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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 98-06-12

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] Economy soon to benefit from government policy,Papantoniou says
  • [02] Alpha Credit Bank repeats interest in buying Ionian Bank
  • [03] Retail sales rise 1.1 pct in first quarter
  • [04] Greek stocks slump 2.19 pct, turnover edges down
  • [05] European Court says Greece guilty over water pollution
  • [06] Greece will not hold EMU referendum
  • [07] Greek state telecom defends bid in Moldova tender
  • [08] National Bank of Greece posts 61 pct profit jump Jan-Apr
  • [09] Bank of Piraeus has 164 pct profit rise in Jan-May
  • [10] SETE announces only marginal increase in April-May tourist arrivals
  • [11] Intrakom halves nominal price of shares
  • [12] Bolivian trade event in Athens
  • [13] Exhibition focuses on Epirus
  • [14] Ergobank loan programme at 21.5 per cent
  • [15] Clashes around the country over teacher appointment exams
  • [16] Parliament votes in favour of Article 19 abolition
  • [17] Greece rejects any EU summit move on Turkey ties
  • [18] Turkish FM spokesman takes exception to 'eastern slyness' statement
  • [19] Tsohatzopoulos stresses autonomy as the key for Kosovo solution
  • [20] Greek firms see delay,not disaster,in Kosovo ban
  • [21] Greece expected to again issue official request for marbles' return
  • [22] Protests in downtown Athens
  • [23] Simitis-Venizelos discuss 2004 Olympics
  • [24] PASOK expels Beis for running in Athens mayoral race
  • [25] Four foreigners arrested on forged document charges
  • [26] Agricultural Bank ATM torched
  • [27] ND ethics council favours lifting of deputy's Parliamentary immunity
  • [28] Man sentenced for drugs, forged documents charges
  • [29] Three foreigners arrested for drug trafficking
  • [30] Dutch national missing on Samos
  • [31] Karamanlis says almost two decades of opportunities squandered in farm sector
  • [32] Aluminium de Grece records higher profits in first quarter

  • [01] Economy soon to benefit from government policy,Papantoniou says

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    The economy will soon start to benefit from the government's policy, boding well for 1999, National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

    "Four years have not gone to waste, and we have gained much ground and time ... Developments in 1998 are setting the scene for positive policies in 1999," Mr. Papantoniou said.

    He was speaking after a meeting of the country's economic leadership chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Among those taking part were ministers and central bank governor Lucas Papademos.

    According to government sources, improvements in the economy this year may permit a stronger social angle in the 1999 budget without jeopardising alignment targets with other European Union economies.

    Although Mr. Papantoniou said the government's policy would soon bear fruit, he declined to make specific statements until September.

    Discussed at the meeting was a positive reaction by markets to the drachma's 13.8 percent devaluation on March 14, which was linked to its entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechanism on the same day.

    The devaluation's impact on consumer price inflation was one percentage point at the most, defying forecasts of a three to four percentage point rise proffered by the opposition, Mr. Papantoniou said.

    The budget was on target, revenue was rising and GDP growth would hit 3.5 percent for the second consecutive year, but public spending still needed to drop, he said. Mr. Papantoniou also announced that an international tender for the privatisation of t he remainder of Duty Free Shops would be called within days.

    Budget revenue up 13.1 pct in January-May : Budgetary revenue increased by 13.1 percent in the first five months of 1998, higher than the official annual target of 10.85 percent, the finance ministry said in a statement yesterday.

    Budgetary revenue was 8.27 percent up in May although Value Added Tax receipts fell by 1.98 percent from the corresponding month last year, the ministry said.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Alpha Credit Bank repeats interest in buying Ionian Bank

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    The chairman of Alpha Credit Bank told shareholders yesterday that the bank was still interested in purchasing state-owned Ionian Bank.

    "We're definitely interested in Ionian Bank. But of course our future growth doesn't depend on it," Alpha Credit's chairman, Yannis Costopoulos, said.

    Mr. Costopoulos, who was speaking at a shareholders' meeting called to approve a capital increase, first expressed interest in buying Ionian in a recent interview to the Financial Times.

    A 51 percent stake in Ionian would bring Alpha Credit, the country's largest private bank, a nearly 20 percent share in the domestic market, Mr. Costopoulos said.

    Acquiring Ionian's branch network would free Alpha Credit Bank, a blue chip on the bourse, from opening 50 new outlets in the next three years, as planned.

