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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-02-24

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] Simitis: Ankara faces int'l judgement over its poor human rights record
  • [02] Gov't: Athens prepared for any Turkish provocations
  • [03] Ocalan application to European Court of Human Rights
  • [04] FM official to depart for Kenya to deal with Ocalan associates issue
  • [05] Gov't denies Simitis resignation rumours
  • [06] US, French warships expected to anchor in Thessaloniki
  • [07] Papandreou briefing to political leaders
  • [08] Reaction to Turkish legal procedures in Ocalan case
  • [09] Inquiry into Ocalan's arrival,stay in Greece begun
  • [10] Skandalidis opposes postponement of PASOK congress,raising of leadership issue
  • [11] MP Kypouros leaves PASOK, cites Ocalan affair
  • [12] US rejects Demirel provocations against Greece
  • [13] Karamanlis on official US visit
  • [14] Int'l conference on oceanographic study of E. Mediterranean, Black Sea
  • [15] Archdiocese aid mission to Serbia
  • [16] Stocks nosedive on political gloom
  • [17] Consumer loans jump 37.5 pct in December
  • [18] Yield edges down in 12-month treasury bill auction
  • [19] Aluminium de Grece shows 15 pct profit jump in 1998
  • [20] Sanyo Hellas breaks into health sector
  • [21] Greek industrial output costs rise, bucking EU trend
  • [22] Hellenic Petroleum, Lukoil cooperation
  • [23] New maritime academy in Hania
  • [24] Athens Foreign Exchange

  • [01] Simitis: Ankara faces int'l judgement over its poor human rights record

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday criticised Turkey over the Ocalan affair, saying Ankara faced international judgement over its poor human rights record.

    "Following Turkey's failure to make the Kurdish issue a chapter in Greek- Turkish relations, Turkish officials have proceeded with a slanderous campaign against Greece. But, this will be in vain, as Turkey is and will be held to account for the violation of human rights and the failure to implement the rules of international law," Mr. Simitis told reporters after a joint meeting of the inner Cabinet and the Government Council on Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA).

    Stressing that his PASOK government would continue to forge ahead with its programme to become the 12th member of Economic and Monetary Union, Mr. Simitis announced that ruling PASOK party would move in Parliament to set up a parliamentary fact-finding commission on the Ocalan affair to provide "full disclosure of what actually transpired", as he said.

    "This government will continue to implement its policies and achieve its goals in accordance with the timetable it has set," he said.

    "Nobody can interrupt the course towards a modern and strong Greece. Nobody can derail this course or create obstacles or harm the national interest," he added. He also requested that MPs take care to draw lines between internal criticism and national s trategy.

    Mr. Simitis said he was certain that Greece would participate in EMU in 2001 and that the government's goals would be met.

    "The Greek people have the right to defend their achievements because they have made great steps which must be maintained, guarded and capitalised upon. We have no margins for petty political games and for this reason the government will continue on its course with force, decisiveness and optimism," he said.

    He called Monday's declaration from EU foreign ministers on the Ocalan issue a positive development, saying it forced Turkey to face up to its responsibilities, while the EU requested a fair and open trial for Ocalan on the basis of rule of law and called on Turkey to resolve the Kurdish issue with political means and with respect for human rights.

    Mr. Simitis said he would have bilateral talks with his European Union counterparts at a series of meetings to outline to them the problems that have arisen due to Turkey's stance on the issue.

    Mr. Simitis said these talks would be held on the sidelines of Friday's urgent EU summit in Bonn, and the European Socialist Party conference on Sunday.

    Karamanlis again points to Simitis as responsible : Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis yesterday again blamed the prime minister personally for the Ocalan affair and accused him of seeking scapegoats.

    He was speaking to reporters after a 45-minute meeting with President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, during which he briefed the head of state on ND's views regarding the crisis that broke out after Mr. Ocalan was nabbed in Kenya last week and after spending 12 days in the Greek embassy in Nairobi.

    Expressing concern over the developments in the Ocalan issue, Mr. Karamanlis said the top priority was cementing national unity in order to "avoid the worst".

    Mr. Karamanlis said the present government "cannot restore the country's reputation" while "a politically weakened prime minister cannot remain much longer at the country's helm."

    The main opposition leader declined, however, to reply to questions whether he was calling for early elections.

    Asked to comment on Turkish provocations, Mr. Stephanopoulos said "it is not the first time".

