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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-11-11

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] Clinton visit to Greece postponed one week
  • [02] EU Commission affirms Greece's fiscal adjustment
  • [03] Greek stocks end lower, turnover rises
  • [04] Alpha Credit-Ionian Bank announce swap deal
  • [05] Minoan Flying Dolphins
  • [06] OSE awards rail connection contract for Spata airport
  • [07] Piraeus Bank-Shelman shares in Athoniki construction firm
  • [08] Athens Foreign Exchange
  • [09] Greece, Slovenia agree on idea of opposition to changes in Balkan borders
  • [10] `Guardian` supports return of Parthenon Marbles
  • [11] Construction inaugurated on oil pipeline to FYROM
  • [12] Gov't/business delegation in Bulgaria
  • [13] Papoulias meets with Yugoslav leadership, today with Milosevic
  • [14] Turkish railways 'Friendship Train' arrives in Thessaloniki
  • [15] European Catholic bishops' council convenes in Athens

  • [01] Clinton visit to Greece postponed one week

    Athens, 11/11/1999 (ANA)

    Athens and Washington yesterday announced a one-week postponement of US President Bill Clinton's visit to Greece on the recommendation of the Greek government.

    The visit, the first-ever by Mr. Clinton to Greece, will now take place between Nov. 19-20, following an Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe summit, instead of Nov. 13-15 as originally planned, an announcement from Press and Media

    Minister Dimitris Reppas read.

    In Washington, a White House announcement also stated that the Clinton visit was postponed for Nov. 19-20 after consultations with Athens.

    Initially, Mr. Clinton was scheduled to visit Greece between Nov. 22-24 before the date was changed to Nov. 13-15.

    "Following consultations between the two countries and in the interest of Greek-American relations, the Greek government has proposed to the White House that the visit of the President of the United States, Mr. Clinton, take place Nov. 19-20, 1999, aft er the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit," Mr. Reppas' statement read, adding that the White House had accepted the Greek proposal.

    "Both governments believe that the additional time before the visit will be used productively to ensure the best possible organisation of Mr. Clinton's visit to Athens," the announcement concluded.

    White House : WASHINGTON (ANA - T. Ellis) - In its statement, which mostly reiterated what the Greek government announced, a White House release noted that the trip was postponed "after consultations with the Greek government, which recommended that we make some changes in the schedule...The President will travel to Greece November 19th through the 20th."

    "This is a very important trip for both countries. Greece is a NATO ally with very close ties to the US. We have common economic, political and security interests with Greece. Not to mention the deep historical bonds between the American and the people of Greece," the announcement concluded.

    Clinton remarks : In responding to a question on the postponement vis-a-vis security concerns, Mr. Clinton stated: "I am not concerned at all..."

    "As you know, if the Greek government and the Secret Service aren't concerned. I am not concerned," he added.

    "I explained yesterday (Tuesday) that the Greeks have a tradition of large demonstrations, and the communists, the anarchists, perhaps some others in Greece, want to demonstrate in large measure, I understand, because they strongly disagree with my policy in Kosovo and presumably before that in Bosnia," Mr. Clinton said.

    "And you know, I think we were right, and I disagree with them. But the fact that they have the right to free speech doesn't concern me," he added.

    "The Greek government asked us to put the trip the way we did, I think, largely for other reasons. I think they thought it would be better for them and that meetings we had might be more relevant if we did it after, rather than before, the OSCE meeting in Turkey. And so they asked to do it," Mr. Clinton said.

    "Whether the demonstrations had anything to do with it, I don't know, but they might have. But I am not bothered about it. You know, It's going to happen, and you all get to take pictures of it," he concluded.

    Papandreou : THE HAGUE (ANA - M. Spinthourakis) - Foreign Minister George Papandreou, currently on an official visit to the Netherlands, said here last night that the Greek government and Washington jointly decided to postpone Mr. Clinton's visit.

    Mr. Papandreou said the foreign ministry, as was the case with the government in its entirety, evaluated the situation and reached decisions with the national interest being the exclusive criterion.

    He said there was no doubt that on certain issues, such as the Kosovo issue, sentimental upsurges existed in Greece over US policy, while on other issues such as the Cyprus issue, cooperation between the governments of Greece and the US was constructive .

    Mr. Papandreou said the Greek government believes that Mr. Clinton's visit to Greece is an opportunity to promote and defend the country's interests.