    In addition, the acquisition would bring Alpha a consolidated balance sheet of nearly 20 billion dollars, the minimum needed for a bank to make its mark on a European level, he said.

    Otherwise, Alpha Credit would need another three or four years to reach the same level.

    The Alpha group would have no major problem in absorbing Ionian's workforce of 4000 into the group, Mr. Costopoulos said.

    At the same time, a purchase cost above Ionian's book value of 45 billion drachmas for a 51 percent stake would lower the buyer's capital adequacy.

    Ionian's finances and pending tax and legal issues also needed more study.

    The bank was due to be sold in July but its first half balance sheet had yet to be published, Mr. Costopoulos said.

    Alpha Credit Bank is to boost its share capital by 88 billion drachmas in order to aid its growth. The offer is to be held on June 22-24 .

    Papaioannou: Gov't will safeguard Ionian employees' insurance rights : Labour Minister Miltiades Papaioannou held talks yesterday with the Federation of Bank Employee Unions' (OTOE) presidium and representatives of the Ionian Bank's union, stressing the political will of the ministry to have the insurance rights of Ionian's employees safeguarded in whatever privatisation process.

    The unionists' position concerning the continuation or not of their strike will depend on whether this specific political volition is expressed in writing and as a commitment in a document they are expecting from the Commercial Bank's governor.

    The final decisions on the strike will be taken today at a meeting of the staff union's board. Meanwhile, the bank's administration yesterday filed a new lawsuit, its fourth, against the strikers.

    After his meeting with the union members, Mr. Papaioannou said that he believes that the Commercial Bank must include in the proclamation on tendering concerning the Ionian Bank's privatisation insurance preconditions as well, as promised, as well as the safeguarding of employment.

    He said that OTOE's claim for a unified fund for bank employees' main pension was just. He added that a relevant meeting with OTOE and the Union of Greek Banks is expected in June where finalised directions will be set and the unified fund might be regu lated in the small insurance package expected soon.

    After these promises were given, Mr. Papaioannou said that he sees "no point in the continuation of the strike" and called on the unionists to help in finding a solution.

    OTOE President Dimitris Kouselas said earlier that the unionists want in the event of sale, although disagreeing with such a prospect, jobs and insurance rights to be consolidated and safeguarded through the tendering proclamation and the sale contract.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Retail sales rise 1.1 pct in first quarter

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    The volume of retail sales rose by 1.1 percent in the first quarter of 1998, the Greek National Statistics Service said yesterday.

    In March, the volume of retail sales fell by 0.8 percent from the same month last year, GNSS said in a statement.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] Greek stocks slump 2.19 pct, turnover edges down

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Greek equities remained under pressure yesterday to lose substantial ground on the Athens Stock Exchange in declining turnover.

    The general index fell 2.19 percent to sink below support at 2,500 points, finishing at 2,485.74 points.

    Trade was light to moderate with turnover at 45.2 billion drachmas. Sector indices ended lower across the board.

    Banks fell 2.26 percent, Insurance eased 2.19 percent, Investment dropped 2.26 percent, Leasing plunged 6.27 percent, Industrials fell 2.47 percent, Construction was 2.80 percent lower, Miscellaneous dropped 3.70 percent and Holding fell 1.87 percent.

    The parallel market index for small cap companies dropped 2.95 percent. The FTSE/ASE 20 index fell 1.93 percent to 1,482.68.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 207 to 42 with another 15 issues unchanged.

    Bank of Central Greece, Papoutsanis, Sarandopoulos, Karelias, Halcor, Xylemporia and Tria Alpha scored the biggest percentage gains.

    Ippotour, Teletypos, Ideal, Halyps, Allatini, Radio Athina, Ekter, Eskimo and Lampsa suffered the heaviest losses.

    National Bank of Greece ended at 40,600 drachmas, Ergobank at 26,700, Alpha Credit Bank at 30,750, Delta Dairy at 4,125,Titan Cement at 21,500, Intracom at 23,900 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 8, 400.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] European Court says Greece guilty over water pollution

    BRUSSELS 12/06/1998 (ANA/P.Pantelis)

    The European Court of Justice yesterday ruled that Greece had failed to properly implement a European Union directive on curbing water pollution.

    The petition against Greece was brought by the EU's executive Commission.

    The failure to implement Article 7 of Directive 464, issued in 1976, applies to hazardous waste in selected waterways.

