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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 98-05-26

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Spanish royals begin official visit
  • [02] Cook briefs EU on Ankara visit as Turkey rejects Association Council invitation
  • [03] Annual Greek-US defence cooperation sessions to begin
  • [04] Premier chairs meeting on foreign,defence policy
  • [05] Kinkel: Turkey not ready to join EU in the foreseeable future
  • [06] Turkish daily claims Greek-Turkish military contacts regarding CBMs
  • [07] Sarbanes calls on Ankara to respect human rights
  • [08] Upcoming municipal elections dominate PASOK meeting
  • [09] PASOK's Konstantinidis also announces for candidacy for Thessaloniki
  • [10] Registration for municipal, Euro Parliament elections by end May
  • [11] KKE on results of meeting by int'l communist parties
  • [12] Aegean ministry protests magazine article on islets
  • [13] Angelopoulos makes up for past Cannes' delusion
  • [14] Artists donates works to conference participants
  • [15] End to dictionary furor
  • [16] Study on regional power market unveiled
  • [17] GSEE calls 24-hour nationwide strike
  • [18] Mantelis promises tabled telecoms bill this summer
  • [19] Greek stocks jump on tough gov't stand in Ionian Bank tussle
  • [20] Athens court to rule today on legality of Ionian Bank strike
  • [21] National Bank of Greece gets OK for Dr 26.2 bln share cap rise
  • [22] Bulgaria to invest 85 million marks to complete gas pipeline
  • [23] Rates slip in fixed-income T-bill auction
  • [24] Xiosbank launches new Goldman Sachs mutual funds
  • [25] Athens-based Space Imaging Europe launches operations
  • [26] Intracom to hold AGM on June 16

  • [01] Spanish royals begin official visit

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    Greece greeted Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia, a former Greek princess, with due pomp and ceremony yesterday, when they arrived in Athens to begin a five-day official visit.

    The airplane carrying the Spanish royal couple touched down at Athens airport shortly after 3 p.m. President Kostis Stephanopoulos officially welcomed the royal couple outside the Presidential Mansion.

    The couple received the full honours accorded to heads of state. Prime Minister Costas Simitis, his wife Daphne, main opposition leader Costas Karamanlis, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos and Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis were among the dignitaries present at the official reception for the couple at the presidential mansion.

    The royal couple's visit returns then president Constantine Karamanlis' official visit to Spain in 1984.

    It is the first time that Sophia has come to Greece since 1981 when she made a brief visit to attend the funeral of her mother.

    The monarchy in Greece was firmly abolished by a referendum in 1974, following the restoration of democracy following the fall of a seven-year military dictatorship.

    The Spanish royal couple later in the afternoon attended a te deum service at the graves of Sophia's mother and father in the Tatoi reserve north of Athens.

    Formal dinner : In the evening, President Stephanopoulos hosted a dinner at the Presidential Mansion for the visiting Spanish monarch.

    Mr. Stephanopoulos praised Juan Carlos' role in building and supporting his countryYs democracy, a fact he said that has been acknowledged both in Spain and beyond.

    "The presence of Queen Sophia on your side complements in the best way the exemplary execution of your duties, making Her Majesty exceptionally popular among the Spanish people," Mr. Stephanopoulos said.

    He also referred to the fact that Greece was Queen Sophia''s birthplace.

    In addition, Mr. Stephanopoulos touched on Greek positions regarding the Cyprus problem and Greek-Turkish relations.

    Speaking after the Greek president, King Juan Carlos stressed that his visit to Greece, in the company of Queen Sophia, "emphasised the relationship that unites us as friendly and allied countries, and in our case adds unforgettable personal memories and experiences."

    He then highlighted the two countries' common aspects, such as their European and Mediterranean attributes, stressing at the same time "GreeceYs generous contribution to settling the crisis in neighbouring Albania."

    The Spanish King also underlined his countryYs willingness to boost bilateral relations with regard to business, mutual investments and understanding.

    Pangalos-Matutes discuss EU issues, cooperation : Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and his Spanish counterpart Abel Matutes yesterday discussed problems concerning the European Union and bilateral cooperation issues such as economic and cultural exchanges.

    Mr. Matutes, who is accompanying the Spanish royal couple on an official visit to Greece, had the opportunity to "cooperate with a good friend", as he said after meeting Mr. Pangalos. Relations between Greece and Spain are excellent and multifaceted in the framework of European institutions and NATO, he said, adding that "our purpose is to strengthen them even further."

