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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 98-01-10

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Greek Press & Information Office, Ottawa Canada <grnewsca@sympatico.ca>

ATHENS NEWS AGENCY BULLETIN (No 1386), January 10, 1998

Greek Press & Information Office
Ottawa, Canada
E-Mail Address: grnewsca@sympatico.ca


CONTENTS

  • [01] Greece warns speculators off the drachma
  • [02] ... Consumer price inflation drops to 4.7 pct, hits 26-year low
  • [03] ... Greek money markets stable, aided by central bank
  • [04] ... Greek stocks slip, recoup intra-day slump
  • [05] ... Greek unpaid bills of exchange rise, bouncing cheques decline
  • [06] ... Greek bankruptcies fall in Dec.
  • [07] ... Thessaloniki's 'Western Gateway' to cost 20 billion drachmas
  • [08] Burns stresses US desire to normalize Greek-Turkish relations
  • [09] Tsohatzopoulos says Greece's 10-mile airspace non-negotiable
  • [10] Athens calls Turkish quips on minorities 'Iudicrous'
  • [11] ... Pangalos
  • [12] ... Central Jewish Council rebukes Ankara's allegations
  • [13] Kinkel on Greek-Turkish differences
  • [14] Greek, French FMa meet on EU, Turkey issues
  • [15] WEU official in Athens, de Puig expected
  • [16] Greece denies report of firing on Turkish fishing vessel
  • [17] Greek aid to EU candidate countries
  • [18] US says Greek airspace violations a Turkish provocation if proved
  • [19] Greece, Georgia sign defense agreements
  • [20] Pangalos confers with Kasoulides over Cyprus issue
  • [21] Greece responds to joint Israeli-Turkey-US naval exercises
  • [22] ... Israeli response
  • [23] ... Arab envoys counsel Greece against exercises
  • [24] Pangalos roundly criticizes Italy's Dini over Kurdish refugee issue
  • [25] ... Press report on Pangalos reply
  • [26] G. Papandreou meets Fouras
  • [27] 69 illegal immigrants arrested
  • [28] Karamanlis says Gov't incompetent, passive in foreign affairs sector
  • [29] Interior ministry denies reports over public sector hirings
  • [30] Watermarks on temporary work permits
  • [31] ... Illegal immigration on agenda

  • [01] Greece warns speculators off the drachma

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    The government yesterday sent a clear message to foreign and domestic speculators that they would lose their battle against the drachma.

    National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos that the government would win the battle to defend the drachma, as it did in 1994 and in autumn 1997.

    Mr. Papantoniou said that speculators lost a lot of money every time the government successfully defended the Greek currency, and they should finally learn a lesson.

    He rejected rumors of a speedier slide in the drachma by reiterating that the stability of the drachma's parity was the cornerstone of the government's economic policy.

    Mr. Papantoniou said the government would take all necessary measures to defend the national currency.

    He said the government would use mainly monetary weapons in its effort to fend off speculators, measures often taken by other governments when faced with monetary turmoil.

    Mr. Papantoniou noted that even the most advanced economies in the world had faced speculative attacks, including England, France and Finland.

    "Greece is one of the countries that have successfully dealt with such problems twice in the past," he said. "We will deal with these problems successfully this time also."

    During the meeting held at the prime minister's office, the three men reviewed the course of the Greek economy in 1997 and its prospects for 1998.

    The climate of the meeting was encouraged by news that inflation dropped to its lowest in 26 years in December 1997.

    Mr. Papantoniou welcomed the figure, which will bring the country near to achieving the Maastricht Treaty's inflation criteria.

    He also said that the government was particularly satisfied with the collection of tax revenues, due to be published next week.

    Mr. Papantoniou predicted that tax revenues would show a 25 percent rise in December 1997, a development significantly reducing the country's budget deficit.

    He said that during the previous year fiscal policy was the backbone of the economy's course towards convergence, replacing monetary policy which had prevailed for several years.

    Mr. Papantoniou reiterated that the government will proceed in 1998 with the privatization of two state banks, Macedonia-Thrace Bank and Bank of Central Greece, and six public sector enterprises.

