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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-02-04

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Simitis TV interview covers several topics
  • [02] Thessaloniki metro for launch in autumn 2004
  • [03] TVX Hellas seeks 50 percent partner
  • [04] Equity mutual fund assets up 31.31 pct in January
  • [05] Stocks post new record after early slump
  • [06] Central bank keeps intervention rate steady
  • [07] Greek, Dutch software firms forge key alliance
  • [08] Plesio Computers to hold IPO next week
  • [09] Capital markets committee signs European pact
  • [10] Commission forecasts for Greek economy
  • [11] Measures to better brief taxpayers
  • [12] Gasoline up, diesel down
  • [13] ELVAL investments
  • [14] HEPO conference for Romanian delegation
  • [15] Court hears ARAMCO motion to freeze Vardinoyiannis' family's assets
  • [16] Athens Foreign Exchange
  • [17] NATO chief in Athens for talks
  • [18] Paschalidis in Washington
  • [19] CIA chief sees less risk for Greek-Turkish conflict
  • [20] Gov't: No difference of opinion between Pangalos,Tsohatzopoulos over S- 300s
  • [21] ESP presidium adopts 'manifesto' for June Euro-elections
  • [22] US ambassador on Ocalan issue
  • [23] Burns cites US interest in improving trade ties with N. Greece
  • [24] Constantopoulos in Moscow
  • [25] Problems in delivery of Russian natural gas cited
  • [26] Athens support for Kosovo solution
  • [27] German armoured batallion readies for Kosovo mission
  • [28] Venizelos talks with Spanish, Italian counterparts in Madrid
  • [29] Insurance industry calls for new crusade against traffic accidents

  • [01] Simitis TV interview covers several topics

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday expressed support for another term in office by current President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.

    "He is a very able and competent president. He has correctly kept the dictates of the Constitution and I believe he should be president of the republic for the next four-year term," he said during an interview with the private "Mega" television channel .

    He stressed again that double elections for Greece and the European Parliament would not take place in June, while he said he did not care who would be his main opponent in the next national elections, whether it was New Democracy leader Costas Karamanl is or Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos. He stressed that the main issue at hand was for the government to carry out its task.

    Mr. Simitis categorically reiterated that Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan had not asked for political asylum in Greece, and that if he came this would prove Turkish claims that Greece was fuelling the Kurdish uprising.

    "This would also be detrimental to the Kurds themselves, and Turkey would be granted the additional argument that Greece was stoking tension and exhibiting aggressive tendencies," he said.

    Referring to the Cypriot government's order of the Russian-made S-300 anti- aircraft missiles for installation on Cyprus, now cancelled, Mr. Simitis said it had not been made during his term in office, and that its cancellation, over which Greece concurred, was ultimately the best course.

    "It was a decision obviously adopted for various reasons, tactical, military etc. With the solution given by the Cypriot government (i.e., cancellation), we achieved the best possible arrangement, by bringing the Cyprus issue onto the forestage again," he said.

    He was responding to a question in reference to foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos' statement earlier this week that the idea of the missiles was "wrong from the start", and a subsequent comment by defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos that "it was not a mistake".

    He further said that "the US, Britain and the European Union have undertaken, through statements, the obligation to move the Cyprus issue again," and that Greece had to keep spurring the interest of the international community.

    "The Cyprus issue makes progress because of the alertness of the international community. When this alertness subsides, we have the obligation to remind of the issue again, and this we achieved," he said.

    Mr. Simitis said Greece's other strategic goal for many years, namely, that Cyprus would start accession negotiations with the EU, was making progress and that Turkey was realising it was losing in this process and was being left further behind Greece.

    He said this was a new development, allowing Turkey to again try create tension.

    "However, Greece is not interested in aggression, and will move ahead towards its accession to EMU and Cyprus' EU membership negotiations," he added.

    Referring to the Imia islets stand-off between Greece and Turkey in January 1996, he said Turkey failed to bring Greece to the negotiating table, which was its aim, and Greece was successful in insisting that international problems should be solved on the basis of international law and treaties.

    Referring to other matters, he said the education reform programme would definitely go ahead as planned.

    The prospect of falling interest rates would mean that the country would by paying less for debt repayments and would have more money to spend in other areas, the premier said.