    Asked if Turkey's provocativeness was more dangerous this time than in the past, he replied: "It is always dangerous."

    Meanwhile, ND spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said the creation of fact- finding committees, according to the constitution and Parliament's regulations, are subject to Parliament control.

    "Mr. Simitis is the country's first premier to propose the creation of a fact-finding committee to control his government. In this way he is confessing that responsibilities exist from which he is trying to unsuccessfully exclude himself," he said. Mr. Spiliotopoulos reiterated that the premier's self-evident obligation was and is to resign.

    "We inform Mr. Simitis that with cheap tricks he is neither going to shake off his great personal responsibilities in the Ocalan case and its ramifications nor disorientate public opinion and also ND will not allow the factfinding committee to give him an alibi or a pardon," he said.

    KKE : On its part, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) described as "dangerous" a joint statement issued Monday by the EU Council of Ministers on the Kurdish issue and the imminent trial of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

    The KKE said the EU joint statement "christens every popular movement that shows resistance and has claims as terrorism".

    A joint statement released by EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday said the EU "takes note of the assurances of the Turkish government that Abdullah Ocalan will have a fair trial...It expects this to mean fair and correct treatment and an open trial according to the rule of law before an independent court, with access to legal counsel of his choice and with international observers admitted to the trial".

    The statement also said the EU welcomed "all general efforts to separate the fight against terrorism from the search for political solutions and to promote conciliation".

    The KKE said it was time for the "conclusions to come out as to the true purposes of the EU and NATO, which is the 'new structure' in the name of combatting terrorism".

    The EU, "in making note of the need for a political solution to the Kurdish issue, means nothing more than the imperialists' target of 'solving' the Kurdish problem in the context of 'the new world order', in other words at the expense of the Kurdish and other peoples of the region," the KKE said.

    Tsovolas calls for early elections : Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas also severely criticised Mr. Simitis and the PASOK government over the handling of all national issues and the Ocalan case.

    "No matter how many false big words the prime minister utters they will be unable to cover the responsibilities of himself and his government on the handlings of all national issues and in the case of the leader of the Kurds, Abdullah Ocalan," he said yesterday.

    "Only one solution exists to overturn this universally negative course of Greece. And only the Greek people can provide this solution with early elections," Mr. Tsovolas concluded.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Gov't: Athens prepared for any Turkish provocations

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    Greece must be prepared to deal with any eventuality, the government stressed yesterday in response to questions on whether there was a possibility of an armed confrontation with Turkey.

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas expressed certainty that Turkey would use all means at its disposal in the issue of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, and with this context, could undertake "initiatives" - other than verbal attacks against Greece -to harm Athens' course towards the European Union's single currency.

    Commenting on a meeting earlier in the day of the Government Council on Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA), Mr Reppas said any possible resignation by Prime Minister Costas Simitis was not brought up at the meeting and neither was any change in the government's policy.

    He said the current climate would change when the results of the government's policy and the "initia-tives which have been undertaken on all levels become apparent."

    The government spokesman also lashed out at all those "who are revelling in the Ocalan tragedy" and hastened to add that there was no question of ruling PASOK's congress, scheduled for March, being postponed.

    Mr Reppas also said the government guaranteed the smooth operation of the country's institutions and was not worried about any attempts to undermine them.

    Finally, he said the PASOK government was not considering convening a meeting of political party leaders.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Ocalan application to European Court of Human Rights

    STRASBOURG 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    A chamber of seven judges at the European Court of Human Rights yesterday held closed-door deliberations in respect to an application lodged by Abdullah Ocalan against Turkey, and in particular, a request by his attorneys that the Court indicate interim measures to Ankara.

    Mr Ocalan has alleged a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights under Article 5 (the right to liberty and security. He also referred in his application to Article 2 (the right to life), Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degra ding treatment) and Article 6, paragraph 1 (the right to a fair trial).

    The Chamber was of the opinion that it was not appropriate to apply Rule 39 at this stage. In view of the gravity of the allegations, however, it decided under Rule 54 paragraph 3(a) to seek clarification from the Turkish authorities on a number of poin ts concerning the circumstances of Mr. Ocalan's arrest and detention.