    It rejected the Commission's petition that Greece had also erred over article 2 of the same directive concerning the reduction of pollution after Greece showed that measures had been taken.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] Greece will not hold EMU referendum

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday that the government would not hold a referendum on whether the country should join the European Union's economic and monetary union (EMU).

    Mr. Reppas was countering a report to the contrary in an Athens daily newspaper.

    He said the overwhelming majority of the public backed EMU entry.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Greek state telecom defends bid in Moldova tender

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) yesterday defended its bid in an international tender to buy a minority stake in Moldova's state telecom.

    OTE's chief executive officer, George Chryssolouris, told a news conference that the bid was above board, countering a report in an Athens daily that claimed vested interests were involved in the deal.

    Mr. Chryssolouris said that OTE's board had acted in full transparency by hiring Ionian Finance and Credit Suisse First Boston as financial consultants for its participation in the tender.

    It had also hired Price Waterhouse as auditing consultant and Tsecouras Associates as legal advisers to handle valuation of Molbtelecom.

    Mr. Chryssolouris said that an agreement had yet to be reached over the purchase of a 40 percent state in the Moldovan firm.

    Any agreement would be given to OTE's board for approval, and then submitted formally to Moldova's government.

    The Moldovan government in May resumed negotiations following general elections.

    Mr. Chryssolouris said that OTE was considering offering a higher bid on condition that certain terms in the sale were improved to ensure returns on the investment.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] National Bank of Greece posts 61 pct profit jump Jan-Apr

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    State-run National Bank of Greece yesterday reported pre-tax profits of 37.5 billion drachmas in January-April from 23.3 billion in the same period of last year, marking a 61 percent rise.

    National Bank's branches abroad posted an 84 percent jump in pre-tax profits, management said in a statement.

    The increase in profits was due to progress in a modernisation programme being carried out by the bank and to revitalisation of its loans and equities portfolios, the statement said.

    Also contributing to profitability were opportunities arising from positive macro-economic developments; a rise in the Athens Stock Exchange; and favourable conditions in capital markets linked mainly to the drachma's entry into the European Union's exc hange rate mechanism on March 14, it said.

    National Bank of Greece also announced the launch of a new product, which offers public employees whose salaries are paid through the bank higher rates on deposits and lower rates on loans.

    Athens News Agency

    [09] Bank of Piraeus has 164 pct profit rise in Jan-May

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Private Bank of Piraeus has posted a rise in pre-tax earnings of 164 percent in January-May against the same period of last year.

    The bank said in a statement yesterday that deposits had increased by 151 percent in May from the same month a year ago and loans by 94.4 percent.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] SETE announces only marginal increase in April-May tourist arrivals

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    The Federation of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) organised a press conference yesterday where SETE officials presented initial figures on the April-May period.

    According to SETE, an increase in arrivals was very small and marginal for overnight stays compared with the corresponding period last year, while there are fears that exchange revenues will decrease as Greece is attracting tourists from lower income brackets.

    SETE said that despite the drachma's devaluation last March the Greek tourist package shows decreased international competitiveness and for this reason the domestic sector appears unable to benefit, in spite of reported problems faced by Turkish and Egyptian tourism.

    According to SETE's data on bookings, June and September will be very good months for Greek hotels, while on the contrary, a "lag" is expected in bookings over the July-August period, primarily due to a drop in tourists from Germany. However, Greeks can expect better prices this year and special offers from the country's hotels.

    SETE criticised tourism policy being applied for being unable to provide solutions to longstanding problems. Among others, officials said the tourism sector is dragged from one ministry to another, according to the wishes of each government, resulting i n continuous confusion regarding duties between ministries and the Greek Tourism Organisation (EOT).

    SETE's leadership also claimed that the privatisations programme for tourism has not produced results since many portions of EOT's holdings are provided for private citizens, but in practice very few privatisations have been carried out so far. Due to layers of bureaucracy, a considerable delay is also being observed in the absorption of European Union funds for the modernisation of tourist enterprises, they said, while the situation with Olympic Airways has worsened instead of improving.

    SETE's position is that long-term government policies of protecting the national carrier from healthy competition must stop, while other Greek and foreign companies must be allowed to serve destinations in Greece without restrictions.

    Athens News Agency

    [11] Intrakom halves nominal price of shares

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Greece's largest telecoms group, Intrakom, decided at a general shareholders' meeting yesterday to halve the nominal price of shares from 700 to 350 drachmas each, and distribute two new shares for each old one.

