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Athens News Agency: News in English, 97-04-03

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.forthnet.gr/ape>


NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 03/04/1997 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Albanian PM Fino secures support from interrnational community
  • Greece agrees to non-national units in Albania force
  • Fino meets with businessmen, party leader
  • Greek Red Cross sends aid to Albania
  • Greece to provide economic, technical aid to Albania
  • Self-styled mufti sentenced to 20 months jail
  • Gov't promises action on drug abuse
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Albanian PM Fino secures support from international community

    The solidarity of the international community in restoring peace and stability in Albania was confirmed, according to Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, at a meeting at the Greek Foreign Ministry this morning between European Union council president, Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe special envoy for Albania Franz Vranitsky and Albanian Prime Minister Bashkim Fino.

    Fino, who participated in the latter part of the meeting, placed special emphasis on holding elections, which he stressed would be fair and democratic and would be held with the support of the OSCE and the EU.

    Earlier this morning, the OSCE special envoy Franz Vranitsky had a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos in which, according to informed sources, they discussed details of the deployment of a multinational peace force to Albania.

    In a press conference after the meeting, Vranitsky set out the three areas of action planned by the international community. These were the distribution of humanitarian and economic aid, to be directed by the European Union, the establishment and protection of democracy and human rights, including the June elections, to be coordinated by the OSCE. Finally, the coordination of the international peace force, to be undertaken by Italy.

    The former Austrian chancellor noted the inter-dependence of these three key areas and stressed that the international community in no way wanted to direct Albania from abroad but to offer it the help it needed to stand on its own two feet and develop its civilisation. The fulfilment of these goals, he said, would play a significant role in gaining the trust of international credit organisations and attract investments.

    Vranitsky expressed the conviction that within the next week the political framework and the international action plan will have been completed, so that he and the EU representative would be able to visit Tirana to discuss the next moves with the Albanian government.

    He also stressed the importance of continued dialogue with the citizens' committees in Albania. He emphasised that responsibility for this continued dialogue lay with the Albanian government, and not with the international community. Prime Minister Fino promised that he would continue and intensify contacts with citizens' groups.

    Meanwhile, van Mierlo called for continued close cooperation between the EU and the OSCE as any delays would cost Albania a great deal, both in financial terms and in terms of human lives lost. He also expressed pleasure at the fact that the international community was cooperating with the new Albanian government.

    During a separate meeting later, Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Vranitsky agreed on the need for efforts to continue aimed at finding a political solution of the Albanian crisis.

    Both stressed that every possible effort would be made by the European Union to provide financial assistance to Albania, while the OSCE would try to ensure political normality and the holding of unimpeachable elections.

    The multinational protection force, they said, will ensure that humanitarian aid reaches its destination and is properly used.

    Simitis said the international community would act in a decisive manner, while Vranitsky said yet another step had been taken in Athens for defusing the crisis in Albania.

    The OSCE envoy added that the target was for elections to be held in Albania in the second fortnight of June.

    Asked whether he thought the date set for the despatch of the multinational force on 12 April was realistic, Vranitsky said he believed it may be ''overly optimistic'', adding however that the issue was not whether the force would be send five days before or after the date set.

    Vranitsky also acknowledged that the thousands of weapons in the hands of Albanians posed a problem with respect to the holding of elections, but he expressed the hope that this matter too would be resolved.

    Greece agrees to non-national units in Albania force

    Pangalos told a press conference later that Albania had requested during talks in Athens yesterday and today that the multinational protection force to be sent to Albania not be divided into national contingents but rather be composed of mixed units.

    He added that the Greek government had agreed with this position.

    Replying to questions on the recent tragedy in the Adriatic in which an Albanian boat full of refugees sank after being struck by an Italian navy vessel, resulting in the death of about 80 people, Pangalos declined to attribute responsibility to Italy, saying it was not an intentional act but a regrettable accident.

    Pangalos expressed the view that the furore over the incident would soon subside and there would be no problem for the multinational force to be sent to Albania, from the point of view that it will be Italian-led.

    At this point, Pangalos praised the maturity and magnanimity with which the Greek people had assimilated 300,000 Albanians who live and work in Greece.

    ''We benefit from their labour but they too benefit, as well as their country, from the considerable amount of money which they earn in Greece,'' Pangalos said.