    The Chamber would in particular ask the Turkish government for a speedy response to a request for information on the question of Mr Ocalan's access to lawyers.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] FM official to depart for Kenya to deal with Ocalan associates issue

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    A high-ranking foreign ministry official will depart for Nairobi over the next few days to secure the safe passage of the three Abdullah Ocalan associates and other Greek embassy personnel from the Kenyan capital.

    According to diplomatic sources in Athens, the foreign ministry was in contact with Kenyan authorities so as to deal with the issue.

    The same reports pointed to foreign ministry general secretary ambassador P. Apostolidis as the most likely official to undertake the mission.

    In a related development, Mr. Apostolidis received Turkey's ambassador to Athens Ali Tinaz Tuygan, requesting that security measures for Greek diplomatic missions in Turkey be increased.

    Mr. Tuygan had requested the same for Turkish diplomatic missions in Greece last Friday.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] Gov't denies Simitis resignation rumours

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    The government yesterday flatly denied rumours that Prime Minister Costas Simitis was considering resigning in the wake of the controversial transfer of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan to Turkey last week.

    "The prime minister and the government are steadily continuing with their policies and know that the Greek people support them in achieving their goals," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters.

    "There is no reason for this national accident to end in a national catastrophe," he said.

    Mr. Simitis removed three ministers from office and announced a minor government reshuffle on Thursday after it was revealed Greece had sheltered Mr. Ocalan at its embassy in Kenya.

    The PKK leader was seized by Turkish agents as he left the embassy with Kenyan police to travel to an unnamed country willing to give him asylum.

    National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papandoniou also lashed out at those responsible for what he called the transmitting of rumours that Mr. Simitis was considering resignation.

    "Elections will be held in 2000...There is political stability," he said.

    He attributed the 6.06 per cent fall in the Athens Stock Exchange's general price index yesterday in part to the rumours, adding that it was reasonable to expect a "corre-ction after the impressive gains on the bourse since the beginning of the year."

    Athens News Agency

    [06] US, French warships expected to anchor in Thessaloniki

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    Three US and one French warship are expected to anchor in Thessaloniki's port over the next 24 hours, port officials said yesterday.

    The same sources said the vessels were "most probably" connected to the transfer of a NATO force to Kosovo in case of an agreement between the Yugoslav government and ethnic Albanians separatists in the strife-torn region.

    The US forces may also be present to participate in military war games, scheduled for the northern Aegean on Feb. 25.

    Thessaloniki will be a transit point for the 4,000 US troops participating in any NATO force in Kosovo.

    According to sources, both the city's airport and port will be involved in the transfer of the troops.

    The French ship, carrying military vehicles, is expected to dock at the city's port at 9 a.m.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Papandreou briefing to political leaders

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister George Papandreou has sent letters to the leaders of political parties represented in Parliament, asking them to arrange meetings with him in order to brief them on the latest developments in foreign policy affairs.

    Specifically, Mr Papandreou intends to brief political leaders on developments over the Abdullah Ocalan affair, as well as on discussions during the latest EU foreign ministes' council.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] Reaction to Turkish legal procedures in Ocalan case

    BONN 24/02/1999 (ANA - P. Stangos)

    German Interior Minister Otto Schily yesterday said that legal processes used by Turkish authorities in the Ocalan case "were not related to the rule of justice."

    Speaking to the press after a meeting of EU interior ministers, called at short notice by EU presidency holder Germany, Mr. Schily said the process used by Turkey had "no relation to a state governed by the rule of law" and requested from Ankara an "imm ediate change of course".

    His statements followed an announcement citing an initial appearence of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan before a special court and behind closed doors, without the benefit of defence counsel or foreign observers, and where the Turkish prosecutor proposed the death penalty "in advance".

    "...Turkey insults in this manner the European and international treaties it has signed and should quickly reconsider this process," he said.

    "I hope that there will be an immediate correction of this choice, because beyond all else, this fact on its own could lead to renewed turmoil by the Kurds in European countries," he added.

    Anita Gradin, the EU Commissioner responsible for justice and home affairs, said that the process by Turkey was "at the least counterproductive.

    "The choice of this process by the Turkish government constitutes a violation of human rights and prepares the ground for new protests by the Kurds, leading to a worsening of conditions throughout Europe," she said.

    The EU interior ministers' meeting was called to coordinate operations to better improve reactions to Europe-wide protests by the Kurds.

