|Sunday, 20 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-02-17
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Kurdish issue a Turkish and int'l problem,Simitis says
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis said last night that Greece "has done its duty to the fullest", on one hand safeguarding its crucial and substantial national interests and on the other hand showing in practice Athens' humanitarian solidarity, responsibility and sensitivity at a time when other countries distanced themselves.
In a latenight written statement in reference to the capture of rebel Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan in Nairobi and his subsequent transfer to Turkey, Mr. Simitis also called on the European Union to assume its responsibilities in safeguarding Mr. Ocalan's fate, "who is now in the hands of Turkey".
Mr. Ocalan was captured after leaving the Greek ambassador's residence in Nairobi, Kenya, where he was given "temporary residence for humanitarian reasons", Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos revealed earlier in the day during an impromptu press confer ence at the foreign ministry.
The PKK leader, abducted under mysterious circumstances, was transferred to Turkey where he will stand trial.
"I wish to categorically state that we had secured Ocalan's safe passage to other countries where his protection and the granting of political asylum was guaranteed.
"However, Ocalan in consultations with third parties opted to proceed to unilateral talks with the government of Kenya and make his own moves," he said.
Condemning the occupation of Greek embassies and consulates by Kurdish protesters throughout Europe and the holding of hostages, Mr. Simitis said the Greek government's position on the Kurdish issue has always been crystal clear.
"We have as a principle, but also because our national interest so dictates, to disagree with any kind of separatist movements. However, we are steadily in favour of protecting the rights of minorities, social and human rights and democratic freedoms in all countries," he said.
"At the same time, we have set out with clarity and consistency that Greece will in no case convert the Kurdish issue into yet one more problem in Greek-Turkish relations," he added.
"Greece's position on the Kurdish issue remains steadfast. We have repeatedly underlined that if Turkey wishes to become part of Europe it must adopt the principles and rules of international law which guarantee democratic and human rightsITurkey uses the Kurdish issue in the framework of its strategy of tension. But, the Kurdish issue is an internal problem of Turkey which has now become an international issue. It is not a Greek- Turkish issue," he said.
Finally, he stressed Kenya's responsibility in the development of the issue.
"It is the responsibility of the government of Kenya and those involved in this affair to explain and account for the way in which Ocalan, instead of the airport where he was heading, in order to end up in the Netherlands, as he intended, was trapped a nd transported to Turkey."
Mr. Simitis submitted the written statement from his home, as he was ill yesterday.
Pangalos: Foreign MInister Pangalos called on Kurdish protesters to end takeovers of Greek embassies and consulates in various European capitals and cities that followed the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.
"They, (the Kurdish protesters) must abandon the Greek embassies and consulates by 12:00 Greek time (yesterday at noon)," Mr. Pangalos said at the time, warning that Athens would take action against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Mr. Pangalos said that PKK leader Ocalan had given "temporary residence for humanitarian reasons" at the house of the Greek ambassador in Kenya.
"But at his own responsibility and initiative, and despite the Greek advice to the contrary, he tried to go to the Netherlands," the Greek minister said.
Mr. Pangalos said that en route from the ambassador's house to the airport, which was followed by Greek embassy cars, Mr. Ocalan's car "deviated from the route, and the embassy cars lost visual contact" with the vehicle.
The Greek foreign minister said Greece informed Kenyan authorities of Mr. Ocalan's disappearance, adding that the Greek government was waiting to be briefed by the Kenyan government on what happened.
Mr. Pangalos said he had already contacted German FM Joschka Fischer, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, as well as the US government, asking them to intervene to find out precisely what had happened.
Mr. Pangalos said Kurdish demonstrators had seized the Greek embassies in Moscow, Bonn, London, Vienna, Brussels and The Hague, and the Greek consulates in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Stuttgart.
The foreign minister described as "an act of extreme brutality" the holding as hostages of the wife and eight-year-old child of the Greek ambassador, P. Angelakis, at The Hague and Greek ambassador Y. Yennimatas in Vienna, where Greece's head of state Kostis Stephanopoulos is currently on an official visit.
"Greece has always shown respect for the Kurds' struggle, and for the defence of human rights in general," Mr. Pangalos said.
Mr. Pangalos reiterated that Greece "never considered, or would consider, as expedient or useful the presence of Ocalan on Greek territory, for reasons concerning both the interests of the Kurdish people and security and stability in the region."