    The group's turnover is estimated to reach 40 billion drachmas in the first half of 1998 - compared to 23 billion in the same period in 1997. Exports are projected to exceed 10 billion, up from 6.5 billion, while pre-tax profits eight billion, compared to 5.7 billion in the first half of 1997.

    Intrakom founder and president Socrates Kokkalis said 1998 results would considerably exceed initial projections due to positive developments in the group's activities, particularly with regard to weapons systems and exports.

    Athens News Agency

    [12] Bolivian trade event in Athens

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Bolivian officials will host an event at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) on June 19 for promotion of bilateral trade relations.

    The honorary consul of Bolivia in Greece, Pelopidas Papadopoulos, and La Paz's ambassador in Rome, Zuazo Chavez, will showcase the South American nation's advantages.

    Athens News Agency

    [13] Exhibition focuses on Epirus

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    The 6th panhellenic trade exhibition "Epirus" opened its doors in Ioannina on Wednesday. It is being organised by Helexpo with the support of the Epirus Regional Centre, local agencies and others, lasting until June 14.

    The main characteristic of this year's exhibition are efforts to attract select commercial visitors, primarily from Balkan countries, an increase in conventional events and their distribution to other urban centres in the area.

    An effort was also made to preserve trade relations with firms in southern Italy, which were developed during the previous exhibitions.

    The exhibition's Balkan dimension, its prospects and the need to create new exhibition installations constituted the focal point of addresses made during the opening ceremony on Wednesday night.

    Athens News Agency

    [14] Ergobank loan programme at 21.5 per cent

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Ergobank announced a new consumer loan offering one million drachmas through an open current account. The current annual nominal interest rate in effect for the loan is 21.50 per cent.

    A borrower has the option of disbursing, within the specified limit, whatever amount he wishes from Ergobank's ATM network through the "ERGO 24" card.

    Interest is figured on the amount used, not on the total loan. The specific loan has no specific expiry or final payment of the loan date. A customer is, however, obligated to pay every month 5 per cent of the total amount owed with 25,000 drachmas as the minimum installment.

    The municipality of Agios Nikolaos, Crete received a record 13 "blue flags" for the quality of its beaches in 1998, the most in Greece.

    Athens News Agency

    [15] Clashes around the country over teacher appointment exams

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Police around the country yesterday morning clashed with unappointed educators and teacher union members attempting to take over school buildings set for exam centres in a nation-wide competition to change the way appointments are made for state schools.

    One police officer was slightly injured and two protesters were arrested yesterday morning when about 70 demonstrators managed to break through a police guard at a primary school in suburban Pefki at around midnight.

    Police ended the occupation at about 7:30 a.m. They said there had been minor damage to the school premises.

    Protesters, however, managed to take over exam centres in the rest of the country, namely, in Pyrgos, Agrinio, Kozani and Rhodes, despite police being stationed at all the 32 centres.

    In the Athens suburb of Patissia, teachers and students wielding sticks and stones tried to break through a police guard at another school, but were turned back by riot police using tear gas. Four people were arrested.

    Clashes were also reported at the seaside suburb of Alimos, where teachers tried to break down a door. There were no reports of arrests or injuries.

    Teachers representatives yesterday warned of a "general upheaval" across the country if the ministry persisted in holding the examinations, to be sat by 46,500 unemployed teachers to determine whether and when they will be appointed to state school jobs .

    The exam for new appointments to state schools is expected to gradually phase out the decades-long waiting list for recruitment and provide 20 per cent of new teaching appointments for the 1998-1999 school year.

    In Thessaloniki, police responded with tear gas to disperse a crowd of protesting teachers and members of leftist groups which pelted them with soft drink cans and other items at one of the northern city's four centres.

    Three people were arrested during the clashes while another three protesters - all women - were overcome by tear gas and taken to hospital for treatment.

    The government later condemned the violence, saying it was the work of "a small group of teachers". "They do their vocation no honour," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said, adding that the majority of teachers had nothing to do with "this sort of behaviour".

    "We condemn this small group of teachers who, with the assistance of people unrelated to the teaching community and possibly with anarchic ideologies are developing illegal activity against the state, students being examined and their own colleagues who have stated they want to participate in the competition," he said.

    Mr. Reppas called on the civil servants umbrella assocation ADEDY, the teachers' union OLME and all political parties to condemn the incidents.