    The Spanish royal couple's visit to Greece had been pending for a long time and Mr. Pangalos, who was questioned on the issue, said "indeed, since 1984 when President Constantine Karamanlis had visited Madrid and had invited the royal couple a long time has passed. And this was not entirely natural, but developments such as the state of the health of the then president of the republic, the state of health of the then premier and the changes in governments contributed to the passing of time."

    "I discussed the carrying out of this visit when our country was signing for Spain's accession to the European Union, and I am pleased that we are now seeing the visit taking place," he added.

    Mr. Pangalos explained that Spain and Greece agreed to have closer cooperation in the future, not only on a bilateral level but also at European level.

    Mr. Pangalos and Mr. Matutes also discussed the preparation of the Olympic Games since the city of Barcelona has had the experience of an Olympiad.

    Three-nation exhibition of El Greco next year : An international exhibition entitled "El Greco - Identity and Transformation" - jointly organised by Greece, Spain and Italy - will open in Madrid next year before travelling to Rome and Athens.

    The exhibition traces the Cretan-born painter's career, starting from his early years on the Venetian-held island, to Venice and finally to 17th century Spain.

    On display will be a total of 72 El Greco works from the three organising countries, as well as from private collections and museums.

    Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday announced the exhibition in the presence of Spanish Undersecretary Miguel Anjel, who is accompanying the Spanish royal couple in Greece.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Cook briefs EU on Ankara visit as Turkey rejects Association Council invitation

    BRUSSELS 26/05/1998 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    A limited discussion in both time and substance on relations between the European Union and Turkey was held here yesterday during a luncheon for EU Foreign Ministers.

    Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who represented Greece at the EU foreign ministers' Council, told reporters that British Foreign Minister Robin Cook, who presided over the session, briefed the Council on the results of his recent visit to Ankara.

    Mr. Cook said that indications before his visit that the Turkish government could accept the British presidency's plan of positions, did not come true.

    The Turkish side put forward a demand that there should be no reference to conclusions of the latest EU-Turkey Association Council (jointly signed by the then Ciller government) or mention of decisions taken at the Luxembourg summit, resulting in the British presidency not being in a position to accept such terms, Mr. Papandreou said. He stressed that contrary to certain allegations claiming Greece was undermining the convening of the EU- Turkey Association Council, it was ultimately Turkey who did not accept participation at the Association Council.

    On the part of the presidency, Mr. Cook said during a press conference that the Turkish side was not satisfied with the text presented to it by the British presidency and decided that the Association Council will not take place.

    He said that the EU was ready to discuss pending issues but, for this to take place, Turkey must also want dialogue. He concluded by saying that he hoped Turkey would revise its position.

    Mr. Cook briefed his counterparts that during his brief stay in Ankara, wishing as he said to stress the importance attributed by the EU to respect for human rights, he visited the President of Turkey's Human Rights Committee and victim of a recent assa ssination attempt Akin Birdal in hospital, who, as Mr. Cook said is "fairly well."

    Ankara says no improvement in EU-Turkish relations : ANKARA (Reuters/ANA) - Turkey confirmed yesterday it would not attend the meeting with European Union ministers, as there had been no improvement in the Union's stance over Ankara's exclusion from EU expansion plans.

    "There is no change in our position. The meeting will not take place," a foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters.

    Turkish officials said last week the Turkey-EU Association Council foreign ministers' meeting should be postponed because "the EU was not yet in a position to address all the sensitive issues."

    Cardiff summit : Meanwhile, the main issues preoccupying the 15 EU member- states' foreign ministers were the discussion on the Agenda 2000 in light of the Cardiff EU summit, as well as preparation of a code of conduct in relation to exports of weaponry systems by EU member-states.

    Mr. Papandreou said that regarding EU resources in light of enlargement, the final agreement "must safeguard the principles of fiscal austerity and discipline. However, at the same time it must meet the criterion of adequacy of resources for the '15', c over the cost of enlargement, compromise with the commitments already undertaken and not overturn the basic principles on which cooperation between Union members, as well as its institutional bodies, are based."