He repeated that no application for granting political asylum to Ocalan had been made to Greece, "and if such a request had been submitted, under the 1991 Dublin Treaty on political asylum, such a request would have been referred to Italy, which was the first European country that Ocalan went to after his departure from Syria."
Replying to reporters' questions, Mr. Pangalos said that after Ocalan's unsuccessful effort to land at a Dutch airport two weeks ago, the Kurdish leader's plane made a stopover at a Greek airport for refuelling and then went to Kenya because consultations were taking place with countries in that region for a definitive settlement of Mr. Ocalan's problem.
Mr. Pangalos said Mr. Ocalan's presence at the Greek embassy in Kenya "was known exclusively by Mr. Ocalan and the Greek foreign ministry leadership," adding that this information was made public at the Kurdish initiative and foreign, non-Greek circles who advised the Kurdish leader to leave for the Netherlands.
Mr. Pangalos further said the latest developments "strongly prove that Greece should in no way become a part of the Kurdish problem", which he described as a domestic problem for Turkey "that must not become the object of a Greek-Turkish rift."
Reppas: Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas requested clarifications from the Kenyan government concerning the circumstances surrounding the capture of Mr. Ocalan.
He said Mr. Ocalan had been in direct contact with Kenyan government officials - in whom the Kurdish leader had "shown trust" - with the aim of travelling to the Netherlands.
The Greek government, he added, has no information about "the way things turned out" and bore no responsibility from the moment of Mr. Ocalan's departure "from where he was, with the responsibility of the Greek side" to an unknown destination.
The spokesman said the Greek government had secured safe living conditions for the PKK leader in Kenya, "and the Kenyan government now has the responsibility to provide the relevant explanations."
Mr. Reppas said the Greek government had maintained a responsible stance characterised by "humanita-rianism, solidarity and respect" towards Ocalan.
Reiterating that the Greek government would in no case have granted Mr. Ocalan political asylum, the spokesman also spoke of "a plan which failed", stressing however, that responsibility for the failure did not lie with the Greek government.
The handling of the issue by the foreign ministry and jointly competent ministries was entirely successful, Mr. Reppas said.
The spokesman intimated that Mr. Ocalan himself was alone responsible for the way things developed, saying he had not accepted to leave Kenya for another African country as the Greek side had proposed.
The spokesman said the Greek side had almost secured agreement from "certain" African countries to receive Mr. Ocalan. He declined, however, to name the countries "to avoid creating a diplomatic problem".
Mr. Reppas said Mr. Ocalan himself had decided to travel to the Netherlands and from that moment on "the Greek authorities ceased to have any participation regarding where and how the Kurdish leader would travel".
In addition, the spokesman said, Mr. Ocalan had personally entered into negotiations with the Kenyan authorities and had "shown great trust in the assurances he was given" by the latter.
The spokesman said Mr. Ocalan's presence in Nairobi was such that it became known to "the services of other countries active there". At this point, Mr. Reppas underlined that the Greek authorities had not notified either the United States or any European authorities about the Kurdish leader presence in a location controlled by the Greek authorities in Nairobi.
Replying to reporters' questions, Mr. Reppas said Greece would ask other European countries to undertake initiatives to secure from Turkey guarantees that Mr. Ocalan's trial would be fair.
"Turkey is now called upon to prove that it respects human rights and implements international treaties," he said.
The spokesman condemned the occupation of Greek embassies and consulates, describing them as "hostile acts of violence and barbarism" against Greece.
The authorities of the countries concerned have pledged to ensure that the premises are vacated, Mr. Reppas said, criticising the authorities for not adequately protecting Greek diplomatic missions.
Stephanopoulos: VIENNA (ANA - N. Megadoukas) - President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos yesterday expressed concern over the take-over of Greek embassies in several European cities by Kurdish protesters - including in Vienna, where he was on a state visit - calling the situation "unpleasant".
Speaking before a visit to the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Vienna, Mr. Stephanopoulos said developments had arisen for which "Greece is not responsible".
Mr. Stephanopoulos was being kept abreast of developments by the government by Deputy Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who was accompanying him on the visit.
The Greek president said the Austrian government had assured him that it was prepared to take all necessary steps to resolve the problem, adding "I hope that this will not be necessary and that a painless and peaceful solution will be given to the problem".
Mr. Stephanopoulos said he was also in constant contact with the Greek ambassador in Vienna, who was in contact with the Kurdish protesters every 15 minutes from his residence in a building separate from the seized embassy.