    Athens News Agency

    [09] Inquiry into Ocalan's arrival,stay in Greece begun

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    An Athens prosecutor began hearing testimony this week from the individuals involved in bringing Kurdish rebel leader

    Abdullah Ocalan to Greece without the government knowing of his arrival.

    The inquiry was ordered last week to determine whether any laws had been broken. First Instance Prosecutor Vassilis Pliotas was assigned to conduct the inquiry.

    Three ministers, including former FM Theodoros Pangalos, were forced to resign from the government on Thursday after the news that the Greek embassy in Kenya had sheltered Mr. Ocalan for 12 days.

    The PKK leader was captured by Kenyan security forces and handed over to the Turks as he left the embassy, and after assurances by Kenyan authorities.

    Mr. Piliotas heard testimony from retired naval officer Antonis Naxakis, who admitted to bringing Mr. Ocalan to Greece from Russia by private plane and setting in motion a series of actions that ultimately led to his capture.

    Mr. Naxakis told reporters after his testimony that he continued to feel he was a guilty party to the capture by Turkey of the Kurdish rebel leader.

    He also criticised the government for shifting the blame, as he said, to services such as the Greek intelligence service (EYP), and said he was "not about to become the alibi for the betrayal".

    The head of EYP also resigned in the wake of the Ocalan affair on Friday.

    Also present at the prosecutor's office was PASOK MP Costas Bandouvas, who said he came to provide moral support for Mr. Naxakis.

    Mr. Bandouvas was served with a verbal summons while he was at the offices and testified for an hour.

    Mr. Pliotas, whose inquiry has been assigned a further two prosecutors, also heard testimony from another two individuals - a member of EYP and an airport official.

    The inquiry is expected to be completed by Feb. 27.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] Skandalidis opposes postponement of PASOK congress,raising of leadership issue

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    PASOK Secretary Costas Skandalidis yesterday referred to an upcoming ruling party congress in March as one of "essential re-establishment", while at the same time opposing any postponement.

    During a press conference and amidst the ongoing furor over the Ocalan affair, Mr. Skandalidis said the PASOK congress should not limit itself to ratification of the party's leadership.

    He added that he preferred a "volcano of a congress" to what he called the "maintaining of inertia of balancing, compromises, trenches and personal ambitions."

    Mr. Skadalidis said the PASOK congress should come up with specific decisions and define the political framework within which the government will operate. He added that this framework should not be violated by "pockets of government power executives", a s occurred in the past.

    He also asked for a specific and binding framework of priorities and choices so as to negate the existence, as he said, of "government power pockets".

    PASOK's secretary also noted the need for "correct terms and procedures" in the "re-establishment of PASOK" with real membership rosters.

    He requested for the selection of all party executive committees and officials on a merit-based system, noting that the party's executive bureau should be upgraded.

    Mr. Skandalidis said he was against the system of dual leadership, where the party president would be a different individual than the prime minster.

    He added that the issue of leadership should not be raised at the party congress, rather he said that the government should finish its four-year term and conclude its course, but recognised the right of every party member to pose the leaderhship issue.

    Speaking on the Ocalan case, Mr. Skadalidis said that it had "deeply wounded the soul, patriotic conscience and the party stance."

    However, he noted that the attempt to charge PASOK with the "shame of national treason" on the case was unfair and unacceptable.

    Athens News Agency

    [11] MP Kypouros leaves PASOK, cites Ocalan affair

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    PASOK MP Christos Kypouros yesterday said he was leaving the ruling party's Parliamentary group over the Ocalan affair.

    In a letter to the Parliament president, Mr. Kypouros said he could not continue to "be identified with a government and a party grouping which had questions hanging over it as regards its responsibilities in the tragedy of the heroic Kurdish leader."

    Mr. Kypouros, a deputy for the border Evros prefecture, said responsibility for the debacle were "exclusively" the government's and PASOK leadership.

    Following Mr. Kypouros' statement, PASOK responded by saying that the Evros deputy was expelled from the party.

    "It is apparent that deputy Christos Kypouros' move to set himself apart from the Parliamentary group of PASOK, the causes that he claims triggered that move as well as the contents of his statement do not coincide with the capacity of a member of the movement. Christos Kypouros does not belong within PASOK," a party statement read.

    Athens News Agency

    [12] US rejects Demirel provocations against Greece

    WASHINGTON 24/02/1999 (ANA - T. Ellis)

    The US administration yesterday categorically rejected a proposal by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel to include Greece in a US list of countries supporting terrorism.