    On the question of the code of conduct for export of weapons systems, the Council endorsed this code yesterday which was proposed by the British presidency and recommends to member-states to avoid the exports of weapons to countries not respecting human rights or which have expansionist designs. The code is not binding and neither will it lead to a list of countries to which exports of weapons by EU member-states will be forbidden. However, it constitutes a satisfactory framework for the control of wea pons exports, Mr. Papandreou said.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Annual Greek-US defence cooperation sessions to begin

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    Annual high-level Greek-US talks will begin in Williamsburg, Virginia tomorrow under the chairmanship of the two countries' defence undersecretaries, Dimitris Apostolakis and Jan Londal, and within the framework of the bilateral Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement (MDCA-90).

    The talks will focus on the entire spectrum of issues concerning the security situation in the Balkans and the southeastern Mediterranean.

    Athens will present its positions on security issues in the area, which are based on the principle of respect for existing international treaties and agreements, as well as the status quo.

    Sectors of cooperation will also be sought in the framework of the Greek military's armaments programme and the funding of specific programmes will be discussed.

    The joint committee's work will last until May 29. The Greek delegation also includes defence general staff deputy chief Efthymios Petinis, senior officers of the armed forces' three services and a foreign ministry representative.

    According to the MDCA-90 agreement, sessions are held alternately in Greece or the US every year.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] Premier chairs meeting on foreign,defence policy

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday chaired a high-level government meeting to review foreign and defence policy.

    The meeting was attended by National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis. Asked after the meeting whether the issue of Greece and Turkey agreeing to confidence-building measures (CBMs) in the Aegean had been discussed, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas replied:

    "Turkey must abandon the role of regional strongman which it has reserved for itself in order to attain its aims because this role is bringing it only constant disappointment."

    Mr. Reppas called on Turkey to change its policy and agree to the framework set out by the European Union "which, unfortunately, Ankara has not accepted".

    Kaklamanis : Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis said later that Turkey, since 1973, had been gradually developing a specific aggressive strategy against Greece.

    "Despite moderate moves by Greece from time to time, Turkey has been adopting an increasingly tougher stance, gradually raising its claims from the sea area, to air space and more recently to territorial claims in the Aegean against Greece's sovereign r ights," Mr. Kaklamanis said.

    He was speaking to reporters after briefing US Sen. Paul Sarbanes on the entire spectrum of Greek-Tur-kish relations. US Ambassador in Athens Nicholas Burns was also present at the meeting.

    "This aggression on the part of Turkey is continuing despite Greece's constructive stance on a number of issues, including our lifting of the veto on Turkey's customs agreement with the European Union..." Mr. Kaklamanis said.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] Kinkel: Turkey not ready to join EU in the foreseeable future

    BERLIN 26/05/1998 (ANA/AFP)

    German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel stated here yesterday that Turkey will not be able to join the European Union in the foreseeable future.

    During the symposium, entitled "Islam and Europe", Mr. Kinkel said "it is not cultural issues that are of decisive importance," it is rather human rights, the Kurdish problem, internal economic problems and relations with Greece.

    However, he stressed that Bonn aimed at strengthen its political, economic and defence relations with Turkey.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] Turkish daily claims Greek-Turkish military contacts regarding CBMs

    ISTANBUL 26/05/1998 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)

    Greek and Turkish military officials have been "discreetly" working on confidence-building measures to reduce tension in the Aegean, the Turkish daily "Cumhurriyet" reported, citing unnamed Turkish military sources.

    The measures are reported to be related to avoiding any incidents during military exercises in international waters in the Aegean, according to the report.

    The paper said an announcement would be made soon by NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, who is reported to be involved in the talks.

    One of the aspects of the measures is reported to be the possibility of "discreet" meetings between military officials from both countries when needed to deal with some incident of concern, the newspaper claimed.

    The Turkish sources said there was a climate of "good will" in talks and that Athens was aware of the contacts.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Sarbanes calls on Ankara to respect human rights

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    Visiting US Sen. Paul Sarbanes yesterday called on Turkish authorities to respect human rights and to take recourse to international organisations regarding their differences with other countries.

    Mr. Sarbanes, during his address at the 50th anniversary of the Fulbright Foundation's establishment, also praised the initiative of US presidential envoy Richard Holbrooke for his efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] Upcoming municipal elections dominate PASOK meeting

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis held two-hour talks on issues focusing on local government administration and municipal elections yesterday with PASOK Secretary Costas Skandalidis and members of the ruling party's prefectural and municipal elections central committee secretariat.