    The prime minister admitted that there were differences inside the ruling PASOK party, but these should not be exaggerated, because events refuted speculation. He further replied he would decide in 2004 if he would be again a candidate for the premiers hip (provided PASOK won next year's elections), as he held the view that one person should contribute as much as he could and depending on conditions, and that ther should be renewal.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Thessaloniki metro for launch in autumn 2004

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    The Thessaloniki metro, which is to cost around 220 billion drachmas, will start operating in the fall of 2004, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis said yesterday.

    He was speaking after an inner cabinet meeting that approved a contract with the Thessaloniki Metro consortium, led by Bouygues of France, to build and operate the metro for 20 years. Ownership will then revert to the state.

    Bouygues, the major shareholder, is to sign the contract with the state tomorrow.

    Mr. Laliotis said that construction will begin immediately after ratification of the deal by parliament, and take five years.

    Preliminary works are to start six to eight months from parliamentary approval, and loans will be concluded with banks around October for the co- financed project.

    The metro line will have a length of nine kilometres and 789 metres from the city's new railway station to the Depo neighbourhood.

    Fourteen stations are to be built, and the metro will have a capacity of 18, 500 passengers in each direction at peak travelling times.

    The project's total cost in current prices, 67 billion will come from state coffers, 31 billion drachmas from the consortium's equity capital and the rest in loans from the European Investment Bank, commercial banks and other financial institutions.

    The deal also envisages a state subsidy on fares of 215 percent for a total of 30 million tickets annually. Fares have been calculated on the basis of a 1993 price of 110 drachmas including Value Added Tax.

    Negotiations for the project had begun in 1993 with the project tender's original winner - a consortium led by Michaniki of Greece - before the ministry terminated the talks, citing major disagreements. It switched instead to the Bouygues-led group.

    Northern minister welcome start of project : Macedonia-Thrace Minister Yiannis Magriotis welcomed approval of the contract, describing it as a historic day for the city.

    "After years of intense disagreements and futile conflicts that have divided the city and led to the project's stagnation, the greatest project ever to take place in the city will begin," Mr. Magriotis said.

    He said the quality of daily life would greatly improve due to the metro.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] TVX Hellas seeks 50 percent partner

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    TVX Hellas, a subsidiary of Canadian miner TVX Gold Inc., said yesterday it was seeking a partner to buy 50 percent of its share capital.

    The firm has a concession to mines in Halkidiki, northern Greece, and is to build a gold unit there. In the past work was dogged by protests from local residents.

    It said in a statement that it would extend an existing deadline for bids by several days to February 15 in order to allow investors to study the investment plans. Working with its financial consultant, N.M. Rothchild Inc., the listed parent company will allow several weeks for negotiations before a partner is chosen, the statement said.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] Equity mutual fund assets up 31.31 pct in January

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    Assets of domestic equity mutual funds recorded a substantial increase in January, rising by 31.31 percent while their share of overall mutual funds market rose to 7.2 percent from 5.82 percent in December.

    Average returns on the category's 35 mutual funds since the beginning of the year totalled 14.2 percent.

    Ionian Equity topped the list on the basis of returns at 23.12 percent, followed by Egnatia-Olympia (20.65 pct), Telesis Popular Equity (19.70 pct), Alpha Trust Infrastructure (19.54 pct) and Eurohellenic Equity (18.28 pct).

    Athens News Agency

    [05] Stocks post new record after early slump

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    Equities yesterday remained on a record-breaking track for the seventh consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange with the general index ending 0.86 percent up at 3,306.06 points.

    The market initially dropped 1.80 percent but the fall led to a wave of speculative buying, reversing the trend. Traders said that excessive liquidity in the market prevented a normal downward correction of prices.

    Trading focused on banking shares once again.

    Alpha Credit Bank soared 8.0 percent to 36,126 drachmas following its board's decision to launch a rights issue.

    The market also discounted a successful sale of a majority stake in state- owned Ionian Bank. Non-binding bids are to be submitted to J.P. Morgan, the tender's consultant, by February 8.

    Commercial Bank, Ionian's main shareholder, surged 8.0 percent to 34,182 drachmas, followed by Ionian Bank with a 7.9 percent rise to 17,540 drachmas and Bank of Piraeus, up 8.0 percent to 11,113. drachmas.