    "We are not asking for a condemnation of positions and opinions but for the condemnation of (this sort of) behaviour and stance," Mr. Reppas added.

    Responding to a question of whether the government was "proud of its use of riot police," he said:

    "We are proud because we have an integrated policy to deal with the problems, something no-one else has."

    The government aims at dialogue and understanding, Mr. Reppas said, but "judicial and police authorities have the right to intervene to uphold the law".

    "The government will not hand over society to be held hostage to small groups and it is determined and has the ability to implement its policies," he said.

    Opposition : On his part, main opposition New Democracy spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said the government is responsible for the problems surrounding the current exams.

    He added that ND is also against the system of appointment based on seniority of graduation, but expressed concerns over the transparency of the examination and placed a share of the responsibility on members of the teachers' unions.

    Coalition for the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos accused the government of displaying what he called as authoritarian and undemocratic stance.

    He said his party is against the exam-based hiring system and condemned the mobilisation of the riot police.

    Political Spring issued an announcement calling on both the government and the unions to solve the issue through "constructive dialogue".

    Athens News Agency

    [16] Parliament votes in favour of Article 19 abolition

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Parliament yesterday approved the proposed abolition of Article 19 of the Constitution's naturalisation code, which stipulates that non-ethnic Greeks can lose their Greek citizenship in the event they leave the country permanently.

    Interior Minister Alekos Papadopoulos clarified that the abolition will not be retroactive, as was requested by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Coalition for the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) and three Moslem deputies.

    However, several ruling PASOK, main opposition New Democracy and Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) deputies disagreed with the proposed amendment.

    PASOK deputy and former minister Anastasios Peponis said "the amendment is a product of pressure from abroad."

    On his part, DHKKI leader Dimitris Tsovolas, ND deputies Apostolos Andreoulakos, Ilias Vasdevanis and E. Haitidis also criticised the move.

    In an unrelated development, Mr. Papadopoulos also announced amendments to a new election bill, according to which publication or execution of any and all public opinion polls is prohibited 15 days before national elections.

    Specifically, exit-polls will be allowed only after the end of voting, while polling will be allowed in the last 15 days before a national election only by political parties and for internal purposes only.

    According to the announcement, all other polling or the publishing of such polls 15 days before the elections will be prohibited. Local elections are excluded.

    Athens News Agency

    [17] Greece rejects any EU summit move on Turkey ties

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Greece said yesterday it would not agree at next week's EU summit to offer Turkey better relations with the European Union and would not succumb to pressure from other member states to do so.

    "This is a problem that has already been solved," Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos told Reuters in an interview. "We are not in the Union to talk all the time about...Turkey."

    Mr. Pangalos dismissed efforts by the British EU presidency to find a way to ease Turkish anger at being left off a list of EU candidates at a summit in Luxembourg last December.

    "I don't see why a very successful summit like Luxembourg has to be revived or reformulated just because Turkey has a problem with our decision," he said.

    He said Turkey, which is at odds with Greece over sovereignty in the Aegean and over Cyprus, had done nothing but engage in "insults, blackmail and threats" against the EU since being left off the new-members list.

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis is to meet his British counterpart Tony Blair in London on Saturday before next Monday's summit in Cardiff.

    Russian missiles : Mr. Pangalos also said the Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles destined for Cyprus would not be ready until November.

    "The missiles are not there (in Cyprus) because they are not ready," he told Reuters. "They will be ready in autumn, some time in November."

    A Russian newspaper reported on Tuesday that the S-300 missiles had already been sent to the Mediterranean island. The report was denied by Greece and Turkey.

    Turkey has threatened to stop deployment of the missiles, which it claims will disrupt the balance of power on the island.

    Greece has said any such military intervention would be a cause for war. The missiles had been expected in summer, but delays have been reported lately.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded the northern third of the island. More than 35,000 Turkish troops are stationed in the occupied part of the island republic.

    Athens News Agency

    [18] Turkish FM spokesman takes exception to 'eastern slyness' statement

    ANKARA 12/06/1998 (ANA - A. Abatzis)

    Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Nezati Utkan yesterday criticised the term "eastern slyness" government spokesman Dimitris Reppas used three days ago in describing Ankara's demands that the Madrid communique be transformed into a legally binding agreement.

    Mr. Utkan said Mr. Reppas "has a habit of making such inappropriate comparisons," adding: "it comes to me to say Byzantine intrigue, but I am not saying it."