    [02] ... Consumer price inflation drops to 4.7 pct, hits 26-year low

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Greece's consumer price inflation fell to a 26-year low in December 1997, dropping to 4.7% year-on-year from November's 5.1%, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said yesterday.

    The figure for December 1996 was 7.3% year-on-year. NSS predicted that the rate of inflation would continue to fall in January, and the government's goal of 2.5% for December 1998 was within reach.

    [03] ... Greek money markets stable, aided by central bank

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Greece's money markets were stable during the last trading session of a turbulent week helped by a major intervention by the Bank of Greece on Thursday.

    Bankers said that interbank interest rates were around 22 percent, substantially down from 30 percent at the beginning of the day.

    The drachma's parity was stronger against most foreign currencies. The Greek currency was 0.72 percent higher against the US dollar, 0.04 percent stronger against the DMark and 0.11 percent higher against the ECU.

    [04] ... Greek stocks slip, recoup intra-day slump

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Greek equities ended moderately lower yesterday partly reversing an earlier sharp fall and helped by speculative buying and bargain hunting in industrial and banking shares.

    The general index closed 0.43 percent off at 1,480.63 points to show a 0.12 percent loss on the week.

    Sector indices were mixed. Banks fell 1.79 percent, Insurance rose 0.71 percent, Leasing dropped 1.86 percent, Investment ended 0.20 percent down, Construction increased 0.19 percent, Industrials rose 0.74 percent, Miscellaneous ended 1.78 percent up an d Holding increased 1.0 percent.

    Trading was moderate with turnover at 15.8 billion drachmas. The week's turnover totaled 53.7 billion drachmas, showing a daily average of 13.4 billion.

    The parallel market index for small cap companies jumped 2.97 percent. The FTSE/ASE index for blue chips fell 0.81 percent to end at 834.61 points for a 1.41 percent drop on the week.

    During the week, investors turned to information technology and industrial stocks but remained cautious towards banks as higher interest rates were expected to hit the sector's profitability.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 112 to 95 with another 26 issues unchanged.

    Sysware, Alcar-Aemet, Etma, Sato and Intrasoft scored the biggest percentage gains, while Constantinidis, Zampa, Mouriadis, Athinea and Papoutsanis suffered the heaviest losses.

    National Bank of Greece ended at 23,700 drachmas, Ergobank at 14,250, Alpha Credit Bank at 15,710, Delta Dairy at 3,085, Titan Cement at 13,775, Intracom at 14,300 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organization at 5,755.

    [05] ... Greek unpaid bills of exchange rise, bouncing cheques decline

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Unpaid bills of exchange rose in December 1997 against the same month a year ago but the number and value of cheques that bounced declined, the Union of Greek Banks said yesterday.

    Unpaid were 24,854 bills of exchange worth 6,871 million drachmas from 24,337 in December 1996 worth 6,408 million drachmas, marking a 2.1 percent rise in the number of bills and 7.2 increase in value.

    In January-December 1997, unpaid were 385,978 bills of exchange worth 100,702 million drachmas against 392,628 unpaid bills worth 98,900 million drachmas in the whole of 1996.

    The yearly total showed a drop of 1.7 percent in bills but a 1.8 percent increase in value. The figures cover bills of exchange worth more than 20,000 drachmas moved by banks.

    Cheques that bounced in December 1997 totaled 9,223 worth 19,650 million drachmas from 9,624 worth 19,794 million drachmas in the same month a year earlier, showing a 4.2 percent drop in the number of cheques and a 0.7 percent fall in value. In the whole of 1997 bouncing cheques totaled 131,232 worth 253 ,165 million drachmas against 124,101 in 1996 worth 223,518 million drachmas, marking a 5.7 percent rise in cheques and 13.3 percent increase in value.

    [06] ... Greek bankruptcies fall in Dec.

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    The number of companies in Greece filing for bankruptcy in December 1997 fell against the same month of 1996, the Union of Greek Banks said yesterday.

    Filing for bankruptcy were 307 firms against 437 in December 1996, showing a 30 percent drop.

