, organised by the company, and titled "With knowledge and power", said that in the next 10-15 days the company would announce its final proposals on new billing policy and acknowledged there were some imbalances on its current policy.
 General Bank-Defence Ministry01/12/2000 16:01:30
General Bank will act as a financial consultant to Greece's national defence ministry, Defence Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos said on Friday.
Speaking at a press conference, Tsochatzopoulos said that General Bank's consulting role would focus on issues relating to armament programmes, evaluating bids and proposals by domestic and foreign investment firms and banks interested in cooperating with the ministry on financing matters and submitting alternative solutions or improved proposals.
Tsochatzopoulos said the cooperation with General Bank would expand to the real estate sector ahead of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
The bank's chairman and chief executive, Ioannis Manos, said that General Bank will soon create a mutual funds management company with the participation of the armed forces' pension funds.
 ASE-close01/12/2000 15:44:08
Equity prices ended the first trading session of December sharply higher on Friday, dramatically reversing a previously prevailing negative climate on the Athens Stock Exchange and offering hope to gloomy private investors.
Traders said strong buying interest for blue chip stocks, particularly by domestic institutional investors, gradually led private investors to join the market.
A positive trend in European bourses, despite a sharp fall on Wall Street on Thursday, also helped in the improvement of market sentiment.
Analysts said that a sharp rise in future contract prices was a sign that investors were beginning to discount "better days ahead" for the market.
The general index ended 4.85 percent higher to 3,403.33 points, off the day's highs of 3,417.71 points, with turnover an improved 100.5 billion drachmas.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 4.28 percent higher to 1,934.92 points, and the FTSE/ASE 40 index jumping 7.46 percent to end at 412.79 points.
The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 7.38 percent higher at 353.85 points.
 Greece-Spain-tax agreement01/12/2000 14:37:46
Greece and Spain will sign a bilateral agreement to avoid double taxation of income and capital, a move seen as a major step towards closer economic relations and boosting investment between the two EU countries.
The agreement will be signed in Madrid between Finance Deputy Minister Apostolos Fotiadis and his Spanish counterpart Jimene Reyna.
The two officials will also discuss moves to harmonise tax systems in the framework of the European Union and a globalisation of trade transactions.
 Greece-foreign exchange01/12/2000 14:30:21
The drachma strengthened further against the US dollar in the domestic foreign exchange market, following the euro's recovery against the US currency in international markets on Friday.
The drachma rose to 389.110 drachmas per dollar at the day's fixing, up from 392.430 on Thursday.
The Greek currency also moved closer to its central parity against the euro currency, at 340.590 drachmas.
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