Mr. Papandreou later said Greece would raise the Kurdish problem in Monday's European Union General Affairs Council for EU to adopt a European policy on the issue and ask its partners to undertake initiatives to secure from Turkey guarantees that Mr. Ocalan's trial would be fair.
Kurds arrested: As Mr. Pangalos was giving his press conference, security police arrested 12 Kurds who were staging a hunger strike outside Parliament, where two Kurds immolated themselves on Monday afternoon and were taken to hospital for treatment.
The arrests bring to 80 the number of arrests outside Parliament on Monday and yesterday. According to a police source, the arrest of the 12 yesterday was a precautionary measure because police feared that more Mr. Ocalan's followers would set fire to themselves.
Meanwhile, a group of 300 Kurdish refugees who were removed by police from a central downtown Athens square, were transferred late Monday night to an old air force camp on Mount Pateras southwest of Athens, instead of an area in the Athens surburb of Agia Varvara.
Two hours after Mr. Pangalos' impromptu press conference, the national defence ministry's crisis management team held an emergency meeting to "assess the situation following the attacks against the Greek embassies abroad by protesting Kurds".
A defence ministry source told ANA that the meeting was being attended by the army, navy and airforce chiefs of staff, national defence general staff senior officers, and high-ranking officials from the foreign ministry and the Greek intelligence service (EYP).
Greece increased security at foreign diplomatic missions yesterday as a precautionary measure against possible protests by Kurds, police sources said.
Security was upped at the British embassy, which represents Kenya in Greece, and the Dutch, Italian, Turkish and US embassies.
A group of 20 Kurds on hunger strike outside the Macedonia and Thrace Ministry in Thessaloniki, northern Greece demanding that political asylum be given to Mr. Ocalan, left the area yesterday saying their demand "has lost its meaning".
Opposition reactions: The main opposition New Democracy (ND) party criticised the government's handling of the Ocalan issue, describing it as "bizarre and dangerous".
Spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said the government had involved Greece in a crisis and had failed at all levels.
"The government has achieved the impossible," Mr. Spiliotopoulos said, charging that "it had managed to turn all against Greece and put the country to shame".
The spokesman said ND condemned the occupation of Greek embassies and consulates and called on the Kurdish protesters to leave.
Mr. Spiliotopoulos stressed that ND condemned terrorism in all its forms and respected human and minority rights.
The Communist Party of Greece said in a statenment that the "dramatic developments in the Ocalan affair prove yet again in a clear and abhorrent manner the role and objectives of the imperialistic order but also the enormous responsibilities of the PASO K government which finds itself involved in the refusal for the granting of political asylum as well as Ocalan's handover."
"The government's stance shows that it declared the persecution of the Kurdish people as did all the other European Union member states which refused to grant political asylum to Ocalan," the statement added.
Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) party leader Nikos Constantopoulos said in a statement that the "dramatic developments constitute a disgrace for Europe and Greece," adding that the Greek government "has criminal responsibilities and owes clear and responsible explanations".
Mr. Constantopoulos said that the Greek government "became involved in the worst possible manner in the whole affair and exposed our country in all directions". He also charged the foreign, interior and public order ministries for their handling of the affair.
Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas slammed the government for pursuing a "national strategy and policy that serves the interests of the major powers of the West and Turkey, to the detriment of our national interests".
"The government has done everything possible for our country to lose a traditionally friendly ally, which is struggling for its self-determination and could have been a deterrent force against Turkish expansionism against our country," Mr. Tsovolas said .
A news conference was held yesterday by the president of the Kurdish Parliament in Exile Yassar Kaya, who said the exact circumstances regarding Ocalan's capture would be investigated.
"I am not in a position to say who is responsible but the investigations will throw light on the arrest of the leader of the PKK," Mr. Kaya said.
He also called on protesting Kurds to release Greek embassies and consulates that had seized throughout Europe, after Ankara formally announced it had rebel Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan in custody in Turkey.
Mr. Kayar said that the Kurds had seized embassies and consulates in a bid to discover the whereabouts of the PKK chief and leader of some 25 million Kurds.
He said destruction had been caused during the take-overs.
"We favour a political solution to the Kurdish problem, and Ocalan's arrest is for us the beginning of a new period in the Kurdish problem", Mr. Kayar said.