    He further said that the steadfast target of Greek foreign policy is safeguarding peace, stability and democracy, adding that these issues will also be discussed during the dinner he was to have with his Dutch counterpart Josias von Arcen at a restaurant here last night.

    Mr. Papandreou's visit here is part of Greece's diplomatic campaign in light of the Helsinki summit.

    Gov't statements : Before the official announcement of the change of the trip's date, Mr. Reppas had said earlier yesterday that a postponement was not related to concerns about anti-American protests.

    Mr. Reppas told reporters that the fact that Mr. Clinton would visit the country was important for the government.

    "Visits and the presence of foreign leaders in Greece are elements which contribute to and do not take away from our foreign policy," he stressed.

    Referring to Mr. Clinton's comments about Greece in a speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday, he noted that the views about the country expressed by the US president were very significant.

    Asked to comment on planned protests during Mr. Clinton's visit, he said these demonstrations were respected, adding that he did believe though that they expressed the views of a majority of the Greek people.

    Sources claimed yesterday the postponement was being contemplated so that the visit would not fall near the commemoration events of the Athens Polytechnic students' uprising, scheduled for this weekend. The demonstrations, which usually last for three d ays in the run-up to the November 17 anniversary, culminate with a protest march to the US embassy in Athens.

    This year, several groups decided to extend the demonstrations to five days in order to coincide with the Clinton visit.

    Tsohatzopoulos-Burns meeting : Meanwhile, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday received US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns following a request by the latter.

    According to sources, they discussed issues regarding Mr. Clinton's visit, bilateral relations and Greece's armaments programme.

    Albright : WASHINGTON (ANA) - On her part, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright yesterday expressed her hope to visit Greece along with Mr. Clinton.

    "As the President said in his speech (at Georgetown University) he looks forward to visiting Greece. We are working with the Greek government to achieve a visit as calm as possible," Ms Albright said.

    Speaking on the issue of the Turkish candidacy to the European Union, Ms Albright said: "We have discussed many times the whole Turkey-EU issue".

    The US official spoke during a meeting with Finnish FM Tarja Halonen. In relation to the EU-Turkey issue, Ms Halonen said a relevant report by the European Commission as well as the first reactions by member-states and a "constructive atmosphere regardi ng the EU enlargement process" was created. She also expressed her satisfaction over the improvement of Greek- Turkish relations.

    Opposition reactions to postponement : Main opposition New Democracy spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos described the government's announcement as a "monumental irresponsibility", charging also that the prime minister did not provide convincing explanations over the development.

    "The government lacks the boldness to express clear and stable positions. It prevaricates, being crushed by pressures from home and abroad. Its makeshift and amateurish methods strike at Greece's credibility, prestige and international image," he said.

    On his part, former ND prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis noted that "Greece has undoubtedly suffered heavy national damage".

    "At this sensitive juncture, when important decisions are likely to be taken for the region and our national issues, we are risking throwing the Americans into the arms of Turkey," he added.

    Additionally, Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos said he believed the government had concealed the truth regarding the matter, and that "developments constitute clear pressure and blackmail against our country by the US".

    He also rejected the notion that planned protests were the real cause of the postponement.

    Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas told reporters that the postponement is "to the advantage of the Greek people".

    "President Clinton's visit to Greece is part of the US attempt to impose a 'new order' in the region, including upgrading Turkey's role, dropping Greece's right to veto and pressuring Greece and Cyprus over legitimising the results of the invasion and o ccupation of the island," Mr. Tsovolas said.

    In attacking the government and the prime minister for continuing what he called its refusal to discuss foreign policy issues with the opposition, Mr. Tsovolas said that if Greece abandoned its veto and allowed the EU to recognise Turkey as a candidate country, it would lead to the joint exploitation of the Aegean and the pursuit of a confederal solution on the divided island of Cyprus.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] EU Commission affirms Greece's fiscal adjustment

    BRUSSELS, 11/11/1999 (ANA)

    The European Commission yesterday opened the door to Greece's participation in EMU with a recommendation to the Council of Ministers to abolish the country's excessive fiscal deficit criterion.

    The commission approved a recommendation by Pedro Solbes, EU's Commissioner on Economic and Monetary Affairs.

    Mr. Solbes said it was a significant step by Greece in its effort to enter a single European currency.