    On the other hand, National Bank of Greece finally ended a prolonged rally to end 5.4 percent down at 21,500 drachmas.

    Sector indices scored gains.

    Banks rose 1.48 percent, Leasing ended 1.96 percent up, Insurance fell 0.22 percent, Investment jumped 3.14 percent, Construction rose 2.11 percent, Industrials ended 0.66 percent higher, Miscellaneous ended 1.04 percentup and Holding eased 1.64 percent .

    The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 2.27 percent up.

    Turnover was 149.8 billion drachmas and volume 22,610.788 shares.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 144 to 129 with another 17 issues unchanged.

    Eskimo, National Bank, Bank of Piraeus and Attica Bank were the most heavily traded stocks.

    Atticat, Alcar-Aemet, GEK, Ionian Hotels, Alpha Finance, Singular, Lambrakis Press hit the day's 8.0 percent limit up. Etma, General Trading, Hellenic Spinning Mills, Mouzakis, Uncle Stathis, Parnassos, Ekter, Gnomon and Benroubi suffered the heaviest losses.

    Ergobank ended at 26,005 drachmas, Titan Cement at 23,500, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,305, Intracom at 15,400, Minoan Lines at 7,300, Panafon at 10,700 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,450.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] Central bank keeps intervention rate steady

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    The Bank of Greece yesterday kept unchanged its 12-percent intervention rate for two-week funds in a depo tender held each Wednesday.

    Plenty of liquidity remained in the money market after the central bank absorbed 200 billion drachmas, in turn aiding interbank rates to edge down and bond prices to rise.

    The overnight rate was 10.10 percent and the rate for two-week funds 10.80 percent.

    Bond prices edged up 10-20 basis points, with the latest 10-year bond ending at 102.35 and the previous issue at 117.15.

    The spread between the paper and its German equivalent is currently 226 points from 230 basis points the previous day.

    In the foreign currency market the central bank bought 200 million euros in order to curb the drachma's rise.

    The national currency's parity against the euro was 321.010 at the daily fix from 320.830 the previous day.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Greek, Dutch software firms forge key alliance

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    The Singular Group of Greece and Baan of the Netherlands yesterday announced a strategic alliance in the software sector targeting 25 countries in eastern Europe.

    The deal includes setting up a new company called Baan Eastern Europe Localization Centre in which Singular Northern Greece will have an 85 percent stake, and Baan Company 15 percent.

    The newly created firm will develop applications in eastern Europe based on Baan's technology.

    Singular Northern Greece is also to wholly acquire Baan Hellas, which in turn will acquire Baan's subsidiaries in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

    The total cost of the investment, including the buyout price, is to total 8.0 million dollars over the next two years.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] Plesio Computers to hold IPO next week

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    Plesio Computers, which sells information technology and office equipment, is to hold an initial public offer on February 10-12 to enter the parallel market of the Athens Stock Exchange.

    The firm will issue 600,000 new common shares at 3,250 drachmas each.

    Tapping the market for 1.950 billion drachmas, Plesio Computers will spend the lion's share on opening four new stores, setting up a new distribution centre, and expanding an existing centre.

    Athens News Agency

    [09] Capital markets committee signs European pact

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    The Greek capital markets committee and 16 other members of the European umbrella group, FESCO, yesterday signed a cooperation protocol in Paris.

    The national committee was represented by its chairman, Stavros Thomadakis.

    Under the protocol, Europe's 17 capital markets committees will cooperate in regulatory work, exchange information and conduct joint research in order to boost transparency and harmonisation in the aftermath of the euro's introduction in 11 countries.

    The protocol envisages the formation of Fescopol, a body to exchange information and carry out checks, which will have regular meetings.

    FESCO will start publishing an annual report from 2000.

    The European Union's executive Commission hailed the deal as a major step towards closer regulatory cooperation among European capital markets.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] Commission forecasts for Greek economy

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    The period from March until the end of June is considered important for the Greek economy and its prospects regarding the target of adopting the common currency on Jan. 1, 2001.