    In January-December 1997 3,477 companies filed for bankruptcy against 4,416 in 1996, marking a 21.3 percent decline. Bankruptcies declared in December 1997 were 74 against 116 in the same month of 1996, down 36.2 percent. In the whole of 1997 declared bankruptcies were 1,299 from 1,379 in 1996, showing a 5.8 percent decline.

    [07] ... Thessaloniki's 'Western Gateway' to cost 20 billion drachmas

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    The cost of building Thessaloniki's "Western Gateway", a national motorway from the Dendropotamos juncture to the city's court house, is expected to total 20 billion drachmas.

    According to local officials, the project is expected to be completed by the end of 1999. The project will be three kilometers long, with three lanes of traffic in each direction, partitioning in the middle and sidewalks on the two sides.

    [08] Burns stresses US desire to normalize Greek-Turkish relations

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Newly appointed US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns yesterday reiterated Washington's interest in normalizing Greek-Turkish relations as well as further strengthening bilateral Greek-US relations at all levels, especially commercial and business ties.

    Speaking to reporters, Mr. Burns also announced the upcoming visits to Greece of two high-ranking US officials, namely, the US Secretary of Commerce William Daley on Saturday, and the Pentagon's Joint Chief of Staffs, Gen. Raimer, in about 15 days.

    Mr. Burns also confirmed that a visit by the US State Department special coordinator on the Cyprus issue, Thomas Miller, to Ankara and Athens will take place over the next 10 days.

    On the question of Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Burns reminded that the US desires to contribute towards resolving problems between the two countries and consequently it maintains a neutral stance, adding that in certain cases matters are clear. He further said that in these cases Washington desires to state its position in an equally clear way.

    Mr. Burns mentioned Turkish military flights near Thessaloniki 15 days ago, which were condemned by the US immediately, and the fact that the Kalogeroi islets should not be included in the latest Turkish aeronautical exercise because, without a doubt, they are part of the Greek state.

    Mr. Burns added that his country supports a solution to the Imia issue through an international arbitration body, with the Inter national Court at The Hague as probably the most appropriate. He said that it is also acceptable for Greece and Turkey to agree on mediation from some other international body, although the International Court is a good solution.

    [09] Tsohatzopoulos says Greece's 10-mile airspace non-negotiable

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos declared yesterday that Turkey's violations of Greece's airspace would not bring about a reversal of Greece's fundamental position that the limits of national airspace stood at 10 miles.

    "Nothing in the Aegean is negotiable," he said, commenting on Thursday's repeated violations of Greek airspace over the eastern and central Aegean.

    "Turkey has to understand that its provocations destabilize peace and co-operation in the region," he said, adding that Turkey had no right to "play with fire".

    He also contended that Turkey was answerable to Europe for the mass exodus of Kurds from its territory, saying that European nations were justified in demanding that Turkey seek a political solution to the problem.

    The minister reiterated that while Greece supported Turkey's future place in Europe, Turkey seemed incapable of adapting to the fundamental principles that all European states abided by, such as respect for the status quo, international treaties and accords.

    Meanwhile, asked whether Greece should once again say "thank you" to the US for persuading Turkey not to include the area over Greece's Kalogeri islets in its latest military exercise, the minister replied:

    "If the US feels the need to assume initiatives, that is the concern of those to whom those initiatives are directed."

    Asked whether he believed there could be a clash in the Aegean, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos reiterated that this depended on Turkey's behavior which entailed dangers for security, stability and co-operation in the region.

    At the same time he noted that the Turkish government and its military leadership were seeking to create a climate of tension out of Greece's response that it would not allow its sovereign rights to be violated.

    "We will respond in a cool, determined and steadfast way to Turkey's efforts to violate our sovereign rights," he said.

    The minister is to brief all Greek Eurodeputies today on developments in Greek-Turkish relations.

    [10] Athens calls Turkish quips on minorities 'Iudicrous'

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    The Greek government yesterday rejected as "ludicrous" insinuations by Ankara over the apparent treatment by the Greek government of the Moslem minority in Thrace.