Mr. Kayar called on all "compa-triots and comrades' to closely monitor the developments and continue to defend their position for a solution to the Kurdish problem without war.
European Commissioner Christos Papoutsis said that "the European Union should follow the Ocalan case closely in order to ensure full respect of human rights and basic democratic principles on the part of the Turkish authorities.
"The European Union insists on the need for respecting such rights and principles and within that framework the developments in the Ocalan case will decisively impact the relations between the European Union and Turkey", Mr. Papoutsis said.
Athens News Agency
 Deadline for sealed binding tenders for Ionian announced
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)A deadline for sealed binding tenders for the purchase of 51 per cent of state-run Ionian Bank's shares has been set for March 26, according to a relevant interest invitation published in the press today by Commercial Bank, Ionian's parent company.
According to the invitation, sealed binding tenders by interested parties must be submitted at the offices of the JP Morgan firm in London (the sale's financial sale adviser) and must be accompanied by letters of guarantee totalling five billion drachmas.
The tenders must state clearly that the amount for the price will be payable in cash, while the availability of relevant capital must also be described. Lastly, they must be accompanied by a business plan for Ionian's development.
According to the invitation, JP Morgan must negotiate with the interested parties and give a final reply within 20 work days at the latest as of March 26.
Only those who had submitted non-binding tenders in the previous phase have the right to participate in the final phase for the Ionian Bank's sale.
According to reports, Alpha Credit Bank, Eurobank in cooperation with Ergobank and the Piraeus Bank group submitted non-binding tenders, which gives them the right to participate in the second and final phase.
Athens News Agency
 Commission official Landaburu meets with Greek leadership
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)European Commission general director of the regional policy-making and cohesion, E. Landaburu, yesterday met with Cabinet members and discussed relevant issues.
Mr. Landaburu met with National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis, Deputy National Economy Minister Christos Pahtas and the premier's economic advisor.
Mr. Landaburu, before departing for Brussels, expressed the satisfaction of the European Commission over the absorption of funds from the second Community Support Framework.
He said the European Union supported the efforts of the Greek government in continuing the restructuring during the 2000-2006 programme period.
Finally, he noted that there was a coincidence of views between Greece and the Commission and stressed that it must continue so as to achieve necessary funding for the continuation of such policies.
Athens News Agency
 Profit-taking overtakes stock market
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)Equity prices succumbed to profit-taking on the Athens Stock Exchange to end lower yesterday, halting a recent record-breaking rally.
The general index ended 2.02 percent off to 3,396.85 points reflecting losses in banks and construction sectors.
Turnover was a record 171.05 billion drachmas and volume 39,819,132 shares. Sector indices suffered losses. Banks fell 3.05 percent, Leasing dropped 2.95 percent, Insurance eased 1.02 percent, Investment ended 2.92 percent, Construction plunged 4.53 per cent, Industrials fell 0.40 percent, Miscellaneous dropped 3.75 percent and Holding ended 2.55 percent off.
The parallel market ended 0.76 percent up reflecting investors' appetite for smaller capitalisation shares. The FTSE/ASE 100 index fell 2.61 percent to 2,126.45. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 213 to 70 with another 9 issues unchanged. Thessaliki,
Macedonian Spin Mills, Ekter and Hellenic Telecoms were the most heavily traded stocks.
Bank of Greece, Pouliadis, Loulis, Korfil, Attikat, European Techniki, Mesohoritis, Tzirakian, Sato, Sportsman and Sigalas hit the day's 8.0 percent limit up.
A total of 40 shares hit the day's 8.0 percent limit down. Among them were Barba Stathis, Pavlidis, Aegek, Gek, Gnomon, Ergas, Proodeftiki, Loulis, Kallinis, Levenderis, Ideal, Gener and Diekat. National Bank of Greece ended at 20,500 drachmas, Alpha C redit Bank at 34,750, Ergobank at 24,210, Ionian Bank at 17,000, Titan Cement at 23,600, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,650, Intracom at 18,450, Minoan Lines at 7,795, Panafon at 9,700 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,050.
Long-term yields drop in 7-year bond auction : Long-term yields dropped further during yesterday's seven-year bond auction by the finance ministry.
The average weighed yield fell to 5.94 percent, down from the original annual coupon of 6.0 percent and sharply down from a 8.25 percent yield of a corresponding issue in April 1998.