    The meeting was also attended by executive bureau members Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Miltiades Papaioannou, Theodoros Tsoukatos, Maria Arseni and others. All pending issues in PASOK concerning candidates for October's prefectural and municipal elections will close on May 28.

    These issues will be discussed at an executive bureau meeting due to convene on the same day under the chairmanship of Mr. Skandalidis.

    Athens News Agency

    [09] PASOK's Konstantinidis also announces for candidacy for Thessaloniki

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    Former PASOK deputy Lefteris Konstantinidis yesterday announced his candidacy for Thessaloniki mayor, inspite of backing by the ruling party for current Kalamaria Mayor Thrasivoulos Lazaridis.

    Mr. Konstantinidis repeated accusations that the party's charter was not honoured during a mayoral candidate selection process by PASOK, stressing that he will be present at an upcoming central committee meeting.

    Mr. Konstantinidis said he will withdraw his candidacy if Mr. Lazaridis does the same, with the party's charter used to elect a new candidate.

    He added that he is not worried over a possible expulsion and asked for implementation of PASOK charter Article 39, which calls for the interparty election of candidates.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] Registration for municipal, Euro Parliament elections by end May

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    European Union citizens resident in Greece for at least the past two years may submit applications to register to vote in municipal elections in October as well as for European Parliament elections due in June 1999, according to a statement from the inter ior ministry yesterday.

    Those interested in registering must approach their prefectural administration in their place of residence to submit application forms. They must have with them proof of identification, and two recent photographs. Applications end on May 29.

    The ministry statement said that EU citizens registered for 1994 European Parliament elections must also renew their applications by May 29.

    Athens News Agency

    [11] KKE on results of meeting by int'l communist parties

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) announced that it regarded a three-day international meeting of 60 communist parties from 50 countries in Athens last weekend as positive.

    Orestis Kolozov, a member of the KKE's political bureau, who yesterday presented results of the conference, said communists from around the world agreed on the need to take initiatives for joint action at a regional and international level. Modern tec hnology was also on the agenda of the three- day talks, with KKE announcing that it has the required computer infrastructure to facilitate communication among communist parties via the Internet.

    Athens News Agency

    [12] Aegean ministry protests magazine article on islets

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    The Aegean ministry yesterday released a letter in answer to a recent magazine article focusing on EU-funded environmental programmes on several eastern Aegean islets vis-a-vis Turkey's dispute of the islets' Greek sovereignty.

    The response, signed by Aegean Minister Elizabeth Papazoi, and addressed to the managing editor of "Time" magazine, states that "the article totally ignored the facts supplied in a very detailed manner to the writers." The Time article claimed that Greece requested EU funding so as to show activity on the islets and thus better secure them against Turkish claims.

    The letter also states that historical truth is altered in the article to erroneously depict the two-year-old Turkish claims on various Aegean islets as dating further back. The letter also clarifies that treaties delineating sea borders between Greece and Turkey date back to 1923, while Turkish claims over Greek islets are very recent and unjust.

    Athens News Agency

    [13] Angelopoulos makes up for past Cannes' delusion

    CANNES 26/05/1998 (Reuters/ANA)

    By winning the Cannes Film Festival's Golden Palm on Sunday for his film "Eternity and a Day", director Theo Angelopoulos took reveng e for being passed over for the top prize in 1995.

    "I'm really very touched. Prizes are wonderful, they flatter. But the greatest prize was at the screening last night," said the balding, diminutive director who won a standing ovation for his poetic tale of a dying man's final days when it was shown on Saturday.

    His previous work, "Ulysses' Gaze", had been a favourite for the Palm - the best film award - in 1995, but the jury instead chose Yugoslav director Emir Kusturica's highly acclaimed "Underground", giving Mr. Angelopoulos the runner-up prize.

    Set in fog and rain, Mr. Angelopoulos trademarks, "Eternity and a Day" charts a writer's quest on the eve of his death to recall memories of happier days with his late wife (Isabelle Renauld).

    As he drives through the streets of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, Alexander, played by Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, crosses the path of an Albanian "red light boy", who is earning his money cleaning windshields.

    "I chose Thessaloniki because I'm a man of the south and I am attracted to the north. And it's on the sea. Athens is too chaotic, while Thessaloniki is more concentrated. And it's near the border (with Albania) which makes Alexander's contact with the boy easier and more immediate," the chain- smoking director told Reuters in an interview. The boy becomes a kind of surrogate son as the writer, who has given up his dream of completing a 19th-century poem by a man who burned himself alive for Greek in dependence, relives a family reunion 30 years earlier.