    Government spokesman Demetris Reppas was responding to an announcement by the Turkish foreign ministry on Thursday which responded, in turn, to comments made by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos during a television interview. The announcement criticized Mr. Pangalos and Athens for its treatment of minorities in Greece, including what it called the "Turkish" minority of western Thrace.

    Mr. Reppas also described as "historically ignorant" the claims by the "artfully neutral" Turkey "against a country that waged battles for the protection of human rights during World War II".

    "The claims are not even admissible, because they have absolutely no relation whatsoever to reality," Mr. Reppas said.

    The spokesman said that Ankara was using the issue as a "necessary supplement to its policy of tension against Greece".

    Greece, he added, "respects human rights and continuously takes measures to improve them".

    [11] ... Pangalos

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Mr. Pangalos yesterday returned the fire drawn by the Turkish foreign ministry's response to his comments that the indifference shown by the world to the Kurds' plight was tantamount to the indifference shown to Hitler when he began his campaign against t he Jews.

    Ankara claimed that Turkey had "always been a sanctuary" for refugees and that Greece had "willingly offered up tens of thousands of Jews living in Greece to Hitler's troops, sending them to death camps".

    In statements to reporters after meeting with French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, Mr. Pangalos said it was "unacceptable" for Turkey to be appropriating the "care" for the Moslem population of Greece.

    "Turkey is not the best defender of human rights in the world," Mr. Pangalos said, noting that the Moslems of Greece were of a different ethnic make-up.

    Mr. Pangalos clarified that his comments in reference to the Kurdish problem - that it was a political problem with "an element of genocide" - had been made both by Greece and other countries.

    "Turkey must prove that it has taken measures to politically deal with the Kurdish problem," he said. "I call on all my counterparts to take a position on the genocide of the Kurds."

    He called Ankara's accusations of "handing over" people "completely ludicrous" as the world was aware that "if there was one place where there was no collaboration with the German authorities, that was Greece".

    [12] ... Central Jewish Council rebukes Ankara's allegations

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Greeks offered as much help as possible to persecuted Jews during the Nazi occupation, the Central Jewish Council of Greece emphasized in an announcement yesterday, responding to claims by the Turkish foreign ministry on Thursday.

    The neighboring country's foreign ministry claimed that Greek authorities during World War II "gladly handed over Jews" to German troops.

    "In the bleak days of the Nazi occupation, the Christian Greeks of the cities and villages, putting their lives at risk, and the national resistance in the mountains, protected and helped as much as possible our persecuted people," the announcement stated.

    "The Central Jewish Council of Greece, which represents the whole of Greek Jewry, has repeatedly expressed its grateful position to the Greek people and the Greek Orthodox Church for their contribution to saving Greek Jews," it added.

    The Council reiterated its views to Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, whom they visited yesterday afternoon.

    Greece entered WWII on Oct. 28, 1940. After its fall to axis troops in April 1941, it was occupied by German, Italian and Bulgarian forces until October 1944, while Crete was liberated in 1945.

    [13] Kinkel on Greek-Turkish differences

    Bonn, 10/1/1998 (ANA - P. Stangos)

    In an interview in today's edition of the "Badische Neueste Nachrichten" newspaper, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel appeals to Turkey to accept reference of the Aegean continental shelf issue to the International Court at The Hague as well as to Greece to seek "common and consenting" solutions to Greek-Turkish differences.

    In his interview with the Karlsruhe-based newspaper, Mr. Kinkel reaches the conclusion that the issue of the Aegean continental shelf is ambiguous from a legal point of view and combines the appeal to the Greek side with the "interest of Europe."

    "For as long as tension in Greek-Turkish relations does not decrease nothing can go ahead," Mr. Kinkel said, adding that their improvement would constitute "one of the preconditions for resolving the dispute concerning divided Cyprus."

    "Of course, the Turks see the issue of Cyprus closely linked to their access to the European Union," he said, as proof of "how complicated the problem is."

    Referring to the continental shelf issue, Mr. Kinkel recognizes "very good intentions" on the part of Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, both on human rights and the Kurdish issue in particular.