Bids submitted in the domestic market of primary dealers totalled 930.2 billion drachmas, more than three times the asked price of 320 billion. The finance ministry finally submitted bids totalling 384 billion drachmas.
Athens News Agency
 Laliotis cites progress in public works projects
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)Addressing an international conference yesterday on major public works projects, Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis announced that 20,000 infrastructure projects for developing Greece are at the stage of being completed.
He reiterated that relevant funds amount to 4.3 trillion drachmas, adding that not even a drachma or an ECU will be lost from the valuable funds for the projects.
Mr. Laliotis referred at length to the projects programme and announced that 55 per cent of the Spata airport has been constructed to date and that the project will be completed by March 1, 2001.
In another development, Mr. Laliotis has earmarked credits amounting to about seven billion drachmas for road and flood protection works. Most of the funds (4.5 billion drachmas) will go for the detour works at Loutra Aidipsou.
Athens News Agency
 Conference on public works
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)The ministry of environment, town planning and public works sponsored a conference focusing on "major technical projects and constructions", held yesterday and today at a central Athens hotel.
The main topics discussed regarded opportunities and concerns created by the Third Community Support Framework, as well as the progress of major technical projects in Greece.
Participants focused on issues regarding the problems and projections for the performance of co-financed projects, a mixed model required by the high cost for projects such as the airport at Spata, the ring road of Athens, the Rion-Antirrion bridge and the Thessaloniki metro.
Construction employs 240,000 people in Greece and constitutes 10 per cent of GNP.
The event was sponsored by the Kappa company ('Express' newspaper).
Athens News Agency
 Alpha Investments share capital increase
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)The Alpha Investments firm will increase its share capital by 44 billion drachmas, according to a decision by its general assembly of shareholders yesterday.
For this purpose, 20 million new anonymous shares will be issued at the rate of one new share for every old one at a sale price of 2,200 drachmas.
After the increase is carried out, Alpha Investments will be the first portfolio firm having own capital exceeding 100 billion drachmas and assets totalling 130 billion drachmas.
It was announced yesterday that the company posted profits of 22 billion drachmas. Its dividend to be distributed amounts to 500 drachmas per share and its payment will start on March 15.
Athens News Agency
 Report on Greek telephony market
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)The unreserved purchase of shares of the two private mobile telephony companies Panafon and Stet is recommended in a report by the Dresdner Kleinwort Benson company, according to a report by Reuters.
Based on the report, the Greek mobile telephony market presents excellent prospects and one of the largest enlargement rates with new subscribers in Europe.
At the end of 1998, the percentage of mobile telephone owners in the country was assessed at 19.5 per cent of the total population, about 4.5 per cent below the European average, while the percentage is expected to reach 28 per cent in 1999.
Dresdner Kleinwort Benson said that Panafon has offered high yields to its shareholders on a permanent basis, while Stet's shares are also attractive.
It further said the two private companies have business expansion plans for the immediate future, a good distribution system and exploit the experience of their shareholder companies in European markets.
Athens News Agency
 Alpha Credit, Bank of Piraeus in running for Albanian bank
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)The Alpha Credit Bank and the Bank of Piraeus will compete against two Turkish banks (Kent Bank and Bankkapital) and an Italian one (Banca di Roma) for the purchase of a majority stake in the Albanian National Commercial Bank (NCB).
According to the Albanian finance ministry, the five banks were shortlisted for the second round and their bids will be subject to a comparative examination. The bank to be sold is headquartered in Tirana and has 10 branch offices.
Athens News Agency
 Event on European consumers
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)European consumers are at present one of the most effectively protected population groups, according to an address by Development Minister Vasso Papandreou at a conference on the question of "Quality and the consumer", organised at a downtown Athens hotel yesterday by the development ministry's Consumers General Secretariat in cooperation with the EKPOIZO and INKA groups.
"The continuous renewal of the legislative framework lies at the centre of the European Union bodies' attention, to enable the consumer to be protected effectively, to facilitate the free movement of goods and services in the domestic market and for the competitiveness of the European industry to develop," she said.
Ms. Papandreou added that the Development Ministry's effort is part of this framework and will start soon to enable consumers to be briefed and trained in the transition to the single European currency.
Athens News Agency
 Agriculture Minister Anomeritis covers farm issues
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)The difficulties,new measures and future of Greek agriculture within the bounds of the European Union were the dominant theme of statements Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis made to the ANA.