    The spokesman also criticised Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos for his statements to a private Turkish TV station, namely, that the Turks are a minority on Cyprus and that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is not considered an honourable interlocu tor any more by the international community.

    Mr. Utkan said that Turkish Cypriots are one of "the masters of the island..."

    Athens News Agency

    [19] Tsohatzopoulos stresses autonomy as the key for Kosovo solution

    BRUSSELS 12/06/1998 (ANA - P. Pantelis)

    Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is theoretically correct in claiming that the Kosovo crisis is an internal problem, although the crisis is leading to an explosion with international repercussions, therefore, he cannot legitimately refuse the region's autonomy, Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said here yesterday.

    "The international community is asking for a collective decision so that NATO may be able to exercise effective pressure on Mr. Milosevic and Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova," he said in an interview after the end of a NATO defence ministers' sess ion.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said he told his counterparts that the experience drawn from the present handling of the situation in Bosnia helped in dealing with the Kosovo problem. He emphasised, however, that no measure proposed could be implemented without a le gal basis.

    "Greece will insist on this point and has every reason to hope that the crisis is averted, as it would have serious repercussions on neighbouring countries and Greece," he said.

    "The Kosovo problem is not solved through military means, that will stoke the fires. The solution is dialogue with a view to an autonomous administration, which ethnic Albanians have the right to claim," he stressed.

    Athens News Agency

    [20] Greek firms see delay,not disaster,in Kosovo ban

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Greek firms with vested interests in Serbia say a recent European Union ban forbidding new investment in the Balkan state will put back their expansion plans, but not their long-term goals.

    "There will be a delay in our investment programme," said George Karaplis, chief financial officer and international vice president at Greek state telecom OTE . "But it's an issue of strategy and we cannot abandon it."

    The European Union imposed the ban on Serbia on Monday in response to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's military crackdown in the ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo.

    OTE, one of the biggest investors in Serbia, has bought 20 percent of Srbija Telecom and is eager to proceed with a $200 million, five-year investment plan. Italy's Stet owns 29 percent of the state-controlled firm.

    Mr. Karaplis told Reuters: "We should not let temporary shortcomings influence our long-term plans." He said OTE could not afford to ignore a market of two million consumers, geographically close to Greece -- an important factor in telecoms -- a nd a necessary crossroads for further expansion in Romania and other Balkan countries.

    Private Greek firms appeared equally eager to brush off the new sanctions as a temporary glitch. But they said the move could put off newcomers.

    "We are not affected at all at this moment by the ban," said Evangelos Mytilineos, president of metals trading firm Mytilineos which signed a strategic seven-year, $1 billion deal with Yugo RTB-Bor Group in February.

    He said plans to upgrade copper, lead and zinc mines would span over the next seven years and would not suffer if they were delayed for a few months, but other private investors would think twice before venturing into Serbia. "

    Greek companies will not cancel investments in Serbia, they will put them on hold for now," he said. "The ban hurts Serbia more than any Greek company."

    Titan Cement , one of several Greek firms eyeing Serbia, said it had considered a buyout there but would have to change its plans after the ban.

    "This (ban) will surely affect our future plans," a company spokesman said. "But it's not like we didn't know the risks."

    Stock market analysts said the sanctions were not expected to affect Greek listed firms, which have a long experience in the economically and politically turbulent Balkans.

    "Companies that have ventured in the Balkans -- and Serbia -- are not expected to be hurt at the stock exchange as a result of the sanctions. The market saw it coming and pretty much discounted it," an analyst at Telesis Securities said. (Reuters)

    Athens News Agency

    [21] Greece expected to again issue official request for marbles' return

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Culture ministry officials yesterday denied reports that Britain had rejected a proposal by Athens earlier this week for an international committee to examine the Parthenon Marbles.

    "There is not such official announcement from the (British) foreign office, " the officials said.

    They said Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos would hand Britain's ambassador to Greece a formal request for the return of the 5th century BC sculptures at the beginning of next week.

    Greece on Tuesday said it would demand an immediate inspection of the Parthenon Marbles in London following a disclosure by a British historian that the friezes were damaged during restoration at the British Museum in the late 1930s, museum staff had tr ied to clean them.

    Mr. Venizelos told a news conference on Tuesday that Greece would ask UNESCO, or UNESCO's International Council of Museums (ICOM), to set up a committee to inspect the condition of the marbles. Earlier yesterday, AFP reported that a British culture ministry spokesperson had rejected the proposal and reiterated that the marbles had been legally acquired by the museum.