    "It's the meeting of a man living his final days, and a child who appears from nowhere and acts as a catalyst. Childhood represents hope," he said.

    With little dialogue and melancholy scenes of icy landscape, "Eternity and a Day" deals with the familiar but enigmatic themes of his previous films: exile, frontiers, the sea and fog.

    He said he chose Bruno Ganz because "no one else fit the part so well" although the actor does not speak Greek and had to be dubbed.

    "When I met Bruno Ganz, I just said to myself 'That's him!' He came dressed exactly like I wanted the character in the film, with a raincoat and a beard," Mr. Angelopoulos said. "It was only afterwards I learned the coat was from Armani."

    The Greek director is no stranger to Cannes, nor to film festival awards. Three years ago, "Ulysses' Gaze" also won the International Critic's Prize while his other films have picked up awards at festivals in Berlin, Venice, Chicago and Japan.

    He said he had imagined Marcello Mastroianni in the role of Alexander before the Italian actor died in 1997.

    "Yes, I thought of Marcello. I told him the story of the film, but I saw before me a man completely destroyed by illness," he recalled. "He asked me 'Is it a melancholy film?' and I said 'Poetry is never melancholy'. Then I walked him to his taxi, he waved, and left, and it was raining, as in all of my films," he said.

    Congratulations : President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos sent a telegram yesterday morning congratulating Mr. Angelopoulos on his award.

    "We congratute you on your success and thank you for the joy and pride you gave us", Prime Minister Costas Simitis said in his own telegram to the film director.

    Mr. Angelopoulos also received congratulations from the leader of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Aleka Papariga and Political SpringYs Antonis Samaras.

    Athens News Agency

    [14] Artists donates works to conference participants

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    Kavala artist Themis Kelekis, famous in Greece and abroad, has donated 300 of his works to the nephrology clinic of the hospital in his hometown.

    The valuable paintings will be offered as commemmorative gifts to 300 university lecturers, clinic directors and researchers from Greece and countries of all five continents who are attending the panhellenic nephrology conference in the northern port city of Kavala.

    "Yes, I've donated 300 of my works to the delegates who have come to Kavala for this important scientific and medical event. The paintings depict the natural beauty, notable sights and forgotten corners of Kavala and (the nearby island of) Thassos. They are the product of two years' hard work..., " Mr. Kelekis said.

    Athens News Agency

    [15] End to dictionary furor

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    The government yesterday praised the chief editor of a new Greek dictionary after he agreed to eliminate from the second edition an explanation of the word 'Bulgarians', which caused a furor when the reference work was recently published.

    In the first edition of the dictionary, under the entry 'Bulgarians', Prof. Georgios Babiniotis' second explanation was "the supporter or player of a (sports) team of Thessaloniki, mainly of PAOK".

    The entry notes that the term is used as an insult. Fans of greater Athens area teams, in particular, often chant the word pejoratively to goad fans of Thessaloniki teams.

    The entry caused an uproar, particularly in northern Greece, where leading citizens denounced it as insulting and demanded its removal. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Sunday that it was a "lexico-graphic mistake", while Macedonia-Thr ace Minister Phillipos Petsalnikos said it was "an enormous error" on the part of Prof. Babiniotis and his associates.

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas yesterday praised Prof. Babiniotis after he reportedly agreed to remove the controversial explanation from the second edition of the dictionary.

    In a related development, the chief judge of Thessaloniki's court of first instance ordered the temporary withdrawal of the dictionary until Thursday, when a hearing for a restraining order is discussed.

    Conference on media influence : A conference opened yesterday on the power of the media, held at a seaside resort south of Athens. The event was organised by the Institute of Strategic and Development Studies Andreas Papandreou (ISTAME).

    The conference will discuss the influence of the media in formulating public opinion, especially in case where this activity leads to NATO intervention.

    Macedonia professor Andreas Papandreou said "the new challenge for democracy is to bring equality to our ability to influence the vote...".

    Education and Religious Affairs Minister Gerasimos Arsenis yesterday met with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on matters relating to religious education. Both men said after the meeting that it was held in a friendly atmosphere and th at talks would continue to find ways to resolve issues.

    Athens News Agency

    [16] Study on regional power market unveiled

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    The development of a regional electrical power market in the Balkans between Albania, Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Romania, Yugoslavia and Greece is possible under certain preconditions, according to a recent study.