    The commission's recommendation said that the Greek general government's deficit fell from 13.8 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in 1993 to 4.0 percent in 1997 and to 2.5 percent in 1998, below the criterion of 3.0 percent envisaged i n the Maastricht Pact. The report forecasts a further fall in the next two years.

    An ECOFIN council on Nov. 29 is expected to discuss the Commission's recommendation.

    "Greece has made significant and steady progress in correcting fiscal imbalances in the last few years. Fiscal adjustment, however, must be continued according to the targets set in a convergence programme for the years 2000-2001 along with Greece's efforts to achieve long-term price stability, preconditions for the country's entry in the euro-zone," Mr. Solbes said.

    An ECOFIN meeting in September 1994 had decided that Greece retained an excessive general government's deficit and in November the same year it recommended to the country's authorities to improve the situation. Similar recommendations were issued in the following years with the last in May 29, 1998. The Commission was monitoring closely fiscal developments in Greece all these years and its current recommendation is based on data submitted by the Greek authorities in September 1999.

    The general government's net borrowing fell to 2.5 percent of GDP in 1998, slightly above an ECOFIN's target of 2.4 percent for the year.

    Government spending totalled 3.7 percent of GDP, exceeding the country's government deficit for the first time.

    Fiscal adjustment was based on increasing primary surpluses and on lower interest rates payments.

    The public gross debt fell to 106.3 percent of GDP in 1998 from 112.3 percent in 1996.

    The Greek government's convergence programme, reviewed in mid-1998, for the period 1998-2001 envisages that the general government's deficit will fall to 1.7 percent of GDP in 2000 and to 0.8 percent the following year. Public debt is expected to fall to 102.5 percent and to 99.8 percent of the country's GDP over the same period.

    The Maastricht criteria call for a public debt of up to 60 percent of GDP.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Greek stocks end lower, turnover rises

    Athens, 11/11/1999 (ANA)

    Equity prices ended moderately lower yesterday hit by renewed pressures on financial stocks, despite an increased turnover helped by strong buying interest in smaller capitalisation stocks.

    The general index ended 0.41 percent off at 5,704.53 points with turnover at 366.2 billion drachmas.

    Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-1.49 pct), Leasing (-0.90 pct), Insurance (+0.77 pct), Investments (-2.45 pct), Construction (+1.34 pct), Industrials (-0.64 pct), Miscellaneous (+4.38 pct) and Holding (+0.85 pct).

    The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks jumped 3.56 percent while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks eased 1.07 percent to 2,800.80 points.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 172 to 160 with another five issues unchanged.

    A total of 55 shares ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit up, while Fieratex and Barba Stathis ended at the day's limit down. Klaoudatos and Macedonian Spinn Mills were the most heavily traded stocks.

    National Bank of Greece ended at 21,300 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 24, 900, Commercial Bank at 22,790, Titan Cement (common) at 40,800, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,800, Intracom at 14,455, Minoan Lines at 10,185, Panafon at 3,720 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,695.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] Alpha Credit-Ionian Bank announce swap deal

    Athens, 11/11/1999 (ANA)

    A merger plan between Alpha Credit Bank and Ionian Bank will be completed through a 1.5-for-one stock swap, Alpha Credit Bank's chairman Yiannis Costopoulos said yesterday.

    Speaking during a press conference, Mr. Costopoulos said that the two banks' general shareholders' meetings, due in the first quarter of 2000, were expected to approve the plan which envisages exchanging three Ionian Bank's shares for two shares in Alph a Credit Bank. The swap proposal was confirmed by international accounting firms Arthur Andersen and KPMG Peat Marwick.

    Following the stock swap, Alpha Credit Bank's total number of shares will rise to 108,147,707 from 99,000,000 currently with their nominal value rising from 1,500 to 1,564 drachmas.

    Mr. Costopoulos said that a procedure to issue new shares was expected to be completed by March next year.

    He said that a procedure for the operational merger of the two banks and their affiliates, was progressing rapidly.

    Mr. Costopoulos said that the two banks have already harmonised credit policy and administration structures. The merged institutions plan to expand their network to 86 new areas following completion of a plan to relocate 74 neighbouring branches.

    He said that the plan to raise its network to 450 branches, worth seven billion drachmas, would be completed by the end of 2001.