Answering a question on the recent farmers' mobilisations, the minister said "it is not correct for the union activities of a group to clash with the interests of other social partners.
"We are moving ahead with a programme of reconstructing the countryside, which focuses on the individual. We do not take measures under pressure, nor do we take measures which benefit local or sectoral interests," he added.
Mr. Anomeritis noted that "the cost of production is not an abstract notion. The decrease in fuel oil regards a 2 to 5 per cent cost, while in some greenhouse cultivations it reaches 15 to 20 per cent."
Answering on the new institutional changes promoted by the government, the minister said that the changes aim at creating strong farmers' cooperatives that can enter the production, the traffic and trade of agricultural products.
"We have not made strong cooperatives to serve the idea of partnership, which is the belief of my political orientation," Mr. Anomeritis said.
He added that at times "when the private capital maximises its strength by mergers, it is hard to understand why should we continue to have 7,000 local level cooperatives and dozens of unions, which are incurring debts on a permanent basis."
Mr. Anomeritis said "we should create, and soon we will draft the bill for cross professional organisations, which was the demand of the agricultural sector for many years.
"We should create immediately national cross professional organisations for cotton, where producers, plant operators and merchants must cooperate," he added.
Speaking on "Agenda 2000", the minister said the dialogue over the agricultural aspect of the future policies is coming to a close.
"This means that within the next 10 days all subjects on agricultural policies and directions will close for the next 10-year period, while a new one opened on January 1999 in the framework of the International Trade Organisation," Mr. Anomeritis said.
Regarding reactions by the northern EU member-states over the fact that 50 per cent of the Union's budget is directed to agriculture, Mr. Anomeritis said this should not be an excuse for the dismantling of the common agricultural policy, which is the only common policy of the Union.
Mr. Anomeritis said the new status in the Union at this time was leading to a decrease of support for the prices and an increase of support of farmers' income.
Addressing the balance of agricultural payments, the minister said there is a 350-billion drachma deficit of which 74 per cent stems from EU member- states products, which proves that Greece was not a net beneficiary of the Union's agricultural budget al locations, as has been said.
The Greek strategy the minister said focuses on increasing the size of farms without creating gigantic producers.
"We have the model of the mid-size farms...we do not want the sizes of the United States or that of the EU, nor very small," he added.
The Pantechniki construction firm was awarded a project from the public works ministry amounting to 4.7 billion drachmas.
The project concerns the construction of a new Skaramangas level crossing, reconstruction of the Athens-Corinth motorway to a motorway having three lanes in each direction along a length of 2.1 km, as well as reconstruction of the western regional Aegaleo motorway.
The project is scheduled to be concluded in August 2001.
Athens News Agency
 Athens Foreign Exchange
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)Bank of Greece closing rates of: February 16, 1999
Parities in Drachmas
Banknotes Buying Selling US Dollar 285.855 292.482 Can.Dollar 189.532 193.926 Australian Dlr 183.351 187.602 Pound Sterling 467.411 478.248 Irish Punt 406.240 415.659 Pound Cyprus 550.560 563.325 Pound Malta 703.301 732.605 Turkish pound (100) 0.075 0.078 French franc 48.775 49.906 Swiss franc 200.067 204.705 Belgian franc 7.931 8.115 German Mark 163.583 167.376 Finnish Mark 53.810 55.058 Dutch Guilder 145.182 148.548 Danish Kr. 43.035 44.033 Swedish Kr. 36.079 36.916 Norwegian Kr. 37.061 37.920 Austrian Sh. 23.250 23.790 Italian lira (100) 16.524 16.907 Yen (100) 243.109 248.746 Spanish Peseta 1.922 1.967 Port. Escudo 1.596 1.633 Foreign Exchange Buying Selling New York 285.855 292.482 Montreal 189.532 193.926 Sydney 183.351 187.602 London 467.411 478.248 Dublin 406.240 415.659 Nicosia 550.560 563.325 Paris 48.775 49.906 Zurich 200.067 204.705 Brussels 7.931 8.115 Frankfurt 163.583 167.376 Helsinki 53.810 55.058 Amsterdam 145.182 148.548 Copenhagen 43.035 44.033 Stockholm 36.079 36.916 Oslo 37.061 37.920 Vienna 23.250 23.790 Milan 16.524 16.907 Tokyo 243.109 248.746 Madrid 1.922 1.967 Lisbon 1.596 1.633
Athens News Agency
 Greek embassies hit by Kurdish protest
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)By late evening yesterday, authorities had either evicted from or persuaded protesting Kurds to end their occupations in a total of nine Greek diplomatic missions in European cities, namely, the embassies in Bonn, Moscow, Brussels, Copen hagen and Stockholm, as well as the consulates in Paris, Marseilles, Strasbourg and Stuttgart along with the UN mission in Yerevan.