    "There is no question that Greece provided haven to Ocalan in recent weeks, and we have made our position very clear on that," US State Department spokesman James Foley said.

    "However, the issue of - let's remember Greece is a friendly government...it's an allied government: it's one we work with. It's one that we - it's a country that we support in many different fora in many different ways. And I have made clear to you our difference of opinion on the question of harboring Ocalan. But you have to place that against the overall picture, which is one of solidarity among two NATO allies and common work on all kinds of economic, political and security issues," he added.

    "Let me just say, though, that the question of placing governments on the state sponsors of terrorism list is a very serious matter. We only place governments on that list when we have clear and compelling evidence of a pattern of continued support over time at the highest levels of government, " he said.

    Mr. Foley concluded by saying that evidence proving the existence of such behaviour have not been brought to the attention of the US government.

    Athens News Agency

    [13] Karamanlis on official US visit

    WASHINGTON 24/02/1999 (ANA - T. Ellis)

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis will pay his first official visit to the United States in his capacity as Greek main opposition leader, during the second week of March.

    While in the US, Mr. Karamanlis will be received by US Vice-President Al Gore and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

    During his four-day visit, Mr. Karamanlis will also meet with various US Congressmen, while he is to deliver addresses at several academic institutions and "think tanks.

    His schedule will probably include visits to other US cities, including Boston, New York and Chicago.

    Athens News Agency

    [14] Int'l conference on oceanographic study of E. Mediterranean, Black Sea

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    The first international conference for an oceanographic study of the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea began at the Zappeion Mansion in Athens yesterday.

    The conference's primary target is the registration and comparison of all the oceanographic and marine environmental parameters of the two adjoining seas, as well as encouraging cooperation between researchers from countries bordering on these seas and with their colleagues from European Union countries.

    According to the president of Greece's National Marine Research Centre, the country is upgrading its research, qualified scientific potential and acquiring a deep sea research vessel, among others.

    Officials from the centre said that Greece's scientific research community in the oceanographic research sector have more than doubled the absorption of EU funds.

    According to speakers, the conclusions to be derived from the conference will contribute to the creation and implementation of a coordinated programme for all research activities and the enactment of regulations to protect the marine environment.

    Athens News Agency

    [15] Archdiocese aid mission to Serbia

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    The Archdiocese of Athens will carry out a new aid mission to various Serbian cities within the framework of its humanitarian initiatives and activities.

    The mission will be supervised by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos.

    The mission includes 10,000 tins of condensed milk and 60 tonnes of flour, collected by the Holy Archdiocese of Athens' parish funds.

    According to an announcement by the Archdiocese's press office, "the needs for aid are very great and our Orthodox faithful are called on to cooperate with the Church and to contribute to every mission of love."

    Athens News Agency

    [16] Stocks nosedive on political gloom

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    Share prices ended sharply lower yesterday hit by domestic political uncertainty following the Ocalan affair, and fears of a western military strike on Kosovo.

    The general index ended 6.06 percent down at 3,052.04 points, off the day's low of 2,991, down 7.94 percent near the 8.0 limit down for shares.

    Traders said major domestic institutional investors moved in to bull up the market, nudging the index upwards. Turnover was 156.6 billion drachmas and volume 24,945,885 shares.

    Spurring the profit-taking spree was a report by PA Salomon Smith Barney report saying that Greece's participation in European economic and monetary union could be delayed due to adverse political developments.

    Athens Stock Exchange chairman Spyros Kouniakis said that the plunge in prices was due to an overreaction since economic fundamentals remained unchanged. Mr. Kouniakis urged investors to remain calm during the current volatile period.

    Sector indices suffered losses.

    Banks dropped 6.33 percent, Leasing plunged 7.62 percent, Insurance eased 4.41 percent, Investment was 5.68 percent off, Construction fell 7.58 percent, Industrials dropped 6.69 percent, Miscellaneous ended 6.51 percent lower and Holding fell 6.32 percent.

    The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 5.56 percent off, while the FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 5.71 percent down at 1,917.35.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 265 to 17 with another 2 issues unchanged.

    Bank of Piraeus, Teletypos, National Bank of Greece and Thessaliki were the most heavily traded stocks.

    Xifias, Tria Alpha, Nematemboriki, Vernikos Yachts, Naoussa, Lambropoulos, Mesohoritis, Ridenco and Desmos scored the biggest percentage gains.