    MacKinsey, an international consulting firm, is expected to deliver this month its proposals for the creation of a new banking group aimed to become a regional force in the Balkans.

    Mr. Costopoulos said that the group was fully prepared to deal with the Y2K problem, while it was also in a process to draft a business plan based on the euro currency, ahead of the circulation of the single European currency.

    The two banks jointly accounted for 18.5 percent of the domestic banking market with total assets exceeding seven trillion drachmas, he said.

    Alpha Credit Bank reported a 40 percent increase in lending to 2.1 trillion drachmas in the first nine months of the year, compared with the same period in 1998. Deposits (including repos) were up 39 percent to 3.8 trillion and pre-tax profits jumped 73 percent to 114 billion drachmas. The bank expects its full year profits to total 150 billion drachmas.

    Ionian Bank reported profits of 31 billion, deposits (including repos) were 1.7 trillion and lending 607 billion drachmas. Group pre-tax profits are expected to total 200 billion drachmas in 1999.

    Mr. Costopoulos said that Alpha Credit Bank's price per earnings ratio (P/E) was 12 pre-tax and 17 after taxes, comparatively low for international standards. He said that prospects were favourable for the bank's shares and predicted a rise to 30,000 dr achmas.

    He said that the Athens Hilton Hotel, under the control of Alpha Credit Bank group through Ionian Hotels, would be fully renovated by 2002.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] Minoan Flying Dolphins

    Athens, 11/11/1999 (ANA)

    Minoan Flying Dolphins is expected to announce in the next few days new acquisitions of ferry ships aimed at strengthening its dominance in domestic coastal shipping.

    Shipping sources said that Minoan Flying Dolphins, a Minoan Lines affiliate, was close to a deal with L. Nomikos Shipping Line operating in the Sporades islands lines with three ferries and in the Piraeus-Cyclades line with the ferry ship "Anemos".

    Minoan Flying Dolphins is expected to announce a deal for the purchase of the high-speed "Sea Speed" and two ferries "Super Naias" and "Panagia Ekatontapyliani", owned by Antonis Agapitos.

    The company was also in talks with shipowners M. Stathakis and G. Ventouris for the purchase of two ferries operating in the Cyclades.

    MDF's board was in contact with Arkadia Lines, owners of "Poseidon Express II", a ferry operating in the Cyclades.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] OSE awards rail connection contract for Spata airport

    Athens, 11/11/1999 (ANA)

    Construction of a suburban railway from central Athens to the new international airport at Spata has been awarded to the Attiki Odos consortium.

    A relevant announcement was made yesterday by Hellenic Railway Organisation (OSE) officials following consultations with the public works ministry.

    The project is budgeted at 39 billion drachmas. Work will start by the end of March and will develop simultaneously with construction of the Stavros- Elefsina-Spata motorway.

    The cost of the entire project is budgeted at 474 billion drachmas, of which 123 billion have been secured from the European Union.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Piraeus Bank-Shelman shares in Athoniki construction firm

    Athens, 11/11/1999 (ANA)

    The Piraeus Bank group and the Shelman wood products manufacturer are to acquire 10 and 25 per cent stakes, respectively, in the northern Greece- based Athoniki construction firm.

    According to an announcement yesterday, Athoniki will apply for listing on the Athens Stock Exchange. The company expects to more than double turnover in the current fiscal year to more than three billion drachmas, while profits are expected to reach 50 0 billion drachmas. The firm also announced plans to diversify into the real estate sector and is seeking construction contracts in neighbouring countries.

    Transactions at the Athens Derivatives Exchange totalled 715 contracts, amounting to 4.7 billion drachmas in value yesterday.

    Trade was heaviest for November and December 1999 contracts.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] Athens Foreign Exchange

    Athens, 11/11/1999 (ANA)

    Banknotes             Buying  Selling
    US Dollar             313.303 320.567
    Can.Dollar            212.367 217.291
    Australian Dlr        200.622 205.274
    Pound Sterling        507.686 519.457
    Irish Punt            413.835 423.430
    Pound Cyprus          563.952 577.027
    Pound Malta           740.604 771.463
    Turkish pound (100)     0.055   0.057
    French franc           49.686  50.838
    Swiss franc           202.586 207.283
    Belgian franc           8.079   8.267
    German Mark           166.641 170.505
    Finnish Mark           54.816  56.087
    Dutch Guilder         147.896 151.325
    Danish Kr.             43.844  44.861
    Swedish Kr.            37.640  38.513
    Norwegian Kr.          39.819  40.742
    Austrian Sh.           23.686  24.235
    Italian lira (100)     16.832  17.223
    Yen (100)             298.027 304.936
    Spanish Peseta          1.959   2.005
    Port. Escudo            1.626   1.664
    