    The study was prepared by a team from the Athens University within the framework of the European Union's SYNERGY programme.

    Results from the study cite not only economic benefits but added stability in the wider region as well.

    Addressing an event on the occasion of the study's presentation, European Commissioner Christos Papoutsis referred to the EU's initiatives to promote energy cooperation in the wider Balkan area, resulting in the signing of the "Bucharest Memorandum" bet ween 13 countries in the region.

    The memorandum raised three main targets focusing on the creation of a competitive regional electricity market in the Balkans, the creation of common underground storage spaces for natural gas and the convening of an international conference on protecting the Mediterranean and the Black Sea from oil transport activities.

    Mr. Papoutsis stressed that the EU is promoting, through bilateral contacts with the governments of the countries concerned and international and national fiscal organisations, the construction of the networks anticipated by the Bucharest Memorandum.

    Athens News Agency

    [17] GSEE calls 24-hour nationwide strike

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    A 24-hour nationwide general strike called by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) was scheduled to start at midnight today. Strikes at public transports in the greater Attica area are as follows:

    Trade unionists said employees at the Greek Railways Organisation (OSE), trolley buses, "green" buses and the metro will be on a 24-hour strike from midnight Tuesday to midnight Wednesday.

    The Athens Urban Transport Co. OASA (blue buses) will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

    Olympic Airways' employees will observe a work stoppage from 12 noon until 3 p.m.

    Athens News Agency

    [18] Mantelis promises tabled telecoms bill this summer

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis, speaking during the opening day of the "Info World" exhibition, yesterday announced that a new bill for the telecommunications sector will be tabled at Parliament this summer.
    Athens News Agency

    [19] Greek stocks jump on tough gov't stand in Ionian Bank tussle

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    Greek equities surged to an all-time high yesterday on relief at a weekend show of strength by the government over the privatisation of Ionian Bank, despite fierce union opposition, analysts said.

    The general index ended 2.43 percent higher at 2,669.76 points. The previous record high on the Athens bourse was 2,634.54 points on May 5.

    Turnover jumped to 184.8 billion drachmas, fuelled by 117 billion drachmas from the transfer of 2.5 million shares in National Bank of Greece to domestic and foreign institutional investors.

    The stock was originally sold through book building. On Sunday, riot police raided Ionian Bank's computer centre, ending an occupation by strikers that had paralysed on-line and ATM operations for around ten days.

    The government has repeatedly said it will sell a majority stake in Ionian despite an indefinite strike being staged by Ionian's workers and solidarity strikes by other unions.

    The unions want the government to merge Ionian with Commercial Bank of Greece, its parent. Both banks are listed.

    Beyond euphoria over the government's tough line in privatising Ionian Bank and the stand it has taken against unions, the market is also discounting the sale of Bank of Central Greece and Cretabank.

    In addition, it expects May's consumer price inflation to keep within government targets following a temporary rise stemming from a 13.8 percent devaluation of the drachma on March 14 in order to aid entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechan ism.

    Sector indices were mostly higher. Banks rose 2.43 percent, Insurance ended 3.43 percent up, Investment increased 4.22 percent, Leasing up 0.40 percent, Industrials increased 2.89 percent, Construction soared 5.68 percent and Holding rose 3.82 percent.

    Miscellaneous bucked the trend, dropping 2.0 percent. Advancers outpaced laggards at 212 to 46 of 267 shares traded.

    The Athens general share index has gained 80.43 percent since the beginning of the year.

    According to the World Bank, the Greek bourse ranked top in returns between January 1 and March 20 this year, showing dollar returns of 59.5 percent. It was followed by the Portuguese stock exchange with returns of 47.6 percent.

    Finishing at the eight percent upper volatility limit were Bank of Macedonia Thrace, Attica Bank, Silver Ores & Baryte, Elval, Selonda Fisheries, Halcor, Delta Information Technology, Intracom (common and preferred), Intrasoft (common and preferred) and Gener, an engineering contractor.

    The day's biggest losers were General Warehouses (-8.0 percent), Papoutsanis (-7.8 percent), Macedonian Textiles (-7.8 percent), Strintzis Lines (-6.6 percent), Teletypos (-6.6 percent), Klonatex (-6.2 percent), Lampsa (-6.2 percent), Balkan Export (-6. 0) percent, Esha (-5.4 percent), Rokas (-5.1 percent).