Premises still under occupation included the Greek ambassador's residence in The Hague, the Greek embassies in London, Vienna and Berne, the consulates in Zurich, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hannover and Milan, the UN headquarters in Geneva and the Kenyan embassies in Bonn and Vienna.
Later in the day, Kurdish protesters also occupied the Greek consulates in Montreal and Vancouver in Canada, as well as in Sydney, Australia.
Meanwhile, the political wing of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), the National Liberation Front of Kurdistan (ERNK) set six conditions for the termination of the occupations of Greek diplomatic missions in Europe.
ERNK demanded in particular guarantees that Ocalan would not be condemned to death or be tortured.
In a statement signed by its representation in Europe and reported by the Agence France Presse, ERNK also demanded safeguards regarding Mr. Ocalan's "perfect state of health and the setting up of delegation of representatives of European governments which will Pmeet with the Turkish government".
Finally, it demanded the establishment of an international court that will supervise the implementation of these conditions.
Responding to reporters' questions later, US State Department spokesman James Foley said the US condemned the attacks against Greek missions in Europe.
"In the view of the United States is that hostage takings and other attacks on Greek facilities in Europe being carried out by Kurdish protesters are completely unacceptable and should stop immediately," he said, according to an ANA dispatch from Washi ngton.
He also reiterated earlier statements by US officials that "the United States did not apprehend or transfer Ocalan or transport him to Turkey."
Party leaders : Addressing Parliament last night, main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis used particularly stong language in criticising the government's handling of the Ocalan affair.
"We disagree with Ocalan's methods. However, if the government has cooperated in his handing over (to Turkey), it is a dishonesty of huge dimensions and a national shame," he said.
"This is a tragedy because there are tremendous repercussions for Greece as well as the protagonist of the affair, but also, the government's amateurish approach, which deals with such hot issues in such a superficial manner, is comical...public opinion is thunderstruck and dumbfounded," he added.
He described as a mistake Greece's involvement in the affair.
"Greece ought to have asked for the assistance of the European Union and raised the issue before its appropriate organs, as it was a crucial, crucial and dangerous affairIderailed because of mistaken handling".
Responding to Mr. Karamanlis' comments, Mr. Pangalos wondered what in effect the opposition leader would have liked the government to do.
"Should we not have provided him elementary humanitarian assistance when he was overflying Europe seven to eight hours a day?...Bonn had the arrest warrant, London was identifying with Washington," he said, asking the assembly to ask itself why the Kurdish leader had left Rome.
"We were the first in the EU to place the Community before its responsibilities on the Kurdish issue and exercised relevant pressure to the European Commission," he said.
Finally, he called on ND to state its position on whether Mr. Ocalan should have been granted political asylum.
"The Greek government's position was negative as the Kurdish issue would have become the number one problem in Greek-Turkish relations," he said.
Earlier, the other opposition leaders, Communist Party secretary-general Aleka Papariga, Coalition of the left leader Nikos Constantopoulos and Democratic Social Move-ment leader Dimitris Tsovolas had asked for a priority debate on the latest developmen ts in the Ocalan affair, with the participation of the prime minister.
Mr. Constantopoulos referred to guilty feelings on the part of the government and for personal responsibilities on the part of the prime minister.
He said the government had handled the issue "with intransparency and secrecy," in contrast to Italy which had raised it openly and in public.
Ms Papariga claimed the government had handed Mr. Ocalan over, and wondered what it has been given in return.
"What worries us is that there is an overall plan for settling issues in the area from Serbia to Cyprus," she said, claiming that "the United States and ambassador Nicholas Burns were aware of what the government was doing."
Mr. Tsovolas said the events had caused anxiety to the Greek people. "You are giving everything away to take the country into the euro zone. The result of your handling was to displease the only traditionally friendly people to Greece, whose strugg le was the basis of deterrence to the Turkish threat," he added.