    Foreign Exchange      Buying  Selling
    New York              313.303 320.567
    Montreal              212.367 217.291
    Sydney                200.622 205.274
    London                507.686 519.457
    Dublin                413.835 423.430
    Nicosia               563.952 577.027
    Paris                  49.686  50.838
    Zurich                202.586 207.283
    Brussels                8.079   8.267
    Frankfurt             166.641 170.505
    Helsinki               54.816  56.087
    Amsterdam             147.896 151.325
    Copenhagen             43.844  44.861
    Stockholm              37.640  38.513
    Oslo                   39.819  40.742
    Vienna                 23.686  24.235
    Milan                  16.832  17.223
    Tokyo                 298.027 304.936
    Madrid                  1.959   2.005
    Lisbon                  1.626   1.664
    
    Athens News Agency

    [09] Greece, Slovenia agree on idea of opposition to changes in Balkan borders

    LJUBLJANA, 11/11/1999 (ANA - N. Megadoukas)

    Greece and Slovenia stated yesterday they were staunchly opposed to any change of existing borders in the Balkans, during the first day of an official visit by President Kostis Stephanopoulos to that country.

    Mr. Stephanopoulos, speaking during a meeting with Slovenian President Milan Kucan, said both countries shared a conviction that a change in borders would trigger a chain reaction which could threaten stability in the region.

    The Greek president, on the first day of a three-day visit to the Slovenian capital, said he and Mr. Kucan shared the same views on all issues of mutual interest and that they discussed possibilities for furthering bilateral cooperation, mainly in the economic and investment sectors.

    Mr. Stephanopoulos is accompanied by several Greek entrepreneurs.

    On his part, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis co-signed an agreement for scientific and technological cooperation with Slovenia's minister of sciences.

    The Greek president later in the day held a meeting with Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek for talks on bilateral relations, Slovenia's accession EU and NATO accession course, the situation in the Balkans, Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus problem.

    Addressing a forum of Greek and Slovenian businessmen, Mr. Stephanopoulos said the Greek market, due to the country's impending participation in Economic and Monetary Union, held considerable interest, particularly for neighbouring countries.

    Speaking at the official dinner hosted in his honour by Mr. Kucan afterwards, the Greek president reiterated Athens' support to Slovenia's aim for integration in the EU and NATO.

    He stressed the importance of economic development for the countries of the region.

    "Security in Europe cannot be achieved without stable democratic institutions and respect for human rights in the countries of southeastrn Europe. A necessary condition for this is the speedy economic reform and development of the countries of the region. The Stability Pact, under conditions, can offer teh appropriated framework for the resolution of political and economic problems," he said.

    Finally, he said Greece was showing goodwill for an improvement in relations with Turkey, but this was depended on respect on respect for international law and treaties.

    Mr. Stephanopoulos today will meet with several Slovenian political leaders and is due to also inaugurate an exhibition on writer Nikos Kazantzakis.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] `Guardian` supports return of Parthenon Marbles

    LONDON, 11/11/1999 (ANA - L. Tsirigotakis)

    The London daily "Guardian" on Wednesday offered its support for the return of the Parthenon Marbles

    "The British Museum refuses to return the marbles to Greece on a number of spurious grounds, among them the contention that, unlike the cultural super- heroes of the British Museum, the Greeks would not take care of them properly," a 'Guar-dian' article stated.

    "That case was looking a little thin even before this latest form of marble abuse broke surface. The discovery that the marbles had been "cleaned" while in the museum's care and the subsequent concealment of the "cleaning" had already alerted marble fan s to the possibility that the BM's position on the marbles might not be entirely sound," the article added.

    "But now the mystery of why the trustees are so determined to hang on to them at all costs has been solved - it is because they make the perfect party decor..."

    "Serious fundraisers and responsible wealthy individuals" are permitted to dress up in Greek costumes and have dinner in front of the marbles, served by waiters also dressed as ancient Greeks, though no doubt less splendid ones," the paper wrote.