    However, he points out that "Turkey has objective difficulties such as the threat by the PKK."

    "But in connection with the other problem, its relations with Greece, Turkey could make a big step forward if it was prepared to go to the International Court (at The Hague) on the continental shelf issue. This would certainly contribute decisively towards improving relations between Turkey and Greece," he said.

    Replying to a question if, in his view, on the continental shelf issue the Greeks "are so clearly in the right", Mr. Kinkel said the following:

    "The matters are not clear from a legal point of view. Both sides have understandable and legitimate interests on this issue and they can invoke good arguments from the point of international law. For this reason I address an appeal to Greece at the same time to seek common and consenting solutions to Greek-Turkish differences. In the interest of Europe."

    [14] Greek, French FMa meet on EU, Turkey issues

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine held talks with his Greek counterpart Theodoros Pangalos yesterday on issues including European Union enlargement and Turkey's reaction to a decision by the EU last month excluding Ankara from a group of 11 candidate countries.

    Mr. Vedrine arrived in Athens yesterday from Ankara, where he had talks with the Turkish leadership. He met earlier yesterday with President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

    After his meeting with Mr. Pangalos, Mr. Vedrine was asked to comment on France's displeasure with the decision at last month's Luxembourg EU summit.

    "(At the recent summit) there was discussion of very complicated issues, including a proposal by France to hold a European Conference (for prospective candidate members)," he said.

    "This original idea was changed and adopted following our discussions and the ideas submitted by others," he added, noting that this did not mean that the conclusions reached in Luxembourg did not have the support of all members. "After all, when a compromise is made in order to reach a decision, it is natural that (this decision) cannot completely reflect the views of one sole state. However, there is solidarity with regard to the conclusions," he noted.

    He stressed that France's position was that it was in the interests of both Turkey and Europe for Ankara to participate in the European Conference.

    Mr. Vedrine said he was not aware of Turkey's current position on the issue, noting however, that "Turkey's reaction up until now has been negative".

    Questioned as to Ankara's stance on the Cyprus issue, the French minister said:

    "I simply observed that in Ankara there is a great deal of dissatisfaction over the Luxembourg decisions, these contain some positive elements for Turkey, which I pointed out."

    Asked to comment on Thursday's violations of Greek airspace by Turkish warplanes, Mr. Vedrine expressed Paris' regret over the tension in the region and a hope that the real problems could be resolved through talks.

    Meanwhile, with regard to the problem of Kurdish illegal immigrants fleeing from Turkey, the French minister called for close co-operation within the European Union and the Schengen Pact, as well as with Turkey, which he urged to exercise tighter control of its borders.

    [15] WEU official in Athens, de Puig expected

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    The Western European Union's (WEU) Security Director, A. Lenzi, will arrive in Athens for talks on Jan. 19. Greece assumed the presidency of the organization on Jan. 1.

    Meanwhile, the president of WEU's parliamentary assembly, Luis-Maria de Puig, is scheduled for a visit to the Greek capital on Jan. 22 and 23 for talks with, among others, the foreign and defense ministers and the Parliament president.

    Greece has stressed the need for strengthening relations between the WEU and the EU.

    WEU's spring session will take place on Rhodes between May 11 and 12.

    [16] Greece denies report of firing on Turkish fishing vessel

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Greece yesterday denied that any of its patrol boats had opened fire on a Turkish fishing boat.

    Government spokesman Demetris Reppas said the claim was false and unfounded.

    "We hope that false news items such as these sent out by the news agency in question are not part of the games being played by Ankara in order to maintain tension," he said.

    According to a report from the semi-official Anadolu news agency, a Greek patrol boat had fired warning shots over the fishing boat "Murat Reis" off the islet of Ilios, between the island of Lesvos and the Asia Minor coast.

    "No coast guard boat patrolling the area between Turkey and Lesvos fired on any Turkish fishing boat on the sea borders between the two countries," Vice-Adm. Pericles Ousantopoulos, head of the Greek Coast Guard, countered.