    However, a later ANA dispatch from London reported that a British culture ministry spokesman had denied the AFP report.

    "No spokesman from the ministry made such statement," the British official said.

    He said that the only comment that was made by his ministry was that "the marbles issue concerns the British Museum".

    The museum, he added "works for the establishment of a committee next year, which will examine and pronounce on the marbles' condition. The ministry will not interfere in this matter."

    Athens News Agency

    [22] Protests in downtown Athens

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Hundreds of protesters, mainly Ionian Bank employees and unappointed teachers, took part in a General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) rally in Athens yesterday to condemn what they called the government's heavy-handed treatment of strikers and o ccupiers of examination centres.

    The rally was followed by a march to the education ministry and Parliament.

    Athens News Agency

    [23] Simitis-Venizelos discuss 2004 Olympics

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Premier Costas Simitis held talks with Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday on preparations for a first general assembly of the 2004 Olympic Games national committee. The event will be held at ancient Olympia on June 20. Speaking to reporters af terwards, Mr. Venizelos said the conference "is a very important event for the promotion of the new concept which must prevail in organising the Olympic Games. I think that it is an opportunity to mobilise all the forces of the country, and expatriate Greeks of course..."
    Athens News Agency

    [24] PASOK expels Beis for running in Athens mayoral race

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    The ruling PASOK party yesterday expelled one of its founding members and past Athens mayor for going against a central committee decision to support a non-PASOK candidate in the Greek capital's upcoming mayoral elections.

    Dimitris Beis, a former long-time deputy with PASOK as well, refused to withdraw his candidacy for mayor, challenging Maria Damanaki, a Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) deputy and one-time leader who has received the ruling party's support in her bid.

    Meeting with Mr. Beis yesterday morning, PASOK Secretary Costas Skandalidis said he told Mr. Beis that his stance undermined PASOK in this autumn's municipal elections.

    Mr. Beis in turn asked PASOK to withdraw support for Ms Damanaki, saying she was not a member of the party, and that it was his candidacy that PASOK should be supporting.

    "Ideas and vision can not be expelled," Mr. Beis told reporters after the meeting.

    "Athens needs a mayor and Ms Damanaki is not the solution. As the secretary of PASOK said recently: 'the Titanic is sinking and the captain is hosting a reception on the deck,' " Mr. Beis said.

    Mr. Skandalidis responded that Mr. Beis had "thrown himself into the sea before hearing any alarm bells" and that he was implementing a central committee decision to discipline PASOK members not toeing the official party line.

    Ms Damanaki was scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos later in the day, reportedly to confer with the minister on her electoral campaign.

    Mr. Pangalos ran unsuccessfully for Athens mayor in 1994, losing to one- time career diplomat Dimitris Avramopoulos, who recently announced his intent to stand for re-election.

    Athens News Agency

    [25] Four foreigners arrested on forged document charges

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Four Egyptians and a Bulgarian national were arrested yesterday for using forged documents in an attempt to obtain temporary residence and work permits from a Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) branch in Pallini, Attica.

    They were identified as Mohamed Zein, 32, Hamada Mustafa, 38, Abdel Aziz, 27, Emad Elsarkaui, 23 and Bulgarian Silvia Valtantzeva, 25.

    Police said Zein was the mastermind of the scam, as six forged copies of criminal records, applications for foreigners and passports were found and confiscated from his residence.

    Police said Zein and Aziz gave to the other three arrested men the forged documents for the issue of the permits.

    Police investigations are continuing to establish whether others are implicated and to determine how many foreigners have obtained residence and work permits with forged documents.

    Athens News Agency

    [26] Agricultural Bank ATM torched

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Three suspects yesterday torched an Agricultural Bank (ATE) automatic teller machine in central Athens, causing extensive damage, police said.

    Eyewitnesses reported that three young men used gas cannisters and gasoline to set the fire, apparently taking advantage of an Ionian Bank employees' rally in the area.

    Athens News Agency

    [27] ND ethics council favours lifting of deputy's Parliamentary immunity

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    The main opposition New Democracy party yesterday decided to request from Parliament to lift deputy Costas Karaminas' immunity, so he may be investigated in the traffic death of a young woman riding in his car on June 1.

    A ND ethics council, presided over former party leader Miltiades Evert, reached a decision unanimously, noting in its decision that in case the deputy's immunity is not lifted he should resign.