    "That rests on the aesthetic argument - that objects were made to be displayed on the Parthenon and the separation of them from the building is aesthetically indefensible.It is a case submitted, as the Greek minister of culture wrote in 1997, in the nam e of world cultural heritage, not in the name of the Hellenic nation or Hellenic history," the article concludes.

    Athens News Agency

    [11] Construction inaugurated on oil pipeline to FYROM

    SKOPJE, 11/11/1999 (ANA - M. Vihou)

    Construction of a 90-million-dollar oil pipeline connecting northern Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was inaugurated yesterday.

    The pipeline is expected to be completed in 18 months and will run the 280 kilometres between Skopje and Thessaloniki. The cost will be covered by Greece to the tune of 80 per cent, with FYROM providing the remaining 20 per cent.

    Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos and FYROM Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski were on hand for the event.

    Mr. Venizelos noted that this is not a "usual" inauguration but the "joining of the two counties' flags.

    On his part, Mr. Georgievski said the project is of both political and economic importance since it strengthens bilateral bonds and provides proof that Greece is ready to invest in FYROM.

    Athens News Agency

    [12] Gov't/business delegation in Bulgaria

    Athens, 11/11/1999 (ANA)

    A government delegation accompanied by a large number of Greek entrepreneurs will participate at a business forum in Sofia over the next few days and hold talks with their counterparts in the Bulgarian capital and Plovdiv.

    Macedonia -Thrace Minister Yiannis Magriotis is expected to deliver a message by PM Costas Simitis - who was in the neighbouring country recently - to Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov.

    The purpose of the visit is to further strengthen bilateral economic relations.

    Athens News Agency

    [13] Papoulias meets with Yugoslav leadership, today with Milosevic

    BELGRADE, 11/11/1999 (ANA - M. Mouratidis)

    Ex-foreign minister Karolos Papoulias held talks here yesterday with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic and the president of Yugoslavia's Lower House Miomir Minic.

    Mr. Papoulias is visiting Belgrade in his capacity as Parliament's national defence and foreign affairs committee chairman.

    Talks focused on the situation prevailing in the region, political and economic pressures being exerted on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and implementation of resolution 1244 regarding Kosovo. Bilateral relations were also discussed.

    According to reports, the Yugoslav officials accused a portion of the international community of "continuing the raid against Yugoslavia with various means, preventing implementation of resolution 1244...and of openly siding with the Albanian terrorists."

    Mr. Jovanovic expressed satisfaction over Mr. Papoulias' visit to Belgrade, although he also hinted that Belgrade is displeased over a decrease in contacts and in cooperation at bilateral level. However, he stressed that the Yugoslav government understa nds the commitments Greece has as a member of the European Union and NATO.

    Mr. Papoulias will conclude his visit to Belgrade today with a meeting with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

    Athens News Agency

    [14] Turkish railways 'Friendship Train' arrives in Thessaloniki

    Athens, 11/11/1999 (ANA)

    A Turkish railways "Friendship Train" arrived in Thessaloniki yesterday morning and was welcomed by local railway workers.

    The train's 65 passengers, Turkish reporters and railway workers as well as representatives of the Turkish emergency rescue unit attended an event on the anniversary of the death of the founder of the modern Turkish state, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, at the Turkish consulate of Thessaloniki.

    In a statement, the moslem deputy of the main opposition New Democracy party, Birol Akifoglu, said the moslem minority in Thrace constitutes a bridge of friendship and wants, more than anyone else, pea-ceful cohabitation between Christians and Moslems in the Greek province.

    The delegation members were due to leave for Athens last night, where the "Friendship Train" will be officially welcomed at 10 a.m. today.

    Athens News Agency

    [15] European Catholic bishops' council convenes in Athens

    Athens, 11/11/1999 (ANA)

    The 29th general assembly of the council of European Catholic bishops (Consilum Conferentiarum Episcopalium Europae) meets in Athens today through Sunday at the Athens Catholic Archdiocese.

    The council is made up of the 34 presidents of local Catholic synods in various countries of Europe - stretching from Portugal to Russia and the Scandinavian countries to Malta - and meets in a different country each year.

    The head of the council is Archbishop of Prague Cardinal Miroslav Vlk. This year's council will focus on the outcome of the second special council of bishops of Europe held in Rome last month.

    Athens News Agency

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