    "What did happen was that at around 01.30 this morning the coast guard boat PLS 121, patrolling between Lesvos and the neighboring country for boats carrying illegal immigrants, noticed a Turkish motor boat carrying three to four people and cruising along the border. The captain noticed that the Turkish boat's nets were in Greek waters. He then turned the patrol boat's spotlight on the fishing boat, which then changed course and sailed towards the Turkish coast," Vice-Adm. Ousantopoulos said .

    [17] Greek aid to EU candidate countries

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Greece will send 40 specialists from both the public and private sectors to European Union candidate countries to aid them in their efforts to join the Union.

    Foreign Ministry Secretary General Stelios Perrakis said that the Greek mission is part of the PHARE program and will cover environmental, agricultural, financial and other sectors.

    [18] US says Greek airspace violations a Turkish provocation if proved

    Washington, 10/1/1998 (ANA - A. Ellis)

    US State Department spokesman Jim Foley said yesterday that if an independent source confirms that Turkish fighters violated Greek airspace during recent flights over the Aegean, such acts will be an unjustified provocation. Mr. Foley, who was replying to a relevant question by the Athens News Agency (ANA), expressed Washington's satisfaction over Turkey's decision to cancel part of exercises it is conducting in the Aegean following reaction from Athens.

    He said it was a positive fact that Turkish aircraft did not fly over the Greek islets of Kalogeroi.

    "We are satisfied that Turkey differentiated some of the initial exercise plans for January as a response to Greek concerns, canceling in particular the plan for the exercise around the islets of Kalogeroi, in the middle of the Aegean, which we have be en considering as being Greek for some time.

    "We consider this a pleasant example of avoiding a possible problem between Greece and Turkey through communication," he said.

    Replying to another question, Mr. Foley added that the "US and other countries do not recognize Greece's position for a 10-mil e airspace in the Aegean. Therefore, we do not consider that Turkish, US or other aircraft flying in the zone between six and 10 nautical miles from the Greek state are making a violation. And evidently some, but not all, reports we saw in connection with yesterday's Turkish air force operations are included in this category."

    [19] Greece, Georgia sign defense agreements

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Greece's Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his visiting Georgian counterpart V. Nadibaize yesterday signed military and defense agreements between the two countries providing for joint training exercises and the transfer of a Greek naval vessel to the Georgian fleet.

    Mr. Nadibaize arrived in Athens yesterday on a three-day official visit to Greece. He is also due to be received by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said both Greece and Georgia belonged to the same geopolitical region and were affected by the fluidity in the region and subject to the consequences of destabilizing behavior on their borders.

    "Greece and Georgia aspire to peace, security and co-operation and through the Euro-Atlantic Council and the (NATO) Partnership for Peace program express their common views on their efforts for stabilizing international security," he said.

    Bolstering co-operation between the two countries creates the prospects of weakening the effects of destabilizing behavior in our region, he said.

    Mr. Nadibaize said the agreements signed yesterday were the continuation of the "exceptional" military and political co-operation between the two countries.

    Mr. Nadibaize, accompanied by Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, was also received yesterday by the President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.

    [20] Pangalos confers with Kasoulides over Cyprus issue

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides yesterday reviewed progress on the Cyprus issue and possibilities of a solution after the island republic's presidential elections next month.

    According to diplomatic sources, the focal point of discussions was the framework for Turkish Cypriot participation in European Union accession talks, set to begin in April. Foreign Under-secretary Yiannos Kranidiotis and others officials were also present at the meeting.

    Prior to Mr. Kasoulides' arrival, government spokesman Demetris Reppas said the official visit by Cypriot FM is not connected to the forthcoming Cypriot elections. "The Cypriot elections are the exclusive domain of the Cypriot people and the Greek government respects the sovereign rights of the people of Cyprus," he said. He added the Greek government would work closely with any Cypriot government chosen by the Cypriot people.

    Asked if Mr. Kasoulides would be discussing some sort of formula for participation of the Turkish Cypriots in European Union accession talks, Mr. Reppas said that Greece agreed with Nicosia's position on the participation and representation of Turkish Cypriots in the talks and added that he hoped there would be a way found for representatives of the Turkish Cypriot side to participate.