    Commenting on the damage caused to Greek undertakings in Albania, Pangalos said the government was presently recording the extent of the damage but was unable to provide compensation ''for business activity which by its very nature entails risks''.

    ''However, there are special circumstances (in Albania) and we shall therefore see what can be done,'' he added.

    In reply to another question, Pangalos said that the ''interlocutor'' of the international community in Albania was the government of Bashkim Fino ''while of course (President) Sali Berisha exists within Albania's institutional framework''.

    Pangalos noted that the Albanian government had not requested the resignation of Berisha who had himself stated that he would draw his conclusions after elections in June.

    On the issue of Albania's constitution, Pangalos said that during last night's meeting, Simitis had proposed and Fino accepted the strengthening of the international community's ''institutional pole of action'' in Albania.

    Replying to questions on criticism levelled at the Greek government for not insisting that the Greek contingent in the multinational force be based in southern Albania, where most ethnic Greeks live, Pangalos stressed that Greece was exercising a policy of friendship and cooperation which took into consideration the entire Albanian people.

    The protection of the Greek minority, he added, was one aspect of this framework.

    Pangalos said Athens was implementing the same policy in the Balkans in general, aimed at creating relations ''which look forward not backwards''.

    He underlined at this point that the primary aspiration of Greek foreign policy was to safeguard the inviolability of borders.

    Asked about the date on which the multinational protection force will be sent to Albania, Pangalos said the target was ''not to go beyond the end of next week''.

    Lastly, stressing that Albania was a country at the limits of its endurance, Pangalos said that all Balkan countries without exception should realize that ''a fundamental prerequisite for safeguarding their future is that they follow a course of democratization through the process of free elections, without ploys and with respect by all for whatever result emerges''.

    Fino meets with businessmen, party leader

    Albanian Prime Minister Bashkim Fino this morning received a delegation of the newly-formed Committee of Greek Business Owners in Albania who presented him with a petition calling for protection for their investments there.

    According to the committee, which represents around 70 enterprises with a total investment of about $40 million and which provide around 4,000 jobs, at least 25 factories in which Greek companies have an interest have been destroyed and looted. The worst damage has occurred in the region around Korce. Few Greek businesses are currently operating in Albania, while those that are open are paying high fees for "protection".

    The committee delegates also requested compensation for the damages, promising that once the situation had settled down they would return to Albania and make new investments.

    The Albanian Prime Minister pledged to take security measures within the framework of more general steps to restore order and promised to hold a second, more detailed discussion with the group in Tirana within the next month.

    Fino also received entrepreneurs K. Sarantopoulos and P. Kontellis, who also have business interests in his country and who presented similar requests.

    Albanian Prime Minister Bashkim Fino this morning received a delegation of the newly-formed Committee of Greek Business Owners in Albania who presented him with a petition calling for protection for their investments there.

    According to the committee, which represents around 70 enterprises with a total investment of about $40 million and which provide around 4,000 jobs, at least 25 factories in which Greek companies have an interest have been destroyed and looted. The worst damage has occurred in the region around Korce. Few Greek businesses are currently operating in Albania, while those that are open are paying high fees for "protection".

    The committee delegates also requested compensation for the damages, promising that once the situation had settled down they would return to Albania and make new investments.

    The Albanian Prime Minister pledged to take security measures within the framework of more general steps to restore order and promised to hold a second, more detailed discussion with the group in Tirana within the next month.

    Fino also received entrepreneurs K. Sarantopoulos and P. Kontellis, who also have business interests in his country and who presented similar requests.

    Greek Red Cross sends aid to Albania

    The Greek Red Cross today dispatched 21 tones of food (flour, sugar, rice, beans and sunflower oil) as well as two tonnes of milk to the International Red Cross warehouse in Konitsa to be sent to the Albanian people.

    Greece to provide economic, technical aid to Albania

    Greece will provide US$80 million (roughly 20 billion drachmas) in urgent economic assistance to Albania, Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his visiting counterpart Bashkim Fino agreed at a high-level meeting in Athens yesterday evening.

    It was also agreed that Greece will provide technical assistance to the country for the holding of elections in June.