    National Bank of Greece finished at 54,450 drachmas; Ergobank at 27,175 drachmas; Alpha Credit Bank at 32,355 drachmas; Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 8,995 drachmas; Delta Dairy at 4,770 drachmas; Hellenic Bottling at 11,780 drachmas; Intr acom at 20,393 drachmas; and Titan Cement at 26,350 drachmas.

    Athens News Agency

    [20] Athens court to rule today on legality of Ionian Bank strike

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    An Athens court is due to rule today on a petition by the management of Ionian Bank to have an indefinite strike over the bank's future privatisation declared illegal.

    The Athens Court of First Instance yesterday heard the case for a restraining order on the strike submitted by Ionian's management.

    Striking workers claimed that the government's decision to sell Ionian as part of a wide-ranging privatisation plan contained irregularities and jeopardised labour rights.

    They also claimed that the strike had not caused irreparable financial damage to the bank; the law had been upheld on the provision of skeleton staff during a strike; and no one had been barred from working during an occupation of the bank's computer ce ntre.

    On Sunday, riot police removed striking workers from the bank's computer centre in Piraeus, ending an occupation that had paralysed on-line and ATM operations. Two demonstrators were arrested, and later released. Workers at Ionian Bank have been on an indefinite strike for nearly two weeks in protest at the government's decision to privatise the bank, probably through the Athens bourse.

    Management's petition is supported by Ionian Bank's subsidiaries, and by state-owned Commercial Bank of Greece, its parent company.

    The defence, or the bank's staff, is supported by the General Confederation of Greek Labour, which represents nearly a million private and public sector workers nationwide; Athens Labour Centre; the Federation of Bank Employees Unions; the Civil Servant s' Supreme Administrative Council; and the Union of Ionian Bank Workers.

    Speaking on behalf of Ionian's management, Deputy Director General Eleftherios Theodorou told the court that the strikers had not provided skeleton staff at many branches or at the computer centre, and that the ongoing strike had created serious problem s for the bank.

    The result was a loss of private and professional customers with many companies taking their business elsewhere.

    Mr. Theodorou told the court that jobs would not be jeopardised in the two years following the sale.

    But he admitted that there could be problems after the two-year period when the bank's new management became completely autonomous.

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said earlier that the government was determined to protect the interests of Ionian Bank.

    Mr. Reppas said workers had the right to strike but not act illegally.

    The police and public prosecutor therefore had the right to respond, and occupation of the computer centre was illegal, as revealed in past legal precedents.

    In addition, the government's decision to privatise was clear-cut, including using the Athens Stock Exchange to partially or fully float state enterprises, and the policy was not open to negotiation, he said.

    Reaction to the removal of workers from the computer centre by riot police was swift.

    The General Confederation of Greek Labour, the Federation of Bank Employees Unions and the Athens and Piraeus Labour Centres called a snap 24-hour strike in all banks yesterday.

    Also called yesterday was a 24-hour strike by Piraeus workers and a rally outside the courts where management's petition was being heard.

    Bank employees waving black flags also gathered outside Ionian Bank's computer centre, demanding the immediate withdrawal of police units that have been deployed around the bank since Sunday.

    The rally at the computer centre again meant that operations were hindered.

    Athens News Agency

    [21] National Bank of Greece gets OK for Dr 26.2 bln share cap rise

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    State-owned National Bank of Greece,the country's largest commercial bank, yesterday gained the approval of shareholders for a share capital rise of 26.2 billion drachmas from a capitalisation of reserves.

    The rise will be effected through the issue and distribution of two free common registered shares for ten existing ones.

    Around 4.5 million new shares will be issued at a nominal price of 5,800 drachmas each.

    The holders of the new stock will be listed National Bank's existing shareholders, and trade begins today. After the rise, the bank's share capital will total 157,165 million drachmas, divided into 27,097,558 registered shares at 5,800 drachmas each.

    The share capital rise comes from separate reserves of 6.4 billion drachmas, 704 million drachmas, and 19.1 billion drachmas.

    Yesterday's shareholders meeting was a repeat after the initial assembly early in May was inquorate.

    Athens News Agency

    [22] Bulgaria to invest 85 million marks to complete gas pipeline

    SOFIA 26/05/1998 (ANA-B.Borisov)

    Bulgaria's state owned Bulgargaz is to invest the equivalent of around 85 million German marks to complete construction of a pipeline that will carry Russian natural gas to Greece.