    [21] Greece responds to joint Israeli-Turkey-US naval exercises

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday commented on the joint search and rescue exercises held between Israel, Turkey and the US earlier this week, as well as the future likelihood of a similar exercise between Greece and Israel.

    "This exercise appeared to aim at creating a new correlation of forces in the region," Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said in response to press questions.

    "Reliant Mermaid" (the name of the joint Turkey-Israel-US exercise) gave the impression that it is turning into a contemporary Circe (an enchantress in Homer's 'Odyssey', who turned men into swine)," he added.

    "You cannot hide the practices of countries such as Turkey, which continues to conduct (ethnic) cleansing operations in northern Iraq, to maintain 40,000 troops in occupied Cyprus, to violate national airspace in Greece, to question Greece's sovereign rights and to endanger the peace of the region, under the mantle of 'humanitarian' exercises."

    "The people of the region have objected, as they have a right to stability, peace and co-operation. Whoever claims to truly be conducting humanitarian exercises should not be content only with saying that they are not directed towards anyone but link word with tangible deeds in this direction," he said.

    "The when, how and with whom Greece will conduct its exercises is its own right and in this particular case the above basic principles must be made clear."

    The search and rescue operation drew criticism from Syria, Iran, Iraq and Egypt.

    [22] ... Israeli response

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman yesterday denied as "unfounded" reports of an Israel-Turkey axis or pact against other countries in the region.

    The statement, released by the Israeli embassy in Athens, said that the co-operation between Israel and Turkey "is one that is common among friendly countries. It includes a variety of areas, including the area of security."

    "There is no foundation for claims that the two countries have established a pact or created an axis aimed against other parties in the area," the statement said.

    The Israeli embassy said that "insinuations about the creation of axes or pacts in relation to Israel's activity are obviously being fed by factors that would like to create a perception of threat that is divorced from real facts".

    [23] ... Arab envoys counsel Greece against exercises

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    On their part, 12 Arab ambassadors in Athens have urged Greece not to participate in a joint military exercise with Israel, according to informed sources.

    The 12 met yesterday in camera with Parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee.

    According to diplomatic sources, Greece is considering participating in an exercise similar to "Reliant Mermaid".

    It was reported that at yesterday's meeting the Arab ambassadors expressed the view that the exercise in question had created a number of problems.

    The envoys also reminded the committee of the fact that several Islamic conferences had rejected Turkish draft resolutions against Greece.

    [24] Pangalos roundly criticizes Italy's Dini over Kurdish refugee issue

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, asked to comment yesterday on statements by his Italian counterpart Lamberto Dini regarding Turkey's relationship with the European Union, criticized the Italian FM and wondered whether Mr. Dini was asking for "ransom to be paid to Turkey."

    At a meeting of European and Turkish police chiefs in Rome on Thursday called to focus on the problem of Kurdish illegal immigration from Turkey, Mr. Dini expressed a view that the EU should perhaps reconsider its decision in Luxembourg last month not to include Turkey in the next wave of candidate countries. He later told the Italian Parliament that Turkey should be given incentives (to deal with the Kurdish issue), including the release of EU funding to Ankara.

    Mr. Pangalos said he found it difficult to follow Mr. Dini's reasoning, while the Greek minister also recalled Mr. Dini's opposition when Mr. Pangalos had raised the Kurdish issue two years ago.

    "Now that the Kurds have reached Italy's shores, (Mr. Dini) is calling for help and we are offering that help, but the problem has to be dealt with at its source, once and for all," Mr. Pangalos said.

    He added that Kurdish refugees had not just suddenly decided to leave Turkey aboard unseaworthy vessels, asking why no one was mentioning those forces persecuting them.

    [25] ... Press report on Pangalos reply

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Meanwhile, the Italian daily "Corriere dela Sera" yesterday published a reply by Mr. Pangalos to a letter addressed by Mr. Dini to his EU counterparts, in which the latter asked for solidarity in dealing with the Kurdish refugee issue.

    "I was surprised by the fact that your letter contains no mention of the real cause of the phenomenon and its recent deterioration, chiefly, the continuous and violent repression, which has assumed the character of genocide against the Kurdish people i n Turkey and Iraq," Mr. Pangalos stated.