    "The holding of elections and a smooth course towards democracy are especially important issues and will facilitate the securing and speeding up of the various aid which Albania needs," the Greek premier said.

    Mr. Fino said relations between Greece and Albania were excellent, and expressed his government's appreciation for the dispatch of a Greek contingent to Albania as part of the UN-mandated multinational force.

    "The return to order and normalcy cannot take place that quickly, and for this reason the Albanian government has asked for the support of the European Union, and chiefly Greece and Italy," he said.

    Asked if he desired the resignation of Albanian President Sali Berisha, Mr. Fino answered in the negative, underlining that what he desired was for Mr. Berisha to respect the agreements which he made with the 10 Albanian parties and to lead the country to democratic elections in June.

    Self-styled mufti sentenced to 20 months jail

    Mehmet Aga has been sentenced to twenty months imprisonment by a Lamia court for usurpation of authority. Aga falsely used the title of mufti when signing messages to Greece's Moslem minority.

    Aga's father was the Mufti of Xanthi until his death in February 1990. Aga, his father's deputy, refused to allow his name to be included on the list of candidates, saying he was elected to the post and that the state had no right to be involved in the procedure. The Education and Religious Affairs Ministry chose Mehmet Emin Sinicoglou as new Mufti in August 1991.

    Former deputy Ahmet Faikoglou, the sole witness for the defence, said that the "minority had elected its own religious leader, who is Mehmet Aga". However he avoided using the term "mufti" to refer to Aga and admitted that Aga had been elected by a show of hands and not by formal ballot.

    Aga told the court he was answerable "only to God" and repeatedly referred to the "Turkish" (rather than "Moslem") minority in western Thrace.

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Birol Akifoglou, who attended the trial said it had been objective and that justice had been served, although added that the problem was a political one and political problems "cannot be resolved by judicial decisions".

    An interparty parliamentary delegation from Turkey also attended the trial.

    Aga was released pending an appeal, which will be heard in Agrinio next month, as well as another appeal in Lamia.

    Gov't promises action on drug abuse

    Police have arrested four Albanians who are alleged to have smuggled large quantities of hashish into Greece and seized 16 kilos of the narcotic.

    The arrests took place after an undercover narcotics agent posed as a dealer and negotiated the purchase of 16 kilos of hashish.

    A meeting was arranged at the Albanians' apartment in the Athens suburb of Ano Kalamaki and all four were arrested.

    They were named as Nardi Karakostas, 42, Artian Hodza, 36, Andreas Kostoyiannis, 21 and Zeka Alpin, 23.

    Kostoyiannis tried to resist arrest and escape but was detained after a scuffle with one of the arresting officers who suffered injuries to the face and hands.

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas meanwhile said Prime Minister Costas Simitis would undertake initiatives shortly to tackle the problems faced by young people.

    Reppas was replying to reporters' questions on a recent spate of drug- related deaths in Athens. Police today discovered the body of the fourth victim to die of a drug overdose in the past three days alone.

    Christos Ioannidis, 21, was found dead on the pavement outside an apartment building in the Athens district of Nea Ionia.

    The police believe a quantity of unusually pure heroin is being sold to addicts, resulting in overdoses and death.

    Reppas said although a strong legal framework existed, it appeared to be inadequate in confronting the narcotics problem. Apart from the government's sensitivity on the issue, he added, every family and each individual bore some responsibility.

    WEATHER

    Unstable weather will continue in most parts of Greece today with local cloudiness, rain and sunny spells. Storms locally heavy in the south. Occasional snowfall in the mountainous regions. Winds weak to moderate. Sunny spells in Athens with temperatures between 6-15C. Thessaloniki will be partly cloudy with temperatures between 3-13C.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    Wednesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 263.475 Pound sterling 433.405 Cyprus pd 527.546 French franc 46.793 Swiss franc 182.191 German mark 157.619 Italian lira (100) 15.832 Yen (100) 215.324 Canadian dlr. 189.512 Australian dlr. 207.070 Irish Punt 416.442 Belgian franc 7.638 Finnish mark 52.864 Dutch guilder 140.100 Danish kr. 41.368 Swedish kr. 34.680 Norwegian kr. 39.184 Austrian sch. 22.399 Spanish peseta 1.860 Portuguese escudo 1.569

    (M.P.)


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