    The European Commission will release its first report this year with forecasts and estimates concerning the economy's basic indicators at the end of March. These indicators, inflation, debt, deficit, and interest rates will be the ones on the basis of which the country will join the euro zone.

    End of May or early June, Commission experts will visit Greece to collect data for its annual report, to be released in the autumn. This report will determine whether Greece joins EMU.

    Besides the Commission experts, officials of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Monetary Fund will be visiting Greece in April and June, respectively, with a view to drafting their own reports.

    Athens News Agency

    [11] Measures to better brief taxpayers

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    Deputy Finance Minister George Drys announced measures yesterday aimed at briefing taxpayers on how to complete their tax statements. However, he said that taxpayers obliged to submit an E3 statement will have to register the new Activitiy Code Number (KAD) in it.

    Mr. Drys said the time limit for self-employed professionals and businesspeople, who are obliged to submit the accompanying E3 document as well, to submit tax statements will be extended for two weeks.

    He further said that two special offices will be created at each tax bureau. The one will receive tax statements from salary earners and pensioners and the other those of self-employed professionals and business people.

    An office manned by specialised staff will also be created to provide advice for all categories of taxpayers.

    Referring to the decision on KAD being registered in the E3 document, Mr. Drys said the country was obliged to do so to harmonise itself with the status applying in the European Union.

    Athens News Agency

    [12] Gasoline up, diesel down

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    The sales prices of diesel and heating oil will decrease as of today and for a week, while prices of gasoline will increase.

    According to announcements by the development ministry and the Hellenic Petroleum, prices of super and unleaded gasoline will increase by 0.30 drachmas per litre, diesel prices will decrease by 0.50 drachmas per litre and those of heating oil by 0.70 dr achmas per litre (for quantities over 1, 000 litres).

    In the Attica region and the Thessaloniki prefecture, super gasoline will cost 192.2 drachmas per litre, unleaded oil 175.6 drachmas per litre and heating oil 64.6 drachmas per litre.

    Athens News Agency

    [13] ELVAL investments

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    Hellenic Aluminium Industries (ELVAL) yesterday announced the completion of a 12-billion-drachma investment in new technologies.

    The company said a new continual casting line, a modern cold rolling mill, a wide width cut-to size line for shipbuilding plates and a new powder coating line were operational.

    The investment of a further 10 billion drachmas for the acquisition of a hi- tech cold rolling mill is under way.

    ELVAL is the only aluminium rolling mill company in Greece and one of the largest in Europe.

    Athens News Agency

    [14] HEPO conference for Romanian delegation

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    Twenty executives representing 15 Romanian firms will arrive to Greece to attend a series of seminars and conferences next week in Athens at the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board (HEPO) offices, and in Thessaloniki on Feb. 10.

    The events will be organised by HEPO, Constanta's Chamber of Commerce and the office of the Romanian embassy's economic adviser.

    The Romanian representatives will present opportunities provided by the area of Constanta, with emphasis being placed on ports and free trade zones in the Black Sea.

    Athens News Agency

    [15] Court hears ARAMCO motion to freeze Vardinoyiannis' family's assets

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    A Greek court yesterday discussed the ARAMCO oil company's request to freeze the Vardinoyiannis' family's assets in Greece.

    The Saudi Arabia-based ARAMCO and the Vardinoyiannis group-owned Motor Oil are at odds over liabilities for the latter, as ARAMCO owns 50 per cent of Motor Oil.

    The motion includes the freezing for up to US$115 million, while Motor Oil representatives told the court that according to an earlier settlement, the Vardinoyiannis familly has already paid US$100 million out of a total of US$329 million owed.

    The court will rule on the motion by next Tuesday.