    "This situation, which is protected by an administrative mechanism which tolerates and often collaborates with groups of smugglers, is the cause of the problem. The wave of refugees cannot be restricted if the real causes are not dealt with," he added.

    [26] G. Papandreou meets Fouras

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday presented an armistice plan to Sports Under-secretary Andreas Fouras, which was prepared by the foreign ministry for the duration of the 2004 Olympiad.

    Mr. Papandreou will present the armistice plan to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Antonio Samaranch on Monday, during a scheduled meeting in Lausanne. The initiative hopes to revive the ancient Greek city state practice of peace throughout the games.

    On his part, Mr. Fouras announced that a draft bill of the 2004 Olympic Games will be finalized on Jan. 14, during a conference headed by the prime minister.

    [27] 69 illegal immigrants arrested

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Coast Guard officials in Symi said yesterday that they had picked up 69 illegal immigrants from the isolated Nanou area.

    The 69 - 39 Iraqis and 30 Afghanis, including eight women and eight children - told authorities that had been put ashore on the island, close to Turkey's Asia Minor coast, by a Turkish boat for a fee of $2000 each.

    They were spotted by fishing boats in the region, who alerted the Coast Guard.

    Following the arrests, Coast Guard chief Pericles Oufantzopoulos has increased the number of patrols and ordered all patrol boats to be on the alert for illegal immigrant smugglers in the Aegean Sea and particularly in the Dodecanese.

    [28] Karamanlis says Gov't incompetent, passive in foreign affairs sector

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    The government appears incompetent and unable to defend the country's just causes, and its passivity encourages Turkey's uncivilized and aggressive attitude, main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis said yesterday.

    Speaking to a party women's gathering in Athens, Mr. Karamanlis also predicted unpleasant developments in the economy in 1998.

    "Our party supports the drachma, but I doubt whether the government can do so with its present policy," he said.

    He claimed that the Prime Minister, Costas Simitis, failed because he was not bold enough to proceed to the options which could cure the ills of the economy.

    Finally, he said that in 1998 the party would rally all its forces in preparation of achieving its vision for Greece in the 21st century.

    [29] Interior ministry denies reports over public sector hirings

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    The interior, public administration and decentralization ministry yesterday denied multiple press reports over the past days concerning projected hirings in the public sector.

    In an announcement, the ministry stressed that "it does not intend to follow the arithmetical bidding in these reports on hirings in the public sector."

    "Every time when whatever few necessary hirings take place, they are officially announced by the ministry, the Supreme Council for Personnel Recruitment (ASEP) and the individual ministries and bodies," the announcement said.

    Nationwide written examinations for approximately 2,000 civil service positions around Greece has already been announced for Feb. 21-22.

    [30] Watermarks on temporary work permits

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    The labor ministry announced that temporary employment cards for illegal immigrants will be watermarked to prevent forgery.

    Labor Under-secretary Christos Protopapas said as much in a reply to a Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) Deputy Petros Kounalakis regarding the procedures concerning the registration and legalization of illegal immigrants in Greece.

    According to the one-time GSEE president, this process will bring order to existing illegality, money to insurance funds and put an end to unfair competition with Greek workers.

    Referring to problems appearing during the first days of the illegals' registration, Mr. Protopapas said the process will last five months, adding that during this period deportations will cease.

    [31] ... Illegal immigration on agenda

    Athens, 10/1/1998 (ANA)

    Illegal immigration is to be the subject of a meeting of the Iraq Task Force within the framework of the Schengen agreement on January 15 in Brussels, according to informed sources.

    Foreign Ministry Secretary General Stelios Perakis said yesterday that representatives of Greece, Italy, Austria, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and France would be attending the meeting which he said would be dealing with the question of illegal immigration. Participants in the meeting will be diplomats and representatives of the relevant ministries.

    The agenda is also likely to include the possibility of sending humanitarian aid to Iraq, as well as a delegation of Schengen signatories to examine conditions on-site.

    End of English language section.


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