    A total of 130 shares hit the day's 8.0 percent limit down. Among them were Commercial Invest, Aktor, General Bank, Bank of Greece, ETEBA, Ergobank, Sysware and Intertek. National Bank of Greece ended at 18,500 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 30,400, Ergobank at 21,413, Ionian Bank at 15,100, Titan Cement at 20,900, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,400, Intracom at 18,240, Minoan Lines at 7,075, Panafon at 9,250 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7, 700.

    Foreign investors dump domestic bonds : Investors from abroad, chiefly the United States, sold off Greek bonds in the secondary market yesterday due to political uncertainty. Turnover hit a record high of 209 billion drachmas, traders said. Bond prices lost an average of 150 basis points, widening the yield spread between 10-year bonds and German bonds to 221 from 206.

    But the bond sell-off did not lead to heavy demand for foreign currency, which contained a decline by the drachma.

    The national currency was 322.980 to the euro at the central bank's daily fix.

    Interbank rates remained soft in a liquid market. The overnight rate was steady at 9.90 percent.

    Greece may have harder time reaching EMU, analysts say : Greece may have a bumpier ride towards convergence with the European Union due to fallout from the Ocalan affair but its eventual membership of the euro is still just as likely if economic reform continues, global analysts said yesterday.

    Quoted by Reuters, the analysts said it seemed that some time would be needed for the political dust to settle.

    According to analyst David Calver at Merrill Lynch in London, the risks are that Prime Minister Costas Simitis could be replaced either as party leader or that there is an early general election, which is the lesser risk of the two.

    At the same time, any upsets of this kind could set Greece back a little but not affect its objective of joining the euro, Mr. Calver said.

    The analysts said that despite short-term ups and downs, there was little to fear as long as whoever held the helm kept to a rigorous programme of economic reform.

    Athens News Agency

    [17] Consumer loans jump 37.5 pct in December

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    Consumer loans surged by 37.5 percent in December 1998 compared with the same month in the previous year, the Bank of Greece said in a report yesterday.

    The rapid growth of the end-year balance of consumer loans vindicated the central bank's worries over the phenomenon's impact on the broader economy.

    The rate of increase was the highest since a 78.7 percent jump in 1995. Consumer loans rose by 34.4 percent in 1996 and by 27.9 percent in 1997.

    The Bank of Greece's figures also showed a steady rise in private sector loans. Credit rose by 15.2 percent in 1998 from 15.3 percent in 1997. Commercial bank loans to the private sector rose 17.9 percent in 1998.

    Housing loans rose 38.7 percent in 1998 from a 36.9 percent increase in 1997, signalling a curbing of credit growth in the sector. The central bank, however, expects housing credit growth to accelerate in 1999 due to lower interest rates being offered by banks.

    Foreign currency loans rose by 14 percent in 1998 following an 18.8 percent increase in 1997 and the same figure - 18.8 percent - in 1996.

    Athens News Agency

    [18] Yield edges down in 12-month treasury bill auction

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    The average weighted yield fell slightly from 9.5 to 9.2 percent in yesterday's auction of 12-month Treasury bills, the finance ministry said in a statement.

    Bids submitted totalled 406.3 billion drachmas, 3.4 times more than the auctioned amount of 120 billion. The ministry finally accepted bids totalling 144 billion drachmas.

    Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said the drop in yield confirmed the economy's steady progress towards European economic and monetary union within the announced timetable.

    "The state bond market has shown stability and staying power in the last few days," Mr. Christodoulakis said.

    "The yield spread between Greek and euro bonds did not exceed 200 basis points, meaning that the interest rate convergence criterion was achieved despite recent volatility."

    He added that the government's borrowing programme would be implemented as announced.

    Two-year savings bonds for issue : The finance ministry said yesterday it will offer two-year tax-free savings bonds on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 2 and 3 at nine percent.

    The bonds in electronic form have a minimum face value of 10,000 and are issued in multiples up to 15 million drachmas for each investor.

    The issue, which is aimed at retail investors, was originally scheduled for February 26 and March 1.

    Athens News Agency

    [19] Aluminium de Grece shows 15 pct profit jump in 1998

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    Aluminium de Grece, a subsidiary of the French Pechiney Group, yesterday reported 1998 net profits of 36.4 million dollars before tax from 31.6 million a year earlier, marking a 15 percent rise, it said in a statement yesterday.