    The move was sanctioned by the Bulgarian cabinet.

    Still awaiting construction is a 110-kilometre section of the pipeline in the Bulgarian provinces.

    The company's investment programme also allows for completion of a 10- kilometre gap in a pipeline for Russian gas to Turkey.

    At the end of April, Sofia and Russia's Gazprom signed agreements on the transit pipeline under the terms of which Bulgaria was to complete the gas transport network to third countries.

    Athens News Agency

    [23] Rates slip in fixed-income T-bill auction

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    Interest rates slipped in a tender for 60 billion drachmas of three-year fixed-income bonds carried out through primary dealers, the finance ministry said yesterday.

    The average weighted rate was 9.65 percent, slightly down on the annual coupon at 9.7 percent.

    It was also lower against the rate that emerged from the ministry's last auction of three-year fixed income bonds, held in October last year, which was 10 percent.

    The spread in rates in yesterday's auction was 0.104 of a percentage point.

    Bids outpaced total bonds on offer with banks offering 238 billion drachmas.

    The ministry accepted bids for 63 billion drachmas worth of bonds, slightly above the original target.

    Primary dealers received no extra commission.

    Athens News Agency

    [24] Xiosbank launches new Goldman Sachs mutual funds

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    Private Xiosbank yesterday launched two new mutual funds on the Greek market, belonging to Goldman Sachs of the US.

    The two funds, called Communacopia Portfolio and US Equity Portfolio, are being handled by listed Xiosbank, which has a permanent arrangement with Goldman Sachs.

    So far, Xiosbank has offered the following mutual funds for the US firm on the domestic market: Global Equity Portfolio, European Small Cap Portfolio, Japan Portfolio, Asia Portfolio and World Bond Portfolio.

    Since October, when the two firms inaugurated cooperation, Xiosbank's customers have invested 11 billion drachmas in Goldman Sachs mutual funds.

    Communacopia Portfolio invests in the equity of computer manufacturers, distributors of electronic goods, mass media and telecoms.

    The fund, whose assets are in Swiss francs, aims at high returns from the rapid growth of companies in the hi-tech sector with a relatively low capitalisation.

    Total returns since the funds were launched on June 17, 1996 are 66.7 percent.

    US Equity Portfolio, whose assets are in dollars, invests in the equity of US firms.

    It aims at capital gains on a long-term basis.

    Total returns since its inception on November 19, 1996 are 49.5 percent.

    Athens News Agency

    [25] Athens-based Space Imaging Europe launches operations

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    Athens-based Space Imaging Europe SA yesterday announced its creation and strategic business relationship with Space Imaging Incorporated of Colorado in the US.

    Under an exclusivity deal, Space Imaging Europe (SIE) will market remote sensing information collected from a satellite receiving station based in Greece.

    The exclusive rights of SIE extend over an area of more than 16 million square kilometres, covering more than 50 countries.

    SIE is a privately owned firm of Greek-led financiers who aim to supply European and international markets with remote sensing and geographical information based on high resolution data that Space Imaging Incorporated's Ikonos satellites will generate.

    SIE's initial investment is to exceed 40 million US dollars.

    Space Imaging's original partners - Lockheed Martin Corporation, Raytheon E- Systems and Mitsubishi Corporation - are the developers and operators of Ikonos Satellites.

    SIE, which was incorporated a few months ago, has progressed rapidly in drafting its organisational structure, strategic marketing plan, early market penetration strategies and distribution network development policies.

    Recruitment has already begun and staff will total 80 employees by the end of the year.

    Athens News Agency

    [26] Intracom to hold AGM on June 16

    Athens 26/05/1998 (ANA)

    Intracom, a telecoms and information technology manufacturer listed on the Athens bourse, has called its annual general shareholders' meeting for June 16. Management is to propose the issue of three new bonus shares for 10 old taken from a capitalisation of reserves.

    It will also propose a shareholders' dividend of 40 drachmas per share from 1997 profits. The firm is active in the Balkans and has contracts with NATO. It also is the main supplier of listed, state-owned Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation.

    Speaking at a communications forum in Athens yesterday, Intracom officials called for the creation of a liberal and rational legal framework for telecoms and information technology. Needing encouragement were creativity and innovation in the market, the officials said.The forum was part of an information technology trade fair called Infoworld.

    Athens News Agency

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