    Athens News Agency

    [16] Athens Foreign Exchange

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    Bank of Greece closing rates of: February 3, 1999

    Parities in Drachmas

    Banknotes            Buying  Selling
    US Dollar            280.686 287.194
    Can.Dollar           185.663 189.967
    Australian Dlr       180.460 184.644
    Pound Sterling       459.415 470.067
    Irish Punt           404.338 413.713
    Pound Cyprus         548.576 561.295
    Pound Malta          696.000 725.000
    Turkish pound (100)    0.073   0.076
    French franc          48.546  49.672
    Swiss franc          199.258 203.878
    Belgian franc          7.894   8.077
    German Mark          162.817 166.592
    Finnish Mark          53.558  54.800
    Dutch Guilder        144.503 147.853
    Danish Kr.            42.815  43.807
    Swedish Kr.           35.674  36.501
    Norwegian Kr.         36.900  37.756
    Austrian Sh.          23.142  23.679
    Italian lira (100)    16.446  16.828
    Yen (100)            250.123 255.922
    Spanish Peseta         1.914   1.958
    Port. Escudo           1.588   1.625
    Foreign Exchange     Buying  Selling
    New York             280.686 287.194
    Montreal             185.663 189.967
    Sydney               180.460 184.644
    London               459.415 470.067
    Dublin               404.338 413.713
    Nicosia              548.576 561.295
    Paris                 48.546  49.672
    Zurich               199.258 203.878
    Brussels               7.894   8.077
    Frankfurt            162.817 166.592
    Helsinki              53.558  54.800
    Amsterdam            144.503 147.853
    Copenhagen            42.815  43.807
    Stockholm             35.674  36.501
    Oslo                  36.900  37.756
    Vienna                23.142  23.679
    Milan                 16.446  16.828
    Tokyo                250.123 255.922
    Madrid                 1.914   1.958
    Lisbon                 1.588   1.625
    Athens News Agency

    [17] NATO chief in Athens for talks

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana is due to arrive in Athens today as part of a tour of capitals of NATO-member countries ahead of the alliance's summit in Washington in April.

    Developments in the Kosovo crisis, as well as NATO's new structure and Greek-Turkish relations are expected to be the focus of talks Mr. Solana will have with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and National Defence Minist er Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

    A first discussion on NATO's new structure already took place during Monday's meeting between Mr. Pangalos and US ambassador in Athens Nicholas Burns, according to sources.

    Another intricate issue worrying alliance officials is the body's relations with the Ukraine and Russia, given the fact that in spite of initial statements of good intensions, NATO's relations with these states have been hampered by various factors, suc h as the alliance's stance on the Kosovo crisis with NATO's threatened military action. With regard to Greece-Turkey relations, Mr. Solana is said to be disposed to again promote the taking of confidence building measures in the Aegean.

    Nevertheless, Athens does not seem willing to discuss the likelihood of imlementation of such measures given the uncertain situation prevailing in Turkey due to preparations for April's general elections.

    However, according to sources by the international body's HQs, Mr. Solana is intending to proclaim a summer moratorium of military exercises in the Aegean.

    Athens News Agency

    [18] Paschalidis in Washington

    WASHINGTON 04/02/1999 (ANA - T. Ellis)

    Deputy Minister to the PM's office George Paschalidis arrived here yesterday for a short visit to the US capital. Mr. Paschalidis is scheduled to meet with several US administration, State Department and other US federal o fficials, among others.
    Athens News Agency

    [19] CIA chief sees less risk for Greek-Turkish conflict

    WASHINGTON 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    The risk of a Greek-Turkish conflict has declined over the past year, according to George Tenet, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

    In a brief reference to Greek-Turkish relations during a briefing of the US Senate armed forces committee on Tuesday, Mr. Tenet said "prospects were improved in the Aegean, where tension remains but the possibility of an armed conflict between Greece and Turkey has declined now that Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides agreed to the deployment of the Russian missiles (S-300) on Crete (instead of Cyprus)."

    Mr. Tenet was testifying before the committee on tension spots throughout the world and the risks entailed for the US.

    Athens News Agency

    [20] Gov't: No difference of opinion between Pangalos,Tsohatzopoulos over S- 300s

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    The government yesterday dismissed any notion of a difference of opinion between Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos over Cyprus' purchase order and subsequent decision not to deploy the Russian-made S-300 missiles on the divided island.

    Nicosia originally ordered the anti-aircraft missiles to bolster its defences, with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides last December deciding against their deployment.

    Following Mr. Clerides' decision, the Greek government said it would take delivery of the missiles and install them on Crete.

    In recent statements, Mr. Pangalos said the decision to purchase the missiles had been a mistake from the outset, while Mr. Tsohatzopoulos has defended the decision, citing subsequent poor handling as the reason for the eventual cancellation of their de ployment.