    Mr. Karaminas was at the wheel of his Mercedes when the 26-year-old teacher, riding in the back seat, was killed when the vehicle collided with three other parked vehicles. According to police reports, the Samos deputy subsequently refused authorities' request to take a breathalyser.

    The ethics council also decided that in case the deputy does not resign he will be referred to ND's disciplinary council with the question of his dismissal from the party.

    Finally, the council decided that Mr. Karaminas will not participate in the party's committees until his Parliamentary immunity is lifted.

    Athens News Agency

    [28] Man sentenced for drugs, forged documents charges

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    A 50-year-old man was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and fined 200,000 drachmas by a Cretan court yesterday on charges of theft and possession of fake documents as well as narcotics.

    Abu Khader Abraham Mohamed was arrested last week in Irakleio after two German tourists complained to police that he had laced their drinks with drugs before robbing them. Mohamed was also found in possession of a forged Swedish passport.

    The court ruled that the verdict cannot be suspended, while the sentence can be bought-off at 1,500 drachmas per day.

    Athens News Agency

    [29] Three foreigners arrested for drug trafficking

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Athens' Narcotics Squad yesterday said that had broken up a gang of drug traffickers importing high grade cocaine into Greece from Brazil in a sting operation this week.

    Arrested were Nigerian nationals Martin Oeke, 25, Jeff Godson Ayaborsi, 34, and Josiah Ifeanyi Raphael, 33. Another suspect, also Nigerian, is being sought.

    Oeke was arrested on Wednesday when he presented a fake Dutch passport at a suburban post office to pick up a package from Brazil. The package had been intercepted by customs officials last week and found to contain 508.9 grams of cocaine. A police search revealed that the passport had been used on at least two previous occasions this year by members of the ring to take delivery of parcels from Brazil.

    The three are expected to be charged with trafficking later yesterday.

    Athens News Agency

    [30] Dutch national missing on Samos

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Army and police rescue units, aided by a helicopter, began a search early yesterday morning for a 32-year-old Dutch national missing since Wednesday off Mount Kerkis, on the eastern Aegean island of Samos.

    Marcel Ekkelar (phonetic spelling) had water and a compass with him, according to reports. He was last seen by a shepherd after leaving the Evangelistria Monastery. A companion notified police after he failed to turn up Wednesday evening.

    Athens News Agency

    [31] Karamanlis says almost two decades of opportunities squandered in farm sector

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis yesterday called for the formulation of a clear, specific and cohesive agricultural policy, stressing that farm issues were a top priority for ND.

    Speaking at a ND conference on the "Agenda 2000" programme and prospects of Greek agriculture, he said Greece had lost two decades of tremendous opportunities offered by the European Union, as fund inflows were not put to proper use and as a result pro ducers were not yet ready to face competitiveness.

    "It is time to roll sleeves up," he said, stressing that the farm sector needed extensive institutional reform.

    He noted that the cost of money for farmers borrowing from the Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE) was higher than in commercial banks, and that 500 billion drachmas in loans were unlikely to be repaid.

    He said his party supported the agricultural cooperative movement, but in many instances in the past, cooperatives have been centres of scandals, mismanagement and a waste of public money.

    They should operate on the principle of transparency and economic viability, he added.

    He also recommended reductions in fuel and power rates for farmers, in VAT on imported farmers' equipment as well as lower inheritance tax on farm land.

    Finally, he stressed his proposals had been made after thorough study.

    "We are thinking as a government and not as opposition,"he stressed. The whole set would cost 70 to 80 billion drachmas, when the government has wasted 700 billion on Olympic Airways and another 800 billion to meet its promises for the re-nationalisati on of the Athens urban transport system.

    Athens News Agency

    [32] Aluminium de Grece records higher profits in first quarter

    Athens 12/06/1998 (ANA)

    Aluminium de Grece, a subsdiary of the French Pechiney multinational, recorded profits to the tune of US$12 million in the first quarter of '98, a company statement stated yesterday.

    The favourable development is mainly atttibuted to the application of the "Challenge" restructuring programme.

    The company plans to implement a $63.4 million-investment programme through 1999.

    A current voluntary retirement programme, in application since early 1996, cost the company $8.5 million in 1997, with the number of retirees higher than expected.

    First half-results for 1998 are expected to reflect a better climate in international markets in 1997, although a $150-tonne decrease in the price of the metal between January and May makes the outlook uncertain for the second half.

    Athens News Agency

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