Athens News Agency
 Greek ambassador in Nairobi recalled
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)Mr. Pangalos told Parliament that the Greek ambassdor to Kenya, Giorgos Kostoulas, had been recalled. The Kenyan government, according to Mr. Pangalos, subsequently sent a letter to Athens requesting the ambassador's recall.
Foreign ministry sources said Mr. Kostoulas will not return straightaway to the foreign ministry, but will observe customary procedures in Kenya, according to diplomatic protocol.
Athens News Agency
 Ecevit denies any contact with Greece over Ocalan apprehension
ANKARA 17/02/1999 (ANA - A. Abatzis)Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said here yesterday that "there was no contact with Greece" in the operation to transfer Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan to Turkey.
In reply to a relevant question, Mr. Ecevit did not respond to the essence of the issue. He merely confirmed a report that a private aircaft with which Mr. Ocalan was transferred from Kenya to Turkey belonged to Turkish businessman Parliament deputy Cav it Caglar.
Replying to the question on whether there was any contact with Greece, Mr. Ecevit said "no, there was no contact."
Athens News Agency
 US response
WASHINGTON 17/02/1999 (Reuters)Meanwhile, the White House denied yesterday that the United States had any direct involvement" in the handover of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan to Turkey, but refused to comment further on his capture.
"My understanding is that the US had no direct involvement in the handover, " White House spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters, referring to Mr. Ocalan's apprehension and his delivery to Turkey.
In a related development, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman denied that Israel was involved in the matter in any way.
"Israel categorically denies various media reports claiming that Israel was involved in passing on information which led to the capture of Abdullah Ocalan. The government of Israel wishes to make it absolutely clear that it was not involved in any way in this matter," he said. A protest rally against the government's handling of the Ocalan affair was organised yesterday in central Athens by leftist groups, dozens of Kurds and the Committee for Solidarity to the Kurdish people.
Shouting slogans for a settlement of the Kurdish problem, the protestors marched from Kotzia Square to Parliament.
Athens News Agency
 Stephanopoulos cuts visit to Austria short
VIENNA 17/02/1999 (ANA - D. Dimitrakoudis/N. Megadoukas)President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos and Austrian Parliament President Heinz Fis cher, who met here for talks yesterday, placed themselves in favour of a European settlement of the Kurdish problem.
Mr. Stephanopoulos, who is cutting short his official visit in Austria due to latest developments in the Abdullah Ocalan case, expressed his concerns about developments following the arrest of the Kurdish leader in Kenya and the occupation of the Greek embassy building in Vienna and other European capitals by outraged Kurds.
A spokesman for Mr. Fischer said the Greek president later had a joint meeting with the parliament president and Austrian President Thomas Klestil, who after the meeting accompanied Mr. Stephanopoulos in all his contacts and meetings.
A meeting Mr. Stephanopoulos had with Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima lasted 40 minutes more than originally scheduled, with both men declined comments afterwards.
Speaking during a luncheon hosted in his honour by Mr. Klima, Mr. Stephanopoulos stressed the need for a speedy solution to the long-standing Cyprus problem.
However, he said Turkey must first realise and observe EU values and principles, such as international law and human rights.
Earlier, in the morning, in an address to the Greek-Austrian Economic Forum, Mr. Stephanopoulos said that one of the major challenges Greece was facing was a redefinition of its economic role in the rapidly changing international set-ting.
He stressed that there were currently many unexploited chances for development in the two countries' trade and economic relations.
The Greek president is returning to Athens this morning. According to sources, Mr. Stephanopoulos was advised by Austrian officials to minimise his outings in Vienna.
The Greek embassy here was occupied by a group of Kurds early yesterday morning, with ambassador Yiannis Gennimatas, his wife and four employees having been locked in.
Athens News Agency
 Dutch Finance Minister Zalm in Athens
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)Dutch Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm is scheduled to visit Athens on Thursday, the Royal Netherlands embassy in Athens announced yesterday.
Mr. Zalm will meet his Greek counterpart to discuss Agenda 2000 issues, the release said.
According to the release, The Royal Netherlands Embassy, in cooperation with the Hellenic-Dutch Association of Commerce and Industry, will host a business meeting on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Hilton Athens.
Athens News Agency
 Tsohatzopoulos-Burns talks at pre-scheduled meeting
Athens 17/02/1999 (ANA)National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday received US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns for a scheduled meeting.
According to reports, the two men discussed bilateral relations, the security situtation in the region, as well as developments in the Abdullah Ocalan case.
Athens News Agency