    "The criterion for decisions taken by the (Greek) government is the national interest. What may change are the conditions under which each decision is taken," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday when asked by reporters if there was a dif ference of opinion between Mr. Pangalos and Mr. Tsohatzopoulos.

    The spokesman said both ministers were "prominent" cabinet members whose activity was most definitely in the national interest.

    Asked to comment on the Turkish government's position that installation of the S-300 missiles on Crete could be a cause for war with Greece, Mr. Reppas replied:

    "What Turkey says is Turkey's business. What is important is that the decision to install the S-300 missiles on Crete is our decision and has already been taken."

    Mr. Reppas said the time framework for the installation of the missiles on Crete would not be long, while noting that the issue was still the subject of consultations between Nicosia and the Russian manufacturer of the S- 300.

    Cyprus' plans to install the missiles had been criticised by the United States and European countries which feared that it would increase tension in the region. Turkey had openly threatened to prevent their deployment.

    There were also fears in Athens and Nicosia that deployment of the S-300 might harm Cyprus' EU accession prospects.

    Pangalos-Kasoulides meeting : Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos yesterday in Athens met with his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides.

    Diplomatic sources said the meeting focused on latest developments over the Cyprus problem and the island republic's EU accession process.

    Mr. Kasoulides met in Brussels on Monday with EU External Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek.

    Athens News Agency

    [21] ESP presidium adopts 'manifesto' for June Euro-elections

    BRUSSELS 04/02/1999 (ANA - P. Pantelis)

    The presidium of the European Socialist Party (ESP) yesterday adopted a socialist "manifesto" for June's Euro-elections, drafted during a recent ESP summit. The manifesto will be tabled for ratification at an ESP congress on March 1-2.

    Defence Minister and ESP vice-president Akis Tsohatzopoulos and Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis, representing PASOK, stressed the Greek contibution to the drafting of the manifesto. Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said socialists must provide an answer at the beginning of the new millennium to all that the neo-liberals could not for the last 25 years. He added that "the socialist policy is a guarantee for the economic development...of the market which will result in job creation."

    Mr. Kranidiotis said "the manifesto states a total proposal for the development of the European Union of the 21st century." He added that "the main point of the proposal is to promote a social Europe with a democratic content as a necessary supplement of the European Monetary Union."

    Athens News Agency

    [22] US ambassador on Ocalan issue

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns yesterday stressed from Thessaloniki that he had no knowledge of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan's whereabouts.

    Mr. Burns, who is visiting the northern Greek capital, said neither he nor the US government had any infomation on the issue.

    He said that as far as Athens' stance is concerned, it "took the decisions that it should have taken," while referring further press questions to the Greek government.

    On Tuesday, Athens flatly denied that Mr. Ocalan had entered or attempted to enter Greece. Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas reiterated at the time that it was neither "expedient" nor "useful" for Mr. Ocalan to come to Greece, as this would reduce an international question concerning the recognition of the Kurdish people's rights into a bilateral Greek-Turkish issue.

    Athens News Agency

    [23] Burns cites US interest in improving trade ties with N. Greece

    Athens 04/021999 (ANA)

    US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns yesterday pointed to Washington's interest in improving trade relations with Thessaloniki and the wider region of northern Greece.

    Mr. Burns, speaking from Thessaloniki, said US firms were encouraged to invest in northern Greece and he announced the preparation of a tourism development congress to be held in Thessaloniki on April 26 and 27, with the participation of 29 countries.

    The US ambassador met with new Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos and in the evening attended a ceremony for a New Year's cake-cutting ceremony hosted by the Greek-American Chamber in Thessaloniki.

    Athens News Agency

    [24] Constantopoulos in Moscow

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos will begin a three-day visit to Moscow today.

    Mr. Constantopoulos is scheduled to meet Russian Communist Party President Gennady Zyuganov, Duma President Gennady Seleznyov, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkov and the first Russian Alternate Foreign Minister Avdeyev. Before returning to Athens, he will meet with members of the ethnic Greek community and the Russo-Greek Federation.

    Athens News Agency

    [25] Problems in delivery of Russian natural gas cited

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    Development Minister Vasso Papandreou yesterday addressed a letter to Russian Energy Minister Andrei Generalov pointing to continuing problems in natural gas deliveries from Russia via Bulgaria to Greece.