    Higher productivity and modernisation led to increased output despite a drop in aluminium prices, the statement said.

    Management will propose to shareholders on May 27 a dividend per share of five dollars, the conversion of preferred shares into common and a two-for- one stock split.

    Athens News Agency

    [20] Sanyo Hellas breaks into health sector

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    Sanyo Hellas Holdings is entering the health sector through the purchase of a 24 percent stake in CAT Scan Diagnostic Centre SA, Sanyo said in a statement yesterday.

    The purchase will be completed through a share capital increase that will take the centre's capital to three billion drachmas, allowing an expansion plan.

    Diagnostic Centre is a leading establishment of its kind and one of the best equipped in Europe. It has 11 departments with a large specialised staff.

    Sanyo Hellas Holdings plans to expand into new business sectors that show rapid growth.

    The company also plans a 10 billion drachma share capital increase by June this year.

    Athens News Agency

    [21] Greek industrial output costs rise, bucking EU trend

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    Greek industrial production costs increased by 1.5 percent in December against the same month in 1997, countering a trend of decline in the European Union.

    In the 15-nation bloc, costs fell by 2.2 percent in December with eurozone countries posting a 2.5 percent drop, Eurostat said yesterday.

    Luxembourg was the only other EU country to mark an increase, with industrial production costs rising by 0.2 percent.

    Athens News Agency

    [22] Hellenic Petroleum, Lukoil cooperation

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    Hellenic Petroleum and Russia's Lukoil signed a cooperation agreement in Moscow yesterday.

    The agreement was signed by the Greece-based group's president and managing director, Eleftherios Tzellas, and Lukoil President V. Alekperov.

    The main purpose of cooperation is creation of a joint venture that is independent from the two companies existing activities.

    The joint venture will be active in southeastern Europe and Greece as well as in the exploitation of energy sources in Russia and elsewhere.

    The joint venture framework includes cooperation between the two groups in providing crude oil and petroleum products, among others.

    Athens News Agency

    [23] New maritime academy in Hania

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    A new maritime academy was inaugurated yesterday in Hania, Crete.

    The new installations cost 1.4 billion drachmas, funded through national and EU coffers.

    Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis, in his opening remarks, stressed that for Greece to remain an international shipping force there was a requirement for contemporary training and immediate adjustment to international rules and agreements.

    Athens News Agency

    [24] Athens Foreign Exchange

    Athens 24/02/1999 (ANA)

    Bank of Greece closing rates of: February 23, 1999

    Parities in Drachmas

    Banknotes             Buying  Selling
    US Dollar             291.460 298.217
    Can.Dollar            194.432 198.940
    Australian Dlr        186.228 190.546
    Pound Sterling        471.914 482.856
    Irish Punt            406.819 416.251
    Pound Cyprus          552.048 564.847
    Pound Malta           717.090 746.969
    Turkish pound (100)     0.070   0.073
    French franc           48.844  49.977
    Swiss franc           200.513 205.162
    Belgian franc           7.942   8.127
    German Mark           163.816 167.614
    Finnish Mark           53.886  55.136
    Dutch Guilder         145.389 148.760
    Danish Kr.             43.098  44.098
    Swedish Kr.            35.942  36.775
    Norwegian Kr.          36.930  37.786
    Austrian Sh.           23.284  23.824
    Italian lira (100)     16.548  16.931
    Yen (100)             240.133 245.701
    Spanish Peseta          1.925   1.970
    Port. Escudo            1.598   1.635
    
    Foreign Exchange      Buying  Selling
    New York              291.460 298.217
    Montreal              194.432 198.940
    Sydney                186.228 190.546
    London                471.914 482.856
    Dublin                406.819 416.251
    Nicosia               552.048 564.847
    Paris                  48.844  49.977
    Zurich                200.513 205.162
    Brussels                7.942   8.127
    Frankfurt             163.816 167.614
    Helsinki               53.886  55.136
    Amsterdam             145.389 148.760
    Copenhagen             43.098  44.098
    Stockholm              35.942  36.775
    Oslo                   36.930  37.786
    Vienna                 23.284  23.824
    Milan                  16.548  16.931
    Tokyo                 240.133 245.701
    Madrid                  1.925   1.970
    Lisbon                  1.598   1.635
    
    Athens News Agency

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