    According to ministry officials, Ms Papandreou is preparing to travel to Moscow in an effort to resolve the issue.

    Problems in delivery have persisted despite assurances from Russia last November.

    Should deliveries drop the Keratsini and Lavrio power plants will have to use oil, while other industries around Greece are already facing problems.

    Athens News Agency

    [26] Athens support for Kosovo solution

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    Greece yesterday voiced support for efforts aimed at finding a solution to the crisis in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, referring in particular to those of US envoy Chris Hill.

    "Greece supports the efforts to find a solution in Kosovo. The Hill plan (providing) for the recognition of the rights of the Moslems of Kosovo and granting autonomy to the region without any change of borders is a good basis for reaching agreement at talks in France," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

    Chris Hill, the US envoy to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), has for the past few months been leading efforts aimed at a peaceful settlement of the crisis in the strife-torn province.

    The Contact Group on former Yugoslavia - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia - last week warned the parties to the conflict in Kosovo to attend peace talks in France at the weekend or face military action by NATO.

    Athens News Agency

    [27] German armoured batallion readies for Kosovo mission

    BONN 04/02/1999 (ANA - P. Stangos)

    A German armoured batallion was already making preparations to take-up peacekeeping duties in Kosovo, should talks between Belgrade and the Kosovo Albanian rebels are successful.

    According to German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping, the 800-man force is getting ready to participate in the case it becomes necessary to reinforce an "extraction force" based in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    He added that the force could also be used as the first unit of a German participation in a NATO-multinational force charged with peacekeeping duties in Kosovo, modeled after the Bosnian international force.

    He said the mission date has not been established, rather it will depend on the development of talks between the two sides, due to begin in France on Saturday afternoon.

    The batallion will reach FYROM via Thessaloniki's port where it will arrive from Germany.

    Should the batallion reach FYROM it will be the first time that German troops have been deployed outside German soil since World War II.

    Athens News Agency

    [28] Venizelos talks with Spanish, Italian counterparts in Madrid

    MADRID 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos held talks with his Spanish and Italian counterparts in Madrid yesterday on the occasion of an exhibition of works by El Greco, inaugurated yesterday.

    The El Greco exhibition, organised by Greece, Italy and Spain, opened yesterday.

    The three ministers discussed the stance of southern EU countries towards the Union's budget, the funding of European cultural cooperation programmes and common cultural initiatives with emphasis on the celebration of the year 2000 and the "Cultural Olympiad."

    Mr. Venizelos and Spanish Culture Minister Mariano Rajoy offered assurances of close and positive Greek-Spanish cultural cooperation, both at bilateral and multipartite level.

    The inauguration ceremony was attended by various personalities from Spain's political and cultural sectors, museum directors and scholars. It was inaugurated by Spain's royal couple.

    Athens News Agency Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    A 24-year-old junior cruiseship officer charged with first degree murder in the death of his American fiancee was transferred yesterday to a Komotini prison. Accoding to reports, his trial will take place in Drama or Xanthi. Georgios Skiadopoulos, who confessed to the killing, requested forgiveness from the victim's family. The ex-husband of the victim, Julie-Marie Scully, cancelled his planned trip to Kavala, saying there is no further reason for him to travel there. He has already given a statement to Greek police in Athens.

    Athens News Agency

    [29] Insurance industry calls for new crusade against traffic accidents

    Athens 04/02/1999 (ANA)

    The country's insurance companies are asking for a massive mobilisation in both public and private sector bodies in order to curb traffic accidents, as Greece continues to hold on to dour first place among EU member- countries in terms of road accidents.

    George Skourtis, president of a research, prevention and control of vehicle accidents committee of the Greek Insurance Companies Association, yesterday presented details about traffic accidents and the dire consequences on the community.

    Presenting statistics from last year, insurance officials said that in 1998 crashes reported on Greek roads numbered as high as 24,875, out of which 1, 970 resulted to the death of 2,218 people.

    Further, in 3,774 accidents, 4,896 passengers were seriously injured, while a total of another 28,185 people had been lightly injuered in 19,131 car accidents.

    Athens News Agency

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